Phan­tom Limbs: Af­fect and Vir­tu­al­ity


Session Title:

  • Virtual Doppelgangers: Embodiment, Morphogenesis, and Transversal Action

Presentation Title:

  • Phan­tom Limbs: Af­fect and Vir­tu­al­ity




  • Panel: Virtual Doppelgangers: Embodiment, Morphogenesis, and Transversal Action

    This essay ad­dresses the is­sues of per­for­mance, af­fect, and vir­tu­al­ity in terms of in­ter­ven­tions in on­line en­vi­ron­ments, and the phe­nom­ena of af­fect in vir­tual per­for­mance. Brian Mas­sumi, in the fore­word to Deleuze & Guat­tari’s A Thou­sand Plateaus, wrote of the af­fec­tive as dif­fer­ent from feel­ing or emo­tion in that af­fect is preper­sonal, or be­fore the per­sonal as­pects of feel­ing and emo­tion. This leads one to be­lieve that af­fect is as much hard­ware as wet­ware as far as the brain is con­cerned. Neu­ro­sci­en­titst V.J. Ra­machan­dran pop­u­lar­ized the dis­cov­ery of “mir­ror neu­rons,” or a net­work of neu­rons ded­i­cated to em­pa­thet­i­cally pro­ject­ing the ac­tions of oth­ers into the in­di­vid­ual. The func­tion­ing of this set of neu­rons ex­plains any num­ber of be­hav­iors such as dis­tress for an­other’s trauma or pro­jec­tion when play­ing with dolls. This is why the mir­ror neu­rons are also nick­named the “Gandhi neu­rons.” But what of vir­tual per­for­mance?

    Dur­ing the rise of per­for­mance art, the ob­ject had ob­served the Green­ber­gian im­plo­sion to pure form, and with Fluxus and con­cep­tu­al­ism, the ob­ject it­self as nec­es­sary part of art praxis had been oblit­er­ated. The body had be­come the repos­i­tory for di­rect ex­pres­sion in art with the com­ing of per­for­mance art. How­ever, with the re­con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion of sem­i­nal works by Ma­rina Abramovic, with her Seven Easy Pieces, the mean­ings of the works as im­me­di­ate, site-spe­cific hap­pen­ings be­came cir­cum­spect. This was fur­ther com­pounded by artists Evan and Franco Mattes, self-pro­claimed “haters” of per­for­mance art, who re­me­di­ated other sem­i­nal works, in­clud­ing those of Abramovic in the on­line vir­tual world Sec­ond Life. The process of drain­ing the site of per­for­mance through de­con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion, then dis­em­bod­i­ment, should have de­stroyed the event of mean­ing, but the per­for­mances of Mattes, Sec­ond Front, Kil­dall, et al re­tained some el­e­ment of im­pact.  This pre­sen­ta­tion will ex­plore the epis­temic arc of per­for­mance art from Fluxus to Gazira Ba­beli, and dis­cuss the im­por­tance of af­fect as in­trin­sic cri­te­ria of per­for­mance and where is has been re­tained in the vir­tual.

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