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.