Atmospheres and Foaming-Relations

Foaming Relations: The Ethico-Aesthetics of Relationality

Abstract: The German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk uses the analogy of foam to describe the relations that cohere between one individual and the next, each co-isolated in the context of the modern city. Our habits, in co-production with the framing of our urban habitus, determine that we are arranged as networks of isolated, bubble-like, monadic cells. By effervescent means we nevertheless find ways of communicating across the cell walls that we share, and which divide us, or do we? I will enlist a series of concepts to consider the foaming relations that go toward forming the life of the urban habitus. These will include, relational aesthetics (Nicolas Bourriaud); ethico-aesthetics (Félix Guattari); human and nonhuman relations (Bruno Latour) all of which will help toward articulating a foaming, bubbling mass of relations that are external to their terms. The use of Sloterdijk’s concept of ‘foam city’ will be employed to consider contemporary modes of occupation of the city and how occupation is a processual activity that requires innovative responses to ever-transforming spatio-temporal networks. Following Guattari, this paper will venture an ethico-aesthetic approach to the way problems can be framed by architects and designers toward new modes of occupation of urban fields enlivened by the circulation of human and non-human actors. Practices of occupation accompanied by relations of affect and percept require an ethico-aesthetic rethinking of the design process and its modes of conceptualisation. This paper will address the manner in which the contemporary urban scene is inhabited as a live medium and ask to what extent the public sphere has been rendered redundant in exchange for a multiplicity of co-habiting as well as agonistic private spheres, or what Sloterdijk has called, ‘ego-spheres’.

Key Words: Foam City, Affect, Relational Aesthetics, Ethico-Aesthetics, Relationality, Generic City

“Foaming Relations: The Ethico-Aesthetics of Relationality” in Terry Meade, Luis Diaz, Susannah Hagan, eds, Occupations: Negotiations with Constructed Space, Brighton: University of Brighton, 2009, pp. 1-11. Book Chapter.

Originally presented as a paper:  “Foaming Relations: The Ethico-Aesthetics of Relationality”, in Occupations: Negotiations with Constructed Space, School of Architecture and Design, University of Brighton, UK (2nd–4th July, 2009).