Saturday, June 23, 2007

felt sense . . . "chewing dried meat in a house of disrepute" *

i remember when i first heard mention of affect in my early grad school days studying rhetoric and composition. and then the term "felt sense" (Sondra Perl has a fairly recent book on the matter), and i thought, this work is groovy enough for me. i can do this. because really, if we are talking about Writing with the Body (the post-colon title of Perl's book), " . . . which guides writers to gain access to preverbal intuitive knowledge through attention to bodily experience," then i'm in. "Perl defined felt sense [at a 2003 C's panel] as "something you know in your body before you articulate it, a feeling of physical discomfort that produces words [. . .]", and i'm hearing, again, Massumi's work on affect and those words -- language as "subtractive" -- sensation prioritized in/on/through the body in what seems to be somehow precognitive.

for me, felt sense emerges in/on the body when you watch a great film that does something beyond providing pleasure or the fulfillment of expectations (and i'm not simply talking about "discomfort" in traditional terms because most great films or fabulous art generates discomfort that is also incredibly pleasurable -- think Andres Serrano). it's a connection to or experience of the "unassimilable" nature of affect that "vibrates with pleasure" ("the skin of a robot" -- beck, lazy flies), and it's why, when in the museum (any museum) , you stroll w/your partner/friend/whatever and occasionally stop to regroup, to chat about what you've seen and felt and all you can say is "did you SEE that?!" and there it is, that language that is subtractive . . . but sooooooooooooo gentle, so simple, so clear . . . and not at all assertive but inquisitive, if rhetorically so, not at all about MAKING A CLAIM and not at all about tarting up the experience of the image/expression-event by seeking to make sense of it. sometimes, listening in on other people's conversations at galleries/museums is fun, if a little tragic. i sort of love to hear "i don't get it." not because it makes me feel superior but because they *are* expressing that discomfort of the affective . . . and i want to gently ask, "but how does it make you feel?" to sort of direct them back to the event. or i want to suggest, "that's okay, . . . no need to worry about what it means" (even though, as i've argued before, meaning finds a way, if "only" in the "expression-event" itself, if only "meaning" arrives as intensity rather than emerging from language). clearly, the latter part of this comment (and much of this entry) owes much to Brian Massumi, who did find the language to express many of the intensities i could not.

* notes on this entry's title: also lyrics, which for me articulate a felt sense of something i can't articulate, from Beck's "lazy flies," a track for which i want to someday produce a video featuring scenes from Werner Herzog's "Fitzcarraldo" and also Aguirre, Wrath of God)

image 1 ; fitzcarraldo ; aguirre

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