Repeat, Please: An Experience of Creation

In this presentation, we outline a creative experiment organised by the Ornata group and carried out during the course “The Body, Memory and Becoming: Encounters and Vestiges of Art Jewellery” by art students of the Institute of Arts, State University of Campinas. Ornata is a group of teachers and researchers that runs courses and workshops for art students and employs a teaching methodology that seeks to deconstruct preconceived meanings of jewellery. By drawing attention to its symbolic potentiality, as a sign of power associated with the body, it posits jewellery as a potent medium for artistic creation, an individual and social object able to mediate or interrogate relationships of desire, power, and memory.

The methodology developed by Ornata is informed by Deleuze and Guattari; in the course, the guiding principles were the theorists’ concepts of “becoming” and “difference and repetition” and the relationship of these concepts to memory. The goal was to create an object in which the concept of “Becoming” is manifested, materialised, and produced through the body and for the body. We started from the notion of duration, in which being is conceived as an overlap, as a continuous construction in which past and present contract. As a strategy, we suggested to the students a procedure to produce something so that the body could evoke and/or invoke the concepts of becoming, and difference and repetition. We decided to highlight how time could be made tangible through the body by using the voice. We asked the students to repeat poems or extracts for ten consecutive days and record them. Through this procedure, the transformed speech gives rise to a word that would in turn be translated into an object.

The stages of the exercise were to select poems or extracts from Ana Cristina Cesar (a Brazilian poet) on the basis of a possible relationship found by the teacher between the poem and the student who recites it. Students were instructed to repeat these poems for ten consecutive days, recited at least twice a day. The reading should be governed by the way the text resonates with the student and not by its interpretation. Only the recording of the voice interests us, and the recordings must be posted on the group’s Facebook page every day.

After ten days, we collectively listened to the recordings—only the first and last—to compare the transformations over time and we compiled keywords that expressed the difference in utterance between each student’s first and last recording. The results were discussed among the group and two verbs that reflected the change in utterance (conjugated in the present continuous) were suggested, for example, “swallowing.” The students were asked to use the concept of translation (explored in previous exercises) to make an object for the body related to the verbs identified in the process, but not by making a representation. The guidelines for developing the piece were to think where in the body the object would be placed and what materials would better translate this action.

The objects presented showed unusual connections afforded by the choice of materials and the way they were worked. The relationship between the objects and the body was also unexpected. Thus, the unusual combination of different artistic and material languages, together with the methodological approach described above, set in motion a creative situation that contributed to foster imagination and to stimulate creation.

Matter-Flow: Studies of Minor Composition

Among Deleuze’s encounters with art, jewellery has certainly never had any particular relevance, if compared with literature, painting, cinema, or music. And yet, jewellery making and metal arts (metallurgy, smithery, metalworking) more widely, appear at a crucial juncture of A Thousand Plateaus. Not only because of their relation to “nomadism”—“something lights up in our mind,” Deleuze writes, “when we are told that metalworking was the ‘barbarian’ or nomad art par excellence, and when we see these masterpieces of minor art” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 401)—but above all because metal is the pure matter-movement, or “matter-flow.” Metal, Deleuze says, is “neither a thing nor an organism, but a body without organs,” the “conductor of all matter” (ibid., 411). The “first and primary itinerant,” then, is the artisan-metallurgist, who follows the flow of matter. Metal arts let emerge “a vital state of matter as such, a material vitalism”: a “nonorganic life” (ibid.). For Deleuze, “Metal is what forces us to think matter, and it is what forces us to think matter as continuous variation” (Deleuze 1979)—that is, as pure “modulation” (in Simondon’s sense). Metal and metal arts, then, allow us to break with the form-matter dualism of the hylomorphic model, typically exemplified by moulding techniques. Instead of a succession of forms and variability of matters, metal arts indeed operate a capture of nonorganic forces through a “continuous development of form” and a “continuous variation of matter” (from which also follows, according to Deleuze, the essential relationship between metallurgy and music). In short, the artisan-metallurgist replaces the static relation, form-matter, with the dynamic relation, “material-forces,” creating properly metallic “affects.”

This conception opens the possibility of a decisive displacement with respect to contemporary jewellery, which remains mostly tied to figuration (or organic representation) and the hylomorphic model by merely reproducing forms and looking for a diversity of materials. The pursuit of this possibility is the attempt of the works I present. The aim is to experiment with a non-hylomorphic approach to matter-flow and the genesis of forms. To this end, I tried to construct an assemblage between two heterogeneous material elements (metal and glass formed by lightning-induced melting of sand) upon which I performed different processes of deformation. The result is a series of “consolidated aggregates,” of “coupled figures,” where the metallic form is not obtained by any casting or moulding operation (such as lost wax casting or electroforming), but primarily by means of one of the most ancient goldsmith’s techniques (though completely liberated from any decorative, figurative, or narrative function), called repoussé, which consists of a continuously variable modulation or folding of thin metal leaves. The genesis of form is thus immanent and topological (instead of transcendent and geometrical), inseparable from forces exerted upon the material. This reveals a “vague” materiality in which forms are not imposed to matter but emerge as intensive affects of the material itself. These works of minor art thus attempt to contribute to the questioning of what Deleuze calls a “phenomenology of matter.”

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1979. “Metal, metallurgie, musique, Husserl, Simondon. Cours Vincennes 27/02/1979.” Available at: http://www.webdeleuze.com/php/texte.php?cle=185&groupe=Anti%20Oedipe%20et%20Mille%20Plateaux&langue=1 [accessed 1 October 2015]

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