Fluxus Affects of Indeterminacy: An Aleatory Point Between Art and Philosophy

Deleuze is interested in exploring the dark night, the outside of thought. He addresses the emergence of thought itself, the event whereby sense is wrested from a mute, immanent field of sensibility: “that blind, acephalic, aphasic and aleatory original point which designates ‘the impossibility of thinking that is thought,’ that point where ‘powerlessness’ is transmuted into power” (Deleuze 1999, 199). This event occurs when something forces our faculties to communicate their intensive differences between one another, producing a “phenomenal flash”: the sudden shock of sensation (ibid., 30/20). This event of thought is provoked rather than internally generated, and it is provoked by the “dark precursor”—the being of the sensible. For Deleuze, provocation of thought is an ethical imperative, yet the dark precursor is dark in relation to thought, to which it is imperceptible, unthinkable (ibid., 236–37); this is the paradox of thinking about that which cannot be thought. Our claim is that to “think” this event means to change the nature of thought, to think affectively. This is why we are particularly interested in the idea of art as a kind of thinking—a thinking by and through the intensification of affect. We are interested in the creation of new affects that have a potential to change the flows and cadences of present configurations, and in amplifying affects that contribute to or engender a sensitivity to the immanent intensive and affective processes that condition thought. Whereas thought cannot directly apprehend the dark precursor, artistic affects can usher us toward an experience that more closely resembles the intensive level at which it operates. Given that the dark precursor is both pure disparity and the absolutely indeterminate, we are particularly interested in affects of indeterminacy as possibly contributing to this sensitivity. This is particularly important for our interest in the performances of the neo-avant-garde art collective Fluxus, which creates new affective spaces by merging the artist and audience, generating the indeterminate performance. The question we wish to develop is, what do Fluxus affects do? Preliminarily, we propose that Fluxus performances are paradigmatic of resistance and mobility, providing a model of the becoming of thought and providing an affective encounter with indeterminacy.

This presentation will focus on the early musical performance of Phillip Corner’s Piano Activities (Wiesbaden, 1962) and the later performance of Dick Higgins’s Danger Music as examples of two signature features of Fluxus “score events”: the integration of chance and contingency and an intentional liberation of affective potentials through the deconstruction of traditional assumptions of the nature of the art genre itself. Both of these features are integral to developing what I am calling the “affect of indeterminacy,” which could serve as a visceral experience to bridge the gap between the dark precursor as a theoretical construct and what Deleuze truly would like us to understand—the affective power of the dark precursor as a transformative moment. Art does not provide a theoretical application, but enacts the real provocation of thought.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1999. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London: Athlone Press.