On the Concept of Creal: Ethical Promises of a non-Teleological Creative Universal

The French novel Paridaiza (De Miranda 2008a) describes a totalitarian digital duplication of our planet. A small group of rebels subverts the hedonistic-fascist system in which millions of players are imprisoned. The liberators implant a virus within the code of the immersive world in the form of a disruptive signifier. Five combined letters function as the grain of sand in the gears: “Créel,” a portmanteau for créé-réel, “created-real”—therefore “Creal” in English. In a simultaneous essay on Deleuze (De Miranda 2008b), republished in English (De Miranda 2013), the generic term “Creal” qualifies the kind of non-anthropocentric and non-teleological universal proposed by modern process ontologies: “Creal” designates what Deleuze and Guattari (1994) called the “chaosmos” or “plane of immanence,” what Bergson ([1911] 2007) called “duration,” “creative evolution,” or “life,” and what Whitehead ([1929] 1976) called “creativity process,” adding that “creativity is the universal of universals characterizing the ultimate fact.” Castoriadis (1986), faithful to the Pre-Socratic tradition, spoke of the dual unity of “Chaos/Cosmos” (and “Physis/Nomos”) in a two-sided cosmology.

The Creal is not teleological, as it tends to explode in all possible (and virtual) directions. The Creal might be historically post-anthropocentric (coming after Descartes and Hegel), yet it is ontologically pre-anthropocentric and constantly ante-historical (there is an analogy between the Creal and what science today calls dark energy). According to Creal ontologies, humans cannot be said to create fully: they edit, “institutionalise,” coordinate, direct, channel, co-realise, or shape a small portion of Creal. Creal is the dynamic differential core of the flesh of the world, “such stuff as dreams are made on” (Shakespeare, The Tempest 4.1). The less I act or control, the more I am creal—this was the main finding of the surrealists (Alquié 1965). As long as we posit an absolute that is defined as a non-Protagorean and non-teleological constant renewing, we become less inebriated with our overestimated human power to create.

This paper will show how most Creal-cosmologies tend to defend an “agonal” (or agonistic) conception of creation, at the risk of inoculating an essentialised notion of eternal struggle in their ontology. Henri Bergson ([1946] 1992) spoke of cosmic creation as an emotive machine that produces worlds and gods via a constant combat of spirit against matter; for him, the Creal is an “immense efflorescence of unpredictable novelty,” and the Real is the solidified and somewhat zombified side of life. Deleuze and Guattari (1987) spoke of “esprit de corps” as the spirit of seditious plural bodies that constantly decode the binary Real. A world is an agonistic compound of Creal and Real: it is a “creorder” (Nitzan and Bichler 2009).

Yet, precisely because of their intrinsic agonism, Creal-cosmologies contain a clear ethical promise. Here, the rationale shall be Lacanian, following a study (De Miranda 2007) of Lacan’s Ethics of Psychoanalysis (1997): to be sustainable a structure, an order, and a discourse all need a totemic absolute situated at the invisible core of the chain of signifiers. The invisible universal around which realities are constructed maintains their cohesion as an axis mundi. If we accept this to be true, we realise that postmodern attempts to construct durable worlds or communities without an explicit contractual absolute contain a formal fallacy and a political risk. It might be that the only way for polities to avoid the menace of totalitarianisms is to agree by a global social contract on an absolute that shall take the place of less plural and less democratic absolutes. I argue that, logically, creation is the only absolute that can constantly self-destroy and systematically recreate the respect for alterity. The Creal is an ethical absolute, not a scientific one. It can be understood as an open common ground to overcome the general devaluation of postmodernism, the over-evaluation of capital-humanism, and the menace of imperialistic state religions.

In De Miranda’s L’Art d’être libres au temps des automates (the art of freedom in the era of automatons) (2010), an essay on the philosophy of the digital, the term “ordination” defines the form of agency that humans can deploy to order and actualise a zone of Creal. The growing computational protocolisation of societies are not necessarily a threat, and we must continue to facilitate the self-empowerment of “people to come” with active digital literacy. Humans are “ropes over an abyss,” as Nietzsche (1974) said, bridges between Creal and coordinating machines. Our contemporary equivocal position in the middle of a chaotic universal, on one side, and an algorithmic universal, on the other, is our ethical chance: by identifying neither with the Creal nor with any ordered world, we maintain a position as arbitrators in agonal societies. To conclude, I shall propose that “agonistic pluralism,” a political theory inspired by Hannah Arendt ([1958] 1998), might be the most compatible with the Creal hypothesis. As Chantal Mouffe (2000) writes: “While we desire an end to conflict, if we want people to be free we must always allow for the possibility that conflict may appear and to provide an arena where differences can be confronted. The democratic process should supply that arena.” Perhaps, once we remember with Nietzsche, Lacan, Spinoza (Deleuze 1988), or Sade (Lacan 1989) that conflict is but the anthropocentric perceptive on the perpetual and multiple Creal becoming, we might become immature enough to abandon the paradigm of agony and replace it with a Heraclitean idea of childish creative play: “Eternity is a child playing, playing checkers. The kingdom belongs to a child” (Heraclitus quoted in Levenson and Westphal 1994). However, politics are not made by children …

References

Alquié, Ferdinand. 1965. The Philosophy of Surrealism. Translated by Bernard Waldrop. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Arendt, Hannah. (1958) 1998. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bergson, Henri. (1911) 2007. Creative Evolution. Translated by Arthur Mitchell. New York: Macmillan.

—. (1946) 1992. The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics. Translated by Mabelle L. Andison. New York: Citadel Press.

Castoriadis, Cornelius. 1986. Crossroads in the Labyrinth. Translated by Kate Soper and Martin H. Ryle. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1988. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. Translated by Robert Hurley. San Francisco, CA: City Light Books.

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.

De Miranda, Luis. 2007. Peut-on jouir du Capitalisme? Lacan avec Heidegger et Marx. Paris: Punctum.

—. 2008a. Paridaiza. Paris: Plon.

—. 2008b. Une vie nouvelle est-elle possible? Deleuze et les lignes. Paris: Nous.

—. 2010. L’Art d’être libres au temps des automates. Paris: Max Milo.

—. 2013. “Is a New Life Possible? Deleuze and the Lines.” Deleuze Studies 7 (1): 106–52.

Lacan, Jacques. 1989. “Kant with Sade.” Translated by James Swenson. October 51, 55–104.

—. 1997. The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1950–1960. Translated by Dennis Porter. London: Norton.

Levenson, Carl Avren, and Jonathan Westphal. 1994. Reality. Indianapolis: Hackett.

Mouffe, Chantal. 2000. The Democratic Paradox. London: Verso.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1974. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. London: Penguin.

Nitzan, Jonathan, and Shimshon Bichler. 2009. Capital as Power: A Study of Order and Creorder. New York: Routledge.

Whitehead, Alfred North. (1929) 1978. Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology. Edited by David Ray Griffin and Donald W. Sherburne. Corrected ed. New York: Free Press.

No Voice Is Lost

In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari write that “There is always a woman, a child, a bird to secretly perceive the secret. There is always a perception finer than yours, a perception of your imperceptible, of what is in your box.” Our proposition is concerned with the perception of this imperceptible through the practice of the refrain (ritournelle) and how this is able to make visible long-hidden experiences and reunite scattered memories. The core argument is that the ghosts remaining after a catastrophe such as a genocide are still active as long as their role has not been properly worked out. One way of doing so is to let the ghosts speak through the gestures and words of the living, and the way they speak can be described using the notion of refrain, introduced by Deleuze and Guattari. Our project tells the story of Gülizar (1875–1948), an Armenian girl who became a legend during her lifetime because she was abducted by a powerful Kurdish tribe chief as a fourteen-year-old girl, but resisted him and managed to return to her village. Gülizar’s story lives on not only in Armenian communities but also among the Kurdish people living today in the area where she lived, in the Plain of Mush (Eastern Turkey). We have explored different ways of letting her presence be felt, and found that the different versions of her story, from the Armenian or Kurdish oral traditions, formed a territorialising refrain that asked many important questions connecting the unconscious, memory, and the politics of resistance.

The legacy of historical collective traumas has been widely discussed in psychoanalytical contexts. The works of Abraham and Torok, or of Janine Altounian, among many others, have shown that collective traumas can be transmitted through several generations. But this approach is centred on the individual perspective; the collective dimension of the traumas requires an approach to memory free from the individual psychic space and on another plane. On this question, Deleuze and Guattari’s suggestions in the “Refrain” chapter of A Thousand Plateaus, as well as Guattari’s own developments in his Machinic Unconscious, are useful. They understand the notion of refrain as both the intimate and the collective “temporalisation of our relation to landscapes and to the living world”; as such, it seems to be a necessary component of collective memories.

The issue is then on two levels: first it is about bringing a collective unconscious to the foreground; second, it is about mobilising a vivid memory in order to favour social change. The contribution will show the video No Voice is Lost, featuring the memory of Gülizar’s story through the testimonies of different people (Kurds and Armenians) for whom this story is important, along with the landscapes where she lived before 1915. The song (lament) about Gülizar is the refrain able to reconnect the living and the dead with this space, with this landscape, and cast a bridge over the breaches of time.

[terror]tory

[terror]tory is an assemblage of processes that develops portraits of fluid identity; identities that are unravelling and becoming. In his lecture “Subjectivity and Thought in Gilles Deleuze,” Manuel De Landa (2009) describes identity through an analogy: as the matter brought down by a river, layered over time on the ocean floor. This layering refers to habitual routines and repetitive narratives, which become identified with the subject, I am. He points out that the identified—myself or the mountain—also has historical evidence and therefore cannot be reduced to a mere social/linguistic construct. Following De Landa, [terror]tory explores identification as a territorialisation of consciousness, which occurs primarily in an inherited/taught/socialised/genetic way, becoming the bedrock of what identity is based on. In a Spinozan sense, all things are unavoidably the way they are and that which emerges is necessary. However, it seems that the matter that makes the bedrock can prove problematic if, for example, the matter layers on beliefs such as “I’m not good enough.” Apparently this matter cannot be removed physically or psychologically, we are stuck with it, it is “the matter” (as in “what’s the matter?”).

Deleuze points out that beneath these layers of habitual routines and narratives that harden and densify, we find a domain of intensive and volatile magma (desires/will to power), which cause a folding, fracturing, stretching, moving of the matter above it. Psychically he refers to these ruptures/disruptions as states of “delirium” (vertigo, meditation, shock, yoga, breath work, psychedelics) that afford the consciousness glimpses of experiences that support its non-dependence on identity—that consciousness is not what it identifies with. De Landa adds that psychological wellbeing is dependent on a certain amount of stable identity; however, identification becomes arthritic and Spinoza points out that human perception is primarily lodged in an erroneous perception structure mechanism, identifying with what isn’t rather than with what is (I continue to watch sunrises and sunsets, even though I know the earth revolves around the sun!). [terror]try researches methods that can tap into the psychic magma—practices that loosen identity, opening up to new possibilities and creativity.

[terror]tory engages with the following practices as a methodology to catalyse and maintain fluid identity: This methodology is performed by using clothing as the matter of identity. This clothing is personal and owned by the performers. Deterritorialisation occurs by “filleting” a garment, removing the fabric from its seams. This process is a shifting of paradigm from a transcendent, linguistic ontology; it liberates the fabric of being from categories/territories from the map, making the material of identity virtual. Reterritorialisation begins with the fashioning of yarn from the liberated fabric—relating to the matter, eliciting the narrative. These yarns are bound into balls—an introspective cocooning procedure. The balls are gifted to and swapped with others—the exchanging of stories, listening and relating to others. Knitting begins. Sitting with the narratives creatively developing new fabrics of identity that relate to the materiality of being, witnessing and assisting in the emergence of new forms of becoming: sitting with, witnessing, and co-operating with emergent forms in an embodied way. The new material can be unravelled, be gathered, be stretched, and have spaces. All the fabric from the original territory has been used; however, it has changed state.

These processes embody sustainable “delirious” practices: mediation (sitting with), yoga (embodied practice), relating to stories of another. The performance itself becomes a “delirious practice.” As a craftivist work it deliberately uses the politics of gendered spaces and practices as a means of disruption within places and practices—specifically, knitting (female, domestic, personal, unseen, craft, private) in a public/academic (male, intellectual, public, valuable, important, visible) context. Knitting in an academic/public context creates a disorienting juxtaposition, a disruption serving as a delirium to shift consciousness.

Web: terror-tory.blogspot.com; vimeo.com/134178378; vimeo.com/134127764.

References

Manuel De Landa. 2009. “Subjectivity and Thought in Gilles Deleuze.” European Graduate School Video Lectures. 11 videos. Accessed 15 July 2015. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL30032170CD028499.

More Brilliant Than the Past

This is a proposal for a more open and communal approach to dark precursor in the sense of not suggesting a traditional presentation, but rather a production-in-time. On the basis of my experience and editorial/research/textual artistic practice, I propose to “archive” or “protocol” the conference, engaging with what is happening there directly and with the community. The focus will be on one day in particular. The taking account of the “now” may also include looking at the actual surroundings and topography of/around the Orpheus Institute: meteorologies—study of the atmo-sphere . . . which could potentially lead into a piece of printed matter or a virtual resource (score, glossary, poster, semi-fictional account) with the focus on a collective voice rather than my own individual self. An alternative format of what is called conference proceedings?!

Conference participants should be aware of my activity of collecting during the event and of the subsequent piece, which is to be published and made accessible to readers in the conference proceedings. (Former projects can be found there too, to underline my continuing work on printed matter, textualities, and re-formatting formats.)

De-authored production is the natural state of things, for artists, curators, and producers. The idea of authorship in terms of autonomy or ownership is a market term, not a philosophical one. Nothing exists in a void, and that’s why the word process always pops up (or its contemporary synonym, research)—the process of how a community or an idea emerges . . . I think what we do is editing, not publishing. (Eldahab 2011)

Unfolding the connections of the intervention to Deleuze/Guattari here is grounded in expanding the thinking around fabulation, the “act of legending,” and communities—that is, a people to come—essentially to reclaim a space and voice for futurity (the capital of time) as it is trapped in our lives, inextricably linked with the false supremacy of capitalism.

Fabulation is a superior concept because its essence is to activate the “powers of the false,” to falsify orthodox truths in the process of generating emergent truths. To fabulate, in Pierre Perrault’s words, is to “legend in flagrante delicto” (cited in Deleuze 1989, 150; translation modified), and in doing so, to summon forth a ‘people to come’. (Bogue 2011)

Further references to Deleuze and Guattari: there are sensual, methodological, intense–flat, conceptual, diagrammatic, stratigraphic, mad connections emphasised in the way my art research is one among many, whose work is heavily informed by their various elaborations. Recent interest includes specifically Guattari’s legacy in relation to the minor cinema (futurity, animation) and then again, and again, La Borde economies.

The title is a homage to More Brilliant Than the Sun: Adventures in Sonic Fiction by Kodwo Eshun (1998).

References

Bogue, Ronald. 2011. “Deleuze and Guattari and the Future of Politics: Science Fiction, Protocols and the People to Come.” Deleuze Studies 5, supplement: 77–97. Accessed 14 October 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/dls.2011.0038.

ElDahab, Mai Abu. 2011. “Mai Abu in conversation with Will Holder.” In From Berkeley to Berkeley: Objectif Exhibitions, 2008–2010, edited by Mai Abu ElDahab, 10–11. Berlin: Sternberg Press.