All 10 entries tagged Chaosmosis

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November 21, 2005

Aerial by Kate Bush, a Deleuzian review by k–punk

Follow-up to Music Review: Aerial by Kate Bush from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Always interesting blogger k-punk has posted a review of Aerial, the new Kate Bush double CD. His message is the same as mine: this is a really fascinating and complex record, coming from a writer with a special perspective on life, creativity and the world.

I like this description:

Deleuzian MOR: a numinous, luminous twitterscape of women-animal becomings, a hymn to light, and lightness.

Of course we don't need to suppose that she actually reads Deleuze (although I wouldn't rule it out). More importantly, she seems to have a deep insight into how artistic creativity works (and sometimes doesn't). Obviously that comes from being a compulsive and quite ambitious composer of soundscapes and words. But Aerial goes further, showing a reflective and very clever mind extending that understanding out from music and narrative to light, colour and the inhuman (animal). It's the relationship between these aesthetic planes that gives A Sky of Honey, which k-punk describes as "her most painterly record", its power and fascination. This is aesthetics as carried out reflectively by an artist. And she knows it – her interviews, including the recent Mark Radcliffe interview, contain indications of this.

And what does this mean for Deleuzians? If you actually listen to what artists have to say about how they work and the material of their work, you will hear Deleuzianisms. That's not because they are necessarily Deleuzian, but rather, as in this case, that Deleuze and Guattari really understood art and aesthetic creativity.

Deleuzian Kate? Perhaps Bushian Deleuze.

k-punk's review is also worth reading for the artworks with which he illustrates it

November 15, 2005

Research Notes: porous minds and cracked–up agents

Follow-up to Research Notes: how radical can extended cognition be? from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

I just found this in a text file whilst tidying up my laptop. It doesn't seem to have been published yet. There may be a reason why I abandoned it. But here it is anyway...

Section 10.6 of Andy Clark's book Being There is entitled with the question "Where does the mind stop and the world begin?". For philosophy this is a very significant question. For cognitive science and AI, much less so (its just a design issue). Why not just adopt the latter position? Would that be such a scandal?

Clark's answer to the question is both pragmatic and realistic, whilst promoting a proportionate, specific and sufficiently detailled investigation of real minds and environments. This is quite a contrast to the vague generalizations of some phenomenological models.

For someone with an AI/cog-sci background (that I in part share), the identification of a boundary (even a porous one) should only be significant when it could contribute to our understanding of the capabilities, limitations and developmental process of real cognitive processes. Our boundary marking conditions would have to be ones that really make a difference to the cognitive process itself. For example, one interesting boundary marking condition would be:

how replaceable or otherwise is a specific (internal or external) cognitive artefact? Could the individual agent simply swap the artefact with another similar or even totally different artefact? And to what extent would this change the character of the agent?

A related, equally important, but different question is:

how dependent is the development of an agent upon a specific artefact, such that it's abscence makes a significant difference to that agent?

This gets close to our understanding of what an agent actually is: it has a relatively consistent and pervasive character existing over time and to some extent surviving changes to the environment in which it exists. Whilst at the same time, its development and continuation is dependent upon the existence of key artefacts within that environment. It is as Clark says, closely coupled. Furthermore, the agent tends to influence the environment in which it exists so as to promote the continuation of these characteristics, so that an agent tends to be associated with an environment (reverse evolution), whilst the environment tends to promote certain characteristics in the agent and classes of agents (evolution).

This, to readers of recent dynamical systems theory (and the likes of Deleuze and Guattari), is quite an obvious model: 1) there are arangements of mechanisms that interact with and consume other mechanisms through processes of ordering, selection, managed preservation and controlled degradation; 2) these mechanisms have selective principles (the character traits) that are repetetively applied over time; 3) some of these repetitive mechanisms reproduce the conditions of their own production and reproduction; 4) and fewer still reproduce the conditions that make their own reproduction more likely, more desired by the environment in which they exist. Or in shore: they are desiring machines.

I would say that this is stating the obvious. Certainly there is a degree of convergence towards such a model in evolutionary biology. And I'm sure there will also be such a convergence in AI development. So why is it likely that philosophers will still consider it to be controversial? Why does it seem OK in biology, but radical when applied by, for example, the psychotherapist Felix Guattari, to the problem of fixing broken minds and bodies?

Thinking is selecting, is doing.

November 08, 2005

Music Review: Aerial by Kate Bush

Music front cover
Kate Bush
5 out of 5 stars

This is a magnificent work. One reaches the end of the CD, all seven fascinating, complex, rich, colourful songs, and then you remember that it includes a second even more stunning set of nine songs on the second CD.

Like many people, I have spent twenty years listening to Kate's 1985 work Hounds of Love, especially the Ninth Wave suite of songs that make up its second side. And even now I occasionally find new subtleties. That was and still is a real adventure in sound and words. It was the best of Kate's work, perhaps because it takes an arrangement that always works to great effect (Kate, piano, and an ensemble of some of the best classical, folk and jazz musicians), and punctuates it with uncanny unexpected sounds and narratives that are completely new and unheard. Beauty and recognition right alongside and seeping almost indiscernibly into dark humour, horror, terror, loss, madness, and quite often a becoming-animal with which she has happily bewildered an unsuspecting pop world (finally Front Row have acknowledged that this isn't pop). Listen, for example, to the utterly bestial human-donkey braying at the end of Get Out of My House from 1982.

There is, as I think Kate has indicated, a continuity between Aerial and Hounds of Love. This time she gets a bit more time and space to play with (12 years, 2 discs, and a really nice CD case and booklet). All of the above mentioned characteristics are there. Joanni, for example, in which Joan of Arc is reincarnated from myth to real complex sonorous woman. Listen to the strange obstinate vocal towards the end.

I'm not going to give a summary or critique of all of the songs. More importantly, a suggestion of how to listen to this music. For a start, recognize that it's very expansive, much more so than her last two albums, and certainly more so than any other current songwriter. So don't expect to get the whole story in one go, or perhaps even in twenty years. But you will still get instant gratification. There are sounds and ideas in here that will hit you instantly, and stay with you for a very long time. Listen lots, and listen carefully. And do read the lyrics. They are quite obviously the product of a writer, not someone hooking words onto sounds. And then watch out for and consider the surprising ways in which the words and music negotiate with each other: the innovation, the real magic is in the often difficult relationship between narrative and sound, almost (but only ever almost) to the point at which it falls down.

I wrote some time ago about painting and chaos - the haptic physicality of the hand and the brush, the diagram that is the brush stroke marking out a concentration of light, world, body, eye, mind etc. And then also how, as Deleuze argues in Logic of Sensation, music takes off from painting - colour becoming disembodied in sound and penetrating surfaces (and identities), finding a line of flight, going further than light, which is subject to shadows and the phases of day and night, but at the same time (especially in nature, birdsong) dependent on and anticipating light. Sound carries through the darkness, and as in the Ninth Wave, is a defence against and means of reterritorializing darkness: a refrain as D&G would say.

The second CD, A Sky of Honey, does exactly that. It is a passage from day through sunset, a nocturn, and back to morning. From the chaos, colour and chance of a painter. Through colour's dissipation into sunset, and its preservation in the night sky, and then back again with sound (the song of birds) anticipating the return of the morning light (see an earlier entry on the refain and birdsong via Olivier Messiaen).

I said there is deep complexity in this music. But I also said that you will get instant gratification. A Sky of Honey gives exactly that. It is thoroughly gorgeous – like Seville, of which it reminds me (watching painters in the gardens of the Real Alcazar, sitting in mellow cafes, being invaded by wild flamenco buskers). You will be overwhelmed with the beauty of the sounds and the words. I am.

Ask me again in twenty years, i'll still be listening then.

If you are interested in discussing this entry, then please contact me

November 06, 2005

Research Notes: how radical can extended cognition be?

Follow-up to Research Notes: social–machinic thinking, the 'mangrove effect', the 'diagram', the 'rhizome' from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

How radical is the extended cognition thesis proposed by Andy Clark in Being There? Is his argument trivial or with huge consequences?

Page 215 sees both an indication of just how radical its implications might be, followed by a clause that is perhaps an attempt to avoid an engagement with a whole set of possibly esoteric philosophical issues.


Firstly, there are significant ethical implications of an argument that sees a persons mind being extended into the environment. Hurt that environment and you hurt the mind. This goes a little beyond the arguments of human rights lawyers, who could safely say that long term deprivation may affect the development and sustanance of the mind. Clark's argument clearly indicates that damaging the extended cognitive apparatus has an immediate and damaging effect on their mind.

If, for example, a human rights court assessing the actions of the regime at Guantanamo Bay were to accept that abuse of the Quran were a direct physical attack upon the minds of the inmates, then the range of crimes would be greater and more extreme.


The first point opens up a radical debate. The second is just as dramatic in closing one down. Clark makes a threefold differentiation:

  1. brains;
  2. minds;
  3. consciousness.

He also talks about "self", and seems to be referring to the totalized singularity of the collection of factors that make a person individuated. That, I think, is closely tied to what he wold call "consciousness", but the issue is not properly explored.

His argument clearly shows that minds are more than brains, being extended out from the brain into the environment (or perhaps coming in from the environment and parasitising the brain). But he is careful to say that there is something called consciousness that is not extended into the environment. Individual consciousness, my attentional experience, is packaged back inside the individual. It is philosophically safer to say that there is still something, some inelliminable feature of being human, that is not dissipated out into the apparatus of extended cognition.

The clause avoids some very difficult philsoophical ground, but only at the risk of begging a very big question. This clause has the following effects:

  1. a separate set of apparatus must be implicated in consciousness;
  2. this apparatus cannot be reducible to, dependent upon, and part of the environment, as being such would again make it porous and subject to an extended cognition argument.

Obviously the second of these points is hugely controversial, and heading towards the kind of mind/body separation that Clark set out to dispel. But I would say that it is essential to Clark's attempt to keep some kind of separation between subject and object (individual and world). Without some kind of absolutely non-porous subjectivity, his thesis gets increasingly radical. The supposition of an individual consciousness, for example, provides some limitation to the damage that extended cognition could do to our established legal and ethical assumptions.

How to escape from this? Phenomenology leading out from Kant has recourse to time. In fact once can see the predominately spatial way in which much of the extended cognition debate is framed. We have a bounded, territorialized layout of minds and environments. One could argue that consciousness is the experience of this layout in time. The link between "self" and "consciousness" seems to rely upon this, with time, history, evolution and its experience from a specific perspective being the individuating feature:

…the flow of reason and thoughts, and the temporal evolution of ideas and attitudes, are determined and explained by the intimate, complex, continued interplay of brain, body and world. p.217

We could investigate how the environment/mind relationship unfolds differently to an individual consciousness. A kind of "pure time", a "duration", could be the inelliminable fact of consciousness. But what are the origins and effects in the world of this pure time? It can't be an organizing super subject, because that would be subject and hence porous to the world it organizes. As you can see from the passage given above, Clark does actually acknowledge that the experience of being a singualrity in time is the result of a complex dynamical coupling.

There's another possibility. Rather than being an organizer, a Kantian transcendental rationale, perhaps it is exactly the opposite, a hesitation at the core of conscsiousness, the force that holds the folds of time open and inelliminable. A chaotic attractor at the core of being in the world?

My argument is that the "chaotic attractor" of consciousness, and its temporal incarnations, is in fact crucial to perception and cognition. It is the drive behind inquisitiveness and the dynamical engagement of minds and environment. Far from being outside of cognitive science, it will prove to be the key.

But perhaps to obtain this key we have to accept that our ethical and legal assumptions need to be re-thought?

If you are interested in this entry, then please contact me by email.

March 12, 2005

Rhythm, in chaosmosis

Follow-up to Expression, content, assymetrical synthesis of the sensible from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Some notes on rhythm.

From chaos, Milieus and Rhythms are born.
Transcoding or transduction is the manner in which one milieu serves as the basis for another, or conversely is established atop another milieu, dissipates in it or is constituted in it.

See the entry on Expression for the mechanics of this.

The milieus are open to chaos, which threatens them with exhaustion or intrusion. Rhythm is the milieus' answer to chaos. What chaos and rhythm have in common is the in-between – between two milieus, rhythm chaos or the chaosmos

Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.313

An attendant figure, passing of into chaos or the inexplicable, and back again repeatedly. Losing sense, reforming it seperately, and then reconnecting. Asymetrical synthesis of the sensible.

January 20, 2005

Zone of indiscernibility between philosophy, art and science

Follow-up to Opinion from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

In What Is Philosophy? Deleuze and Guattari seem to argue for a strong division between philosophy, art and science. This could be a reaction to criticism of their earlier collaborations. But do they only go so far as to say that the different disciplines (machinic phyla) have different aims and different methods, whilst still maintaining that they do pass through chaosmosis together, sharing zones of indiscernibility? That would be more in keeping with their earlier work. And what is the nature of this transversality? Just opinion? Or are there more sophisticated (viral, germinal) mechanisms at work?


Follow-up to Opinion from Transversality - Robert O'Toole

Deleuze and Guattari do sometimes refer to freedom and freeing up, but it is a kind of diagrammatic freedom.

A particular activity may be constrained in several ways. The material of its expression may impose a limit, and as Guattari argues in Chaosmosis, a change in the material may act to free it up, to give it a chance of escape. Conversely, material of expression may be constrained to the point of starvation by a language, concept, artistic practice, scientific experiment (all of the aparatus of capture). Loosening the dependence between the material and the aparatus may bring life back to the material. This need to do this may be the source of transcendence. Again Guattari employs this as a psychotherapeautic practice, but guards against transcendence.

Regarding literature (Kafka, Lawrence), they say:

It is always a case of freeing life wherever it is imprisoned. p.171

January 16, 2005

Free expression – a misconception

A misconception of a misconception:

"A third misconception is that creativity is to do with free expression. This is partly why there's such concern about creativity in education." Out Of Our Minds: Learning To Be Creative, Ken Robinson, Capstone 2001, p.112

Of course Ken is right to argue that creative activity necessarily involves more than just wild and unguided behaviour. Creativity requires a discipline, some kind of order. However, in placing such disciplined creativity in opposition to 'free expression' a powerful connection is missed.

Firstly, we could say that creativity and freedom are dependent upon each other. This follows from considering that any activity that tends towards the stereotypical and away from difference is in no way free, being determined by the stereotype. And if we then consider that creativity always involves such differentiation, we could argue that: to be creative is to differentiate, to differentiate is to be free. Similarly, there is no freedom in a speech that simply applies stereotypes and secondhand opinions.

Secondly, we could argue that all expression requires some form of discipline, order, organisation: a language of expression, or the 'material' of expression. And therefore, all 'free expression' is ordered and disciplined to a varying extent.

From these arguments we can conclude that creativity must always be in some way a free expression, a differentiation that applies a discipline to break out of some stereotypical behaviour.

Going one step further, we could consider if a unified and strongly deterministic discipline, one that is unaltered by its application, is ever capable of producing anything new? If that is the case, then free expression is a special form of expression in which the tools, the material or language of the expression, and the potential of those tools, is somehow extendable and modifiable. Perhaps being modified by the act of expression in which they are applied: a non-linearity in expression.

Now consider again the fear of 'free expression' that Ken talks of. What real fear does it mask? A fear of chaos? Or rather the fear that a cherished discipline will become modified? A fear that a toolset will be developed independently of its stereotypical application?

Is it then the case that this simplistic concept, deployed in the campaign against creativity in education, is a parody-concept designed to lead us away from more sophisticated, powerful and essential concepts of freedom, expression, creativity and intelligence? For readers of Deleuze and Guattari this will be a familiar ploy, they repeatedly identify concepts that are designed to parody complexity, creativity, desire and chaosmosis. The parody is always the same: portraying them as an uninhibited and undifferentiated sublime.

July 15, 2004

The Four Ontological Functions Diagram

Warning! This won't make any sense to you if you haven't read a substantial amount of work by the philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. That's why it's in the 'philosophy' category. I've posted it because for a few months now i've been trying to understand the diagram in Guattari's Chaosmosis, which is clearly an attempt to summarize his work with Deleuze such that he can use it in his work in psychiatry, education, and cultural practices. I post it as public as I know there are many D&G experts out there who might want to comment and say "you've just got it entirely wrong".

  • The whole diagram represents the connective synthesis. Present within it at all points is both the body without organs and the plane of consistency, the composer and the composed of desiring-production. (1)
  • The actual column is the always present, active disjunctive synthesis of striated space. (2)
  • The virtual column is the always presupposed, passive conjunctive synthesis of smooth space. (3)
  • The possible row is formed by organisational strategies that make the repetition of an organisation more likely, projecting the past into the future, a composing force tending towards the body without organs, towards an absolute difference. (4)
  • The real row is formed by the absolute difference between past and future states, the composed fact tending towards the plane of consistency. The possible drives this absolute difference.

Every activity involves all four ontological functions. The critical project of Deleuze and Guattari is to demonstrate that separate activities, such as art and science, have mistakenly been placed in relations of subservience to each other. This has been done by associating an activity with a single ontological function, locating it in just one sector of the matrix, whilst another activity is placed in a complementary sector. Instead, we need to recognize that each activity itself involves all four ontological functions simultaneously. Both art and science, for example, are independently operational connective syntheses, and neither is ontologically dependent upon the other. Similarly, the ‘models’ described in A Thousand Plateaus (technological, musical, mathematical, maritime, aesthetic) are all different instantiations of the connective synthesis.


  1. The Connective Synthesis of Production. (Anti-Oedipus p.68).
  2. The Disjunctive Synthesis of Recording. (Anti-Oedipus p.75).
  3. The Conjunctive Synthesis of Consumption and Consummation. (Anti-Oedipus p.84).
  4. For Deleuze and Guattari, signification is distributed across the disjunctive synthesis (the movement to expressive dissipation) and the conjunctive synthesis (the movement to enunciative concentration): the sign does not produce fantasies, it is a production of the real and a position of desire within reality. (Anti-Oedipus p.111). Lack does not figure in this as both the possible and the real already presuppose all three syntheses: the concentration, the dissipation and the connection. The restriction of an activity to one sector of the diagram introduces lack. The positioning of a complementary activity in another sector of the diagram offers a solution to that lack, hence the relationship of subservience between the activities (e.g. art and science).

June 25, 2004

Miro's Chaosmosis, Guattari's Art

Last weekend Emma and I bought a Fundació Miró print of Pintura. This is to go in our bedroom at the new house in Kenilworth. Looking at it reminded me of something that I wrote just after visiting the Fundació, an interesting coincidence of reading a book on Miro and Guattari's Chaosmosis. I've rescued the text from my old MT blog and repeated it below…

Andre Breton on Miro's Constellations: "They belong together and differ from one another like the aromatic or cyclic series of elements in chemistry. If one considers them both in their development and as a whole, each of them assumes necessity and value like a constituent in a mathematical series. And finally, they give the word 'series' that special meaning by their uninterupted and exemplary sequence." Miro by Janis Mink, Taschen 2000.

Felix Guattari on the Production of Subjectivity: "In this conception of analysis, time is not something to be endured; it is activated, oriented, the object of qualitative change…A singualrity, a rupture of sense, a cut, a fragmentation, the detachment of a semiotic content – in a dadaist or surrealist manner – can originate mutant nuclei of subjectivation. Just as chemistry has to purify complex mixtures to extract atomic and homogeneous molecular matter, thus creating an infinite scale of chemical entities that have no prior existence, the same is true in the 'extraction' and 'seperation' of aesthetic subjectivities or partial objects…that make an immense complexification of subjectivity possibile – harmonies, polyphonies, counterpoints, rhythms and existential orchestrations, until know unheard and unknown." Chaosmosis (page 19)

Miro described how he would evolve the elements of his works from partial objects viewed while staring at the ceiling above his bed. He worked these partial objects into existential orchestrations relative to each other, generating a "necessity" (in the Kantian sense) to their being produced. Guattari takes the Bergsonian interpretation of Kant in seeing subjectivity as enduring or being subject to necessities (refrains or exemplary sequences). But like Miro he knows that these necessities are not given, they are produced through knowable mechanisms (time is activated) – and if they can be known, then they can be chosen, so he has the possibility of an ethico–aesthetic paradigm.