Fluid Relations For Endurance - Paige Emery

Updated: Nov 10, 2021

Fluid Relations for Endurance explores the ritualistic connections to water as a form of renewing intersubjective endurance. The contemporary ecological turn has increasingly been seeking non-anthropocentric worldviews like that of the planetary, or an earth which exists beyond the hierarchy of human life and human perceptions of time. Throughout the larger project of shifting away from ingrained norms of capitalist individualism towards interdependence and its pertaining repercussions and responsibilities, a prevalent pathway towards such shift is that of world-building, reimagining new narratives, and poetics for engineering new realities. A grounding frame around these modalities is following Sylvia Wynter in thinking about being human as praxis. "Human species realizes itself as human only by coming to regulate its behaviors, no longer primarily, by the genetic programs, but by means of its narratively instituted conceptions of itself; and therefore by the culture-specific discursive programs, to which these conceptions give rise."(1)

To materialize the modalities of meaning-making, we must locate the places where they convene with praxis, and how to orient ourselves in those locations towards ecosocial renewal. Ritual is situated in the meeting place between poetics and praxis, establishing catalytic channels through a cartography of the ecological body. Existing in a realm designated with enchantment, ritual caters to imagining avenues outside of a limiting episteme, a term Foucault uses to describe an underlying arena of knowledge in which we are constrained. For, in order to imagine a new environment outside of what we know in a deeply programmed coating, we need a space where we can imagine it. Enchantment itself has underlying connotations to realms of magic or sorcery, which are outside the conventional spaces of “reality” intrinsically dedicated for a reimagining of new worlds. Similar to how narratives within fables or science fiction speculate alternative forms of living for they exist in a platform dedicated to forming new realities, ritual can be cultivated within this same imaginative mindset due to its affinity with the enchanted realm of transformation. However, something that sets ritual apart from the prior platforms is that the fantastical reworlding is sutured with day-to-day object-beings, making it a praxis simultaneously grounded in the material world. This type of atmosphere which caters to reimagining new realities while using the materiality we have available is what becomes a catalyst of affect, one which can be driven towards shifting ecological worldviews and practices.

Ritual praxis can have a neurological reprogramming effect on the habitual psyche due to its underlying form of repetitive attentiveness. Through receptiveness, while responding to valued enmeshment with others, nonhumans, or object-beings, ritual can be instrumental in the reterritorialization of relations. "Poetics of relation" by Eduard Glissant(2) describes how each and every identity is extended through a relationship with the other - something inherently expressed within ritual. Relations weave the infrastructure of worldmaking, requiring ethical nuances of how entities are related within complexities. A body as an extension among entangled bodies must still acknowledge alterities and injustices. Shifting towards planetary perspectives beyond us cannot negate the reciprocal commitments for being /becoming humans as praxis.

In this ritual we look at water as the bridge to the unconscious mind with the dissolvement of individual subjectivity, a metaphor long used throughout different areas of mysticism, psychoanalysis, and alchemy. Relating and reconnecting to water is embodying its intersubjective malleability and porosity which has shaped the way for endurance. While continually self-folding, Water churns into its future its past, exemplifying a ritual of endurance. Philosopher Catherine Malabou relates Deleuze's concept of the fold, the perpetuating state always already opening to the future, to habit and plasticity due to its repeated change. Habit creates union between the psychic and physical which allows change to happen as new pathways are opened in the nervous circuits and in the physical world(3). All the more powerful through the conduit of ritual, ritual creates the consciousness of change. Water holds a memory, molded through its interactions, the memory of shapeshifting over millions of years, holding compositions due to anthropogenic permeations. The water on earth today is the same water that has been immanent on the planet for millions of years, apart from a small amount shared from outer space. Water holds an ancestral endurance through connecting and folding with living bodies.

Fluid Relations for Endurance exhibits one such ritual connecting two lakes - one full of water and one which used to be full of water and now only now the memory of water evaporated that used to inhabit it. The second lake is in California, home to increasing droughts and water scarcity alongside increasing water privatization as a consequence of another meaning-making ritual which is the financial market. The market is a place where ritual is powerful in its effects, transforming value into reality via commodified entities such as water. The same technology can be used for benevolence with the proper ethics of entanglement and politics of being human as praxis. Enjoying the wealthiest economy in the country, the majority of Californians have rarely faced the reality of drought, living in the comfort of water outsourced from other states which might very soon run out. Bodies of water are moving quickly and the new ecologies of our planet brought on by the effects of the Anthropocene require new responses. We need forms of collective care to dress the locations of loss and grief. We can create rituals to bring new memories of water in place, to reorient ourselves as human with landscape, where we can alter habits in our unconscious minds to propel catalysts of care to ripple out into the physical worlds.

Thinking about relations as the praxis where ritual is never completed with an end goal, transform this ancient human technology into a continual catalyst for renewal. Ritual is the spatiotemporal topography of endurance while everything else is fleeting. As we help the planetary withstand the anthropogenic effects, we also need to find practices of enduring amidst the traumas and hardships within our own bodies. The hyper-presence learned through rituals is where the individual body multiplies like bodies of water that have endured as many bodies. Only an attentive and adaptive practice of communication can produce drastic change by being the process of change itself. The folding of fluidity as the space of possibility for creating new memories also contributes to the creation of new worlds. As we are swimming upstream against capitalist sorcery, we need the fluid praxis to maintain endurance and to keep moving collectively.



1. Wynter, Sylvia. “No Humans Involved: An Open Letter to My Colleagues”. Institute N.H.I., 1994.

2. Glissant, Eduard. “Poetics of Relation”. The University of Michigan Press, 1997.

3. Malabou, Catherine. "The Relation Between the Habit and the Fold". Lecture. European Graduate School, 2017.

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