Not Symbiosis, Not Now

Colebrook, C., 2012. Not Symbiosis, Not Now: Why Anthropogenic Change Is Not Really Human. Oxford Literary Review 34, 185–209. https://doi.org/10.3366/olr.2012.0041
p.187

[…] theory and the humanities in general (along with humanity ‘itself’) have not been eager to consider this rather awkward problem, especially given that unlike questions of social justice, personal ethics and political freedom, climate change does not seem to offer solutions in which anyone might win or even improve their current lot.

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On Aesthetic Plasticity

Tom Sparrow, ‘On Aesthetic Plasticity’, pp. 177-218, in:

Sparrow, T., Malabou, C., 2015. Plastic bodies: rebuilding sensation after phenomenology. Open Humanities Press, London.

p.177

The argument so far has followed two general, intertwined trajectories: one critical, the other constructive. The critical thread has argued that the two visions of embodiment offered by Merleau-Ponty and Levinas are inadequate for thinking how our bodies actually interact with the material world. The constructive thread has assembled evidence which suggests that both phenomenologists were cognizant of the function that sensation plays in the constitution of experience and identity.

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Plastic bodies

Tom Sparrow, ‘Introduction’, pp. 21-24, in:
Sparrow, T., Malabou, C., 2015. Plastic bodies: rebuilding sensation after phenomenology. Open Humanities Press, London.

p.21

[on this book]

While it draws liberally from the resources of phenomenology, the idea of embodiment assembled in its pages is quite often at odds with the first- person orientation of the phenomenological method. It is therefore as much about the limits of phenomenology as it is about the limits of the body.

In the last analysis it is really about how we might rebuild the somewhat unfashionable concept of sensation following the rescue attempts made by Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Emmanuel Levinas.

This is because sensation, as I understand it here, is unsuitable for proper phenomenological investigation. It does not present itself phenomenally as an object of consciousness, or as what Husserl calls an intentional object. Sensation is something that happens below the phenomenal level, so at best it is a mediated datum of consciousness.

How, then, can we speak of this non-phenomenal sensation? My contention is that we experience it primarily through its effects and can thereby think it on the basis of these effects. Perception, passion, cognition, consciousness, identity, and freedom are some of these effects. These are indeed accessed phenomenally, but as products of sensation.

p.22

To be clear: I am not attempting a phenomenology of sensation, and neither were Merleau-Ponty and Levinas. What I do is to take up their speculative remarks about sensation and develop these into a novel theory of embodiment, but one markedly more speculative than phenomenological.

Sensation is thus approached from two perspectives, the phenomenological and the speculative. A simple twofold argument is presented: sensation is the basic material of subjectivity; as such, sensation is responsible in a non-trivial way for the subject’s power to exist.

pp.23-24

There are, however, more points of contact between phenomenology and, say, Deleuze and Spinoza, than usually acknowledged by partisan readings of the history of twentieth-century French philosophy.

p.24

Embodiment is now thoroughly incorporated into almost all the human sciences and phenomenology has been integral to this incorporation.

What is called for now, however, is a post-phenomenological perspective. By this I mean a perspective which is not simply anti-phenomenological, but one which has gone through phenomenology and retained its kernel of truth, even if this kernel proves to be non-phenomenological in nature. For me, this is the truth of plasticity.

But I also retrieve a pre-phenomenological, occasionally pre-critical perspective, one which draws liberally from the materialist and empiricist traditions to see what effects they can produce today. In this respect this book is a work of metaphysics. It does not claim to have invented a brand new theory of the body, but to have mobilized several philosophical traditions and rebuilt the body using a diverse team of thinkers.

Concrete Is as Concrete Doesn’t

Brian Massumi, ‘lntroduction: Concrete Is as Concrete Doesn’t’, pp.1-21, in:
Massumi, B., 2002. Parables for the virtual: movement, affect, sensation. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.

p.1

When I think of my body and ask what it does to earn that name, two things stand out. It moves. It feels. In fact, it does both at the same time. It moves as it feels, and it feels itself moving. Can we think a body without this: an intrinsic connection between movement and sensation whereby each immediately summons the other?

The project of this book is to explore the implications for cultural theory of this simple conceptual displacement: body-(movement/sensa­tion)-change.

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The One-Eyed Man and the One-Armed Man: Camera, Culture, and the State

John Tagg, ‘The One-Eyed Man and the One-Armed Man: Camera, Culture, and the State’, pp.1-49, in:
Tagg, J., 2009. The disciplinary frame: photographic truths and the capture of meaning. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

p.1

This carefully constructed room has an old name. It is a camera. A room, but a room with a purpose: the training of light, graphing it—quite literally, photo-graphing, subjecting light to the punctual rule of the room’s inbuilt geometrical law.

The camera is, then, a place to isolate and discipline light, like a room in Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon. And, like that room in the Panopticon, the cell of the camera has its utility both as a training machine and as a device for producing and preserving text.

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Photography: history and theory

Jae Emerling, ‘Preface’ and ‘Introduction’, pp.xii-xiii and pp.1-16, in:

Emerling, J., 2012. Photography: history and theory. Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY.

Preface

p.xii

Every book on photography is always marked by the same limitation: the absence of all the photographs discussed within the text.

In other words, every historical and theoretical text on photography has blind spots, photographs that are missing, absent, untranslatable. Rather than see this as a shortcoming, perhaps it is better to reckon with these blind spots as openings, as disjunctive syntheses.

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Both a Cyborg and a Goddess

R. Joshua Scannell, ‘Both a Cyborg and a Goddess: Deep Managerial Time and Informatic Governance’, pp.247-273, in:

Behar, K. (Ed.), 2016. Object-oriented feminism. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

p.247

[Referencing Jasbir Puar (2012)]

Affective intensities, distributed bodily information, data trails, teletechnology, all commingle in a constantly productive distribution of posthumanist political modulations that are the target of what Gilles Deleuze identified as “the society of control.”

Puar metonymizes these analytics as goddesses and cyborgs. On the one hand, the reified humanist categories of goddess identity and personhood render a political imagination that exotifies both the sub- jects it seeks to represent and the political systems that oppress them. On the other, the teleological technical determinism of the cyborg easily slips into a sort of pseudo-intellectual “disruptive” solipsism. Surely, she claims, there must be cyborg goddesses in our midst.

It is my contention that a figure with the attributes of the cyborg goddess has emerged, but that it is not human.

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On the Verge of Photography

Daniel Rubinstein & Andy Fisher, ‘Introduction: On the Verge of Photography’, pp.7-14, in: 
Rubenstein, D., Golding, J., Fisher, A., 2013. On the verge of photography: imaging beyond representation. ARTicle Press.
p.8

If this multi-layered reality comprising of bits of matter and bits of information appears homey and familiar it is in part due to the ease with which digital images are so readily translatable between different layers of data, code and matter.

However, it now seems that it is the humble photographic image, in all its hybridized digital forms, that encapsulates the interlacing of physical and algorithmic attributes, aesthetic and political forms, which characterise the age of information capitalism.

Athleticism

Gilles Deleuze, ‘Athleticism’, pp.12-19, in:

Deleuze, G. 2003. Francis Bacon: the logic of sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith (London; New York: Continuum

p.12

Let us return to Bacon’s three pictorial elements: the large fields as a spatializing material structure; the Figure, the Figures and their fact; and the place – that is, the round area, the ring, or the contour, which is the common limit of the Figure and the field.

The contour, as a “place,” is in fact the place of an exchange in two directions: between the material structure and the Figure, and between the Figure and the field.

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Note on Figuration in Past Painting

Gilles Deleuze, ‘Note on Figuration in Past Painting’, pp.8-11, in:

Deleuze, G. 2003. Francis Bacon: the logic of sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith (London; New York: Continuum)

p.8

Painting has to extract the Figure from the figurative. But Bacon invokes two developments which seem to indicate that modern painting has a different relation to figuration or illustration than the painting of the past has.

First, photography has taken over the illustrative and documentary role, so that modern painting no longer needs to fulfill this function, which still burdened earlier painters. Second, painting used to be conditioned by certain “religious possibilities” that still gave a pictorial meaning to figuration, whereas modern painting is an atheistic game.

Yet it is by no means certain that these two ideas, taken from Malraux, are adequate. On the one hand, such activities are in competition with each other, and one art would never be content to assume a role abandoned by another.

pp.8-9

The photograph, though instantaneous, has a completely different ambition than representing, illustrating, or narrating.

p.9

On the other hand, the link between the pictorial element and religious sentiment, in past painting, in turn seems poorly defined by the hypothesis of a figurative function that was simply sanctified by faith.

Consider an extreme example: El Greco’s The Burial of the Count ofOrgaz (1586-8). A horizontal divides the painting into two parts: upper and lower, celestial and terrestrial. In the lower half, there is indeed a figuration or narration that represents the burial of the count, although all the coefficients of bodily deformation, and notably elongation, are already at work. But in the upper half, where the count is received by Christ, there is a wild liberation, a total emancipation: the Figures are lifted up and elongated, refined without measure, outside all constraint.

Despite appearances, there is no longer a story to tell; the Figures are relieved of their representative role, and enter directly into relation with an order of celestial sensations.

p.10

Thus we cannot say that it was religious sentiment that sustained figuration in the painting of the past; on the contrary, it made possible a liberation of Figures, the emergence of Figures freed from all figuration.

Nor can we say that the renunciation of figuration was easier for modern painting as a game.

pp.10-11

On the contrary, modern painting is invaded and besieged by photographs and cliches that are already lodged on the canvas before the painter even begins to work.

p.11

In fact, it would be a mistake to think that the painter works on a white and virgin surface. The entire surface is already invested virtually with all kinds of cliches, which the painter will have to break with.

This is exactly what Bacon says when he speaks of the photograph: it is not a figuration of what one sees, it is what modern man sees. It is dangerous not simply because it is figurative, but because it claims to reign over vision, and thus to reign over painting.

Having renounced the religious sentiment, but besieged by the photograph, modern painting finds itself in a situation which, despite appearances, makes it much more difficult to break with the figuration that would seem to be its miserable reserved domain. Abstract painting attests to this difficulty: the extraordinary work of abstract painting was necessary in order to tear modern art away from figuration. But is there not another path, more direct and more sensible?