This paper elicits an encounter between artists and children by exploring the role of the latter in Deleuze’s philosophy, where they become creators, thinkers, and experimenters. Deleuze has claimed that artists say what children say; in some sense, both create trajectories and becomings, engage in cartographic activity, and trace out a dynamic, intensive map of desires. And they ceaselessly talk about these explorations and adventures (children, at least). Children’s maps are populated by different milieus which they traverse on their journeys and in which their unconsciouses are invested, juxtaposing the real and the imaginary and bringing about a becoming, a zone of proximity and indiscernibility where they no longer distinguish themselves from what they are encountering. The artist’s maps are quite different, recreating trajectories of the imagination, outlining vast distances from the most immobile and confined scenes, and also evoking real voyages, either actual or virtual, and not necessarily experienced by the artists themselves.
I argue that the two do not exactly operate simultaneously, but in fact the artist performs a complex repetition of the cartographic activities initiated effortlessly and regularly by children throughout their voyages, in which they draw lively, dynamic maps, both real and imaginary, extensive and intensive, that are a function of their very movements and the trajectories that are formed. In other words, there is a becoming-child in art that is in a constant state of unfolding. What I wish to explore is a possible communication and engagement between two kinds of becoming—the becoming child of the artist and the many becomings of the boy and the girl, occurring under a single childhood-block that undoes the distinctions between adults and children by releasing dormant child-particles from the grown artist and active ones from the child.
In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche famously presents the three metamorphoses of the spirit: it becomes a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion a child. The child, claims Zarathustra, is innocence, forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelling wheel, a first movement, a sacred Yes.
I argue that Deleuze takes this formulation literally and evokes real children in his philosophy of immanence and affirmation, particularly in The Logic of Sense, in which the child appears to be a conceptual persona formed in the image of Lewis Carroll’s Alice. Deleuze shows how Carroll traces the little girl’s trajectory from the abyss to the surface of language in order to create the adventures and becomings of Alice in Wonderland. Alice and Carroll can therefore serve as an example of how the artist follows the movements and becomings of a child and repeats them to discover his or her own becomings.
I unfold the encounter between the artist and the child in three stages: First I examine the logic of the voyage favoured by children, in which even the most trivial events are dramatised and raised to a transcendental level, charging the unconscious with affects and intensities that spur their cartographic abilities. I also examine how this logic is employed in plastic arts, in what ways artists form their own dynamic, movement-based maps in their work, and how these two practices of mapping coincide and differ in their inciting of the actual, the virtual, and the imaginary.
In the second stage I introduce two little girls, the one who is climbing to the surface of language in The Logic of Sense (sens), experiencing and experimenting with the very genesis of sense; and Lewis Carroll’s Alice, whose adventures are a becoming-child of Carroll himself.
In the third stage I provoke another encounter, between Nietzsche and the child, by imagining the latter as the over-human (Übermensch), the artist-player who is already reaching another kind of sensibility, outside morality and judgement, a true antichrist in a constant state of becoming.