Bacon and the Cartoonist: The Emergence of the Figure Through Two Opposing Diagrams

In The Logic of Sensation, Deleuze describes Francis Bacon’s practice as a constant struggle to avoid or surpass figuration, illustration, and narrative, all of which are central elements of the art practice most commonly known as “cartooning”—the drawing of comic strips, books, and graphic novels. This paper will focus on Deleuze’s use of the concept of the “diagram” and the “figural” in The Logic of Sensation to argue that comics create sensual experience through discursively articulated depictions.

Deleuze opens the chapter on the diagram by saying “We do not listen closely enough to what painters have to say. They say that the painter is already in the canvas, where he or she encounters all the figurative and probabilistic givens that occupy and preoccupy the canvas.” The probabilistic givens are the established figurative practices that surround the painter, a bombardment of imagery and methods of representation that threaten to pull the painter into illustrative cliché. So how can they be avoided? Bacon says, “make random marks (lines-traits); scrub, sweep, or wipe the canvas in order to clear out locales or zones (color-patches); throw the paint, from various angles and at various speeds.” Through this act of exorcism, the figurative givens, the clichés, are removed, expelled from the canvas. This process creates the diagram, which is not a painting, or an image, but a set of possibilities.

For comics scholar Thierry Groensteen, the cartoonist’s diagram is created through a process of “gridding.” Like Bacon’s givens, this process can pre-exist the making of any marks on the drawing surface. It is “a stage of reflection that is not always incarnated,” and operates as “a primary repartition of the narrative material.” Rather than avoid figuration, cliché, cartoonists must create their own set of clichés—a set of marks that allow serial recognition, potentialities that allow them to give form to the narrative material: this is the diagram of a cartoonist. And it is through this seriality, this repetition, that the figural—in the sense described earlier of a presence that is dependent on depiction but not contained within it—is created in comics. It is also through seriality that the figural, which Deleuze describes as a sense of presence and awareness of identity created by a work that, while dependent on depiction, cannot be located solely in that depiction.

If you take individual depictions of a character in a comic to be serial appearances of the same character pulling different expressions, then you have in mind a figure that is not contained within any of these individual figurations; this, I want to suggest, is comics’ equivalent to Deleuze-Bacon’s figural. Deleuze characterises Bacon’s creation of “the improbable visual figure” as a constant negotiation between free manual actions and the presence of a pre-existing visual whole. My comic Starts Out Vague magnifies the opposition of these pictorial and prepictorial acts in attempting to analyse the figurative regime operative in the act of drawing known as cartooning. It is built from sequences of figurative images produced using the following process: perform movements, copy these movements by manipulating a digital three-dimensional model. This process begins with movements that are transcribed in a medium that has no edges or surface, and ends with reinjection into the overdetermined surface of the comic’s page, where not only specific places but also a specific order of movement through those places are privileged by the constraints of gridding. Finally, the reading protocols that guide the navigation of a comic are fundamentally discursive: in comics, the figurative is placed into discourse, and through this interaction emerges the figural.

The Emergence of the Interpreter in the Preparation and Performance of Unity Capsule for Solo Flute by Brian Ferneyhough

My paper will attend to the emergence of the interpreter and the repositioning of the contemporary music score from a Deleuzian viewpoint. The manuscript of Unity Capsule is a highly detailed and labyrinthine one that embodies both resistance and provocation for the performer. In my paper I will explain the processes I embarked upon to learn Unity Capsule and adopt the Deleuzian interpretations of résistance and création to articulate the aesthetic and technical demands the piece places upon the player. As part of this process, I will also chart how the performer emerges from the score to challenge hierarchical preconceptions pertaining to the performer–composer relationship.

The perspective I will adopt in this paper is an autoethnographic one that will interleave film excerpts of Deleuze as himself, taken from his final project, the Abécédaire, directed by Pierre-André Boutang. Alongside, there will be a complete performance with technical demonstrations of the iconic and “impossible” Unity Capsule by Ferneyhough. This will include projections of my annotated score as well as explanations of my schematics and the conceptual trajectories that led me to my interpretation. My purpose is to open an interrogation into the score-object, the existence of the performer in this new territory, and the implications of such an immersive experience on collaborative practices in the future.

Dialogue I: On Performance or Untimely Fabulation

The question of the dark precursor should not be mistaken as an instant in a chronological unfolding of events. In determining intensities “in advance but in reverse, as though intagliated” the dark precursor actually lacks a sense of empirical time and it lacks its article. It is not a mere “one” but a singularity—that is, an actual occasion beyond the measure of time while being in time. What if we conceive of the performative dislodged from a simplified sense of present while accounting for its power of instauration—its capacity for making present that which is in time but never of a mere present moment? With the participants of this Dialogue, we will explore different modes of untimely fabulation, a mode of thinking and literally invoking the in-act of performance across forms of creative practice in philosophy and art. Performance becomes the point of entry for negotiating a sensibility for ethico-aesthetic attunements toward emergence, without knowing in advance how a situation, a body, or relations will play out in their actualisation. The in-act of performance designates a thought and practice in the act of its very own fabulation—that is, of the coming Dialogue.

Christoph Brunner, chair