Category Archives: Year of the Horse remake

Through the Thick Skin of the Sea in January

The sea was open when I came over to the island, but since there was no wind it felt like it could be freezing any moment. There was no thin layer of ice on its surface yet, but near the shores there was a sort of porous jelly that could turn into ice floes any minute. For a good ice to form it was not cold enough, though. I got a ride across to the island and went to perform, to stand and sit in front of the camera with my dark blue scarf on the hill towards west for the last time. This remake of my weekly performance during the year of the horse 2002, done once a month in 2014 ends here. The year of the goat will commence a month from now, at 19th of February. This remake is like an epilogue to “Animal years”, the twelve years I have documented on Harakka Island 2002-2014. There is a sense of endings in the air in other ways, too. I have bought a new camera and will start to use it for future projects, which means, among other things, that I will no longer be recording on tape. When I look at the small DV tape cover on my table, I can read the dates I have visited the hill and the rock below it: 6 February, 30 March, 12 April, 11 May, 2 June, 14 July, 12 August, 17 September, 11 October, 9 November and 14 December 2014. And now, today, on 19 January 2015.
The book by Laura U. Marks The Skin of the Film – Intercultural Cinema, embodiment, and the senses (Duke University Press 2000), which was recommended to me by a doctoral student who is interested in postcolonial memory, is the only work related to video or film I have recently read. Mark’s idea of haptic visuality is a concept I have long wanted to explore. She focuses on independent films describing diasporic experiences and places the phenomenon of intercultural cinema in a historical postcolonial context. To begin with she also mentions some formal and political precedents like the Third World News Reel tradition or Black British Cinema and describes the infrastructure for funding and producing such films as well as the specific audiences addressed and involved, that is, touched by the actual “skin of the film”. Her idea that many of these filmmakers try to evade objectifying visuality and work with the blurring of vision in order to evoke other senses is perhaps not connected to my work in any obvious way. After all, working with landscape as a view is very much about overlooking the scene and keeping a distance. But the idea of standing in front of the camera in the first image, clothed in a scarf, which covers and hides the landscape behind it, with the image showing mainly the texture of the scarf, might resonate with her ideas of tactility or haptic visuality. As does in some strange sense also the idea of repetition, of returning to the same place, showing the same thing over and over again, trying to grasp what exactly is happening there, waiting for the details of the landscape to come to life. The focus on diasporic experiences in her examples makes the application of her ideas to this work somewhat artificial, but her emphasis on other senses than vision does resonate with my experience of trying to convey the experience of a landscape. Perhaps that is something I should really focus on in the future: to look closer, to forget the view and direct my attention to the details, the small more or less living things everywhere in the environment…
While uploading the material to my computer I took a walk around the island, for the first time in more than a month, and noticed that two big trees in the northwest, a birch and a rowan, had fallen in a storm. And I also saw a thick soup of ice floes floating out through the Uuninsuu or “mouth of the oven”, as the strait between Harakka island and Uunisaari Island is called in Finnish. Where did they all come from, obviously somewhere in the northeast. As long as the stream keeps moving, we will be fine, but if the movement stops the ice might freeze and there we are – or here we are, stuck on the island.
2015-01-19 14.54.55
That was almost what happened. It was completely impossible to move through the ice in a small rowing boat. Luckily Saara came with her strong buster boat bringing her children home from the mainland, and agreed to try to take me across before nightfall. And the ride was exciting, to say the least. She brought me to the Ursula peer, since the skin of the sea seemed thinner in that direction. It was not possible to go around the floes; the soup was too thick for that. So she had to press the boat up on the floes, then back off if they did not break and try again. It was quite an achievement to get me ashore. And walking along the shore I saw her struggling back to her family on the island. I do admire her strength; what brave and tough woman she is.

Between Storms in December

Last night some of the rainfall came down as wet snow, but nothing of it remained in the afternoon when I went down to the shore to empty my boat of water. The ground was as dark and gloomy as before, only more wet. To my surprise the wind was blowing from west-northwest in such an angle that there were no big waves between the mainland and the island. Thus I quickly decided to return and bring my things and to row across to record the December session of Year of the Horse now, and thus to have it done well before Christmas. I am visiting the same rock that I sat on once a week during the year of the horse 2002, but this year 2014 only once a month. And this session today was the next to last one. One more remains to be done in January, before the Chinese year of the horse ends and transforms into the year of the goat.
These days there is not much daylight; dusk sets in already at four o’clock. And on a cloudy day it feels like the day never really begins. In the city centre all the Christmas lights try to cheer people up to shop, but by the shore the occasional lights here and there feel dim. You would expect people living here for generations becoming somehow immune to the effects of lack of light, but no. Most people suffer, feeling constantly tired and slightly sad. I was energized by my dread for the strong wind, though. On the way to the island it was pushing me, but on the way back I really had to work hard against it. And nothing keeps you awake better than a kick of adrenaline.
Many performance artists work with that, I guess, when they experiment with risk or pain or hint at terror. Like Peter Rosvik with his blood soaked globe in flames in the rain last night at the event Tonight at Suomenlinna. Or Michelle Lacombe with her subtle mixture of saliva and tears in the strong and simple performance at the end of that same night. My small performances for camera do not involve any real risk, or even imagined dread, although I keep repeating the same actions as if forced by some mysterious trauma. No symbolic self-immolation or other type of violence is hinted at. The most scary part is often related to the unpredictability of the weather and is nothing the viewer of the artwork will encounter.
I recently read a dialogue between Borradori and Derrida called Autoimmunity: real and symbolic suicides, a dialogue with Jacques Derrida. The reason for engaging with a text that deals with the aftermath of September 11 was a recommendation by Rustom Bharucha. He visited Helsinki last week and gave a lecture on his book Terror and Performance, speaking admiringly of this dialogue. The debate on terrorism is not as heated as at that time, but much of the analysis is still valid. And with the situation in Palestine being what it is the discussion of state terrorism is as relevant as ever. Even a peaceful activity like performing landscape could turn into a dangerous affair if there are disagreements concerning who is entitled to use the land. Terror, territory and ‘terra’ go together.

Production of Space in November

On returning to a damp and chilly Helsinki from the rainy but considerably warmer city of Porto I inevitably thought about the influence landscape and the environment in general has on our moods. After discussing various approaches to artistic research during a small well-organised and fairly informal event called Conversations on Artistic Research at the department of fine arts of the University of Porto, where I gave one of the keynotes with the title On Doing Research, it seemed almost an anti-climax to resume my modest research project on Harakka Island. The purpose of my quick visit to the island today was only to fetch some hard disks with videos now, while the wind was not too bad. While on the island I realized that it might be a good idea to perform and shoot the November image while I was there, so I did exactly that, standing on the hill and then sitting on the damp rock, listening to the howling of the small windmill. I have repeated the same action, which I used to repeat once a week twelve years ago during the year of the horse 2002, only once a month during this year of the horse 2014.
The notion production of space in the title of the blog note today refers to the classic work by Henri Lefevre The Production of Space, written in the beginning of the seventies (1974), which has been on the reading list of everybody interested in issues related to space ever since. Of course I had some brief references to his tripartite division of space into lived, conceived and perceived space, or to his slightly confusing distinction spatial practice, representation of space, and representational space, in my doctoral work called Esitys tilana (Performance as Space) in 1998. But I never really studied his thinking at that time. Now, almost twenty years later, reading him for a seminar on performance and the environment (and performance as environment) I realize that I really should have devoted more time to studying his work back then. Reading him now is fun in another way. His critical arguments against the proponents of the linguistic turn fashionable at the time and his ironical comments dircted at orthodox Marxists seem funny now, but many of his ideas on the production of space make sense today.
With the help of his ideas I could try to analyse how the particular place of Harakka Island has been produced, and is continually reproduced by the social practices of its various user groups, although understanding my own practice as part of that production is of course more difficult. Or perhaps not, if I decide that I don’t mind simplifications. In a very obvious way I am involved in a practice, which transforms our lived space into the conceived and percieved space of a video work. This spatial practice participates in producing the space of the island, and is also creating a representational space (the video work), which is at least partly based on and also to some minute extent influencing the prevalent cultural representations and conceptions of space. Rather than the different levels of representation, however, the notion of production seems most relevant today, and is also closer to something that could be called the performativity of space.

Appropriation and Invocation in October

Revisiting the rock on the western shore of Harakka Island once again made me think of the materiality of this kind of reworking, remaking, returning, replaying of what was before. Although the rock, the wooden stairs, my scarf are all the same as twelve years ago, I have a hard time making the connection. I do not remember what I experienced in October 2002, rather, I have some vague images in my mind of the video thus created, Year of the Horse – Sitting on a Rock, which I saw recently. Probably the same goes for many memories, we do not remember the events but only our retelling of them.
In her paper at the conference New Materialist Methodologies – Gender, Politics and the Digital, Barbara Bolt spoke about her work based on Robert Motherwell’s paintings and mentioned a text by Jan Verwoert about appropriation and invocation. I was fascinated and found the text called “Apropos Appropriation: Why steeling images today feels different” on the web, published in Art and Research vol 1 no 2 summer 2007. He is discussing postmodern practices of appropriation in the 1980’s compared to appropriation today, and contends that invoking images involves dealing with ghosts, referring to Derrida, as well as the ceremonies involved in invoking them. He describes the move away from interest in the arbitrariness of the sign to the performativity of language, how things are done with words, how language through injunction and interpellations enforces meaning, like a spell cast upon a person. When you call up a spectre it will not be content with being analysed, it will have to be negotiated….
Invoking the spectre of German romantic painting, as I did in the year of the goat (2003) by trying to re-stage “Der Mönch am Meer” by Caspar David Friedrich on various shores besides Harakka Island resulted in the work Year of the Goat – Harakka Shore 1-3 and Three Shores, among other things. And in that context the idea of negotiation made sense. Referring to that painting evoked a whole legacy of idealist interpretations and also recreations.
But what about now? I am not appropriating a previous work of my own by recreating it, but I do invoke it in some way. And then I have to ask, why call up exactly these ghosts? Why sit on a rock again? Should I not rather consider what kind of ghosts could be worth calling forth at this moment, what spectres should be summoned for help right now? And in the spirit of acknowledging the performativity of all kinds of artistic practice, what kind of injunctions or spells should be used at this moment?

Indian Summer and Immaterial Land in September

Beautiful warm summer days in the middle of September are rare in Finland, and what we call ‘Indian summer’ always feels like extreme luxury. Very, very soon the dark, damp, stormy autumn is upon us. I went to revisit the slope and the rock I used to visit weekly in the year of the horse in 2002, and now visit once a month this year, and was surprised by the view. After a few days of rain the moss was light green on the cliffs, and all the yellow leaves of the birches were gone, so the few remaining green ones almost reminded me of spring. And it was warm!
I found my notes on a text called “Immaterial land” by Brian Martin in the anthology edited by Estelle Barrett and Barbara Bolt Carnal Knowledge (2013), which I read this summer. It is written from the point of view of the indigenous population in Australia and their view of art in contrast to western notions of art, representation, ideology, and enlightenment. The central notion for the indigenous worldview, according to Martin, is “country” or land, which makes the text sometimes hard to comprehend. It is clear that a more active and sensitive relationship to the earth, the soil and to the environment in general is needed, but too much talking about belonging and land sounds in my ears too much like ‘Blut und Boden’ ideology. Of course I do not mean that aboriginal ideas of land and landscape have anything to do with that, but for my European ears the association is inevitable. On the other hand the idea of a work of art as a map and a ritual aid as well as the materialization of memory is fascinating. And of course the point of refusing the binary between the material and the immaterial or spiritual, is fascinating, too. The few aboriginal works I saw in the last Documenta in Kassel were truly impressive, like huge shimmering colour fields of small ornamental patterns. But the works Brian Martin speaks about are more concrete, like two images of slightly ornamentalized fish. The idea behind them is great though. You catch a fish, you respect it, you eat it and then you paint it and bring it back to life in that way – absolutely perfect. I thought about my colleges who caught a lot of perch on the western shore here, simply by throwing in a fish trap with a sufficiently long rope down the slope, and served us a delicious soup.
I am still wondering, what to do next. Painting fish is not an option for me. Well, how about photographing what I eat? This remake of the Year of the Horse is like a small exercise once a month to keep me warm, while I wait for some new ideas. Perhaps I should simply move to another place, look at another kind of landscape, investigate a different environment…

Watching the Birches Suffer in August

After a long period of warm, dry weather the birches on the cliffs on Harakka Island, (which I visit once a month during this year of the horse 2014 as a remake of my weekly visits during the year of the horse in 2002) have been completely yellow, like in autumn, since there is very little soil on the cliffs and no water without rain. But today, after the rainfall last night I expected them to look invigorated. Because of the brisk wind, however, most of the dry leaves had fallen, so the landscape looked even more autumnal, despite some fresh greenery here and there.
Since my last visit in July I have participated in another conference, the world Congress of the IFTR (International Federation for Theatre Research) at Warwick University in the UK, with the theme Theatre and Stratification. The reason I visit that conference almost every year, despite my very limited interest in theatre, is the active and supportive Performance as Research Working Group, which I have been a member of from the start. Baz Kershaw and Jacqueline Martin started the group (the first official meeting took place in Helsinki in 2006), which I now co-convene together with Jonathan Heron and Emma Meehan. We had a great meeting again this year, or several meetings, during the conference.
My paper for the working group was called “Performing with Plants – Challenges to Traditional Hierarchies?” and did not deal with this remake of the Year of the Horse at all. Rather, I focused on my work from last year, the year of the snake, which was all about swinging. And the assemblage formed by a plank and some rope attached to a tree called a swing, is of course a good example of how we normally take for granted the plants that support our activities. In a workshop organised together with Stefanie Bauerochse and Juan Manuel Aldape Munoz we invited people to swing from an old oak (me), to climb that oak and read some lines of Shakespeare (Stefanie) and walk into the art centre and watch a small performance with one of the volunteers (Juan). The book of abstracts, including these ones, can be found online here.
The huge oak I attached the swing to in Warwick (see video clip) resembled the tall redwood tree the swing was attached to at the PSi conference on Stanford University campus last year 2013 (see video clip). It was very different from the birch I tied the swing to at the opening of the Water Images exhibition here on this island this spring, and at the full moon party again last Saturday, 9 August. Or from the ash tree next to gallery Augusta on Suomenlinna during the t0NiGHt performance art event in May and again on 25 July. The mechanism was the same, though. I invited people to swing, video recorded them swinging, and then cut out the change beteeen peple so the movement of the swing continues uninterrupted, although the person swinging changes.
In my experiments here in Finland, which have been performances in the context of contemporary art rather than conference presentations, I have added another layer, by projecting the video back onto the same place and trying to swing together with the image as a performance of sorts. (see a very dark video clip of the beginning of the performance at t0NiGHt). The second experiment here on this island, Swinging in Moonlight, worked a little better, as you can see from this short video clip. An older birch is actually an ideal projection screen, with its white bark.

Returning to the Rock in July

Revisiting the same rock on Harakka Island in Helsinki, which I used to visit weekly in 2002 and which I now visit once a month as a kind of re-enactment of that previous year of the horse, feels like a relaxed return home after a trip to Shanghai in China. During the conference Performance Studies International 20 at the Shanghai Theatre Academy I actually showed a quickly edited version of the first part of these re-visits together with the original work in a small performance-presentation called “Revisiting the Year of the Horse”. Besides the original video Year of the Horse (12 min) from 2003 I also showed the work Sitting on a Rock (Rock with Text) (6 min.) which I made the following spring at Easter time in the same place. Moreover, I presented a work performed recently in Koivumäki after midsummer Sitting on a Rock in Rain, which I have described in the Finnish version of this blog and which I edited specifically to be presented in Shanghai. The occasion was an event organised by the artistic research working group Porous Studio Avant-Gardening.
Sitting on the same rock again, knowing that the second half of the year is still in front of me, feels both strange and familiar at the same time, like engaging with the remains of some ancient practice that does not really belong to me or my concerns at the moment any more. On the other hand I have not invented any significantly different approaches to performing landscape, not yet. In Shanghai not only the landscape and the environment are different, the temperature, humidity and consistency of the air is perhaps the most striking difference. The whitish fog in the hot and humid monsoon-time city is very different from the cool breeze on this semi-sunny afternoon here by the sea. In general a certain amount of warm humidity feels nice to breathe and soothes your skin. When it is combined with heavy pollution, the effect is not so nice, though. In Shanghai they seem to understand that oxygen must be produced, since they have planted lots of trees everywhere. And for the first time I really sensed how my body automatically started to navigate closer to trees and bushes in order to find more air to breathe.
In fact I did not sit on a rock during my performance in Shanghai, nor did I try to find a rock to sit on in the nearby parks or on campus. Although I carried my video camera with me, and unlike the sessions of the Porous Studio at previous conferences, I did not document anything on video or create any new work. I took a lot of snapshots with my phone, of course, but that was part of my duties as a tourist. Some of the rocks in the famous Yuan Gardens, which I visited already on the first day, would well be worth sitting on, although the classical Chinese garden is packed with people most of the time. While visiting a huge new recreational park in Chanzhou, a nearby city where we were taken for a “retreat” after the conference, I realised that the idea of combining natural and artificial elements and creating mixtures of nature-culture has been part of the Chinese civilisation from very early on. It is only the enormous scale that makes it scary.
For the presentation I tried to write a new version of the text “Sitting on a Rock”, without much success. I am not happy with the version I presented, so I will not reproduce it here, but only the informative text I began my presentation with:
The popularity of various forms of re-makes, reconstructions, re-enactments etc. has been discussed in recent years, for instance in the anthology Perform, Repeat, Record Live Art in History, by Amelia Jones and Adrian Heathfield (2012). And the fascination with all these repetitions (with variations) of classical performance art pieces could certainly be discussed in terms of the avant-garde (one of the themes of the conference) as a historical phenomenon, the radical gestures of which we can only repeat and rehearse with a historical interest for want of any real innovation or critical force in the current situation today. But what about revisiting your own work? Is that not the ultimate evidence of total stagnation, even stultification of what might have remained of a critical impulse?
In the year 2002 I decided to document changes in the landscape by visiting the same place on Harakka Island in Helsinki approximately once a week for an entire year. It was a development of a work called Wind Rail, where I visited the same place once or twice a day for two weeks to show the changes caused by changes in the weather. In that work I had placed myself in two different positions in the image space, first at the side in the foreground, like the marginal shepherd figure in classic landscapes, who is supposed to guide the viewer’s gaze into the landscape, and then further in the image more centrally, as a smaller figure embedded in the landscape. In both cases the human figure dominates the image. This dichotomy I wanted to exaggerate further and thus placed myself in front of the camera first in such a way that my shoulder covered half of the view, literally preventing the viewer from seeing the landscape. And secondly, as you will see soon in part two, I placed myself deeper in the landscape as a tiny figure sitting on a rock. My idea was to create a two-channel installation with part one, the shoulder, on the left, and part two, the figure on the rock to the right. Due to automatic light balance the colour and brightness of the images did not combine well; they change between the first part with the scarf covering half of the image and the second part with the view of the landscape and me sitting on the rock to such an extent, that presenting them next to each other as a two-channel installation was difficult. So the work turned into a single channel video, in two parts, one after the other.
To call the work Year of the Horse was almost a coincidence. While documenting a day and a night on the same rock the following spring, I realized it was the year of the goat. The size of the rock somehow worked with the size of a goat, and I liked the idea of years having names. Only much later did I learn more about the Chinese calendar and its twelve animals, and decided to try to document a full twelve-year cycle. Although I had started it in the middle, in the south, as it were, in the year of the horse, rather than in the year of the rat, in the north, as is traditionally done. I completed the cycle of years in the year of the snake in 2013 (actually January 2014, since the Chinese new year falls on the first new moon after the winter solstice). To accentuate the idea of cyclic return I decided to revisit the same site this year, in 2014, since we are living in the year of the horse again. But this time only once a month, to form a calendar of sorts.
Now, in the year of the horse 2014, I sit once a month on the same rock, with the same scarf, but with a new camera (HD) and new image proportions (16:9 instead of 4:3). The year is obviously not finished yet, so what you see is February, March, April, May and June, only. What you see is the “remake”, revisiting the same site. The small windmill is the only visible difference in the environment. I seem to repeat the original technical problems, too, however, because I still use only automatic camera functions. At least time is speeded up in this monthly version…

Practicing Embodied Cognition in June

Standing on the hill in front of the camera and walking down to sit on the rock below the slope, during this one session in June, made me aware of the small windmill again. It is the only feature in the environment that has visibly changed since I sat on the same rock once a week for a year twelve years ago. At that time I was interested in recording the seasonal changes in the environment during one year. Now my focus is on changes that have taken place during these years in between. Which reminds me of the notion of the excluded middle, and the environment as one example of that, discussed in an article by Jondi Keane, “Æffect: Initiating Heuristic Life” in Barrett & Bolt (eds.) Carnal Knowledge – Towards a ‘New materialism’ through the Arts I. B. Tauris 2013.
According to Keane a new materialism must be built on the subtle difference initiated by embodied reality sensitive to Æffects and prompted by atmospheric intricateness. (Keane 2013, 61) His notion Æffect is “a relational/corelational tool devised to help one learn how to negotiate the material processes of self-organisation.” Practicing embodied cognition, or distributing the mind throughout the body and into the environment, means “first, the recognition of the role of the environment in the co-selection of the organism-person-surround”, that is, “cognition as perception and action”, and “second the role of abstract relationships in the coordination of the organism-person-surround”, that is, “cognition as attention, emphasis, and the production of value-based distinctions”. (Keane 2013, 60)
What would that mean in terms of my sitting on a rock once a month? Or in terms of documenting visits to the same place regularly? I do recognise the role of the environment in what Keane would call the organism-person-surround of me sitting on the cold rock among young birches bending in the wind and geese walking around followed by their young. I am not observing and reflecting but rather engaging in actions in order to perceive. And I do admit that I focus my attention on some parts of the environment and put more emphasis and value on some aspects, like the familiar rock and the view of the open sea. And that my eyes are intent on noticing changes since my last visit in May, like the full-grown leaves of the birches or the profusion of violets blooming on the cliffs.

Exposition of Artistic Research in May

When the sun suddenly appeared after several rainy days I rushed out on the slope above the fortifications to video the May session of the remake of the Year of the Horse from 2002. I reacted as if the subtle green of the small birches on the cliffs would immediately disappear and turn into ordinary foliage consequent to the light. The wind from southwest was freezing cold, so no risk.
Yesterday I finished reading an anthology edited by colleagues on the editorial board of JAR (Journal for Artistic Research), the editor in chief Michael Schwab and Henk Borgdorff, called The Exposition of Artistic Research: Publishing Art in Academia. (Leiden University Press 2014). The last contribution, “Counter-Archival Dissemination” by Henk Slager I remember best, since I have read one text every now and then. And of course I could detect an archival impulse of sorts in my own practice, too. The article I have marked as one to return to deals surprisingly with music, “Integrating the Exposition into Music-Composition Research” by Hans Roels. What fascinates me in that text is the idea of the open sketch as exposition form and research tool, and I guess that notion could be transposed to other art forms as well. He emphasizes the unfinished character of the sketch, which is deliberately created to investigate a research topic and also performed and discussed by an invited critical audience, but differs from a finished complex composition by being focused on a specific problem and perhaps allowing some emotional distance as well.
So would I call these sketches or remakes and the notes related to them an exposition? Why not? Perhaps one would expect a research exposition to be a little bit more thought out and planned, more focused and analytical. In some sense these sketches and notes are more like field notes, observations as part of a process, material to be analysed and articulated at a later stage. But then again, they are immediately shared and published here. If we understand the word exposition literally, I am certainly exposing my artistic practice here, and the work at a very rough stage, in the making. Thus I am of course exposing myself as well. Probably this material could be understood as some kind of open sketches made public, some sort of attempts at looking at differences created by the time-lapse of twelve years, for instance. But exposing my artistic practice publicly in process does not automatically mean exposing it as research…

Intra-acting with Geese and Grass in April

A short visit to a windy Harakka Island for the April session of the remake of the Year of the Horse revealed a familiar landscape. The surroundings looked almost the same as at the end of March, with one audible difference, the birds had arrived. Not only were the sea gulls sitting in pairs on the cliffs, screaming every now and then of the sheer joy of spring, I guess, but two geese couples were strutting on the slopes of the old fortifications, trying to find something green to eat among the dry grass of last year. Now they are relatively calm, but soon, when more of them have arrived and started nesting, standing on the path on the hill will feel like a dangerous adventure; the birds will be fiercely protecting their territories from intruders, and humans make no exceptions. The wind felt extremely cold and I was reminded of the fact that spring is always late by the sea. When the birches have leaves in the parks of the city, the ones on the island are still struggling to overcome the stiffness of winter.
I am reading Karen Barad’s important (and partly quite incomprehensible) book with the beautiful title Meeting the Universe Halfway – quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning (Duke University Press 2007) trying to understand what agential realism might mean in practice. Building further on the explorations of Foucault and Butler she maintains that the forces at work in the materialization of bodies are not only social and the materialized bodies are not all human, which makes sense of course. “According to agential realism, causality is neither a matter of strict determinism nor one of free will” she writes, “intra-actions iteratively reconfigure what is possible and what is impossible – possibilities do not sit still.” (p 234) She explains: “The world’s effervescence, its exuberant creativeness can never be contained or suspended. Agency never ends; it can never ‘run out’. The notion of intra-action reformulates the traditional notions of causality and agency in an ongoing reconfiguring of both the real and the possible.” (p 235) She emphasizes that agency is a matter of intra-acting, an enactment rather than something somebody or something has. “Particular possibilities for (intra-) acting exist at every moment” and they “entail an ethical obligation to intra-act responsively in the world’s becoming, to contest and rework what matters and what is excluded from mattering.” (ibid.)
Fine, I can agree with that. And I like the notion of intra-action, instead of interaction, which assumes that the entities interacting pre-exist the interaction, while intra-action suggests that bodies or agents or subjects are created through intra-actions. But in practice, despite my attempts at improving our intra-action, I still dislike the geese, for example, or rather their behaviour, based on previous experiences, and I anticipate many minor conflicts during the coming months. And to be honest, I am not so fond of the wind either, because the waves are scary while rowing in a small boat and cannot help having a preconceived idea of a causal relationship between the wind and the waves. So actually only intra-action with the grass seems unproblematic to me at the moment, and there is not much grass on the island at this time of year. Well, at least I could try to (intra-) act responsibly, I guess, and finish the book first, before complaining that I do not understand it. Especially since I have a feeling that Barad’s ideas are really important, so I will keep struggling…