FRAGMENT | On encounter

Posted on 08/06/2009

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Encounter is a word or an idea that I often return to … and … begin from. It is chance and happening; meeting and discovery; desire and hope. Encounter is a commencement of experience and revelation, of learning and exploration, of relationship and interpellation. My deep respect for this idea has filtered through my cultural writing and journalism for well over a decade. It came of reading Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse and becoming entangled in the tremulous possibility of wonder: “I am totally given over to this discovery (I tremble within it), to the point where any intense curiosity for someone encountered is more less equivalent to love.” Encounter is a space – an event, often fleeting – a coming together of two or more ‘things’ or ‘elements’, generally not pre-figured and with a generally indeterminate future. In later life, Louis Althusser, wrote his Philosophy of the Encounter in which he presents a philosophy that is both materialist and anti-teleological. There are other theorists for which the space and moment of encounter is alive for becoming: Emmanuel Levinas on the meeting/mismeeting as an ethical moment and Alphonso Lingis on communities of strangers. Others again – Spinoza, Rousseau, Marx etc. As if possessed by some strange aleatory conceit, I ordinarily write that which I experience in some way and that which I have had some cause to imagine beyond the encounter. The encounter becomes something other, something else. Rarely do I write of the encounter or the meeting itself, whether pleasurable or not. To encounter is to catalyse or to move, it is to conjure something anew or new.  

In this body of work I am both encountering place and placing encounter (encountering in place). In the way I have framed this idea of encounter, it may seem like I am merely passing through, making no commitment. That may well be true because I have a tendency for the trajective and nomadic. Place presents the possibility of an encounter, not a guarantee. It promises nothing. Place, then, is slippery with uncertainty.

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