Not So Fleeting Moments…


“For structure is the place where nothing ever happens” (Massumi).

Take a look at the picture above. There are two houses. You can’t tell but the houses tower a street away from, first, Rockaway Beach, then the beach coastline and finally the Atlantic Ocean. The twin houses appear to be newly built compared to other buildings on the residential street. It seems that people live in them too. What’s especially important to this description is the way the two-family homes are raised, which means the foundational structures of the houses are built in such a way to safeguard its entire physical existence from flooding and the subsequent destruction that may be caused by future natural disasters. These houses may exist in the way they currently do solely because of Hurricane Sandy, considering these two buildings are some of the tallest homes in the area and look relatively brand new.  

 In a way, these houses vibrantly exist within the “realm of potential”, a frustratingly somewhat undefinable theory of affect that has as much to do with context as it doesn’t simultaneously (Massumi). In his text “The Autonomy of Affect”, Brian Massumi cites Henri Bergson, who discusses how “intensity [includes the] realm…in which past and future brush shoulders with no mediating present”, an aura that is certainly contained within these houses and the surrounding less tall houses not pictured (Massumi). Strangely enough, Massumi compares the “intensity” of objects, his working word for affect, to “waves on a sea to which most no sooner return”, as if eerily conjuring the same affect that future or past Hurricanes of Rockaway possesses for these lifted homes (Massumi). If it isn’t clear, these houses occupy a space that observes a “pastness opening directly onto a future, but with no present to speak of” in their very existence (Massumi). The houses were built within endless contexts determined by the past and the possible future. For example, One context could include the entire happening of Hurricane Sandy. Another context could be that it could happen again. Maybe these houses were only built after Hurricane Sandy or maybe they were built after the previous houses were washed away years ago. Maybe they always existed, standing strong against Sandy. Equally possible is that they exist in the exact context provided in the description above. Whatever it is, these contexts build on Massumi’s idea that “[i]ntensity is incipience” (Massumi). Incipience can be defined as “[t]he act or process of bringing or being brought into existence” (“incipience), and in many ways, these homes embody that constant “paradox” of affect and intensity (Massumi). The contexts are “limited and infinite”, as demonstrated above (Massumi). the present existence of the homes is contingent on what has never happened yet, thus interacting with the realm of future potential, but altogether unconcerned with the past anyways. What’s more confounding is that this “potential” is changing and autonomous, resisting structural definition and available vocabulary, making it impossible to pin down what these houses’ affect may be. The context of these houses is inseparable from its affect but all the same not dependent on the very same context, always making them “new” because these contexts can never define the constantly fleeting present (Massumi). 

The very structure and context that these houses symbolize, in their preventive measures against Hurricanes for example, consequently determine their vitality and intensity forever. These houses live in anticipation of another disaster, built up and angled in a way that allows them to watch with an expectant eye the unpredictable ocean just a few meters away. Though Massumi cleverly writes “[f]or structure is the place where nothing ever happens”, the reality is that even though these houses may be “structured”, seemingly contextually and physically, their intensity is never determinate and thus constantly changing, making them objects where, in fact, a lot is happening (Massumi). 



Works Cited

“incipience.” American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company 6 Oct. 2019

Massumi, Brian. “The Autonomy of Affect.” Parables of the Virtual, Apr. 2002, pp. 23–265.,


~ by Thomas Paparella on October 6, 2019.

3 Responses to “Not So Fleeting Moments…”

  1. Most engaging: You create story for the houses that places me at the time you are taking the pictures, as well as when hurricane Sandy hit the houses. Imagine the affect transfer of feeling and emotion that you are facing. The “potential” is the fear that embarks this unique sense of collective doubt and anxiety.

  2. Again, an incredibly thought-provoking application of the theory to your ecology. The structures of the houses truly do represent a state of suspension in time, paranoid they are, stuck in their memory of the past and awaiting anxiously the future. The pictures are affective, your application fo theory is effective, and I think this piece is the best overall.

  3. Best overall: this blog post combines your experience and Massumi’s text really well, showing how something that can not be physically perceived has continuous, potential affects on one ecology and its residents.

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