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.

Flickering Alchemy: Curating Noisy Transgenic Empirical Creatures

Following Deleuze and Whitehead, we begin with a movement from without, a process, never with a “subject” of a process. This abstract merely opens onto what Manning and Massumi (2014, 12) describe as “a commotion of relational activity, each vying to be written down.”

Mummy, do you like being human?

No, not really. Do you?

No. I’d like to be something useful, like a door handle.

(Alfred, aged nine years ten months)

The colour comes . . . then the shape . . . then the size, the whole thing needs time to get integrated. To be described as a door, there is the position, the open or closed. (Mukhopadyay in Iverson 2006, 237).

Empirical materials, an image and a quotation—we are struck by their immanent relationality. Unfolding in/onto each other, as generative forces that participate in the production of new possibilities, as “one artwork catches another in its movement of thought” (Manning 2015, cited in Grusin 2015, xxiii), they produce ideas of doors, handles, and wood; shadows and surfaces; fullness and flatness; voices and vibrations; human bodies, edges, flows, and intensities. As researchers and following Guattari (1995), the movement of thought caught not in the presence of passively representative images but in vectors of subjectivation, bridging the text, absorbs our attention into “door handle,” arising from while remaining deeply entangled with the splintering fibres striating the flat surface of the door. The handle somehow modulates our experiencing, busying our bodies and creating a panoply of sense (Manning and Massumi 2014).

With consciousness flickering, components of heterogeneous series collide. We scavenge around the transgressive spaces evoked by this image and text, already preparing to write about Alfred’s vivid imaginings of himself as a door handle, “already tending toward expressions in use-value” (Manning and Massumi 2014, 8)—an opening, an escape, a place to hide. The handle-ness almost disintegrates, instead figuring as already opening the door to pass through, its use-full-ness critically apparent to us. However, by encountering art as a Deleuzian occasion for experimentation, we resist “door handle” as a mere object of recognition. The captivating expressions drawn to our attention by Mukhopadhyay and Alfie are experimented with-in and across Woodman’s photograph, interestingly interfering with our ordered thoughts amid sharp turns and crooked paths across interdisciplinary fields.

This paper will look at those processes of curation and experimentation in relation to our own art-ful research writing practices, particularly “its choreographic capacity to bring to life the lingering nonhuman tendencies that bridge fields activated by distinct artistic processes” (Manning 2015, cited in Grusin 2015, xxiii). Forcing thought via Deleuze’s series of fundamental encounters between art and philosophy, we will play with molecular curatorial movements that conjure something of the intensive plane below bodily, ethnographic, and rational organisation of qualitative early years research. We will grasp haecceities from the imperceptible, catching our thinking in the midst, and composing with it.

References

Manning, Erin, and Brian Massumi. 2104. Thought in the Act: Passages in the Ecology of Experience. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota University Press.

Making the Digital Spiritual: A Research Experiment in Art Education

The point of departure of our research is that the digital screen, just like Deleuze’s concept of cinema, can be perceived as an automaton. This means that it automatically creates a particular kind of attention, “producing a shock to thought, communicating vibrations to the cortex, touching the nervous and cerebral system directly” (Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2. The Time-Image. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989, 156).

In the everydayness of life, it could be argued that the digital screen produces not only scripts and algorithms but also culturally coded events that are not necessarily unproblematic. A particular kind of loss of identity can characterise the screen experience. An example of this is that the individual, by means of the screen, imitates patterns like that of the selfie, producing and consuming this or that particular “I.” Simultaneously, however, the individual does not know anymore who or what this “I” is or could be, nor how this “I” has to relate to the world, which also increasingly receives its meaning from within tethered digital time and space.

At the same time, the digital screen offers new possibilities to study the world and oneself. The intention of this research is to look for the conditions that make this possible. This poses the question of how the screen can function as a spiritual automaton. According to Deleuze, the power of cinema does not simply lie in the logic of a medium that supposedly yields its potentiality automatically. Rather, because of and from within cinema, the spectator instead of imitating life can and has to reset it in a way. Deleuze’s research into cinema can be interpreted as a quest to find the conditions that allow the automaton to become spiritual, a question we revisit in connection with the digital screen. Looking artistically at the screen can be interpreted as a pedagogy in relation to this object; that is, research concerning conditions and particular kinds of limitations that produce new ways of thinking that cannot be compared with mere communication and information. In that sense, the question arises of how experiences with the digital screen can disclose particular forms of thinking and open up new ways of being in the world that otherwise might fall into oblivion.

In this presentation/paper therefore we want to present a particular research project we have set up, in which we want to experiment with the potentiality of the digital screen. In the project we explore how it is possible to think about an online course in which the internet is understood not as an efficient tool to enhance one’s individual development but as a technology that has a particular materiality, and in its materiality is operative in itself. We want to do experiments in which the virtuality of the internet becomes real/material.

Instead of just catching attention, we do experiments in which we try to generate attention, which implies a slowing down of digital time. This is part of a way of thinking of art education as a collective practice that allows inhabiting the matter at hand.