DARE 2017 Opening Speech

[AR]

Artistic Research describes a particular mode of artistic practice and of knowledge production, in which scholarly research and artistic activity become inextricably intertwined. Questioning the boundaries between art, academia, philosophy and science, artistic research enables the exploration and generation of new modes of thought and sensible experience. In the last two decades, artistic research has gained increasing relevance and visibility as an alternative mode of making art and producing knowledge.

While there is no universally accepted or recognised definition of what is artistic research, one must stress that artistic research is not to be confused with research on the arts, or research on aesthetic matters. Artistic research is not a sub discipline of musicology, art history or philosophy. It is a specific field of activity where practitioners actively engage with and participate in discursive formations emanating from their concrete artistic practice. Artistic research, so I claim, should be done by artists, but by artists with the capacity of infusing research with a particular mode of intensity, coming from the intensive processes they know and use while making art.      

Fundamentally transversal to traditional disciplinary boundaries, artistic research enhances different ontologies, developing multiple epistemologies and creating varied modes of presentation and interaction with the world. Artistic research does not necessarily present objects of concluded knowledge but rather insists in unfinished thinking. It triggers sensible processes as interplay between conceptual thinking and physical engagement with things, materialities, and institutions. 

[Deleuze & AR]

In the last decade, the philosophies of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, or the wider field of Post-Deleuzian thinkers have become increasingly relevant to the field of artistic research, acting as a key reference for many artist researchers. Gilles Deleuze’s central claim that philosophy is “the creation of concepts” reverses a whole philosophical tradition that considers knowledge as the discovery, the recognition, or the reminiscence of something prior to our enquiries. Contrary to this view, Deleuze thinks concepts as being invented, constructed, fabricated, as being the result of a process of thinking that generates an event: a singular concept, rigorously situated within a discourse, precisely located in time (in a specific here-and-now), gains a life of its own, which is independent from its origin. Considered in this way, concepts become almost literary characters, having their specific history, moment of birth, development, inflections, and death. This dynamic notion of concepts is profoundly connected with the view that thought always starts with an encounter between something and something else exterior to it. To have a thought is to go outside of oneself, outside of a particular discipline, outside of a given system of coordinates, outside of prevailing images of thought. In this sense, one can say that while there is a definite discipline of philosophy and several definite disciplines in the arts, these disciplines can only productively operate by reaching out beyond themselves. For philosophy, this means an encounter with that which is not philosophy; for the arts, the encounter with that which is not art; for music, with that which is not music (cf. (Somers-Hall 2012, 5). Moreover, as Deleuze and Guattari wrote “even science has a relation with a nonscience that echoes its effects” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 217-8). The notion of encounter, and even more precisely, the real event of an encounter (its happening) becomes the core moment of any creative invention.

[DARE]

With our conference series on Deleuze and Artistic Research we aim precisely at exploring such productive encounters between different areas of knowledge and artistic production.  Thus, we welcome musicians, artists, philosophers, scientists, scholars and researchers from as varied as possible backgrounds; and we accept presentations in both scholarly and artistic/performative formats.

For the first edition of the conference in 2015, we chose the dark precursor as our leading concept. It is a highly poetic notion, one of Deleuze’s most expressive inventions, a personnage conceptuel that resists a definition, articulating the fundamental disparity of any given intensive system, connecting heterogeneous fields of forces, and having the transductive power of giving shape to several other events, encounters, and concepts. At the same time, the dark precursor establishes a dynamic system of relations, linking differences of intensity to one another. It is the agent, the force, the activator, the operator of a necessary communication between them. Without the continuous tremblings produced by infinite dark precursors, no energy would flow between different series and nothing would be perceptible or apprehensible in the world. Thus, the dark precursor concerns the question of how communication between heterogeneous systems of couplings and resonance occurs without being predetermined.

Where our first conference exposed and reflected the duality and openness inherent in artistic research, aberrant nuptials is its natural continuation. Quoting Deleuze’s celebrated passage on the wasp and the orchid, our title proposes the relation between art and research as a double-capture, for which Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne is appropriated as an allegory. Passionately chased by Apollo, Daphne tries to escape him through an aberrant (yet well desired) metamorphosis: a becoming-tree that rescues her, even if at the price of losing her human condition. Becoming-non-human, becoming-tree, becoming-bark, becoming-foliage, becoming-branches, becoming-roots are many of the modes through which Daphne becomes herself a zone of indeterminacy, a radicalised body without organs (literally), inaccessible to love, protected from desire. Yet, the wasp and the orchid work together for the fertilisation of other orchids, that is to say: they do labour with a goal and purpose. Apollo and Daphne offer a more extreme form of nuptials, one that completely excludes reproduction, (mis)functioning only through pure flows of desire. They operate a complete deterritorialization of the strata, making it difficult (if not impossible) to think their nuptials in terms of a plane of organisation. They point towards another kind of plane, one that doesn’t follow the arrangement of structures, nor the transformation of structures into other structures, but that makes transversal modes of communication thinkable and materially graspable. It is the nomadic plane “of those who only assemble” (Deleuze and Guattari  1987: 24), looking for an adequate outside with which to assemble in heterogeneity, rather than a world to reproduce. Aberrant nuptials, thus, are assemblages of heteroclite things and codes, building “inconsistent planes of consistency,” planes of “metastable consistency,” that are neither consistent nor inconsistent. Such planes are populated and traversed by “the most disparate of things and signs,” creating unexpected connections, and fostering the emergence of machinic assemblages of desire.

References

Deleuze, Gilles, and Claire Parnet. 2007. Dialogues II. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. New York: Columbia University Press.

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

—. 1994. What is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlison and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press.

Lapoujade, David. 2014. Deleuze, les mouvements aberrants. Paris: Les Éditions de minuit.

Somers-Hall, Henry. 2012. “Introduction.” In The Cambridge Companion to Deleuze, edited by Henry Somers-Hall, 1-12. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Williams, James. 2003. Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition: A Critical Introduction and Guide, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Garden of Small Nuptials

Accompanying the conference Aberrant Nuptials is an image of Bernini’s sculpture Daphne and Apollo, which famously depicts the moment when Daphne, fleeing Apollo, “launches down a line of flight” into strange and unnatural becomings. In the original sculpture in the Galleria Borghese, exquisitely carved forms appear to oscillate between the marble’s frozen translucence and the movement of flesh and hair becoming roots, bark, branches and foliage. Before commencing carving in marble, Bernini experimented with full-size clay models. The Vatican museum holds two such clay models for the Ponte Sant’Angelo angels, comprised not only of clay but also of plant fibre, hair, and bundles of reeds. They still bear the impressions of Bernini’s fingerprints. The physicality of the materials and immediacy of processes—modelling of wet clay over plant and other organic matter—compel wonder. For it makes evident the fact that the world, in its most mundane sense, holds within it potential for remarkable transformation, whereby even some dirt, clump of straw, or stone can take on the character of a wing, flesh, or the transcendence of mystical experience. Deleuze, in quoting Leibniz in The Fold reminds us that “each portion of matter may be conceived as a garden full of plants, and as a pond full of fish. But every branch of each plant, every member of each animal, and every drop of their liquid parts is in itself likewise a similar garden or pond.”

What is the connection between this account of  matter—a garden and pond teeming with life—and a thematic of strange and unnatural nuptials such as might occur between heterogeneous systems, organisms, geographies, and mythologies? Australia, as an ancient continent, could be said to be teeming with such aberrant nuptials, where primordial strata permeate life and experience. Consider the ancient figurative Gwion Gwion cave paintings whose vibrant colours are produced by “living pigments” of red cyanobacteria and black fungi. These organisms sustain a process of symbiosis and equilibrium while simultaneously etching the paintings deeper into the rock. The sticky substances, secreted by the rock-adapted fungi and cyanobacteria, aid adherence to the rock and resistance to dehydration, keeping the art in a state of perpetual (re)incarnation—a “living” prehistoric art (Mircan and van Gerven Oei, Allegory of the Cave Painting). The movements between biological and chemical secretions and metabolisms reveal an art that is simultaneously dead and alive, prehistoric and contemporary.

In a movement from the ordinary to the remarkable—gestures in clay and ochre mark   out strange anatomies, as allegories of metamorphoses and flight shape becomings. Rock becomes flesh—a biofilm of bacteria—as hair becomes plant, filaments, and fibres. Secretions of sorrowful tears and sticky liquids sustain gardens of living pigments to catch intensities of light, with each work a register of shifting fidelities.

My suburban garden in Melbourne contains various species of indigenous and exotic trees, plants, herbs, shrubs, and weeds, as well as beehives, silkworm colonies, a fishpond, and various native and exotic birds and insects. It often forms some unexpected relationship or encounter with my sculpture. Indeed, much of my work is made within the vibrating hum of the beehives against the outside wall of my studio. The installation I’m presenting, Garden of Small Nuptials—an etiolation of some of the plants and elements found in the garden—marks a moment where an imagined line of flight carried by the light and heat of the sun, shifts into a relationship with death—(a necessity for biosecurity and passing borders.) Through chemical processes, life unfolds in different forms. Horizons shift and reorient—but as with any etiolation in nature, plants spread their “shoots only where determinate effects take place” (Zourabichvili, Deleuze: A Philosophy of the Event).