Mining the Aesthetico-Conceptual: Deleuze, Derrida and Artistic Research

Spencer Roberts

conference: DARE 2017: aberrant nuptials
date: November 21, 2017
venue: Orpheus Institute, Penthouse
format: in words
practice: space
keywords: artistic research, Jacques Derrida

abstract about the author(s)


Despite their many political and philosophical allegiances, Deleuze and Derrida might— in accordance with Deleuze and Parnet’s dictum—be best described as the opposite of a couple. While their mutual hostility towards conceptual stasis, overly linear approaches to temporality and excessively centred notions of subjectivity targeted a number of common philosophical opponents, this apparent unity of purpose arose out of some seemingly incommensurable tensions: Deleuze’s mode of ontological enquiry squared poorly with Derrida’s rejection of metaphysics; Deleuze’s positive engagement with the sciences, and his prioritisation of material-sensation sat awkwardly with Derrida’s more pervasively textual and somewhat idealist orientation; and Deleuze’s development of an impersonal concept of Husserlian expression served to check Derrida’s rather more stringent and single minded rejection of phenomenological presentism.

It is  important  to  remember, however, that  like  Derrida, Deleuze  was  predominately  a writer—albeit a writer with an at once affective, performative, and corporeal agenda. Indeed, when taken at face value, it would seem to have been Derrida who more directly explored the graphic potentialities of experimental writing. Deleuze’s emphasis upon performativity, emergence, and onto-genetic construction nevertheless serves to extend and supplement the Derridian account of textuality by exposing its neglect of the process of writing. In so doing it foregrounds the potential for Deleuzo-Derridian philosophy to instantiate a genuinely aesthetico-conceptual image of thought.

For the 2017 conference, I would like to propose a machinic-writing-event, along with a related scholarly presentation that will collectively address the somewhat tensile relationship between Deleuzian and Derridian philosophy in the context of a discussion of the practice of writing.The paper will explore this territory in a broadly traditional academic fashion, and it will be delivered at one of one of the conference panels. Elsewhere, in one of the installation spaces, a pair of computer-controlled writing machines (x–y pen- plotters interfaced with Processing and Arduino) will mine the multiple drafts of the paper, exploring the material, performative, and durational aspects of its composition— foregrounding, and in some sense reactivating, the vectors of its textual becoming.

Before the conference, in the months of April and May, the draft materials for the paper- in-progress will be archived daily, providing a series of documents that can serve as a data source for the machines that will be installed at the event. Through a process of writing and over-writing, the plotters will dwell upon randomly selected passages and explore their development over time—revealing the emergence and development of ideas, as well as deletions, redactions, and changes of mind. A series of contact microphones attached to the plotting mechanism will provide a percussive accompaniment to the development of each machinic palimpsest.

The plotters will be “tuned,” respectively, to either a Derridian or a Deleuzian lexicon, and this will influence their mining of the text. The work is intended to instantiate a zone of indeterminacy—celebrating the sonic, textual, and ideational couplings that emerge from this material collision of texts.

about the author(s)

Spencer Roberts

Spencer Roberts is a senior lecturer in the Department of Art, Design, and Architecture at the University of Huddersfield in the UK. He teaches a series of discipline specific theory modules alongside a general departmental lecture programme that collectively operates under the rubric of theory-as-practice. His artwork focuses upon corporeal textual production and physical computing as a material form of expression. His recently submitted doctoral thesis explores a number of broadly Deleuzian, process-philosophical perspectives on artistic forms of research, exploring their at once integrative and differential dimensions while attempting to complicate a number of textually oriented sceptical positions through the employment of aesthetico-conceptual interventions.

info & contact


University of Huddersfield, UK


s.roberts [AT]