Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Erin Manning/Brian Massumi Day 1

NOTE: As with all my notes from the European Graduate School, there will likely be mistakes because I did not record the lectures, I made notes as they spoke, so I am perhaps interpreting what they are saying as I am writing.

Erin Manning holds a University Research Chair in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University. She is also the director of the Sense Lab, a laboratory that explores the intersections between art practice and philosophy through the matrix of the sensing body in movement.

Brian Massumi collaborates with Manning at the Sense Lab and is is also known for English-language translations of recent French philosophy, including Jean-François Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition (with Geoffrey Bennington), Jacques Attali's Noise and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus.

Manning & Massumi together offered two classes with us, “Emergent Space(-times)” and “The Choreographic Object – or, How movement moves us.” They were taught together and it created a fantastic experience for me. I am inclined to

How does the writing do what it does?
Space will be a key concept for us.

Beginning our thinking with an ordered nature boxes things in and can limit our ability to understand ethical and political action. Process theory sees an open, emergent ground and the question becomes pragmatic and technical: what kind of order will we create?

It's the opposite of the bracketing of all presuppositions as in phenomenology - in process there is an over-rich field of presuppositions.

For William James and A.N. Whitehead this means not starting with the cognition of the world through the subject-object dichotomy.

We start with the assumption that the world exists but in what way do we find them? For Deleuze the matter is how to maintain the intensity of the qualities of the world. So we will be focusing on feeling in the world and what is the relation between action and agency.

Whitehead uses the term "affective tonality" rather than "feelings"

We're going to explore a radical rethinking of space and time where the event is space-time. Rather than the subject there is the event.

It's not eliminative thinking it is additive -- everything in the world is real, under what mode do they have an effect? What mode of action?

Agamben's "example" (from The Coming Community) fits into a class and so is of that class simultaneously. Every event is exemplary and there is this constant focus on the context.

William James' "The Perception of Space"
(from The Principles of Psychology, 1890)
So far, all we have established or sought to establish is the existence of the vague form or quale of spatiality as an inseparable element bound up with the other peculiarities of each and every one of our sensations. The numerous examples we have adduced of the variations of this extensive element have only been meant to make clear its strictly sensational character. In very few of them will the reader have been able to explain the variation by an added intellectual element, such as the suggestion of a recollected experience. In almost all it has seemed to be the immediate psychic effect of a peculiar sort of nerve-process excited; and all the nerve-processes in question agree in yielding what space they do yield, to the mind, in the shape of a simple total vastness, in which, primitively at least, no order of parts or of subdivisions reigns.  (145)
James problematizes the term by sandwiching it between simple and vastness in the phrase "a simple total vastness." In his own language he is problematizing language itself.

Extension and intensivity have to be thought together in this James text, he is stating that to measure the extension we have to use a qualitative approach.
IN the sensations of hearing, touch, sight, and pain we are accustomed to distinguish from among the other elements the element of voluminousness. We call the reverberations of a thunderstorm more voluminous than the squeaking of a slate-pencil; the entrance into a warm bath gives our skin a more massive feeling than the prick of a pin; a little neuralgic pain, fine as a cobweb, in the face, seems less extensive than the heavy soreness of a boil or the vast discomfort of a colic or a lumbago; and a solitary star looks smaller than the noonday sky. In the sensation of dizziness or subjective motion, which recent investigation has proved to be connected with stimulation of the semi-circular canals of the ear, the spatial character is very prominent. Whether the 'muscular sense' directly yields us knowledge of space is still a matter of litigation among psychologists. Whilst some go so far as to ascribe our entire cognition of extension to its exclusive aid, others deny to it all extensive quality whatever. Under these circumstances we shall do better to adjourn its consideration; admitting, however, that it seems at first sight as if we felt something decidedly more voluminous when we contract our thigh-muscles than when we twitch an eyelid or some small muscle in the face. It seems, moreover, as if this difference lay in the feeling of the thigh-muscles themselves. (134)
Proprioception, the sense of movement, is probably the most important sense for James. He doesn't use the term affective, nor affectivity, but that is what is being presented here. There is a complication of the sensible because they are synesthetic.
Our entire cubic content seems then sensibly manifest to us as such, and feels much larger than any local pulsation, pressure, or discomfort. Skin and retina are, however, the organs in which the space-element plays the most active part. Not only does the maximal vastness yielded by the retina surpass that yielded by any other organ, but the intricacy with which our attention can subdivide this vastness and perceive it to be composed of lesser portions simultaneously coexisting along-side of each other is without a parallel elsewhere. [2] The ear gives a greater vastness than the skin, but is considerably less able to subdivide it. [3] (135)
A panic attack is intensely felt locally, but generally distributed; there is a difficulty in understanding where the body begins and ends, and where the world begins and ends such that we are unable to understand from where the feeling originates.
Now my first thesis is that this element, discernible in each and every sensation, though more developed in some than in others, is the original sensation of space, out of which all the exact knowledge about space that we afterwards come to have is woven by processes of discrimination, association, and selection. 'Extensity,' as Mr. James Ward calls it [4] on this view, becomes an element in each sensation just as intensity is. The latter every one will admit to be a distinguishable though not separable ingredient of the sensible quality. In like manner extensity, being an entirely peculiar kind of feeling indescribable except in terms of itself, and inseparable in actual experience from some sensational quality which it must accompany, can itself receive no other name than that of sensational element. (135)
To talk of "original sensation of space," is not to only talk of a "once" but a "making of feelings" -- the emergent quality, a constant beginning that is always occurring.
It must now be noted that the vastness hitherto spoken of is as great in one direction as in another. Its dimensions are so vague that in it there is no question as yet of surface as opposed to depth; 'volume' being the best short name for the sensation in question. Sensations of different orders are roughly comparable, inter se, with respect to their volumes. (135-6)
The cup (was holding one in class) presents itself extensively because we have accustomed ourselves to the ways they have been filled by us; James is highlighting the presuppositions that we have about how the world is selected by us.

Knowledge, selection, emphasis, association -- these are modalities of expression of intensity; the process of the formation of knowledge mediates the actual and the virtual.

The way we think of space as the distance between two places: this gridding of space took Western civilization a very long time to create but has become second nature in the Modern era. This is such that when James talks about this presupposition he seems more abstract than how truly abstract this thinking of space as a grid really is.

(This is an essay of how unheimlich our own sense of sense is, me)

Habit is a generalization. It jumps to what comes next based on association -- it's a thinking without thinking, an automatic reenactment. We are eliding the moment. The habit is about technicity: the years of developing one's technique come to the object of habitual use such that to only speak of what we and our developed technique have done to the object ignores what the object does to us.

(Habit-at: our home is the site of mutual influence, me)

Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri's so-called "map series" are fascinating examples of how this gridding and abstraction of the real world is a presupposition.
James is trying to discuss space but it's not of the same language - not 3D vs. 2D, for example. There is something vaguely indiscernible, a species of experience and how do we create the formal dimensions we call 3D, etc?
The point at which experience distinguishes itself but is not separable from the situation, what do we do with the experience? 
In the sphere of vision we have facts of the same order. 'Glowing' bodies, as Hering says, give us a perception "which seems roomy (raumhaft) in comparison with that of strictly surface color. A glowing iron looks luminous through and through, and so does a flame." [6] A luminous fog, a band of sunshine, affect us in the same way. As Hering urges: [p. 137]
" We must distinguish roomy from superficial, as well as distinctly from indistinctly bounded, sensations. The dark which with closed eyes one sees before one is, for example, a roomy sensation. We do not see a black surface like a wall in front of us, but a space fined with darkness, and even when we succeed in seeing this darkness as terminated by a black wall there still remains in front of this wall the dark space. The same thing happens when we find ourselves with open eyes in an absolutely dark room. This sensation of darkness is also vaguely bounded. An example of a distinctly bounded roomy sensation is that of a clear and colored fluid seen in a glass; the yellow of the wine is seen not, only on the bounding surface of the glass; the yellow sensation fins the whole interior of the glass. By day the so-called empty space between us and objects seen appears very different from what it is by night. The increasing darkness settles not only upon the things but also between us and the things. so as at last to cover them completely and fin the space alone. If I look into a dark box I find it fined with darkness, and this is seen not merely as the dark-colored sides or walls of the box. A shady corner in an otherwise well-lighted room is full of a darkness which is not only on the walls and floor but between them in the space they include. Every sensation is there where I experience it, and if I have it at once at every point of a certain roomy space, it is then a voluminous sensation. A cube of transparent green glass gives us a spatial sensation; an opaque cube painted green, on the contrary, only sensations of surface." [7](137-8)
This example of the shaded room is not a human "they" this is the inclusion of nonhuman perspective: an emergent becoming, order.

There are certain quasi-motor sensations in the head when we change the direction of the attention, which equally seem to involve three dimensions. If with closed eyes we think of the top of the house and then of the cellar, of the distance in front of us and then of that behind us, of space far to the right and then far to the left, we have something far stronger than an idea, -- an actual feeling, namely, as if something in the head moved into another direction. Fechner was, I believe, the first to publish any remarks on these feelings. He writes as follows:
"When we transfer the attention from objects of one sense to those of another we have an indescribable feeling (though at the same time one perfectly determinate and reproducible at pleasure) of altered direction, or differently localized tension (Spannung). We feel a strain forward in the eyes, one directed sideways in the ears, increasing with the degree of our attention, and changing according as we look at an object carefully, or listen to something attentively ; wherefore we speak of straining the attention. The difference is most plainly felt when [p. 138] the attention vibrates rapidly between eye and ear. This feeling localizes itself with most decided difference in regard to the various sense-organs according as we wish to discriminate a thing delicately by touch, taste, or smell.
"But now I have, when I try to vividly recall a picture of memory or fancy, a feeling perfectly analogous to that which I experience when I seek to grasp a thing keenly by eye or ear; and this analogous feeling is very differently localized. While in sharpest possible attention to real objects (as well as to after-images) the strain is plainly forwards, and, when the attention changes from one sense to another, only alters its direction between the sense-organs, leaving the rest of the head free from strain, the case is different in memory or fancy; for here the feeling withdraws entirely from the external sense-organs, and seems rather to take refuge in that part of the head which the brain fins. If I wish, for example, to recall a place or person, it will arise before me with vividness, not according as I strain my attention forwards, but rather in proportion as I, so to speak, retract it backwards." [8]
[...] We are considering now, not the objective causes of the spatial feeling, but its subjective varieties.... (137-9)
We go from roominess to movement, but the movement isn't actual. We are allowed the roominess first introduced above and we are called into that roomy space. The roominess calls our attention to it and we think we are deciding but we're actually only habituated to that movement.

Strain pushes/pulls attention in this spaciness and James later talks of a "moreness" because every space calls us to that roominess. All the spaciness of the senses, all added-up doesn't give us the totality of space, except by allowing the overlaps of their perception. This is how we understand their roominess.
So far, all we have established or sought to establish is the existence of the vague form or quale of spatiality as an inseparable element bound up with the other peculiarities of each and every one of our sensations. The numerous examples we have adduced of the variations of this extensive element have only been meant to make clear its strictly sensational character. In very few of them will the reader have been able to explain the variation by an added intellectual element, such as the suggestion of a recollected experience. In almost all it has seemed to be the immediate psychic effect of a peculiar sort of nerve-process excited; and all the nerve-processes in question agree in yielding what space they do yield, to the mind, in the shape of a simple total vastness, in which, primitively at least, no order of parts or of subdivisions reigns. (145)
The dream as a place where the extensive pull meets the intensive attention....

The challenge of relation is that we presuppose an abstract universal. We could think of translation between two points, but here we'd rather think in terms of Simondon and transduction, a chemical change.
Position, for example, can never be a sensation, for it has nothing intrinsic about it; it can only obtain between a spot, line, or other figure and extraneous coordinates, and can never be an element of the sensible datum, the line or the spot, in itself. [...] 
'Relation' is a very slippery word. It has so many different concrete meanings that the use of it as an abstract universal may easily introduce bewilderment into our thought. We must therefore be careful to avoid ambiguity by making sure, wherever we have to employ it, what its precise meaning is in that particular sphere of application. At present we have to do with space-relations, and no others. Most 'relations' are feelings of an entirely different order from the terms they relate. The relation of similarity, e.g., may equally obtain between jasmine and tuberose, or between Mr. Browning's verses and Mr. Story's; it is itself neither odorous nor poetical, and those may well be pardoned who have denied to it all sensational content whatever. But just as, in the field of quantity, the relation between two numbers is another number, so in the field of space the relations are facts of the same order with the facts they relate. If these latter be catches in the circle of vision, the former are certain other patches between them. When we speak of the relation of direction of two points toward each other, we mean simply the sensation of the line that joins the two points together. The line is the relation; feel it and you feel the relation, see it and you see the relation; nor call you in any conceivable way think the latter except by imagining the former (however vaguely), or describe or indicate the one except by pointing to the other. And the moment you have imagined the line, the relation stands [p. 150] before you in all its completeness, with nothing further to be done. (149-50)
Rather than moralizing that process philosophy is better or that more is better, we should look to how the "moreness" that James discusses operates and is accomplished.

For politics we would consider the privileging of the endpoint to a given problem such that we subsume the journey to the endpoint.

A.N. Whitehead's "Objects and Subjects"
(Chapter 11 from Adventures of Ideas)
§2.  Structure of Experience. - No topic has suffered more from this tendency of philosophers than their account of the object-subject structure of experience. In the first place, this structure has been identified with the bare relation of knower to known. The subject is the knower, the object is the known. Thus, with this interpretation, the object-subject relation is the known-knower relation. It then follows that the more clearly any instance of this relation stands out for discrimination, the more safely we can utilize it for the interpretation of the status of experience in the universe of things. Hence Descartes' appeal to clarity and distinctness. 
This deduction presupposes that the subject-object relation is the fundamental structural pattern of experience. I agree with this presupposition, but not in the sense in which subject-object is identified with knower-known. I contend that the notion of mere knowledge is a high abstraction, and that conscious discrimination itself is a variable factor only present in the more elaborate examples of occasions of experience. The basis of experience is emotional. Stated more generally, the basic fact is the rise of an affective tone originating from things whose relevance is given. (175-6)
The subject-object relation is really important, but the knower-known relations are not stable positions.

Don't expect clarity here because we're really thinking vagueness.

Affect: Spinozist definition is in Whitehead and Deleuze, the ability to affect and be affected. It's in-between bodies and has to do with capacities. A change of state such that the body capacity is impacted and thus it is something endured. This is accompanied by the feeling of this shift in capacity. Qualitative feeling of that transition. All of reality starts in affect, the glue that holds existence together and fills those transitions.

The relevance of the situation is given -- this is before our understanding, otherwise we wouldn't pay any attention to any of it. Importance is what wells-up to our attention. The quality of experiencing color points-out our own perceptual biases.
§3. Phraseology.- Thus the Quaker word 'concern', divested of any suggestion of knowledge, is more fitted to express this fundamental structure. The occasion as subject has a 'concern' for the object. And the 'concern' at once places the object as a component in the experience of the subject, with an affective tone drawn from this object and directed towards it. With this interpretation the subject-object relation is the fundamental structure of experience.
Quaker usages of language are not widely spread. Also each phraseology leads to a crop of misunderstandings. The subject-object relation can be conceived as Recipient and Provoker, where the fact provoked is an affective tone about the status of the provoker in the provoked experience. Also the total provoked occasion is a totality involving many such examples of provocation. Again this phraseology is unfortunate; for the word 'recipient' suggests a passivity which is erroneous. (176)

Concern -- how does the event have concern for the object? What we see is that Whitehead doesn't have a strong commitment to a subject, maybe a superject because it's about negotiating our togetherness.

"Provoker" perhaps Trigger or Catalyst. The Provoker is the object, it is what enters with its own affective tonality.

Whitehead is working hard to get us to think of perception without assuming that the metaphysically established subject isn't the given doing the perceiving.

What constitutes an event is activity, not just extension of a subject onto an object but the resonating, mutually-activating. The world is activity and at times these activities are moved toward stability, they are not inert matter.

Matter is chaotic potential that is captured in particular formations and modalities. Every form is an accomplishment in the venture of nature's unfolding.

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