Making the Digital Spiritual: A Research Experiment in Art Education

Pieter-Jan Decoster, Nancy Vansieleghem

conference: DARE 2015: the dark precursor
date: November 10, 2015
venue: Orpheus Institute, Auditorium
format: in words
practice: transversal
keywords: Cinema 2, education, film, subject

abstract video about the author(s)


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.


about the author(s)

Pieter-Jan Decoster

Pieter-Jan Decoster is a PhD student at Ghent University. He currently works as an assistant and researcher at the Department of Educational Studies. His research focuses on the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the relevance of contemporary education in relation to digital screen culture.

info & contact


Ghent University, B


pieterjan.decoster [AT]

Nancy Vansieleghem

Nancy Vansieleghem works at LUCA School of Arts, Ghent campus, where she teaches courses in pedagogy, psychology, and communication in (audio-)visual arts. She coordinates the research group Art, Practices and Education. Her research is on the potentiality of philosophy and childhood within educational (research) practices. Currently she explores the artistic potentiality of screen learning by setting up collective online experiments.

info & contact


Luca School of Arts, Ghent, BE


nancy.vansieleghem [AT]