Mythopoesis, Fabulous Images and Memories of a Sorcerer

Simon O’Sullivan

conference: DARE 2017: aberrant nuptials
date: November 22, 2017
venue: Orpheus Institute, Concert Hall
format: keynote
keywords: content, fabulation

abstract about the author(s)


What we’re interested in, you see, are modes of individuation beyond those of things, persons or subjects: the individuation, say, of a time of day, of a region, a climate, a river or a wind, of an event. And maybe it’s a mistake to believe in the existence of things, persons, or subjects.
— Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations

My paper will attend to what might be called “fiction as method” and, more specifically, to mythopoesis, a term I use to broadly name the “world-making” character of certain art practices and presentations. Following Gilles Deleuze I will also be concerned with the future-orientation of mythopoesis that summons forth a “people-yet-to-come”; a people appropriate and adequate, we might say, to the different worlds in question. Departing from Deleuze’s definition somewhat—though attending to some of  his other writings and especially the collaboration with Guattari—I want to suggest that these “people” are not necessarily human, at least as this is habitually thought. There are other non-human forces—other becomings we might say—that are called forth by the mythopoetic function. My paper will then turn to the writings of Félix Guattari and, specifically, the essay “Genet Regained” in which Guattari develops his own concept of “fabulous images.” The latter, found in literature and life, operate as “points of subjectification” around which other kinds of subjectivity might coalesce and cohere. Put simply, for Guattari, fiction can be a resource in the production of a different kind of subjectivity and thus, again, a different world. Guattari’s account is highly technical, involving, as it does, different levels of operation (it attempts a more analytic account of how mythopoesis might invent a people), but the general point is similar to Deleuze’s: the image function can help call forth something different from within the same.

The third and final section of my paper will turn to the collaborative writings of Deleuze and Guattari and, specifically A Thousand Plateaus. This book both utilises fiction in its particular account of a different individuation of the world, but also has its own mythopoetic character (it helps call forth this other world). A Thousand Plateaus is a book that performs its content in this sense. I will end my paper by focusing on a particular section of A Thousand Plateaus, from the central Becoming plateau, “Memories of a Sorcerer,” which, it seems to me especially evidences a certain “non philosophical” character of Deleuze and Guattari’s writing: how it has a transformative traction on reality and, in particular, involves a shuttling across both philosophy and fiction.

about the author(s)

Simon O’Sullivan

Simon O’Sullivan is a theorist and artist working at the intersection of contemporary art practice, performance, and continental philosophy. He has published two monographs with Palgrave Macmillan, Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought Beyond Representation (2005) and On the Production of Subjectivity: Five Diagrams of the Finite-Infinite Relation (2012), and is the editor, with Stephen Zepke, of both Deleuze, Guattari and the Production of the New (Continuum, 2008) and Deleuze and Contemporary Art (Edinburgh University Press, 2010). His collaborative art practice—with David Burrows and others—comes under the name Plastique Fantastique, a “performance fiction” that involves an investigation into aesthetics, subjectivity, the sacred, popular culture and politics produced through, performance, film and sound work, comics, text, installations and assemblages. Plastique Fantastique have performed and exhibited widely in the UK and abroad and are represented by IMT Gallery in London. O’Sullivan is currently working on a collaborative volume of writings, with Burrows, on Mythopoesis–MythScience–Mythotechnesis: Fictioning and the Posthuman in Contemporary Art.

info & contact


Goldsmiths, University of London, UK


s.o’sullivan [AT]