Deleuze, Flat Aesthetics, and the Diagrammatic Genesis of Art and Architecture

The notion of diagram, or abstract machine, was developed by Gilles Deleuze as a relatively consistent yet multi-modal concept throughout his oeuvre. The diagram obtained a-signifying yet generative capacities when discussed in relation to literature and art (as in Deleuze’s works on Proust and Bacon), acquired organisational capabilities when utilised in unpacking institutional apparatuses (as in his work on Foucault’s apparatuses), and developed topological tendencies when operated in the explication of ecological life (as in his geo-ontological works developed together with Félix Guattari).

In recent art and architectural discourse, Deleuze has become one of the primary figures whom architects and artists seek for theoretical support in their uses—and sometimes abuses—of diagrammatic processes of creative production. Despite the popular upsurge, however, the multi-modal nature of Deleuze’s diagram has been appropriated into academic and professional discourse reductively for legitimising unrelated formal exercises, for garnishing underdeveloped conceptions, and for allying artists, architects, and theorists with the so-called fashionable trends of French theory. Although effective in certain cases even with this myopic application—creative abuses are always welcome—the multifaceted notion of diagram developed by Deleuze has a lot more to offer for understanding and enriching the genesis of artistic and architectural production if pursued to the very limits of its radical implications.

This paper pursues a rigorous explication of diagrammatic operations embedded in a comparative analysis between Francis Bacon’s artistic assemblages, especially Figure with Meat (1954), and that of the Vogelkop bowerbird’s architectural assemblages, especially the sophisticated bowers of Western New Guinea. Using comparative conceptual diagrams, the presentation will unpack how certain architectural and artistic diagrams are drawn on paper and canvas, while others act upon individual bodies and variable operations and yet still others function through a developmental matrix composed of embodied perceptions of extensive landscapes and trans- individual affects of intensive fields. In the end, this paper is an experimental attempt to explore the possibility of whether Deleuze’s flat ontology—which excludes self-proclaimed supreme actors such as transcendent Gods and omnipotent humans, and defines an immanent Spinozan cosmos in which all individuals and assemblages are differential modes of a univocal substance on an equal ontological footing—can give birth to a flat non-anthropocentric aesthetics.

A as in Animal

Art, according to Gilles Deleuze, does not produce concepts, though it does address problems and provocations (Grosz 2008). The video “A as in Animal” is an artwork that is on the lookout for encounters. Assembled edits and cuts within the video are rendered both exact and invisible, inciting both problems and provocations. Processes of performative assemblage and appropriation are constants through the work as a critical engagement with post-production, philosophies, and the mediated. The work draws on Deleuzian concepts of assemblage and multiplicitous attractions and influences, taking its title from L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze (1988–89). Deleuze didn’t think much of television and stated that the interview should not be aired before his death. In the interview, Deleuze discusses with Claire Parnet the crucial link between creativity, the very possibility of thinking, and animality, through the practice of être aux aguets (being on the lookout) for rencontres (encounters). To avoid zigzagging in his discourse, Deleuze received the list of topics beforehand, and although he worked assiduously on the answers, he then improvised during the recordings (Peter Stamer 2014).

“A as in Animal” assembles collected material from this interview and other sources from internet searches and YouTube browsing activities. The best of Deleuze can be found on the internet for sure—working and thinking through performative assemblage(s) of browser doings, apparatus, or equipment structurings, rhizomatic unfoldings, non-human historiographies, and philosophies. The film highlights search actions of retrieval and playback. Panic or anxiety fluctuates across a variety of disciplines including, among others, linguistics, gender studies, social theories, and art practices. Keeping fit with Donna Haraway, Derrida, blue and green screen special effects, and a spy mission project “Acoustic Kitty.” Together with reverse path tracings, dissonance, discordance, and difference are brought into close proximity without a video camera or recording device, and spread “like the surface of a body of water, spreading towards available spaces or trickling downwards towards new spaces through fissures and gaps, eroding what is in its way.”

Emergent indeterminate properties pervade both sound and image. We cannot know whether we are inside or outside through use of blue screen and green screen effects. Images and sounds, objects and things highlight contingency and multiplicity and overlap. This approach articulates activities of accumulation, arrangement, and movement that call attention to processes, which are improvisatory. Activities that are on the lookout for encounters, movement, and “doing” are prioritised. Through this process, less emphasis is placed on observation, representation, and subjectivity. Articulations stutter between different intensities, intensities that include over-saturation of colour, shimmering substances, non-diegetic sound, and transdisciplinary couplings that are resonant with rubbing up to the non human. The video work is shaped conceptually by site and the context of peripheral indifferences. Software presets and preconditions are cut with modalities of classification and taxonomy that flicker with continued involuntary repetition of sounds and image. The cat breaks the bowl, the cubists spend their time trying to glue it back together.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 2008. “N as in Neurology.” In Gilles Deleuze from A to Z, with Claire Parnet, directed by Pierre-André Boutang, translated by Charles Stivale. Cambridge, MA: Semiotext(e), DVD.

Grosz, Elisabeth. 2008. Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth. New York: Columbia University Press.

Stamer, Peter. 2014. 26 Letters to Deleuze. A project by Peter Stamer with Jörg Laue and Alain Franco at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York. A work-in-progress performance Saturday 22 March. Accessed 20 October 2015. http://peterstamer.com/works/26-letters-to-deleuze/.