dialogues at greenwich: Colloquium - Darren Ambrose on 'The Logic of Sensation' and 'What is philosophy?'

dialogues at greenwich

discussion and reports from the Volcanic Lines research group at Greenwich University

13 January 2007

Colloquium - Darren Ambrose on 'The Logic of Sensation' and 'What is philosophy?'

The Colloquium given by Darren Ambrose, of Warwick University, was an extremely effective presentation on the diagrammatic and led to a very productive discussion. We are very grateful to our speaker for coming to Greenwich and adding a great deal to Volcanic Lines program. This report on the paper and discussion is taken from my notes. Please let me know if I’ve misrepresented anything.

The paper began by looking at What is Philosophy? and the pedagogical relation of philosophy to science and art that is expounded therein. The three elements presented by philosophy – plane of immanence, conceptual personae and concepts – were related to the diagrammatic, personal and intensive. The plane of immanence or diagrammatic is the pre-philosophical plane. There is a shared notion of creativity in the function in science, the concept in philosophy and the percept and affects in art. The initial diagrammatic function was emphasised by reference to Deleuze‘s engagement with Francis Bacon who shows that both art and philosophy involve taking ‘a witches flight.’

The nature of philosophy as a creative attempt to comprehend through created concepts was emphasised. The real genetic conditions of ontological actuality demand a pragmatic constructivism and a radical self movement within thought. Philosophy is then the creative ontology of the virtual. Bacon’s practice was related to this. He has said in interviews that when he begins a painting he has no idea what he is doing, what is going to emerge. This relates to Deleuze and Guattari’s requirement that we have no readily available conceptual forms when we are forced to think. We don’t know what to do with what we encounter. This means that forces of recognition aren’t governing things – something the speaker related to critique of ‘the image of thought’ in chapter three of Difference and Repetition. Later Deleuze argues that the concept needs an idiot if it is to be realised. This is a new type of idiot who turns the absurd into the highest power of thought and in this way is creative. The idiot is born of exasperation and lack of conceptual resources to deal with the singular event.

Reference was then made to remarks Deleuze and Guattari make in What is Philosophy? about Hegel’s efforts at concept creation. For them Hegel doesn’t know where to stop with the concept. He institutes a madness of the concept and extends it to all fields. Deleuze and Guattari argue that we need the non-philosophical to do philosophy. This is a condition of creativity and demands that we refer to art and science in search of the non-philosophical. How can the artwork reveal something to philosophy about the diagrammatic conditions of creating? This was referred to the intrinsic self ordering and creative self positing of the material used in art. This helps lay out the plane of immanence diagrammatically. The matter that is involved is not passive – we have the intrinsically expressive components of matter. These are virtual elements and processes of becoming. Acts of creation amount to the inscription of lines of differentiation. This is then to tap a reservoir, the non-philosophical plane of immanence.

The speaker introduced counter-effectuation at this point as something involved in the philosophical act which is a return upstream to the pre-individual problematic conditions of experience. It was emphasised that this must be a work of creation because there is no pre-existing means of doing so. Insightful reference was made again to Hegel and the presuppositions of thought that enable concept creation for him. This gives a certain direction and image of thought according to Deleuze and Guattari, a criticism also made by Schelling. Deleuze and Guattari seek to rid philosophy of pre-existing images of thought. For them the philosophy is the friend of the concept because of the vital and infinite self movement of undifferentiated thought is the outside realm that forces us to think and is at the basis of a fundamental encounter. This is ‘the being of the sensible’ or that by which the given is given. It is imperceptible and is the limit at which transcendental exercise of the faculties is attained. In this way, it was argued, the dimension of the transcendental or virtual opens itself up through the sensible.

This was explained as making new forces visible and formulating the problems that they pose. This systematic disruption of the faculties was described as the necessary diagrammatic element of philosophy or the plane of immanence. It was argued that the real genetic conditions of experience or the actual that lead to the invention of an entirely new metaphysics. This is the diagrammatic creation of a process of differentiation.

The plane of immanence was defined further as pure, undifferentiated movement. This movement must be radically conceptless. This was characterised as setting out an enabling image of thought that is conceptless. This movement that can be carried to infinity is a non-philosophical concept that mustn’t be encroached upon by the madness of the concept. This was related to the requirement that Deleuze and Guattari make that everything begin with the hatred of philosophy – misosophy. The pre-philosophical field is the internal condition of thought and this plane of immanence must be preserved through an initial act of misosophy. There must be a relation with art and science to do this, an intertwining and co-implication. Philosophy then must erect itself on the ground of the unthinkable and imperceptible exteriority. This was related to Bacon’s implicit catastrophe and hysteria within the act of painting. It was argued that this connects with the intuitive diagrammatic procedure that initiates philosophical practice.

Deleuze’s The Logic of Sensation was said to develop Francis Bacon as the modern paradigm concerned with intrinsic expressive sensuality of paint and resistance to cliché by avoiding narrative in favour of the brutality of fact. What can be done with the materiality of paint on its own. Painting conveys a static or potential violence of reaction and expression. Deleuze finds Bacon paintings to be experimental rhythm assemblages of flesh and bone. Flesh and bones, it was explained, are rhythmic limits, each pushing the other to its limit. Deleuze’s Bacon presents the lived reality of the sub-representational domain and the simultaneous elevation of the Figure. The Figure is rhythmic and not narrative and this means elements are interrelated but not as symbols. This connection was made between the pre-figurative act of painting and the pre-philosophical elaboration necessary to concept creation. In the case of Bacon’s painting this was characterised as the avoidance of probabilistic givens and clichés that always already inhabit the canvas. Bacon’s preparatory work was explained as the initial making of random marks, sweeping and brushing motions. This clears out locals or zones on the canvas. It is a practice that presupposes clichés and removes, brushes over or covers them with these acts. It was explained that Bacon calls this a diagram ore graph in interviews conducted with David Sylvester. The setting up of a diagram or graph is random but productive possibilities are produced.

Such physical acts of painting are also found in Pollock’s work but for Deleuze this presents only the diagram. However, it was explained, Bacon productively negotiates with the diagram to produce a figure. The automatic random ground is therefore risky because it threatens to overwhelm the subsequent figuration. In the midst of probabilistic and figurative givens a catastrophe overcomes the painting. Another possible world is introduced into the visual world of figuration. The painters hand intervenes to interrupt the sovereign optical organisation and the diagram operates as suggestive of a new sense. Marks then must be used to make out possibilities of fact.

The diagram was defined in this sense as chaos and the germ of new order of rhythm. It unlocks new orders of sensation. But, it was emphasised, the diagram must not be allowed to eat away at the entire painting. The diagram is a necessary prerequisite of the fact. Sensation must be rendered clear and precise via a new form of figuration.

Such groping experimentation chimes with Deleuze and Guattari’s notion that to think is always to follow a witches flight. Matter carries with it virtual singularities as implicit and so form is something ‘suggested’ out of the material itself. Bacon surrenders to the matter of paint to follow it and follow its virtual singularities.

Bacon’s method was them summarised:
1. We mist begin with inevitable figurative givens because they always already inhabit the canvas.
2. Catastrophic intervention – scrambling.
3. Utilising the catastrophe to allow the materiality of the paint to facilitate the emergence of a new form of resemblance.

The diagram was now defined ‘an inherently fecund prerequisite’ involving ‘the continual injection of a manual diagram into the visual whole’. For Bacon painting will only capture the nature of reality if the painter doesn’t know how to do it. It must then be allowed to breed its different forms but without its chaos destroying the Figurative forms.
This was related again to a ‘systematic disruption of the faculties via a diagrammatic procedure.’ Thus it was concluded that both art and philosophy undertake a witches flight.

Q. The discussion that followed this exhilarating paper began with a question about Deleuze’s borrowing of concepts from many sources and his borrowing of the term ‘diagram’ in particular. A. It is a term Bacon used in an interview to talk about how he paints. It is a term that appear in the Foucault and Kafka: A Minor Literature books also. This opened an interesting discussion about the different meanings of the term in Deleuze and how it is translated into English. In the Bacon book ‘graph’ is used but translated in English as ‘diagram.’

Q. Another question was about the term ‘fact’ in The Logic of Sensation.
A. Our speaker suggested that ‘fact’ is again adopted from Bacon vocabulary and his concern for a ‘factual expression of reality.’ We can, it wads argued, say that ‘fact’ and ‘event’ are synonymous but must raise the question over whether Deleuze does buy wholesale into Bacon’ notions, his way of talking about his work. Is Bacon adopting Bacon’s language and relating it to philosophy? It was suggested that Deleuze might miss the self mythologizing that Bacon seems to indulge in when talking about his work.

Q. A question was raised concerning the relevance of Merleau-Ponty’s invention of concept through his experience of Cezanne’s painting.
A. In answer the relation between Cezanne’s ordered pictorial logic of sensation was related to Bacon’s disorganised and brutal logic.

Q. A further question made reference to the ‘haptic’ which appears in the last section of A Thousand Plateaus and in The Logic of Sensation.
A. This disruption of the purely optical by creating a tactile object involves the notion of the eye touching the object. This was related also the move away from the striated to the smooth in A Thousand Plateaus. The speaker referred to arts beginning with tactile but this being superseded according to certain art historians. For Deleuze and Guattari, on the contrary, it is not superseded but persists.

Q. The relation of misosophy to Dadaism was also raised, whether the former was an anti-philosophy as the latter is an anti-art.
A. The speaker argued that misosophy is in all creativity while Dadaism was a historically situated and conditioned activity. Philosophy must maintain in itself a non-philosophical element.

Q. Further discussion of Deleuze and Guattari’s borrowing of concepts from many sources followed.
A. Do they create or borrow concepts? Yet, the speaker argued, the use of pre-existing concepts is the creation. This is like the artists who re-vitalised and reenergised paint when many people said painting was dead.

Q. Is Damian Hurst a clichéd take on Bacon?
A. This lead onto the decisional process that come after the initial laying. The speaker emphasised the significance of the decisions and judgements of the artists. For Bacon the painter has developed a sensibility through practice – this is a decisional structure. The philosopher must do the same.

Q. The notion of misosophy was returned to.
A. There is a need for deep love for the concept because in this the counter-effectuating misosophy operates. It was explained that Bacon didn’t see himself as being aggressive to Velasquez in his Popes but one that must dismantle and not repeat the original in order to get back to it. A question on the diagram in music led the speaker to refer to Stockhausen and Cage as counter-effectuating existing compositional techniques. Messiaen is drawn upon by Deleuze and Guattari because he goes back to bird song and uses it as a diagrammatic procedure. He does not just transcribe birdsong into music like Beethoven.

Q. Another questioner suggested that Deleuze and Guattari write in way that is difficult so that they scramble the matrix out of which the new thing comes.
A. The speaker recalled Bacon’s claim, in an interview with Melvyn Bragg, that he has sheer pleasure in playing with colour. Deleuze and Guattari likewise seems to have pleasure in creating the shock to thought.

Q. A questioner mentioned that in his interview with Bragg Bacon also talked of his love of gambling, relating to the manipulation of chance that Deleuze identifies. Only the painter knows how to make chance work, how to manipulate the marks.
A. This was related by the speaker to Deleuze’s work on cinema and the film makers manipulation of chance through a cinema of more open duration. Bacon’s influence on David Lynch was mentioned. Hoe allows accidents that happen on set to be included and so embrace them.

Q. It was suggested that Pollock is better than Bacon and that Deleuze’s taste is sedate and bourgeois. He imposes a specific plane of immanence or transcendental structure and so fall into the weakness he identifies in Kant. Why is the mark not a fact?
A. Our speaker agreed that there was a problem with why we must move to the act of decision and beyond the automatism of just the marks. We need a plane of consistency, a rigor to stop things falling apart. Drug writing fails to communicate the strength of the sensation. The structure or plane of consistency is needed.

Q. Final remarks included the observation that Deleuze and Guattari prefer psychosis over neurosis and perhaps the mark is a neurotic signs. It is a sign system of the unconscious with no object whilst psychosis is closer to disjunctive synthesis.

Q. Also Does Deleuze resolve the haptic and visual sensation?
A. Rhythm finishes The Logic of Sensation rather than a tactile genesis.

Final remarks included the observation that Deleuze’s use of ‘the tree greens’ (from Whitehead) means that colour is experience and we are in it. It was also noted that Cezanne wants something to touch but goes for colour and not clay, making this more ‘paradox of sensation’ that a ‘logic of sensation’.

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At 1/16/2007 , Blogger razorsmile said...

I mentioned this to someone on email so here, for eevryone, is a link to Darrens' paper as a podcast;

Deleuze and Francis Bacon: The Diagrammatic



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