Photogenesis: Brokering World

From their inception, the nexus of practices that later became named photography were characterised as being the production of images “impressed by Nature’s hand.” It was a technology seemingly without want of human agency—albeit one where the earliest full proclamation of photography, published by Henry Talbot in a scurry to claim the priority of his “art of photogenic drawing” following Daguerre’s earlier announcement in January 1839, is replete with the reconstruction of human agency: a reflection back in time, documenting Talbot’s discovery of the photogenetic after the event. Precisely such after- the-eventness fully centred in photography’s historiography gives the lie to it as a natural medium, while simultaneously being the very process of making the past present again. It is Talbot’s claims for priority in a radically new technology that fractures the history of representation that he retraces on post hoc reflection. That is, his reconstruction of the paths to his discovery emulates the very character of the technology that leaves residues that may be traced back to an originary juncture—what I call the photogenetic event of image. This temporal singularity, actualised in a condensed spatial form (the image), is then stretched in durational trajectory as a time capsule of the past that constantly recurs in the present. The photographic in general appears to us visually as the totality of these (amassed) residues—a recording of world that accumulates after the event. This is, after all, what we see first in the immediacy of the billions of images we now produce: the optical visibility of seemingly automatised technique: mostly banal, unary, mundane. Yet, it is my argument that the photographic also renders visible something other than that which it pictures whether iconically, indexically, or symbolically. In its very make-up, the photograph does more than represent the world; it manifests the photogenetic event:   it makes visible, it actualises flows of difference, bringing the world into image form. In this rendition of photography, then, the trite, calcified image is folded over the erudite image through which we learn about how such islands of meaning—each time-machine that the photograph is—stretch archipelago-like through time and space as a shifting, moving mass of  sensation that is both a topography of  miniature zones of  intensity  and a physical form of signalisation. The photographic radically shifts from an inductive technique, representing the world, to a first virtual medium intervening in making the world as image.

In Towards a Philosophy of Photography (2000), Vilém Flusser suggests that authentic, magical images—a visual form of the Real—were first demystified by a regime of text tying them to explication, then to be superseded by technical images (photographs) that functioned in a radically different way: rather than replace traditional images with reproductions, technical images displace them and, rather than make hermetic texts comprehensible, they distort them by translating scientific statements and equations into states of things, i.e. images.

Technical images, then, “absorb the whole of history and form a  collective  memory going endlessly round in circles.” They replace a “prehistoric ritualization” that operates myths “with a new kind of  magic,  i.e.  the  programmed  kind.”  Flusser’s  reading  of  the programmation of image is essentially pessimistic: a Frankfurtian gesture that commiserates the loss of the authentic track to experience in an image-to-world relation that is dependent on a mis-representation that in any case can only occur under a regime of representation. Significantly, Flusser’s circularity locks photography into a chain of signalisation that never gets outside itself, that never has an end meaning, exactly as   we now experience in the proliferation of image that does not just inhabit our world but habitats it.

Where Flusser yokes the photograph to a misreading of its technical base, Deleuze latches it to a different shortcoming in his complex ontology of image: in a chameleonic bluff, he dismisses what he sees as the calcified “dreary” signifier (Deleuze and Guattari, AThousand Plateaus) of the fixed photograph, while paradoxically celebrating an observance of the cinematographic photogram as the singular entity that sits at the base of a complex grammar in time-based media. For Deleuze, it was the beguiling movement of the cinema—its subsequent asymmetrical divisibility into the registers of telic movement- image and ontic time-image—that distracted his attention away from the photogram qua photogram. Crucially, my claim is, then, that an alluring ontological territory constituting a particularly subjective elasticity of time and an objective fixity of space, what I am calling the photogene—an actualisation of virtual multiplicities and differences that circulate in the technical diagram constituting the photogenic event—was overlooked by Deleuze, and to a great extent has been overlooked by Deleuze scholarship.

Photography is not merely the overarching technicalisation of the stream of images: a utopia gone wrong—as Flusser might argue. Nor are those images each just a singular point in a visual rendition of the already given and fixed world—as Deleuze claims. Rather, a single technical image is one of  a myriad of  potential forms that only emerges from    a flux in a virtual domain when actualised as a unary surface image. Internal to this genetic process of becoming, the photogene as a registering of time cuts synthetically into our world to generate a medium-specific signalisation that at essence undoes our configurations of the myth of the representational image. For photographs are more than a sedimentation of image that sit on the world, referring to the world, a kind of shingle that lays on top, a map. Rather, as real enfoldings of the virtual and actual, they are territories that activate an intensity of affects in the subject that are micro-becomings or image- forms of the plasticity of time realised as space. Thus, the photogene is both an external, technological concretisation of temporal and spatial dimensions, and an emergence of our coming into being—subjectification—through a particular modality of signalisation. Thus, laying photography open to the virtual, to multiplicity, to a rhizomatic nature, allows a thinking of the affective in photogenetic zones of intensity, engages with temporal dislodgment, and determines the event of photogenesis, the photogenetic moment as differentiation actualised. And it can go further than that: by taking photography as a model of genetic signalisation rather than representation, it is possible to indeed think photographically in modes and media that in their actual specificity are non-photographic, but in their virtual practices fold adjacent to the diagram of photography. This extension from a critique of classical photographic theory to an eradication of a specific, subject- centred, willed human agency in artistic practice is one form of posthuman discourse that recuperates Deleuze and  Guattari’s  notion  of  affects  and  percepts  independent  of a human subject at play in the “being of the sensible.” Finally, then, plateaus of the circulation of sensation that render photogenic, performance and built worlds uncannily incommensurate will be explored in this paper by considering a triangulation of the physical text/sculptural performance work of Sophie Jung, the viral/virtual/actual assemblages of Andreas Angelidakis, and the conceptual photogenetic moment.

Mouldworks: An Art Rhizomatic Inquiry into Haecceities in Material (and) Thought

Conducting an art-philosophical inquiry into the Polish neo-avant-garde artist Marek Konieczny and his mobilisation of Polish Baroque, I have embarked on what Simon O’Sullivan calls “art rhizomatics.” O’Sullivan (2006, 36–37) defines “a rhizomatics of art” as a mode of art writing that attends to the researcher’s particular enfoldment in the world and resonates with the art objects themselves. My art rhizomatics is an immanent research practice that generates new worlds parallel to Konieczny’s artworks themselves. For “Dark Precursor” I would like to extend this practice further to include experimentation with Deleuze-Guattarian thought, namely the concept of haecceity.

Mouldworks seeks to explore the resonance between haecceity and the materiality of mould as it emerges from my particular experience of living as an immigrant in a Dublin bedsit and researching the art of the 1970s and the Baroque amid Ireland’s newly resurgent property bubble and its attendant vectors of gentrification, the debate about the shape of the new multicultural Ireland, and the influx of refugees.

Deleuze and Guattari (2005, 261) define haecceity as “a mode of individuation distinct from that of a thing or a subject” epitomised by “a season.” They posit haecceities as a set of coordinates, “the sum total of the material elements belonging [to a body] under given relations of movement and rest, speed and slowness (longitude); the sum total of the intensive affects it is capable of . . . (latitude).” Many commentators have emphasised the individual, yet impersonal nature of haecceities (Young 2013, 153).

Mouldworks explores migrating mould colonies as a diagram of heterogeneous force relations penetrating both the molecular and the social planes. Notoriously unwieldy—in a state of constant asexual reproduction and vibrating across diverse milieus—mould spores affect in unpredictable ways, secreting diverse colours, textures, and distribution patterns. Therefore, they can be considered haecceities.

Rather than develop gigantic land art projects like those by Robert Smithson, my particular longitude offers the infinitesimal realm of mould as my field of operation. Inhaling Dublin mould every day, I think about the iconic photography of Roman Vishniac who turned away from the documentation of diaspora cultures to embrace photomicroscopy, therefore revealing diaspora as a haecceity.

Mouldworks attempts to register the diasporic haecceities by putting into mutual resonance a series of staged photographic images of humanoid figures draped in black velvet, set against Dublin’s iconic open-sea bathing places, and a video documentation of a mould removal procedure performed with a silicon cutter. The Baroque drapery with its many folds introduces perceptual instability associated with haecceities, whereas the sea is haunted by the threat of migrant invasions as well as waterborne powers of contamination.

References

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 2005. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.

O’Sullivan, Simon. 2006. Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought Beyond Representation. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Young, Eugene B. 2013 “Haecceity.” In The Deleuze and Guattari Dictionary, edited by Eugene B. Young with Gary Genosko and Janell Watson, 153. New York: Bloomsbury.

Deleuze and the Paintings

When the so-called performative turn in the arts appeared in the 1960s, it seemed that painting, and in particular figurative painting, has been carried finally to its grave—an end that has often been announced since the emergence of photography and, later, the emergence of abstraction.

Therefore, it comes as a surprise that Gilles Deleuze chooses Francis Bacon, a so-called figurative painter, to describe the power of painting. In Portrait of Lucien Freud on Orange Couch (1965) we see two large areas of colour, and a sitting figure in the middle; this figure is not just anyone, but another figurative painter: Lucien Freud. His face and hands are blurred, deformed, unrecognisable.

For Deleuze the performativity or the power of painting does not exist in the rush from figurative to abstract painting, but in the transfer from visual dogma—whereby paintings have merely existed to be seen—into a haptic sensation (Deleuze 2003, 155). “Haptic” doesn’t mean the tactile sense only but, in reference to the ancient Greek háptein, a general fleshly being-touched (Deleuze 2003, 122–23; Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 492–99).

The process of paintings becoming haptic is accompanied, as I want to show in my lecture, by two crucial aspects. First, there is a shift in the classic distinction of form and content to form as force. There exists no empty canvas because everyone’s canvases are always already covered by clichés, representational images, and well-established relationships; namely, by an inherited image of thought that shapes us. To overcome it and create something new it’s necessary for the painter “to erase, to clean, to flatten, even to shred, so as to let in a breath of air from the chaos” (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 204). In the act of painting, forms and clichés have to be attacked to provoke forces. Second, the form as force is possible not only for abstract painting but also—and perhaps especially—for figurative painting. Bacon’s portrait of Freud is indeed a figurative portrait, but one that has abandoned its representational character by showing that the form is always already an assemblage of formless forces. What intervenes here is the diagram: it confuses figurative forms and turns them into an isolated figure (Deleuze 2003, 157) without figurative, narrative, and illustrative character (Deleuze 2003, 2). A multiplicity of forces is created by the act of painting itself.

My lecture should not be a theoretical approach to paintings. In contrast, the starting point of thinking will be the aisthesis of concrete projected pictures, in order to involve the audience in the act of painting: being affected by pictures, getting part of a picture, destroying its clichés, its figurative forms, becoming a figure. The process of becoming haptic will thus be practiced in a performative manner in the lecture itself as a mode of artistic research.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 2003. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith. London: Continuum.

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

—. 1994. What is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press.

When Cinema Stills

Cinema and photography are forms of figurative expression based on time. Cinema’s root is the register of movement and duration; the capture of an instant and its continuity in time is the founding principle of photography. When the constituent elements of cinema and photography are placed in contact, the capacity of a film image is revealed as a form that shows us time in its foundation.

We want to display, through Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy, how the collision between moving and still image inside the cinematic form suggests non-chronological dimensions of time, which assist us to go deep into the experience of its perception.

There are several ways through which bring us closer to the photographic and cinematic experience of time: the snapshot of a moment that is part of a development, the register of a duration throughout the performance of a movement, the inscription of memory and recollection inside the discourse, the time of reading and the time of the act of realisation. All of the above, through mechanical capture, the allusion to it or its subjective perception, are forms of aesthetic delight.

Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy of cinema and his conceptual tools are useful to understand how this capacity of images is developed. The key terms of this analysis are “image-time,” “pure optical situations,” and, especially, “crystal-image.”

Still and moving images show us time in its foundation and place ourselves inside the denyal that cinema is always developed in the present and that chronological time is a spatial deployment.

We will try to make an epistemological and phenomenological approach that comes from the collision of still and moving images. Our approach runs through the study of the inclusion of the constituent element of cinema—the still image—in its discourse. Thus, we consider this fact as a source of knowledge in the study of the image. The stillness of an image produces tenses, which are not printed in the discourse. When these tenses are embraced, they help the spectator to create a more active and less guided perception of the events. For this purpose, we will refer to three films, which show this dialectic in different ways: Les plages d’Agnès (directed by Agnès Varda, 2008), Tren de sombras (directed by José Luis Guerín, 1997) and Alice in den Städten (directed by Wim Wenders, 1974). In these examples, cinema is reflected on itself through the relation between the illusion of movement and the act of showing its basic genetic element, the photography or photogram. This is done by the deconstruction of the form, which leads to distancing and therefore to the rejection of representation forms based on transparency. Cinema looks at itself and reveals its mechanism through which its own realities are created. In this way cinematographic art develops new spaces and new perceptions to unfold reality as a new matter.

To accomplish successfully our premises, we decided to develop the main part of our research through a visual essay. This clash between moving images, still images, and our discourse leads us to go deeper into our artistic research as a filmmaker. Thus, after this research we have made two short film essays, which crash still images, moving images, and sound into one another (https://vimeo.com/128908099).