July 31, 2011

Massumi states that ‘Intensity is qualifiable as an emotional state, and that state is static-temporal and narrative noise. It is like a temporal sink, a hole in time, as we conceive of it and narrativize it. It is the collapse of structured distinction into intensity, of rules into paradox. Intensity is the unassimilable’. (Massumi, 1995: p. 27)


Furthermore he discusses that ‘Something that happens too quickly to have happened, actually, is virtual. The body is as immediately virtual as it is actual. The virtual is a lived paradox where what are normally opposites coexist, coalesce, and connect; where what cannot be experienced cannot but be felt-albeit reduced and contained. The body is as immediately abstract as it is concrete; its activity and expressivity extend, as on their underside, into an incorporeal, yet perfectly real, dimension of pressing potential’. (Massumi, 1995: p. 30)


The diagram emphasizes those specific, in between moments of the body’s way of interpreting an external source which Massumi expresses as virtual and therefore physically not tangible; the level of complex circuits which compose the series of systems which enable to the human being to perceive the world. It is the representation of the inconceivable, of the temporal, a depiction of the set of parameters which occur outside what is regarded as consciousness.

In addition, it explores the idea of a time paradox. It relates with intensity and also that half second, the minimum perceivable lapse necessary to notice any stimulation. It is the virtual reality of a relationship. During the mysterious half second, what we think of as “free,” “higher” functions, such as volition, are apparently being performed by autonomic, bodily reactions occurring in the brain but outside consciousness, and between brain and finger but prior to action and expression. (Massumi, 1995: p. 29)




Brian Massumi, (1995), Cultural Critique: The Autonomy of Affect, University of Minnesota Press

Andreas Sivitos




  1. Don’t forget to sign off with your name. This is a clear account, but you might unpack some of the terms and the general argument further.

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