On Lassitude - Field Notes / by Matthew-Robin Nye


In reading Against Method with Marc one evening in Cholula, we glommed on to a passage that Erin also referenced, a passage in Whitehead’s text The Function of Reason, which we also found compelling. The quotation as printed in Against Method in full:


Each Methodology has its own life history. It starts as a dodge facilitating the accomplishment of some nascent urge of life. In its prime, it represents some wide coordination of thought and action whereby this urge expresses itself as a major satisfaction of existence. Finally it enters upon the lassitude of old age, its second childhood. The larger contrasts attainable within the scope of the method have been explored and familiarized. The satisfaction from repetition has faded away. Life then faces the last alternatives in which its fate depends [....] When any methodology of life has exhausted the novelties within its scope and played upon them up to the incoming of fatigue, one final decision determines the fate of the species. It can stabilize itself, and relapse so as to live; or it can shake itself free, and enter upon the adventure of living better (1929: 18-19)


Polyphonic: More than one voice.

Contrapuntal: As in music, two or more voices independant yet contextually codependent, verifying, contradicting, tuning, and harmonizing. (Marc Wieser)


See: Thought in The Act, Manning and Massumi, Proposition 16: Play Polyrhythms of Relation



Lassitude. Mexico. Trying. Moving. Polyrhythms of Relation. The Minor Gesture.


Recently, at a SenseLab workshop in Mexico, Lassitude became the contrapuntal gesture to Trying. Massumi and Manning reference contrapuntal divergence in Proposition 16 of their text Thought In The Act. This contrapuntal contribution is a part of a “backgrounding, foregrounding dance of prearticulation, moving between gesture and words, mak(ing) the force of conversation (feel) felt beyond its semantic formulation.” (118)


(Preconscious noticing)


The difference between trying and lassitude

How does one avoid lassitude?


Change directions.

Anticipate the next step you’re going to take and dance sideways.


Creation is the antithesis of lassitude. Creation is a generative act. Lassitude is a perpetuation of existing acts.


How do you cut time? What is the minimal and maximal duration of an instance? A creative moment? What are the temporal limitations of a spontaneous gesture?


Trying: The feeling of effort, the propulsion from this moment to the next. A propulsion that is not within this moment, but is felt for, apprehended by the future. The future reaches into the past, has an appetite for pastness - the future reaches into the present for fulfillment. Trying is the effort in creation. Trying has no terminus - trying is the ungluing of lassitude.


How do you create an artwork that is free of lassitude? How do you create an artwork that the future continues to have an appetite for? An artwork that feels for, reaches its tentacles out to, a promise of continual generation?


Shock is one instance; the shock of war, the shock of trauma - the bigger the explosion the further into the future it feels. A shock is built up towards, is in the past in its immanent becoming, and then the shock - CUT - lassitude is momentarily vanquished, the energies to create a perfectly generative new newness has arrisen. The dynamic future reaches back, into the present, searching for material.


What happens when this future has nothing to reach for? What happens when there is no creation in the given instance? Lassitude creeps. It grabs hold of progress, the moment, creative force, and calcifies. The future becomes fixed, loses its promise, begins to rebel against the present. This rebellion takes the form of the presentationally immediate, the obvious, the mundane and expected. The future becomes bleak.


With lassitude, becoming has become. Within lassitude, spontaneity and creativity are linked as counterforces. The work of art must keep moving in order to avoid its grasp.