The Politics of Intimate Grammar: A Literary Symptomatology of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

This presentation is part of an emergent, larger research project of founding an experimental “literary clinic,” which studies a diverse body of literary works as both clinical symptoms of and critical interventions in the ongoing experience of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The project takes its cue from Deleuze’s approach to literature, and offers a dynamic theoretical practice that constantly revises and invents the concepts it employs to read literature. By attending both to specific effects and lived contexts of the literary work, the literary clinic strives to engender critical readings that question and explore the uses of literature for life and of theory for literature in the reality of the Israeli Occupation.

Deleuze states that “literature begins only when a third person is born in us that strips us of the power to say ‘I’” (1997, 3), and that “narcissism in authors is odious” (1995, 134). Should we assume that Deleuze precludes the possibility that the “I” could function as a means of political resistance and express the revolutionary demand of the people to come? This paper argues that we may conclude otherwise once Deleuze’s approach to literature is plugged into the literary machine of David Grossman, a contemporary Israeli author, whose works will be presented here as both symptomatic maps of the illnesses of the Occupation and critical minoritarian experimentations that resist the majoritarian Israeli “state grammar”—the current dominant expressive mechanism of Israeli culture whose constructions of reality function as means for legitimising and justifying the Occupation.

In the framework of the literary clinic, the aim of this paper is therefore twofold: (1) to delineate a form of writing the “I” as a strategy of resistance to state grammar, hence as an artistic research practice that both critically rethinks the Israeli oppression and creatively fabricates (through language) an alternative vision of life. By reading Deleuze with Grossman’s novel The Book of Intimate Grammar (first published 1991), this paper will show how the intimate grammar of writing the “I”—effected by the becoming-child of the author and the becoming-imperceptible of the character—not only undermines the negative logic of enmity that dominates the Israeli state grammar but also transforms and politicises the expressive power of the literary first person, with its newly discovered capabilities of seeing and knowing reality. (2) To offer a preliminary conceptualisation of “reading-with” as a creative practice (and in this sense “artistic”), in contrast to “reading-through” as a practice of interpretation that subjects the literary work to already established criteria and values. By outlining three aspects of “reading with”—onto-methodological, ethical, and political—this paper will describe the potential uses of Deleuze’s philosophy for a dynamic literary theory; one that is committed to critically evaluating its concepts and procedures, as well as to constantly experimenting with its capacity to produce diverse practices of reading in changing contexts.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1995. Negotiations 1972–1990. Translated by Martin Joughin. New York: Columbia University Press.

—. 1997. Essays Critical and Clinical. Translated by Daniel W. Smith and Michael A. Greco. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Grossman, David. 2010. The Book of Intimate Grammar. Translated by Betsy Rosenberg. London: Vintage Books.

Refusing Movement/S: Reflections on the “Intra-Actions” of Current Social Movements and Art

Anybody who stands still in a forward-moving crowd is just as big a hindrance as if he moved against the crowd. (Robespierre in Büchner’s Danton’s Death)

 

On 17 June 2013, the very day the Turkish government prohibited demonstrations in Istanbul in reaction to the occupation of Gezi Park, Erdem Gündez, a Turkish artist and activist, became, what is now known as one of the most prominent “figures” of the Gezi Park movement, namely the “standing man.” Simply standing in the middle of Taksim square, facing the Atatürk Cultural Centre, not moving, not shouting, not doing anything but standing there for hours. At first his presence went unnoticed, but after some time more and more people not only were interested but also joined Gündez until the police banished them from the square and arrested a number of people. The “standing man” was a performance as well as a political act, criticising the prohibition of demonstrations, demonstrating without actually “demonstrating” in a classical way. Similar to Bartleby’s “I would prefer not to” the “standing man” refuses to move. Sharing a similar immobility with many characters in Beckett’s work, the standing man also creates a territory, changing the space around him; “in their trash can or on their bench, Beckett’s characters stake out a territory” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 503). Like a standing wave or a wheel that turns so fast it looks as though it does not turn at all, the “standing man” is characterised by intensity and not by speed or extensity.

The activists squatting public squares do something very similar. In building tents, in actually living on the square, they don’t follow the rules set by the government; they don’t behave as they are told to. They are not passengers, passing the street; rather, they stand still and therefore block traffic and disturb the public policy, thereby staking out a territory. Again their actions are not characterised by speed but rather by intensity, as showcased by a slogan the Spanish 15M movement created: “We’re going slow, because we’re going far.” Modifying this slogan one could propose: we’re refusing movement, because we are a movement.

In the first part of my paper I will discuss the “standing man” and other artistic projects and their manifold “intra-actions” (Barad and Kleinmann 2012) with social movements. Drawing on these artistic practices as processes of intensity—a resisting and at the same time creative force—I will argue against current popular theories of acceleration, which promote speed over intensity. In the second part I want to explore the shared processes of “fabulation” in the “intra-actions” of political art and political practices and to what degree these fabulations are nonutopian attempts to constitute what Deleuze calls “the people to come.”

Creating not only new modes of thinking but also new modes of acting politically, art plays an important role in current social movements and the creation of new strategies of protest. As Deleuze states in the famous interview with Toni Negri: “Art is resistance.”

References

Barad, Karen, and Adam Kleinmann. 2012. “Intra-actions”. Karen Barad interviewed by Adam Kleinmann. Mousse 34: An issue about dOCUMENTA 13, 9 June: 76–81. Also available at www.academia.edu/1857617/_Intra-actions_Interview_of_Karen_Barad_by_Adam_Kleinmann.

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

Who Interprets?

Beginning with David Stromberg’s recording of Helmut Lachenmann’s Pression, I ask the question: who interprets?

Operating within a conventional understanding, one would say that David Stromberg interprets Pression. This understanding indicates that interpretation marks the individual subject. However, it could also be said that Lachenmann reinterprets the instrument–body complex, bringing this complex into a new orientation of expressive structures through extended techniques of notation and cello playing. It is not simply a question of the performing subject interpreting the score but also of the performing body itself interpreted by systems of notation.

Taking Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche as a starting point, I will argue that performance does not have to be organised around the interpreting subject. As Deleuze (1983) describes, the “will to power” is not a “who” but a force of creation. A current that runs through The Logic of Sensation is that invisible forces manifest themselves on the body: “Bacon’s bodies, heads, Figures are made of flesh, and what fascinates him are the invisible forces that model flesh or shake it” (Deleuze 2003, xi).

Borrowing from Deleuze’s conceptual framework, I argue that “technique” cannot be thought of as co-extensive with the body’s movements—simply instrumental in conveying the performer’s “interpretation.” Rather, I argue that Deleuze’s philosophy allows one to reappropriate technique as a structuring entity (or invisible force) that plays across the body, without falling into a hylomorphic scheme in which form is distinguished from matter. Technique is never present; it is not an appendage; it is not co-extensive with the material body or the psychological subject.

It is easier to say what technique is not than what it is. However, again in line with Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche, I argue that technique should be spoken of in terms of becoming, not being. Technique is continually developing in relation to different modes of articulating music: as we have seen, Lachenmann’s notation is one example of composition reinterpreting the body and technique. However, many technical treatises—from Pierre Baillot’s violin treatise to Gerhard Mantel’s cello manual to the acoustics research of the bassist Knut Guettler—can be thought of as critical reinterpretations of the body, affecting and indeed becoming part of the technical assemblage.

I will argue that a critical and theoretical language about technique that incorporates Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy might allow us to describe performance on its own terms, aesthetically and formally independent (and yet co-dependent) from (and with) composition. The work of Mantel and Guettler treats technique as an independent object of study shifting between the phenomenological and the empirical. This research values technique in a fundamentally different manner from its treatment as a means of expressing an “interpretation” of musical compositions.

Guettler and Mantel work with technical bodies as machinic assemblages, developing a bodily calculus in line with Deleuze and Guattari’s “minor science”: “This science is characterized less by the absence of equations than by the very different role they play: instead of being good forms absolutely that organize matter, they are ‘generated’ as ‘forces of thrust’ by the material, in a qualitative calculus of the optimum” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 364–65). Guettler and Mantel introduce knowledge about the body, but a knowledge that is inseparable from material action. This knowledge follows the indeterminacies of the technical body’s programmed action, disrupting (to different degrees) the methodologies of “royal science.” It is of note here that differences in valuing and observing the technical component of musical practice led to propose radical revisions to the structure of conservatory education, demonstrating the close relationship of material practice, aesthetics, and politics.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1983. Nietzsche and Philosophy. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson. New York: Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 2003. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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

Guettler, Knut. 1992. A Guide to Advanced Modern Double Bass Technique. London: Yorke Edition.

Mantel, Gerhard. 1995. Cello Technique: Principles and Forms of Movement. Translated by Barbara Haimberger Thiem. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Deleuze’s Philosophy of Cinema: Reflections on Subjectivity, Images, and Visual Artworks

In “Die Zeit des Weltbildes” Heidegger (1938) describes the modern age as the time when the world first became a “world-image.” At the origin of this shift lies a complex relation between the self, reality, and its representation. By ascribing to subjectivity a foundational role, philosophers such as Descartes and Kant transformed reality into a representation, thus turning the world into a world-image. Hence they gave philosophical grounding to what can be called a representational conception of the image. The outcomes of this conception are still visible today, as questions concerning the nature of images and their relation to representation are gaining an increased attention, in both philosophy and art history (Strehle 2011, 507; Bottici 2014, 2). In the present paper, the conception of the image is investigated at the threshold between philosophy and art. Focusing on Deleuze’s analysis of the role of time in cinema, this paper argues that Deleuze develops a conception of the image beyond the representational framework. The argument of the paper should be articulated in two steps. First, I outline what exactly I mean by the representational concept of the image. Rather than analysing the works of any particular philosopher, I focus on a celebrated painting of the Italian Renaissance entirelly based on central perspective: the mysterious Cittá ideale, which portrays a utopian vision of the city of Urbino. Following the recent work of art historian Hans Belting, I suggest that particular features of the central perspective anticipated the modern concepts of subjectivity and representation. Then I move to consider Deleuze’s reflections on cinema. Here I shall focus on Deleuze’s analysis of “opsigns” and “sonsigns” in Italian neo-realism and the related concept of the crystal image. By presenting purely optical and sound situations in which no action is involved, opsigns and sonsigns place time at the centre of the cinematic image (Deleuze 1989, 2). Following Deleuze, I suggest that time here is to be understood as being both pre-subjective and pre-objective. It is the time of pure memory, constantly split within a virtual and an actual side, pre-existing the conscious life of any particular subject (Deleuze 1989, 53). Such time finds expression in the crystal image, in which actual and virtual sides of the image are merged (Deleuze 1989, 69). Through an analysis of the crystal, I show how Deleuze presents a concept of the image beyond the categories of subjectivity and representation. I conclude by drawing some consequences of this concept for both philosophy and visual arts.

Beside the painting Cittá ideale, I will make reference to the following visual works to illustrate some points: De Sica’s Ladri di Biciclette (1948), Pasolini’s Accattone (1961), Andrei Tarkovsky’s Mirror (1975), and Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark (2002).

 

References

Bottici, Chiara. 2014. Imaginal Politics: Images Beyond Imagination and the Imaginary. New York: Columbia University Press

Deleuze, Gilles. 1989. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Heidegger, Martin. 1938. “Die Zeit des Weltbildes.” In Gesamtausgabe I. Band 5 Holzwege. Frankfurt am Main: Viktorio Klostermann.

Strehle, Samuel. 2011. “Hans Belting: ‘Bild-Antropologie’ als Kulturtheorie der Bilder.” In Kultur: Theorien der Gegenwart, edited by Stephan Moebius and Dirk Quadflieg, 507–18. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.