Chaosmic Nuptials: The Secret Language of Mondrian’s Jazz

In A Thousand Plateaus, the work of abstract painter Piet Mondrian is mentioned three times. The work and thought of Kafka, on the other hand, forms an unbroken refrain throughout the text, and for Deleuze and Guattari “No one is better than Kafka at differentiating the two axes of the assemblage and making them function together.” However, it is possible to contend that A Thousand Plateaus is an extended play of variables referring pre-eminently to Mondrian, as a constant variable, and that to read the book is to hear Mondrian, so that as a point of departure here the statement becomes “No one is better than Kafka Mondrian at differentiating the two axes of the assemblage and making them function together.” How does this work?

Listening to the diagonal in Mondrian’s work (which is never there), makes it possible to discern that he is painting something else—the trace(r) of a “plurality of straight lines”; the intersection of sound and non-sound (which is neither sound nor silence); or “absolute speed.” Absolute speed can be found in a jazz club/time machine (“Everything in the bar moves and at the same time is at rest”), which decimates time not by travelling but by staying where it is: a time-space vector, a bit of time in its pure state approaching the superlinear system of music—a haecceity. In the mode of “new music,” Mondrian’s works depict a future event that has already transpired, but what will it be?

This paper/riff uses A Thousand Plateaus and Dialogues II to map Mondrian’s secret language, to deterritorialise the paintings (or rather to hear the deterritorialisations already at work in the work), by following as many lines of flight as possible to their infinite dimensions in and beyond the canvases. Thus, while it is possible to construe Mondrian’s abstract compositions as rigid utopias or as othering grids, invoking the line of death and abolition (as I have done elsewhere), a proximal listening to the compositions reveals hidden forces in the works—their true power. The artist stealthily uses the language of binaries (non-sound/sound, non-colour/colour, male/female, abstract/concrete, culture/ nature) to create a nuptial assemblage, so that when he invokes “the new music,” he does so with the nuptial line of flight in mind, combining binaries in a double capture—neither the same neutralising and eradicating the other, nor “opposites” merely “coupled.” The concrete-abstractions, as Mondrian refers to them, are hence interpreted here as painted jazz, audible compositions in a time-space zone of indeterminacy that hosts aberrant nuptials across n vectors of “binaries.” The geometric canvases arrive fast and slow as nodes of becoming, functioning as the milieus for a swarm of becomings, or chaosmos. This writing is hence an attempt to sound the artist’s secret language, to make the book machine/s of Deleuze and Guattari form a bloc with the war machine of Mondrian’s compositions somewhere outside and between the perpendicular.

On the Concept of Creal: Ethical Promises of a non-Teleological Creative Universal

The French novel Paridaiza (De Miranda 2008a) describes a totalitarian digital duplication of our planet. A small group of rebels subverts the hedonistic-fascist system in which millions of players are imprisoned. The liberators implant a virus within the code of the immersive world in the form of a disruptive signifier. Five combined letters function as the grain of sand in the gears: “Créel,” a portmanteau for créé-réel, “created-real”—therefore “Creal” in English. In a simultaneous essay on Deleuze (De Miranda 2008b), republished in English (De Miranda 2013), the generic term “Creal” qualifies the kind of non-anthropocentric and non-teleological universal proposed by modern process ontologies: “Creal” designates what Deleuze and Guattari (1994) called the “chaosmos” or “plane of immanence,” what Bergson ([1911] 2007) called “duration,” “creative evolution,” or “life,” and what Whitehead ([1929] 1976) called “creativity process,” adding that “creativity is the universal of universals characterizing the ultimate fact.” Castoriadis (1986), faithful to the Pre-Socratic tradition, spoke of the dual unity of “Chaos/Cosmos” (and “Physis/Nomos”) in a two-sided cosmology.

The Creal is not teleological, as it tends to explode in all possible (and virtual) directions. The Creal might be historically post-anthropocentric (coming after Descartes and Hegel), yet it is ontologically pre-anthropocentric and constantly ante-historical (there is an analogy between the Creal and what science today calls dark energy). According to Creal ontologies, humans cannot be said to create fully: they edit, “institutionalise,” coordinate, direct, channel, co-realise, or shape a small portion of Creal. Creal is the dynamic differential core of the flesh of the world, “such stuff as dreams are made on” (Shakespeare, The Tempest 4.1). The less I act or control, the more I am creal—this was the main finding of the surrealists (Alquié 1965). As long as we posit an absolute that is defined as a non-Protagorean and non-teleological constant renewing, we become less inebriated with our overestimated human power to create.

This paper will show how most Creal-cosmologies tend to defend an “agonal” (or agonistic) conception of creation, at the risk of inoculating an essentialised notion of eternal struggle in their ontology. Henri Bergson ([1946] 1992) spoke of cosmic creation as an emotive machine that produces worlds and gods via a constant combat of spirit against matter; for him, the Creal is an “immense efflorescence of unpredictable novelty,” and the Real is the solidified and somewhat zombified side of life. Deleuze and Guattari (1987) spoke of “esprit de corps” as the spirit of seditious plural bodies that constantly decode the binary Real. A world is an agonistic compound of Creal and Real: it is a “creorder” (Nitzan and Bichler 2009).

Yet, precisely because of their intrinsic agonism, Creal-cosmologies contain a clear ethical promise. Here, the rationale shall be Lacanian, following a study (De Miranda 2007) of Lacan’s Ethics of Psychoanalysis (1997): to be sustainable a structure, an order, and a discourse all need a totemic absolute situated at the invisible core of the chain of signifiers. The invisible universal around which realities are constructed maintains their cohesion as an axis mundi. If we accept this to be true, we realise that postmodern attempts to construct durable worlds or communities without an explicit contractual absolute contain a formal fallacy and a political risk. It might be that the only way for polities to avoid the menace of totalitarianisms is to agree by a global social contract on an absolute that shall take the place of less plural and less democratic absolutes. I argue that, logically, creation is the only absolute that can constantly self-destroy and systematically recreate the respect for alterity. The Creal is an ethical absolute, not a scientific one. It can be understood as an open common ground to overcome the general devaluation of postmodernism, the over-evaluation of capital-humanism, and the menace of imperialistic state religions.

In De Miranda’s L’Art d’être libres au temps des automates (the art of freedom in the era of automatons) (2010), an essay on the philosophy of the digital, the term “ordination” defines the form of agency that humans can deploy to order and actualise a zone of Creal. The growing computational protocolisation of societies are not necessarily a threat, and we must continue to facilitate the self-empowerment of “people to come” with active digital literacy. Humans are “ropes over an abyss,” as Nietzsche (1974) said, bridges between Creal and coordinating machines. Our contemporary equivocal position in the middle of a chaotic universal, on one side, and an algorithmic universal, on the other, is our ethical chance: by identifying neither with the Creal nor with any ordered world, we maintain a position as arbitrators in agonal societies. To conclude, I shall propose that “agonistic pluralism,” a political theory inspired by Hannah Arendt ([1958] 1998), might be the most compatible with the Creal hypothesis. As Chantal Mouffe (2000) writes: “While we desire an end to conflict, if we want people to be free we must always allow for the possibility that conflict may appear and to provide an arena where differences can be confronted. The democratic process should supply that arena.” Perhaps, once we remember with Nietzsche, Lacan, Spinoza (Deleuze 1988), or Sade (Lacan 1989) that conflict is but the anthropocentric perceptive on the perpetual and multiple Creal becoming, we might become immature enough to abandon the paradigm of agony and replace it with a Heraclitean idea of childish creative play: “Eternity is a child playing, playing checkers. The kingdom belongs to a child” (Heraclitus quoted in Levenson and Westphal 1994). However, politics are not made by children …

References

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