A Double Capture of Body and Life: Deleuze, Bacon, Sauka

This paper draws a comparison between the experiments with a double capture of body and life made by Francis Bacon (1909–92) and contemporary Lithuanian surrealist Šarūnas Sauka (b.1958) in their pictures. This comparison starts from the Deleuzian perspective. Deleuze was influenced by Antonin Artaud’s reflections on the body. In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze referred to Artaud’s text on the body without organs. Chapter 8 of Cinema 2: The Time-Image, “Cinema, Body and Brain,” starts with the following reflection: “Give me a body then: this is the formula of philosophical reversal. The body is no longer the obstacle that separates thought from itself, that which it has to overcome to reach thinking. It is on the contrary that which it plunges into or must plunge into, in order to reach the unthought, that is life.”

Describing Francis Bacon’s paintings, Deleuze writes about the meeting between Bacon and Artaud on the surface of the body without organs. Deleuze concludes that Bacon dismantles the organism in favour of the body, creating an “affective athleticism,” a scream-breath (Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation). His experiments with intersections between life and the body are also one of the main themes of Lithuanian surrealist painter Šarūnas Sauka. Sauka also paints the intensive fact of the body, experimenting with the body in various lines of flight. It is possible to encrust the jewel into different kinds of non-organic things, even in tissue, but what would it take to encrust the jewel into the organic body? The organic body encrusted with non-organic jewels on its surface becomes an animal without the distinctive features of a human face, but with animal limbs painted into the moment of copulation in the series of paintings.

Deleuze quotes Cézanne’s insight as an important point for connecting life to the arts. “Life provides many ambiguous approaches to the body without organs.” And the conclusion: “Life is frightening.” As one response to the frightening life in the arts, Deleuze describing Bacon’s pictures diagnoses hysteria as the symptomatic clinical essence of painting as art, because it is based on pure presence. Music does not have hysteria as its clinical essence, but it is confronted with galloping schizophrenia: it strips bodies of their inertia, of the materiality of  the presence; it disembodies bodies. In Sauka’s paintings one can  discern the same inspiration as Cezanne noticed: “Life is frightening.” But the painter overcomes the possible hysteria with the forces of irony and, most importantly, self-irony. It also escapes from itself, transforming itself into an animal’s body.

As Deleuze notices, following Beckett’s Characters and Bacon’s Figures escaping from the organism, the body escapes from itself. “It escapes from itself through the open mouth, through the anus or the stomach, or through the throat, or through the circle of the washbasin, or through the point of the umbrella.”

The head separated from the body is one of the main topics in Sauka’s experimentation with a body. In his early picture Self-Portrait No. 4 (1985), the decapitated head of the artist with one eye gazes into the spectators’ eyes. Deleuze reflected upon this phenomena of split body and, following Bacon’s reflections, described it as internal and external “autoscopia,” meaning the feeling that “it is no longer my head, but I feel myself inside a head, I see and I see myself inside a head; or else I do not see myself in the mirror, but I feel myself in the body that I see, and I see myself in this naked body when I am dressed … and so forth” (Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation).

Capture de forces et logique de la sensation dans Géométries de l’abîme (LeBlanc, 2014), in vivo (Cendo, 2007-2010), et The Restoration Of Objects (McCormack, 2008)

La sémiotique des arts non-discursifs telle que développée par Deleuze, notamment autour de la peinture de Francis Bacon, repose sur des concepts qui semblent tout désignés pour aborder le fait éminemment non-linguistique et sensible de la musique, et ce, tant du point de vue de la composition que de l’analyse. Ainsi, de même que la peinture sait se faire figurative, abstraite ou matérielle, la musique sait s’organiser de manière plus ou moins discursive (« optique ») ou expérientielle (« haptique »). Par exemple, une sonate classique repose sur une structure formelle fortement narrative (cf., Byron Almén). À l’inverse, les trames microtonales d’un Giacinto Scelsi s’offrent davantage sur le mode expérientiel. Entre optique et haptique, en passant par l’abstraction, la sémiotique du philosophe français rejoint en plusieurs points l’idée d’art comme expérience (cf., Dewey, Shusterman), et nous permet une meilleure compréhension des esthétiques qui se tiennent à distance du discursif pour attirer notre attention sur ce qui fait heccéité dans l’œuvre musicale. Au milieu d’une tradition reposant largement sur l’art de la rhétorique (formes baroques et classiques), sur l’emprunt de métaphores extra-musicales (peinture du mot à la Renaissance, poème symphonique), de modèles empruntés à la science (Iannis Xenakis, musique spectrale), la possibilité d’une musique non-discursive requiert la création de cadres théoriques et conceptuels qui permettent d’en approcher le matériau sans l’assimiler indûment aux formes et modèles du discours fonctionnant sur le mode de la représentation.

En tant que compositeur, cette réflexion nous a amené à développer un paradigme compositionnel où la musique peut être pensée selon les termes d’une sémiotique des arts non-discursifs, notamment à travers les concepts originaux de figures et de textures performatives (au sens d’événements sonores qui « performent » plutôt qu’ils ne « racontent »). Empruntant ouvertement à la figuralité deleuzienne, ces concepts, accompagnés d’un certain nombre de stratégies compositionnelles, nous permettent de concevoir le matériau musical comme « capture de forces » et de l’organiser selon une « logique de la sensation », et ce, en dehors de tout projet de nature discursive ou narrative. Suivant la dynamique du précurseur sombre, c’est entre les pôles de l’intuition et de la pensée organisatrice qu’il y a fulgurance de la figure sonore ; dès lors, il s’agit de créer un espace conceptuel où l’heccéité musicale peut surgir des profondeurs de la sensibilité et être organisée selon des critères qui en préservent la nature immédiate, sensible et non-discursive, c’est-à-dire non-prédéterminée par la pensée.

Lors de cette présentation, nous illustrerons cette sémiotique musico-figurale à l’aide de notre quatuor à cordes Géométries de l’abîme (2014), et nous élargirons la portée de notre cadre théorique en abordant deux autres œuvres pour la même formation : In Vivo (2007–2010) de Raphaël Cendo (France), et The Restoration of Objects (2008) de Timothy McCormack (USA), deux compositeurs dont le travail, s’il ne se réclame pas ouvertement de la philosophie deleuzienne (McCormack), s’y inscrit en fort rapport de résonance (Cendo).

Web: www.jimmieleblanc.net/dare2015/references.html

References

Almén, Byron. 2008. A Theory of Musical Narrative. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. (1981) 2002. Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Paris: Editions du Seuil.

Dewey, John. 1934. Art as Experience. New York: Minton, Balch and Company.

Sauvagnargues, Anne. (2005) 2006. Deleuze et l’art. Paris: Prsses Universitaires de France.

Shusterman, Richard. (1992) 2000. Pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking Art. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

Deleuze, Flat Aesthetics, and the Diagrammatic Genesis of Art and Architecture

The notion of diagram, or abstract machine, was developed by Gilles Deleuze as a relatively consistent yet multi-modal concept throughout his oeuvre. The diagram obtained a-signifying yet generative capacities when discussed in relation to literature and art (as in Deleuze’s works on Proust and Bacon), acquired organisational capabilities when utilised in unpacking institutional apparatuses (as in his work on Foucault’s apparatuses), and developed topological tendencies when operated in the explication of ecological life (as in his geo-ontological works developed together with Félix Guattari).

In recent art and architectural discourse, Deleuze has become one of the primary figures whom architects and artists seek for theoretical support in their uses—and sometimes abuses—of diagrammatic processes of creative production. Despite the popular upsurge, however, the multi-modal nature of Deleuze’s diagram has been appropriated into academic and professional discourse reductively for legitimising unrelated formal exercises, for garnishing underdeveloped conceptions, and for allying artists, architects, and theorists with the so-called fashionable trends of French theory. Although effective in certain cases even with this myopic application—creative abuses are always welcome—the multifaceted notion of diagram developed by Deleuze has a lot more to offer for understanding and enriching the genesis of artistic and architectural production if pursued to the very limits of its radical implications.

This paper pursues a rigorous explication of diagrammatic operations embedded in a comparative analysis between Francis Bacon’s artistic assemblages, especially Figure with Meat (1954), and that of the Vogelkop bowerbird’s architectural assemblages, especially the sophisticated bowers of Western New Guinea. Using comparative conceptual diagrams, the presentation will unpack how certain architectural and artistic diagrams are drawn on paper and canvas, while others act upon individual bodies and variable operations and yet still others function through a developmental matrix composed of embodied perceptions of extensive landscapes and trans- individual affects of intensive fields. In the end, this paper is an experimental attempt to explore the possibility of whether Deleuze’s flat ontology—which excludes self-proclaimed supreme actors such as transcendent Gods and omnipotent humans, and defines an immanent Spinozan cosmos in which all individuals and assemblages are differential modes of a univocal substance on an equal ontological footing—can give birth to a flat non-anthropocentric aesthetics.

Heterogeneity of The Word and The Image: What Is the Possible Dark Precursor?

The concept of heterogeneity is one of the key concepts in Deleuze and Guattari’s universe. Heterogeneity moves through all possible spheres of becoming. If one starts to discuss art at this moment, the concept of heterogeneity comes into play. They wrote, “To us, Art is a false concept, a solely nominal concept; this does not, however, preclude the possibility of a simultaneous usage of the various arts within a determinable multiplicity” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 300–301). There is also essential heterogeneity between visible and speakable. In his book This is Not a Pipe, Foucault, in cooperation with René Magritte, discovered the innate incompatibility between the word and the image. Foucault (1983, 36) noticed that Magritte discovered the gulf “which prevents us from being both the reader and the viewer at the same time.”

There is no preformed order between heterogeneities, but is there any possible common point of communication between them? In the book A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari noticed that this communication is neither imitation nor resemblance; at the same time, something else entirely is going on—what is this something else? In his early book Difference and Repetition, Deleuze (1994) wrote that every system contains its dark precursor—the third party—which ensures the communication of peripheral series. Given the variety among systems, this role is fulfilled by quite diverse determinations. Deleuze does not define exactly what this dark precursor or a third party is. In his book on Foucault, Deleuze returned to the problem by mentioning that Kant had already encountered a similar problem: he had to find a third agency beyond the two forms—a spontaneity of understanding and the receptivity of intuition: the schema of imagination. Deleuze (1988: 68) discerns that even Foucault “needs a third agency to co-adapt the determinable and determination, the visible and the articulable, the receptivity of light and the spontaneity of language.”

In his text on Foucault, Deleuze reflects upon Foucault’s discussion with the Belgian painter Magritte. In his experiments with words and images, Magritte included the words in the pictures alongside the image, or even instead of the image or in a paradoxical correlation with the image. The Lithuanian artist and writer Jurga Ivanauskaitė (1961–2007) was inspired by Magritte’s experimental games in her visual works and in her literature as well (Ivanauskaitė 2011, 2013). Her poster for the rock group Antis (in English, “the Duck”) is based on the heterogeneity of the three meanings of the word “antis” and the impossibility of reducing the three meanings to any single one. This picture raises questions very similar to those that Foucault asked about Magritte’s “This is not a Pipe”: Does the word “duck” (antis) written on the wall have anything in common with a real duck or only with a metaphorical duck, meaning the duck as “the forgery in the press”? Do these three ducks (the painted object, the name of the rock group, and the word on the wall) have something in common? Is there any hierarchy between the ducks? Which one of these is the most “real”? What is the possible point of meeting? Is the picture the dark precursor of the three heterogeneous ducks? Deleuze would have answered: it is a thought. This battle between heterogeneous spheres—the impossibility of being a reader and a seer at the same time—inspires thought. In Foucault, Deleuze writes, “Visibilities are not defined by sight but are complexes of actions and passions, actions and reactions, multisensorial complexes, which emerge into the light of day.” As Magritte says in a letter to Foucault, “thought is what sees and can be described visibly” (Deleuze 1988, 59). Thought has a close relation with a diagram and the cinema. The diagram is an abstract machine or the map of relations between forces, which proceeds by primary nonlocalisable relations and at every moment passes through every point. Deleuze (2003) used Foucault’s concept of diagram to reflect upon Francis Bacon’s painting. On the other hand, Deleuze in Cinema 2 considered thought not as imagination but as a main dark precursor between the word and the image in creating modern conceptual cinema (see Baranova 2014, 2015). Thought is not so much the shock, discovered by Eisenstein, but the powerlessness to think as revealed by Artaud. Deleuze (1989, 165) writes that “thought has no other reason to function than its own birth, always the repetition of its own birth, secret and profound.”

References

Baranova, Jūratė. 2014. “Artaud versus Kant: Annihilation of the Imagination in Deleuze’s Philosophy of Cinema.” Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image 6: 137–54.

—. 2015. Between Visual and Literary Creation: Tarkovsky and Ivanauskaitė. Saarbrücken: Scholars’ Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1988. Foucault. Translated by Séan Hand. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 1989. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London: Continuum.

—. 2003. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith. London: Continuum.

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

Foucault, Michel. 1983. This is Not a Pipe. With René Magritte. Translated and edited by James Harkness. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Ivanauskaitė, Jurga. 2011. “The Fortress of Sleeping Butterflies” [excerpt from novel]. In No Men, No Cry: Contemporary Lithuanian Women’s Prose, translated by Milda Dyke, 63–75. Chicago: International Cultural Programme Centre.

—. 2013. “Year of the Lily of the Valley.” In The Dedalus Book of Lithuanian Literature, edited by Almantas Samalavičius, 146–57. London: Dedalus.