Becoming Landscape: Constructing the House

In short, the being of sensation is not the flesh but the compound of nonhuman forces of the cosmos, of man’s nonhuman becomings, and of the ambiguous house that exchanges and adjusts them, makes them whirl around like winds.
—Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?

It seems remarkable that in the great cosmic movement of sensation, the mutual becoming of universe and humans, and the individuating flow of virtual singularities an almost prudish element appears, which at first cannot suggest stasis more explicitly: this is the element of the house. One could assume that the house in its solidity, determinacy, and objectivity foils all endeavours made to expand the spatial discourse towards the horizon of intensive haecceities. Why, then, should the concept of the house be considered at all, when reflections on contemporary forms of our planetary being shall be made?

Deleuze and Guattari by themselves highlight the importance of the house. They not only build on it but also let the house assume a major role in postulating that paradoxically it is the static house that allows for the universe to be essentially dynamic. The becoming of affects (the nonhuman becomings of the human) and percepts (the nonhuman landscapes of nature) are only made possible using the house, which acts as a filter, membrane, and exchange between the cosmic force fields, making them tangible and perceivable, like wind entering the open windows of a room. In this context, landscape attains a fundamental new relevance. It no longer consists of inhibited and normalised faces, which are forced on a global conception of nature by the striation of a totalitarian state apparatus. For some time, landscape, environment, and ecology find themselves  as the dynamic matter of a universal war machine, whose fascistic over-formation will most likely determine the geological, atmospherical, and societal strata for centuries.     It is not by chance that for Deleuze and Guattari human and nonhuman faces are like bunkers, congealed and not-yet-fluidised mirror images of an all-encompassing dynamic of warfare.

In such a landscape we find the house as a knot within the global fabric of warfare. The house acts as a frame wherein the ambivalence of a global multitude immediately becomes manifest. Unfolding creative evolution and productive relationality—the question of how communication between two heterogeneous systems is made possible can only be made by most critically investigating this very house, bearing the plastic moment of local and global individuation.

In constructing transversally and intuitively, this lecture-performance makes present the house and its frame, showing an essential tool of artistic research. The human body will be put in fragments of the cosmos and the war machine. A continuum of sounding, dancing, and spatialising aspects creates a performative expression, which serves as a counterpoint to our immediate totalitarian landscapes, and—in deterritorialising them in-site—shows instead a landscape of fragility, suppleness, and intimacy. The performance, consisting of one performer, a piano, and a piece of artificial rock from a bunker built in the Italian Alps, draws the map of a landscape, whose form, practice, and life have yet to be encountered.

Alone/Together: Simulacral “A-Presentation” in/into Practice-As-Research in Jazz

No series enjoys a privilege over others, none posses the identity of a model, none the resemblance of a copy . . . Each is constituted by differences, and communicates with the others through differences of differences.
—Gilles Deleuze (2004: 348)

This lecture-recital, interposing live music making and spoken word is concerned with our understandings of the creative processes by which musicians make music with the core repertoire in their particular disciplinary field, and with how research in/into such processes can best be undertaken and communicated. It will draw on, as an exemplar, my ongoing practice-as-research in a duo capacity with the saxophonist Mike Fletcher—a fellow member of the contemporary jazz scene in Birmingham (UK). In this research, expert music making with the standard repertoire in jazz forms the basis for a range of “theoretical practices” (Melrose 2005), including (as will be discussed in the presentation) notions primary to the Deleuzian canon.

In Deleuze’s well-known attack on what he called “the failure of representation” (2004, xvii), he proposed the collapse of the Platonic model/copy concept of identity in favour of an ontology of difference grounded in heterogeneous “a-presentation” (ibid., 27) that privileges “no prior identity, no internal resemblance” (ibid., 372–73). Deleuze refigured Plato’s own term “simulacrum” to indicate this internally differentiated “positive power which denies the original and the copy, the model and the representation” (2004, 299). Resonating with Deleuze’s concerns, my own research has explored the theorisation of the ontology of musical works (in this case, jazz standards) with regard to the simulacrum, beyond the limitations of the model of the original and the copy that remains prevalent, however implicitly, in how we tend to think of the relationship between works in a canonical repertoire and performances of “the same” (see Brown 2011).

Through a series of practice-as-research enquiries, Fletcher and I have experimented with ways of playing jazz standards from multiple different perspectives, in the simultaneous performance of key aspects of the pieces in question. In so doing, we have sought to investigate a deconstruction of the original/copy model of the identity of the jazz standard via the apparatus of a simulacral “a-presentation.” “Simulacra are not perceived in themselves,” wrote Deleuze (2004: 313), “what is perceived is their aggregate in a minimum of sensible time.” By means of performing multiple perspectives of the same jazz standards in “aggregated” form, we will argue that my practice-as-research enables listeners—and, crucially, fellow researchers—to experience a temporally-grounded “sense” of the internally-differentiated, simulacral ontology of jazz standards, in terms of the complex manifold nature of their utilisation by jazz musicians.

References

Brown, Lee B. 2011. “Do Higher-Order Ontologies Rest on a Mistake?” British Journal of Aesthetics 51 (2): 169–84.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2004. The Logic of Sense. Translated by Mark Lester with Charles Stivale. Edited by Constantin V. Boundas. London: Continuum.

—. 2004. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London: Continuum.

Melrose, Susan. 2005. “Words Fail Me.” Keynote address at “Towards Tomorrow?,” Centre for Performance Research, Aberystwyth, 6–10 April 2005. Accessed 29 July 2009. http://www.sfmelrose.u-net.com/.

The Last Frontier of (Un)Consciousness and the Arts: On Neurodiversity and Artistic Thinking in Times of Self-Observation, Evolution’s Most Recent “Killer App”

This presentation, connecting my own performative knowledge with recent debates, discusses neurodiversity as a potential game-changer for the notion of art. Applying two key concepts of contemporary identity politics (disability studies, postcolonial theory) to the highly idealised but never closely analysed process of artistic thinking, it aims to parallel the global rise of self-observation (social media, post-Snowden era) with the increasing self-reflection and contextualisation that artists are both forced into and voluntarily choose nowadays. It will seek to describe examples of artistic perception processing, provide a historic background for the concepts of dis/ability and neurodiversity, and reflect upon the benefit of introducing these subjects to the debate about the epistemology of art. Finally, it will culminate in Deleuze-Guattarian (anti-)cyberneticism, surfing the current battlefields of knowledge production on desire machines and testing base-jumps from an (assumed) natural to the cultural matrix that nowadays dominates. Here, artistic research is revealed as a twenty-first century cyborg-utopia conceived to heal the phantom limb pain of cultural scientists permanently bordering on a lack of practice, before reporting live from the fields of artificial intelligence where the sun of cognitive singularity rises above the ocean of collective media consciousness.

More in depth, I will explain in a rule-of-three-like method how the construction of “dis/abilities” was related to the emergence of wage labour in early capitalism, introduce the new claim for “neurodiversity” as demanded by the disability and mad pride movements, and probe the application of this idea to artistic thinking in the context of debates about university reforms and practice-based PhD studies. Initial descriptions of “neuroatypicalities”—especially of visual-based thinking that is supposedly predominant in artists and people with Asperger’s syndrome—will lead us to theories about different intelligences, including language-related nuances in perception processing, showing that the pre-verbal and the pre-conscious are not to be confused. By doing so, I intend to offer an artist’s perspective of the non-verbal structure of Deleuze and Guattari’s desire machines, before subsequently pointing out comparisons between their “unconscious” and other topical cognition theories, scientific findings, and art projects (such as, the Otolith Group’s “Sensitives,” Crary’s daydream, Google’s Deep Dream, new findings on “desire”/the reward system).

It appears that the overall expansion of a consciousness addicted to media and shaped by labour, squeezed into eternal attention and self-awareness, perfectly mirrors the ongoing colonisation through theory that artists are permanently exposed to in the environment of academia and of the apparatuses of public project funding. While claiming to stand by artists when designing artistic research programmes, theorists often actually ignore the artists’ needs, implementing “curriculised” versions of their own fantasies about an ideal artwork and ideology-driven wishes for a certain social function of art. Whereas—with the assemblage being the potential epitome of artistic production strategies—the link between Deleuze and artistic research is obvious, a debate is still missing that connects Deleuze and Guattari’s theories to a more general and also factual-political view of “the last frontier of (un)consciousness,” as one could call the youngest evolutionary shift in the anthropocene that has become even more visible thanks to the Snowden revelations about its techno-governmental preconditions. Regarding these parallels, the artistic research debate might actually profit from zooming out to a macroscopic point of view and co-engaging in the attempt to answer to the question, Where is collective intelligence going and what role is (mass)surveillance taking in that?

Previous versions of this talk were presented at “Compared to What?,” an annual conference of the German Society for Media Sciences (GfM) Vienna, Austria, January 2015 (for abstract see popkongress.de), and at the Inaugural (Rest of the World) Conference of the SLSA (American Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts) and SymbioticA, University of Western Australia, Perth/AUS, October 2015.

Machinic Companions: Exploring Nonhuman Perceptions, Temporalities and Expressions

Scientific research needs objects and apparatuses for investigations, but usually forgets them when it retrospectively constructs objectivity. Karen Barad refers to this as a “quantum entanglement” between the object and the “agencies of observation.” In a guided screening of my film prendas—ngangas—enquisos—machines (16 mm, Cuba, 2014), I will trace how research tools are not to be understood as somnambulant immobilities but as intensive ecological and relational forces with autonomous qualities. The camera, for example, is undoubtedly a moving “body” with expressive capacities, formed by the entanglement of the different rhythmic worlds, rather than just cultural and technical equipment. It breathes. It doesn’t “capture” reality but dynamically disturbs it, or moves conjointly with its surroundings. It never remains at one speed or one affect throughout a film, but each change of speed and each affect, every tiny turn inside my head, becomes a real movement. The camera maintains a state of constant change and becoming together, or at the same time. It doesn’t conflate, but creates human and nonhuman assemblages by actualising symbiotic sensibilities in motion. Describing machinic (opposed to mechanistic) relations or alliances, Deleuze and Guattari come up with the seductive wording “machinic phylum.” Unlike biology’s classical animal or plant phylum, the machinic phylum decodes kingdoms, classes, orders, and families, and crosses them diagonally. The machinic phylum is natural and artificial, a “destratifying transversality.” The machinic phylum is helpful as it enables us to understand technology not just as tied to a human “evolution” but also as a living system that folds, unfolds, and refolds organic and machinic matter into one another. Learning from and accessing nonhuman perceptions, temporalities, and expressions turns a camera into a machinic companion and the making of art into a situated practice of ecology.