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.

Dialogue II: New Materialism(s) for Artistic Research

This dialogue addresses the fundamental question of how to relate speculative thought and research activities on the arts with the concrete materiality of daily artistic practices and outcomes (artefacts). To make art involves being-in-the-world and, critically, the use of tools, materials, instruments, and supports. It is from and with all these things that new affects, new sensations, new modes of communication can be invented or extracted, contributing to a continued expansion of art practices and idioms. Artistic research (a new type of “nomadic science”) has been providing diverse practices and perspectives with strong geographical and disciplinary differences, but they all remain bound by a common reference to the grounding “materiality” of their specific activity. The materials used, produced, and discussed in artistic research are fluid entities, akin to metal alloys, less defined than stratified objects, and more affective than concepts. On  the  other hand, recent philosophical discourses increasingly refer to process-oriented, relational ontologies that crucially move beyond subject-centred philosophies, and beyond object- analytical decodings. Bringing together artist researchers and philosophers, this dialogue aims at mapping some new materialist perspectives for artistic research.

Paulo de Assis, chair

Music as Reservoir of Thought’s Materialization: Between ‘Metastasis’ and ‘Modulor’

How can communication occur between architecture, music, and mathematics? This presentation responds to this question taking as a starting point the use of the “Modulor” system of proportion in the composition and the notation of Iannis Xenakis’s Metastasis, who was at once a composer, architect, and mathematician and collaborated with Le Corbusier for the architectural composition of the Philips Pavilion at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. Specific attention will be paid to the relationship between Xenakis’s understanding of music as thought’s materialisation and Deleuze and Guattari’s conception of art gesture as a passage of material into sensation. Xenakis’s conception of sound is spatial. For the notation of Metastasis he used graphs of glissandi, which look like ruled surfaces or hyperbolic paraboloids, described by him as “ruled surfaces of sound.” They look like the structural components he designed for the Philips Pavilion.

Xenakis’s compositional approach is based on a relationship between music and architecture that goes beyond the metaphoric. In the composition of Metastasis the role of architecture was direct and fundamental by virtue of the Modulor, which found an application in the very essence of the musical development. Xenakis was interested in the Modulor because it is at once a geometric and an additive series. Metastasis seeks equivalence between a geometric series and an additive series. In Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics in Composition Xenakis mentions, “It is not so much the inevitable use of  mathematics that characterizes the attitude of  these experiments as the overriding need to consider sound and music as a vast potential reservoir in which knowledge of the laws of thought and the structured creations of thought may find a completely new medium of materialization.”

Xenakis, Deleuze, and Guattari share the intention to associate art gesture  with  the zones of indetermination. Xenakis’s evaluation of musical composition is based on “the quantity of intelligence carried by the sounds” and “to make music means to express human intelligence by sonic means.” He underscores that “action, reflection, and self- transformation by the sounds themselves—is the path to follow.” He believes that “when … mathematical thought serves music . . . it should amalgamate dialectically with intuition.” He understands the composition of music as “a fixing in sound of imagined virtualities,” dividing musical construction into two categories: a first that pertains to time and a second that is independent of temporal becomingness. The latter includes “durations and constructions (relations and operations) that refer to elements (points, distances, functions) that belong to and that can be expressed on the time axis. The temporal is then reserved to the instantaneous creation.”Deleuze underscores that in  the case of Boulez’s musical composition “number has not disappeared, but has become independent of metric or chronometric relations.” My presentation examines how this freeing of the compositional process from “metric or chronometric relations” to which Deleuze refers can be related to Xenakis’s outside-time mode of composition, described by Xenakis. Deleuze intends to grasp the process of “making sound the medium which renders time sensible, the Numbers of time perceptible, to organize material in order to capture the forces of time and render it sonorous”. He associates this kind of compositional process with Messiaen’s project and understands Boulez’s stance as a continuation of such a procedure “in new conditions (in particular, serial ones).” For Xenakis, the power of musical composition resides in the expression of intelligence through sonic means, while, for Deleuze, the deterritorialising forces of musical composition are inextricably linked to the “functions of  temporalization  that  are  exerted  on  sonorous  material that the musician captures and renders sensible the forces of time” (Deleuze, “Boulez, Proust and Time: ‘Occupying without Counting’”). Deleuze and Guattari’s understanding of arts as an invention of material embodiment of the virtual is very close to Xenakis’s understanding of music as thought’s materialisation. Pivotal for shedding light on how arts invent “possibilities of life” is the thought that “the arts operate within the domain of sensation, which is that of the continuous passage of the virtual into the actual” and that, during the creative process of art making, “invention of possible worlds proceeds through embodiment” (Ronald Bogue, “The Art of the Possible”). My objective here is to reflect on the marriage between architecture, music, and mathematics, and on the potentialities of the zones of indeterminacy that emerge when these three domains of experience are thought together.

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.