Archive for the Process Ontology Category

The Ergosphere as a facade: How the points of singularity in black holes and the worm holes they create connect to Deleuze’s concept of “The Fold”

Posted in Bergson, Deleuze, Philosophy and Science, Process Ontology with tags , on May 9, 2012 by immanentterrain2

(source: Into The Universe With Stephen Hawking)

Through the work of Gilles Deleuze, the connection found in the study of quantum and gravitational physics and black hole theory has never seemed more real. We have come to a point in our scientific endeavors where paradox itself, as a scientific and philosophical question, can be a valid solution to how human cognition (memory itself) works. Stephen Hawkings in his A Brief History of Time has gone into much detail with regards to this phenomena especially with concerns to his works with black holes. In effect, bringing these concepts down from the ether and calcifying them into a actual entity that can be somewhat conceived by the human intellect. A miracle of mathematics.  Hawkings has come to mathematically and theoretically articulate how travel in time is physically possible. This discourse alone opens up a myriad of ontological, epistemological, and philosophical questions. Why would we as human beings want to travel back and forth through time? The idea of paradoxes, of physically and consciously occupying two moments in time at the same instance, brings the question of the ethical and annihilatory capacity of this practice. What does it even mean to occupy to states in time essentially at the same time?

Worm holes make time travel possible. The connection of two points of singularity. Points of singularity are the points at which (in a black hole) gravity continuously collapses in on itself. A perpetual fold occurring past the event horizon, or the point at which time and space are affected by the movement of the black hole and can no longer escape.

The ergosphere around the event horizon is where everything gains a chromaticism. The portion of space and time where everything is in constant movement and variation. Deleuze’s philosophy is as much one of encounter as it is of proposing a process ontology. A philosophy of becoming. This process of slowing down the rotational spin caused by the gravity inherent with black holes is called frame dragging. Frame dragging, as conceived by theories of general relativity, is resultant of any rotating mass and its gravitational effects on the space-time directly outside of it. Whatever enters this ergosphere has the ability to enter and escape normally up to a certain extent. The interaction between black holes and the worm holes they create on both sides is made possible within this area of indetermination. An area that can be affected by but still retain some of its autonomy giving room for the process of the inward fold and the unfolding out into its milieu to take shape. What Deleuze would call, in his work with Leibniz and his concepts of monads with regards to identity, the façade.

The energy emitted from this point, its unfolding, is the façade from which we perceive it as fundamentally different from others. A mask – open, sensitive, and receptive – that allows for it to interact with the space and time that encompasses it. Allowing it to enter-into-activity with other singularities while holding its quasi-autonomy. Allowing it to always be in a state of becoming, constantly changing, affecting others as much as it is affected. Deleuze would use the idea of the Leibnizian Monad, an interior which acts much like the nuclear reaction or collapsing of gravity that occurs within a point of singularity or black hole, to relate how something that has this substantial interiority can interact with an exterior environment. “The mondad is the autonomy of the interior, an interior without exterior. Yet it has a correlative the independence of the façade, an exterior with an interior. It – the façade – can have doors and windows, it is full of holes, although there is no such thing as an empty space, a hole being nothing more than the site of a more subtle matter”[1]. Interactivity in and of itself gains a new meaning. As black holes and points of singularity, as being just that singular, all have a difference that is calculated by their relationship to their milieu.

The continuous folding and unfolding of these entities is of particular interest when it comes to travel in time. A mode of being that is indicative by its becoming as process. If points of singularity make up the terrain of all matter within the universe, proposed by Stephen Hawkings, and memory itself is the persistance of past image into the present, as proposed by Henri Bergson, then the fold as thought in and of itself gains a true materiality. As space,time, and light travels between points of singularity, the encounter of an interior with its exterior in space and time might just be the time travel that is spoken of by Bergson in his Matter and Memory. 

– Victor Peterson


[1] Deleuze, Gilles. “The Fold”. ” in Yale French Studies, trans. Jonathan Strauss, no. 80 (1991): p. 233

Hawking, S. W. A brief history of time. Bantam, 1998.

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Film-Thinking in Documentaries

Posted in Deleuze, Film, Process Ontology with tags on May 4, 2012 by immanentterrain2

To have an encounter with the film that one is making is a compelling idea that stayed with me from last week’s session. David Lynch’s Inland Empire and the discussion about films without scripts that proceed the filming made me think about documentary films, which are generally unscripted. Most of what happens in front of the camera is not predetermined, but an event with unanticipated consequences and meanings. I am not suggesting that there are no agendas involved – the choices of what to film and how are made more or less intentionally by the filmmaker, as are the things said and done by the subjects in front of the screen. However the outcome of the whole that is captured is generally less planned for, than in fiction films that follow a concrete script. To be surprised by life in front of the camera is one of the reasons why I have developed a strong attachment to the documentary form and non-fiction films. Of course the process of discovery is not always as fruitful as it potentially could be. Often there are preconceived ideas that guide the filmmaker and make the film just another representation of a specific idea, not a possibility for something new to emerge. Nevertheless I think that in its nature the documentary form has good prerequisites for the real encounter between the filmmaker, the film and the world.

However there is also a paradox built into the general understanding of documentary form that inhibits the full freedom and potential for something new to emerge. It is the common understanding of documentary as somehow representing reality “as it is”. Even if there is an acknowledgement that the film is always different from the events that were captured,(due to editing as well) the assumption remains that a reality in documentary should resemble more or less the reality outside the film world.
Hence even if we go along with David Frampton’s (2006) claim that film produces its own way of thinking, I would argue that the distinction that is made between documentary and fiction is making us expect the thinking of documentaries to be much closer to everyday thinking and cognition processes. This makes the documentary process fall too easily into the preconceived categories of understanding.

I am not advocating this paradox to be completely resolved, since I feel there are films where the explicitly “life like” character of the film is relevant for its reception. For example in documentary films that advocate a concrete cause. However I think it is necessary to also approach the documentary genre as an art form in becoming, so that the established notions would not predetermine all possible developments. To provide an example I am posting one of my old time favorites – Peter Greenaway’s short film H is for House. It is an example that in my view manages to go beyond the established notions of documentary form, initiating a distinct film-thinking

Piibe Kolka

References

Frampton, David. 2006. Filmosophy London: Wallflower Press

Relations, Folds, Affects, Forms

Posted in Art, Art Exhibits, Body and Affect, Deleuze, Immanence, Process Ontology, Rhizome on May 2, 2012 by immanentterrain2

During the semester I went to the MoMa specifically with the intention of exploring the contemporary galleries on the 2nd floor, and with the hope to eat curry in Rikrit Tiravanija’s Untitled (Free/Still), which unfortunately had closed down by the day I got there.  While I wasn’t able to explore that piece, I engaged with a few pieces that have remained with me for this or that reason since my exploration of the exhibit, and I want to use this as a forum to explore why these pieces struck me and why they have remained with me.

I enjoy going to museums, and the city has some of the best and worst examples of them.  The MoMa, especially on Free Friday, is a perfect example of museums gone commercially wrong.  There are thousands of people shuffling in lines through completely white rooms, absorbing a piece for maybe a few seconds and eventually moving on.  The gift shops on every floor are filled with books, mugs, key chains and more with the stamp of various artists or iconic paintings.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see a candy wrapper from Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled (Placebo) on a T-shirt. However, in the galleries, every once in a while, someone will remain on a piece for a time for this or that reason. I had a few of these experiences, but only one on the 2nd floor.

I understand the idea behind relational aesthetics, and for me, sublimating the medium to the ideas behind the piece is equally as appealing as it is horrifying, and the emphasis on relations between people is enthralling.  Regardless, there is still some medium in the relational exhibits we’ve been shown, be it wood and curry, candy, or dilapidated huts in ethnic neighborhoods, and my question is if art is about the ends rather than the means, so to speak, as these exhibits, to me, all seem less focused on the experience (relation between person and piece) and more so about the relation between people in regards to the ideas of the piece.  All the Deleuzian thought that we’ve covered so far would lead me to say it is not about conversing about the piece or the experience but the experience itself: the means leading one self to the ends.  I say this knowing my own bias, as the pieces I related with (2 specifically) were all based in a medium, as has almost every art piece I’ve ever engaged with.  The other question brought to my mind is if there is a way to sublimate or remove the medium of cinema in this sense.

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The piece that truly shook the very fiber of my being during my visit was Keith Haring’s masterpiece, Untitled (1982), which occupies nearly 3 walls of a room on the 2nd floor that for some silly reason has a trio of basketballs in the middle, right where the perfect view of the piece is.  Regardless, in my attempt to describe my experience in words, there is no way I can communicate the sublime shock that overcame me when I rounded the corner and saw the room and the piece.  I’ve only seen a few Haring pieces in real life, and still have yet to make it to the exhibit in Brooklyn, but this specific piece is simply incredible. When viewed from right to left, it depicts basically every Haring theme and image in some sort of epic, grand narrative of humankind, and yet every corner of it contains folds within folds so that one can remain within a certain section of the piece for lengthy periods of time.  I spent what felt like an hour going back and forth through this piece, discovering new image after image every time I returned to a section.  I didn’t even see the giant penis the men having sex with each other were riding on, or the Mickey Mouse testicles, until the 2nd or 3rd time around.  The piece is, to say the least, baroque in the sense Deleuze describes in his essay, “The Fold.”

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The other piece that grabbed my attention from another side of the room was Kandinsky’s Panels for Edwin R. Campbell.  Even now looking at these pieces on a computer monitor, they seem to jump out of the screen.  The description reads, “Kandinsky coined the expression ‘nonobjective painting’ to refer to painting that depicted no recognizable objects. Although preliminary studies for one of these paintings suggest that Kandinsky had a landscape in mind when he conceived it, he ultimately envisioned these works as free of descriptive devices. Kandinsky stressed the impact of color and its association with music, explaining that, “color is a means of exerting direct influence upon the soul.”  Whatever Kandinsky was painting, he painted the affects of the pieces in a different way than Cezanne or Bacon, without any descriptors, using the simplest phonemes of formal composition: color and movement.  There is form, but not in the sense that we are used to, and it is painted so masterfully that it exerts a direct visceral response from the beholder upon viewing even on a computer monitor.  What the painting is describing is indescribable in words, as well as in any other medium and digital representation of the painting on a computer, but the affect comes across from piece to viewer without any problem.

Jeff

Of Actor-Networks and Virtual Assemblages

Posted in Bergson, Deleuze, Philosophy and Science, Process Ontology with tags , , , on April 17, 2012 by immanentterrain2

In Reassembling the Social Bruno Latour, a sociologist of science, explains Actor-Network Theory which seeks to understand constitutive relationships between actors, both animate and inanimate, and the generative potential of those interactions. He writes “…network does not designate a thing out there that would have roughly the shape of interconnected points, much like a telephone, a freeway, or a sewage ‘network’… It qualifies its objectivity, that is, the ability of each actor to make other actors engage in unexpected relations.” (Latour, 129)

Latour’s social science includes some appropriations of Deleuzian thought.In his introduction to Reassembling the Social, he proposes to reinvent or redefine sociology not as the ‘science of the social’ but as the ‘tracing of associations’. The social in Latour’s estimation does not imply a thing among things, “like a black sheep among white sheep, but a type of connection between things that are generally understood as social”. (Latour, 5) The study of the social does not emphasize actors simply co-existing with other actors as much as processes of interactions. Deleuzian notions of the intensive, the virtual and even the ‘will to power’ covered in Deleuze’s monographs on Hume, Leibniz and Nietzsche, as well as A Thousand Plateaus, along with other readings for class encouraged me to attempt to understand Actor-Network Theory in terms of Deleuzian thought and/or vice versa. During the course of the semester, I have been trying to slowly tease out three related questions concerning these thinkers: 1) in what ways are the theories put forth by these two philosophers similar; 2) what exactly sets them apart? 3) What is the significance of this relationship?

As Latour discusses the nature of facts in a larger project of build upon thought common to the social sciences and discover new controversies as to what the universe is comprised of, he proposes a four-part process that should allow the unveiling of the construction of what he calls “scientific facts”– the last item of which is of interest in this discussion: it is now possible to determine the processes allowing for plural realities as well as those leading to stability, whereas before scientific facts were understood in a linear, hierarchical way. Virtual assemblages in Latour’s thinking are comprised of objects, ideas and beings aggregated relationships in a body of potential. (Latour, 119)

Here Latour understands the virtual and the idea of the assemblage in the same way Deleuze would, and though not lacking in ontological importance, Latour’s assemblage is more concerned with tracking and noting permutations of ontic qualities within an an assemblage than Deleuze. Latour goes on to say: “An entity gains in reality if it is associated with many others that are viewed as collaborating with it. It loses reality if, on the contrary, it has to shed associates or collaborators—animate and/or inanimate.” (Latour, 257) In my mind this fits with Deleuze’s idea of  a diverse assemblage of animate and inanimate relationships of a body’s existence. I understand this as the double articulation that Deleuze would claim is inherent to the reality of entities.

In A Thousand Plateaus—“10,000 B.C.: The Geology of Morals”, the authors describe the first articulation as a process that combines substances into forms—a type of self production or regulation of becomings imposed on substances. This articulation is “the plane of content“. The second articulation provides overcoding, unification and heirarchization” in the “plane of expression” which refers to the agency, potential and attributes that the new aggregated object expresses.

Central to Latour’s theory is the notion that the part and whole are always one in the same body, instead of existing and functioning as separate bodies, as classical sociology dictates. This theory echoes Bergson’s idea of the part’s relationship to the whole. “It is…the performance of the movements which follow in the movements which precede, a performance whereby the part virtually contains the whole, as when each note of a tune learned by heart seems to lean over the next to watch its execution.” (Bergson, 94) This understanding of the part and the whole central Latour’s work is prefigured by the sociological theories of  Gabriel Tarde, who Deleuze and Guattari refer to in the “Micropolitics and Segmentarity” of A Thousand Plateaus—

 [while] Durkheim’s preferred objects of study were the great collective representations, which are generally binary, resonant, and overcoded. Tarde countered that collective representations presuppose exactly what needs explaining, namely “the similarity of millions of people. That is why Tarde was interested in the world of detail, or of the infinitesimal: the little imitations, oppositions, and inventions constituting an entire realm of subrepresentative matter… at a deeper level, it has to do not with an individual but with a flow or a wave. What, according to Tarde, is a flow? It is belief or desire (the two aspects of every [social] assemblage); a flow is always of belief and desire. Beliefs and desires are the basis of every society, because they are flows and as such are ‘quantifiable’; they are veritable Social Quantities, whereas sensations are qualitative and representations are simple resultants. (Deleuze and Guattari, 218-219)

Latour’s ideas of actor networks do not only appear similar to particular notions of process, virtual and actual in the work of Deleuze, Bergson and Tarde, but also of Gilbert Simondon and his notion of working beyond ideas of the real and the possible. In addition, Simondon’s introduction to  of On the Mode of Existence of Technical Object proposes a study to promote awareness of the importance of technology and technological objects as mediators between man and nature, which is similar to Latour’s focus in Actor-Network Theory. Simondon further declares  in the essay that culture incorrectly ignores technics as an essential component of human understanding and reality by donning a “mask of facile humanism to bind us to a reality full of human striving and rich in natural forces.” (Simondon, 1)

However, Latour emphasizes that these unexpected relationships between bodies or “actors” are useful for the development of a social science that could be derived between the interaction of actors. He wants these processes to be understood in some way, at least to persist in describing what is happening in any given instant. His goal is to actualize the virtual while not denying the existence of this potential. “It is a if [he] is saying to actors: ‘We won’t try to discipline you, to make you fit into our categories; we will let you deploy your own worlds, and only later will we ask you to explain how you came about settling them’.” (Latour, 23) He asks qualitative questions to actualize the virtuality of an actor’s experience. While respecting the ontological potential, Latour’s intent is clearly epistemological, or to quantify qualitative relations.

This is where I understand the philosophy of these two thinkers to depart and where the significance lies.  Deleuze’s philosophy is unquestionably ontological. In his mind, everything is a process—much like in Latour’s theory, but he is not interested in documenting this process or understanding the specific levels of flows of potential within a body. He is interested in the idea that these potentials exist unseen, indiscernible, containing and contributing to endless possibility. Though he realizes the actual must exist at points, his interest is in the process of change—not in what can be described but in what remains indescribable.

B. Paris

References:

Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Zone. 1990.

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press. 1987

Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. Oxford University Press. 2007.

Simondon, Gilbert. “Genesis of the Individual”. in Interpretations. ed. Crary and Kwinter. 1992.

Simondon, Gilbert. On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects. trans. Ninian Mellaphy. 1980.

Democracy, Affect, and “Enter-activity” in Zoe Strauss

Posted in Art, Art and Philosophy, Art Exhibits, Bergson, Body and Affect, Deleuze, Immanence, Process Ontology, Relational Aesthetics, Subjectivity with tags on April 3, 2012 by immanentterrain2

The first of these ideas is the concept of antagonism. Laclau and Mouffe argue that a fully functioning democratic society is not one in which all antagonisms have disappeared, but one in which new political frontiers are constantly being drawn and brought into debate — in other words, a democratic society is one in which relations of conflict are sustained, not erased. Without antagonism there is only the imposed consensus of authoritarian order—a total suppression of debate and discussion, which is inimical to democracy.

Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics – Claire Bishop

It is always a truly peculiar situation. The tension residing in the interstices between the one and the other. The stark juxtaposition between percept and affect. The grinding in between.  The antagonism we reference above is resultant of one being thrown amongst the detritus of society. Those forgotten. That’s how it begins.  A violence that confronts the somnambulist as they are awakened from their complacent, passive, acceptance of the world about. The attempt to striate the miasma, to diffuse the smell, to relegate and delineate roles and responsibility, has created a zone of possibility where finally . . . finally, the representative becomes expressive. This I believe was the goal and intent of a Ms. Zoe Strauss. An utterance that could finally be discerned from the constructed milieu of an art world, of a home, of a people. One that resounded “don’t forget us”.

Zoe Strauss’ exhibit, located throughout the city of Philadelphia as billboards with her work strategically positioned in neighborhoods and business districts as well as in the Philadelphia Art Museum, is a materialization of these utterances and the memories of those left along the margins of our society. The identity of these individuals, as just that, individuals, via this display, has created a psycho-geography of sorts out of the cityscape as their stories inscribe their-story (as opposed to his-story) along billboards that dot the sky. The contrast of these images can be jarring as you pass the hopes and dreams of these individuals and the falling out of those same dreams against the progressive utopic skyline of a area betting everything on becoming “America’s next great city”. Zoe is calling for a reading of the lives of the individuals she documents – people she has lived with and befriended – to disturb those walking by. To wake them up. Calling attention to the artistry of these people and the environment that many blindly walk through as these people, trembling and hungry, stand to make up the foundation of our society. Kafka’s melancholic style, resultant of the hyper industrialization of the times he lived in makes plenty of commentary on these facts. His Hunger Artist is evocative of his resentment of the times. “When . . . some leisurely passer-by stopped . . . and spoke of cheating, that was in its way the stupidest lie ever invented by indifference and inborn malice, since it was not the hunger artist who was cheating, he was working honestly, but the world was cheating him of his reward”[1]. Zoe attempts to show the failings of this society in a very human way. To show that society has cheated that which it was meant to protect and afford the right to live. For isn’t the mainstay of our culture supposed to be the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Most importantly to life?

The role of identity within these images – the expressive gestures finally enunciated by those who were subjected to alterity in our society – begs to action not only from the reader of these works but from the subjects documented themselves. In a process of individuation, their identity moves from that of negation to a bellowing affirmation of self. As me because I am me. In truth it was hard to hear these voices at first. The space was filled not with shock and awe but with what Gilles Deleuze would state from his analysis of the works of Francis Bacon, a scream where the source was nowhere to be found. The residue of an attempt to codify and define, to striate the subjects and the subject matter within these pieces. A violent disorientation was the end goal. Screams to the tune of “that’s disgusting” . . . “do people live this way” . . . “this is so random” were ever apparent as they were said by the reader’s of the exhibit.  It was angering, however, this violent disorientation was required of myself as well. Amidst the sounds of laughter, disgust, awe, “don’t go in there . . . don’t look”, was a beautifully tragic project. Tragic in the Greek sense of the hero falling at the expense of what they love or those closest. This story however was re-invented. Zoe’s attempt to give voice to these situations were not about heroicizing problems or vilifying the people’s stories displayed by her works but to vivify their memory. To add a thickness and intensity that contributed to the materialization of their memory. Not as an epithet or effigy but to in-liven their faces.

The soundscape that accompanied the experience of these works added to the working assemblage of constructing their meaning.  The juxtaposition of the well off, high middle class and the open display of the lower rungs of society and the resultant reactions were a jarring reminder of the socio-political landscape that we occupy in our contemporary urban landscape.  “Images without sound are powerless to express horror”. [2] The exegesis of this horror is essential to begin a process of constituting the subject and the individual within this environment of the exhibition space. Allowing for an affective re-constitution that transforms both agents within this assemblage of meaning. There is a rebellious duty to disturb that is evident in each piece by Strauss. Art is meant to disturb and disrupt the status quo. In other words to question.

Zoe Strauss (source: Philly.com)

Identity really becomes material as one traverses the landscape of the exhibit. The promise of photography as a medium is its ability to record difference and time. Difference becomes innate and identity is not constituted through a negation of an other. It becomes a process.  The idea of the subject becoming an individual breaks with a historical trajectory that has tried to demarcate the boundaries of humanity and those included within its purview. The other and their existence, their minor status within the social, have been shown to be a conscious construct of those (regardless of number) who have ascertained power in relation to those subjected to it. “One ever feels his twoness . . . two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”[3] One ever feels their status and the status that has been imposed on them. DuBois would go further to say that “[i]t is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” The work of Zoe Strauss is an attempt to reconfigure the image of those with this double consciousness. Those that are subjected to the discursive laws of society and made to feel a “twoness” as the result of the unity of the multiple forces that constitute their identity being torn between two ends or points in the landscape that make up or social-hierarchical structure. To render the invisible not merely as a form of representation but to begin the process of expressing the identity of those within the photographs at that particular instance in history.

Zoe, with an allusion to Bergson and his notions of concrete and abstract time, tries to render the forces within our social terrain visible and remove the confusion that Bergson would constantly refer to in his ideas on time, matter, and memory.  Strauss wants the viewers of these pieces to be realized and to know that they are existent because they truly are. The viewers experiences juxtaposed with those in the photographs renders this distinction more real.  For the viewer, they become a part of this coming into existence as they travel through the spatial enunciation of this identity recorded in a visually material literature. A material language that is read through their active participation in the construction of these spaces meaning and recording in history. To turn this image on its head and give voice to those who in society were told that their voice could only be validated through certain schema or blocks in the social terrain of human experience.

In the case of antagonism, argue Laclau and Mouffe, ‘we are confronted with a different situation: the presence of the ‘Other’ prevents me from being totally myself. The relation arises not from full totalities, but from the impossibility of their constitution.’ 40 In other words, the presence of what is not me renders my identity precarious and vulnerable, and the threat that the other represents transforms my own sense of self into something questionable. When played out on a social level, antagonism can be viewed as the limits of society’s ability to fully constitute itself. Whatever is at the boundary of the social (and of identity), seeking to define it also destroys its ambition to constitute a full presence: ‘As conditions of possibility for the existence of a pluralist democracy, conflicts and antagonisms constitute at the same time the condition of impossibility of its final achievement.’[4] We must push to the edges of those boundaries and burst through. To invent through the openings that have been created via the intense accumulation of otherness on the fringes of society. “Antagonism is discursively constituted”[5] and was made evident through the conversation surrounding each piece within the art gallery and the pieces throughout the city as well.

The process of individuation and democracy must be exhausted as these terms – democracy, interactivity, agency, etc. – are blindly wielded in not only the art world but also the world theater at large. How is a sense of agency, empowerment, or democracy within these theaters even possible based on certain superficial or superimposed ideals glazed over agents and bodies in society? Identity must be valid within one’s self. If unity is multiplicity, as discussed by Nietzsche or even Spinoza, we cannot solely rely on a constituted subject as the result of a derogatory machine that works, subjugates and “reposes on a double identity: of the thinking subject, and of the concepts it creates and to which it lends its own presumed attributes of sameness and constancy . . . In thought its end is truth, in action justice. The weapons it wields in their pursuit are limitive distribution (the determination of the exclusive set of properties possessed by each term in contradistinction to the others: logos, law) and hierarchical ranking (the measurement of the degree of perfection of a term’s self-resemblance in relation to a supreme standard, man, god, or gold: value, morality). The modus operandi is negation: x = x = not y. Identity, resemblance, truth, justice, and negation . . . The end product would be ‘a fully legitimated subject of knowledge and society’ . . . endlessly reproduced and disseminated at every level of the social fabric.” [6] An X = X not because X is not equal to Y but because X is X. This demarcates an indiscernible zone of autonomy within the social landscape that allows for identity to stand in and of itself. A zone that is relationally and affectively interconnected with its milieu. Zoe herself is emblematic of this concept as she still lives within the environments and personally interacts with all of those in her work. The question now becomes how, in these “indiscernible” zones of autonomy, do we truly identify the subject and give it voice? How do we release it from the territorialzed confines of society at large? How do we allow for it’s becoming?

The subject, identity, and/or the individual is realized through a spatial/relational orientation with its milieu. This is an affective relationship. One that allows for all parties involved to enact change on each other. Without this relationship constituted in this way, nothing can occur within the modernist or postmodernist ideal as we have defined it (if we can truly say that it is something that can be defined). Interactivity occurs within the encounter and experience derived of actively perceiving these images that afford us the opportunity to think outside given frameworks. There is no cause and effect type of relationship here as these perceptions and the subsequent meaning – created, not derived – from them occur in the instantaneous moments which we perceive as we “enter-act” (as opposed to merely interact) with pieces. They are created in praesenti. As Hume would note, cause and effect is inferred – it is not given. It is a construction that humanity uses to make the world sensible or intelligible and occurs a posteriori. Hindsight is always 20/20. Thus is logic and causality. Our knowledge and meaning emerges in that miraculous duration of attentive tinkering we call perception. “ . . . The emergence of both individual and milieu – following a course [devenir] in which preliminary tensions are resolved but also preserved . . . the conservation of being through becoming”[7]. Any democratic notions inherent within these works are upheld through this tension. This tension is the creative force, in the in-between (mediation or medius in its pure etymological sense), that materializes the memories and stories told through the interaction one enters into with the photography in the exhibit and billboards displayed throughout the city.

Memory and perception are the apparatus by which we construct a narrative through perceiving these works. Along with Bergson (In his Matter and Memory), the inventive capacity of our cognition, our action in thinking, lies within our ability to forget – our short term memory – which in turn forces us to invent. Henri Bergson defines memory itself as an image that intervenes in active perceptions as we experience the world. Memories become the residual of our affective experience of the world about. These memories are “materially” perceived. By attaching memory and consciousness to a physical process of perception, I believe Bergson allows for the materialization of not only matter but identity itself to be rendered comprehensible even in art. “Matter can be impressed with a form, and the source of ontogenesis can be derived from this matter – form relation. Indeed, if haecceities were not somehow inherent within the atom, or matter, or indeed form, it would be impossible to find a principle of individuation in any . . . realities. To seek the principle of individuation in something that preexists this same individuation is tantamount to reducing individuation to nothing more than ontogenesis. The principle of individuation here is the source of haecceity”[8]. This formation of matter is the beginning of our material perception of our milieu and the beginning of how we can enter into interactivity with the world and in this case this exhibit. Our memory (in the long-term) can no longer be perceived as a latent vegetative contemplation or “image”. “In truth, it no longer represents our past to us, it acts it; and if it still deserves the name of memory, it is not because it conserves bygone images, but because it prolongs their useful effect into the present moment”.[9] This expressive transformation of memory as images and its becoming active in the present is exactly what Zoe’s aim becomes as she spatially gives voice to those within her photographs throughout the city and the art gallery. Our perception of these elements, interwoven into the social fabric of the urban landscape, and the socio-political and economic landscape of the art gallery, allow for a prolonging, and vivification of our experiences long gone but brought to the for.

Zoe Strauss Billoard Project Map
(source: Philadelphia Museum of Art)

The first records, in the form of memory-images, all the events of our daily life as they occur in time; it neglects no detail; it leaves to each fact, to each gesture, its place and date. Regardless of utility or of practical application, it stores up the past by the mere necessity of its own nature. By this memory is made possible the intelligent, or rather intellectual, recognition of a perception already experienced; in it we take refuge every time that, in the search for a particular image, we remount the slope of our past. But every perception is prolonged into a nascent action; and while the images are taking their place and order in this memory, the movements which continue them modify the organism, and create in the body new dispositions towards action.

Matter and Memory – Henri Bergson

These new dispositions allow for a transformative change that in a present, immanent, world of relationality we gain agency in our autonomy as a becoming individual. Agency can no longer be relegated to something that is bequeathed to subjects which in turn subjectifies and indebts them once more to the one who gave this all-too-wonderful gift. These changes can be read as we, as well as our milieu, come into existence in a symbiosis of in-volution. These changes can be read across many different mediums.

This is the primary reason why, in this essay, we have referred to the viewers of these works as readers. This in-volution calls for a new form of literacy in how we interact and navigate an environment such as the one we have been describing in gallery space housing Zoe’s exhibit. A form of literacy that in many ways has been devalued as it cannot be controlled or has been subjugated to other forms of knowledge construction so that it can be. For are not words microcosms of difference that are physically and psychically read due to their innate and minute differences in their constitution and how they’re juxtaposed against open space? Are they not read by the scanning of even the most infinitesimal differences in the assemblage of their visual components? Do we not hold them in contrast to the plane from which they emerge (their environment/milieu)? Essentially, a poetic (and by poetic we mean in the greek sense of creation) attempt to striate, territorialize, and demarcate areas of space to construct systematic meanings from a smooth, indiscernible plane? This action in and of itself, and the illocution or statements that elicit performative acts is exactly what constitutes a language (especially when it comes to art and materially based linguistic systems), otherwise, what is the point? “[T]he performative itself is explained by the illocutionary . . . and the illocutionary is in turn explained by collective assemblages of enunciation”[10].

It is in these assemblages that we are truly interested in order to ascertain a new image of what it means to read these newly re-constituted spaces. What begins to define these territories are these becomings of expression, the enunciated utterances mediated through the words represented by the works placed throughout the city and the gallery space. “ . . . [T]his moment: the becoming-expressive . . . the emergence of expressive proper qualities, the formation of matters of expression that develop into motifs and counterpoints . . . [is] the essential thing. . . [T]he disjunction noticeable between the code and the territory”[11]. The coding of these territorialized spaces are due expressively to this “disjunction”, juxstaposition, or difference in contrast to the milieu these objects are embedded in. In other words, a psycho-geographical rendering of urban space that we consciously perceive and begin to read. And finally beginning to construct knowledge and meaning based on their collective force in expressing their identity. These codes are not predetermined, a priori, determinations of meaning but are derivative of experience and experimentation (as Hume would lay out on his artifice of thought). Through Zoe’s works, it becomes apparent that we enter into these assemblages of meaning not by choice or rationale, but by a necessity to make sense of it all. An affective, symbiotic, relationship that interconnects bodies, modalities, or these indiscernible zones of being to one another. As stated before, if left to logic and ratiocinicity, there would be no room for readers to perceive the variance or chromaticism innate within these pieces. We would be confined to the same functive, normalizing lingual games that we continually impose on environments to derive sense from them after the fact. Meaning can no longer unfold and we are taken out of the immanent and immediate environment in which we conceptualize and communicate the beauty in the world. We must be inventive and through our collective assemblages of meaning and affective (instead of effective) interaction with each other we can communicate this ontogenetic, engendering knowledge. For a new image of language, “[t]he organization of qualified marks into motifs and counterpoints necessarily entails a taking on of consistency, or a capture of the marks of another quality, a mutual branching of . . . colors-gestures . . . Consistency necessarily occurs between heterogeneities, not because it is the birth of a differentiation, but because heterogeneities that were formerly content to coexist or succeed one another become bound up with one another through the ‘consolidation’ of their coexistence and succession”[12]. This consolidation of expression begins to constitute our new image of language, the word itself, and move toward the valorization of lingual systems that are not primarily representative.

This capacity is found in art and is exemplified by the work of Zoe Strauss in her 10 years exhibit and billboard project. Zoe’s work, “produces an active solidarity in spite of skepticism; and if the writer is in the margins or completely outside his or her fragile community, this situation allows the writer all the more the possibility to express another possible community and to forge the means for another consciousness and another sensibility”[13]. An act of solidarity bellowing out from the margins of society and captured in Zoe’s photography.

Victor Peterson 

Notes:

Zoe Strauss: 10 Years Exhibit – Philadelphia Museum of Art

Zoe Strauss Billboard Project in Philadelphia


[1] Kafka, Franz. A Hunger Artist. CreateSpace , 2010. Print.

[2] Toussaint, Jean-Philipe. The Bathroom. Dalkey Archive Press, 1985. Print.

[3] DuBois, W.E.B. The Souls Of Black Folk. Penguin Classics, 1996. Print.

[4] Bishop, Claire. “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics.” October Magazine, Ltd. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2004): 51-79. Print.

[5] Laclau, Ernesto, and Chantal Mouffe. Hegemony And Socialist Strategy, Towards A Radical Democratic Politics. Verso Books, 2001. (P. 168)

[6] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism And Schizophrenia. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 1987. Print.

[7] Simmondon, Gilbert. The Birth of the Individual. J. Crary and S. Kwinter. Zone Books, 1992. Print.

[8] Simmondon p. 298. A Haecceity encompasses the discreet qualities, innate to a body or entity. Difference is at the root of all identity.

[9] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. , 2004. Print.

[10] Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism And Schizophrenia. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 1987. Print. (p. 78).

[11] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p 322.

[12] Deleuze and Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus, p. 330.

[13] Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guatarri. “Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature.” Theory and History of Literature. Volume 30. (1986) Print.

Theoriography – On the writing of concepts

Posted in Deleuze, Deleuze and Guattari, Immanence, Process Ontology, Rhizome with tags , on March 5, 2012 by immanentterrain2

… in which a new student of Deleuze attempts a commentary on/using his methodology.

“There is no sharper point than that of Infinity. What bliss to plunge the eyes into the immensity of sky and sea! Solitude, silence, incomparable chastity of the blue! … monotonous melody of the waves, all these things think through me or I through them … I say they think, but musically and picturesquely, without quibblings, without syllogisms, without deductions.” — Baudelaire, “The Artist’s Confiteor,” Paris Spleen.

– to begin in the middle, experiencing the sea not as one does from the shore – the water first touching a toe, then a knee, then perhaps the shoulders, and after a while wading back out; tension rising and falling as a narrative arch, rising and falling as the waves, which, by keeping one’s head out of the water are always clearly visible from above. No. Instead, plunging into the water. Perhaps at night, perhaps upside down. Trying at first to orient oneself, to find the surface, but then, acclimating, acquiescing. The waves are not now visible as distant, discreet entities with beginnings and endings, but rather are felt, as flux and flow that pass over and affect.

This is to read Kafka. And to read Deleuze. I was impressed to learn Kafka’s method of writing “The Judgement”: in one sitting, overnight, flowing, writing almost continuously, “thinking through things,” or at least, thinking through writing, “without syllogisms, without deductions.” When Deleuze writes about Kafka, he writes about blocks and lines of flight. As someone currently working on a thesis project, I know about blocks – which is why I was so intrigued by Kafka’s methods and Deleuze’s reflections on them: they gave me a new inspiration to just write. Having already done much research and already constructed many thoughts on my topic, reflecting on this method of writing initially made me feel that all I needed to do was write and transfer those internal concept structures into a written form.

But this is where my initial understanding was slightly off. Deleuze would not be interested in this idea of some internal structure that writing simply transfers to the page, nor do I think this would be his interpretation of Kafka’s method. This is what Deleuze would call a tracing rather than a mapping. The tracing attempts to copy the internal to external; “to explore an unconscious that is already there from the start, lurking in the dark recesses of memory and language.” (TP, p. 12) This is the thought that seems perfect at 4am but then melts at the first light of day. The Baudelaire passage poignantly illustrates this: his beauty is always lost and distant. Baudelaire’s “incomparable chastity of the blue” connects with what Rebecca Solnit calls “the blue of distance”: “the light that does not touch us … that gets lost [and] gives us the beauty of the world.” Baudelaire watches the waves from the shore. This is the desire always out of reach that Walter Benjamin describes as the “Blue Flower” in his essay on Surrealism “Dream Kitsch.” When thinking about Kafka writing “The Judgement”, I initially thought of the automatic writing of the Surrealists, but now I realize that this too is more of a tracing than a mapping. About the Surrealists, Benjamin writes: “They seek the totemic tree of objects within the thicket of primal history” (TWoA, p. 238) clearly not a rhizomatic pursuit.

Deleuze contrasts the map to the tracing: “The map does not represent an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious.” (TP, p. 12) In his introductory notes to A Thousand Plateaus, Brian Massumi clarifies his translation of “lines of flight”: the original French term fuite conveys “not only the act of fleeing or eluding but also flowing, leaking and disappearing into the distance.” (TP, p. xvi) Indeed Kafka (and Deleuze) is not content to contemplate infinity from afar in quiet reverie, but instead is always moving towards it. So my task then is not to write some predefined internal structure but instead to create the structure through the act of writing it.

[Added paragraph, 5/17/2012. -rory] The distinction here is the difference between the map and the tracing. Mapping involves a transfer from one domain into another — which requires the collapsing or consolidating of certain dimensions (as in from 3D to 2D), and/or the selective filtering, ignoring or abstracting of certain details. Each of these operations require some kind of subjective decisions at each step (the introduction of perspective, for example). That means that maps are productive, create power, can be expressive of ideology and so on — and as such, mapping can be an operation that consciously challenges all those things. On the other hand, tracing is intended to be value neutral and thus can only pass those things through, not challenge or recast them. My impression is that “automatic writing” is intended to be this kind of “pass through”: a tracing of the unconscious onto the page. By contrast, in “The Judgement”, K was flowing but not ignoring reflection or critical judgements; or rather, he was trying to cultivate a process that did all these things through the process of flowing.

But all this brings me to my one confusion / critique of Deleuze so far, and that is: how does one sustain the time or duration that is essential to his process ontology? How does a becoming not simply reduce into a new fixed category? [This example updated, 5/17/2012. -rory] For example, a droplet of water. As a fixed identity it is just a molecule. But it always exists in motion, as a part of some flow or process of becoming — for example, falling as rain. Is this then a fixed category “rain”? No because that too is in motion: into a stream, into a river, into the sea — in process and becoming. And yet, this entire process of becoming could be defined as another fixed thing, for example, the water cycle (precipitation, percolation, evaporation, etc). How does process resist always falling into a fixed static identity or concept? Even the wave can exist as a standing wave — a flowing that becomes a fixed thing. Perhaps I am misunderstanding something. Though really it probably doesn’t matter. As Brian Massumi advises in his introduction: “The question is not: is it true? But: does it work? What new thoughts does it make possible to think? … What new sesnsations and perceptions does it open in the body?” (TP, p. xv) Perhaps, at least in my case, it may at least help make possible the thinking (and writing) of my thesis first draft.

– Rory Solomon

Baudelaire, Charles. Paris Spleen. New York: New Directions Pub. Co., 1988.

Benjamin, Walter et al. The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus : Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis, Minn.; London: University of Minnesota Press, 1998.

Solnit, Rebecca. A Field Guide to Getting Lost. New York: Viking, 2005.

Spinoza, God and Immanence

Posted in Body and Affect, Immanence, Process Ontology with tags , , on February 7, 2012 by immanentterrain2

(Reprint: Snow Day Lecture #3)

In What Is Philosophy, Deleuze and Guattari refer to Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) as “prince of philosophers.” Spinoza, they write, “is the only philosopher never to have compromised with transcendence and to have hunted it down everywhere […] He discovered that freedom exists only within immanence” (48). Spinoza’s philosophy of immanence is the consequence of his rejection of the Judeo-Christian conception of God as a transcendent creator; a supernatural being who is cause of a world distinct from himself, created out of nothing and through an act of free will. Spinoza argues that God is not prior to or outside the world – transcendent to creation – but wholly immanent within it. God is “an extended substance composed of an infinity of attributes that is purely immanent throughout nature” (Smith 18). Divinity is fully expressed in the world and without reserve. This leads Spinoza to his scandalous formulation “God, or Nature” (Deus sive natura), which both divinizes nature and naturalizes divinity (and explains descriptions of Spinoza as both pantheist and atheist).

By rejecting the notion of God as transcendent cause, Spinoza also undermines the link between God and moral absolutes or laws. Moral judgments have no corollary in the natural world and therefore cannot be attributed to God, since what cannot be said to belong to nature cannot be said to belong to God. Moral judgments must be understood as “human creations made for our convenience and utility.” Morality as “the product of social agreement” can only be deemed legitimate or illegitimate in terms of its beneficial or harmful effects on the society that agrees to live under its rules and regulations (Smith 2003, 52 and 126). For Spinoza, there is no “imaginary supernatural realm” and no external authority to which we can refer or reference in order to determine morality, and if there is no God who pre-exists the world, then there can be no source that can be said to stand outside or beyond the world to approve or condemn it. Life cannot be explained by what transcends life.

Spinoza’s philosophy of immanence thus requires a new kind of ethics, addressed to the here and now, immersed in the sensible world, without recourse to absolute or divine authority. Spinoza goes further. He rejects the anthropomorphic fallacy that conceives God in the image of man, albeit raised to the power of infinity. “People attribute to God features borrowed from human consciousness […] and, in order, to provide for God’s essence, they merely raise those features to infinity, or say that God possess them in an infinitely perfect form” (Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy 63). What Spinoza makes clear is the extent to which this notion of God functions as a mirror image of the attributes man perceives or idealizes in himself: man as an intending agent, who supposedly creates, like God, through a spontaneous act of free will; man as outside, or transcendent to, nature.

Here, Spinoza’s critique can be directed not only against the philosophy of transcendence found in Plato and in Christian theology, but the modern variant found in Descartes. Thus, in opposition to the latter’s dualist ontology, Spinoza asserts the conjugation of mind and body. Both mind and body are modes of substance (i.e., God or nature). Spinoza: “Mind and body are one and the same thing, conceived now under the attribute of thought, now under the attribute of extension” (qt. in Montag 42). Spinoza renders problematic the notion that that body is controlled by “the will of the mind and the exercise of thought” (Spinoza qt. in ibid. 38). Spinoza doesn’t simply reject Descartes’s dualist thought, but challenges the hierarchy that subordinates the body to the mind, which subordinates the power to be affected to the power to think, which separates the power to be affected from the power to think. Spinoza’s immanent philosophy does not allow us to set apart “mind from body, thought from action,” or man from nature: each coincides with the other (ibid. xvii). Just as God is expressed in world – as world – so too is the artist, for example, expressed in their work. There is not an individual who acts but an act that individuates. And this individuation is ongoing.

S I-G

References

Deleuze, Gilles. Spinoza: Practical Philosophy. Trans. Robert Hurley. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books, 1988.

Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. What is Philosophy? Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

Montag, Warren. Bodies, Masses, Power: Spinoza and His Contemporaries. London and New York: Verso, 1999.

Smith, Daniel. “Deleuze and Derrida, Immanence and Transcendence: Two Directions in Recent French Thought.” In Paul Patton and John Protevi (eds.), Between Deleuze and Derrida. London and New York: Continuum, 2003.