Powers Of The Hoard Notes On Material Agency – Jane Bennett (2012)

Jane Bennett Powers of the Hoard Artistry and Agency in a World of Vibrant Matter – video

Hoarding as a speculative account of the active expressive or calling capatiy of thing. 

Hoarders – extreme perception, noticing the “somatic effectivity of objects”, different from the artist as hoarding is ‘undifferentiated’ (whereas artistry is more anthropocentric, and ‘taste based’)

Artists – share some aspects but are not identical (Song Dong – Waste Not, Chardin – The Brioche) 
Spectrums: owner, connoisseur, collector, archivist, packrat, hoarder (objectophile?) 
“The History of Sexuality”, Foucault – the productive power around him

Bergson – perception as a subtractive process – it is selective.  What we do detect is the measure of possible action upon – normal perception is biased toward utility rather than vibrancy 
Heidegger – withdrawal of the thing in utility 
Freud – “the human body longs to return to the efficacy of the inorganic” 
Benjamin – the collector – the human body taking pleasure in the useless – ‘glorification of things’ 
Barthes – advenience instead of glorification – this picture ‘advenes’ that one doesn’t

political economies devoted to overconsumption, planned obscolences…

  • Times/places for psychoses – “Perhaps hoarding is the madness appropriate to us, to a political economy devoted to consumption, planned obsolescence, planned extraction of natural resources, and mountains of discarded waste.”
  • The mad walker of france as a response to the valuation of travel in french culture, and the demonisation of loitering resulting in obsessive 
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collyer_brothers 

  • Garbage in the atlantic / pacific ocean – a twenty-first century commons 

three insights that hoarders have (the three hoarder intelligences) 

  • endurance / patience / waiting it out 
    • Spinoza – the ‘speed’ of things 
    • power of slowness – ‘i like rocks, they’re
    • “the human body longs to return to the efficacy of the inorganic”
  • porosity and contagion 
  • inorganic sympathy
    • the philosopher is his/herself also a thing with thing-power
    • act of sympathy and self-recognition
    • dissolving the units of life – besides the instinct to preserve living substance, there must exist another contrary instinct – as well as eros (brings together) there was a instinct of death (Civilizaation’s Discontents – Freud) 
    • death drive – a distinctive form of relationally – “a subteranian sympathy” with the inorganic 
    • utility isn’t the key to hoarding – but neither is it aesthetic – it’s something else
      (usually it’s either utility or aesthetics – but is there another relation?) 
    • Benjamin – taking pleasure in the useless sheer pleasure of thingness – as an act of non-commerciality – deliberate aestheticism
    • Barthes – advenience – might be a better description of the peculiar calling out of the thing 

why we may ignore thingness

  • man as the center of all things – human conceit
    • the philosopher is his/h
  • language is a subject-object – passive objects, active subject grammar
    • poetry is perhaps better served to express powers or things 
    • Shem the Penman hoarder in Finnegan’s wake – Joyce
      • taking all the gross matter of the world and turning into art
      • Bohemian character who, among other things, creates ink from his own excrement
      • “writing the mystery of himself in furniture?”
    • there are some similarities here to claims in ethnographic pursuits around not having a ‘qualitative grammar’ in anthropology (no “language of qualitative method” (Gubrium, J. F., and J. A. Holstein. 1997. The new language of qualitative method. New York: Oxford University Press.)
  • Bergsonian physiology of perception – screening out the vitality of things – bringing to the fore the passive qualities of stuff, as we perceive via utility
“sticky words”
  • transferring the object aspects (slowness, intercorporeal infusion advenience) – into human understandings (imaginative projection, use or aesthetic value 
  • religious practices
  • attention deficit disorder – a preference for lively things over planned / ogranised things
  • paranoia – an over extended receptivity 
  • fetish objects – persistence of ‘lucky charms’ 
  • web marketers – “the call from the data from web page hits as that data swings from useless thing to valuable commodity”


  • the opposite – total minimalists, attuned to the 
  • choice / compulsion
  • Weber – man being seperate from the objects that he or she produces because of capitalism 
  • Warhol – was an obsessive hoarder 
  • Projection into things by people does not exhaust our relations with things – there is a physical quality that remains (inorganic sympathy) that is “hard to talk about without sounding crazy”
  • New York as a Geologic City – Geologic Now
  • broken objects 
  • Charles Taylor – Secular Age – the power of art to reflect how we talk about objects


  • Taussig’s hint that language is related to materiality of things
  • Cadava’s story about Avital Ronnel – “whenever someone tries to conjure up the figure of humanity, someone gets fucked”

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