Life “Overfull” on 2nd Avenue


Starting at 97th and 2nd Avenue – 2nd Ave being the site of my ecology – around 12:30pm on Saturday, with camera in hand I began to walk South with the goal of taking in everything I could.

Within minutes I was overwhelmed with life. Being Saturday, sports bars were full of (rowdy) patrons preparing to cheer on their favorite college football teams. I walked by several boisterous bars hanging flags of Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin respectively. Being Saturday a little after midday, various restaurants and neighborhood spots were overflowing with the chatty brunch populace, as I walked by many a table with a Bloody Mary, a plate of Eggs Benedict, and/or multiple Mimosas. Being New York City, every so often I was subject to the ear-splitting screaming of sirens as an ambulance would come roaring past.

All of this, the yells and cheers from the college football fans in the bars, the conversational buzz from the brunch crowds in the restaurants, the screaming sirens from the ambulances on the street, all of this represents Massumi’s concept of “intensity.”

Intensity is embodied in purely autonomic reactions most directly manifested in the skin – at the surface of the body, at its interface with things. – Massumi, 25

intensityAt the surface of my body, at my interface with 2nd Avenue, my senses were simply flooded. The things I reacted to were single events that I just so happened to point my attention to out of a vast collection of simultaneous on-going events occurring around me. And as Massumi explains, “Will and consciousness are subtractive. They are limitative, derived functions that reduce a complexity too rich to be functionally expressed” (Massumi, 29).

Taking the ideas of Massumi and tying them together with the ideas of Jane Bennett, this complexity that is 2nd Avenue (or the portion of 2nd Ave between 97th and 71st street to be more specific), an entity too rich to be expressed, exemplifies what it means to possess Thing-Power (an awesome and vivid concept which I love):

The strange ability of ordinary, man-made items to exceed their status as objects and to manifest traces of independence or aliveness. – Bennett, xvi

Echoing Massumi, I found 2nd Avenue to be “overfull” with life. Echoing Bennett, I found 2nd Avenue to possess a trace of aliveness.

– Kai

Works Cited

Bennett, Jane. “Preface.” Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham: Duke UP, 2010.vii-xix. Print.
Massumi, Brian. “The Autonomy of Affect.” Cultural Critique 31 (1995): 83-109. Web.

~ by kaihatakeyama on October 3, 2016.