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.

Outlandish: The Tables Are Turned by Bernhard Lang

Outlandish is a concert connected to Deleuze and artistic research in many ways, starting with the title, which as a synonym of “deterritorialised” refers to one of the mutual affects of philosophy and artistic practice that DARE 2015 proposes to explore. But more importantly, there are personal and material connections produced by Bernhard Lang’s Belgian premiere of The Tables are Turned (2010), Marc Ngui’s Drawings from A Thousand Plateaus (ongoing since 2004), and Juan Parra C.’s The Egg, which is both the electronic Dogon Egg he built and the new piece he will premiere.

The Difference Engines. Bernhard Lang in conversation with Maarten Quanten

I started reading Deleuze in 1995, starting with Difference and Repetition. As my previous philosophical background was mainly determined by Viennese logical positivism, Deleuze led to a kind of shock for me; when I stated rereading the text in the English translation, it became the starting point for a completely new way of composing and thinking. This reoccurred in 2007 while reading Le Pli and Mille Plateaux and made me delve into the notion of abstract machines and monadologies. In 2014 I finally did write a piece based on “The Exhausted,” wherein the Deleuze text (beside the reference to Beckett) is explicitly sung. During the conversation, I would like to elaborate on the influence of experimental visuals on my composition, and the possible association with Deleuze’s notions of “movement-image” and “perception-image.”