Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Affective Maps

Milan, January 2009, JB

Moments, places, ensembles ... certain co-incidences of elements that carry us away. In the way that Jonathan Flateley claims for Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, or W E B Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk, there are associations that provide communal forms of transport, time-travelling devices - "portable collective madeleines". The mood of such a moment is arresting, affective, and Flateley speaks of 'affective mapping' - a plotting of emotion. And through this revealing it becomes an object, something that can be recognised, seen, defamiliarised for an instant, via the "mobile machine of emotional self-estrangement."

Flateley's estrangement machines are literary, but what of the visual. How does the camera operate in its constant editing of that which beheld? In capturing, isolating, re-presenting moments of existence, both the place and the self are estranged - the 'I' that was there, in that place, of it ... a place I do not know, but which is somehow familiar. The nostalgic insistence of a place I have no sentimental attachment to.

Milan's melancholy on a quiet afternoon in winter. The anti-climax of the festive season has left the streets deserted. The oversized cobbles diminish the scale of the buildings, the datum falls away - cobbles are usually around foot-sized, they give a human point of reference to a landscape. Yet here, their massiveness adds to the surreal emptiness. It's hard to get a grip on scale, on time - the time of day or the century.

And in Paris, a bosque's arcade-like form provides a further estranged place. I feel I am looking at it from a distance, as though it is presented in a book. But it is right there. And the gulls suddenly fly towards me as though to underscore the reality. A moment of frisson, of frottage with reality, amplifying the presence of the self in the scene, an affective mapping. You are here.

Bosque, Paris, January 2009, J Bowring

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