[ISEA2010] Keynote: Brian Massumi – What Makes an Event? Considerations for the Occurrent Arts


The ‘occurrent arts’ is a name suggested by philosopher Suzanne Langer for arts of the event. Digital media have complicated the question of what constitutes an art event – or for that matter an event in general – by making spatially and temporally distributed events the new norm. What makes an event an event when its occurrence is dispersive: when no unified perspective on it or integral experience of it is possible? The notion of distributed cognition is often appealed to in answer to this question. Does distributed cognition solve the problem, or complicate it further? The questions of distributed events and distributed cognition are not only relevant to art, but also have been a central topic for military theory in the age of ‘netwar’. This paper considers some of the questions raised by the notions of distributed events and distributed cognition, in art and war, drawing on the philosophies of experience of William James and A.N. Whitehead.

  • Professor Brian Massumi (CA) is a political theorist, writer and philosopher. He is a professor in the Department of Communication Sciences at the University of Montreal, CA. His research focuses on the experience of movement and the interrelations between the senses, in particular in the context of new media art and technology and emergent modes of power associated with the globalisation of capitalism and the rise of preemptive politics.

Full text (PDF) p. 27-28