Introduction Three Beginnings

  • Simon O’Sullivan
Part of the Renewing Philosophy book series


In place of an introduction I want to offer three different beginnings.


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  1. 1.
    In Deleuze’s terms, an object of encounter’s primary characteristic ‘is that it can only be sensed’ (DR 139). An object of recognition, on the other hand, is not only that which can be sensed, but that which may be attained by the other faculties (recalled, imagined, conceived): ‘It therefore presupposes the exercise of the senses and of the other faculties in a common sense’ (DR 139). It is common sense that predetermines, and we might say limits, typical experience. Common sense operates here as the cornerstone of representation.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    In relation to this particular encounter I want to mention Keith Ansell Pearson’s book, Germinal Life: The Difference and Repetition of Deleuze (1999) (London: Routledge), and Philip Goodchild’s Gilles Deleuze and the Question of Philosophy (1996) (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press), both of which, although not referred to directly in my own work, played a crucial role in my understanding of Deleuze. A further volume that came later, but was equally inspiring, is John Rajchman’s The Deleuze Connections (2000) (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press). I want also to mention the energy and inspiration offered by the Virtual Futures Conferences at the University of Warwick in the mid-1990s, which perhaps more than anything else determined that my encounter with Deleuze would be an exciting and productive one.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Henceforth, and unless I am specifically referring to joint works, I shall use the proper name ‘Deleuze’ to refer to all the writings Deleuze authored or co-authored.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    We might productively note here the demarcation Jean-François Lyotard once made between philosophers and managers:Google Scholar
  5. If you look a little closer you will see that when the philosophers you have in mind decided to talk about the arts, it was not in order to explain works or interpret them. They wanted even less to make them fit into a system or build a system based on them. What then was their purpose? I’m not quite sure, and this is what we must try to grasp. But in any case these philosophers have had almost no part in the request for a system, except inadvertently. More often than not, they have purposely thwarted it as best they could. The request emanates instead from a new stratum: the managerial staff of the art institutions, the reading engineers, the maintenance crews for the big explanatory machines patented under the name of Ideology, Fantasy, Structure. (LYO 182)Google Scholar
  6. Indeed, for the philosopher it is precisely an art work’s ‘non-fitting’ into any given system that constitutes its interest. This amounts to a certain evasive or what we might call bothersome quality of art that makes any given system ‘malfunction’ (LYO 182). For Lyotard, and I think for Deleuze also, this implies that art will always resist being ‘transformed wholesale into signification’. (LYO 182)Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    There have been other books addressing a similar crossover. Most relevant to my own project is Ronald Bogue’s Deleuze on Musk, Painting, and the Arts (2003) (London: Routledge), the third volume of a three-volume introduction to Deleuze’s writings. Although the former operates as an introduction to Deleuze’s own writings on art, it is no less impressive for this (and indeed many of the themes of my own book inevitably parallel Bogue’s). Bogue has also published a collection of essays, Deleuze’s Wake: Tributes and Tributaries (2004) (Albany: State University of New York Press), which might be characterised as a series of deterritorialisations from the three-volume set. In this latter work Bogue brings Deleuze into encounter with fields not considered by Deleuze himself, perhaps most surprisingly death metal music. Gregg Lambert’s The Non-Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze (2002) (London: Continuum) is another highly impressive thinking through of the encounter between art — or non-philosophy — and philosophy. Lambert offers up an astute reading of The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (1993a) (Trans. T Conley) (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), but also, like Bogue, takes Deleuze into other milieus, or develops Deleuze’s own interests, for example in relation to the literature of Borges and the films of Resnai. A further work in this field is Dorothea Olkowski’s Gilles Deleuze and the Ruins of Representation (1999) (Berkeley: University of California Press). This volume, like Lambert’s, involves a reading of Deleuze’s major philosophical works, and especially Difference and Repetition (1994) (Trans. P. Patton) (New York: Columbia University Press) and The Logic of Sense (1990) (Trans. M. Lester and C. Stivale) (Ed. C.V. Boundas) (New York: Columbia University Press). It also gives a compelling account of the phenomenology of Henri Bergson and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Particularly interesting for myself as regards the latter volume is the utilisation of Mary Kelley’s art practice as a case study, but also a kind of ally, in Olkowski’s own project of rethinking feminism beyond representational paradigms. Although not strictly concerned with art — or for that matter Deleuze — Brian Massumi’s book, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (2002a) (Durham: Duke University Press), perhaps comes closest to what I attempt in my own volume, specifically in its emphasis on affirmation and invention and in the use of what Massumi calls ‘examples’. In fact, for myself, Massumi’s essay on ‘The Autonomy of Affect’, republished in the latter volume, was the first Deleuze inspired essay I read which effectively smeared Deleuze’s own concepts into other areas. It is in this sense that Massumi’s conference papers, specifically on a notion of affect, have also been highly instructive, and I occasionally reference them in what follows. Massumi’s own commentary on Deleuze, A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari (1993) (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), had a similarly inspiring effect. If there is a difference between my own book and all of the above it is that it addresses itself specifically to the ‘relevance’ of Deleuze for the expanded field of modem and contemporary art, and for the field of art history in general.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    The debates in October were constellated around the notion of an ‘allegorical impulse’ within postmodern art. See for example Craig Owen’s article, ‘The Allegorical Impulse: Towards a Theory of Postmodernism’, republished in The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology (1998) (Ed. D. Preziosi) (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 315–28, and, most impressive, Stephen Melville’s ‘Notes on the Reemergence of Allegory, the Forgetting of Modernism, the Necessity of Rhetoric, and the Conditions of Publicity in Art and Art Criticism’, October (1981), No. 19, 33–48.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    See for example Manuel Delanda’s Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy (2002) (London: Continuum), which is specifically involved in ‘wrenching his [Deleuze’s] ideas from his collaboration with Felix Guattari’ (Delanda 2002, 6). Delanda’s rational is that he has a specific interest in that part of the collaboration that is Deleuze’s, namely ‘Deleuze’s ontology and epistemology as exposed in his early works’, thus, in his own work, Delanda uses ‘only those parts of [Deleuze’s] collaborative work which can be directly traced to those early works’ (Delanda 2002, 6). For myself this is a misunderstanding of the nature of collaboration. Indeed, it seems to me that Deleuze’s philosophy — as well as his philosophical attitude or style — was invariably affected by the encounter with Guattari, and in fact that the joint works were precisely experiments in thinking collectively (as the opening of A Thousand Plateaus (1988) (Trans. B. Massumi) (London: Athlone Press) makes clear: ‘The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together. Since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd’ (ATP 3)).Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    It is in this sense that I am entirely in agreement with Alberto Toscano when he remarks, in his compelling Preface to Eric Alliez’s own illuminating commentary on Deleuze and Guattari’s What is Philosophy?:Google Scholar
  11. The commentary is not a contribution to the construction of an orthodoxy, with all its attendant disciplinary effects, but a necessarily partial, perhaps partisan, effort to revitalise a philosophy, by a judicious combination of detailed excavation, on the one hand, and the potentially catalytic adjunction of new components, on the other. (2004, xiv)Google Scholar

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© Simon O’Sullivan 2006

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  • Simon O’Sullivan

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