Flickering Alchemy: Curating Noisy Transgenic Empirical Creatures

Following Deleuze and Whitehead, we begin with a movement from without, a process, never with a “subject” of a process. This abstract merely opens onto what Manning and Massumi (2014, 12) describe as “a commotion of relational activity, each vying to be written down.”

Mummy, do you like being human?

No, not really. Do you?

No. I’d like to be something useful, like a door handle.

(Alfred, aged nine years ten months)

The colour comes . . . then the shape . . . then the size, the whole thing needs time to get integrated. To be described as a door, there is the position, the open or closed. (Mukhopadyay in Iverson 2006, 237).

Empirical materials, an image and a quotation—we are struck by their immanent relationality. Unfolding in/onto each other, as generative forces that participate in the production of new possibilities, as “one artwork catches another in its movement of thought” (Manning 2015, cited in Grusin 2015, xxiii), they produce ideas of doors, handles, and wood; shadows and surfaces; fullness and flatness; voices and vibrations; human bodies, edges, flows, and intensities. As researchers and following Guattari (1995), the movement of thought caught not in the presence of passively representative images but in vectors of subjectivation, bridging the text, absorbs our attention into “door handle,” arising from while remaining deeply entangled with the splintering fibres striating the flat surface of the door. The handle somehow modulates our experiencing, busying our bodies and creating a panoply of sense (Manning and Massumi 2014).

With consciousness flickering, components of heterogeneous series collide. We scavenge around the transgressive spaces evoked by this image and text, already preparing to write about Alfred’s vivid imaginings of himself as a door handle, “already tending toward expressions in use-value” (Manning and Massumi 2014, 8)—an opening, an escape, a place to hide. The handle-ness almost disintegrates, instead figuring as already opening the door to pass through, its use-full-ness critically apparent to us. However, by encountering art as a Deleuzian occasion for experimentation, we resist “door handle” as a mere object of recognition. The captivating expressions drawn to our attention by Mukhopadhyay and Alfie are experimented with-in and across Woodman’s photograph, interestingly interfering with our ordered thoughts amid sharp turns and crooked paths across interdisciplinary fields.

This paper will look at those processes of curation and experimentation in relation to our own art-ful research writing practices, particularly “its choreographic capacity to bring to life the lingering nonhuman tendencies that bridge fields activated by distinct artistic processes” (Manning 2015, cited in Grusin 2015, xxiii). Forcing thought via Deleuze’s series of fundamental encounters between art and philosophy, we will play with molecular curatorial movements that conjure something of the intensive plane below bodily, ethnographic, and rational organisation of qualitative early years research. We will grasp haecceities from the imperceptible, catching our thinking in the midst, and composing with it.


Manning, Erin, and Brian Massumi. 2104. Thought in the Act: Passages in the Ecology of Experience. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press.