This is a snippet from a much longer piece I wrote a few years ago. I feel some odd obligation to proclaim this, as if Blogger were a priest of spontaneity and this my sin....
Style is not an essence. It does not exist prior to the thing. Nor does it reside deep inside, pushing the buttons, driving the ship. Style is not the means one adopts to liven up an otherwise boring performance. Style shows itself, or rather, forges its very existence, in the process of production, emerging at the point of contact between and amongst bodies.
Style is not just a heeding of the world. It is this manner of heeding the world, a singular mode of engagement with things. Style is what this body does with the world, how this body does with the world. Style is metabolic, a singular body's manner of consuming and distributing the world and, in the process, of creating itself: a productive consumption. It is the rate and mode of consumption and distribution, the manner and speed with which a thing takes up the world and put it to work.
Look around. See the different ways different bodies hold themselves, the different speeds and postures with which they tend, and attend, to everything around them — other people, information, light, hair, eyes, scent, air. Every thing consumes the world in its own way and, in so doing, creates itself. This is called comportment, the way a thing hangs in the world, the way it carries itself in the world. Comportment is at once a mode of interaction with the other things — an appetite as well as a touch — and the manner in which a thing holds its different elements together. A swimmer, a linebacker, a German Shepherd, a Chihuahua, a toddler, an adolescent, an elderly woman: each carries itself differently, assembles itself differently, emphasizes certain things and not others, leans more or less forward, more or less quickly, more or less upright, more or less attentive to different things. Each thing is more than a set of traits. Each thing is a way of going.
Style is not something done to the world but with the world. Our very perception of the world is already a particular configuring of that world; it is a giving shape to the many elements that present themselves to the perceiver. You and I are walking down the street. I notice some things, you others. And we do very different things with those perceptions. There is no moment we can possibly experience that is free of our styles.
Even so-called inanimate objects enjoy a style. Put any two drinking glasses together and you’ll quickly see two modes of making sense of beverage, container, and consumption. And these different styles, these different glasses, interact with other styles. Drink tequila in a whiskey glass and you’ll lose the delicate nose of the agave; drink whiskey in a tequila glass — tall and thin — and the whiskey will fail to open. This world calls for the right style for the right thing on the right occasion.
A thing — a text — is a multiplicity of elements, physical and affective, hanging together by the emergent, and ever singular, function of style.