Virtuality / Massumi / Hayles / Boelstorff

“…feelings have a way of folding into each other, resonating together, interfering with each other, mutually intensifying, all in unquantifiable ways…”

Brian Massumi’s Concrete Is as Concrete Doesn’t Introduction is a provocative path of thought. Shifting through perspectives, he explores the notion of movement. Shifting through sense of movement that extends to the reading process itself, in this way folding the reader into a process of self reflection.

Massumi starts by briefly illustrating a cultural studies notion of a societal grid, and the play of identity politics as bodies correspond with overlapping ‘sites’. It constructs a bleak view of the world. “It was all about a subject without subjectivism: a subject “constructed” by external mechanisms. “The Subject.” A world that is rigid in form, all encompassing, defining any possible trajectory. Personally I concur with many systemic critiques of society, but this portion of the text weighed heavy on any sense of possibly & potential. But the essay’s direction takes a much more fluid turn by introducing Zeno’s paradoxes of movement. A philosophic arrow is shot in the air, and as a linear path, from one point to the next, the arrow is trapped in the infinite points between each of it’s key points. Massumi shifts through several perspectives on the topic, leading him to the notion of “Passing into” or “Emerging” as not a binarism, but instead “dynamic unities”. “They can only be approached by a logic that is abstract enough to grasp the self-disjunctive coincidence of a thing’s immediacy to its own variation: to follow how concepts of dynamic unity and unmediated heterogeneity reciprocally presuppose each other.”

His essay goes on to read like a super sized zen koan, meaning it positions the reader in a game of cat and mouse between a multiplicity of possible readings. It curls in on itself, articulating his own motivations as a writer, and presumably as our motivations as a reader. It has a very performative quality, the sense of movement it produces it unexpected, and challenges the reader to reconsider the essay as a format of critical and creative process. As he puts it, “….perhaps in order to write experimentally, you have to be willing to ‘affirm’ even your own stupidity.”
With this essay Massumi articulates a kind of freedom, departing from one stable point he attempts to find another, and in the process exposes the fluid nature behind such perceived stability.


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