Foaming Relations: An Architecture of Affect

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. 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. Despite, and also because of, the ‘ego-technological’ mania facilitated through new technologies – think iPod or iPhone – it is possible to imagine relations between actors as a ‘living foam’ shared out by a singular substance or stuff, animated by the circulation of affects and percepts. This would appear to suggest that although our daily habits determine that we live out increasingly capsular existences, new collective modes of expression and challenging forms of sociability are still possible, as long as those bubbles keep seething, foaming, and do not entirely evaporate into thin air.

“Foaming Relations: An Architecture of Affect”, Greenwich University Public Lecture Series, School of Architecture and Construction, Greenwich University, convened by Dr Teresa Stoppani, 24th February, 2009. Invited Public Lecture.