[-empyre-] R: divisibility and failure

stamatia portanova stamatiaportanova at yahoo.it
Wed May 6 01:48:18 EST 2009

Thank you for your suggestion Tim. I think that the concept of 'affect' can raise an interesting point in relation to what Ashley was saying about digital programmers and engineers and their definition of the mishap. Thinking about it, I do not see the digital cut as a mishap in itself, (unless we want to adopt a purely technical point of view). The way I see it is as an affect, or as a creative sensation, in itself. One of the differences between an artistic (or philosophical) and a scientific parameter, or even better between a creative and a purely technical one, is exactly in how and where creativity and affect are conceived. A very important acquisition of cybernetic research (despite its kind of old-fashioned sound), or at least of a particular strand of cybernetic, is the recognition that creativity resides in all the different points, elements and relations of a system. This point of view is very similar to Deleuze and Guattari's concept of the
 machinic, and it leads us to consider the body itself as a machine (and to define the machine as a body), without recurring to any mechanistic or vitalistic equation. If we adopt this point of view, than it becomes more difficult to hold on our 'human analogical' models of qualitative continuity, to keep the 'human body' as the main parameter and consider affect and creativity as merely responding to its criteria. In short, we are necessarily led to see digital discreteness as a failure in itself. In this sense, we are left without any means to positively evaluate technology, apart from its unsuccessful mishaps or imprecise discrete renderings, and we might be missing something. Perhaps we might be missing the necessity to shift our critical point of view and its ontological basis when it comes to technology, in fear of adapting our humanity too much to it. Of course human bodies are still there, with all their characteristics, together with technical
 apparatuses of all kinds. But in parallel with the exigency of not taking for granted social and cultural definitions of the body (male/female, etc), we might want to not take for granted its human definition either. A different concept of affect would emerge here, that comprises the digital as an affect in itself, without any need to make it 'pass' through the human adaptation of the mishap. For this reason, I like Whitehead's definition of affect as a 'prehension' a lot, because it highlights Deleuze and Guattari's point that an affect is non-human, non-living, non-organic. It simply indicates a resonance between entities (humans and humans, humans and numbers, numbers and numbers). For Whitehead, for example, electrons 'experience' protons, and a feeling can unfold in relation not only to qualitative, but also to geometrical events. A way to reconcile the two points of view, then, could be to move from the necessity of a 'humanly lived experience'
 (because in that case, organically speaking, the digital will always appear as one step behind), to an experience that acquires its lived or purely material connotations, according to the different entities involved in the process. The 'experientiable' digital, as a different, autonomous affective level, is 'translated' into the qualitative code of our living, human organisms. The conception of a 'digital affect' can have important practical consequences, because a different attitude towards technology, towards for example divisibility, without giving it any negative or positive connotations a priori, can maybe open our experimentations towards different directions. Divisibility could, for example, just be considered as a quality, in the same way of, for example, 'stretchability'. If you can indefinitely stretch the space-time fabric of a process, you can also infinitely divide it, without the two aspects confusing into each other (despite what many
 mathematical theories argue, about infinite division becoming at one point continuity). I would therefore opt for a terminology that leaves aside definitions like loss or gain, failure or success. I totally agree with the fact that thinking of the digital as merely 'programmed' by us means to take this 'us' for granted as a pre-existing predefined entity. 

I am very interested in the relation between digital divisibility and the continuity of the mouse trace, as dependent on the gesture of the human hand. I know of an interesting example of video-dance, by a Belgian film maker, Antonin De Bemels, who composed his digital dance videos with the 'scrubbing' technique, a sort of scratching, like in djing, but with audiovisual material, therefore combining discreteness and qualitative continuity. 

But going back to the other example of Dance Forms, what happens if we analyze the kinds of movements that are 'prompted' by the software in their materiality, even if they happen in a discrete grid or box? Isn't it true that, if we abandon the field of representation, every movement becomes interesting in itself, apart from its definitions? Can we aver really conceive a totally free, infinite movement outside any box? Or perhaps it is 'in' the different boxes in which our own anatomy, culture, technologies enclose us, that the potential of movement reveals itself?

--- Mar 5/5/09, Timothy Murray <tcm1 at cornell.edu> ha scritto:

> Da: Timothy Murray <tcm1 at cornell.edu>
> Oggetto: [-empyre-] divisibility and failure
> A: "soft_skinned_space" <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Data: Martedì 5 maggio 2009, 16:32
> Thanks for such informative and stimulating posts, Stamatia
> and 
> Ashley.  You've provided us with a fantastic opening
> for this month 
> on "Critical Motion Practice."
> Your differing emphases on "divisibility" and the
> choroegraphic 
> embrace of technological failure brings to mind the
> precedent in 
> sound art of the 'aesthetics of failure' through
> which crashes, bugs, 
> viruses, distortion and even machinic noise comprise the
> 'material' 
> of composition and sound performance.   What I gather from
> both of 
> you, moreover, is that you relate your interest in the gap
> or glitch 
> not merely to the wonders of digital technology but to the 
> technologies of the body and its representation.  I'm
> looking forward 
> to hearing more, and to thinking about how such
> 'failure' figures as 
> 'affect.'
> Best,
> Tim
> -- 
> Timothy Murray
> Director, Society for the Humanities
> http://www.arts.cornell.edu/sochum/
> Curator, The Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art, Cornell
> Library
> http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu
> Professor of Comparative Literature and English
> A. D. White House
> Cornell University
> Ithaca, New York 14853
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre


More information about the empyre mailing list