Fluxus Affects of Indeterminacy: An Aleatory Point Between Art and Philosophy

Deleuze is interested in exploring the dark night, the outside of thought. He addresses the emergence of thought itself, the event whereby sense is wrested from a mute, immanent field of sensibility: “that blind, acephalic, aphasic and aleatory original point which designates ‘the impossibility of thinking that is thought,’ that point where ‘powerlessness’ is transmuted into power” (Deleuze 1999, 199). This event occurs when something forces our faculties to communicate their intensive differences between one another, producing a “phenomenal flash”: the sudden shock of sensation (ibid., 30/20). This event of thought is provoked rather than internally generated, and it is provoked by the “dark precursor”—the being of the sensible. For Deleuze, provocation of thought is an ethical imperative, yet the dark precursor is dark in relation to thought, to which it is imperceptible, unthinkable (ibid., 236–37); this is the paradox of thinking about that which cannot be thought. Our claim is that to “think” this event means to change the nature of thought, to think affectively. This is why we are particularly interested in the idea of art as a kind of thinking—a thinking by and through the intensification of affect. We are interested in the creation of new affects that have a potential to change the flows and cadences of present configurations, and in amplifying affects that contribute to or engender a sensitivity to the immanent intensive and affective processes that condition thought. Whereas thought cannot directly apprehend the dark precursor, artistic affects can usher us toward an experience that more closely resembles the intensive level at which it operates. Given that the dark precursor is both pure disparity and the absolutely indeterminate, we are particularly interested in affects of indeterminacy as possibly contributing to this sensitivity. This is particularly important for our interest in the performances of the neo-avant-garde art collective Fluxus, which creates new affective spaces by merging the artist and audience, generating the indeterminate performance. The question we wish to develop is, what do Fluxus affects do? Preliminarily, we propose that Fluxus performances are paradigmatic of resistance and mobility, providing a model of the becoming of thought and providing an affective encounter with indeterminacy.

This presentation will focus on the early musical performance of Phillip Corner’s Piano Activities (Wiesbaden, 1962) and the later performance of Dick Higgins’s Danger Music as examples of two signature features of Fluxus “score events”: the integration of chance and contingency and an intentional liberation of affective potentials through the deconstruction of traditional assumptions of the nature of the art genre itself. Both of these features are integral to developing what I am calling the “affect of indeterminacy,” which could serve as a visceral experience to bridge the gap between the dark precursor as a theoretical construct and what Deleuze truly would like us to understand—the affective power of the dark precursor as a transformative moment. Art does not provide a theoretical application, but enacts the real provocation of thought.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1999. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. London: Athlone Press.

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.

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.

Nomad dérive

The goal of the workshop is to create a sound map of the area around the conference and compose a soundwalk using mobile phones and GPS to augment the sensorial dimensions of experiencing the city. We offer to participants the use of Android mobile phones, headphones, software, and recording equipment. Participants are advised to bring their own laptops and Android OS devices if possible, although Akoo-o can provide a number of mobile phones. The workshop will be scheduled as follows:

(1) Theory (distinction of sound walks, listening walks, audio walks; promenadology; public space art; link with the Deleuzian notion of nomadism and rhizome; locative media art). (2) Walk around the area of the conference venue to get acquainted with conscious listening and the specific site; field recordings of the area. (3) Editing the audio material (field recordings); acquaintance with editing software and basic techniques. (4) noTours (getting acquainted with this open source locative media platform to create a sound walk using the area map). (5) Walk to the area to listen to the soundwalk. (6) Discussion.

Participants are inducted into the process of soundscape composition, sound design, and sound mapping within the framework of site-specific artistic practice and promenadology and are familiarised with the use of innovative locative media applications. We will exemplify in practice field recording techniques and sound editing, as well as reproduction and sound composition based on the map of the city, using the open-source platform “noTours.” noTours (http://www.notours.org/) is an open-source software platform developed by escoitar.org collective for creating site-specific and interactive artistic works with the use of locative media technology, which results in an environment of “augmented aurality” within public space.

Starting from the situationist practice of “derive” and the Deleuzian concept of “nomadism,” we create itineraries that escape from concrete urban planning—which is primarily visual, geometrically aligned, and panoptically designed. We suggest a new cartographic model that could represent various layers of perception and experience of urban space and is based on mobility rather than stasis: this would include time as a fourth dimension, the subjective glance, the relational and emotional layers of experience; finally, it should be open to a polyphonic narration about space, at the process of its transformation into place. Strolling within an aurally augmented city is an open-ended artistic gesture that is ready to be reinterpreted and retoured by each listener. noTours is a tool for détournement and moving, appropriating the popular format of tourist guides and transforming it into a medium for non-touring and non-guiding.

The notion of “augmented aurality,” as used in the artistic practice of soundwalks, consists of intervening in space using audio means. It is an experience of immersion in a hybrid environment between material and potential reality, which employs the multiple levels of the constantly transforming notion of public space. As Deleuze and Guattari 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,” by reforming or acting against dominant systems and/or practices. In the case of soundwalking, nomadism is not relevant because it suggests fleeing the city but because it proposes wandering as resistance to the city’s confined and bordered space. In these soundscape compositions narratives prevail, communities acquire space and voice, and buildings are not the mere subjects of a sightseeing tour; the city is not a collection of historical information but a space to aurally, artistically, and socially wander within the microframes this space rhizomatically consists of. Music and narrative become tools; leaving behind ethnography, documentary, score, concert hall, museums, and institutions, they become pliable materials, fragments of a living organism, of a city-score whose music is made by and is addressed to people. Actually the notion of nomadism and war machine apply here “as a war of becoming over being, of the sedentary over the nomadic.”

Nevertheless, one should not assume that locative media soundwalking is in itself an act of drift against dominant systems. Locative media technology relies upon the ultimate panoptical device, satellite supervision, which in turn is adopted within the lures of postmodern, immaterial capitalism. But as the capitalisation of individual movement establishes itself alongside the colonisation of private space by “dotcom neoliberalism,” it is the movement between milieux, the reflection upon our shifting habitat, and the détournement of the parts of a well-oiled machine that can give us the ability to escape from a stagnant structure. From this perspective, we tend to view the work of art as a process, a dialogue between fields, a discursive negotiation with our social, physical, and digital environment, and an approach that reflects on the way the workshop is performed.