Artistic Spatiotemporal Experiences After Gilles Deleuze, Alain Badiou and Brian Massumi: A Theory of Becoming

We are not in the world, we become the world by contemplating it.
— Deleuze and Guattari

This paper addresses a parallel and intertwining duality of art and architecture as two fields of multiple non-binary systems, that enfold while “kissing,” according to Sylvia Lavin. It moreover establishes the production of this kiss as the ontological becoming of experiential space that is partially architectural and partially artistic, actual and virtual, introducing genomenology; an epiphenomenological approach to frame the kissing of the two domains as emergent spatiality. Deriving from the verb γίγνoμαι (gí.gno.me,  to become), genomena constitute the events that occur or become in relation to their ontological existence. The paper will create a theoretical index critically informed by the theories of Brian Massumi and his definition of “affect,” “habit,” and “virtuality” after Gilles Deleuze. Deleuze’s theory of the “event” and “becoming” (The Fold) and Alain Badiou’s topological ecology of ‘localised events’ (“The Matheme of the Event”) support in the context of this paper the theorisation of lived experiences as temporal and situational occurrences that are received sensorily and produce affective atmospheres. Considering the artistic experience as profound and intimate, the paper will define a new critical vocabulary as emerging from practical ramifications. It does so, by asserting the existence of an epiphenomenological becoming of  space as chorotopical (from choros as space and topos as locus) art—a hybrid spatial practice, which oscillates between architectural expression and artistic intervention.

The paper and presentation will attempt to define a Deleuzian onto-topology of chorotopical art via three new key terms: (i) veoma (the lived experience of a localised event that may be actual and virtual), (ii) genomenon (the ontological occurrence of  veoma that does not merely appear), and (iii) coaesthesia (the sensory immediacy that takes place during veomata and in response to affective atmospheres, which lead to spatial encapsulation and therefore immersion).  The paper will negotiate the new vocabulary against three art projects case studies: Hydor (2013), Cryptopology (2014), and Spatial Sea (2016). Hydor, on view at DARE 2017, examines virtualities and actualities in space and the role of the artistic intervention as genomenon of a notation on the architectural order. Cryptopology will investigate the hinging of sensory triggering as coaesthesia in a condition where artistic intervention is dominated by the topology and enhanced by the atmosphere of an architectural site that is timeless. Spatial Sea expands upon the concept of veomatic experience as a temporarily localised virtuality with sociocultural and mnemonic references, which aims to disrupt the habitual movement (as actuality) in the architectural site and acts as an immaterial locus as well as a material context. The reflective analysis of the case studies shifts the agenda towards thinking about art and architecture as two nuptial spatial practices, via the establishment of a shared theoretical vocabulary for when the two dynamically enfold in the creation of topologically aberrant and typologically warped space.

Urban Songlines: Reterritorializing Public Space by Translating Buildings into Music

The tradition of Songlines, a system for navigating and connecting to their land among Australian Aborigines, can be translated to mapping urban space by creating music from its topography, initiating a discussion on how we use and experience the public domain and to what degree we can claim ownership over it. In this project I translate buildings, sites, and objects in public space into music, working site-specifically with architects, designers, dancers, musicians, and choreographers to rethink our relationship to the city. The “Urban Songlines” created are given away to DJs for free, allowing these places, transposed in space and time through sampling, to be shared and (re)experienced.

Zigzagging: Bound by the Absence of Tie

The paper will unpack Deleuze/Guattari’s machinic conception of consistency, which is determined neither by the autonomy of the vitalist whole (organicism) nor by the geometric expression of the whole in its parts (mechanicism), but by the dark precursor’s zigzagging between the Scylla of submissive empathy and the Charybdis of dominating abstraction. In the words of Deleuze: “it is not a matter of bringing things together under one and the same [universal] concept, but rather of relating each [singular] concept to the variables that determine its mutations.” The argument starts from the hypothesis that the current digital turn in architecture effectively reproduces the Cartesian duality of mind and body, removing the former from contexts of engagement with the environment while treating the latter as no more than a kind of recording mechanism, converting the stimuli that impinge upon it into data to be processed. It is for this reason that we want to revamp the legacy of Deleuzian transcendental empiricism in general and Gibsonian ecological perception in particular.

The American psychologist Gibson vehemently rejected the reductionist information-processing view, with its implied separation of the activity of the mind in the body (abstraction) from the reactivity of the body in the world (empathy), arguing instead that perception is part and parcel of the total system of relations constituted by the ecology of the life form or its mode of existence (metastable plasticity). Let us make it, after Guattari, ecologies in the plural: environmental, social, and psychical (transversality). Life forms perceive the world directly, by moving about and discovering what the environment affords, rather than by representing it in the mind. Hence, meaning is not the form that the mind contributes to the flux of raw sensory data by way of its acquired schemata. Rather it is continually becoming within relational contexts of pragmatic engagement. Empathy and abstraction are mutually constitutive.

Everything starts from the sensible to be consequently extended to that which makes sensibility possible; that is, sensations mobilise the differential forces that make thinking possible. This is what Deleuze means by “pedagogy of the senses”—we are completely at the mercy of encounters (epigenetic turn). To quote the late media guru Kittler, “It’s funny, this thing turning back on itself. It’s called feedback (and not, as should be noted, reflection).” The cognition is extended and not interiorised or centralised, embedded and not generalised or decontextualised, enacted and not passive or merely receptive, embodied and not logocentric, affective and not unprovoked. If architects ever stopped to consider how much of life is guided by ego-logic (intentionality) and how much by eco-logic (gratuitous encounters), they would certainly pay far more attention to relational properties or the bind by the absence of an a priori tie.

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.