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Thought in the Act

Passages in the Ecology of Experience

Erin Manning

Publication Year: 2014

“Every practice is a mode of thought, already in the act. To dance: a thinking in movement. To paint: a thinking through color. To perceive in the everyday: a thinking of the world’s varied ways of affording itself.” —from Thought in the Act

Combining philosophy and aesthetics, Thought in the Act is a unique exploration of creative practice as a form of thinking. Challenging the common opposition between the conceptual and the aesthetic, Erin Manning and Brian Massumi “think through” a wide range of creative practices in the process of their making, revealing how thinking and artfulness are intimately, creatively, and inseparably intertwined. They rediscover this intertwining at the heart of everyday perception and investigate its potential for new forms of activism at the crossroads of politics and art.

Emerging from active collaborations, the book analyzes the experiential work of the architects and conceptual artists Arakawa and Gins, the improvisational choreographic techniques of William Forsythe, the recent painting practice of Bracha Ettinger, as well as autistic writers’ self-descriptions of their perceptual world and the experimental event making of the SenseLab collective. Drawing from the idiosyncratic vocabularies of each creative practice, and building on the vocabulary of process philosophy, the book reactivates rather than merely describes the artistic processes it examines. The result is a thinking-with and a writing-in-collaboration-with these processes and a demonstration of how philosophy co-composes with the act in the making. Thought in the Act enacts a collaborative mode of thinking in the act at the intersection of art, philosophy, and politics.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-x

This book runs interference. Its goal is to open philosophy to its outside, to challenge philosophy to compose with concepts already on their way in another mode, in the mode of artistic practice, in the mode of event-formation, of activism, of dance, even of everyday perception. It writes...

Part I. Passages

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Coming Alive in a World of Texture

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pp. 3-22

“There was very little difference in meaning,” says autistic Daina Krumins, “between the children next to the lake that I was playing with and the turtle sitting on the log. It seems,” she continues, “that when most people think of something being alive they really mean, human” (quoted in...

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A Perspective of the Universe

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pp. 23-30

“There is an apportioning out that can register and an apportioning out that happens more indeterminately” (Arakawa and Gins 2002, 5).1 The apportioning out that can register is sense, meaning “cognition: apprehension.” The apportioning out that happens more indeterminately is...

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Just Like That

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pp. 31-58

In 2001, the Forsythe Company created Woolf Phrase,1 a piece conceived from Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway, generated, as Forsythe says, by “moving around the rhythm of Woolf’s language” (Sulcas 2001). From its conception, the piece is about movement and language coming together...

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No Title Yet

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pp. 59-80

Faces. They come and go. They drift, resizing themselves as they shift. At times, they separate from the figures supporting them. The figures also come and go. They multiply forth, no sooner to recede. Vicissitudes of face and figure move through the painting series, in ephemeral community. Their...

Part II. Propositions

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For Thought in the Act

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pp. 83-134

The art and intellectual worlds in which we work, specifically in Montreal, are visibly conflicted, as much within the academic institution as among the many independent cultural producers contributing to the city’s international reputation as a creative haven. There is a general recognition that...

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Postscript to Generating the Impossible

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pp. 135-152

The previous chapter, Propositions for Thought in the Act, was written as an invitation to voyage. Its purpose was to convey a terrain collectively traveled, in preparation for a coming foray. It was addressed to fellow travelers already in the SenseLab network, and to others who might be inspired to...


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pp. 153-168


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pp. 169-174


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pp. 175-188

About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9781452942278
E-ISBN-10: 1452942277
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816679676

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 877868293
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Thought in the Act

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Creation (Literary, Artistic, etc.) -- Philosophy.
  • Aesthetics.
  • Thought and thinking -- Philosophy.
  • Experience.
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