The material objects we are surrounded by, as Bill Brown and Tim Ingold show are often taken for granted as a backdrop that constitutes a deceptive “humility of objects”. As Daniel Miller puts it, the material world vastly overwhelms our capacity to describe it in discourse, and so much of our phenomenological, sensual experience remains largely unarticulated (Miller, 1987, 85-108). Thus, precisely because it is “beyond words,” as Leora Auslander puts it, material culture can be a productive source helping to comprehend the affective aspects of life (Auslander 2005, 24). In the same vein Jane Bennett writes: “I caught a glimpse of an energetic vitality inside each of these things, things that I generally conceived as inert. In this assemblage, objects appeared as things, that is as vivid entities not entirely reducible to the contexts in which (human) subjects explain them, never entirely exhausted by their semiotics” (Bennett, 5). Following Bennet's words that non-human objects’ “competence is deduced from their affective performance rather than posited in advance”, I argue that a non-discursive sensation that representations of things and material environment produce could be of interest for object-oriented, eco-critical analysis of post-socialist films (Bennett, viii).
Thus, I tend to reconcile the historiographic analysis of post-socialist films with a study of film affects by arguing that the two are in fact connected in the images of spatial and material environment. This reconciliation is, however, only possible within a particular understanding of the representation as not only mimetic act, but rather with the notion of affect connected to perception. Question that remains unanswered is how to analyze filmic images of materiality through the theory of affect, as well as, how this particular attention to material affects produced by screen representations non-human things could find its way back to film theory?
I find Eugene Brinkema’s refreshing take on affect theory vis-à-vis cinema potentially helpful here. In her recent book, The Forms of the Affects, Brinkema calls to pay attention to film form rather than the interiority of the subject or the movements and sensations of bodies in order to analyze affect in film. Brinkema argues throughout the book that “affective force works over form, that forms are auto-affectively charged, and that affects take shape in the details of specific visual forms and temporal structures” (Brinkema, 37). As I understand it, according to Brinkema, analysis of film form should be considered in relation to understanding cinematic affect because affect in film is a creatively situated exteriority. Therefore, only through close methodological investigation of a film form, the impact of the concrete stylistic techniques on the creation of material affects can be examined. The visual essays that accompany the written dissertation are both an investigation and an illustration of these affects.
Many of the early film theorists were equally curious about new possibilities of cinematic images and affective (emotional) impact of objects represented on the screen. The boom in popularity of the affect theory illustrates one of the contemporary incarnations of similar concerns. In the psychoanalytic tradition of the 20th century affect has been equated with subjectivity. Recent theories of affect, however, illustrate that affect can also be studied beyond the confines of the human, beyond one's subjectivity. “Affect is not simply emotion”, drawing on Benedict Spinoza, writes Gilles Deleuze, “nor is it reducible to the affections or perceptions of an individual subject [...] it is becoming that goes beyond those who live through it...” (Deleuze, 1987, ix). In the Deleuzian philosophy, thus, the affect does refer to human emotions in a certain sense, but its scope goes much beyond that of subjectivity. The French philosopher alludes to intensities that may move through human bodies, but that do not emerge from those bodies. For this reason, affects in the Deleuzian philosophy are separated from affections, in so far as they exist in the absence of human, they do not need a human subject because “affects are nonhuman becomings” (Deleuze, 2005, 78, 103). This way of understanding affect makes it possible to read many other objects, such as things, animals, and sites—generally, a nonhuman environment—as affective.