The Artist as a Child: Becoming a Self-Propelling Wheel

This  paper elicits an encounter between artists and children by exploring the role of the latter in Deleuze’s philosophy, where they become creators, thinkers, and experimenters. Deleuze has claimed that artists say what children say; in some sense, both create trajectories and becomings, engage in cartographic activity, and trace out a dynamic, intensive map of desires. And they ceaselessly talk about these explorations and adventures (children, at least). Children’s maps are populated by different milieus which they traverse on their journeys and in which their unconsciouses are invested, juxtaposing the real and the imaginary and bringing about a becoming, a zone of proximity and indiscernibility where they no longer distinguish themselves from what they are encountering. The artist’s maps are quite different, recreating trajectories of the imagination, outlining vast distances from the most immobile and confined scenes, and also evoking real voyages, either actual or virtual, and not necessarily experienced by the artists themselves.

I argue that the two do not exactly operate simultaneously, but in fact the artist performs a complex repetition of the cartographic activities initiated effortlessly and regularly by children throughout their voyages, in which they draw lively, dynamic maps, both real and imaginary, extensive and intensive, that are a function of their very movements and the trajectories that are formed. In other words, there is a becoming-child in art that is in a constant state of unfolding. What I wish to explore is a possible communication and engagement between two kinds of becoming—the becoming child of the artist and the many becomings of the boy and the girl, occurring under a single childhood-block that undoes the distinctions between adults and children by releasing dormant child-particles from the grown artist and active ones from the child.

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche famously presents  the  three  metamorphoses  of the spirit: it becomes a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion a child. The child, claims Zarathustra, is innocence, forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelling wheel, a first movement, a sacred Yes.

I  argue  that  Deleuze  takes  this  formulation  literally  and  evokes  real  children  in his philosophy of immanence and affirmation, particularly in The Logic of Sense, in which the child appears to be a conceptual persona formed in the image of Lewis Carroll’s Alice. Deleuze shows how Carroll traces the little girl’s trajectory from the abyss to the surface of language in order to create the adventures and becomings of Alice in Wonderland. Alice and Carroll can therefore serve as an example of how the artist follows the movements and becomings of a child and repeats them to discover his or her own becomings.

I unfold the encounter between the artist and the child in three stages: First I examine the logic of the voyage favoured by children, in which even the most trivial events are dramatised and raised to a transcendental level, charging the unconscious with affects and intensities that spur their cartographic abilities. I also examine how this logic is employed in plastic arts, in what ways artists form their own dynamic, movement-based maps in their work, and how these two practices of mapping coincide and differ in their inciting of the actual, the virtual, and the imaginary.

In the second stage I introduce two little girls, the one who is climbing to the surface     of language in The Logic of Sense (sens), experiencing and experimenting with the very genesis of sense; and Lewis Carroll’s Alice, whose adventures are a becoming-child of Carroll himself.

In the third stage I provoke another encounter, between Nietzsche and the child, by imagining the latter as the over-human (Übermensch), the artist-player who is already reaching another kind of sensibility, outside morality and judgement, a true antichrist in a constant state of becoming.

Geomusic, Ecosophy and Molecular Oscillators

The thrust of both Deleuze and Guattari’s thought on music is ecosophic, in that it treats music as a component within a process of chaosmic symbiogenesis whose aim is the deterritorialisation of the ritournelle and the creation of a new people and a new earth.  A Thousand Plateaus develops the concept of the ritournelle and its relation to milieus, territories, and cosmic lines of flight; What Is Philosophy? elaborates on those themes and ties them to the project of creating a new people and a new earth; and The Three Ecologies, Chaosmosis, and What is Ecosophy? integrate these elements within a general ethico- aesthetic paradigm. Deleuze’s 1978 IRCAM presentation on musical time (published in its manuscript form in Lettres et autres textes) precedes A Thousand Plateaus by two years, but in large part it partakes of the same trajectory of thought. Though Deleuze does not mention the “ritournelle,” he speaks of the musical mode of individuation of a “sonic landscape” inhabited by “rhythmic characters,” and of music’s coupling of an “elaborated sonic material” and “imperceptible forces that the material renders audible, perceptible.” In a similar ecosophic vein, he refers to “molecular oscillators” in biological systems and relates them to the non-pulsed time of contemporary music, which is “a time made of heterogeneous durations whose relations rest on a molecular population, and no longer on a unifying metrical form” (Deleuze, “Le Temps Musicale,” in Lettres et autres textes). The correlation of musical time and molecular oscillators does not appear again in Deleuze (though biological molecular oscillators are referenced briefly in A Thousand Plateau’s ritournelle plateau); nonetheless, the correlation merits detailed consideration. The molecular oscillators Deleuze refers to are chemical clocks that regulate organisms’ circadian rhythms internally and entrain them externally with variations in daily light–dark cycles. Circadian clocks arose 2.5 billion years ago during the Great Oxidation Event (GOE) and persist across all three phylogenetic domains of Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukaryota. In humans, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) serves as the master clock, but clocks have been discovered in red blood cells and other tissues and various organs (colon, kidney) that interact with the  SCN.  Besides  circadian  clocks,  oscillators  have  been  identified at timescales of less than a day (ultradian sand circartidal) and greater (circalunar, circannual, and multi-year cycles). Although Deleuze stresses the temporal heterogeneity of molecular oscillators, their fundamental characteristic is that of a periodicity entrained to georhythms.

Broadly speaking, music occurs at the interface of geo- and biorhythms, articulated through the tekhnē of parajective instruments (as opposed to projective weapons and introjective tools). Human tekhnē threatens multiple aerobic life forms emergent from the GOE through global warming, and the ecosophic response must include a transformation of the ecology of mentalities. The music of John Luther Adams (not to be confused with the John Adams of Nixon in China) may be seen as such a response, especially in his interactive site “The Place,” the site-specific performances of Inuksuit and Ten Thousand Birds, and the orchestral compositions Dark Wave and Become Ocean.

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?

References

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.

Guattari’s Ecosophy and Nature as Machinic Assemblages: In Reading Literatures and Films by Kobo Abe

In this paper I will explore Guattari’s tactical idea of ecosophy (or virtual ecology) as the integrative moment of his itinerary in both theory and practice. In the mid 1970s Deleuze began using the term “strange ecology” in the mid 1970s, in his Dialogues with Claire Parnet, much earlier than Guattari, who began to engage with the problematics of ecology in the mid 1980s. In reference to literary authors such as Woolf, Melville, and Hofmannsthal, Deleuze (and Parnet) raised the notion of “unnatural participation” or “participation (or nuptials) against nature,” which later in A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari elaborated further in their detailed conceptualisation of “becoming” (woman, animal, and imperceptible). Guattari, for his part, also proceeded with this line of thought by proposing the notion of “the production of subjectivity,” combined with concepts such as “absorbent subjectivity” or “partial or pathic subjectivity” in his late work Chaosmosis. As Deleuze in Dialogues made a remark on the equivalence between a literary author and a traitor (or trickster), one of tasks of the novelist is “to lose one’s identity and face.” By writing something, the writer has to (can) become something itself, at the same time he or she has to disappear, to become unknown (Dialogue 33). The writer can invent a kind of field, environment, and ambience by becoming objects in writing (referents). Such writing always consists of “working between the two” rather than “working together” (ibid., 13), where “we are desert but populated by tribes, flora and fauna” (ibid., 9). Guattari’s late writings on ecosophy were drawn from the earlier conceptions of Deleuze. In this context, Japanese writer Kobo Abe must be addressed. Even a cursory Guattarian-influenced reading of two of his novels (later made into films in which he collaborated), The Woman in the Dunes and The Face of Another, affords us a certain creative interpretation on Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy, and Guattari’s ecosophy especially. In the mid 1980s, Guattari and Abe met for discussions a couple of times. Inspired by Abe’s avant-garde works in his novels and films, rather than merely apply the ideas of Deleuze and Guattari to Abe’s work this paper will focus on the perspective of “Nature as machnic assemblages” in Guattari’s late works.