From body subjectivity and materiality we moved on to immateriality, emotional labour and the ontology of emotions. We focused on the immaterial through a material lens. The primary question we asked ourselves this week was ‘How does my object make me feel?’. Finally we were asked to make a material representation of the feelings we have towards our object with playdough. We were also asked to materialise the immaterial value of the object.

Ahmed (2004) argues that emotions do things to us, “they align individuals with communities – or bodily space with social space – through the very intensity of their attachments”. This notion focuses not only on the transmission of emotion between people, but also between people and objects. It refers to the emotion one feels and evokes. Emotions also play an important role in the “surfacing of individual and collective bodies” paralleling to how emotions circulate between bodies and signs.

Emotions form each other due to their immaterial consequences. It isn’t possible to look at one without the other.They don’t move from the inside out (psychological) or outside in (sociological). Instead they exist and slide from one object to the other. Ahmed (2004) discusses the theories in the moving of repressed emotions onto new or different objects. It isn’t necessary for the affect to be repressed, but rather the object it was once attached to. Though I believe that one’s personal history plays into the moving of affect, social history is equally significant. Similarly our emotions are not only a part of our lives but also a part of society and the world.

Stewart (2007) further goes on to explain the ordinary affect as a cumulative yin and yang experience.She defines it as “a shifting assemblage of practices and practical knowledge, a scene of both liveliness and exhaustion, a dream of escape or of a simple life. Ordinary affects are the varied, surging capacities to affect and to be affected, that give everyday life the quality of a continual motion of relations, scenes, contingencies and emergencies. They happen in impulses, sensations, expectations, daydreams, encounters, and habits of relating, in strategies and in failures, in forms of persuasion, contagion, and compulsion, in modes of attention, attachment, and agency, and in publics and social worlds of all kinds that catch people up in something that feels like something”. A lovely definition where she describes how we constantly and continually feel varied emotions from these very ordinary affects.

Emotions have the ability to be contagious. When an unfortunate world event occurs that causes people in different physical places to feel the same emotion. For example, the Syrian crisis. People in different parts of the world felt similar emotions – sadness, shock, anger, fear, etc. and expressed these emotions via different platforms. In situations like these emotions can be so intense that they materialise. They can also materialise in certain subject expressions.

Moving on to my disfigured, uncomely playdough formation – Thor’s hammer. To be honest when we got this task in class I rolled up the playdough into a rock (Read: round ball) and a part of me wanted to leave it at that. Arts and Craft have never been my forte. But then I decided to give it another go. And what better symbol of strength than Thor’s hammer. For non-Marvel fans here is a short clip from Avengers: Age of Ultron about Thor’s hammer:

As seen in the short movie clip, Thor’s Hammer is the ultimate representation of strength and worthiness. I relate this to my own object because the diary makes me feel strong and level-headed. My diary contains farewell quotes and memories written by my friends and colleagues at OCLD. Reading the contents always makes me feel worthy, honourable. I also feel a slight sense of possessiveness towards it. I keep it with me at all times no matter where I travel to. Of course, unlike Thor’s hammer anyone can ‘lift’ my diary quite literally but I suppose I’m the only one able to gain the stability and steadiness from it.

Drawing from Berlant’s Cruel Optimism, I understand the optimism I have attached with my object and my need to go through it from time to time. Berlant (2006) calls optimism a formal and structural feeling, such that “optimistic attachment is invested in one’s own or the world’s continuity, but might feel any number of ways”. She believes that maintaining attachments that sustain the good life fantasy allows people to make it through day-to-day life when the day-to-day has become unlivable. Personally I’m able to relate to this concept because I too have associated a ‘good-life’ memory with my own object; and with my playdough representation I am able to materialise the feelings associated with it.


  • Ahmed, S. (2004) ‘Affective Economies’. Social Text 22 (2), 117-139
  • Berlant, L. (2006) ‘Cruel Optimism: Optimism and its Objects’. Differences 17 (5), 20-36
  • Stewart, K. (2007) Ordinary Affects. Durham: Duke University Press



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