Experience of space as matter-energy

The figure of an intrinsically inanimate matter may be one of the impediments to the emergence of more ecological and more materially sustainable modes of production and consumption. My claims here are motivated by a self-interested or conative concern for human survival and happiness: I want to promote greener forms of human culture and more attentive encounters between people-materialities and thing- materialities. (Bennett 2010, ix)

In Vibrant Matter, a political ecology of things (2010), political theorist and philosopher Jane Bennett claims that an image of dead or thoroughly instrumentalised matter feeds human hubris and earth-destroying fantasies of conquest and consumption. She argues that this is done so by preventing people from detecting (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling) a fuller range of the non-human powers circulating around and within human bodies (Bennett 2010, ix). Bennett calls up for the experience of space, objects and things as vivid, vibratory entities (Bennett 2010, 4). She describes this reality of non- human powers as vibrant matter, a vibrational force, an active becoming (1) of vibrant bodies, “a creative not-quite-human force capable of producing the new” (Bennett 2010, 118). This idea has been explored as material vitalism by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaux (1993). In the chapter Of the Refrain the authors explain how milieux and rhythms are born from chaos and that these forces of chaos, terrestrial forces, cosmic forces confront each other and converge in the territorial refrain (Deleuze and Guattari 1993, 312-313). These forces of chaos or matter-energy have also been addressed by other thinkers. For example, Michel Serres describes it as “a turbulent, immanent field in which various and variable materialities collide, congeal, morph, evolve, and disintegrate” (Serres 2000). Earlier philosophers, such as Lucretius, have also claimed that everything is made of the same matter, he called this primorrua; today this might be called atoms, quarks, particle streams or matter-energy (Bennett, 2011, ix). Bennett claims that everything is connected and irreducible to a simple substrate, resonating with an ecological sensibility. In this sense, Bennett calls up for humans “to tune into the strange logic of turbulence” (Bennett 2010, xi). Deleuze argues that material vitalism’s formula is “ontologically one, formally diverse” (Deleuze 1992, 67). I have found common ground with Benett’s approach on space as a field of vibrant matter, matter-energy and non-human powers, by Deleuze and Guattari’s material vitalism and Serres’ turbulent, immanent field. My practical case studies have explored this idea of vibrational vitalism of space to which I will be referring to as matter-energy. My aim was to create an aural architecture of encounters between organisms and things (2) for their detection and relationship through the auditory sphere. The purpose was to create an aural architecture of affective experiences of environmental sound, as a way to foster an ecology of affect.

Encounters generate affects. Encounters between organisms and things external to them, or groups of things, further generate affects that may engage the singular and the multiple. This results in changes in situation or conditions, productive of new bodies; different in their attributes and constitution. New bodies generate different affects, and so on. (Colman in Angerer 2017, 8)

My practice-based research addresses encounters that generate modes of experience of a space that is not empty, it is a vital materiality, a vibrational force, as a continuous process of transformation, in different rhythms and cycles. We, as human beings, are part of this vital materiality or vibrational force. With these ideas, my proposal was to design alternative forms of architecture that accentuate differences to generate encounters of vital or dynamic materialities and sensory experiences of spacetime, as part of it. My research aim was to experiment with environmental sound through a spatial approach, into the architectural design of ambiances, as encounters between humans, non-humans and things.

 

Notes:

  1. Becoming is a term explored by philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, and refers to a process of change within an assemblage. It serves to account for relationships between the “discrete” elements of the assemblage (in http:// www.rhizomes.net/issue5/poke/glossary.html accessed March 24 2017). The term has been used in processual and generative design practices.
  2. I will use the term thing to address objects, phenomena or entities indistinctively.

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