A Cartographic Creativity: Deleuze, Guattari and Deligny Towards New Means of Philosophical Expression

Mapping has become a popular and much commented on practice in social sciences, humanities, and art history. Although mapping is often used to furnish a global view of an idea or to clarify a situation, I would like to argue that it can be a much more complex activity—a “dark precursor” —which escapes usual representation and touches the core of creative processes whether they are of artistic or conceptual orders. In A Thousand Plateaus, maps play a discreet though important part as rhizomatic ways of escaping representation: maps are oriented toward experimentation; they do not reproduce but construct the unconscious; they have multiple entryways; they are open and connectable, detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 12). In Schizoanalytic Cartographies, Félix Guattari (1989, 18, 32) goes further by defining maps as “existential circumscriptions” and by suggesting that mapping calls for an aesthetic account of our experiences. Maps in the frame of this paper thus perform as a means of experimentation toward an encounter between art and philosophy.

To understand how mapping can give us such an access to an impersonal plane of creativity, this paper will focus on one of the most important influences on Deleuze and Guattari on this topic: Fernand Deligny’s work with autistic children. Deligny (1913–96) was a French educator who promoted an approach to autistic children through the wander lines they trace in space. Deligny’s mapping of the children’s journeys didn’t aim to carry any therapeutic, “normalising” purpose; in fact, it was not aimed at all. Through the maps, Deligny wanted to escape our linguistically- and symbolically-shaped reality in order to bring to light the pre-personal “common” (le commun) we share with autistic people (see Álvarez de Toledo, 2013; Deligny 2007).

The main questions structuring this paper will thus concern the “aimless” and the “common” characteristics of those maps and what they can teach us of creative processes. In the preface to Difference and Repetition, Deleuze (1994, xxi) writes on the search for new means of philosophical expression. Could Deligny’s maps be one of those means? How would that affect our views on the formation of subjectivity? What would it tell us about the political production of a common space? How do the maps relate to what Deleuze calls “the virtual”? Would the performativity of those maps affect the very way we tell stories about the creation of art and the creation of concepts?


Álvarez de Toledo, Sandra, ed. 2013. Cartes et lignes d’erre/Maps and Wander Lines: Traces du réseau de Fernand Deligny, 1969–1979. Paris: L’Arachnéen.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press.

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

Deligny, Fernand. 2007. Œuvres. Edited by Sandra Álvarez de Toledo. Paris: L’Arachnéen.

Guattari, Félix. 2012. Schizoanalytic Cartographies. Translated by Andrew Goffey. New York: Bloomsbury.

The Last Frontier of (Un)Consciousness and the Arts: On Neurodiversity and Artistic Thinking in Times of Self-Observation, Evolution’s Most Recent “Killer App”

This presentation, connecting my own performative knowledge with recent debates, discusses neurodiversity as a potential game-changer for the notion of art. Applying two key concepts of contemporary identity politics (disability studies, postcolonial theory) to the highly idealised but never closely analysed process of artistic thinking, it aims to parallel the global rise of self-observation (social media, post-Snowden era) with the increasing self-reflection and contextualisation that artists are both forced into and voluntarily choose nowadays. It will seek to describe examples of artistic perception processing, provide a historic background for the concepts of dis/ability and neurodiversity, and reflect upon the benefit of introducing these subjects to the debate about the epistemology of art. Finally, it will culminate in Deleuze-Guattarian (anti-)cyberneticism, surfing the current battlefields of knowledge production on desire machines and testing base-jumps from an (assumed) natural to the cultural matrix that nowadays dominates. Here, artistic research is revealed as a twenty-first century cyborg-utopia conceived to heal the phantom limb pain of cultural scientists permanently bordering on a lack of practice, before reporting live from the fields of artificial intelligence where the sun of cognitive singularity rises above the ocean of collective media consciousness.

More in depth, I will explain in a rule-of-three-like method how the construction of “dis/abilities” was related to the emergence of wage labour in early capitalism, introduce the new claim for “neurodiversity” as demanded by the disability and mad pride movements, and probe the application of this idea to artistic thinking in the context of debates about university reforms and practice-based PhD studies. Initial descriptions of “neuroatypicalities”—especially of visual-based thinking that is supposedly predominant in artists and people with Asperger’s syndrome—will lead us to theories about different intelligences, including language-related nuances in perception processing, showing that the pre-verbal and the pre-conscious are not to be confused. By doing so, I intend to offer an artist’s perspective of the non-verbal structure of Deleuze and Guattari’s desire machines, before subsequently pointing out comparisons between their “unconscious” and other topical cognition theories, scientific findings, and art projects (such as, the Otolith Group’s “Sensitives,” Crary’s daydream, Google’s Deep Dream, new findings on “desire”/the reward system).

It appears that the overall expansion of a consciousness addicted to media and shaped by labour, squeezed into eternal attention and self-awareness, perfectly mirrors the ongoing colonisation through theory that artists are permanently exposed to in the environment of academia and of the apparatuses of public project funding. While claiming to stand by artists when designing artistic research programmes, theorists often actually ignore the artists’ needs, implementing “curriculised” versions of their own fantasies about an ideal artwork and ideology-driven wishes for a certain social function of art. Whereas—with the assemblage being the potential epitome of artistic production strategies—the link between Deleuze and artistic research is obvious, a debate is still missing that connects Deleuze and Guattari’s theories to a more general and also factual-political view of “the last frontier of (un)consciousness,” as one could call the youngest evolutionary shift in the anthropocene that has become even more visible thanks to the Snowden revelations about its techno-governmental preconditions. Regarding these parallels, the artistic research debate might actually profit from zooming out to a macroscopic point of view and co-engaging in the attempt to answer to the question, Where is collective intelligence going and what role is (mass)surveillance taking in that?

Previous versions of this talk were presented at “Compared to What?,” an annual conference of the German Society for Media Sciences (GfM) Vienna, Austria, January 2015 (for abstract see popkongress.de), and at the Inaugural (Rest of the World) Conference of the SLSA (American Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts) and SymbioticA, University of Western Australia, Perth/AUS, October 2015.