The Ethicoaesthetics of Affect and the Bloc of Sensations Reaffirming the Specificity of Art (Against Representation)

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


In this chapter I put forward a polemical argument for a kind of ‘return’ to aesthetics, the latter understood here as the deterritorialsing function of art, its power to take us outside our ‘selves’ — a return, via Deleuze and Guattari and a number of different allies and precursors, which reaffirms the specificity of art. It is then a return to the terrain of the previous chapter in terms of its utilisation of an expanded and immanent notion of aesthetics and a foregrounding of art’s asignifying potential, but it is also a turn away, one might even say a revision, in terms of its focus on the art object understood as a particular kind of ‘made’ thing. One might also think of this latter turn as a strategic move from opening to closure, or even from speed to slowness (in this sense it tracks the move Deleuze and Guattari themselves made from the wildness of Capitalism and Schizophrenia to a more sober account of the impasses and possibilities of thought in What is Philosophy?).1 As with the previous chapter I do not refer to specific practices, rather, my argument is directed at the field of contemporary art in general as well as at certain theoretical preoccupations of art history.


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  1. 1.
    In this sense I am very much in agreement with Ian Buchanan’s notion in his book, Deleuzism: A Metacommentary (2000) (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), that What is Philosophy! is a kind of revisionar? text. It is important also to point out that the different speed and tone of this volume is the result of it having a different kind of function to earlier works, namely to counteract the increasing hegemony of opinion, as Deleuze and Guattari saw it, within contemporary culture. For myself, Buchanan’s reading of Deleuze is interesting precisely because it is made through the optic of Frederic Jameson’s writings we might even say is read through this broadly representational paradigm (see also Chapter 1, note 2). Another example of more extreme capture is Slavoj Zizek’s book on Deleuze, Organs without Bodies: Deleuze and Consequences (2004) (London: Routledge), which perhaps inevitably involves the reading of Deleuze via a Lacanian optic.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    This is then a specifically Spinozist project. As Deleuze remarks:Google Scholar
  3. What does Spinoza mean when he invites us to take the body as model? It is a matter of showing that the body surpasses the knowledge that we have of it, and that thought likewise surpasses the consciousness that we have of it. There are no fewer things in the mind that exceed our consciousness than there are things in the body that exceed our knowledge. So it is by one and the same movement that we shall manage, if possible, to capture the power of the body beyond the given conditions of our knowledge, and to capture the power of the mind beyond the conditions of our consciousness. (PP 18)Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    Lyotard ‘defines’ these fantasies as operating:Google Scholar
  5. whenever the objective is to stabilise the referent, to arrange it according to a point of view which endows it with a recognisable meaning, to reproduce the syntax and vocabulary which enable the addressee to decipher images and sequences quickly, and so to arrive easily at the consciousness of his own identity as well as the approval which he thereby receives from others — since such structures of images and sequences constitute a communication code among all of them. This is the way the effects of reality, or if one prefers, the fantasies of realism, multiply. (1984, 74)Google Scholar
  6. Hence, for Lyotard the importance of the artist who counteracts this ‘reality effect’, who is precisely ‘working without rules in order to formulate the rules of what will have been done’ (Lyotard 1984, 81).Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    Indeed, there is a ‘tradition’ of positioning critical art history as a form of ideological critique, and specifically as a critique of aesthetics. See for example Kurt Foster’s polemical essay, ‘Critical History of Art or a Transfiguration of Values’, New Literary History (1972), vol. 3, No. 1, 459–70.Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    See Derrida’s The Truth in Painting (1987) (Trans. G. Bennington and I. McLeod) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) and specifically the section ‘Parergon’, pp. 37–82.Google Scholar
  9. 6.
    Affects are events that are irreducible to discourse, understood as structure. Affects might however be understood as textual in a kind of expanded Derridean sense, in that they are felt as differences in intensity.Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    For Brian Massumi, in his essay ‘The Autonomy of Affect’, Deleuze: A Critical Reader (1996) (Ed. P. Patton) (Oxford: Basil Blackwell), pp. 217–39, affects are likewise understood as passages of intensity, which might resonate with linguistic expression but which strictly speaking are of a different, and prior, order. For Massumi, as for myself: ‘Approaches to the image in its relation to language are incomplete if they operate only on the semantic or semiotic level, however that level is defined (linguistically, logically, narratologically, ideologically, or all of these combinations, as a Symbolic). What they lose, precisely, is the event in favour of structure’ (1996, 220). Massumi identifies the realm of affect as being of increasing importance within ‘media, literary and art theory’ but specifies the problem that there is ‘no cultural-theoretical vocabulary specific to affect’, and that indeed ‘our entire vocabularies has derived from theories of signification that are still wedded to structure’ (1996, 221). From one perspective Massumi is right; there is no vocabulary of affect. However, it might not be so simple as to invent one, for from one perspective at least (that is to say, the deconstructive perspective) to come up with a language for or of affect is to bring the latter into representation and hence to invite deconstruction. In a sense there is no way out of this predicament except to acknowledge it as a problem within a certain intellectual field and move beyond it.Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    See ‘Beatitude’, the final section of Deleuze’s Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza (1992) (Trans. M. Joughin) (New York: Zone Books), for a further exploration of this third kind of knowledge and what can only be called the super-human state it produces (EX 303–20).Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    In Guattari’s own writing affects are understood as precisely that which ‘make up’ life. Affects establish a kind of centre — or ‘self-affirmation’ — that occurs parallel to the discursive (what Guattari terms linear) elements of subjectivity. For Guattari, this affective element is present in Freud’s theory of the drives, but has been overlooked by ‘the structuralists’ (and here Guattari has in mind Lacan). I quote Guattari at some length from his essay ‘On Machines’:Google Scholar
  13. I consider that limiting ourselves to this coordinate [i.e. linearity] is precisely to lose the element of the machinic centre, of subjective autopoiesis and self affirmation. Whether located at the level of the complete individual or partial subjectivity, or even at the level of social subjectivity, this element undergoes a pathic relationship by means of the affect. What is it, then, that makes us state phenomenologically that something is living? It is precisely this relation of affect. This is not a description, nor a kind of propositional analysis resulting from a sense of hypotheses and deductions — i.e., it is a living being, therefore it is a machine; rather an immediate, pathic and non-discursive apprehension occurs of the machine’s ontological autocomposition relationship. (OM 10)Google Scholar
  14. Interestingly, Guattari’s notion of this non discursive affective foyer has much in common with Bergson, and with the latter’s notion of living beings as affective ‘centres of indétermination’. See later in this chapter and also Matter and Memory (1991) (Trans. N.M. Paul and W.S. Palmer) (New York: Zone Books), especially pp. 28–34. 10. As we saw in the previous chapter, it is Lyotard who addresses this double functioning of the sign in Libidinal Economy (1993) (Trans. I. H. Grant) (London: Athlone Press). Like Guattari (see note 9 above), Lyotard’s point of departure is Freud’s theory of the drives. Lyotard merely points out that the sign can operate within two (or presumably even more) economies: métonymie and metaphoric systems but also affective ones: ‘At the same time a sign which produces meaning through difference and opposition, and a sign producing intensity through force ¡puissance] and singularity’ (Lyotard 1993, 54). Again, Brian Massumi is instructive on the relation of affect to the human brain-body configuration, suggesting that affects — understood as asignifying ‘events’ that pass across the body — everywhere and always accompany (and in some senses determine) the more obvious (i.e. signifying and structuring) elements of subjectivity (Massumi 1996). In fact we might say, with Massumi, that the universe of affect (or, for Massumi, the universe of the virtual) often works to interfere with linguistic expression and indeed the other ‘subject constructing’ mechanisms of late capitalism (Massumi 1996, 219).Google Scholar
  15. 11.
    It is, at least in one sense, against de Man’s melancholy writings on the aesthetic that this polemical first section of Chapter 2 was written. See for example his ‘Rhetoric of Temporality’, Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (1983a) (London: Methuen), pp. 142–65, where the symbol (the aesthetic moment) is portrayed as a mechanism, or ‘defence strategy’ as de Man calls it, that tries to hide from the ‘negative self knowledge’ of man’s temporal predicament (his mortality) (de Man 1983a, 208). It is, of course, de Man’s point that this strategy is always already frustrated (the symbol is but a special case of its supposed opposite, allegory). The promise of the aesthetic is, for de Man, always being broken.Google Scholar
  16. 12.
    Once more Massumi is useful here, on rethinking the relationship between the event — as intensity — and experience:Google Scholar
  17. Although the realm of intensity that Deleuze’s philosophy strives to conceptualise is transcendental in the sense that it is not directly accessible to experience, it is not transcendent, it is not exactly outside experience either. It is immanent to it — always in it but not of it. Intensity and experience accompany one another, like two mutually presupposing dimensions, or like two sides of a coin. Intensity is immanent to matter and to events, to mind and to body and to every level of bifurcation composing them and which they compose. (Massumi 1996, 26)Google Scholar
  18. Hence intensity, for Massumi is indeed experienced ‘in the proliferations of levels of organisation it ceaselessly gives rise to, generates and regenerates, at every suspended moment’ (Massumi 1996, 226).Google Scholar
  19. 13.
    See for example the debates of October journal (see note 6 to my ‘Introduction’).Google Scholar
  20. 14.
    For an interesting take on this problematic (how to think the event) — especially in relation to Deleuze’s project of thinking multiplicity — see Alain Badiou, Deleuze: the Clamour of Being (1999) (Trans. L. Burchill) (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).Google Scholar
  21. 15.
    See Derrida: The Movie (2002) directed by A. Z. Kofman and K. Dick, distributed by Jane Doe Film.Google Scholar
  22. 16.
    As Deleuze suggests in The Logic of Sense (1990) (Trans. M. Lester and C. Stivale) (Ed. C. V. Boundas) (New York: Columbia University Press), there is an order of bodies, or states of affairs, but these should not be confused with the events — incorporeal ‘surface-effects’ — that in some senses pass over and infuses them. The world of these events is a virtual world of becoming:Google Scholar
  23. These effects are not bodies, but properly speaking, ‘incorporeal’ entities. They are not physical qualities and properties, but rather logical or dialectical, attributes. They are not things or facts, but events. We cannot say they exist, but rather that they subsist or inhere (having this minimum of being which is appropriate to that which is not a thing, a nonexisting entity). They are not substantives or adjectives but verbs. They are neither agents nor patients, but results of actions and passions. They are ‘impassive’ entities — impassive results. (LS 5)Google Scholar
  24. 17.
    As Deleuze and Guattari remark, art is:Google Scholar
  25. (a) zone of indétermination, of indiscernability, as if things, beasts, and persons … endlessly reach that point that immediately precedes their natural differentiation. This is what is called an affect… Life alone creates such zones where living beings whirl around, and only art can reach and penetrate them in its enterprise of co-creation. (WP 173)Google Scholar
  26. 18.
    In Bergson’s writing affection names something else: the action of the body on itself, which is to say the complete closure of the gap between bodies — or between excitation and reaction. See p. 57 oí Matter and Memory (1991) for a discussion of affection in this sense.Google Scholar
  27. 19.
    For Bergson it is the increasing complexity of the organism — the increase in perceptual mechanisms and the possibilities of response — that ultimately results in a kind of ‘free will’. For Spinoza too it is this increase in the body’s perceptive and reactive capabilities that results in an increase in power:Google Scholar
  28. I say in general, that in proportion as a body is more capable than others of doing many things at once, or being acted on in many ways at once, so its mind is more capable than others of perceiving many things at once. And in proportion as the actions of a body depend more on its self alone, and as other bodies concur with it less in acting, so its mind is more capable of understanding distinctly. (Deleuze quotes Spinoza, EX 256–7)Google Scholar
  29. 20.
    Walter Benjamin also attends to this aspect of fabulation. For Benjamin, story telling is a kind of precondition that allows new forms of experience to emerge. See the essay ‘The Storyteller: Reflections on the Work of Nikolai Leskov’, Illuminations (1999a) (Trans. H. Zorn) (London: Pimloco), pp. 83–107, where Benjamin writes of the boredom of story telling being the ‘dream bird that hatches the egg of experience’ (1999a, 90) (Thanks to Ditte Villstrup for this connection).Google Scholar
  30. 21.
    Indeed, new technologies do not in themselves necessarily produce creative deterritorialisations, which is to say neither a switching of temporal or spatial registers, or both (which might be a definition of technology) necessarily produces ‘art’ (it can in fact merely reinforce already existing perceptual and psychic habits).Google Scholar
  31. 22.
    See ‘November 28, 1947: How to Make Yourself a Body without Organs?’ (ATP 149–66).Google Scholar
  32. 23.
    Deleuze gives us a case study of the masochistic BwO in his own work on Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty (1991b) (Trans. J. McNeil) (New York: Zone Books). See in particular the chapter ‘The Art of Masoch’ (M 69–80).Google Scholar
  33. 24.
    We might in this sense wish to contest Adorno and Horkheimer’s notion that magic is necessarily a regression of sorts, a ‘pre-Enlightenment’ modality of understanding (see Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment (1979) (Trans. J. Cumming) (London: Verso), especially pp. 8–14). I go into this further, in relation to myth, in the conclusion to this book, suffice to say here that apparently ‘primitive’ technologies might have a residual power of ‘resistance’ to late capitalist practices and procedures.Google Scholar
  34. 25.
    To quote Warburg: ‘Telegram and telephone destroy the cosmos. Mythical and symbolic thinking strive to form spiritual bonds between humanity and the surrounding world, shaping distance into the space required for devotion and reflection: the distance undone by instantaneous electric connection’ (1998, 206).Google Scholar
  35. 26.
    As Benjamin remarks:Google Scholar
  36. We know that the earliest art works originated in the service of ritual — first the magical, then the religious kind. It is significant that the existence of the work of art with reference to its aura is never entirely separated from its basis in ritual. (1999b, 217)Google Scholar
  37. For Benjamin modernity — and especially new reproductive technologies emancipates the work of art ‘from its parasitical dependence on ritual’ (Benjamin 1999b, 218). This means that the function of art changes; instead of being based in ritual it becomes involved in politics. Here art’s authenticity its auratic power — is divorced from its political function. For Benjamin this is however not a simple progression; the loss of aura is not without its problems, specifically in terms of an increasing alienation from the world.Google Scholar
  38. 27.
    I will be returning to Raymond Williams in my conclusion.Google Scholar
  39. 28.
    In general Lyotard tends to configure this unknown event in Kantian terms, specifically in relation to the sublime. Following Lyotard we might describe the affective-event as a form of micro sublime.Google Scholar
  40. 29.
    John Rajchman, in his essay ‘Abstraction’, Constructions (1998) (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press), pp. 55–76, writes well on this notion of the abstract and about its difference to the more typical, one might say Greenbergian, notion of abstraction as reduction and purity. For Rajchman abstraction must be understood in terms of the realm of possibilities — or realm of potentialities prior to figuration. As such, and in order to paint ‘one must come to see the surface not so much as empty or blank but rather as intense, where “intensity” means filled with the unseen virtuality of other strange possibilities’ (Rajchman 1998, 61). This question of how to ‘paint outside forces’, is according to Rajchman’s reading of Deleuze, ‘the basic question of modernity’ (Rajchman 1998, 60).Google Scholar
  41. 30.
    As Deleuze and Guattari remark in ‘587 b.c.-a.d. 70: On Several Regimes of Signs’: ‘The principal strata binding human beings are the organism, signifiance and interpretation, and subjectification and subjection’ (ATP 134). It is the function of the next plateau, ‘November 28, 1947: How Do You Make Yourself a Body without Organs?’, to offer strategies precisely for destratification (ATP 149–66). See also my ‘In Violence: Three Case Studies Against the Stratum’, Parallax (2000), vol. 6, no. 2, 104–9.Google Scholar
  42. 31.
    See my article ‘Writing on Art (Case Study: The Buddhist Puja)’, Parallax (2001), vol. 7, no. 4, 155–21, for a case study of just such a ritual practice.Google Scholar
  43. 32.
    We might say in this sense that there is a difference between what art says its doing (what is represented) and what it actually does (the affects it produces).Google Scholar
  44. 33.
    For Deleuze and Guattari philosophy is not a Utopian pursuit in the sense of positing transcendent (and thus authoritarian) utopias. However philosophy might be figured as Utopian if we understand by this term immanent, revolutionary utopias. I go into more detail about this in Chapter 4.Google Scholar
  45. 34.
    A good example of this rethinking of art away from the horizon of instrumental reason (and of the latter’s critique) is Ronald Bogue’s essay, ‘Art and Territory’, in A Deleuzian Century? (1999) (Ed. I. Buchanan) (Durham: Duke University Press), pp. 85–102. Here Bogue, taking his lead from Deleuze’s notion of the refrain, argues that bird song, as a kind of art practice, has a specific function; it is involved in the production of a territory, that itself operates as a platform for further deterritorialisations.Google Scholar
  46. 35.
    For a somewhat different thinking through of the notion of a ‘post-medium practice’ — in relation to Broodthaers and the development of ubiquitous installation art — see Rosalind Krauss’ A Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition (1999) (London: Thames and Hudson).Google Scholar
  47. 36.
    Again, Ronald Bogue has outlined this ‘aesthetics of force’ in relation to painting and music in his essay ‘Gilles Deleuze: The Aesthetics of Force’, in Deleuze: A Critical Reader (1996) (Ed. P. Patton) (Oxford: Basil Blackwell), pp. 257–69. Bogue reads Deleuze as offering an ‘open system’ of the arts where at stake is less a definition of art, or indeed any demarcation between the aesthetic and non-aesthetic, but rather a general function of art as that which ‘harnesses forces’.Google Scholar
  48. 37.
    And these three types of ‘compound sensations’, or ‘vibrations’, are, I would argue, not just characteristic of art. In art they take the form of an apparently static ‘compound of materials’, but elsewhere these vibrations are faster or occur in less dense materials. All life, organic and inorganic, is ‘vibrational’ in this sense (as the new sciences tell us ‘matter’ is merely the most dense frequency).Google Scholar
  49. 38.
    To pre-empt slightly my argument of Chapter 5, we might quote the Situationists here (in this case the English section) who called for a similar approach to art. Here they are from 1958, quoted in the pamphlet The Revolution of Modern Art and the Modern Art of Revolution (1994) (London: Chronos Publications):Google Scholar
  50. The goal of the Situationists is immediate participation in a varied and passionate life, through moments that are both transient and consciously controlled. The value of these moments can only lie in their real effect. The Situationists see cultural activity, from the point of view of the totality, as method of experimental construction of everyday life … Art can stop being an interpretation of sensations and become an immediate creation of more highly evolved sensations, [my italics] (Clarke et al. 1994, 10)Google Scholar
  51. 39.
    In relation to this we might note the aporia which a ‘materialist’ art history can come up against, and which, very briefly, goes something like this: How to attend to the material object behind the ideological veils (the cultural readings/meanings) whilst still attending to the objects history? The problem arises because ideology and history are here synonymous, both positioning art in, and as, representation. With ‘The Social History of Art’ for example, the always already ideological character of art is assumed (indeed art is ideology). From such a perspective, a language of material and matter would be a kind of fetishisation, a haemorrhaging out of meaning, or of that trope of meaning: history. Such a ‘language’ of art (if it could still be called as such) would be guilty of the very ideological mystification that ‘The Social History of Art’ orientates itself against. It is only within a different model — a different paradigm if you like — that such a language of materials and matter makes ‘sense’ (and this latter paradigm will always be judged as naïve, if not reactionary, from the other).Google Scholar
  52. 40.
    Deleuze and Guattari talk about ‘revolution’ in the same way as they do art:Google Scholar
  53. revolutions do not survive their victory. But the success of revolutions resides only in itself, precisely in the vibrations, clinches and openings it gave to men and women at the moment of its making and that composes in itself a monument that is always in the process of becoming, like those tumuli to which each new traveller adds a stone. The victory of a revolution is immanent and consists in the new bonds it installs between people, even if these bonds last no longer than the revolution’s fused materials and quickly give way to division and betrayal. (WP 177)Google Scholar
  54. Here, in Deleuze and Guattari’s discussion of revolution, we have a case study of how they differ from other ‘representational’ thinkers. Revolution, for Deleuze and Guattari, is to be understood as the affirmation of connectivity and becoming, of life as it is now and not as the desire for a ‘new beginning/lost origin’ with all the attendant problems and limitations.Google Scholar
  55. 41.
    See Deleuze’s book on Nietzsche, and especially the final section, ‘Dionysius and Zarathustra’, for a discussion of the ‘laughter, play and dance’ that ‘affirms becoming’ and ‘always accompanies the eternal return’ (NI 189–94). See also Keith Ansell Pearson’s compelling account, ‘Towards the Overhuman: On the Art and Artifice of Nietzsche’s Selection’, in Virola Life: Perspectives on Nietzsche, and the Transhuman Condition (1997) (London: Routledge), pp. 37–56.Google Scholar
  56. 42.
    For Michaux this ‘becoming molecular’ was enabled through his utilisation (amongst other practices) of mescaline:Google Scholar
  57. Mescaline multiplies, sharpens, accelerates, intensifies the inner moments of becoming conscious. You watch their extraordinary flood, mesmerized, uncomprehending. With your eyes shut, you are in the presence of an immense world. Nothing has prepared you for this. You don’t recognise it. Tremendously present, active, coloured, swarming in tiny islands very close together with no empty space, teeming, vibrating but stationary, festering with ornaments, saturating the space which still remains immeasurable, which keeps coming to life in seethings, intertwinings, in unpreventable accumulations. (Michaux 1999)Google Scholar
  58. 43.
    As Deleuze suggests: ‘If representation is related to an object, this relation is derived from the form of representation; if this object is the organism and organisation, it is because the form of representation is first of all organic in itself, it is because the form of representation first of all expresses the organic life of the man as subject’ (FB 126).Google Scholar
  59. 44.
    We might note here the different kinds of ‘houses’ or territories built by modern art, from Tatlin’s Tower to Alan Kaprow’s Happenings. I return to this notion of urbanism in Chapter 5 in relation to the foldings produced by art (and specifically the expanded architectural practices of the Situationists).Google Scholar
  60. 45.
    I shall be looking at another example of the diagram in painting — in relation to Gerhard Richter’s Abstracts — in Chapter 5.Google Scholar
  61. 46.
    In contemporary electronic music we might also note the ‘glitch’ genre that utilises noise in this way; random ‘mistakes’ producing the possibility of new refrains. Jacques Attali has a similar take on noise, as that which breaks, but also creates:Google Scholar
  62. A network can be destroyed by noises that attack and transform it, if the codes in place are unable to normalise and repress them. Although the new order is not contained in the structure of the old, it is nonetheless not a product of chance. It is created by the substitution of new differences for the old differences. Noise is the source of these mutations in the structuring codes. For despite the death it contains, noise carries order within itself; it carries new information. (Attali 1985, 33)Google Scholar
  63. 47.
    Bacon’s paintings are involved in the production of ‘rhythmic characters’ in this sense. See FB 65–73.Google Scholar
  64. 48.
    Deleuze explores the logic of another painter — Gerard Fromanger — in his essay ‘Cold and Heat’, in Photogenic Painting (1999) (Trans. D. Roberts) (Ed. S. Wilson) (London: Black Dog Publishing), pp. 61–77, although here it is the artist’s use of a kind of hyper cliché that disrupts everyday reality: ‘To push the copy, the copy of the copy, to the point at which it reverses itself and produces the model: Pop Art, or painting that produces a “heightened reality” ‘ (CH 65).Google Scholar
  65. 49.
    Octavio Paz has a remarkably similar take on Pollock’s paintings, and is worth quoting at length:Google Scholar
  66. Painting is like the action of sun, water, salt, Are, or time on things. To a certain degree abstract painting and natural phenomena are an accident: the sudden, unforeseen intersection of two or more series of events. Many times the result is striking: these paintings are fragments of living matter, chunks sliced out of the cosmos or heated to a seething boil. Nonetheless, it is an incomplete art, as can be seen in Pollock. His great canvases have no beginning or end; despite their huge dimensions and the energy with which they are painted, they seem to be great chunks of matter rather than complete worlds. (1983, 29)Google Scholar
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    See Clarke, Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism (1999) (New Haven: Yale University Press), pp. 324–6.Google Scholar
  68. 51.
    To quote Kristeva:Google Scholar
  69. Le Flacon Scent, 1955, is, together with Search, 1955, Pollock’s last great painting. The almost joyous sensuality of the brush (this is not a ‘drip’ and so synthetic pigments were used) that traces the daring but controlled arabesques from which no figure emerges, leads me to see — or to feel? or to penetrate? — not a surface, but the intense fibrousness of an unknown and opaque substance which resists me. We might call it matter, and the artist’s gesture, even the artist himself, is now inseparable from it. (1989, 35)Google Scholar
  70. 52.
    See Clarke, Farewell to an Idea, pp. 310–13.Google Scholar
  71. 53.
    For myself a case study of just such a practice is the complex and compelling assemblages made by Cathy Wilkes. See Cathy Wilkes (2001) (Glasgow: The Modern Institute), and also my essay on Wilkes’ practice, ‘Ten Concepts Following Cathy Wilkes’ Practice,’ Afterall (2005), vol. 12, 65–70.Google Scholar
  72. 54.
    See Craig Owen’s seminal essay, ‘The Allegorical Impulse: Towards a Theory of Postmodernism’, reprinted in The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology, (1989) (Ed. D. Preziosi) (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 315–28. Owen’s identifies an allegorical impulse in ‘postmodern’ art that we might characterise as involving the disruption of the aesthetic (or the symbolic moment). Owen’s essay utilises the writings of Walter Benjamin in mapping out this allegorical impulse — understood as an attitude, or precisely mode, of reading (‘one text is read through another’ (316)). It is here that we encounter the specifically deconstructive attitude in which such practices ‘both solicit and defer a promise of meaning’ (Owens 1998, 318). For Owens allegory also names the actual internal structure as it were to much contemporary art, hence the ‘allegorical impulse’:Google Scholar
  73. Appropriation, site specificity, impermanence, accumulation, discursivity, hybridisation — these diverse strategies characterise much of the art of the present and distinguish it from its modernist predecessors. They also form a whole when seen in relation to allegory, suggesting that postmodernist art may in fact be identified by a single, coherent impulse. (Owens 1998, 321)Google Scholar
  74. In a passage in The Fold Deleuze also attends to Benjamin’s notion of allegory, although it is understood less as a mechanism of deferral and more as the multiplicity of different ‘points of view’ (F 125–7).Google Scholar
  75. 55.
    See my essay, ‘The New Moderns?’, The Showroom Annual (2005b) (London: The Showroom Gallery), pp. 45–61, in which I explore this utilisation of previous art, specifically modern forms, within contemporary art practice. Nicolas Bourriaud in Postproduction (2002) (Trans. J. Herman) (Ed. C. Schneider) (New York: Lukas and Steinberg), also attends to contemporary art’s utilisation of previous art — and indeed other cultural forms (often more popular cultures). Hence the ‘twin figures of the DJ and the programmer’ are characteristic of our age, ‘both of whom have the task of selecting cultural objects and inserting them into new contexts’ (Bourriaud 2002, 6). We move here to a paradigm of montage and détournement: artists become archivists, and the exhibition, as much as the studio (or indeed any other site) becomes a site of production. At stake here, as Bourriaud points out, is also the blurring of the distinction between artist and spectator (‘These artists who insert their work into that of others contribute to the eradication of the traditional distinction between production and consumption, creation and copy, ready-made and original work’ (2002, 6)). To a certain extent Bourriaud’s argument returns us to the terrain of the previous chapter, in its outlining of an expanded notion of production, and inasmuch as he diagnoses on the part of contemporary artists a ‘willingness to inscribe the work of art within a network of signs and significations, instead of considering it an autonomous or original form’ (Bourriaud 2002, 10), hence his new name for such cultural practitioners: ‘semionauts’ (Bourriaud 2002,12). We might however want to ask what has happened to the aesthetic, or the affective aspect of art, in Bourriaud’s account (where are the becomings?). We might also want to ask how these sampling and mixing practices championed by Bourriaud differ from the sampling and mixing practices offered by consumer culture (here Deleuze and Guattari ‘s notion of style is crucial).Google Scholar

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