Affect-screens

Last week I attended the lecture of Professor Patricia Pisters, University of Amsterdam,  Powers of Affect: The Neuro-Image in Digital Screen Culture, at the University of Leeds. I was interested on the entailment between two things that, at first, seems to have no connection: surveillance and affect.

Pisters refers to the multiplication of screens and cameras in a network of surveillance tools, and mention as frequent literature invoked on the controlling power topic, Gilles Deleuze’s post-disciplinary update on Foucault’s perspective in “Postscript in Control Societies”. She remarks Deleuze’s argument about institutionally disciplinary regimes, that have been replaced by continuous control systems, have invaded every aspect of life, and, as she says in a text on the same topic (Art as Circuit Breaker, 2013), “strikingly, the discourses sourrounding surveillance are usually connected to oppositional affects: a desire for security on the one hand and the (paranoid) feeling of being persecuted on the other hand” (Pisters; 2013: 198). She points out that in general surveillance is connected to feelings of panic related to issues of control.

On the other hand, Pisters finds that cinema in the digital age, creates new connections / synapses, new pathways by affective images. She assesses some of the registers of resistance or submission to control in multiple screen by looking at expressions of surveillance affects in recent cinema, and argues that its affects extend beyond the panic of being followed. Pisters talks about neuro-images in the digital cinema, because our connection with the image is in a brain level, not in a narrative following of an beginning, middle and end, instead, in a context of an affective aesthetic, images are actives. The kind of images Pisters describes are like the ones we can see in of Dogma Project films (she actually analyzes the film Red Road, between others): fuzzy and grainy images, closed up frames, moved sequences. “These images, because of their diffused and blurry quality, are better described as affection-images. They have haptic or tactile qualities, in which the eye is less engaged with mastering the image and more often searching, questioning, ‘touching’ the surface of it, with less certainty than has been usually associated with the controlling gaze and the omnipotent Eye” (Pisters; 2013: 204). The kind of brain connection the author describes with these images is given in a tension between emotions and feelings: feelings linked to our personal story, are qualifiable, can be recognized. In contrast, emotions are unqualifiable, invading and immediately embodied sensations. is a good example, not only of the powers of affect as Pisters calls the embodied brain connection that we have with these kind of images, but is also an example of the paradox haptic surveillance. “We often see the protagonist Jakie (Kate Dickie), a local police officer, behind her multiple screen video wall with images of the city of Glasgow” (Pisters; 2013: 204), until this routine is interrupted… The film plays all the time with the asymmetry between feelings and emotions showing the images in an embodied level of affection-images, and, at the same time we are in Jakie’s brain space, with mixed feelings and emotions, and, as Pisters explains, is this affective embodied connection, its power of affect that can tell us a lot about our relation with screens and the screen culture. She takes some principles from the affective neuroscience to develop her arguments, which are much more vast and extensive than I’m showing here, but I wanted to register, at least some aspects that have to do with affective levels of experience with digital screens. Pisters concludes. from her film analysis that, “, and show that art as circuit breaker is not an entirely clear, simple or ideal counter force. Occupying both sides of the camera changing positions between observing and being observed, they problematize the complex and confusing affects of surveillance, and arguably of contemporary visual culture at large” (Pisters; 2013: 210). She shows a sensibility toward the intricate dimensions of the surveillance apparatus that may offer alternatives to the more dominant masculine discourses of control and freedom (Pisters; 2013: 199). The lecture was really inspiring and gives more connections and synapsesto my work. A question that comes now is if these affective neuro-thrillers that conducts direct embodied connection, as Pisters shows, perhaps, could present (and not represent) pre-narrative ways of feel, in both sides of the camera?

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