Symposium Speakers—Abstracts

Abstracts (in order of appearance):

Deleuze, Becomology and Multiplicities: Towards a New Conception of French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century

Anne Sauvagnargues

Taking over the Bergsonian distinction between a quantitative and discrete multiplicity, and a qualitative continuous multiplicity, Deleuze focuses on the problem of plurality and explores the conditions of a multiplicity in becoming, a multiplicity that is no longer composed by discrete unities. I will argue that this Deleuzian move implies a new path in philosophy, hostile to any type of phenomenology of consciousness (in so far as consciousness functions as a principle of unity and universalisation of experience). This shows the importance of two philosophers, Raymond Ruyer and Gilbert Simondon, who also take over the Bergsonian distinction between those two types of multiplicities:  Ruyer, because he considers consciousness as a morphogenetic formation by auto-survey, and Simondon, who defines individuation as a metastable threshold between preindividual and transindividual. This will allow me to emphasise Deleuze’s renewal of the ancient question of the one and the multiple, involving a new definition of number, time and space though the Deleuzian distinction between the actual and the virtual.

Taqiyya and Unfolding: A Genealogy of Arts of the Secret

Laura U. Marks

A genealogy of Deleuze’s conception of Being as a manifold, in which actual and virtual constitute unfolded and enfolded aspects of an infinite disjunctive unity, finds one of its most important sources in Islamic Neoplatonism. Classical Islamic philosophy and theology, synthesizing Qur’anic thought and Greek Neoplatonism, characterized a divine multitude so vast that an ocean of ink could not begin to describe it—which, however could be glimpsed by various methods, including art. I have demonstrated (Marks 2013, 51-72) that Deleuze’s conception of univocity of being, and resulting conceptions of actual and virtual, originate with the synthetic philosophy of Avicenna (ibn Sīnā, c. 980-1037). In this paper, I pursue another aspect of this rich Islamic genealogy of Deleuzian concepts: when knowledge of the infinite is considered a secret that disguises itself, folds up, goes into hiding. Termed in Arabic bātiniyya, the search for inner secrets, this method was most highly developed in Shi‘a thought. Taqiyya, strategic concealment (usually to avoid persecution), informed the practice of concealing such knowledge. The Shi‘a theory of the secret as fold became the basis of European Renaissance esoteric practices and travelled, in concealment, into modern Western philosophy. I will deploy it to analyse contemporary artworks that maintain some immanent infinity in a state of secrecy, until they can be received with ta‘wīl, or skilful unfolding.

Steppe Technics. Art as Intensive Engineering of Forces in Marek Konieczny

Radek Przedpełski

The article aims to attend to intensive multiplicities and their generative thresholds in the art-work of Marek Konieczny, an engineer-turned-artist associated with the Polish neo-avant-garde of the 1970s. In 1974, the artist abandons his earlier preoccupation with geometric abstractions or Fluxus-type actions and embarks on the singular ‘Think Crazy’ idiom that makes an untimely connection with the nomadic steppe art of metallic fibulas. Such steppe media might be considered in terms of what the scholar Yuk Hui recently termed cosmotechnics, i.e. bringing together cosmologies and technologies through artistic or artisanal activity or Anne Sauvagnargues’ aesthechnics whereby art’s aesthetic plane of composition is indissoluble from its technical plane. As will be argued, what is at stake in Konieczny’s art is an intensive engineering of forces, something that already surfaces in his early construction designs of reinforced concrete hyperbolic paraboloid roofs, which the artist affectionately calls ‘Birds’. Konieczny’s practice recasts engineering as a tactical diagnosis and affective composition of material-incorporeal potentials—or tensors—beyond the death/life, nature/culture distinction. For Konieczny, art’s functioning can be understood as ‘the installation of a still life’, the ‘hatching’ of ‘a something’ or ‘a technology of documentation of (…) abstraction, of something that does not necessarily have to be a reality’: at once crazy, artificial and pulsating with hidden inorganic life—the unlife of mutant embryogenesis. Konieczny’s artistic engineering of forces creates a plane of Simondonian modulation, rather than an execution of the architect’s transcendental demiurgic plan. The article will conclude by framing Konieczny’s practices in terms of Jerzy Ludwiński’s innovative Bergson-inflected theory of the functioning of the avant-garde as geological involution, developed in the 1970s, and his understanding of art as a factory producing immanent effects, as well as the contemporary vitalist-materialist conceptualisations of tissue engineering-based art as a playful instrumentalisation of ‘semi-life’ (Ionat Zurr and Oron Catts).

Théâtre du Soleil as Nomadic Art

Steve Wilmer

With reference to Deleuze and Guattari on nomadism, and Rosi Braidotti on nomadic subjectivity, this essay will consider some of the nomadic performances, activities and characteristics of the Théâtre du Soleil. The theatre company has been experimental in developing new artistic forms, and egalitarian in welcoming different nationalities, languages, and ethnicities. Though Deleuze did not comment on their work, it exhibits specific features favoured by Deleuze and Guattari, such as transnationalism, communal property, becoming minoritarian, and desubjectivation. The dramaturgical strategies of Hélène Cixous and the innovative directing of Ariane Mnouchkine allow for multiple subjectivities and potentialities, especially in The Last Caravan Stop (Le Dernier Caravansérail), which traverses the world with boat people and other migrants, leaving behind their national identities. Alluding to Eugene Holland’s notion of ‘nomadic citizenship’ and Hardt and Negri’s concept of ‘global citizenship’, the essay will conclude with some suggestions about the tactical advantages of nomadic performativity in promoting multiplicities and human rights, and overcoming problems of identity politics, colonisation, and nationalism.

Tissues With No Bodies—How Messy Living Fragments Become Art, and a Technobabble

Oron Catts

It has been two hundred years since Mary Shelley conjured a creature out of fragments of other bodies and created an enduring mythical being. The shadow of Victor Frankenstein’s creation is cast on contemporary attempts to fabricate bodies or their parts using living tissues and cells. The talk will chart the author’s ongoing attempts to come to terms with the use of living fragments of complex bodies outside of their original context. The concept of ‘tissues with no bodies’ is linked to the notion of ‘semi-living’ entities introduced by the author and his collaborator, Ionat Zurr, twenty-two years ago. Those ‘Nobodies’ tissues’ are now extending beyond the medical realm and the fringes of the art world into a new Silicon Valley technobabble. Their unarticulated ontology and messy existence has become a fertile ground for fabrication of the seductive narratives of plenty, immortality and exploitation. This situation calls upon thinkers to help make sense of the multiplicity of Nobodies’ tissues.

The Multiplicity of Watery Mediations: HYDROMEDIA and WATERKINO

Joanna Zylinska

We don’t yet know what water can do—and neither do we know what water is, what it does and what it could be. Adopting a Bergsonian-Deleuzian perspective, my talk will be based on the premise that water is a multiplicity: understood not in the sense of the mathematical calculation of possibilities and states of being (i.e. flood, rain, beverage), but rather as a qualitative multiplicity that manifests heterogeneity and differences in kind. Yet rather than espouse any noumenon-like fantasies that would allow me to get close to ‘water itself’, whatever that might be, I will position water as a medium, with a view to liberating it from any metaphysical connotations of immediacy, purity and naturalness. I will also suggest that there is no such thing as water itself and that it always comes to us mediated. Similar to Bergson’s duration, mediation is for me a better way of trying to grasp the multiplicity of becomings. It is in a located encounter with two specific filmic events, situated outside the dominant nexus of international visibility and power yet still being part of global media flows, that I will seek the possibility of developing a new mode of engaging with water and its mediations.

Multiplicity as a Life: Deleuze, Ruyer, Simondon

Audronė Žukauskaitė

Multiplicity is one of the crucial notions in Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy. Multiplicity can be related both to the mathematical term of ‘manifold’, developed in the differential geometry of Friedrich Gauss and Bernhard Riemann, and to the philosophy of biology, developed by Raymond Ruyer and Gilbert Simondon. This paper will explore Deleuze and Guattari’s definition of multiplicity in terms of biological life and will trace specific aspects of multiplicity in the philosophy of Ruyer and Simondon. The essay will concentrate on such specific features of multiplicity as progressive differentiation, qualitative difference, immanence, and virtuality. These features of multiplicity highly depend on the specific concepts of Simondon (such as individuation, metastability, phase-shift, transduction) and Ruyer (morphogenesis, embryogenesis, equipotentiality). These insights into the philosophy of biology not only give a more nuanced account of Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas, but also inspire us to rethink life not in naturalistic or organismic terms but as an art of the creation of multiple assemblages. In this sense Deleuze and Guattari’s definition of life resonates with recent developments of bio-art, which redefine life in terms of plasticity and change.