Logic of Sens/ation: Two Conflicting Conceptions of Transdisciplinarity in Deleuze and Guattari

Central to Deleuze and Guattari’s theorisations concerning transdisciplinarity, and key   to Deleuze’s ontology, is the problem of communication across a real distinction or difference in kind. The dynamic at stake is the following: this difference cannot be negated or sublated yet there is a way to bypass it nondialectically.

In this paper I propose to tackle a sequence in Deleuze and Guattari’s oeuvre absolutely central to the problematic of aberrant nuptials introduced above: the confrontation between philosophy and art. More specifically, I will be examining two conflicting approaches to this relation in Deleuze’s, and Deleuze and Guattari’s, work and exploring the reasons for this conflict.

The first is to be found in The Logic of Sense (1969), in which Deleuze shows that art— specifically literary nonsense and humour—enables philosophy to reach an understanding of univocal being as a surface ontology comprised of a play of sense and nonsense wherein both disciplines are combined.

After meeting Guattari, Deleuze’s relation to art fundamentally changed. For Deleuze after Guattari, any framework bound to a conception of being that is in some way linguistic is not sufficiently open to the Outside (force, chance). Correlatively, art can open for philosophy a privileged route to the Outside only once it has broken free from the structuralist problematic of sense and nonsense.

With Deleuze’s Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981), we find the anti-structuralist answer to the overly Carrollian Logic of Sense. With the term “Figure,” contrasted to the figurative, Deleuze makes it clear that he is following Lyotard who, in Discourse, Figure (1971), had argued for the irreducibility of the plastic and visual arts to the realm of language.

This irreducibility between art qua logic of sensation and philosophy qua logic of sense  is formalised in Deleuze and Guattari’s What is Philosophy? (1991). Here they distinguish between the philosophical “plane of immanence”—now decidedly a non-linguistic plane (contra the “plane of reference” of logic)—and the aesthetic “plane of composition,” which is discussed primarily with reference to the plastic and visual arts (rather than literature).

Thanks to Deleuze’s late engagement with Leibniz in The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (1988), Deleuze and Guattari differentiate in 1991 between the event’s actualisation in  a state of affairs by a denoting proposition (logic), its counter-actualisation by philosophy, and its aesthetic realisation in “a body, a life.” The event is counter-actualised or actualised in philosophy and logic, but it is realised only in art.

As the discipline that formalises-constructs sensation, and thus the one most familiar with the real experience of the body, art most directly encounters the Outside of force and chance imprinted via sensation. Yet with Deleuze’s “Immanence: A Life” (1995), he problematises this a final time: art’s embodied and lived logic of sensation must combine with philosophy’s plane of immanence of thought to attain the absolute—immanence: a life—as both transdisciplinary and psycho-physical disjunctive synthesis.

Bare Your Self Naked for Creation. Notes on Impersonality, the Encounter and a Body for a Life

In works before A Thousand Plateaus (2005), such as The Logic of Sense (1990), Gilles Deleuze stresses the importance of the impersonal as the dimension one must reach to counter-effectuate the Event. Impersonal, or neutrality, is a characteristic of singularities and of the Event. Although Deleuze never relates the Event to an experience, regarding experience as an event is our answer to such a question as the becoming-imperceptible or the radical affirmation of any body as a haecceity. Impersonality is a way of allowing the becoming. However, there seems to be a misuse of the notion of becoming as a process of  deconstruction or transformation, underlining or enforcing the self  instead  of dismantling it. Patricia MacCormack’s defence in ‘Multi-Dimensional Modifications’ (2011) of the lizard-man and the cat-man, as bodies both in-between and becoming, is such a misuse. Their attempts as well as those of body art practitioners to overcome the Self and a subjectivity through excess and extreme emphasis of turning all bodies “as aesthetic events which can experience and are experienced through zones or folds of proximity” falls on the field of mimesis and representation, as they inflate subjectivity and a fixed Self.

Turning the body into an event calls for a requestioning of an ethico-aesthetic êthos, one that seeks to free life through the creation of encounters, and a radical depersonalisation of the self. This depersonalisation or impersonality, understood as an elimination process of subjectivities and selves determined by the socius, follows Deleuze’s Bartleby’s (1993) three characteristics, plus one: a trait of expression, a zone of indeterminacy, a fraternal function, and a subjective-significative nudity. This is a fundamental dismantlement through a “leap of the will,” to achieve that composition in which we are a life in the same immanent plane as everything that composes Nature. This is an impersonality towards life and creation (close to asceticism), one could argue, that is opposed to an imposed depersonalisation of death and destruction (close to the death camps’ bare life).

Nevertheless, for a body to become the event that it is—that is, a body for a life—one  must also address art’s territory. First as an encounter (an ethic-aesthetic realm), which can produce what we call the space of the Event, following the idea of taking extra-daily practices and techniques into daily life.  Art  is  too  mediated/mediatic  and  mediates  too much (perceptions and experiences). It is often a stance for the production of the monolithic Self. To release both Life and Art, affects and percepts, from their shackles, one must avoid and produce actions and situations evading the alienation and fetishism of forces and close the gap of mediation between the subject and object of experience. Hence, we propose to rethink Hakim Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zones (1994), as a possibility of how to deterritorialise and produce encounters in daily life. A practice of immediatism: creation happening outside Art.

The Minor Actor: The Composing Plane of Performative Bodies

Whereas Deleuze’s engagement was to follow “aberrant movements” through literature, painting, thinking, and so on, he never explored such movements in the theatre. This    is probably because he did not like theatre, as he recognised himself. However, certain specific practices—such as Carmelo Bene’s minor theatre, or The Exhausted in Beckett’s work, and intensity as described by Artaud—served his thinking. My ongoing research in the field of performing arts aims to reflect the contemporary scene from the perspective of performers’ bodies. It does so by trying to track traces of a quality that I will call the minor actor, which derives from a minor author, a minor literature, a minor theatre. These are certainly not adjectives but rather operations, procedures within macro structures. The performing arts were for a long time the ground for imitation and reproduction but are increasingly moving to other forms of play that refer more to the emergence of presence instead of representation. This research brings an overview through bodies (understood also as a voice) as the matter of expression, trying to map connections and subversions that can make zones of indeterminacy emerge. “There are animal-becomings of man which do not consist in playing the dog or the cat, since man and the animal only meet on the trajectory of  a common but asymmetrical deterritorialization.” Although, the art of being onstage recurs constantly to a kind of  virtuosity, the technique appears as both  a weapon and a trap. It is necessary to subvert the technique to make it a piece for an expressive machine.

I believe that, as in minor literature, “the problem is not that of being free but of finding a way out.” What kind of violence is necessary to bring alive the moment of “presentation,” where performers can find the way out? How could they capture the forces of an animal, as the irrefutable presence of a furious creature? More head, less face; greater instinct, less intention; more procedures, fewer characters. The minor actor is an occurrence not    a subject: a zone of  indiscernibility between the human and the animal; a relevance    for the skin while we work over the flesh. The “actor” rescues its original meaning: one who acts, who can put in movement. The “minor” derives from a procedure that is always collective, politic, subversive, inaugural, where the critic is an operation not an opinion, where we can find alliances instead of filiations. The double capture occurs in the zone of indeterminacy between the performer and his or her becoming, between the training and the fact, between the matter (the body) and the expression, between the virtuosity and the violence. The research is impelled to extend Deleuze’s work of demonstrating, capturing, and analysing aberrant movements. However, the risk of doing this takes place in a very sensitive field: performative bodies in rehearsal rooms and scenes through specific cases. When it is possible, we track traces of a double capture, to mark an outline of performers’ ways out.

Locative Media Sound Walks: Connecting Nomadism with Contemporary Geolocated Flânerie and Open Source Practices

Soundwalking is a practice that encourages conscious listening and interaction with the sound environment in a non-linear and improvisational manner. There is a theoretical relevancy with “promenadology” and Benjamin/Baudelaire’s flânerie, as the user/listener is invited to wander through an “aurally augmented” urban environment. The result establishes rhizomatic maps and lines of sound/audio walks relevant to the city, as perceived and aurally captured by the artist. The practice of soundwalking suggests wandering new routes, thus questioning linear urban planning, and uses field research and sound recording and their juxtaposition to escape from the model of the “panoramic city,” which is mostly perceived visually.

Most soundwalks and geo-located sound installations use open-source platforms that combine locative media (GPS) with music/sound/performative compositions by applying them to a region’s map. The artist’s and the listener’s function often coincide, both in cases where the sound is recorded while crossing the area and in those cases where the path chosen by the walker/listener determines the artistic result.

In this paper I will attempt to connect the concept of “nomadism,” as introduced and explained by Deleuze and Guattari, with contemporary artistic practices of sound walks, site-specific sound compositions, and geo-located sound interventions in urban public space by juxtaposing the principles of nomad art with those of open-source platforms and flânerie.

As Deleuze and Guattari (1980) imply, many social activities, including art, can constitute a war machine drawing “a plane of consistency, a creative line of flight, a smooth place of displacement” (ibid., 423) by reforming or acting against dominant systems and/or practices (ibid., 500). In the case of soundwalking, nomadism does not apply by suggesting fleeing the city but by proposing wandering as resistance to its confined and bordered space (Deleuze 1985, 149): in these soundscape compositions, narratives prevail, communities acquire space and voice, buildings are not mere subjects for sightseeing tours, the city is not a collection of historical information but a space to aurally, artistically, and socially wander within the micro-frames of which this space rhizomatically consists. Music and narrative as tools, leave behind ethnography, documentary, score, concert halls, museums, and institutions and become pliable materials, fragments of a living organism, of a city-score whose music is made by and is addressed to people. Actually the notions of nomadism and war machine apply here “as a war of becoming over being, of the sedentary over the nomadic” (Deuchars 2011, 3).

Departing from the distinction of audio walks, sound walks and listening walks, I will connect these contemporary artistic practices with the Deleuzian notion of rhizome and nomadism in order to indicate how the sound routes of wandering create experiential, non-dichotomous relations between public space and people that inhabit it or cross it, and how this process is a becoming-art through the inclusion of lines of flight and soft spots that converse with displaced artistic tools and site specific sound representations.


Deleuze, Gilles. 1985. “Nomad Thought.” In The New Nietzsche: Contemporary Styles of Interpretation, edited by David B. Allison, 142–49. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1980. Mille Plateaux. Paris: Editions de Minuit.

Deuchars, Robert. 2011. “Creating Lines of Flight and Activating Resistance: Deleuze and Guattari’s War Machine.” Seminar at the Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand.