Shimmering Blooms

October 18, 2011

Reading Gregory Seigworth and Melissa Gregg’s introductory chapter ‘An Inventory of Shimmers’ to The Affect Theory Reader I was struck with the realisation that collecting and collating knowledge (ie. the act of learning) always leads me to the inverse feeling that I in fact know nothing. The deeper you delve into knowledge bases, the stronger you feel a sense of “freefall” (as described by Seigworth and Gregg) as previously collected ideas stretch, condense, amalgamate and seperate. This fall down the rabbit hole captures a moment of “becoming”, where we confront the ‘yetness’ of Spinoza’s statement “No one has yet determined what the body can do”. Suddenly, the promise of something new expands (or similarly contracts) our world view. Massumi, as previously discussed in the entry on his chapter “The Autonomy of Effect” (2002) calls this a “shock” which facilitates affect. When we are exposed (through reading/listening/experiencing) another individual’s ideas or thoughts we receive an insight into that persons unique knowledge contours or personal affective ripples, which forces us to critically compare this with our own.

Massumi advocates that we pursue this feeling of perpetual becoming, to acknowledge the familiarity of this feeling, so that “our most familiar modes of inquiry [begin] with movement rather than stasis, with process underway rather than position taken”. The result of this lies in the possibilities. Preferencing the plural over the singular allows us to look where we might otherwise choose not too, to explore that which we didn’t know existed. This cosmopolitical outlook, where the Other is equal not equivalent (from Stengers “Cosmpolitical Proposal”, 2005)  allows the individual to “[cast] its lot with the infinitely connectable, impersonal, and contagious belonging to this world”. Or in Isabelle Stengers words, make evident a “wordly world, a world where we, our ideas and power relations, are not alone, were never alone, will never be alone” (2007).

Within this forward thinking “bloom-space” it is tempting to believe that affect will bring about a newness that is always better. Seigworth and Gregg remind us that what comes next can in fact be worse. However, the qualities of affect suggest that if we feel we are freefalling, we can (and must) acknowledge that we are all freefalling together.

-Tim Brooks

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