Deleuze’s Aesthetics Contra Object Oriented Philosophy

Studies that discuss Deleuze’s aesthetics rely upon Kant. Such reliance by brilliant and insightful scholars such as Smith, O’Sullivan, and Shiviro are nervously self-conscious because they necessarily recognise Deleuze’s explicit repudiation of Kant (his “enemy”). They take exculpatory solace in Deleuze’s obvious admiration for Kant’s skill and scope.They see incipient harmony in some virtual “rumblings” Deleuze intuits beneath the structure of the Third Critique. But Kant’s transcendental idealism and Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism are not even opposites: they are as constitutively incommensurate as the actual and the virtual and so must be their corresponding aesthetics.

Why then do the readings of Deleuze’s aesthetics map him into the Kantian configuration? Perhaps because, as the rise of speculative realism has personified, these writers cannot, like Kant, part with the idea of the aesthetic object. Indeed, Kant in The Metaphysics of Morals says that sensibility itself is “the capacity (a receptivity) to acquire presentations as a result of the way we are affected by objects … [how] objects are given to us.” While the sublime would require more time, the judgement of beauty for Kant relies upon the paradoxical postulation of an extant, if somewhat unavailable, object. But as Deleuze repeatedly makes clear, he does not accept either judgements or their objects and has  as his central question “how is the given given?” What for him is always a bad question that in its very orientation accepts the current political versioning of subject–object representation.

Thus let us agree with Rancière that art is ineluctably political but understand the political exactly as the constitutive inequality between the sign as symbol (in Peirce’s nomenclature), that iterated arbitrary which offers itself as if  it had an oxymoronic per se, and what Deleuze means by the symptom, a manifestation concurrent with “its” causes. This conjunction of the necessarily unequal forms the usually tacit potential for the Kafkaesque “stutter,” the Nietzschean rubato, which is always immanent to actualisation’s inadequacy to its own material operation: it can never “catch up” to its own representation as each iteration can only again reinstate the asymmetry whereby its manifestation as intelligible is possible. The realisation of this heterogenetic disparity is for Deleuze the always-new function of the aesthetic. The creative is life, the will to power, in its encounter with the impossibility of mastery it desires. In this necessary asymmetry between the mimetic as the fiction of the actualised ontic (the faux possibility of the existence of the object or subject) and its immanent real production, two incommensurate temporalities touch without talking. The aesthetic then is not a generality but the particular context- sensitive evocation of its own mimetic unavailability as the object, the subject, or the intelligible.

For Deleuze, then, there are only flows, concurrent but uncoordinated. Objecthood and subjectivity are but the paradigmatic epiphenomena of actualisation, of territorialisation, of those literalising political practices that construct the “real” as iterative.Indeed,this paper will argue that Deleuze’s aesthetic, unlike Kant’s, is programmatically uncharacterisable as it consists of the always-new apprehension of the haecceity of all events through counter-actualisation: it is exactly that liberation from the misapprehension of chaotic conjunctions, “aberrant nuptials,” as objects of beauty or taxonomies of classification. That is, that Deleuze’s aesthetic is not a theory but praxis, an activity, which cannot get ahead of its instantiation. It is opposed to the very possibility of representation, as the mimetic in all its guises—and most especially as the literal or factual—is none other than the Apollonian dream of individuation. As such, Deleuzian aesthetics is the ongoing and very material activity of political encounter in its immanent manifestation and not, as some (for instance Spivak and Badiou) misunderstand, its evasion.

The Munich Biennale for Music Theatre as a Form of Artistic Research

The Munich Biennale for Music Theatre, founded in 1988, has long served as an incubator for music theatre productions, gradually building a contemporary repertoire. In 2014, composers Manos Tsangaris and Daniel Ott together took over artistic directorship of the Biennale. As became evident in their first iteration in 2016, they are producing a shift away from the linear mode of musical production of their predecessors to a rhizomatic one.

Tsangaris and Ott subtitled their 2016 edition of the biennale “OmU: Original mit Untertiteln” (Original with Subtitles). Implicit in subtitles is the interpretative line  of flight inherent to commentary, to a change in medium, to deterritorialisation. This title also suggests the performance of a relationship between both theory and practice as forms of creation. It can be read in terms of an emergence of a new relationship between theoretical writing and practical acting, between doing and thinking in contemporary music, forming a new relation between knowledge and artistic practice. Rather than fall victim to the overdetermined but empty relationship between these two categories that plagues discussions about artistic research, they gain the space to be thought together, as co-existing in a relation (Baldauf/Hoffner).

The earlier festival was set up to produce chamber operas that acknowledge the influences of performance art and postdramatic theatre on contemporary music, with the intention of revitalising the out-of-date canon (Eckle). The new artistic directors are not attempting to write themselves into such a major history of development. They acknowledge and encourage the plurality of approaches, wrapping them into a becoming-minor of music theatre. There is a consistency of approach, a focus on creolisation and site-specificity (i.e., an ever-expanding field, making its relation to other arts much clearer). Rather than telling a major narrative of operatic innovation, the same practice is reterritorialised in terms of a becoming-minor.

Last, this practice can be used to reaffirm the existence of genuine moments of critique. Adopting the term “infrastructural critique” from Marina Vishmidt, it will be demonstrated that  the  artistic  directors  see  organising  this  festival  as  an  extension  of  their artistic practice, and furthermore as an affirmative  form  of  institutional  critique  that  enters  the messy space of attempting to model its alternatives (Holert). Since the nineteenth century, a defining characteristic of European art music has been a disavowal of its social mediation, a lack of engagement with its relationship to the broader institutional forces that produce it (Born). The work of Tsangaris and Ott actually functions to upend deeply ingrained beliefs in Eurocentrism, singular genius, and the neutrality of site, doing so positively by telling new stories and through creating speculative models for the future. It is a dream scenario for institutional critique discourse: tangible change is really taking place. The question of a reinvigoration of the concept of institutional critique through an examination of its manifestations outside the traditional circuits of contemporary art (here contemporary music) will remain an invitation to further thought at the end of the article.

Deleuze’s Aesthetics: Transcendental Empiricism, Philosophy of Nature and Philosophy of Spirit

My paper focus on what I consider to be the great paradox of  Deleuze’s thinking on art: the project of  thinking art while refusing both an ontology of  the work of  art and a phenomenology of its reception. Deleuze believes that with the recomposition of the canonical fields of aesthetics on a new plan and on a new picture of thought, he can join both senses of aesthetics that, since Kant, have been radically separated: the theory of the sensible and the theory of the beautiful. Deleuze’s aesthetics seeks to draw the plan that could capture, within each artwork, the transversal cut of sensation and judgement. However, this transcendental empiricism led Deleuze, from the 1970s on, to a theory of the self-expressive movements of the sensible, to a description of the mode of existence of artworks as epiphanies of forms of life. According to A Thousand Plateaus, art begins with territorial marks. They do not refer back neither to a sensation that captures them up and establishes them as impressions, nor to an object whose nature is to exhaust itself into its expression of marks. Deleuzian thinking of art does not imply therefore any empiricism, any theory of pure aesthesis. What exists for Deleuze is a self-movement of expressive qualities.

Besides the programme of a transcendental empiricism, Deleuze’s vitalism has also disrupted the centre of gravity of almost all questions that draw our system of thinking on art. Fiction, myth, expression—everything in the work of art is displaced towards the domain of  a pre-individual life, towards the domain of  a pragmatics of  assemblages    of enunciation as mechanical and collective forms of life. Deleuze’s pragmatics refers back to a theory of strata and stratification of the world where the assemblage emerges from codes, environments, rhythms. Concepts belonging to geology, biology, physical chemistry—such as coagulation, sedimentation, or molecular assemblies—fuse with semiotic categories to describe phenomena like the stratification of a statement or the deterritorialisation of a narrative or a character. Similarly, figures of life as bodies without organs, abstract machines, or lines of flight, are never biological metaphors transposed to the domain of the aesthesis or to the ontology of the artefact. On the contrary, they are strategies of intelligibility of the plurality of forms of inorganic life inside art.

As an architectural system to approach Deleuze’s thought, I adopt the discovery of a permanent displacement of Deleuze’s view on art. I will try to show that to read Deleuze’s thinking on art is to understand his programme of a transcendental empiricism and its transformation into a vitalism of the inorganic.

Deterritorialize Yourself!

time— … (in a sense) proliferating—connection … —(promulgating connectivity piecemeal)— …

This paper imagines a line of flight from composer J. K. Randall’s provocative, experimental 1972 essay “Compose Yourself: A Manual for the Young,” transforming Randall’s prescription into the imperative deterritorialise yourself, and pursuing its radical implications. Just as territorialisation and deterritorialisation form an always- ongoing assemblage through which identities are constructed and transformed—fixing and unfixing; always becoming-other—“compose yourself” (I suggest) bears with it a differential “decompose yourself” through which my identity is bound up in the very process of changing through the impingements of affective forces or actions of double capture that improvisational interactions engender. The thrust of this paper is to refract the implications of becoming-other enacted within processes of music-improvisational interaction back toward the emergent identity of the individuating participant, as a decomposing-oneself, as an always-ongoing process of deterritorialising oneself, as an enactment of an aberrant relationship with oneself, as a queering-oneself. This goes beyond the notion of performing one’s identity (or performing the identity of the musical work): performativity is nothing if not the acting-out of a differentiating relationship always already bound up within the more-than of a proliferating ecology.

The more-than, as Erin Manning describes, is an affirmation of difference, of the variation felt at the edges of relational experience, of the minor gestures that continually decompose performative acts even as they are being enacted. Like Manning, I assert  that to think in terms of  this double movement is to take an ethical position in which  the boundary between what we might call, even creatively and affirmatively, a subject and the others the subject affects and is affected by becomes productively porous and identities become expressions of relationships, impingements, movements. Nuptials. My composing/decomposing, territorialisation/deterritorialising (sonic) self-situates alongside and interacts fundamentally with a network of other selves, human and otherwise, all impinging on one another in complex arrays of affective relationships, all engaging in multiply-directed acts of capture. Identity, therefore, is a process of becoming-with as much as it is a process of becoming-other.

… —Drift. Slip a Cog.—drifting across some infolded interlock,—some mergingtime, Unfold.—(in passing). Reshape.—Refocus.— … colour of focus infolded: now merging, connecting;—infolded colour of merging unfolded: now focal;—structure: Bettertell time from time to time.