Similarly than the last article bringing Henri Bergson and Jean-Paul Sartre together, this present text is a sort of sequel to the article “Politics and Philosphy of the Sliding Point” written in June about Bergson’s theory of movement. In order to do so, I would like to propose an interpretation of the book Relationscapes: Movement Art, Philosophy (MIT Press, 2009) written by Erin Manning, who I was very recently referring to for a her work with autistic children and their relationships to their body and space.
Manning is a dancer, although she would probably agree to say that we, bodies, all are dancers as the discipline that we call ‘dancing’ is nothing else than the aesthetics exacerbation of the various (often social) movements that our body undertake in our lives. Manning therefore uses her experience as a practitioner of such exacerbation to invent a philosophy centered on the movement of our bodies. In order to do so, she uses the philosophies of Bergson, Gilbert Simondon, Gilles Deleuze, and to a lesser extent, Spinoza and Nietzsche. The key concept that she comes up with to articulate these systems of thoughts together is the one of preacceleration. The latter consists in the feeling of the movement’s inexorability before it actually occurs:
Following Bergson, Relationscapes places the emphasis on the immanence of movement moving: how movement can be felt before it actualizes. Preacceleration refers to the virtual force of movement’s taking form. It is the feeling of movement’s in-gathering, a welling that propels the directionality of how movement moves. In dance, this is felt as the virtual momentum of a movement’s taking form before we actually move. (Erin Manning, Relationscapes, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009, 6)
We should be careful not to interpret preacceleration as a form of soothsayering giving access to ‘what happens next.’ This feeling is on the contrary created through the immanent process of causality: this happens because the sum of what happened until now led inexorably to this happening. I described such a process in an old article about Spike Lee’s dolly shot; this is, in my opinion, the pure expression of the moment that Manning calls preacceleration. The inertia — Manning calls it “absolute movement” — of the world is the cause of each movement of our body. Manning sees in it the notion of becoming, articulated by Deleuze, but mostly invented by Simondon in order to bring the emphasis on the process through which an individual forms itself, rather than what is often wrongly interpreted as a finalized state of being. “The fluid force of the world’s becoming” (Manning, 2009. 111) is this inertia, felt as preacceleration. Let us not make the mistake to think of “the fluid force of the world’s becoming” as something that is external to our bodies: they (we) are fully embedded within it. In Relationscapes the embrace of this inexorable force is called grace:
Grace taking form is not an experience-of but an experience-with that takes on the color of the inquiry even while it invents new uses for it. Weaving novelty into the very act of perception, [Etienne-Jules] Marey’s images produce incorporeal becomings, imbuing the experiential process of worlding with the grace of a movement-with that would otherwise remain virtual. Vision curves into its own potential.
“If curves are more graceful than broken lines, the reason is that, while a curved line changes its direction at every moment, every new direction is indicated in the preceding one. Thus the perception of ease in motion passes over into the pleasure of mastering the flow of time and of holding the future in the present” (Bergson 1910, 12). (Erin Manning, Relationscapes, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009, 97)
This description of the curve by Bergson is interesting as it allows us to rethink the geometric definition of a curve, not anymore as a succession of an infinity of points, but rather as a succession of an infinity of inflection, each of them carrying an infinitesimal weight that, together, create a trajectory. This geometrical reading brings us back to Manning and the Senselab that she founded as its journal is called Inflexion.
One of the problem that I wanted to express in my article about Bergson’s sliding point concerned the latter’s political implications. Similarly the curve of the grace, i.e. of the fluid force of the world’s becoming, composed of inflections that each, one by one, carry in themselves the coordinates of the next one, can be ‘decrypted,’ therefore anticipated, and therefore controlled. Translated from the geometrical perfection into the reality’s imperfection, I would say that if the becoming of a fluid force of becoming like the one of a revolution can be anticipated based on a close understanding of the trajectory it accomplishes, such a movement can be controlled by transcendental entities like it has been in the past following many revolutions. In this case, the preacceleration is an analyzable force whose immanence can be subjected to control and therefore influenced for other purposes than the one that generated its force.
Manning, however, believes that preacceleration, despite the feeling of the movement that is about to actualize, does not reveal the directionality (the trajectory) of movement but only its intensity:
Important: the pulsion toward directionality activates the force of a movement in its incipiency. It does not necessarily foretell where a movement will go. (Erin Manning, Relationscapes, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009, 6)
If each inflection of the curve of movement is a vector, it owns both an intensity and a directionality. For Manning, the former can be felt (in dance, in politics etc.) but the latter remains unknown as its anticipation relates on an experience of the past that is imperfect to the understanding of the present, and quasi-irrelevant in the understanding of the future:
Intensity cannot be measured because it cannot foresee how the future will inhabit it, what qualitative magnitudes will diver it, how elasticity will alter its process of taking form. Intensity is never the object of an experiment: it dwells in the milieu of its process. Grace emerges out of this milieu, not as marker of a knowable future in the present, but as a calm carrier of future’s quasi chaos in the present-passing. Grace is the feeling of being in the eye of the storm, where calm reigns. Grace is out of measure and yet completely in sync with future passing. (Erin Manning, Relationscapes, Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009, 97)