Ecology of affect

In my practice, I have unfolded an approach to the experience of space as matter-energy in relation to affect, as a sensation of the here and now. In the process philosophy of mathematician Alfred North Whitehead we find such approach. He accounts for a rhythmic flow of timespace which he refers to as extensive continuum. He has explored affect related to the concepts of “blind feeling” (Whitehead 1978, 105), “prehension” or “occasion of experience” (Whitehead 1938, 150). For Whitehead, “actual entities”, “prehension”, and “nexus” are the basic facts of experience. Prehension is a simple physical feeling and a nexus is when actual entities feel one another (Goodman 2010, 92). According to Whitehead “the basis of experience is emotional” (Whitehead 1967, 176). He suggests that entities interact by feeling one another, even in the absence of knowledge and power. Things encounter one another aesthetically, and not just cognitively. Whitehead claims that we always feel more of a thing that we actually know of it (Shaviro 2010, 9). For Whitehead, one encounters the very being of a thing, its integrity, beyond the human understanding and grasp, in another level of apprehension, what he called a novelty, a new entity, an event. This level of apprehension before cognition builds up as an aesthetic experience of affect, the mode in which Whitehead calls “causal efficacy”, where experience is being. Whitehead used the terms “emotion”, “feeling” and “affect” inter-changeably to describe the same phenomenon. The way Whitehead used these terms has been argued by social theorist and philosopher Brian Massumi as being distinct. He has claimed for the difference between affect and emotion, describing affect as primary, non-conscious and intensive (Massumi 2002, 27). This is the mode of experience of affect that my aural architecture projects have explored. In this mode, “the inflow into ourselves of feelings from enveloping nature overwhelms us; in the dim consciousness of half-sleep, the presentations of sense fade away, and we are left with the vague feeling of influences from vague things around us” (Whitehead 1978, 176). As Whitehead claims, all entities experience something like an “influx of feeling”, in the form of energy (Whitehead 1978, 177). For Whitehead, affect emerges in the intervals of the brain, a dimension of lost time, as “life… in the interstices of each living cell, and in the interstices of the brain” (Whitehead 1978, 105-106). In my view, this idea relates to Massumi’s description on the electrical impulses of the brain as micro-shocks, what precedes the event. “In the instant of the affective hit, there is no content yet”, as it is the “onset of the activation” (Massumi 2008, 4). He calls it “small perception”, drawing from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari call this phenomenon “microperception”. They describe that when one attains a visual or sonorous microperception it reveals spaces and voids, like holes (Deleuze and Guattari 1993, 251). Massumi describes this phenomenon as “something that is felt without registering consciously. It registers only its effects” (Massumi 2008, 4). For Massumi microperception is bodily and is “a purely affective rebeginning of the world” (Massumi 2008, 5). It is this kind of affective experience of environmental sound that my practice aimed to create. For musician and theorist Steve Goodman, “affect is the vibration – the good or bad vibes – prior to organisation into organised feeling (prior to what phenomenology would call intentionality)” (1). Goodman extends Whitehead’s perspective into the physicality of vibrational force and the modulation of affective tonality. I also became interested in experimenting in my practice the physicality of vibrational force, but linked to the corporeality of environmental sound enhanced by space’s acoustics. I found common points as well with sound artist Jordan Lacey’s research on affective sonic ecologies, particularly on the importance given to “the role of sound(scape) installations in diversifying affects on human experience” (Lacey 2014, appendix 1). He has developed conceptual tools to discover spatiotemporal controls and understand how these controls homogenise affective sonic ecologies (Lacey 2014, appendix 1). As it will be seen, I have explored a diversification of affect, as ontologically one, formally diverse; meaning that from the physical experience of space as matter- energy, multiple modes of attunement have emerged. And this is how my practice contributes to an ecology of affect. I have found in Marie-Louise Angerer book Ecology of Affect: Intensive Milieus and Contingent Encounters (2017) some topics that I have addressed in my work too. Angerer revises relationships between environment, technology and humans based in sensation or affect. She explores the motions of connecting, disrupting and translating as new parameters of affect. In this sense, she describes three operations of the affective – connective, disruptive and translation – as “the temporally barred momentum of a relation, a blank, a gaping opening, into which and from which affect arises” (Angerer 2017, 11). I have drawn on her approach, moving forward and unfolding three operations of the affective in a direct relation to my practice. My aural architecture practice intended to create an experience of spacetime as this gap opening – the design of an affective experience of environmental sound – towards an ecology of affect.

Notes:

  1. In https://dj.dancecult.net/index.php/dancecult/article/view/310/301 – accessed October 16, 2017

Back to: Research