Today we begin with Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter. As I reflect on what she’s articulating in her key concept of “thing-power” few things seem to better capture this strange and inarticulate power better than Disney’s Fantasia:
Early in Vibrant Matter Bennett writes, “…objects appear as things, that is, as vivid entities not entirely reducible too the contexts in which (human) subjects set them, never entirely exhausted by their semiotics” (5). Earlier she remarks that she “…will try, impossibly, to name the moment of independenncce (from subjectivity) posssessed by thhings, a moment that must be there, since things do in fact affect other bodies, enhancing or weakening their power” (3).
The mischevious Mickey steals the sorcerer’s hat and enchants the broom, commanding it to do his work of cleaning. Confident that his work is being done for him, he falls off into sleep and dreams of absolute mastery over the forces of nature, controlling even the very stars themselves. Yet when he awakes he discovers that the broom has maniacally been bringing water into the sorcerer’s laboratory, flooding the place. He attempts to destroy the broom, only to have it’s splinters turn into brooms bennt on bringing water into the lab. Dancing brooms, floods, and buckets of water are the stuff of thing power. Thing-power consists of things unleashed on the world, acting in ways irreducible to human intentions and meanings, behaving as if they had their own will. This, I believe, is one of the key themes OOO is striving to articulate.