Frames /sing


On Massumi’s Parables of the Virtual: Movement

Opening lines…

When I think of my body and ask what it does to earn that name, two thing 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 of a body without this: an intrinsic connection between movement and sensation whereby each immediately summons the other.

I am reading Brian Massumi’s 2002 book now, and this blog is going to go through a bit of a change. Part of this transformation perhaps will be my reading of Massumi’s book, which I hope has the heft to throw me forwards. If not, it may be a mere diminishment. Selective responses to Massumi should appear here, perhaps as small gateways forwards.

To Massumi’s opening lines. Yes, body and movement. Note his reflexivity though. It moves as it feels (feeling=movement), but it feels itself move (movement=feeling itself). I wonder if he is conscious of this importation? Further, there is a dimension of feeling that he does not seem to consider in his binary. This is the feeling of densification. The feeling of sitting down into. The sensation which is only a movement by analogy. A heading down towards zero.

I write in the margins…

“I do not trust “change” in the concept – it is an utter denial of real change which neither a multiplicity, nor a difference  (somehow these binaries bleed as leeches). Change is a connectivity and a cohesion that does not bend back – you want to call it a fold.”

What do I mean by that? There has always been a fear of change that wants to domesticate it through ab-straction, it seems. And sometimes the worst of these are philosophies of change, those that attempt to depict it, praise it, raise it up. Who had more fear of change…Heraclitus or Parmenides? Nietzsche or Spinoza? I fear Massumi’s binary for the body. It cosies up to movement. But he is also right that philosophies of rupture missed something about change and movement, ever searching for the periodic gash, whether it be a revolution or symptomatic rent of the Real. This is just another fear of change, genuine transformation that occurs in the microbes of the soil, the smallest places, continually. As he writes of past recent philosophies…

The slightest ongoing qualitative change paled in comparison paled in comparison to the grandness of periodic “rupture”. Against that possibility, the everyday was the place where nothing ever happens.

I know that Massumi wants to work this sense of movement into Deleuze’s metaphysics of difference, one of the least interesting aspects of his thinking. I am hoping for more.

10 responses to “On Massumi’s Parables of the Virtual: Movement

  1. glen December 15, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    PotV is one of my favourite books. It is one of the clearest engagements with the ‘event’ since Foucault’s review essay of TLoS and D&R. Feeling in the opening lines is roughly equivalent to Whitehead’s conceptualisation of sensation. This is completely absent from Harman’s appropriation of Whitehead.

    • kvond December 15, 2009 at 11:38 pm

      Are you saying that Harman isn’t a “feeling” sort of guy?…

      I can see the Whiteheadian connection. I’m going page by page, and will give the book a serious chance. I like Massumi quite a bit. I look forward to digging into it.

  2. Paul Bains December 18, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Been away. It’s the journal of ‘The Sense Lab’ – set up by Massumin and Erin

  3. Paul Bains December 18, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Correction: Just for the record The Sense Lab was set up by Erin Manning.

  4. Paul Bains December 19, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    just lost my comment…start again

    The main thing is the journal ‘inflexions’. the current vol has interviews with Latour, Stengers, Massumi. You might find something of interest:

    “The Sense Lab is composed of artists, academics, researchers, dancers, writers. We work together to explore the active passage between research and creation. We consider research to be creation in germ, and creation to produce its own concepts for thought.”

  5. Nic D'Alessio December 20, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I wouldn’t say that Massumi constructs a binary between movement feeling and movement; rather, as he writes, the body feels and moves “both at the same time.” To feel is already to be moved, to be touched by something that is not, stricto sensu, of my body. To feel is to be dispossessed in some fashion. Likewise, to move is to respond to some compelling and contending force. In positing (and here I admit that he hasn’t argued for but asserted) “an intrinsic connection between movement and sensation,” notice Massumi’s verb choices: convokes, conducts, beckons, folding, resonating, interfering, intensifying. Each is an eccentric action, a form of acting that conjures at one and the same time, imperceptibly, the feeling movement, and the movement feeling. And it is this imperceptibility, what Massumi calls a “qualitative difference,” that illuminates the key point of refraction for the book’s analysis — change. Massumi wants to examine questions of ontogenesis.

    As to your point about Massumi’s failure to consider densification, I would respond by saying that, following from my above remarks, densification is itself a feeling and felt movement. The point of contention, I think, is your invocation of analogy, which I would suggest is inopperative in Massumi, since (like Deleuze) he assumes a univocal mode of being.

    Also, I’d recommend Steven Shaviro’s new book on Deleuze and Whitehead.

    • kvond December 20, 2009 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks for the explication, but as you can see I am reading in course, and not gathering together the entire perspective. (I’m not interested in the perspective, (which is to say, the “position”) but the weave at this point. I also sense that the mode of my reading is at value quite in keeping with Massumi’s admitted black hole style of writing, in a sense, the question is not that of arriving at the “position” but in tracing its course, and finding one’s own “black holes” in dialogue. As for whether Massumi creates a binary between movement and feeling, I have to disagree with you (though you may be technically correct that he does not WANT to create such a binary as a position), he indeed creates it in text, in parts, as he tries to make himself clear, and it is this binarization which actually interests me, the process of arrival. Because I am resistant to some of the implicit Hegelianism made micro here, I am interested in rescuing out the aspects of the creative thought on affect immune from the need for such a dialectic of sort, or a reflexivity, which at times Massumi clearly shows.

      As for Whitehead, I’ve never been thrilled with him, though I have found Process Theology interesting at times.

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