Critical Writing Index

Affect and Exchange

by Melanie Gilligan

Fillip, Mar Spring 2012, no. 16, pp. 4-15

In this journal article entitled Affect and Exchange, video artist and writer Melanie Gillian discusses the thematic elements and research behind her artistic practice. The themes are at the intersection of biopolitics and affect; she inserts the narratives of her video pieces The Common Sense and Popular Unrest (2010) in the essay.

Gillian creates speculative narratives in response to the current economic crisis. The Common Sense imagines what would occur if there was a shift between individualistic to collectivistic notions in society. The work considers the socio-economic effects of a new technology that allows us to 'feel' other people's emotions and suffering.

The article is a concise overview of affect theory by Brian Massumi, and Spinoza. According to Massumi, affect is experienced bodily pre-consciousness and pre-socialization whereas emotions are socialized and can be explained using language. With this in mind, Gillian theorizes Marx 's capitalist forces of consumption, labor and exchange. She then connects these complex systems to consider what the market 'feels' and the whether outcomes can be predicated with consideration of affect. The affective intensities of the collective are materialized in actions such as the time leading up to revolutions, or the reasons propelling movements such as Occupy Wall Street forward.

Foulcault's notion of biopolitics is also discussed in relation to the social body as a total system serving advanced capitalism. Gillian posits that fiction is a vehicle to draw social reforms and alternatives to the capitalist system. Social practice requires imaginative, and sometimes even far-fetched ideas.

Furthermore the notion of abstract exchange is discussed defining value through the practice of monetary exchange.

ITEM 2012.117 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

Popular UnrestMelanie Gillian

The Common SenseMelanie Gillian