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.

Bare Your Self Naked for Creation. Notes on Impersonality, the Encounter and a Body for a Life

In works before A Thousand Plateaus (2005), such as The Logic of Sense (1990), Gilles Deleuze stresses the importance of the impersonal as the dimension one must reach to counter-effectuate the Event. Impersonal, or neutrality, is a characteristic of singularities and of the Event. Although Deleuze never relates the Event to an experience, regarding experience as an event is our answer to such a question as the becoming-imperceptible or the radical affirmation of any body as a haecceity. Impersonality is a way of allowing the becoming. However, there seems to be a misuse of the notion of becoming as a process of  deconstruction or transformation, underlining or enforcing the self  instead  of dismantling it. Patricia MacCormack’s defence in ‘Multi-Dimensional Modifications’ (2011) of the lizard-man and the cat-man, as bodies both in-between and becoming, is such a misuse. Their attempts as well as those of body art practitioners to overcome the Self and a subjectivity through excess and extreme emphasis of turning all bodies “as aesthetic events which can experience and are experienced through zones or folds of proximity” falls on the field of mimesis and representation, as they inflate subjectivity and a fixed Self.

Turning the body into an event calls for a requestioning of an ethico-aesthetic êthos, one that seeks to free life through the creation of encounters, and a radical depersonalisation of the self. This depersonalisation or impersonality, understood as an elimination process of subjectivities and selves determined by the socius, follows Deleuze’s Bartleby’s (1993) three characteristics, plus one: a trait of expression, a zone of indeterminacy, a fraternal function, and a subjective-significative nudity. This is a fundamental dismantlement through a “leap of the will,” to achieve that composition in which we are a life in the same immanent plane as everything that composes Nature. This is an impersonality towards life and creation (close to asceticism), one could argue, that is opposed to an imposed depersonalisation of death and destruction (close to the death camps’ bare life).

Nevertheless, for a body to become the event that it is—that is, a body for a life—one  must also address art’s territory. First as an encounter (an ethic-aesthetic realm), which can produce what we call the space of the Event, following the idea of taking extra-daily practices and techniques into daily life.  Art  is  too  mediated/mediatic  and  mediates  too much (perceptions and experiences). It is often a stance for the production of the monolithic Self. To release both Life and Art, affects and percepts, from their shackles, one must avoid and produce actions and situations evading the alienation and fetishism of forces and close the gap of mediation between the subject and object of experience. Hence, we propose to rethink Hakim Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zones (1994), as a possibility of how to deterritorialise and produce encounters in daily life. A practice of immediatism: creation happening outside Art.

Mouldworks: An Art Rhizomatic Inquiry into Haecceities in Material (and) Thought

Conducting an art-philosophical inquiry into the Polish neo-avant-garde artist Marek Konieczny and his mobilisation of Polish Baroque, I have embarked on what Simon O’Sullivan calls “art rhizomatics.” O’Sullivan (2006, 36–37) defines “a rhizomatics of art” as a mode of art writing that attends to the researcher’s particular enfoldment in the world and resonates with the art objects themselves. My art rhizomatics is an immanent research practice that generates new worlds parallel to Konieczny’s artworks themselves. For “Dark Precursor” I would like to extend this practice further to include experimentation with Deleuze-Guattarian thought, namely the concept of haecceity.

Mouldworks seeks to explore the resonance between haecceity and the materiality of mould as it emerges from my particular experience of living as an immigrant in a Dublin bedsit and researching the art of the 1970s and the Baroque amid Ireland’s newly resurgent property bubble and its attendant vectors of gentrification, the debate about the shape of the new multicultural Ireland, and the influx of refugees.

Deleuze and Guattari (2005, 261) define haecceity as “a mode of individuation distinct from that of a thing or a subject” epitomised by “a season.” They posit haecceities as a set of coordinates, “the sum total of the material elements belonging [to a body] under given relations of movement and rest, speed and slowness (longitude); the sum total of the intensive affects it is capable of . . . (latitude).” Many commentators have emphasised the individual, yet impersonal nature of haecceities (Young 2013, 153).

Mouldworks explores migrating mould colonies as a diagram of heterogeneous force relations penetrating both the molecular and the social planes. Notoriously unwieldy—in a state of constant asexual reproduction and vibrating across diverse milieus—mould spores affect in unpredictable ways, secreting diverse colours, textures, and distribution patterns. Therefore, they can be considered haecceities.

Rather than develop gigantic land art projects like those by Robert Smithson, my particular longitude offers the infinitesimal realm of mould as my field of operation. Inhaling Dublin mould every day, I think about the iconic photography of Roman Vishniac who turned away from the documentation of diaspora cultures to embrace photomicroscopy, therefore revealing diaspora as a haecceity.

Mouldworks attempts to register the diasporic haecceities by putting into mutual resonance a series of staged photographic images of humanoid figures draped in black velvet, set against Dublin’s iconic open-sea bathing places, and a video documentation of a mould removal procedure performed with a silicon cutter. The Baroque drapery with its many folds introduces perceptual instability associated with haecceities, whereas the sea is haunted by the threat of migrant invasions as well as waterborne powers of contamination.


Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 2005. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.

O’Sullivan, Simon. 2006. Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought Beyond Representation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Young, Eugene B. 2013 “Haecceity.” In The Deleuze and Guattari Dictionary, edited by Eugene B. Young with Gary Genosko and Janell Watson, 153. New York: Bloomsbury.