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Designed affections

by Jamie “Skye” Bianco

…by examining the rhythms of life in detail, by descending from the great rhythms forced upon us by the universe to the finer rhythms that play upon our most exquisite sensibilities, it would be possible to work out a rhythmanalysis…

 Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

Lived experience, the ordinary and everyday are valued approaches to performing feminist analysis and to advocating for change. Feminists understand that knowing also includes feeling, in the sense of emotions, sensations, perceptual embodiment and those uncanny vibes of being in the world. I place these different modes of  “feeling” into the word “affect.” And affects (or affections) are serious business, politics, work and play. Because we feel affect before we think through words. Carefully delivered affects have the power to impinge us and dispose us to inclinations, tendencies, and impulses (advertisers know this). What does feminist work and activism do to analyze and design affections?Resonant rhythms of affect. Taken apart. Put together. Everyday, walk the dog. Walk the woods. Walk the streets. Unearthing. Tilling. How might reality be remade? How might we do feminist media work that keys into “the rhythms of life”… not metaphor, but as feminist media practice?

To begin, we consider the senses and particularly their different modes of operating. We also feel/think through the ways in which we inhabit bodies and in which bodies exist within contexts of other bodies, objects, sensations, and movement. The trick is to do this work without immediately summoning up habitual language, thinking, judgment and other routinized lines of thought and to spend time feeling-as-thinking. I take non-talking (including with myself) walks, everyday, in which I am regularly recording, capturing, and compositing—or listening, looking, and synaesthetically feeling.

For a sound piece, I want to open my entire body to listening, to feel all the ways in which sounds strike my body (not just the ears). Sound works in waves, in rhythms of impinging waves. Music gives us this feeling more directly than people talking, but music also comes in forms that we usually know well, if not consciously choose everyday (playlists). So deepening our capacity for non-usual or unusual listenings, getting a feel for the rhythms of sound moving through and across the folds of bodies creates an inventory of sensations and perceptions, which help enormously in composing a sound piece, crafting its rhythms and affects.

Rarely are we hearing only one thing, so when making this sound essay, I wanted to populate it with remixed and mashed-up sounds creating specific affective rhythms that would make the meanings of the words or the types of music less important individually and more felt as a composite, a composition. All of the  bits of text, media and sound in the piece have populated my world in the last month (in which there’s been tons of philosophy…). My aim with “Designed Affections” was to create a “rhythmanalysis” or an affective symphonic sound piece moving listeners through the kinds of feminist and queer meanderings I work on and live. Enjoy!