Events are always passing; to experience an event is to experience the
passing. But how do we perceive an experience that encompasses the just-was and the
is-about-to-be as much as what is actually present? In Semblance and
Event, Brian Massumi, drawing on the work of William James, Alfred North
Whitehead, Gilles Deleuze, and others, develops the concept of "semblance"
as a way to approach this question.
It is, he argues, a question
of abstraction, not as the opposite of the concrete but as a dimension of it:
"lived abstraction." A semblance is a lived abstraction. Massumi uses the
category of the semblance to investigate practices of art that are relational and
event-oriented -- variously known as interactive art, ephemeral art, performance
art, art intervention -- which he refers to collectively as the "occurrent
arts." Each art practice invents its own kinds of relational events of lived
abstraction, to produce a signature species of semblance. The artwork''s relational
engagement, Massumi continues, gives it a political valence just as necessary and
immediate as the aesthetic dimension.