Making Sense: Material Semiotic Devices and Aesthetic Counterpowers

Image: Entry of the FC/MC media centre at the St. Pauli football stadium, Hamburg. Photo: Christoph Brunner

In his latest publication, Christoph Brunner (SP 5) questions activist operations of sense and making sense by focusing on the alternative international media centre FC/MC. The centre was established during the Hamburg G20 summit in 2017 with the support of the Chaos Computer Club and local cultural institutions. It included hundreds of work stations and several studios for numerous journalists, media activists and bloggers offering a live stream, a website, a Youtube channel as well as Twitter account to host encounters and interviews with key organisers of the protests, NGO-activists as well as researchers. Situated not far away from the special security zone of the summit, this social and media production space embodied “a material and social confluence of heterogeneous relations, beliefs, desires, practices and interests” and proposed a different “state of perception” (Massumi).

“Activist sense hints at the field of experience through which affect operates, capable of forging en­counters between heterogeneous elements and thus engaging in a continuous practice of making-sense with and through the sensuous.” (Christoph Brunner)

The centre called itself a “material semiotic device” emphasizing therefore the interconnections of the material infrastructure and the generation of meaning, or better: sense. The FC/MC’s aim was, as Brunner writes, “a multi-layered engagement with the media coverage of the actual events, intervening directly on the streets through its own media channels and means of production”. Hence its participants foregrounded “modes of making-sense through forms of ‘affective engagement’ (Fritsch)”. Approaching engagement beyond the human subject with theories of affect (Massumi), allows Brunner to analyse the manifold relations of “making sense” and “sense-making technologies” as “a politics of perception” and a dense field of potentials (Simondon).

Rather than concentrating on aesthetic regimes of the art world and the mere academic celebration of activist media, Brunner offers a “field-based account of affective infrastructures of resistance” highlighting the “affective envelopes across bodies, sensations and networked media”. Engaging broadly with the media-technological implications of current affective politics (Paracharissi) and with the “different perceptual regimes” of the Hamburg G20 summit protests in particular, he thus urges us to rethink contemporary modes of participatory critique and the dominant – often violent – images of the anti-globalisation movement.



Brunner, Christoph (2020): “Making Sense”. Aesthetic Counterpowers in Activist Media Practices. In: Conjunctions 7 (1). DOI: 10.7146/tjcp.v7i1.119861 .

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