Sound and Image in Artistic Flooding: Vladimir Tarasov, Bill Viola

In A Thousand Plateaus, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari use Jakob von Uexküll’s theory of transcodance in nature, according to which nature is treated as music with “components as melodies in counterpoints”; Deleuze and Guattari develop this idea proposing the example of an encounter between two different components—a wasp and an orchid— where the implication is reciprocal. As they say, “the two cases, however, are never pure; they are in reality mixed (for example, the relation of the leaf, this time not to water in general but to rain).”

Artists experimenting with sound use water in different water states (sinking, dropping, and flooding). The sound of flooding gives  a special opportunity to think about art from  a Deleuzo-Guattarian perspective. It opens territory into absolute chaos, “it is instead a catastrophe in which ‘form collapses’” and “everything changes direction” (Zepke, Art    as Abstract Machine: Ontology and Aesthetics in Deleuze and Guattari). Flooding means the other consistence of space, which requires a changing gaze and understanding of things, of which positions they take. It creates conditions on a very broad scale: from contemplation to affectation, seeing, hearing, and being in different regimes, finding novelty, which arises from the encounter between two different elements that appear incidentally different—the variation of singularities among relations.

Lithuanian artist Vladimir Tarasov, a drum player experimenting with the sound of water and aleatoric compositional subtleties, has created numerous installations to investigate the possibilities and limits of sound (Incident in the Museum or Water Music, 1994; Installation at Solitude, 1996; Music on the Water, 1996; The First River, 2007). In his work he gives impulses for the independent fluctuation and unpredictable logic of installations, combining sound and image and different perceptions of time and space. I focus in particular on Incident in the Museum or Water Music (1992, 1993, 1994), displayed at the Chicago Museum for Contemporary Art, the Ronald Feldman gallery, New York (where the initial idea and the visual realisation were by Ilja Kabakov), and in other galleries around the world, where he experimented with the sound of drops of water falling into buckets during the performance of a major leak in an art gallery. Encountering the sound of water falling onto metal and onto plastic gave Tarasov the stimulus to compose in the same manner.

A much more catastrophic example is presented in American artist Bill Viola’s video installation The Raft (2004), where the art “venture[s] into this  catastrophe-chaos  in order to bring something out” (Zepke, Art as Abstract Machine: Ontology and Aesthetics in Deleuze and Guattari). The visualisation of a tidal wave encountering a crowd on a platform is strengthened by electronic water sounds, which work not so much as sound transformation than as images.

The installations present an encounter between different objects mediated by sound (natural, acoustic, or electronic) during a catastrophe, which is involutional creation “in the domain of symbioses that bring into play beings of totally different scales and kingdoms, with no possible filiation” (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus). I am trying to discover how artists using the speed and variation of intensities of sounds and images of a catastrophe create different diagrammatic movements.

A Politics of Sensation? Rendering Visible and Active and Reactive Forces in the Work of Elizabeth Price

This paper seeks to address two things. First, this paper will analyze Deleuze’s definition of the work of art as “a being of sensation and nothing else.” Second, this paper will ask whether Deleuze’s theory of art can be conceived in terms of a politics of art and, if so, how? In What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari write, “The composite sensation, [art] made up of percepts and affects, deterritorializes the system of opinion that brought together dominant perceptions and affections with a natural, historical and social milieu.” For Deleuze it is always a question of “freeing life wherever it is imprisoned,” of shattering lived perceptions and dominant opinions through blocs of sensation that exceeds the lived. In Negotiations, Deleuze states that “any creative activity has a political aspect and significance.”

As a self-positing compound of percepts and affects, the work of art as a being of sensation breaks with sensation as the effect of an object, or the feeling of a subject and redefines sensation asbeingquabecoming. Here Deleuzeand Guattari redefine art fromthe position of a break with any kind of subject/object philosophy; the work of art is constituted as an exploration of zones of indetermination that go before and beyond lived experience in a process of continual becoming. To explore the implications of Deleuze’s definition of art as a being of sensation, I will return to the question of sensation as it is presented in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of  Judgement. After a consideration of  sensation in terms of common sense(s), recognition, representation, and experience in Deleuze, through Kant, I want to ask if, and how, going before and beyond lived experience and undoing this triple organisation of perceptions, affections, and opinions can be conceived in terms of a politics of art?

Regarding certain art practices Simon O’Sullivan writes, “This turn . . . away from straightforward signifying strategies and away from a certain kind of politics of art might be characterized as a turn (back) to what I would call the aesthetic potential of art . . . art is not politics in the typical—or molar and signifying—sense. It operates under a different logic.” To consider the question of a politics of sensation I will turn to The Woolworths Choir of 1979, a video work by British artist Elizabeth Price. The Woolworths Choir of 1979 operates both aesthetically and conceptually and engages with the social, political, and economic conditions in which it is situated. The focus here will be to address the political force that operates through a primarily affective register—what O’Sullivan might consider its “aesthetic potential.” By isolating elements of Price’s work my aim is to explore where the political force of sensation lies, and how it operates concretely in this work. In doing so I will draw on Stephan Zepke’s term “critical sensation” to consider the political potential of Price’s rendering visible of the multiple active and reactive forces at play within the ideological, institutional, and affective circuits that condition experience.