A Philosopher’s Time Travel Between Science and Fiction

Cinema is a major example of what Deleuze calls a “shock to thought” (Deleuze 1989, 156). Instead of being predetermined by an “image of thought” with its various implicit moral and representational presuppositions (Deleuze 1994, 129–67), Deleuze tries to expose himself fully to this shock that forces philosophers to think anew. In his cinema books, Deleuze analyzes how films deliver a new concept of image, which includes time, leaving all forms of representation behind: the “movement-image” that expresses time indirectly and the “time-image” that expresses time directly. Deleuze, who considers himself also as a science fiction author in the preface of Difference and Repetition (1994, xx–xxi), steps into the role of a “dark precursor” (ibid., 119) questioning the future of the image and our thinking about time.

My presentation will focus on the “series of time,” a third type of image that Deleuze briefly mentions in the second cinema book (Deleuze 1989, 55). To accomplish this task, I will analyse a complex science fiction thriller that gained a cult status over the years, Shane Carruth’s film Primer (2004). I argue that the film clarifies what Deleuze means by the “series of time,” insofar as Primer connects the time machine of the plot closely to a paradoxical element circulating between series. Reading Primer from the perspective of Deleuze’s cinema books also allows further consequences. First, showing how the time machine works in the film, the “series of time” can be clearly distinguished from the “time-image,” as instantiated in Alain Resnais’s Je t’aime je t’aime (1968). Second, the “series of time” allows us to reconnect Deleuze’s film-philosophy with Difference and Repetition. Third, the time machine in the film exposes principles of identity and resemblance as artificially constructed “primary” differences, thus supporting our understanding of Deleuze’s philosophical practice as a dark precursor itself. Fourth, the series of time opens up a new dimension of time beyond the succession model, as the powers of the false confront various possible worlds inconsistent with one another but sharing the same universe (the paradoxes of time travel). Finally, the series of time draws a line of flight from the newly elaborated notion of image toward the unseen interval between images. The shock of cinema, as the falsifying, forceful (self-)affection of time, forecasts new philosophical practices. For this reason, I intend in my presentation to adopt Deleuze’s somehow futuristic narration, oscillating between stringently arguing science and intentionally misleading fiction.


Deleuze, Gilles. 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. New York: Columbia University Press.

For (and against) Biggs and Büchler

The debate concerning the legitimacy of artistic research that has taken place over the last two decades is notable for the way in which it has drawn attention to rival “representational” and “performative” images of thought. Early critics of practice-led research such as Durling, Friedman, Elkins, and Biggs employed broadly representational arguments in a quasi-legal context of judgement to suggest that processes of artistic research were in some sense unrecognisable when an attempt was made to see them through the conceptual lens of “research.” In contrast, advocates of artistic research, such as Haseman, Bolt, Sullivan, Borgdorff, and Slager have proposed that research arising out of artistic practice possesses distinctive qualities—conjoining interests in the experimental, the experiential, and the non-representational with a set of predominantly transformative aims.

For Deleuze (2001), any act of thinking is guided by a pre-conceptual aesthetic/stylistic “image” that in some sense precedes it. Deleuze suggests that a particularly “dogmatic” image of thought pervasively permeates the history of philosophy, and likewise serves to structure received notions of “common” and “good” sense. As such, it conditions the conceptual distribution into which things may fall, as well as the processes of practical reasoning that are typically employed in the judgement or disciplining of phenomena (resemblance, opposition, analogy, and identity). Significantly, Deleuze positions taxonomic construction, scientific method, and legal adjudicative procedures as products of this image (Lefebvre 2008)—all of which have figured prominently in the broadly positivistic criticism/contestation of artistic research.

Perhaps because of the refractive, asymmetrical relationship between representational and performative images of thought, an interesting and long running feature of the legitimacy debate has been the failing of participants on both sides of the discussion to engage critically with their opposition. In an attempt to address the lack of sustained critical confrontation between oppositional voices, this paper seeks to engage closely with a prominent sceptical position. To this end, the work of Michael Biggs and Daniela Büchler is interrogated from a conceptual, aesthetic, and relational perspective, revealing its Wittgensteinian and Kantian roots and subjecting them to critical scrutiny from the perspective of Deleuzian thought. The critique of Biggs and Büchler’s project is presented here in the spirit of Massumi’s (2002) conception of the example as an “odd beast”—as that which enables an incisive and direct confrontation with a singular position, while functioning emblematically to address a much wider terrain. Thus Biggs and Büchler are positioned as avatars of a more generalised sceptical position, and their project is positioned as a prominent expression of the dogmatic image of thought. It is argued here that Biggs and Büchler’s resistance to the affective and the performative is pervasive, colouring their approach to philosophy, art, and aesthetics and placing them at odds with the largely material-experiential and transdisciplinary interests of many artistic researchers. With Deleuze’s (1995) stylistic and operatic conception of philosophy in mind, a series of performative, aesthetico-conceptual strategies are developed to problematise Biggs and Büchler’s project—confronting a linguistic-pragmatism of the right with a Deleuzian process-pragmatism of the left.


Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. Negotiations, 1972–1990. Translated by Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia University Press.

—. 2001. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London: Continuum.

Lefebvre, Alexandre. 2008. The Image of Law: Deleuze, Bergson, Spinoza. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Massumi, Brian. 2002. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.