Flickering Alchemy: Curating Noisy Transgenic Empirical Creatures

Rachel Holmes, Liz Jones

conference: DARE 2015: the dark precursor
date: November 10, 2015
venue: Orpheus Institute, Auditorium
format: performed
practice: transversal
keywords: Alfred North Whitehead, subject, writing

abstract video about the author(s)


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.


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


about the author(s)

Rachel Holmes

Rachel Holmes has been a teacher for nineteen years, working across the fields of early years, Key Stage 1, further, and more latterly higher education. She currently works in the Educational and Social Research Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University as a professor, leading the Children and Young People Research Group. Her research moves across the interstices of applied educational research, social science research, and arts-based research within cultures of childhood. Her interests are located around notions of “childhood territories,” such as ways childhood becomes imag(in)ed through fictional, documentary, and ethnographic film; children’s child(self)hood, identities and objects, and ways to (left)field childhood via opening up off-centre research methodologies.

info & contact


Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

Liz Jones

Liz Jones is Chair Professor of Early Childhood Education at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, a position that she has held since April 2015. Before that she was Professor of Early Childhood Education at the Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. Her research interests range across a number of theoretical locations including poststructuralism, deconstruction, feminism, and queer theory. More recently Liz has been working with new materialism, affect, and activist philosophy in order to reconfigure children and childhood.

info & contact


Hong Kong Institute of Education, HK