Deleuze’s Aesthetics Contra Object Oriented Philosophy

Studies that discuss Deleuze’s aesthetics rely upon Kant. Such reliance by brilliant and insightful scholars such as Smith, O’Sullivan, and Shiviro are nervously self-conscious because they necessarily recognise Deleuze’s explicit repudiation of Kant (his “enemy”). They take exculpatory solace in Deleuze’s obvious admiration for Kant’s skill and scope.They see incipient harmony in some virtual “rumblings” Deleuze intuits beneath the structure of the Third Critique. But Kant’s transcendental idealism and Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism are not even opposites: they are as constitutively incommensurate as the actual and the virtual and so must be their corresponding aesthetics.

Why then do the readings of Deleuze’s aesthetics map him into the Kantian configuration? Perhaps because, as the rise of speculative realism has personified, these writers cannot, like Kant, part with the idea of the aesthetic object. Indeed, Kant in The Metaphysics of Morals says that sensibility itself is “the capacity (a receptivity) to acquire presentations as a result of the way we are affected by objects … [how] objects are given to us.” While the sublime would require more time, the judgement of beauty for Kant relies upon the paradoxical postulation of an extant, if somewhat unavailable, object. But as Deleuze repeatedly makes clear, he does not accept either judgements or their objects and has  as his central question “how is the given given?” What for him is always a bad question that in its very orientation accepts the current political versioning of subject–object representation.

Thus let us agree with Rancière that art is ineluctably political but understand the political exactly as the constitutive inequality between the sign as symbol (in Peirce’s nomenclature), that iterated arbitrary which offers itself as if  it had an oxymoronic per se, and what Deleuze means by the symptom, a manifestation concurrent with “its” causes. This conjunction of the necessarily unequal forms the usually tacit potential for the Kafkaesque “stutter,” the Nietzschean rubato, which is always immanent to actualisation’s inadequacy to its own material operation: it can never “catch up” to its own representation as each iteration can only again reinstate the asymmetry whereby its manifestation as intelligible is possible. The realisation of this heterogenetic disparity is for Deleuze the always-new function of the aesthetic. The creative is life, the will to power, in its encounter with the impossibility of mastery it desires. In this necessary asymmetry between the mimetic as the fiction of the actualised ontic (the faux possibility of the existence of the object or subject) and its immanent real production, two incommensurate temporalities touch without talking. The aesthetic then is not a generality but the particular context- sensitive evocation of its own mimetic unavailability as the object, the subject, or the intelligible.

For Deleuze, then, there are only flows, concurrent but uncoordinated. Objecthood and subjectivity are but the paradigmatic epiphenomena of actualisation, of territorialisation, of those literalising political practices that construct the “real” as iterative.Indeed,this paper will argue that Deleuze’s aesthetic, unlike Kant’s, is programmatically uncharacterisable as it consists of the always-new apprehension of the haecceity of all events through counter-actualisation: it is exactly that liberation from the misapprehension of chaotic conjunctions, “aberrant nuptials,” as objects of beauty or taxonomies of classification. That is, that Deleuze’s aesthetic is not a theory but praxis, an activity, which cannot get ahead of its instantiation. It is opposed to the very possibility of representation, as the mimetic in all its guises—and most especially as the literal or factual—is none other than the Apollonian dream of individuation. As such, Deleuzian aesthetics is the ongoing and very material activity of political encounter in its immanent manifestation and not, as some (for instance Spivak and Badiou) misunderstand, its evasion.

Chaosmic Nuptials: The Secret Language of Mondrian’s Jazz

In A Thousand Plateaus, the work of abstract painter Piet Mondrian is mentioned three times. The work and thought of Kafka, on the other hand, forms an unbroken refrain throughout the text, and for Deleuze and Guattari “No one is better than Kafka at differentiating the two axes of the assemblage and making them function together.” However, it is possible to contend that A Thousand Plateaus is an extended play of variables referring pre-eminently to Mondrian, as a constant variable, and that to read the book is to hear Mondrian, so that as a point of departure here the statement becomes “No one is better than Kafka Mondrian at differentiating the two axes of the assemblage and making them function together.” How does this work?

Listening to the diagonal in Mondrian’s work (which is never there), makes it possible to discern that he is painting something else—the trace(r) of a “plurality of straight lines”; the intersection of sound and non-sound (which is neither sound nor silence); or “absolute speed.” Absolute speed can be found in a jazz club/time machine (“Everything in the bar moves and at the same time is at rest”), which decimates time not by travelling but by staying where it is: a time-space vector, a bit of time in its pure state approaching the superlinear system of music—a haecceity. In the mode of “new music,” Mondrian’s works depict a future event that has already transpired, but what will it be?

This paper/riff uses A Thousand Plateaus and Dialogues II to map Mondrian’s secret language, to deterritorialise the paintings (or rather to hear the deterritorialisations already at work in the work), by following as many lines of flight as possible to their infinite dimensions in and beyond the canvases. Thus, while it is possible to construe Mondrian’s abstract compositions as rigid utopias or as othering grids, invoking the line of death and abolition (as I have done elsewhere), a proximal listening to the compositions reveals hidden forces in the works—their true power. The artist stealthily uses the language of binaries (non-sound/sound, non-colour/colour, male/female, abstract/concrete, culture/ nature) to create a nuptial assemblage, so that when he invokes “the new music,” he does so with the nuptial line of flight in mind, combining binaries in a double capture—neither the same neutralising and eradicating the other, nor “opposites” merely “coupled.” The concrete-abstractions, as Mondrian refers to them, are hence interpreted here as painted jazz, audible compositions in a time-space zone of indeterminacy that hosts aberrant nuptials across n vectors of “binaries.” The geometric canvases arrive fast and slow as nodes of becoming, functioning as the milieus for a swarm of becomings, or chaosmos. This writing is hence an attempt to sound the artist’s secret language, to make the book machine/s of Deleuze and Guattari form a bloc with the war machine of Mondrian’s compositions somewhere outside and between the perpendicular.

Interspecies Sonification: Deleuze, Ruyer and Bioart

In A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari famously argued that becoming is a non- linear connection between heterogeneous elements. As they point out, “we oppose epidemic to filiation, contagion to heredity, peopling by contagion to sexual reproduction.

… Bands, human and animal, proliferate by contagion, epidemics, battlefields, and catastrophes… Unnatural participations or nuptials are the true Nature spanning the kingdoms of nature… These combinations are neither genetic nor structural; they are interkingdoms, unnatural participations.” Deleuze and Guattari create a methodological ground for these kinds of “unnatural participations” by invoking such concepts as becoming, multiplicity, or inclusive disjunction. However, when it comes to the point where it is necessary to give some specific example, usually they refer to modern literature (Kafka, Melville, Lovecraft) and modern cinema (Mann). Deleuze and Guattari’s theory is never accompanied by scientific research in biology. In this respect Deleuze’s predecessor Gilbert Simondon elaborates a more nuanced theory, based on the knowledge of physical, biological, human, and technological systems, which are all related on the basis of so-called “analogical paradigmatism.” The analogy of different systems is based on the notion of transduction, which is defined as a “physical, biological, mental, social operation through which an activity propagates gradually within a domain, by founding this propagation on a structuration of the domain that is realized from one place to the next.” In this respect, transduction can be applied to different regimes of individuation. Following Deleuze and Guattari’s and Simondon’s insights, this paper will discuss some “unnatural participations” in the field of bioart.

The  paper will concentrate  on  a  specific  example of bioart, namely, Aurelia  1+Hz / proto viva sonification (2015) by Robertina Šebjanič (Honorary Mention Prix Ars Electronica 2016). The artwork uses bioacoustics (sounds, produced by Aurelia aurita, of a moon jellyfish, which were recorded at a marine station) to interrogate the interspecies communication between humans and marine animals. Aurelia aurita is an ancient species, having rudimentary sensory nerves that allows it to perceive light, smell, and orientation. Its gravity receptors, containing calcium crystals, are similar to our Vestibula system. In this sense, the artwork creates a certain “analogical paradigmatism,” which makes it possible to examine its cohabitation with other living systems. The interactive performance features live transmitted sound generated by Aurelia aurita; this sound is navigated by the performer Robertina Šebjanič, thus creating interspecies sonification as a kind of “unnatural participation.” The paper intends to examine the analogy between human and non-human species and to investigate a specific sonic assemblage created by the performer and marine animals.

Aurelia 1+Hz / proto viva sonification contains a tracking system that follows the interaction between the jellyfish and generates locative media. The jellyfish are tracked by a raspberry pi camera. The camera measures the data of contraction,  movement, and interaction between the jellyfish. The data captured by the camera in real time is transformed into information that provides navigation in the program of the sound archive containing recordings of previous experiments, such as sound data of jellyfish that was produced during the project, entitled Deep Blue, at the Institute of Marine Science and Technologies in Izmir, Turkey. The sound navigated by the performer/artist Robertina Šebjanič has been gathered by hydrophones recording underwater jellyfish bloom on the shores of Izmir in February 2014. The jellyfish used in the frames of the project are from the species of Aurelia aurita or moon jellyfish. It is the most common jellyfish found in seas and oceans worldwide and, at the same time, is a modular organism in laboratories for jellyfish research.