All 8 entries tagged Figuration
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March 12, 2005
Faced with white noise, a void, extreme intensity or excessive speed of modulation, a refrain offers some relief. It is an expression, but one that operates in a tightly closed loop. In the case of a typical human refrain, a song, the singer sings the refrain back to themself. Its content is the human organic form, deterritorialized into the simple, familiar and predictable form of the song. It may continue at great length with little effect on either the singer or the song, until exhaustion sends them to sleep. It is in this way a closing-down, a retreat into simplicity and predictability, away from the world (into the baroque house, for which the harmony and melody of the song build the impenetrable facade): an expression yes, but only just. Almost zero.
The refrain is a desperate defence, a second-level immune response to the failure of the visual imagination. A defence against the penetrating incursion of the sonorous plane, passing through the blockade of the visual imagination. To understand this, first consider how that sonorous plane penetrates and defeats visual defences, how it passes through the image (Bacon's screaming pope).
The defensive imagination
The image, which can be re-presented instantly and switched at will, provides an effective and impenetrable barrier to the exterior, as with the portrait, the image of the ascending head, or the church steeple in Kafka. Deleuze and Guattari argue that these images act not as simple memories, reactivating the past, but rather as means for handling the encounter with uncertainty or the future, finding strength in a certain relation to at least ine object that may be assimilated (the end of the desire):
…it acts as a childhood block, and not as a childhood memory, strengthening desire instead of cramping it, displacing it in time, deterritorializing it, proliferating its connections, linking it to other intensities.
The image acts as a block in both senses: a block as an element or screen that can be placed upon a new territory and onto which connections can be territorialized or projected, carrying away desire into a concentratory dispositif; a block to the chaotic and disruptive effects of that proliferation of connections, a delay, a spacing-out. Its power as such lies in four aspects:
- the speed with which the image can be conjured, with all of its points present almost imediately – how all that is needed is a few suggestive points, lines and colours;
- how it is constantly rescanned and reconfirmed in perception;
- how an image can appear solid and enclosing, blocking out and constituting an exterior;
- how the image creates an expansive but delimited territory of co-ordinates, in which expression or a procedure of desire (deterritorialization and reterritorialization) may play (the baroque house).
The scream cuts across and penetrates the image
In Kafka, Deleuze and Guattari say of the image (portrait or figuration):
But that's not important. What's important is the light music, or, more precisely, the pure and intense sound emanating from the steeple and the castle tower: "a bell began to ring merilly up there, a bell that for at least a second made his heart palpitate for its tone was menacing, too, as if it threatened him with the fulfillment of his vague desire. This great bell soon died away, however, and its place was taken by a feeble, monotonous little twinkle." Kafka D&G p.4
Whereas the image acts to concentrate, focus and strengthen the desire within a delimited space, sound is said to interfere with order, connecting with 'vague' or minor expressions that are not oriented towards the reconstitution of the territory of the image. Unlike vision, sound leaks through spatial structures, resonates throughout the body, and concentrates into the ears. Its passage through the meat and chambers of the bodily organs overrides their functions: the stomach now is equivalent to a double bass in terms of resonation – suddenly the voice, the location of human sound, is displaced by a more animal sonic body (think whales):
It's curios how the intrusion of sound often occurs in Kafka…Music always seems caught up in an indivisible becoming-child or becoming-animal, a sonorous block that opposes the visual memory. Kafka D&G p.4–5
The cinema is the place for experiencing this effect. (It is the baroque house of The Fold.) The cinema is constructed as a radical interplay of the sonorous and visual planes. Visual imagination is territorialized upon the screen or perceptual block, both cutting out the exterior, offering a concentration of light and colour, whilst spatializing and slowing down (into the narrative of the film, which is spatial not temporal). But at the same time, sound penetrates the body in deep surround-sound rumbles and piercing dolby screams.
Of course any sensible movie director knows not to leave the audience immersed for too long at the point of this schizophrenic collision of visual and audio fields. As the scream fades away into the night, a more familiar pattern of notes rises from low down in the auditorium, as if from the galloping hooves that carry us safely from the scene of brutality. Sing the refrain back to the world, which doesn't expect it, doesn't ask for it. But the refrain sure makes us feel more easy sleeping at night. Sing yourself to sleep.
February 08, 2005
- What happens to concepts when they pass the extent of their engagement? If the concept doesn't become figural, perhaps the components in some way operate independently of the concept, and start to find new connections and new components not mediated by the concept? The concept becomes…
- Is a 'minor literature' the activity of a set of components from a concept operating beyond its extent?
- Is creativity a concept necessary for a set of activities that generates new concepts out of the collapse of old concepts? – drawing together a range of eccentric and risky techniques.
And what happens when the extent of a concept is passed but something attempts to extend it, even when it no longer engages, no longer has intension? It becomes figural, an empty concept valued only for its anamnesis, its capability to invoke the ghost like presence of a context long gone.
Is the concept of creativity figural? What is its extent? In discussions of artificial intelligence for example, does its use have any intension, or is it merely their to re-invoke a ghostly apparition of some entirely human characteristic posited within machines, so as to hype their significance?
February 01, 2005
The figure, as a site of habitual sensation, simultaneously dissipates into a chaosmic and unknowable field, whilst defining itself through its engineering agency from that field, which in this return movement stands as a material structure, habitat or frame. The field, being dense with connections, is that space in which the slightest of movements has a massive and irreversible effect. Habit or the organ has no definite sense in the field, has no role in reproduction, hence the necessity to become a 'body without organs' when passing into the field – zero intensity, zero effect, zero feedback, guaranteeing that a return from the field to the figure in repetition, but renewed from the outside.
But how does one reach zero intensity? – how to pass through chaos and back, surviving in some recognisable form? – how do you make yourself such a body without organs? On fleeing from the habitat, from the aparatus of capture, they say that it is necessary to pick-up in an itinerent fashion "weapons" with which to encounter chaos. The weapon is, in fact, that which draws the diagram: some other thing deterritorializing at the same time against which marks can be cut: the painters brush and colours. As they say, 'you never deterritorialize alone'. The friend of the painter is the canvas, brush, colour, texture. And the attendant figure? As Deleuze says of Bacon, not an observer, a counter-point, but a figurative companion standing as a diagram in the deterritorialization through chaos and back. A sensus communis even.
October 01, 2004
Note – this is academic work. If you know about Deleuze's aesthetics, Klee, Bacon etc, you are very welcome to comment.
Painting, as with Van Gogh, establishes a rhythmic pattern. Through an additive synthesis, painting intensifies the body, leads it into chaotic relations with the rest of the material world, provides it with a depth of simultaneous connections, nearing chaos.
For some time painters have been concerned with the relationship between the rhythmic essence of painting and that of music. Deleuze, in a consideration of Cezanne and Bacon, attempts to clarify this relation:
Rhythm appears as music when it invests the auditory level, and as painting when it invests the visual level. Francis Bacon:Logic of Sensation, Continuum, 2004, p.44
Certainly music traverses our bodies in profound ways, putting an ear in the stomach, in the lungs, and so on. It knows all about waves and nervousness. But it involves our body, and bodies in general, in another element. It strips bodies of their inertia, of the materiality of their presence: it disembodies bodies. In a sense, music begins where painting ends, and this is what is meant by the superiority of music. It is lodged in lines of flight that pass through bodies, but which find their consistency elsewhere, whereas painting is lodged farther up, where the body escapes from itself. ibid p.54
Music then acts to disembody, make abstract, deterritorialize onto a distinct plane. As if pulling the spirit out of the body . The incessant seriality of music acts to concentrate and overwhelm the body in anticipation of perception.1
Paul Klee was concerned with this distinction. As both an accomplished violinist and a painter it would necessarily be an issue. Duchling seems to claim some connection between Klee and the ideas of Nietzsche and Bergson on rhythm in fine arts. Did Klee read Bergson? Anyhow, in the face of attempts by critics to say that Klee's painting was musical, used the same structure as music, Klee responded strongly by emphasising that both arts are rhythmic, but in entirely different ways. Deleuze also had an interest in Klee (will look into that more).
This is the starting point for Duchling's book on Paul Klee, Painting Music. I've just discovered this, and it seems to be fascinating.
In comparison to the Romantics, Klee sought the actual basis for the analogy in the most inner being of music – rhythm – which in his opinion not only marks the movement of time in music, but also in art. Paul Klee: Painting Music, Hajo Duchting, Pegasus, p.14
1Consider here Klee's rejection of Hausenstein's Kantian analysis of finality and purposiveness in Klee - Paul Klee: Painting Music, Hajo Duchting, Pegasus, p.12.
August 18, 2004
Cezanne, it is said, is the painter who puts vital rhythm into the visual sensation. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, p. 43
This vital rhythm is what Deleuze later calls the diagram of the painter. It is:
…the operative set of asignifying and nonrepresentative lines and zones, line-strokes and color patches. ibid, p.101
They are applications of paint and the hand of the artist that rhythmically reappear. Diagrams are used to unlock sensations, to release them from their immediate take-up in discursive and representational diversions, to bring us to the sensation itself, in its plurality and complexity…
…there are not sensations of different orders, but different orders of one and the same sensation… ibid p.37
…but for no reason other than its own actuality. This complexity, singularity and actuality turned Cezanne towards nature:
Every sensation, and every Figure, is already an "accumulated" or "coagulated" sensation, as in a limestone figure. ibid p.37
Cezanne sought the event or irruption of the sensation as we experience in nature:
This is what one must achieve. If I reach too high or too low, everything is a mess. There must not be a single loose strand, a single gap through which the tension, the light, the truth can escape. I have all the parts of my canvas under control simultaneously. If things are tending to diverge, I use my instincts and beliefs to bring them back together again… Everything that we see disperses, fades away. Nature is always the same, even though its visible manifestations eventually cease to exist. Our art must shock nature into permanence, together with all the components and manifestations of change. Art must make nature eternal in our imagination. What lies behind nature? Nothing perhaps. Perhaps everything. Everything, you understand. So I close the errant hand. I take the tones of colour I see to my right and my left, here, there, everywhere, and I fix these gradations, I bring them together… They form lines, and become objects, rocks, trees, without my thinking about it. They acquire volume, they have an effect. When these masses and weights on my canvas correspond to the planes and spots which I see in my mind and which we see with our eyes, then my canvas closes its fingers. It does not waver. It does not reach too high or too low. It is true, it is full… cited in Cezanne by Ulrike Becks-Malorny, Taschen 2001
Cezanne, Mont Sainte-Victoire
Some principles of successful military command:
- Recruit and train forces, divide them up, and arrange them according to the terrain in which they will operate and the opposing arrangements of enemy forces. This requires intelligence, strategy, and imagination.
- Identify a sufficiently distant goal so as to allow for a wide range of local conditions to emerge on the path to that goal.
- Provide the forces with time and space in which to operate with relative autonomy in order to explore and adapt to local conditions so as to move towards the objective. This requires diplomacy, political guile, and a certain charm in dealing with those who demand results.
- Encourage the different individual divisions of the forces to advance with speed or caution as required so as to co-ordinate with each other.
- Maintain the necessary lines of supply and communication to and between the divisions (resource going to the front).
- Maintain the necessary lines of supply and communication from the divisions (resource returning to the command).
On art and the battle ground of the canvas:
As i think Deleuze indicates in his book on Bacon, these artists had a deeply strategic understanding of how to enable, command even, their artistic powers. Each of these principles of good command can be seen in their practices. For example, Deleuze describes how for these artists the terrain is sensation, the enemy is figuration (the figural locked to representation), and the relatively autonomous forces are the artistic diagram (a difficult term, capturing a technique in its relation to the figural but not at the mercy of representation). The diagram is unleashed into unanticipated and dangerous territories of sensation:
The diagram is indeed a chaos, a catastrophe, but it is also a germ of order or rhythm. It is a violent chaos in relation to the figurative givens, but it is a germ of rhythm in relation to the new order of the painting. As Bacon says, it "unlocks areas of sensation." Deleuze, Francis Bacon: Logic of Sensation, p.102
Deleuze describes in great detail Francis Bacon's strategy for painting, for creativity, for achieving all of the above for the cause of the campaign, creating paintings that each unlock sensation in a new way. He sees this in all great painters, citing Van Gogh and Klee as well, and of course Cezanne, who was prior to Bacon the most effective documentor of the battle ground of the canvas.