Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Manning/Massumi Day 2

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.

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.

Whitehead's "Objects and Subjects"
(from Adventures of Ideas, Chapter XI)
§4. Prehensions.-A more formal explanation is as follows. An occasion of experience is an activity, analysable into modes of functioning which jointly constitute its process of becoming. Each mode is analysable into the total experience as active subject, and into the thing or object with which the special activity is concerned. This thing is a datum, that is to say, is describable without reference to its entertainment in that occasion. An object is anything performing this function of a datum provoking some special activity of the occasion in question. Thus subject and object are relative terms. An occasion is a subject in respect to its special activity concerning an object; and anything is an object in respect to its provocation of some special activity within a subject. Such a mode of activity is termed a 'prehension'. Thus a prehension involves three factors. There is the occasion of experience within which the prehension is a detail of activity; there is the datum whose relevance provokes the origination of this prehension; this datum is the prehended object; there is the subjective form, which is the affective tone determining the effectiveness of that prehension in that occasion of experience. How the experience constitutes itself depends on its complex of subjective forms.
Prehension is Whitehead's term for what we would call perception, but it is a perception that is bigger than simple human perception.

Prehension involves three factors:

  1. experience as active perception
  2. the provocation of events
  3. the affectivity of the emergent experience
Objectivity is about relationality for Whitehead; we might want to gerund all our nouns.

The subjective form is an affordance for capability: a chair's subjective form is the relationship between the chair and the object sitting. The prehension of the subjective form as a unity of an event is possible in focusing on the field.

Prehension delimits/activates what is occurring, grasping the multiplicity.

Process philosophy is not a continuity only but is one of continuity and discontinuity; a deformable matrix rather than a template on which to hang matter.

Even that which is excluded in the subjective form is present in the excluding of the excluded.

A self-defining grasps others in the composing of what exists.

Affective tone is the internal milieu as well as the many events in the field. "A simple total vastness" such that the many events are each contributing their dynamism.

Affective tone is the dynamic potentiality to interact with the other data in the field: One level's oneness is another level's manyness. The extensive continuum is what allows for the manyness and it is the largest level of prehension.
§5. Individuality.- The individual immediacy of an occasion is the final unity of subjective form, which is the occasion as an absolute reality. This immediacy is its moment of sheer individuality, bounded on either side by essential relativity. The occasion arises from relevant objects, and perishes into the status of an object for other occasions. But it enjoys its decisive moment of absolute self-attainment as emotional unity. As used here the words 'individual' and 'atom' have the same meaning, that they apply to composite things with an absolute reality which their components lack. These words properly apply to an actual entity in its immediacy of self-attainment when it stands out as for itself alone, with its own affective self-enjoyment. The term 'monad' also expresses this essential unity at the decisive moment, which stands between its birth and its perishing. The creativity of the world is the throbbing emotion of the past hurling itself into a new transcendent fact. It is the flying dart, of which Lucretius speaks, hurled beyond the bounds of the world.

"The occasion arises from relevant objects, and perishes into the status of an object for other occasions." This is where the dynamic unity feeds into other unities.


There is a similarity between Carl Schmitt and Whitehead's notion of choice - for Whitehead it is the making of the decision and this restructuring of the possible.

[NOTE TO SELF: Amor fati is driven by necessity in Nietzsche]

For Whitehead, unlike Deleuze, there is no virtual.
§ 12. Non-Sensuous Perception.- This wider definition of perception can be of no importance unless we can detect occasions of experience exhibiting modes of functioning which fall within its wider scope. If we discover such instances of non-sensuous perception. then the tacit identification of perception with sense-perception must be a fatal error barring the advance of systematic metaphysics.
Our first step must involve the clear recognition of the limitations inherent in the scope of sense-perception. This special mode of functioning essentially exhibits percepta as here, now, immediate, and discrete. Every impression of sensation is a distinct existence. declares Hume; and there can be no reasonable doubt of this doctrine. But even Hume clothes each impression with force and liveliness. It must be distinctly understood that no prehension, even of bare sensa, can be divested of its affective tone, that is to say, of its character of a 'concern' in the Quaker sense. Concernedness is of the essence of perception.
Gaze at a patch of red. In itself as an object, and apart from other factors of concern, this patch of red, as the mere object of that present act of perception, is silent as to the past or the future. How it originates, how it will vanish, whether indeed there was a past and whether there will be a future, are not disclosed by its own nature. No material for the interpretation of sensa is provided by the sensa themselves. as they stand starkly, barely, present and immediate. We do interpret them; but no thanks for the feat is due to them. The epistemologies of the last two hundred years are employed in the tacit introduction of alien considerations by the uncritical use of current forms of speech. A copious use of simple literary forms can thus provide a philosophy delightful to read, easy to understand, and entirely fallacious. Yet the usages of language do prove that our habitual interpretations of the se barren sensa are in the main satisfying to common sense, though in particular instances liable to error. But the evidence on which these interpretations are based is entirely drawn from the vast background and foreground of non-sensuous perception with which sense-perception is fused, and without which it can never be. We can discern no clean-cut sense-perception wholly concerned with present fact. 
The principle philosopher of sense for Whitehead was Hume; the problem Whitehead sees is putting a direct communication between the sense organs and the world, not mediated by the cogito.

§ 12. Non-Sensuous Perception. (continued)
In human experience, the most compelling example of nonsensuous perception is our knowledge of our own immediate past. I am not referring to our memories of a day past, or of an hour past, or of a minute past. Such memories are blurred and confused by the intervening occasions of our personal existence. But our immediate past is constituted by that occasion, or by that group of fused occasions, which enters into experience devoid of any perceptible medium intervening between it and the present immediate fact. Roughly speaking, it is that portion of our past lying between a tenth of a second and half a second ago. It is gone, and yet it is here. It is our indubitable self, the foundation of our present existence. Yet the present occasion while claiming self-identity, while sharing the very nature of the bygone occasion in all its living activities, nevertheless is engaged in modifying it, in adjusting it to other influences, in completing it with other values, in deflecting it to other purposes. The present moment is constituted by the influx of the other into that self-identity which is the continued life of the immediate past within the immediacy of the present.
Whitehead has no real sense of the present - always in the future, gathering the past. It's being called-in to the future, given past performance.

Reality is background and appearance is the foreground. Points in time and space are infinitely regressing, they are wholly immaterial and infinitely divisible; it's self-undermining but useful for many tasks. Any cut in the duration alters the whole field.

Because this is a specious present, a smudge of the past is like an afterimage that overlaps with the future.

What kinds of techniques can we invent to reproduce or reiterate the affective tonality rather than reiterating the content. The content is so specific of a context that translation doesn't carry the proper weight.

[NOTE TO SELF: could we trust a government, say, that is the culmination of focusing the familiar affairs of our days or do we need a program?]

In Whitehead and Deleuze "desire" is appetition - a pole toward which, a culmination which we are drawn to.

The potential that comes with the nonsensuous is....

What comes into the present is primed - the continuation is already there, the future that is already past. The futurity of what is happening is a carry-over of the past.

When we say we were angry five minutes ago, the feeling persists, even though we say that we have gotten over it. To be promiscuous with philosophers, we need Nietzsche's prescription for a practice of forgetting.

Whitehead is working at an absolute limit, asking "How?" How does this happen? How does it change? What are the techniques that can be developed to make these changes...

[NOTE TO SELF: Reappropriating the context as political action; being appropriate to the context is required to do that. Isn't do this virtuosity? Reappropriation strategies are an increasing mode of artistic expression today; but is this the manner in which we are appropriated by Spectacle?]

One point activates a whole field - it appropriates the context so long as we're not confusing that the form is not prior to this emergence. There is contrast and from this we make appropriate based on natural tendencies, understood from past observations.

[NOTE TO SELF: the last bit above is very much written in terms akin to the Zhongyong (中庸).]

What color are the leaves at night? To say they are green is to have a nonsensuous experience.

Consider the sound of a punch in a movie. See Michel Chion, particularly his book Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen.

William James' "Local Signs"
(from The Principles of Psychology, Ch. XX: 155-167. 1890)
Can these differences of mere quality in feeling, varying according to locality yet having each sensibly and intrinsically and by itself nothing to do with position, constitute the 'susceptibilities' we mentioned, the conditions of being perceived in position, of the localities to which they belong? The numbers on a row of houses, the initial letters of a set of words, have no intrinsic kinship with points of space, and yet they are the conditions of our knowledge of where any house is in the row, or any word in the dictionary. Can the modifications of feeling in question be tags or labels of this kind which in no wise originally reveal the position of the spot to which they are attached, but guide us to it by what Berkeley would call a 'customary tie'? Many authors have unhesitatingly replied in the affirmative; Lotze, who in his Medzinische Psychologie [23] first described the sensations in this way, designating them, thus conceived, as local-signs. This term has obtained wide currency in Germany, and in speaking of the 'LOCAL-SIGN THEORY' hereafter, I shall always mean the theory which denies that there can be in a sensation any element of actual locality, of inherent spatial order, any tone as [p. 158] it were which cries to us immediately and without further ado, 'I am here,' or 'I am there.' If, as may well be the case, we by this time and ourselves tempted to accept the Local-sign theory in a general way, we have to clear up several farther matters. If a sign is to lead us to the thing it means, we must have some other source of knowledge of that thing. Either the thing has been given in a previous experience of which the sign also formed part-they are associated ; or it is what Reid calls a 'natural' sign, that is, a feeling which, the first time it enters the mind, evokes from the native powers thereof a cognition of the thing that hitherto had lain dormant. In both cases, however, the sign is one thing, and the thing another. In the instance that now concerns us, the sign is a quality of feeling and the thing is a position. Now we have seen that the position of a point is not only revealed, but created, by the existence of other points to which it stands in determinate relations. If the sign can by any machinery which it sets in motion evoke consciousness either of the other points, or of the relations, or of both, it would seem to fulfil its function, and reveal to us the position we seek. (157-8)
E. H. Weber, in the famous article in which he laid the foundations of all our accurate knowledge of these subjects, laid it down as the logical requisite for the perception of two separated points, that the mind should, along with its consciousness of them, become aware of an unexcited interval as such I have only tried to show how the known laws of experience may cause this requisite to be fulfilled. Of course, if the local signs of the entire region offer but little qualitative contrast inter se, the line suggested will be but dimly defined or discriminated in length or direction from other possible lines in its neighborhood. This is what happens in the back, where consciousness can sunder two spots, whilst only vaguely apprehending their distance and direction apart. (160)
 This "unexcited interval" to which he refers above is interchangeable with "relation."
If we contemplate a blank wall or sheet of paper, we always observe in a moment that we are directly looking at some speck upon it which, unnoticed at first, ended by 'catching our eye.' Thus whenever an image falling on the point P of the retina excites attention, it more habitually moves from that point towards the fovea than in any one other direction. The line traced thus by the image is not always a straight line. When the direction of the point from the fovea is neither vertical nor horizontal but oblique, the line traced is often a curve, with its concavity directed upwards if the direction is upwards, downwards if the direction is downwards. This may be verified by anyone who will take the trouble to make a simple experiment with a luminous body like a candle-flame in a dark enclosure, or a star. Gazing first at some point remote from the source of light, let the eye be suddenly turned full upon the latter. The luminous image will necessarily fall in succession upon a continuous series of points, reaching from the one first affected to the fovea. But by virtue of the slowness with which retinal excitements die away, the entire series of points will for an instant be visible as an after-image, displaying the above peculiarity of form according to its situation. [27] These radiating lines are neither regular nor invariable in the same person, nor, probably, equally curved in different individuals. We are incessantly drawing them between the fovea and every point of the held of view. Objects remain in their peripheral indistinctness only so long as they are unnoticed. The moment we attend to them they grow distinct through one of these motions -- which leads to the idea prevalent among uninstructed persons that we see distinctly all parts of the field of view at once. The result of this incessant tracing of radii is that whenever a local sign P is awakened by a spot of light falling upon it, it recalls forthwith, even though the eyeball be unmoved, the local signs of all the other points which lie between P and the fovea. It recalls them in imaginary form, just as the normal reflex movement would recall them in vivid form; and with their recall is given a consciousness more or less [p. 163] faint of the whole line on which they lie. In other words, no ray of light can fall on any retinal spot without the local sign of that spot revealing to us, by recalling the line of its most habitual associates, its direction and distance from the centre of the held. The fovea acts thus as the origin of a system of polar co-ordinates, in relation to which each and every retinal point has through an incessantly-repeated process of association its distance and direction determined. Were P alone illumined and all the rest of the field dark we should still, even with motionless eyes, know whether P lay high or low, right or left, through the ideal streak, different from all other streaks, which P alone has the power of awakening." [28] (162-4)
"In other words, no ray of light can fall on any retinal spot without the local sign of that spot revealing to us [....] Were P alone illumined and all the rest of the field dark we should still, even with motionless eyes, know whether P lay high or low, right or left, through the ideal streak, different from all other streaks, which P alone has the power of awakening." This is the nonsensuous that Whitehead is referring to, a line that has no sensuous cause.

The local sign does not necessarily allow you to reconstruct the entire body.

A creative reading practice creates a new text, read the tendencies and generate new thoughts to the text. This is the process of appreciation - Zhongyong-ing what is at-hand.

We then watched about 15 minutes of Gordon/Parreno's Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait.


Consider the above in conjunction with chapter 4 of Massumi's Parables of the Virtual.

Radical empiricism, another name for process philosophy, holds that relations are real and the reality of relation is directly perceived.

The "ideal streak" is that unfocusing on objects and refocusing on the field and identifying the places where the context can be appropriated.

At a less spectacular level than the Zidane film, look at the sidewalk: look at how few people crash into each other and how much they are doing while walking.

Without taking the mobility of the work seriously we are back at interaction.

[NOTE TO SELF: I ask about their take on Nicolas Bourriaud's Relational Aesthetics - the works tend to be radically non-communicative, there needs to be not just riffing on the idea but rigorous examination.]

Not a community of individuals but a fusion of tendencies in an event. Community has to perform its own failure and recompose, what is common? A differential (here it is from the mathematical sense meaning non-identity: two vectors share movement and the area between them is the differential). See Aden Evens "Math Anxiety." in Angelaki (2000).

Differential is not debate, it's merging into the affective tonality, attunement.

Another place to look would be Arun Saldanha's Psychedelic White which is an ethnographic study of racial difference in the trance scene of Goa, India.

Robert Irwin
check-out Lawrence Weschler's Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees which is a biography of Irwin.

Irwin started as a painter and early on realized that he was being held back, curiously, by being too good of a draftsman, by being too good at producing images. So he gave up what he was really good at and spent the next ten years in the desert so that he could learn how to see. Can the canvas do what perception does?

He creates a kinosthetic vision that is not the movement of images but shows the movement of seeing itself.

His scrim walls show that a wall is intelligible in perception by the shadow. The scrim quivers and so no such shadow can fall, thus it's indeterminate. The determinate room has become inchoate.

This is a relational aesthetic but without making any claims to participation and alters the way in which one perceives the world.

[END OF CLASS]

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