Transmissibility: A Mode of Artistic Re-Search

Jae Emerling

conference: DARE 2015: the dark precursor
date: November 10, 2015
venue: Orpheus Institute, Concert Hall
format: in words
practice: transversal
keywords: encounter

abstract video about the author(s)


Artistic research can be defined as a mode of critical and creative practice wherein an artist attempts to construct a passage between the past and the present. This passage has nothing to do with allusion or unconscious stylistic filiation. As Marquard Smith has written, “to research, which by definition is ‘to look for with care,’ is an act not only of interpreting the world but changing it.” Even more pressing for artistic research, he asks that we recognise how and why “each historical moment has its own épistéme of re-search.” He hyphenates “re-search” to emphasise this complicated structure of repetition and difference, of always being in the middle between past and future. I argue that to think artistic re-search with a fidelity to the specificity of our own episteme requires us to understand that an artwork is what it does: it renders new passages, new modes of production, between past and future. These passages are always untimely because they are aleatory, unhistorical lines of time that flow within the present. I define transmissibility—as the mode of an artwork, as the creative aim of artistic re-search—as such a passage that traces the lines of time that compose the present. Transmissibility has nothing to do with representing the cultural past. Instead, it has everything to do with a temporal deframing of any cultural representation and with the composition of other modes of culture within the present. For me, this is what makes artistic re-search vital and creative. Artistic re-search is a futural force that creates ontological, ethical, and epistemic effects, if only because it reveals how and why varying temporalities are enfolded within each supposedly discrete tense.

I will argue that artistic research is best conceived as transmissibility, as a “power of the future” as Deleuze tells us. Transmissibility shuttles us between aesthetic labour (creation, research) and cultural reception (historiography, criticism, encountering an artwork). Following Deleuze, the aim here is to conceive of artistic research as a two-fold, simultaneous operation: it deframes the present, meaning it undoes or renders the actual discourse, opinions, clichéd feelings, and expressions; and (or as) it composes new lines and temporal linkages (indeterminate points), new becomings. This two-fold, simultaneous operation occurs because an artwork is not simply an object but is critical thought, a futural material-force. This function of deframing and composing occurs in time, opening us to a multiplicity of temporal durations (the internal difference of time itself). As such, it opens us to unforeseen, affective events—material encounters that force us to think and to become.


about the author(s)

Jae Emerling

Jae Emerling is an associate professor of modern and contemporary art in the College of Arts and Architecture at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. In 2011 he was a visiting professor of contemporary art in the Faculty of Arts at VU Amsterdam. He received his PhD in art history from the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Theory for Art History (2005) and the award-winning Photography: History and Theory (2012), both published by Routledge. His work has also appeared in the Journal of Visual Culture, CAA Reviews, Journal of Art Historiography, and the Los Angeles–based magazine X-TRA: Contemporary Art Quarterly. He is currently working on a book about the aesthetic-historiographic concept of transmissibility. Some of this work has recently appeared in two anthologies, Contemporary Art about Architecture (2013) and Bergson and the Art of Immanence: Painting, Photography, Film (2013).



info & contact


University of North Carolina, Charlotte, US


J.Emerling [AT]