A schematic of aesthetic as epistemic
The encounters that create estrangement can be mapped.
Modernism doing platonism.
Flately uses affective mapping (“our spatial environments are inevitably imbued with the feelings we have about the places we are going … and these emotional valences… affect how we create itineraries”) to consider how an aesthetic experience unfolds in the moment. A theory of aesthetic that addresses how we come to understand. This mechanic shares draws on the chora, as it takes on the coming-into-being from the ideal to the real. He's validating psychogeography as an aesthetic.
In an aesthetic experience, there is tension between an ordinary world and a(n extraordinary) world that exists only in the moment of the aesthetic experience, and that is defined by the work.
Here's how Flately describes it. Other's schematize alternatives, but Flately has the chutzpa to bring in Jimi Henrix.
On the one hand, one has a perceptual and cognitive apprehension of the artwork in its otherness, which has certain effects: “As a musical composition compresses time, and as a painting folds spaces into one another, so the possibility is concretized that the world could be other than it is. Space, time, and causality are maintained, their power is not denied, but they are divested of their compulsiveness” (AT, 138). For a moment at least, listening to a recording of Jimi Hendrix playing the “Star-Spangled Banner” or to Beethoven’s late string quartets in a concert hall, reading Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, walking at Maya Lin’s Vietnam War Memorial, or beholding one of Donald Judd’s reflective aluminum boxes, one finds oneself in a world that does not exist, or that exists only in this space at this moment. This otherness is not liberatory in itself, but inasmuch as the relationships between space and time, for example, that we are used to in our everyday lives are altered in some way or another, we may see that the logic of the world we live in is not compulsory. Things might work differently.
We live day-to-day in a world of storefronts and posters on ordinary streets that places Henrix's Star Spangled Banner on the fringe but ripe for an encounter that will make it a part of an ordinary world. The work is in the chora, and emerges for a moment.
On the other hand, one has an affective response in this other world defined by the work. The artwork provides both the context and the objects affects need in order to come into existence. The logic is a transferential one: like psychoanalysis, the work provides a scene in which past affects can reappear as (what Freud called) new editions or as facsimiles of old ones. However, the work can only do this to the extent that the objects or moments within it recall earlier affectively charged experiences. Similarity is the key principle here; and as we know, even (or especially) in therapy, the slightest similarity will suffice if there are affects itching to find objects. One may be surprised by the affects that come out in the space of therapy, and so too with the work of art: by creating a kind of mood atmosphere with its own objects, art-works bring affects into existence in forms and in relation to objects that otherwise might not exist.
- “Art-works bring affects into existence in forms” - because affect takes or is given a form. Conceptual and physical.
- “and in relation to objects” - physical relation: place, time, other objects. A world context.
- “that otherwise might not exist” - potentiality in a world that facilitates the potential. There is space in the world for the form. Perhaps a space that is primed for the form. Because
In an important sense, we never experience an affect for the first time; every affect contains within it an archive of its previous objects. Or, more exactly, there is a secret archive of objects out in the world in which our affects are residing. Like Proust with his madeleine, we do not necessarily know when or how we will encounter such objects. Benjamin recounts one such discovery in relation to a painting by Cezanne he saw during his 1927 visit to Moscow. He writes that “various very specific spots” immediately “thrust themselves” out at him. The space of the painting “opens up in corners and angles in which we believe we can localize crucial experiences of the past; there is something inexplicably familiar about these spots.” The painting provides a site for affects from Benjamin’s past to reenter existence, and consequently for his archive of affective objects to open up, and perhaps, to become visible as such as if for the first time. By way of these affects, the world, and indeed history itself, makes its way into aesthetic experience. Affect is the shuttle on which history makes its way into the aesthetic, and what brings one back from the work into the world. The affect that one has in the space of the artwork (which hovers alongside the cognitive experience as what Adorno calls a “trans-aesthetic subject”) links one back to the world like a rubber band or the bungee on a bungee jumper, pulling one back from the artwork into the world, but pulling one back through a strange parabola which has altered one’s view of the world and unsettled one’s relation to it. To use the Heideggerian metaphor, it is as if we have been rethrown.
With a nod to Plato's choral mid-wifery that knowledge is innate and we merely recall Wikipedia: “The painting provides a site for affects … to reenter existence, and … perhaps, to become visible as such as if for the first time.” The work of art provokes and guides the recollection, the re-throwing.
This schematic places the person in center with the object: the particular listener listening to Hendrix in a particular time man place, is estranged for that moment. Is it predictable? Not likely. Kairotic. Does it depend on uniqueness? Not on the object side of the input. But it does demand an encounter with the world.
[The object] is not designed to produce a uniform experience, but rather to be able to estrange one from wherever one is in relation to one’s emotional world. It needs to be flexible enough to allow for readers to input different experience. In this, when it works, it is a portable map, a kind of global positioning device that tells you where you are at this particular moment, giving you a satellite view of your own life.
The object doesn't need to be designed to produce affect. The subject can encounter an object that has not been designed to produce affect. What's necessary is the encounter.
To return us to psychogeography, the encounters that create the estrangement can be mapped and the map ready by others: Iain Sinclair.
In sum, if an affective map is a representation of one’s affective life in its historicity, then this representation works in the following way. The moment of shudder is a reaction to the simultaneous rupture and connection between the affective experience one has within the world created by the work on the one hand and the affective attachments one has within the world of everyday life on the other. In this way the shudder opens up the space of self-estrangement that is necessary to get a distance on one’s affects. It also puts one into contact with others, a contact that is imaginary in one sense. But inasmuch as it is based on the shared historicity of that affective life, it is quite real.
This is not offered as a provable model but as a conceptual model - a way of understanding an aesthetic experience - such as may emerge when passing a storefront in Stoke Newington. This conceptual model - a schematic - for an aesthetic experience draws on the psychogeograpical because it relies on an unplanned, unscripted encounter with the real to provoke the recollection of knowledge. The influence of the affect of place on itinerary is what Debord mapped in his cut-up Paris re-map. It is the intimate and emerging itinerary of the drift. It's potential in the image.
A less intriguing model is Aesthetics as Epistemic
Jonathan Flatley. Affective Mapping: Melancholia and the Politics of Modernism. Harvard UP, 2009.