Principles of Pleasure

Principles of Pleasure

Pleasure is a double bind. Its inherent quality of finitude keeps you under the influence. It attracts and repels at all times. Perhaps it is a continuous engagement and negotiation between the corporeal and the intellect. The physicality of the encounter that triggers pleasure melds with the intellectual stimulation brought forward by the immediate aesthetic appreciation. In the course of visiting an exhibition, the bodies inherent in the space of the encounter, such as the body of the artwork, the audience, the building, the support structures, juxtapose themselves into a corporeal  exhilaration, a sensation that is felt through the body of the subject fuelled by her/his interpellation of the experience. The experience of pleasure and its texture causes fluctuation of jouissance, while triggering responses from the faculties of one’s aesthetic judgement. 

Pleasure is anywhere and everywhere, appearing behind the unveiled and veiled curtains, as encounters unfold. It is a cultivation of the interior and exterior worlds (see: Gustave Courbet’s Origin of the World, 1866), where your psyche meets the other. Pleasure is provoked when two bodies gather in a specific (if need be, imaginary) gravity–entropy plane, colliding, circumnavigating, surpassing one other.

In physics, momentum is defined as the product of the mass and velocity of an object. When two objects, if not more, with a certain direction and magnitude meet in a closed space, they impact on one another, conserving the energies inherent in that specificity. An obvious example is the two-dimensional pool table, where two balls meet, exchange energies, altering the momentum of one another, however equalling the initial total. To take the concept further, picture a work of art installed in a room for display: to keep things simple, imagine a painting on a wall, and a person – a member of the committed crowd – enters through the door. That very person introduces a momentum value into the space, possibly with the intention of colliding with the immediate arena of the painting. Unlike two balls on a pool table hitting one another, this encounter produces no physical sound.

At that very moment of initial ‘touch’, (hopefully) something happens, leading to what had been a closed system transforming into a field that is no longer ‘complete’, so that the total linear momentum is not conserved; on the contrary it has changed for good. The emotional and intellectual derivé, sparked at that very moment of the first encounter, keeps lingering as experiences of a different nature accumulate, spiralling into a need for more encounters of the same kind. That lingering, as time passes, transforms into a pulling force, increasingly engaging that committed member of the audience. Despite the fact that new meetings with works of art may retrieve that initial contact in some way, the meetings will be always altered, always different.

The text has been commissioned by Extra Extra Magazine, for Musings Section, Published in Autumn 2016.