Nomadic and Transverse Artistic Practices

Jean-Charles François

conference: DARE 2017: aberrant nuptials
date: November 20, 2017
venue: Orpheus Institute, Concert Hall
format: in words
practice: transversal
keywords: de/re-territorialisation, improvisation, Michel Foucault

abstract about the author(s)


In the spirit of Deleuze and Guattari’s complexity of knots (rhizomes) as contrasted with linear, arborescent, or binary structures, this paper proposes to reflect on today’s artistic practices that can be classified as “nomadic and transverse.”

For the authors of Mille Plateaux, concepts that are related to the ideas of nomadism and transversality tend to operate in relationships that mingle differentiation and solidarity:

  1. The smooth in relation to the striated (taken from Boulez), the continuous hydraulic flow in relation to specific points of reference.
  2. A minor or eccentric science proposing infinite problematical processes in relation to a royal science of definitive theorems.
  3. Processes of deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation in relation to stable
  4. The double capture or wedding against nature between two entities having absolutely nothing to do with each

Additionally, the concept of transverse implies references to hybrid forms (for example graphic scores), multimedia, interdisciplinary approaches, plurality of cultures (de Certeau), and creolisation of the world (Glissant).

The nomadic and transverse artistic practices can be here defined as activities that are not definitely fixed in works of art, that imply never-ending projects and refusal to be defined by particular aesthetic labels. What is at stake is an everyday tinkering with elements and contexts, an endless travelling with no particular issues. The crucial two points of the paper are centred on the ambiguous relationships of nomadic practices with sedentary ones (see Stengers, Cosmopolitiques 7):

  1. The network that continuously forms, informs, and deforms itself cannot be limited to a single focus on the production of artistic materials for the benefit of a The processes are no longer defined in a specific specialised space: they also are concerned with collective creation, socio-political contexts, informal/formal relationships to institutions, transmission of knowledge, various ways of interacting between humans, and between humans and machines. Curriculum  design, research  projects, teaching  sessions, and so on become, in this context, fully-fledged artistic situations outside the exclusivity of performances onstage.
  2. In improvisation, to produce unprepared results onstage, one has to be intensively prepared beforehand. How can timbre production be differentiated, if all the bodies of the performers are shaped in institutions to produce the same sounds? How can it be differentiated if the bodies are not shaped to do this? In collective elaborations, the real meeting of different people, of which the result should remain unpredictable, requires at the same time the presence of strong protocols, systems of constraints, or “dispositifs” (as defined by Michel Foucault) that oblige the participants to acquire some knowledge of each other’s practices, and to develop projects or objects together, mingling a respect for the diversity of their practices and the necessity to work for a collective creative

about the author(s)

Jean-Charles François

Jean-Charles François is a percussionist, composer, and improviser. He studied at the CNSMD in Paris. He was a freelance percussionist in Paris during the 1960s. Between 1965 and 1969, he was the co-director of the Centre de Musique, at the American Center in Paris. Between 1972 and 1990, he was a member of the music faculty at the University of California San Diego. In 1975 he founded the experimental improvisation group KIVA. He has published numerous research articles. His book Percussion et musique contemporaine was published by Editions Klincksieck (Paris) in 1991. In 1994 he obtained his doctorate at the University Paris VIII. Between 1990 and 2007 he was the director of the CEFEDEM Rhône-Alpes in Lyon. He is a member of the contemporary music ensemble Aleph, Paris, the improvisation trio PFL Traject, Lyon, and PaaLabRes Collective, Lyon.

info & contact


PaaLabRes, Lyon, FR


jeancharles.francois [AT]