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.

Cutting up Conference Papers

“Breaking” is the main theme running through my work but it arises in many different contexts and I deal with it on different planes. My research simultaneously explores and draws parallels between personal experiences in life: breaking bones, making/breaking sculpture, and philosophical concepts of the break.

During my doctoral research one of my supervisors commented on my writing that any paragraph from any section could easily be placed into any other section and that themes reoccurred throughout. As I started physically cutting, rearranging, and adding new thoughts and sources on Post-it notes, I realised a distinct similarity with the processes I use in my sketchpad where visual material is stuck in with masking tape enabling rearrangement on a daily basis. I ceased to worry about finding a definitive structure to my writing and instead perceived the process as playful and under continual review. Juxtaposition of material from various disciplines brought different structures into contact, creating breaks on a philosophical level and a methodology of breaking.

This draws upon William Burroughs’s (2003) “cut-up technique,” which interested him because of the unpredictable spontaneity this method introduced. In my sculptural installations audience participation in breaking similarly introduced unpredictability and uncertainty through the variety of responses and interactions. This led me to explore audience participation in my writing through experimental formats for conference papers for example, allowing the audience to cut up, reconfigure, and add to my paper before I re-presented it.

For the duration of this conference I propose using audience participation to create a continually shifting assemblage of writing and images. I would prefer this to be sited in a space that people move through or a social space, such as a corridor or bar, to allow for frequent informal interaction. On day one I would like to introduce the project and provide Post-it notes on which participants can write their personal experience of breaking and then add to this space. Following this, I will invite participants to cut sections from Deleuze and Guattari’s Capitalism and Schizophrenia (2004a, 2004b) and add these to their experiences. If presenters at the conference are willing, I would like them to add any notes they have used to prepare or deliver their own presentations. Throughout I would encourage constant rearrangement and additions as people see connections or related structures.

The form of Capitalism and Schizophrenia reflects its content in that my experience of reading the book exemplified what I was reading: some parts were read in a linear order; however, I re-read some sections many times and didn’t read others at all. Disassembling the book and utilising fragments to create a changing assemblage fits with this ethos. The intention is to use Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas on structure to reflect on the process (and include these reflections back into the process). Starting from participants’ personal experiences encourages a shift from abstract theory toward lived experience; the resulting tension could, for example, be interpreted through concepts of smooth and striated. My authoritative position is challenged as the viewer’s participation introduces multiple views; opening possibilities to reflect on arborescence and rhizomatic structuring.

References

Burroughs, William. 2003. “The Cut Up Method of Brion Gysin.” In The New Media Reader, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montford, 89–92. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 2004a. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Robert Hurley, Mark Seem, and Helen R. Lane. London: Continuum.

—. 2004b. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. London: Continuum.

The Poison Garden: A Sorcery Handbook

“The Poison Garden” is a collaborative arts project uniting the visual work of Brussels-based artist Sean Crossley and the writing of Melbourne-based philosopher Beau Deurwaarder. Over its two-year lifespan, the efforts from a series of international residencies, conference presentations, exhibitions, publications, and strange experiments will be compiled into a conceptual handbook of sorcerous instruction. Anchored by a methodology of research and practice, this collaboration will permit a conceptual reimagination of the figure of the sorcerer and sorcerous practice, without recourse to conventional occult motifs or naive appropriations of witchcraft, mysticism, or magic. For us, the practice of sorcery is the careful procedure of the manipulation of forces, the directing of an alliance between incompatible elements, bound by strict pragmatic techniques. The promise of sorcery is the abstract enforcement that assures at once integration and interference: the jeopardy of security, knowledge, and actions, in the name of an anonymous pasture in thought. In whatever form it takes, the sorcerous performance experiments with accursed economies of capacity and consequence, captured exclusively by the efficacy of its ceremony. The excessive and the untimely animate the conductivity of this procedure, conjuring associations with the impossible from within the very boundaries of the possible. Implausibly, the practice of sorcery shifts the coordinates of plausibility that bind the framework of measured, habitual membership, and ordain the sorcerer to the peripheries of thought, in order for the potency of their curse to cast purchase.

This pledge to the material site of the anomalous interrogates and infiltrates the collective parameters of our work. Our collaboration operates as a discreet demonstration of the imbalanced and combatant forces immanent to the production of its presentation. What we are pursuing within our joint practice is a procedure that licences unnatural participation to take place: a spell bound by philosophical and aesthetic experiments as both an execution and an exorcism of their incantation.

This venture was born from a theoretical fascination with the “Memories of a Sorcerer” passages in A Thousand Plateaus and a collaborative desire to experiment with the instruction these short passages summon. Following a collaborative publication and exhibition in Brussels last year, we have committed the next two years of work to inhabiting this conceptual terrain in order to consider how heterogeneous models can be affiliated in pursuit of unchartered domains of practice. 

At “The Dark Precursor,” we will co-present a scholarly paper detailing the experimental procedure we have devised for our theoretical incantation to take hold. To do so, we will evaluate Deleuze and Guattari’s sorcerous visions alongside those of Georges Bataille, Alain Badiou, and Isabelle Stengers, as well as against the material forces that operate within our own practice. Our presentation will showcase a constellation of new work that will at once embody and interrogate the accursed conditions under analysis, in a format designed to surrender its facility to the fidelity of sorcerous contamination.