Speaking of things exerting agency…I have been trying for the past hour to upload a youtube video without luck. The post is of a video currently at the MOMA called “The Way Things Go,” by Peter Fichli and David Weiss.
Gell’s focus on a relational concept of agency seemed to paradoxically give as much agency to things as it takes away. As I read the book, I kept thinking of this video and trying to imagine what Gell’s would say about it. In my interpretation, the video is a counterpoint to Gell’s assertion that “things cannot have intentions” (19). It is a demonstration of the agency of “indexes” as it shows a social relationship of things to one another as opposed to their relationship to their originator (in my understanding, the entire chain reaction would be considered as a “prototype” in Gell’s theory). The video raises a variety of questions in relation to Gell’s theory. One of the most obvious being, is the “way things go” ultimately decided by the way in which the artists arrange the objects or the chemical and physical reactions between the objects that keep the reaction going? Ultimately, I think that Gell’s would consider the video as a prime example of the “paradox elimination” as it clearly demonstrates the “agency as a factor of the ambience as a whole…rather than as a attribute of the human psyche exclusively” (20). But take a look through your own “optical devices”: