Archive for February, 2010

Train to Virar

These photos seem to me to have come together quite by chance, but then they also emerged from patterns of behavior and forms of style, against the backdrop of flows of people, traffic, capital, information. In India today these patterns are emerging through a new ecology of sensation. But I make no claim for these photographs as “art.” And yet clearly the history of perspectivalism, the dominance of representationalism in the engagement with a living multiplicity is at stake for me in creating these images. There is an accretion of information some of which coheres, much of which does not, but each image has a certain duration at different scales of perception, a noncoinciding resonant unity, a unity-in-multiplicity is what I hope to continue through the photography (mutating affect, not representation). An ecology of sensation meeting its cliché: Bollywood meets graphic novels at the back of a rikshaw, Agra’s Mughal-era oriental(ized) stone work turning topological and dimensional (is it less or more racist? to what extent is the question relevant to what it does?), the ferris wheel on Juhu beach, the weighing machine at the local station. This time that I have been able to spend here in India thanks to a research grant from the Fulbright foundation, has allowed me to research the materiality of the ecology of sensation of mobile phones and experiment in forms of creatively engaging this ecology.

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Sensation and its ecologies get us beyond the pleasure-agency / consumption-docility binary that characterizes radical political thought today. This is simply because sensation is not the synthesis of the dialectic, it is not involved ontologically in dialectics at all. Sensation involves the creative mixing of the virtual and the actual. Deleuze writes, “sensation has no [objective and subjective] sides at all; it is both things, indissolubly; it is being-in-the-world, as the phenomenologists say: at the same time I become in sensation and something arrives through sensation, one through the other, one in the other” (Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation 27; qtd. in Elena del Rio, “Alchemies of Thought in Godard’s Cinema: Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty,” SubStance, Vol. 34, No. 3, Issue 108: French Cinema Studies 1920s to the Present (2005), pp. 62-78, 62). Sensation emerges in gradients of intensity, movement, density, synaesthesia, passing through critical thresholds of becoming, complexly mixing in self-differentiating affective processes across value, sense, and force. As bodies and technologies assemble across delivery platforms emergent properties and co-evolutionary trajectories partly actualize virtual futures, repetitively, stochastically. Sensation also gets us out of the morality of the pleasure-agency / consumption-docility binary, a morality of ressentiment and a practice of “good vs. bad” representation. What we need to affirm in media studies and critical theory today is not the pious memory of the subaltern, but the processes (cultural, institutional, economic, subjective) that have been rendered as products in analyses that seek to bring the subaltern to voice. Dispense with subaltern pieties, return to movement, consider its diagram of change, its variable dimensions, its ecology of becoming. If we attend to the function of a bodily event, if we consider such events in the act of exceeding their actualization, we come to consider the politics of the virtual and the becoming of sensation (I owe this point to a conversation sociologist Shilpa Phadke and I had on a feminist response to lingerie ads in Mumbai, India).

We need therefore to pose clearly what method would allow living the chance of a becoming away from the binary between docility and resistance. What Ned Rossiter and Brett Neilson’s article (“Precarity as a Political Concept, or, Fordism as Exception,” Theory Culture Society 2008; 25; 51) helped bring out for me was the set of problems in which one locates one’s practice. For me this set is best analyzed as they suggest in their article as the “movement of movements.” Someone very wise it was who said “Follow the Movements!” Rossiter and Neilson’s frame of reference includes such names as Agamben, Foucault, Schmidt, Spivak, Mouffe, Berlant, Hardt and Negri, and Lazzarato. This is their abstract:

In 2003, the concept of precarity emerged as the central organizing platform for a series of social struggles that would spread across the space of Europe. Four years later, almost as suddenly as the precarity movement appeared, so it would enter into crisis. To understand precarity as a political concept it is necessary to go beyond economistic approaches that see social conditions as determined by the mode of production. Such a move requires us to see Fordism as exception and precarity as the norm. The political concept and practice of translation enables us to frame the precarity of creative labour in a broader historical and geographical perspective, shedding light on its contestation and relation to the concept of the common. Our interest is in the potential for novel forms of connection, subjectivization and political organization. Such processes of translation are themselves inherently precarious, transborder undertakings.

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