Simon O’Sullivan

Simon O’Sullivan is Reader in Art Theory and Practice in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He has published two monographs with Palgrave, Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought Beyond Representation (2005) and On the Production of Subjectivity: Five Diagrams of the Finite-Infinite Relation (2012), and is the editor, with Stephen Zepke, of both Deleuze, Guattari and the Production of the New (Continuum, 2008) and Deleuze and Contemporary Art (Edinburgh University Press, 2010). He also makes art, with David Burrows, under the name Plastique Fantastique – and is currently working on a collaborative volume of writings, with Burrows, on MythopoesisMyth-ScienceMythotechnesis: Fictioning and the Posthuman in Contemporary Art.

Abstract: Residual Culture and Magical Thinking”

Aesthetic thinking emerges at the neutral point between technics and religion, at the moment of the division of primitive magical unity: this is not a phase but, rather, a permanent reminder of the rupture of the unity of the magical mode of being and a search for a future unity.

Gilbert Simondon, On the Technical Mode of Being

My paper will be concerned with how the past – including past modes of consciousness – might be utilised as a resource against the impasses of the present. This is one of the themes of Raymond Williams’ Marxist writings on art and culture that offer up a temporal mapping of the present, attending to the way in which any contemporary moment is always already made up of different ‘times’. Williams writes about how the dominant – and effective – culture (or hegemony) is never complete, that there are always ‘left overs’ from a previous hegemony (that exist alongside more ‘emergent’ cultures) which might offer the possibility of alternative and even oppositional culture. He calls these ‘residual’, differentiating them from the ‘archaic’ which, rather, names those aspects of the past that have been effectively incorporated. In relation to this temporal complexity my paper will turn to Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s laying out of different regimes of signs (in A Thosand Plateaus) and, in particular, attend to the idea of a translation  –  or transportation  –  of statements and objects from one regime (or time) to another (that might then operate as alternate points of subjectivation).  I will also look to Gilbert Simondon’s outlining of a primitive magical consciousness (in On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects) – a previous phase of being before the split into religion and technicity (and, consequently, subjects and objects) that also gestures forwards to an aesthetic consciousness yet-to-come  – bringing this into encounter with the Bergsonian concept of memory that is crucial to Deleuze’s own concept of the past. In general, the argument will be made that pre-modern culture might well be mobilised in the present – in a practice of mythopoesis – as a form of resistance to the dominant values, beliefs and practices of neoliberalism. The expanded art practices of the British artists Bruce Lacey (Castlerigg) and Derek Jarman (Journey to Avebury) will be discussed alongside the neo-pagan film The Wicker Man and the post-apocalyptic medieval fiction Riddley Walker, each of these art works pitched as examples of residual (and magical) thinking.

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