A Philosopher’s Time Travel Between Science and Fiction

Cinema is a major example of what Deleuze calls a “shock to thought” (Deleuze 1989, 156). Instead of being predetermined by an “image of thought” with its various implicit moral and representational presuppositions (Deleuze 1994, 129–67), Deleuze tries to expose himself fully to this shock that forces philosophers to think anew. In his cinema books, Deleuze analyzes how films deliver a new concept of image, which includes time, leaving all forms of representation behind: the “movement-image” that expresses time indirectly and the “time-image” that expresses time directly. Deleuze, who considers himself also as a science fiction author in the preface of Difference and Repetition (1994, xx–xxi), steps into the role of a “dark precursor” (ibid., 119) questioning the future of the image and our thinking about time.

My presentation will focus on the “series of time,” a third type of image that Deleuze briefly mentions in the second cinema book (Deleuze 1989, 55). To accomplish this task, I will analyse a complex science fiction thriller that gained a cult status over the years, Shane Carruth’s film Primer (2004). I argue that the film clarifies what Deleuze means by the “series of time,” insofar as Primer connects the time machine of the plot closely to a paradoxical element circulating between series. Reading Primer from the perspective of Deleuze’s cinema books also allows further consequences. First, showing how the time machine works in the film, the “series of time” can be clearly distinguished from the “time-image,” as instantiated in Alain Resnais’s Je t’aime je t’aime (1968). Second, the “series of time” allows us to reconnect Deleuze’s film-philosophy with Difference and Repetition. Third, the time machine in the film exposes principles of identity and resemblance as artificially constructed “primary” differences, thus supporting our understanding of Deleuze’s philosophical practice as a dark precursor itself. Fourth, the series of time opens up a new dimension of time beyond the succession model, as the powers of the false confront various possible worlds inconsistent with one another but sharing the same universe (the paradoxes of time travel). Finally, the series of time draws a line of flight from the newly elaborated notion of image toward the unseen interval between images. The shock of cinema, as the falsifying, forceful (self-)affection of time, forecasts new philosophical practices. For this reason, I intend in my presentation to adopt Deleuze’s somehow futuristic narration, oscillating between stringently arguing science and intentionally misleading fiction.


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

—. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press.

Mobilising Deleuze: Thinking in Images and Sounds

Our presentation refers to the project “Other Spaces—Knowledge through Art.” Funded by FWF Austrian Science Fund, the project brought together artists and scientists, with their differing means of approaching the world. Focusing on Deleuze’s notion that the process of becoming is essential in thinking about philosophy, art, and science, the means at our disposal were those that artists and scientists utilise when writing, composing, staging, philosophising, interpreting, inventing, informing, and so on. The question of which aspects can be seen as common and/or different was not prematurely hypostasised with scientifically formulated theories, but was instead left open, thereby enlarging the realm of possibility for the unexpected or surprising.

The presentation shows the outcomes of a collaboration between conceptual art, cultural sociology, and composition, in the form of an audio-visual production named “Al niente—A Dissolution.” This Italian musical phrase literally says “to nothing,” meaning a diminuendo that fades until nothing is heard anymore—“a living silence” for the video’s makers Adreis Echzehn and Elfie Miklautz, who in this way examine the phenomenology of hearing and time experiences in other spaces.

Their double-screen video with an independent soundtrack by two collaborating composers follows a triple blind concept based on a compilation of music and sounds, videos, texts, and photographs produced by the authors. The focus is upon finding spaces in which everyday temporal constructs are lifted, permitting a deceleration to be experienced. It is about the search for heterotopias in which silence becomes audible, about experiencing the atmosphere of a place through the sense of hearing, thus exploring and exhibiting correspondences between exterior spatial experiences and sound spaces and interior experience spaces.

What we want to discuss after showing the video is the cooperation between artists and a scientist working independently of one another to create a common result that went beyond the differences, showing repetitions with minimal but substantial aberrations and following different paths of transition. Our creation is, so to say, an example of answering the question raised in the call for the conference: “the question of how a communication between heterogenous systems, ‘of couplings and resonance,’ occurs without being predetermined.” We will show and talk about how we composed these resonances and how we created “new couplings that are not accidental but rigorous and at the same time indeterminate.” The challenge for the scientist was working without any concepts and definitions—for example, of silence or nothingness—but instead experimenting with contemplating: trying to find the passage from affections and perceptions to affects and percepts in a Deleuzian sense with the aim to create a bloc of sensations standing for itself, untranslatable into words and assumptions. Contemplating in this way means becoming the percepted part of the world, having passed into it—“We are not in the world, we become with the world; we become by contemplating it . . . Becoming animal, plant, molecular, becoming zero” (Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy? Translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, 169).