I spent 3 days in spaces centred on new materialist approaches to thinking, research, practice. Materialist ways of being in the world. Examples and papers delivered and discussed as we the audience sat behind tables in lecture theatres and conference rooms talking about materials. Talking about materials. As I sat and listened I started to notice the types of chair that were in the room, the way that the clock had stopped, the odd texture on a jacket of someone in front of me. I was listening to the presentations and paper but the stuff discussed was so removed from the spaces that we occupied that I sought them out around me.
In between the papers we dispersed, alone or in groups. Myself and colleague would return to the same café and buy tea and cake. My peppermint tea fascinated me, in its physicality. The cup filled with boiling water was stuffed full of the largest bunch of mint leaves. But not just the leaves but the stalks as well. As the lid was put onto the cup the mouth or sipping hole was filled with the stalks that stuck out of the cup like an organic straw or instrument.
The whole presence and smell of the peppermint overwhelmed my thinking and focussed me on the substance - the matter in my hands. You could argue that the conversations that spoke of new materialist entanglements of the closeness and proximity of matter as us and other had fuelled my thinking around this peppermint plunged upside-down in my water, so basic and yet beautiful. However, my feeling is that it was the lack of the material connections of any recognition of how we were positioned and read to in the sessions that led me towards the material of the peppermint. The dynamic intra actions which were showed or illustrated in a PowerPoint had driven me to find something tangible and to see the details of what was just in front of me. I am not here confusing materiality with new materialist thinking but I am asking about the delivery of that thinking. Maybe delivery is exactly the problem because of course the premise would be that the entanglements are in amongst and surrounding. Betwixt and between. Delivering demands a handing over a transaction rather than an entanglement.
Every day that we returned to this café and noticed a cake or loaf next to the other biscuits, I imagined it as a banana loaf as it had the different textures within in it. On the last day we bought the cake and sat in the café, this time the peppermint filled a tall glass cup the entirety of the space filled and green stalks upturned. A plant plunged.
I didn’t take a photo of my tea and tried to find an image to equal it online, and nothing would, because it was the sensory overload that isn’t digital. So, conveying the impossibility of the peppermint encounter becomes a diluted reflection. In practice research, it seems that we may always be on the edge of a diluted reflection or account. The sensory –affect- in the being, the becoming of an event. As I type do I devalue the potency of something that was pungent and vital?
Returning to the banana loaf that turned out not to be, we sat and the waitress gave us the cake. She looked at us and asked if we knew what the cake was. Of course, we had only our thoughts of possible banana, so she went on to tell us the cakes story, that now seems like the start or a part of a fairy-tale. She began, ‘at the end of every day we collect all the cakes that haven’t been bought and we put them together, they are then made into this cake. This cake is all of the uneaten cakes from yesterday, every day the cake is slightly different dependent on what is left’ it was like a cake palate.
This cake story has been so important to me, it is an entanglement of cake. The ingredients of the cake was cake. It felt as though the event of this cakes reforming and reordering was the perfect material analogy. I wanted to run back into the conference with the cake. It was a material fit - forced and reformed. The cake was old new cake, it was functioning a moment after being a reject, it was manipulated to function again with all with the possibility of ultimately being digested. It was a cake full utterance. More than the delivered and didactic new materialist papers this cake was continually reforming being itself and other, a before and an after.
The missing part is how it was done - what the action did the bakers do, was it their hands a compression device.
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