Articulating Thresholds: The Threshold as a Framework for Artistic Experimentation with Indeterminacy

I present a proposition for thinking-through-making that asks, What if we consider the threshold as a framework for experimenting with the indeterminacy that arises between thought and action, between philosophy and art practice? I propose that the threshold allows us to understand processual artistic practices whose modes of composition are sensitive to the affective power of material-forces—the flows and movements of matter— rather than matter-form. I follow this proposition through with an example of open, material artworks created using a threshold technique of feeling—following material.

Bergson’s threshold image of the interval of duration allows us to  understand  the mode of experience through which such artistic practices unfold, which is underscored by an intuitive disposition operative at the threshold of spatial and temporal modes of experience, between human habits and more-than-human modes of experiencing the world.

The threshold interval posits an experiential in-betweenness which allows us to disengage from decidedly “human” models of perception that view the material world in instrumentalising and spatialising terms, and to open onto a mode of experience that emerges between the spatial and the temporal, between the virtual and the actual.As such, this threshold allows us to think through practices of decentring the human subject from the core of the research concern, by arguing for the more-than-human possibilities that emerge at the interval—between solid and fluid modes of experience, but also in creative research practices that are active at the interpenetrating juncture between (philosophical) thinking and (artistic) doing.

I argue that the “indeterminacy” of the threshold interval is an expression of a particular, unresolved power (potentiality), in that it describes a mode of experiencing the world prior to the spatial bifurcations of matter into objects and categories of value, instead allowing the material world to be grasped as a multiplicity of forces of becoming. The threshold, then, is that indeterminate and active zone of potentials and forces taking form. Critically, the “in-betweenness” and indeterminacy of the intervallic threshold is not a static juncture or intersection of modalities, but an active site of mutual interpenetration; a carrying-forth and tracing-back of modalities and textures that allows for the creation of something new.

Folding this understanding of the threshold into artistic research practices, the threshold of thinking and doing is also understood as a generative site for the production of new techniques, understood as “concepts in the making.” In this paper, I explore the threshold, the technique of feeling—following as a mode of artistic engagement with material that is open to the way that material affectively addresses us, and which proposes a new ethics of relation to the material world, which sees creativity as an emergent process that is distributed across matter, rather than enacted by the artist upon material. This technique situates the artist within a zone of indeterminacy, articulating a mode of material engagement that oscillates between a modality of feeling (intuitive to the temporal becomings and creative movements of matter) and following (which describes an active engagement with the affective propositions that these material movements suggest for composition).

A Cartographic Creativity: Deleuze, Guattari and Deligny Towards New Means of Philosophical Expression

Mapping has become a popular and much commented on practice in social sciences, humanities, and art history. Although mapping is often used to furnish a global view of an idea or to clarify a situation, I would like to argue that it can be a much more complex activity—a “dark precursor” —which escapes usual representation and touches the core of creative processes whether they are of artistic or conceptual orders. In A Thousand Plateaus, maps play a discreet though important part as rhizomatic ways of escaping representation: maps are oriented toward experimentation; they do not reproduce but construct the unconscious; they have multiple entryways; they are open and connectable, detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 12). In Schizoanalytic Cartographies, Félix Guattari (1989, 18, 32) goes further by defining maps as “existential circumscriptions” and by suggesting that mapping calls for an aesthetic account of our experiences. Maps in the frame of this paper thus perform as a means of experimentation toward an encounter between art and philosophy.

To understand how mapping can give us such an access to an impersonal plane of creativity, this paper will focus on one of the most important influences on Deleuze and Guattari on this topic: Fernand Deligny’s work with autistic children. Deligny (1913–96) was a French educator who promoted an approach to autistic children through the wander lines they trace in space. Deligny’s mapping of the children’s journeys didn’t aim to carry any therapeutic, “normalising” purpose; in fact, it was not aimed at all. Through the maps, Deligny wanted to escape our linguistically- and symbolically-shaped reality in order to bring to light the pre-personal “common” (le commun) we share with autistic people (see Álvarez de Toledo, 2013; Deligny 2007).

The main questions structuring this paper will thus concern the “aimless” and the “common” characteristics of those maps and what they can teach us of creative processes. In the preface to Difference and Repetition, Deleuze (1994, xxi) writes on the search for new means of philosophical expression. Could Deligny’s maps be one of those means? How would that affect our views on the formation of subjectivity? What would it tell us about the political production of a common space? How do the maps relate to what Deleuze calls “the virtual”? Would the performativity of those maps affect the very way we tell stories about the creation of art and the creation of concepts?

References

Álvarez de Toledo, Sandra, ed. 2013. Cartes et lignes d’erre/Maps and Wander Lines: Traces du réseau de Fernand Deligny, 1969–1979. Paris: L’Arachnéen.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Deligny, Fernand. 2007. Œuvres. Edited by Sandra Álvarez de Toledo. Paris: L’Arachnéen.

Guattari, Félix. 2012. Schizoanalytic Cartographies. Translated by Andrew Goffey. New York: Bloomsbury.