Photogenesis: Brokering World

From their inception, the nexus of practices that later became named photography were characterised as being the production of images “impressed by Nature’s hand.” It was a technology seemingly without want of human agency—albeit one where the earliest full proclamation of photography, published by Henry Talbot in a scurry to claim the priority of his “art of photogenic drawing” following Daguerre’s earlier announcement in January 1839, is replete with the reconstruction of human agency: a reflection back in time, documenting Talbot’s discovery of the photogenetic after the event. Precisely such after- the-eventness fully centred in photography’s historiography gives the lie to it as a natural medium, while simultaneously being the very process of making the past present again. It is Talbot’s claims for priority in a radically new technology that fractures the history of representation that he retraces on post hoc reflection. That is, his reconstruction of the paths to his discovery emulates the very character of the technology that leaves residues that may be traced back to an originary juncture—what I call the photogenetic event of image. This temporal singularity, actualised in a condensed spatial form (the image), is then stretched in durational trajectory as a time capsule of the past that constantly recurs in the present. The photographic in general appears to us visually as the totality of these (amassed) residues—a recording of world that accumulates after the event. This is, after all, what we see first in the immediacy of the billions of images we now produce: the optical visibility of seemingly automatised technique: mostly banal, unary, mundane. Yet, it is my argument that the photographic also renders visible something other than that which it pictures whether iconically, indexically, or symbolically. In its very make-up, the photograph does more than represent the world; it manifests the photogenetic event:   it makes visible, it actualises flows of difference, bringing the world into image form. In this rendition of photography, then, the trite, calcified image is folded over the erudite image through which we learn about how such islands of meaning—each time-machine that the photograph is—stretch archipelago-like through time and space as a shifting, moving mass of  sensation that is both a topography of  miniature zones of  intensity  and a physical form of signalisation. The photographic radically shifts from an inductive technique, representing the world, to a first virtual medium intervening in making the world as image.

In Towards a Philosophy of Photography (2000), Vilém Flusser suggests that authentic, magical images—a visual form of the Real—were first demystified by a regime of text tying them to explication, then to be superseded by technical images (photographs) that functioned in a radically different way: rather than replace traditional images with reproductions, technical images displace them and, rather than make hermetic texts comprehensible, they distort them by translating scientific statements and equations into states of things, i.e. images.

Technical images, then, “absorb the whole of history and form a  collective  memory going endlessly round in circles.” They replace a “prehistoric ritualization” that operates myths “with a new kind of  magic,  i.e.  the  programmed  kind.”  Flusser’s  reading  of  the programmation of image is essentially pessimistic: a Frankfurtian gesture that commiserates the loss of the authentic track to experience in an image-to-world relation that is dependent on a mis-representation that in any case can only occur under a regime of representation. Significantly, Flusser’s circularity locks photography into a chain of signalisation that never gets outside itself, that never has an end meaning, exactly as   we now experience in the proliferation of image that does not just inhabit our world but habitats it.

Where Flusser yokes the photograph to a misreading of its technical base, Deleuze latches it to a different shortcoming in his complex ontology of image: in a chameleonic bluff, he dismisses what he sees as the calcified “dreary” signifier (Deleuze and Guattari, AThousand Plateaus) of the fixed photograph, while paradoxically celebrating an observance of the cinematographic photogram as the singular entity that sits at the base of a complex grammar in time-based media. For Deleuze, it was the beguiling movement of the cinema—its subsequent asymmetrical divisibility into the registers of telic movement- image and ontic time-image—that distracted his attention away from the photogram qua photogram. Crucially, my claim is, then, that an alluring ontological territory constituting a particularly subjective elasticity of time and an objective fixity of space, what I am calling the photogene—an actualisation of virtual multiplicities and differences that circulate in the technical diagram constituting the photogenic event—was overlooked by Deleuze, and to a great extent has been overlooked by Deleuze scholarship.

Photography is not merely the overarching technicalisation of the stream of images: a utopia gone wrong—as Flusser might argue. Nor are those images each just a singular point in a visual rendition of the already given and fixed world—as Deleuze claims. Rather, a single technical image is one of  a myriad of  potential forms that only emerges from    a flux in a virtual domain when actualised as a unary surface image. Internal to this genetic process of becoming, the photogene as a registering of time cuts synthetically into our world to generate a medium-specific signalisation that at essence undoes our configurations of the myth of the representational image. For photographs are more than a sedimentation of image that sit on the world, referring to the world, a kind of shingle that lays on top, a map. Rather, as real enfoldings of the virtual and actual, they are territories that activate an intensity of affects in the subject that are micro-becomings or image- forms of the plasticity of time realised as space. Thus, the photogene is both an external, technological concretisation of temporal and spatial dimensions, and an emergence of our coming into being—subjectification—through a particular modality of signalisation. Thus, laying photography open to the virtual, to multiplicity, to a rhizomatic nature, allows a thinking of the affective in photogenetic zones of intensity, engages with temporal dislodgment, and determines the event of photogenesis, the photogenetic moment as differentiation actualised. And it can go further than that: by taking photography as a model of genetic signalisation rather than representation, it is possible to indeed think photographically in modes and media that in their actual specificity are non-photographic, but in their virtual practices fold adjacent to the diagram of photography. This extension from a critique of classical photographic theory to an eradication of a specific, subject- centred, willed human agency in artistic practice is one form of posthuman discourse that recuperates Deleuze and  Guattari’s  notion  of  affects  and  percepts  independent  of a human subject at play in the “being of the sensible.” Finally, then, plateaus of the circulation of sensation that render photogenic, performance and built worlds uncannily incommensurate will be explored in this paper by considering a triangulation of the physical text/sculptural performance work of Sophie Jung, the viral/virtual/actual assemblages of Andreas Angelidakis, and the conceptual photogenetic moment.

The Fold: A Physical Model of Abstract Reversibility and Envelopment

For artistic research, the model of the fold is exceptionally interesting because it deals with how form and content intertwine in a physical model, and how concrete and abstract interrelate on the plane of consistency. In my paper I focus on chapter two of Deleuze’s The Fold (1992) and take up the concept of “inflection” as an elastic point in the model of the fold that discloses a reality of reversibility. I intend to demonstrate through artworks the concept of “Foldings, or the Inside of Thought” (Deleuze 1988, 95).

Deleuze (1992, 15) states that for Paul Klee the point as a “nonconceptual concept of noncontradiction” moves along an inflection. “It is the point of inflection itself, where the tangent crosses the curve. That is the point-fold” (ibid., 15). Through a simple sketch, Deleuze demonstrates how the point of inflection is the point where the concave turns convex. This is the point of inflection. What happens in the point of inflection? Is it a conjunction? A passage? It would seem that this very special point is a point that conceals a profound metaphysical realisation. It is a physical point in the attribute of extension that corresponds to an invisible point of abstraction in the attribute of thought. Deleuze wants to draw attention to this point by referring to the thinking of Leibniz, the Neoplatonists, Spinoza, and Whitehead.

Because of the existence of concave and convex, there are different points of view, depending on which place we see from. The enfolding reality has multiple points of view; each point of view is a perspective. It appears that we are captured in our point of view. There is always a reversible side of a point of view, and by the power of the imagination we can think the concept of reversibility. A physical model of the fold reveals, in fact, a metaphysical reality of the attributes and the power of the attributes, according to Deleuze’s references to Spinoza. Deleuze’s ideas encompass several crucial things: first, we assume that reality has a mirroring construction; in other words, reality corresponds to an abstract reality that the model of the fold demonstrates. That is to say, physical reality and abstraction are two sides of the same coin. Second, the model of enfolding implies an innate life, the life of a monad, a singularity as a soul. Deleuze (1992, 24) writes, “We are moving from inflection to inclusion in a subject, as if from virtual to the real, inflection defining the fold, but inclusion defining the soul or the subject, that is, what envelops the fold, its final cause and its complete act.” Finally, Deleuze (ibid., 29) asks, “in order that the virtual can be incarnated of effectuated, is something needed other than this actualization in the souls? Is a realization in the matter also required, because the folds of this matter might happen to reduplicate the folds in the soul?”

The “point of inflection” is abstract and physical, a corresponding reversibility. I explore whether a “realization in matter,” a physical manifestation of foldings, affects an abstract reality. My art form is “objects of folding.” By letting folds coagulate, I “freeze” the process to a fixed form to let a “nondimensional point between dimensions” (Deleuze 1992, 16) become visible.

References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1988. Foucault. Translated and edited by Seán Hand. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

—. 1992. The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. Translated by Tom Conley. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

The Last Frontier of (Un)Consciousness and the Arts: On Neurodiversity and Artistic Thinking in Times of Self-Observation, Evolution’s Most Recent “Killer App”

This presentation, connecting my own performative knowledge with recent debates, discusses neurodiversity as a potential game-changer for the notion of art. Applying two key concepts of contemporary identity politics (disability studies, postcolonial theory) to the highly idealised but never closely analysed process of artistic thinking, it aims to parallel the global rise of self-observation (social media, post-Snowden era) with the increasing self-reflection and contextualisation that artists are both forced into and voluntarily choose nowadays. It will seek to describe examples of artistic perception processing, provide a historic background for the concepts of dis/ability and neurodiversity, and reflect upon the benefit of introducing these subjects to the debate about the epistemology of art. Finally, it will culminate in Deleuze-Guattarian (anti-)cyberneticism, surfing the current battlefields of knowledge production on desire machines and testing base-jumps from an (assumed) natural to the cultural matrix that nowadays dominates. Here, artistic research is revealed as a twenty-first century cyborg-utopia conceived to heal the phantom limb pain of cultural scientists permanently bordering on a lack of practice, before reporting live from the fields of artificial intelligence where the sun of cognitive singularity rises above the ocean of collective media consciousness.

More in depth, I will explain in a rule-of-three-like method how the construction of “dis/abilities” was related to the emergence of wage labour in early capitalism, introduce the new claim for “neurodiversity” as demanded by the disability and mad pride movements, and probe the application of this idea to artistic thinking in the context of debates about university reforms and practice-based PhD studies. Initial descriptions of “neuroatypicalities”—especially of visual-based thinking that is supposedly predominant in artists and people with Asperger’s syndrome—will lead us to theories about different intelligences, including language-related nuances in perception processing, showing that the pre-verbal and the pre-conscious are not to be confused. By doing so, I intend to offer an artist’s perspective of the non-verbal structure of Deleuze and Guattari’s desire machines, before subsequently pointing out comparisons between their “unconscious” and other topical cognition theories, scientific findings, and art projects (such as, the Otolith Group’s “Sensitives,” Crary’s daydream, Google’s Deep Dream, new findings on “desire”/the reward system).

It appears that the overall expansion of a consciousness addicted to media and shaped by labour, squeezed into eternal attention and self-awareness, perfectly mirrors the ongoing colonisation through theory that artists are permanently exposed to in the environment of academia and of the apparatuses of public project funding. While claiming to stand by artists when designing artistic research programmes, theorists often actually ignore the artists’ needs, implementing “curriculised” versions of their own fantasies about an ideal artwork and ideology-driven wishes for a certain social function of art. Whereas—with the assemblage being the potential epitome of artistic production strategies—the link between Deleuze and artistic research is obvious, a debate is still missing that connects Deleuze and Guattari’s theories to a more general and also factual-political view of “the last frontier of (un)consciousness,” as one could call the youngest evolutionary shift in the anthropocene that has become even more visible thanks to the Snowden revelations about its techno-governmental preconditions. Regarding these parallels, the artistic research debate might actually profit from zooming out to a macroscopic point of view and co-engaging in the attempt to answer to the question, Where is collective intelligence going and what role is (mass)surveillance taking in that?

Previous versions of this talk were presented at “Compared to What?,” an annual conference of the German Society for Media Sciences (GfM) Vienna, Austria, January 2015 (for abstract see popkongress.de), and at the Inaugural (Rest of the World) Conference of the SLSA (American Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts) and SymbioticA, University of Western Australia, Perth/AUS, October 2015.

New Islands: The “Manifold” of Performing Gestural Electronic Music

New Islands is an entwined, manifold, physical, sonic, gestural, electronic, mediated, yet immediate musical performance.

The performance’s main issues are presence, agency, and mediation. This manifests in an interwoven, complexly folded situation of physically performing with electronic sound processes and technological instruments. At stake are the relationships between the artist’s body, actions and affects connected to the resulting soundworld, abstract narrative, and the imagination triggered in the audience. This happens in the social situation of the concert space, the period shared in co-presence with the audience, by sharing the moment of shaping the sounds and the overall musical form.

The performance is tied to the key elements of the physical actions, the perceived intentionality and agency of the performer, yet also the invisible presence of the “machinic” agency, and the interaction and dialogue with the musical processes and structures. Algorithmic, rule-based processes are counterbalanced by a state of pre-reflective, intuitive “surfing” of the piece.

The stage situation represents an “island” in the flow of everyday life, which comes naturally for the audience but is equally true for the performing artist. The moment onstage represents the tip the iceberg, a singularity, a focal point, the compression moment of a practice that spans a considerably larger scope. This compression results in a “manifold,” a “fold,” and a “millefeuille” of elements that are infinitely entwined. Yet, given a beginning and an end in a performance, this multiplicity of elements becomes finite, at least in time, and can be perceived and experienced as a unified object, created and shared in the presence of the audience/viewers.

The metaphor of the “manifold,” a concept from abstract mathematics, serves to point toward a state of affairs where many dimensions intermingle, explode, and get wrapped and enfolded in such a way as to render nearly impossible the task of identifying, isolating, and evaluating the individual constituent parts; or at least it only permits approximations to singular exemplars of the experience in question.

This abstract model represents the multiplicities of implications, operational domains, and significances present in any musical performance situation, particularly when applied to non-predetermined or non-textual practices.

New Islands investigates a core question through “showing/doing”: whether and how the signifiers, act(ors/ants), and shifting scopes that get (re)present(ed) in the stage situation are organised hierarchically and how they represent a gridded cultural space; whether and how they embody a decentred, shifting, and enfolded web of relationships and strata that we are forced to continuously traverse in multi-perspectival, shifting perceptions.

Web: jasch.ch/islands