Bare Your Self Naked for Creation. Notes on Impersonality, the Encounter and a Body for a Life

In works before A Thousand Plateaus (2005), such as The Logic of Sense (1990), Gilles Deleuze stresses the importance of the impersonal as the dimension one must reach to counter-effectuate the Event. Impersonal, or neutrality, is a characteristic of singularities and of the Event. Although Deleuze never relates the Event to an experience, regarding experience as an event is our answer to such a question as the becoming-imperceptible or the radical affirmation of any body as a haecceity. Impersonality is a way of allowing the becoming. However, there seems to be a misuse of the notion of becoming as a process of  deconstruction or transformation, underlining or enforcing the self  instead  of dismantling it. Patricia MacCormack’s defence in ‘Multi-Dimensional Modifications’ (2011) of the lizard-man and the cat-man, as bodies both in-between and becoming, is such a misuse. Their attempts as well as those of body art practitioners to overcome the Self and a subjectivity through excess and extreme emphasis of turning all bodies “as aesthetic events which can experience and are experienced through zones or folds of proximity” falls on the field of mimesis and representation, as they inflate subjectivity and a fixed Self.

Turning the body into an event calls for a requestioning of an ethico-aesthetic êthos, one that seeks to free life through the creation of encounters, and a radical depersonalisation of the self. This depersonalisation or impersonality, understood as an elimination process of subjectivities and selves determined by the socius, follows Deleuze’s Bartleby’s (1993) three characteristics, plus one: a trait of expression, a zone of indeterminacy, a fraternal function, and a subjective-significative nudity. This is a fundamental dismantlement through a “leap of the will,” to achieve that composition in which we are a life in the same immanent plane as everything that composes Nature. This is an impersonality towards life and creation (close to asceticism), one could argue, that is opposed to an imposed depersonalisation of death and destruction (close to the death camps’ bare life).

Nevertheless, for a body to become the event that it is—that is, a body for a life—one  must also address art’s territory. First as an encounter (an ethic-aesthetic realm), which can produce what we call the space of the Event, following the idea of taking extra-daily practices and techniques into daily life.  Art  is  too  mediated/mediatic  and  mediates  too much (perceptions and experiences). It is often a stance for the production of the monolithic Self. To release both Life and Art, affects and percepts, from their shackles, one must avoid and produce actions and situations evading the alienation and fetishism of forces and close the gap of mediation between the subject and object of experience. Hence, we propose to rethink Hakim Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zones (1994), as a possibility of how to deterritorialise and produce encounters in daily life. A practice of immediatism: creation happening outside Art.

The Time of the Encounter

Of the three principal modalities for the creation of the new—the dark precursor (“so is the world born” [Deleuze]), the contemporary (a counter move against the forces of the present [Baross]), and the encounter as a becoming [Deleuze])—two, we know, correspond with distinct, discontinuous and heterogeneous, temporalities. The first passes in reverse, against the progression of time; in the second, the present heterogenises itself, leaps outside the flow of chronological time to contract with different geological layers of the past. What is it that we can say with regard to the third, the time of becoming, or the multiple times/temporalities of plural becomings, when it comes to sound and music? What new event passes in their time? Or rather, what new orders of temporal relations must necessarily be constituted between different elements for a becoming in/of sound— not to pass, for it does not pass, it does not aim at or reach an end—to take place, as it must, in time?

These are some of the questions in the context of which I will attempt to ask: what happens in and to time when sounds encounter one another (for sounds do encounter one another; have an extraordinary propensity for articulating, conjugating, reciprocal modifying, contracting, etc. with one another, which explains contemporary music’s appetite for inventing/incorporating new sounds), and how the critical categories of musical time—of Boulez, Deleuze, Manoury—may already think the difference between not just between music and painting, or sound and colour, or “brute” noise and “son bruité,” but also between music and writing.

Perform Now! Musical Performance as Affective, Disruptive Practice

Musical performance is an encounter. It is an encounter between sounds, bodies—both human and otherwise—and ideas. All these actants are affected by this encounter, just as the encounter itself is influenced by the actants involved. Consequently, this encounter co-determines how the performance will continue. Put differently, an encounter is disruptive: it disturbs the actants’ state of rest and incites them into action, into doing something that they did not intend to do before the encounter.

Gilles Deleuze suggests that disruptive encounters between bodies, objects, sensations, and thoughts can be conceptualised in ethical terms. He asserts that bodies and thoughts can be defined as capacities for affecting and being affected. For Deleuze, ethics is the study of the relations of speed and slowness, of the capacities for affecting and being affected that characterise each thing. These things can be anything: an animal, a body of sounds, a mind, or an idea. According to Deleuze, this amounts to an ethics of joy, in which the production of joy is a positive expansion of affective capacity, while sadness is a negative stagnation of feeling.

In my presentation I will propose that a musical performance, being a disruptive encounter itself, also always has an ethical dimension. Through an analysis of a performance by my free improv trio Molloy, I will argue that musical performance is an act that infringes the autonomy of the performers, instruments, and sonic bodies. Because of its intrusive nature, it is a performance that influences the capacity of these bodies to undergo joy.

I will analyse the recording of a collective improvisation by Molloy as well as my own and my fellow band members’ impressions of this performance, using autoethnography and interpretative phenomenological analysis. In this investigation I will focus on interaction: interaction between performers, performers and instruments, sounds and performers, sounds and instruments, and so on, and the manners in which these interactions contribute to the improvisation as it develops during performance. As these interactions are responsible for the infringements on the autonomy of all actants, human and non-human, that are involved in the performance considered as encounter, a proper examination of these interactions may lead to a greater understanding of what musical performance is, or can be.

My aim is to demonstrate the productivity of Deleuze’s theory of ethics in the analysis of musical performance. Following authors such as Suzan Kozel (2007) and Anthony Uhlmann (2009, 2011), and building on the ideas I introduced in Meelberg (2011), I will argue that interaction is the core of those encounters we call performance, and that Deleuzian ethics is able to articulate the specificity of the interactions that constitute a performance. Conversely, I will suggest that musical performance may be a very productive means to teach us what ethics is really about. It is about the way we human subjects deal with encounters between bodies, ideas, sounds, and minds, and vice versa.


Kozel, Susan. 2007. Closer: Performance, Technologies, Phenomenology. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Meelberg, Vincent. 2011. “Moving to Become Better: The Embodied Performance of Musical Groove.” Journal for Artistic Research (JAR) 1. Accessed 18 October 2015.

Uhlmann, Anthony. 2009. “Expression and Affect in Kleist, Beckett and Deleuze.” In Deleuze and Performance, edited by Laura Cull, 54–70. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

—. 2011. “Deleuze, Ethics, Ethology, and Art.” In Deleuze and Ethics, edited by Nathan Jun and Daniel W. Smith, 154–70. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Transmissibility: A Mode of Artistic Re-Search

Artistic research can be defined as a mode of critical and creative practice wherein an artist attempts to construct a passage between the past and the present. This passage has nothing to do with allusion or unconscious stylistic filiation. As Marquard Smith has written, “to research, which by definition is ‘to look for with care,’ is an act not only of interpreting the world but changing it.” Even more pressing for artistic research, he asks that we recognise how and why “each historical moment has its own épistéme of re-search.” He hyphenates “re-search” to emphasise this complicated structure of repetition and difference, of always being in the middle between past and future. I argue that to think artistic re-search with a fidelity to the specificity of our own episteme requires us to understand that an artwork is what it does: it renders new passages, new modes of production, between past and future. These passages are always untimely because they are aleatory, unhistorical lines of time that flow within the present. I define transmissibility—as the mode of an artwork, as the creative aim of artistic re-search—as such a passage that traces the lines of time that compose the present. Transmissibility has nothing to do with representing the cultural past. Instead, it has everything to do with a temporal deframing of any cultural representation and with the composition of other modes of culture within the present. For me, this is what makes artistic re-search vital and creative. Artistic re-search is a futural force that creates ontological, ethical, and epistemic effects, if only because it reveals how and why varying temporalities are enfolded within each supposedly discrete tense.

I will argue that artistic research is best conceived as transmissibility, as a “power of the future” as Deleuze tells us. Transmissibility shuttles us between aesthetic labour (creation, research) and cultural reception (historiography, criticism, encountering an artwork). Following Deleuze, the aim here is to conceive of artistic research as a two-fold, simultaneous operation: it deframes the present, meaning it undoes or renders the actual discourse, opinions, clichéd feelings, and expressions; and (or as) it composes new lines and temporal linkages (indeterminate points), new becomings. This two-fold, simultaneous operation occurs because an artwork is not simply an object but is critical thought, a futural material-force. This function of deframing and composing occurs in time, opening us to a multiplicity of temporal durations (the internal difference of time itself). As such, it opens us to unforeseen, affective events—material encounters that force us to think and to become.