subjectivity + art


subjectivity + art
  ---- by Simon O'Sullivan
  Deleuze has been portrayed as a philosopher of dissolution, as a thinker of flows and intensities somehow 'outside' of, or 'beyond', the human. Indeed a cursory reading of A Thousand Plateaus might lead one to suppose that Deleuze and Guattari are interested in 'escaping' lived life. Certainly this trajectory is there, perhaps most infamously in the notion of the Body without Organs (BwO), understood as a strategy that helps free us from the strata that constitutes us as human (that is to say, in a particular configuration). However Deleuze's philosophy is also very much one of caution, for it is never a question of wildly destratifying but of dosages, of finding creative lines of flight that lead somewhere and from which one can 'return'. Deterritorialisation always ends in a reterritorialisation and in fact needs a territory from which to operate.
  It is in this sense that Deleuze might also be understood as a constructive philosopher. Certainly he is involved in the prodigious construction of concepts, as evidenced by this dictionary. However, we might also see him, specifically in his collaborations, as being involved in the parallel project of the construction, or production, of subjectivity. This is even more the case with Guattari's own work, which was always involved in thinking through what Guattari called 'resingularisation': the potentiality for, and practicalities of, reconfiguring our subjectivities. For Guattari, as for Deleuze, this is a pragmatic and specifically materialist project. Through involvement with certain materials of expression, with groups and individuals, and always with an 'outside' we can open up new universes of reference: new ways of seeing and being in the world. For Guattari La Borde clinic operated as just such a site of transformation. It encouraged new relationships and new experiences. At stake here was not the reintegration of a 'cured' individual into society, but an encouragement to become involved, to participate, in one's own processual selfcreation. Whatever the successes or failures of the clinic, we have here an interesting framework for thinking those collaborative and collective art practices of today that might be seen as producing communities and subjectivities in precisely this sense. This field of expanded practice, or 'relational aesthetics' as it has become known does not require spectators as such, but participants who are 'transformed' through their interaction with the practice.
  We might recognise Deleuze's Spinozism here. Indeed Baruch Spinoza's ethics involves a similar mapping to the above: the organisation of one's world so as to produce productive - that is joyful - encounters. Involving the coming together of two 'bodies' that essentially agree with one another, such encounters have the concomitant result of increasing our capacity to act in the world. We might call this a 'rhizomatics of friendship', the latter understood in its broadest sense. For Spinoza, ethics involves exploring what a body, in both the individual and collective sense, is capable of that begins with ethical principles or guidelines, but ultimately it produces an understanding of one's self and world - and in fact a certain overcoming of one's separation from the world.
  Perhaps the key factor preventing these transformations is habit. Here 'habit' is taken to mean not just our daily routines but also our dominant refrains and typical reactions to the world. In this sense aesthetics becomes important. For naming as it does a 'disinterested' response to the world, aesthetics can operate as a rupture in otherwise dominant régimes of signification and expression (the clichés of our being and indeed of our consumer culture). Aesthetics here need not be a transcendent category, rather we can think of it simply as the generation of unexpected affects in and on the body. This rupture can and does produce possibilities for resingularisation.
  Another way of thinking this 'immanent aesthetic' is as involving a kind of hesitation or gap between stimulus and response. In his use of Henri Bergson, Deleuze attends to this: the pause between action and reaction is what constitutes the human as a particularly complex brain-body assemblage. This pause allows a certain amount of freedom and the possibility for a more creative response to the world. Put differently, in today's world it is important to change speed, to slow down sometimes and even at times to remain still. Art, in fact the contemplation of art, might have a role to play here (this is also the sense in which meditation can be understood as a creative technology of self production). In some senses such an 'aesthetic' is 'beyond' subjectivity.
  Throughout his work, Deleuze attends to those experiences that are atypical and 'non-ordinary'. For example, what happens to an individual in a 'world without others'? Here the interaction with the world takes on an idiosyncratic and perverted character. The individual harnesses cosmic forces and 'becomes world' as it were.Again this might be a name for certain art practices from prehistory to today, those that allow access to a kind of immanent beyond to the everyday, and to everyday consciousness. We might say, then, that this is the aesthetic - and ritualistic - function of art that always accompanies the latter's ethical or indeed political character.

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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