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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Post-Dualist Embodiment, with Some Theses on Sensation

Tom Sparrow, ‘Post-Dualist Embodiment, with Some Theses on Sensation’, pp. 25-66, in:

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

p.26

Certain bodily transformations never present themselves phenomenally. Or they do, but only after they have happened, like an afterimage whose original image is forever lost. They affect us unwittingly, spontaneously causing a malfunction or disablement of the body that consciousness never directly witnesses.

Sensation, I will claim, is something undergone by animate and inanimate bodies alike, but it is undergone in such a way that we tend to forget it ever happened or that it is happening at every moment.

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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.

Potential

Michel Serres, ‘Potential’, pp.33-66, in:
Serres, M., Burks, R., 2011. Variations on the body. Univocal Publishing, Minneapolis.

p.33

No seated professor taught me productive work, the only kind of any worth, whereas my gymnastics teachers, coaches and, later, my guides inscribed its very conditions into my muscles and bones. They teach what the body can do.

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Metamorphosis

Michel Serres, ‘Metamorphosis’, pp.3-31, in:
Serres, M., Burks, R., 2011. Variations on the body. Univocal Publishing, Minneapolis.

p.4

Anxiety, of course, occurs before the climb, just as fear returns after; but during it, the body progresses, on the rock face, as though it were protected. But, leaving aside guides, pitons, ropes and partners, by what, by whom?

Stretch out your arms and legs: your twenty fingers and toes attain in space a large rectangular frame or a circle – your starfish, octopus or gibbon’s maximal hold on the world. Your active force and sensibility radiate at the extreme points of this figure.

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Exploring everyday photographic routines through the habit of noticing

Eve Forrest, ‘Exploring everyday photographic routines through the habit of noticing’, pp.193-208, in:

Gómez Cruz, E., Lehmuskallio, A. (Eds.), 2016. Digital photography and everyday life: empirical studies on material visual practices. Routledge, London; New York.

p.193

Looking around me, I could see little that I thought was worth photographing. However, one of the photographers beside me suddenly stopped still, then, crouched down. I observed them at work as they moved around: making micro adjustments to their feet, fingers, shoulders and head movements, getting their body in the best position to take the picture.

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Between Bodies and Machines

Eve Forrest, ‘Between Bodies and Machines: Photographers with Cameras, Photographers on Computers’, pp.105-122, in:

Rubenstein, D., Golding, J., Fisher, A., 2013. On the verge of photography: imaging beyond representation. Article Press, Birmingham, UK.

p.105

This discussion has two aims. The first is to move discourse on photography away from the dominant representational framework that often ignores the doings of the photographer.

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Choreutics

Laban, R. (1966 [1939] ). Choreutics. Annotated and edited by L. Ullmann. London: MacDonald and Evans

Preface

p.vii

Choreosophia” – an ancient Greek word, from choros, meaning circle, and sophia, meaning knowledge of wisdom – is the nearest term I have discovered with which to express the essential ideas of this book.

The wisdom of circles is as old as the hills. It is founded on a conception of life and becoming aware of it which has its roots in magic and which was shared by peoples in early stages of civilisation.

The original conviction of the extraordinary role which the circle plays in harmony, life, and even in the whole of existence, survived the many changes in mentality, mood and feeling which abound in history.

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Orientations Towards Objects

Sara Ahmed, ‘Orientations Towards Objects’, pp.25-64, in:

Ahmed, S., 2006. Queer phenomenology: orientations, objects, others. Duke University Press, Durham.

p.27

[…] by showing how phenomenology faces a certain directions, which depends on the relegation of other “things” to the background, I consider how phenomenology may be gendered as a form of occupation.

We are turned toward things . Such things make an impression upon us. We perceive them as things insofar as they are near to us, insofar as we share a residence with them. Perception hence involves orientation; what is perceived depends on where we are located, which gives us a certain take on things.

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Future Texts

Alondra Nelson. ‘Future Texts’, pp.1-15 in:

Nelson, A. (ed.), 2002. Afrofuturism. Duke University Press, Durham.

p.1

Forecasts of a utopian (to some) race-free future and pronouncements of the dystopian digital divide are the predominant discourses of blackness and technology in the public sphere.

What matters is less a choice between these two narratives, which fall into conventional libertarian and conservative frameworks, and more what they have in common: namely, the assumption that race is a liability in the twenty-first century—is either negligible or evidence of negligence.

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