Deleuze’s Aesthetics Contra Object Oriented Philosophy

Studies that discuss Deleuze’s aesthetics rely upon Kant. Such reliance by brilliant and insightful scholars such as Smith, O’Sullivan, and Shiviro are nervously self-conscious because they necessarily recognise Deleuze’s explicit repudiation of Kant (his “enemy”). They take exculpatory solace in Deleuze’s obvious admiration for Kant’s skill and scope.They see incipient harmony in some virtual “rumblings” Deleuze intuits beneath the structure of the Third Critique. But Kant’s transcendental idealism and Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism are not even opposites: they are as constitutively incommensurate as the actual and the virtual and so must be their corresponding aesthetics.

Why then do the readings of Deleuze’s aesthetics map him into the Kantian configuration? Perhaps because, as the rise of speculative realism has personified, these writers cannot, like Kant, part with the idea of the aesthetic object. Indeed, Kant in The Metaphysics of Morals says that sensibility itself is “the capacity (a receptivity) to acquire presentations as a result of the way we are affected by objects … [how] objects are given to us.” While the sublime would require more time, the judgement of beauty for Kant relies upon the paradoxical postulation of an extant, if somewhat unavailable, object. But as Deleuze repeatedly makes clear, he does not accept either judgements or their objects and has  as his central question “how is the given given?” What for him is always a bad question that in its very orientation accepts the current political versioning of subject–object representation.

Thus let us agree with Rancière that art is ineluctably political but understand the political exactly as the constitutive inequality between the sign as symbol (in Peirce’s nomenclature), that iterated arbitrary which offers itself as if  it had an oxymoronic per se, and what Deleuze means by the symptom, a manifestation concurrent with “its” causes. This conjunction of the necessarily unequal forms the usually tacit potential for the Kafkaesque “stutter,” the Nietzschean rubato, which is always immanent to actualisation’s inadequacy to its own material operation: it can never “catch up” to its own representation as each iteration can only again reinstate the asymmetry whereby its manifestation as intelligible is possible. The realisation of this heterogenetic disparity is for Deleuze the always-new function of the aesthetic. The creative is life, the will to power, in its encounter with the impossibility of mastery it desires. In this necessary asymmetry between the mimetic as the fiction of the actualised ontic (the faux possibility of the existence of the object or subject) and its immanent real production, two incommensurate temporalities touch without talking. The aesthetic then is not a generality but the particular context- sensitive evocation of its own mimetic unavailability as the object, the subject, or the intelligible.

For Deleuze, then, there are only flows, concurrent but uncoordinated. Objecthood and subjectivity are but the paradigmatic epiphenomena of actualisation, of territorialisation, of those literalising political practices that construct the “real” as iterative.Indeed,this paper will argue that Deleuze’s aesthetic, unlike Kant’s, is programmatically uncharacterisable as it consists of the always-new apprehension of the haecceity of all events through counter-actualisation: it is exactly that liberation from the misapprehension of chaotic conjunctions, “aberrant nuptials,” as objects of beauty or taxonomies of classification. That is, that Deleuze’s aesthetic is not a theory but praxis, an activity, which cannot get ahead of its instantiation. It is opposed to the very possibility of representation, as the mimetic in all its guises—and most especially as the literal or factual—is none other than the Apollonian dream of individuation. As such, Deleuzian aesthetics is the ongoing and very material activity of political encounter in its immanent manifestation and not, as some (for instance Spivak and Badiou) misunderstand, its evasion.

‘Beautiful Like a Burning Bank’: Justice, Art, and the Poetics of the Street

The potentials of Deleuze’s thought for artistic theory and practice have been recognised from early on. This owes much to the fact that Deleuze himself wrote extensively on various artistic fields as well as making artistic creation an organic part of his philosophy, including the works that he co-authored with Felix Guattari. On the other hand, Deleuze’s attitude towards justice was much more ambivalent. Not only was his engagement with theories of justice less extensive and systematic, he also offered various critical remarks concerning the theoretical value of the concept. Yet, it has been recognised that his conception of justice does not amount to a simplistic, direct repudiation. Rather, key elements of Deleuze’s intellectual output, notably his analytics of desire, offer a conceptual framework for thinking justice beyond the normative and idealistic confines of mainstream theory. Even more, Deleuze’s thought provides conceptual tools for grasping theoretically the lack of clear boundaries, that is, the zone of indeterminacy between justice and art.

My presentation develops the preceding thesis with a focus on artistic research and its potential to enter a productive conversation with political theory. In contrast with a more traditional “philosophy of art,” artistic research does not confine art to a closed category of aesthetics but rather engages with the fluid boundaries of artistic creation. The very term “artistic research” testifies to this fluidity, since it can mean both research on art  and research that has an artistic quality. In this context, rather than simply claiming that Deleuzian categories can be appropriated for a theory of justice in the same fertile way that they have been appropriated for artistic theory, I argue that Deleuze’s philosophy allows for a conceptualisation of justice that makes it a pertinent notion for artistic research. Conversely, this means that artistic research could become a dimension of a theory of justice. After elaborating this proposition on the conceptual level, the presentation will turn to its practical manifestations.

If institutions generally tend to formalise the segregation between justice and art, the latter’s indeterminacy is revealed most clearly at the level of the street. This term, far from being simply topological, is conceived as a sociopolitical category, a field of multiple flows and acts of becoming. In this context, attention will be directed to a specific activity: rioting.

Today, riots attract a lot of attention, but as a rule they are not registered as a positive index of either artistic research or a theory of justice. Against this negative attitude it will instead be argued that riots are paradigmatic instantiations of the zone of indeterminacy between justice and art, hence, a valid subject matter for artistic research. Even more, riots serve    a critical function vis-à-vis the generalised aestheticisation of the sensible taking place today. A similar critical function, filled with political force, can be generated through a productive dialogue between artistic research and theories of justice.

* Graffito from the streets of Athens.

Fictioning a Thought of Performance

Art and philosophy are non-parallel nuptials. Artistic practice often follows the forms of “philosophising,” but both art and philosophy are forms of thinking in materialistic terms. But how does performance think and can we regard the different series of thought, philosophy, and performance as conflating into one universal thought? In my presentation, my aim is to articulate the concepts of  mutation and clone as gestures of thought in performance and in relationship to the thought of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, and François Laruelle.

If performance is regarded as the act of restored behaviour, where one is acting as if being beside oneself, then the act is not a copy but a clone and a mutation. The thought of performance is not a copy but a mutation and a clone, which has a particular consistency. For Laura Cull, performance is a failed register in miming without a reference; it is a clone—a clowned version of the real.

Performance is not fiction, but indefinite fictioning, as similarly intransitive as becomings for Deleuze and Guattari. The term “fictioning” is based on the François Laruelle’s term fictionale. This presentation aims to articulate fictionale and fictioning as “improper” thought in performance. Fictioning does not correlate with the world as a proper gesture of thought, or through its resemblance to the Real, but it remains abstract. It is futuristic and atemporal. Artistic practice is not fiction, but rather an indefinite fictioning—that is, it is not a narrative way of telling the same thing. In fictioning, facts and stories do not mix, but they remain in superposition.

Performance as fictioning is not a liminal state, but enacting the between. It is thought on the delivery, like an advent of thought. Fictioning is indeterminate, where it differs from uncertainty. It does not function through resemblance, analogue, or similarity. Fictioning is superposition with the gestures of thought, a superposition of ontologically indeterminate states. Performance not only represents the body but also clones the body. There is no first knowledge or “standard” aesthetics of art, but a generation of the forms of thought. Fictioning is not an analysis of the world, but it is an organisation of the matter in the real.

Ilona Hongisto has been articulating the use of the concept of  “fabulation” by Deleuze in relation to documentary cinema, and my articulation on fictioning has certain relations with fabulation. Aside from fabulation, a thought from performance is fictioning that equalises decisional thought with other possible forms of  thought. It does not reduce the thought of a performance artist’s, actor’s, or dancer’s body into decisional and philosophical forms of thought.

The presentation will include a paper and an experimental part, which comprises a short performance with voice, electronics, and Theremin, remodelled by Derek Holzer, an instrument builder and sound artist based in Helsinki and Berlin (macumbista.net).

Deleuze’s Aesthetics: Transcendental Empiricism, Philosophy of Nature and Philosophy of Spirit

My paper focus on what I consider to be the great paradox of  Deleuze’s thinking on art: the project of  thinking art while refusing both an ontology of  the work of  art and a phenomenology of its reception. Deleuze believes that with the recomposition of the canonical fields of aesthetics on a new plan and on a new picture of thought, he can join both senses of aesthetics that, since Kant, have been radically separated: the theory of the sensible and the theory of the beautiful. Deleuze’s aesthetics seeks to draw the plan that could capture, within each artwork, the transversal cut of sensation and judgement. However, this transcendental empiricism led Deleuze, from the 1970s on, to a theory of the self-expressive movements of the sensible, to a description of the mode of existence of artworks as epiphanies of forms of life. According to A Thousand Plateaus, art begins with territorial marks. They do not refer back neither to a sensation that captures them up and establishes them as impressions, nor to an object whose nature is to exhaust itself into its expression of marks. Deleuzian thinking of art does not imply therefore any empiricism, any theory of pure aesthesis. What exists for Deleuze is a self-movement of expressive qualities.

Besides the programme of a transcendental empiricism, Deleuze’s vitalism has also disrupted the centre of gravity of almost all questions that draw our system of thinking on art. Fiction, myth, expression—everything in the work of art is displaced towards the domain of  a pre-individual life, towards the domain of  a pragmatics of  assemblages    of enunciation as mechanical and collective forms of life. Deleuze’s pragmatics refers back to a theory of strata and stratification of the world where the assemblage emerges from codes, environments, rhythms. Concepts belonging to geology, biology, physical chemistry—such as coagulation, sedimentation, or molecular assemblies—fuse with semiotic categories to describe phenomena like the stratification of a statement or the deterritorialisation of a narrative or a character. Similarly, figures of life as bodies without organs, abstract machines, or lines of flight, are never biological metaphors transposed to the domain of the aesthesis or to the ontology of the artefact. On the contrary, they are strategies of intelligibility of the plurality of forms of inorganic life inside art.

As an architectural system to approach Deleuze’s thought, I adopt the discovery of a permanent displacement of Deleuze’s view on art. I will try to show that to read Deleuze’s thinking on art is to understand his programme of a transcendental empiricism and its transformation into a vitalism of the inorganic.