samedi, février 17, 2007

Post-party discussion and Canada House

Canada House first, methinks.

Although again I slept in rather late (14h00), this time I actually got up, showered, changed, and headed out. I took care of a rather substantial run of groceries, came back, did some blogging, ate far too much tortilla (the Iberian kind, with the eggs and potatoes), and got ready to out. I had two parties to hit that night: DJ had invited me to a party at the Canadian House at the Cité Universitaire (the huge park-like complex of dorms at the south end of Paris), where he had been invited through a chain of friends-inviting-friends; also, one of my friends from the previous night's festivities suggested that I check out the Rex tonight, since Jake Fairley was spinning.

Sometime around 21h30, DJ and I met near my métro station and we headed off toward the Cité. After a moment of waiting around near the RER station, we met up with DJ's friend Alex, who DJ apparently met last year when she wanted to practise her English and he wanted to practise his French. What a great idea! I should've done something like that as well. Mind you, I had a decent base of French acquaintances when I arrived, so I was already getting a fair bit of practise.

Anyway, it was great to meet Alex (who was actually originally Spanish from Malaga) as well as the rather large group of friends she brought in tow. We wandered on over to the Maison des Étudiants Canadiens, tossed our coats in someone's room, and then headed down to the party. The party itself was a bit...um...junior high. There was a DJ playing oddly inappropriate music (a bit too night-club for a mixer party and WAY TOO LOUD), not enough seating to chill and chat, and nobody was dancing. However, this was junior high with alcohol for 2€ per serving, so things loosened up quickly. In fact, here's me double-fisting some Heineken.

click to enlarge...your penis!

And here's a picture of me next to DJ, who was blissfully unaware that, once I posted this thing on my blog, his image would forever be associated with the keyword "double fisting" on Google Images.

OK, so to make a long story short ("Too late!"), we hung around there until 1h30. At that point, both DJ and I made a dash for the nearest subway station, but found ourselves on a deserted subway platform. After realizing that we had just missed the last train, we headed up to the surface to catch the next night but downtown to Châtelet. I was already 2am when we got on the bus, so it was clear that I wasn't going to the Rex until rather late. There was still a chance of catching the headliner, but I've been to the Rex often enough to know that the lineup would be a mess by now, and there's no telling when or if I would get in. My adventures with Greg a month back has taught me never to attempt the Rex after 1h30. So we headed back to our respective places, although not without some amusement at the ballet of inebriation, disinhibition and desperation that was Châtelet at 2h30.

Smile For Your Mind: Post-party stuff

As I had mentioned in my post yesterday, there was too much material for one post, so I put the pictures, video and play-by-play reportage in yesterday's post, and saved the more theoretical/general discussions for today. Although other things might come to me in the next few days, there were essentially three things that struck me as significant during the party:

Eye Contact

I've mentioned before that eye contact in France (and Europe in general, I think) has a more intense and overtly sexual connotation than it does in North America. Nonetheless, it takes on a more diffuse role at EDM (electronic dance music) events. Certainly, you can still indicate your romantic interest in someone by fixing your gaze intently on them, but that's usually buttressed by rather forward physical contact (i.e., close dancing, grabbing an arm or hand, copping a feel), but eye contact can also be an invitation to share a friendly moment together. Many of the people I know in EDM scenes, in Paris, Chicago, Toronto and elsewhere, have met me through moments of fleeting eye contact that have led to discussions about the DJ, the party, the club, and soon much more.

In many ways, the moment of eye contact represents the crux of my doctoral project--much in the way that Marx used the commodity as the unit of analysis for capitalism. These moments of visual alignment are bristling with the potential for intimacy, with the possibility of closeness across the dance floor. It is precisely virtual: before it is an invitation to intimacy, it is first a question of possibility. In my mind, we tacitly ask ourselves and each other, "Do you feel it, too?"

One way that I understand intimacy is through affective mirroring--the idea, conviction or aspiration that my perceptions, feelings, and emotions are the same as yours...or close enough. We want assurance that what we undergo ourselves is shared with those around us. Of course, such knowledge is uncertain; the possibility of intimacy in the way I've been conceptualizing it here requires some degree of mutual transparency at the level of affect.

So eye contact becomes this moment of enquiry, aspiration, projection, alignment and most of all beginning. It unleashes a cascading chain of transactions between myself and my interlocutor, where we check on each other's internal states and strive to project our own. Not surprisingly, the first phrases to be uttered after a (successful) moment of eye contact are questions like "Having a good time?", "Is this DJ great or what?", "How're you feeling?" and so on. Even when words aren't uttered, eye contact will often be followed by a smile, a nod, or some gesture to show that you're really excited by the music (i.e., pumping your fists, dancing with greater energy). And no wonder that it's called "eye contact" in English; so much of this interaction works as a metaphor for physical touch. Indeed, physical touch often follows swiftly; many times I've made eye contact with a total stranger, smiled, and then shook hands, exchanged hugs, or even bumped hips.

Although this might seem obvious, an important condition of possibility for intimacy is witnessing together. Being present to the same thing, the same event, creates a common ground of shared experience from which to begin seeking similar correspondences between feelings. Again, it's no surprise that, at moments of peak intensity or surprising wonder during a DJ's set, we turn to those beside us and say--whether verbally or non-verbally--"HOLY SHIT did you see/hear/feel that?!"

I should also add that all of this uncertainty, virtuality, potentiality, possibility also suggests the risks involved in the transaction. Eye contact can misfire. You can look away, either rejecting your or perhaps simply oblivious to you. You or I can misread each other, one mistaking sexual interest where the other was merely seeking recognition. It's an all-too-common risk for women, for whom a fleeting glance may result in very invasive unwanted attention.

Wow. That took longer than I thought. The next two points will be a lot shorter.

Not-Random-But-Chance

Continuing on the thread of "virtuality" and the realm where things aren't yet actual but nonetheless operative, I was struck by how so many of the interactions, acquaintanceships and even close friendships hinge on chance interactions. I know that it's a bit obvious to argue that friendships often arise par hasard, but nonetheless I was surprised to realize that nearly all of my contacts were had that way. I met N. and L. through another person, A. back in September; she liked the way I danced and said so (notably, after some amusing eye contact); then she made the same comment to two guys that happened to be standing next to her. One girl that I chatted with on Friday sparked up conversation because we I was wearing a Pac-Man t-shirt. For all the people to whom I have been introduced as a friend-of-a-friend, I seem to have an equal amount that I've simply met by chance.

What's interesting for me is that it's not random. It's not as if we crossed paths while catching our trains at Châtelet and suddenly struck up a rapport. Our interests and contacts overlapped enough that we were at the same event, and then a whole relationship unfolded from a casual comment or a shared glance. Moreover, the moment was not necessary but generative; commenting on our dress or our dancing or the DJ isn't the only way to start interaction. It could've happened in so many other ways; indeed, we were swimming in a sea of opportunities to get to know each other. But once that first contact takes place, a whole relationship (potentially) unfolds from it. Following this line of thinking, one of the attractions of events like these is that the crowd seems to be a space full of virtual future friends.

Living in the "as-if" and Future-Oriented Intimacy

At several points in the evening, I was chatting with various folks from Labelle Records (the label organizing this event and the "home" label of most of the DJs that night), discussing the possibility of putting them in contact with a DJ/Label/Party Collective in Chicago that I know, the NaughtyBadFun Collective. "It would be great to do an exchange between Paris and Chicago." "I'm sure they would love to have you play in Chicago sometime." "If they're ever passing near Paris, we'd love to host an event with them." "When I get back to Chicago, you're welcome to crash at my place." "I don't have as many contacts in Toronto, but I can recommend good clubs and promoters." "I'd love to spin in Toronto someday."

All of this reminded me of a particular formulation of intimacy that appears in Lauren Berlant's introduction to Critical Inquiry's special issue on intimacy. She imagines intimacy as the aspiration for a future together (the exact quote doesn't appear in the link above), which I think works really well with the sorts of conversations I was having. Even if these musical exchanges never happen (but I hope they do), even if N. or L. (or C. or F. or the rest) never come visit me in Chicago (but I hope they do), nonetheless planning for a collaborative future allows us to project future common experiences that contribute to a present intimacy as if we had already been there.

3 commentaires:

amy a dit…

I was recently informed by a group of French people that it was rude of me to "chink" glasses with them without making eye contact. (I'd been looking at the glasses, which seemed natural to me.) Anyway, I'd never run into this tradition before, and I wondered how it might relate to your cross-cultural eye contact musings.

LMGM a dit…

Funny, I don't think I've ever noticed that. What I have heard is that it's rude to cross glasses/arms when toasting as a group.

Travis a dit…

I'm sure that things won't be so bad for DJ. You didn't, after all, use his full/official name. If someone were to do a Google image search for "DJ 'double-fisting'" (not that I ever would, mind you), that photo might be on the 30th page of results. And that person have to be really hard up to go that far through the results. I think DJ's safe, for the time being....