The following post is an interview with Kristine Warrenburg Rome about her article, “The Kisceral Connection.” The interview is part of an AMA series celebrating the publication of the “Phish and Philosophy” special issue of the Public Philosophy Journal, edited by Stephanie Jenkins and Charlie Dirksen. Kristine will also be answering your questions in the comments throughout the week. The next post will feature Stephanie Jenkins, so submit your questions now.
Tell us about yourself. Who are you? When was your first show? Why do you come back?
I am Kristine Warrenburg Rome, a mother to two wonderful kids (6 and 9) and an Associate Professor of Communication at Flagler College (14 years) in St. Augustine, Florida, where I teach classes concerned with listening first, media ethics, stereotypes in the media, popular culture criticism and more. While pursuing my Ph.D. in Rhetoric & Communication Ethics (2009) from the University of Denver, I met my husband in the front row of a Phix show, a Mockingbird Foundation benefit post-Trey Band show in Fall of 2005. My brother is a Phishhead, his wife is a Phishhead, my friends from every stage of life from grade school to grad school have been show partners for going on 27 years since my first show (Deer Creek 8/12/1996). At this point, shows are class and family reunions and I am grateful for that.
Why did you decide to write this essay? What do you want your readers to take away from it?
After spending many years thinking about multi-layered argumentation and reasoning, the ethics involved therein, and studying philosophies of language, I thought that I could help readers find terms and/or concepts that help to explicate, ironically, the unexplainable (i.e., or what most would say is indescribable, or beyond words, or out-of-this-world, even spiritual, moments of life occurrence). I’m also always telling my students to pick topics they are passionate about so this is an example of me following my own advice. Certainly, my undergraduate self is thrilled to accomplish professional level Phish Studies research.
Thank you for your article! I had a hard time understanding the ideal of kisceral connection. Can you explain the idea in the simplest terms possible?
First, simplify by separating kisceral from connection and work to understand each as their own unique concept. Kisceral is a layer of reasoning, or argument, akin to the logical, emotional, or visual developed by argumentation scholar Michael A. Gilbert. For example, one could argue that they scored the best seats for the NYE’s run since, 1) logically, the tickets were acquired for face value, 2) emotionally, you love Section 119, and 3) viscerally, raging Page Side with a Spicy Chicken in hand is physically on point. However, once you show up to your logical, emotional, and viscerally sound seats on NYE, the energy is off, bad even. Something is telling you not to sit in these seats and that somewhere else, anywhere else in the room, would be better. That sense, the extra sensory, vibe, energy whatever you know it by, is what kisceral reasoning is. This kisceral mode comes from the mystical, other-worldly, spiritual, religious, beyond-sensical spaces of argument.
The “connection” as a concept is more in line with the “IT” phenomenon, when all sides come together in a rare, kisceral, je ne sais quoi, moment of lived experience. In my essay, I turn to the philosophical work of Mikhail Bakhtin to further understand the tension and release, or the centripetal push as monologic force of confined meaning vs. the the centrifugal pull of heteroglossia, or that layered language reflects many voices. The rigidness of the centripetal oscillates and dances with the centrifugal which sublimates, occasionally, in remarkable “IT” connection moments.
How does the kisceral differ from the vibe?
The kisceral is a mode of reasoning, or category of argument, that contains vibe. Please take a moment to read through Jason Del Gandio’s paper on “The Vibe” in this “Phish and Philosophy” special issue of the Public Philosophy Journal for a better breakdown. The vibe, however, as energy, is absolutely part of the kisceral mode of argument but the kisceral can be much more than just vibe.
Is kisceral connection something that is uniquely accessible through Phish’s live improvisation? Could I also find kisceral connections at Coldplay or Taylor Swift concerts?
No, kisceral connections are not limited to only Phish’s improvisation. Certainly, one can experience kisceral reasons (i.e. beyond logic, extra-sensory, energy, spiritual, ghostly, vibes) in all of life’s arenas, not only music. You can reason not to board a plane, to buy a certain car, not to sit in a specific seat, or when to double down all from within the kisceral line of reasoning. Musical performance and experience, especially when improvised or aesthetically unknown, is more likely to be kiscerally categorized because boundaries are removed. For example, when Coldplayers or Swifties speak of luck, or being mind blown, or how angelic the performance was, then we are in the kisceral realm of the argument.
Can kisceral connections be experienced through webcasts? Or is the experience diminished in comparison to live concert events? (As you say, there is only one Big Cypress sunrise!)
This is something that I think about a lot and would have to say kisceral connections are experienced in lived moments and not via screens, at least not experienced in the same way that I am describing. Most of my study of philosophy is used to make sense of lived experience where in the immediacy of the moment is heightened risk. Experiential consciousness is impacted, and as Marshall McLuhan would say, “The medium is the message.” Risk and immediacy are diminished from behind the screen. It will be interesting to see how Couch Tour consciousness shifts as technology evolves in ways to afford artists, like Trey on Twitch during the Beacon Jams, to reciprocally communicate with his audience in real time. However, something more is contained in the the physical risk of body in place and space with an Other/s during lived “IT” moments of connectivity.
Super interesting article and plenty to chew on! Question: Might the "kisceral logic" of the Phish experience act as a form of subversion--subversion of Western, Euro-American linear logic?
Exactly, Gilbert’s kisceral mode of argument is a move away from the confines of Western, Euro-American linear logic. The kisceral expands reason beyond the logical, emotional, and gut-sensemaking space of the visceral. The kisceral opens space to the intuitive, other-worldly, nonsensical, energetic vibes playing a part in life’s arguments. Rather than fitting all arguments into a logic, rational, forward model, Gilbert (1997) wrote Coalescent Argumentation, fronting a multi-modal approach to sense-making. Such a move away from linear logic as the primary line of argument and embracing the kisceral is the move toward ethical argumentation. Ethical argument provides space for the nonsensical, other-worldly, extras-sensory modes of reasoning and, as such, is channeled for the good by way of inclusive reflection and reason.
You describe the kisceral as ethical a few times in your article. How can the kisceral be a force or channeled for the good?
Logical living would lead one to believe that all moments, happenings, and actions are either good or bad. Kisceral reasoning makes room for nuance, the moments of miracles in life, no matter how small or personal. I feel personally that a kisceral minded individual stands to enjoy life’s magical moments more, having opened themselves up to more than just the logical, physical, and emotional.
As we “chase… kisceral connecting moments,” are there ways to catalyze them? Some show experiences seem more successful at achieving kisceral connections than others.
Opportunity for transformation in and through out-of-place relational connective moments remains at the center of “IT.” Presence is essential as “IT” is a lived experience found in the risk of immediacy. If there is any hope for a kisceral connection one must “surrender to the flow” with active intention and commitment to the possibility of experiencing the exceptional, intuitive, magical moment/s available in the lived moment. Spontaneity leads the trace of past kisceral connections, underwritten by familiarity, in hopes of finding the miracle of the next.
Can the "IT" experience of Phish ever become reified--i.e., over-performed, over-expected, too enacted? Or is it always fresh, generative, and ever-becoming? (It's an honest question, one that I've pondered throughout the years.)
IT’s both reified and ever becoming. I briefly addressed this thought in the “Unpredictable Phamiliarity: Atopic Performance Art & the Fourth Persona” conference paper I presented at the inaugural Phish Studies Conference (2019). “IT” includes energy as connectivity to self, other, universe, and more; and the conference paper worked to conceptualize atopia (out-of-place, unbecoming, improper, unrighteous, inconvenient, unreasonable, unusual) performance art as nuance where “IT,” in moments of pre-discursive language, or found in the silence around the spoken words, sublimates in a magic moment. Making sense of the unpredictable phamiliarity – which is both over-performed and generative -- that ignites and amplifies dissonance, which directs community members – band and phans – to depend on intuition, backed by phamiliarity, helps one to reason through the mystical, silly, extra-sensory, improvisational, exploratory or kisceral experience that is the Phish.
Two questions for you to ponder and post about:
1) What are some of the ways you have heard Phish fans talk that could be classified as kisceral argument or reason (i.e., mind blown, out-of-this world, beyond words, etc)?
2) Have you ever experienced an “IT” moment at Phish? If so, tell us about it. Ben & Jerry do a nice job recollecting some “IT” examples (see https://www.benjerry.com/flavors/favorite-phish-moments); what are yours?
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Sometimes I am convinced that certain jams are saying something. That they contain arguments and if I I listen to them long enough, I can decipher them. Not linguistically, but in terms of meaning or action. Is that kisceral reasoning? If so, how do I make it explicit?