2.01.2011

Architectures of the Invisible

I think one of the more odd features of the invisible world — of ideas and notions, affects and thoughts — is that is has shape. We know it has intensity — an idea or emotion or thought can take you over, make the very fibers of your being quiver or it can simply tickle your mind. But I want to say that these invisible things have shape, too. Or at least that they are inflected by those things that have shape, such as bodies and objects.

This is why one place — a block, a corner of the house, a city — has a certain affect and a certain effect on you but that affect, and effect, doesn't travel. You turn the corner and, voila, you experience something different.

Which is to say, if we acknowledge that affect shifts according to place then said affect is not in you per se. And nor is it uniform, like an invisible blanket tossed over the world. It is variegated and hence enjoys an architecture of a sort.

I want to say that Foucault studied the intricate architectures of power and truth, those invisible forces that at once prompt and limit what we say and think, that shape what we say and think.

Castaneda, meanwhile, gives us ways to operate in the space of the invisible.

Psychedelic experience is shaped: we see, and sense, shapes. Suddenly, the invisible is not so invisible but rather has internal borders, sort of like the streams in Donnie Darko, only more elaborate.

In What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari draw diagrams of concepts, of Descartes' cogito and Kant's system. Concepts are certainly architectures, distinct shapes, of the invisible.

A perhaps banal way to consider this is to see the negative space of the world, what we think of as the in-between.

As aspect of this argument is that the world is a plenum — it is absolutely full, even if always in the process of filling. There is no blank space, no nothing. Between us is always something. And this something, which is always multiple, has shape and speed and intensity.

3 comments:

Nathan said...

I came across a couple of figures in Deleuze's lectures on Spinoza that I think are helpful in considering this question of an architecture of affect.

First, there's the Stoic conception of the body against the Platonic view of form. The Platonic view is, of course, largely geometric in conception so it relates to this question of shape. Against this Platonic idea of a form defined by its outline (the outline being constitutive of its very character and status as form) the Stoics propose the idea of the body. The body is not defined by an outline but by the limit of its power. Of course, this is a dynamic limit. The limit of the body is expressed through its encounter with other bodies. We might conceive of affect in the same respect: it has a form, a body, which is precisely the limit of its power. These may be more useful than describing it in terms of shape as shape suggests a static form to the affective environment.

Secondly, there's a conception of the form of light or luminosity in Plotinus which I think is useful. Plotinus recognizes that light is neither a function of an emitting body nor of a receiving body. Yet, though it has no tactile limit it nevertheless has an observable limit. Here the Stoic idea of the body seems inadequate to describe this form. So, rather than attempting to delimit light within space, Plotinus goes deeper. He describes light as spatializing, rather than spatial. Space becomes a function of the expansion of light, the gradation of light and shadow. In this way, light is constitutive of space rather than the other way around. Here, again, I think we have a figure that is useful in thinking the relation of affect to space. Could we not say that, in some respects, affect is precisely constitutive of space?

Thanks, as always, for the post. It's great to have these questions posed and thought through.

Linz said...

"Between us is always something" — I love this. I love how it expresses both intimacy & estrangement, distance & proximity. That there could be some frenzied charge between us, something that draws us toward one another. Or there could be some impenetrable obstacle between us, something opaque and broad. Or both. And more.

Daniel Coffeen said...

@ Nathan: To your first point, absolutely. Shape — form — for me is always already in motion, always already a calculus, not a geometry. So my use of shape is different than the common use, perhaps — and that can certainly be misleading. My bad.

Second: yes, yes, yes, and I think it's what I've been trying to say, however obliquely: this world IS so much stuff, visible and invisible, material and affective. There is no first space and then stuff; there is stuff, which is always already shaped (or shaping).

@ Linz: fucking love this — it's all Merleau-Ponty's chiasmus, his intertwining, what he calls the flesh — it is what binds us and separates us. And I love that he calls it flesh — so animal, so cold, so hot, so sensual.