The concept of the Baroque fold is particularly relevant to engaging the emergent affects in operational techniques since they are inherently energetic movements of relation. Baroque folds are a topographical field that co-composes in plastic and elastic dynamics of affective attunement, never generating a distinctive form but as a texturology of multiple forces folding (Deleuze 1993, 115). So Baroque folds do not exist in themselves, as a particular subject, object form, entity, or trace, but are in a constant state of energetic reconstitution with an emergent corporeal. The folds of the Baroque are a pressing, stretching, kneading, and bulging along emergent contours, flatness, or stasis. This multiple potential dynamism becomes especially clear in the way Deleuze describes the excessive folds of clothing depicted in Baroque painting and sculpture. These voluminous folds allow bodies to overcome contradictions of form and feeling: the bodies that wear the clothes are never betrayed, their ‘heads bob like swimmers’ on wave-like, folded expanses (Deleuze 1993, 121). And the folding, energetic density means swimmers never sink, but are always enmeshed and enmeshing in a buoyant density that sustains them on the surface, or that always edges them into new surfacings.
This energetic surfacing of folding or recombining intensities becomes felt in operations of drawing texture, where the mark is not the same as the fold but where the marking guides movement into contour. Valéry (1938, 77) insists that artists or draughtspeople must find their way through textures, such as a crumpled napkin, or forms that cannot be obviously recognised or replaced in retracing by informing the drawing space with movements of seeing. Textural space in drawing disperses and diffuses tendencies of seeing form and contour into a minutia and multiplicity of movement so that it emerges with the felt affects of multi-directionality. The hapticality described by Harney and Moten might then also be a texture of haptic volumes that surge both throughout and over the top of a substantive mass, or that dissolve geological layers in the stirring indeterminacy on the infinite undersides of billowing dust. In Whitehead’s terms, the texture of subjective experience is a processual integration of both conformity and non-conformity in a throbbing coherence of related components, which are physical (related in an objectified nexus) and mental (propositional) (Whitehead 1978, 191–92). To feel the folds of texture, one must then feel its contrasts and continuities, or the way it thins, thickens, and unravels in a kind of proposition or invitation to a corporeal morphology. And as folding operations converge as emergent hapticalities they float non-quantifiable, non-categorical, affective energies beyond containment and beyond any single sensory or operational mode, including seeing, speaking, touching, pressing, and pacing. But words do surface and intensify along side them:
Folding draws charcoal bits into rolling pressing
Bounce shivers a contouring, caving membrane
(the edge powders loose volumes)
One can begin to feel the way moving contours exhaust themselves into emergent texture in operations of drawing a swatch of frayed acrylic thread composed into a coarse weave. The hard density of the moving graphite tip secures over, then under and alongside, first tightly, then loose in the loss of direction. In the movement to navigate the texture, contour becomes momentary – a traced fit of a possible movement with, along, and over. And each start also generates a loose negotiation between seeing and marking, which is ready to draw, redraw, draw over, and double-back in quick pivots and oscillations. Drawing texture becomes a choreographic practice wherein texture, drawing surface, and moving in an emergent direction co-composes in pivoting, traversing, and lingering. In this suspension, touch attunes with vision, and vision collapses into feeling and the corporeal lightness after seeing into the shadowy depths under overlapping threads and then landing in a thin, hard trace on the drawing surface. This affective lightness is further intensified as movements increase the speed with which they change direction, surging an excess of energy that dissipates the heaviness of a clear visual path. So these repeated scratchings do not just graze the surface, but permeate inhabited layers of sensing and feeling, beyond a containable, localisable corporeal.
The fine definition of a line-tracing contour
thickens under pressure, receding noisily,
which could also be silence or broken syllables forgetting meaning.
Then vibration sparks a current, lifting the fine hairs on the surface of the skin
so that they become sticky, but are still yet ungrasping.
Contours holding shadows, hold loose powdery volumes.
The intensity of folding textures is particularly palpable in operations of kneading or wedging clay. The process of wedging clay requires pressing and folding the clay in a rocking movement with the entire body. In the rock forward, the weight of the body presses the clay against a canvas surface, stretching it outward, the palms also pressing it inward, to retain its form as a graspable mass. The clay is pressed forward only in so far that in the rock back the hands, wrists, and arms can pull and fold the clay back over itself. In the process, the clay spirals in multiple, bulbous pleats, composing and recomposing a homogenous consistency. The movement of wedging clay holds body and clay within an orbit of cohesion and release, in a rhythmic, plastic energy, spiralling to infinity.
So as in drawing texture, the qualities, energies, and affects of folding plastic clay propose a way to activate a corporeal morphology. But instead of generating virtual potentials in the indeterminacy of direction as in drawing texture, in the kneading the substance of the clay sustains an undetermined surfacing potential as it infinitely recombines in aggregate plasticity. The kneading clay surface becomes an energetic texture in the felt momentum and weight of the kneading process. In the kneading, plastic clay always holds open an interior void, a minor dimension of pressing into sides, which goes deep only in so far as it activates an emergent, energetic surface.
Knead a sheet of textile or plastic into clay and instead of the clay folding endlessly into an infinity of pleats (as in the wedging procedure described earlier), the fabric makes the weight of the clay felt as a pressure that is distributed over the surface of the textile, edging it towards solidity, then twisting and bunching and sliding unpredictably through the mass. At a certain threshold, the membrane bunches and gathers into its own edges or runs a pull in nylon coatings, making seams that press through the bulk, extruding bare fleshy skins.
skin, pulls, separates and holds it
from folding infinitely
back into itself.
The textile becomes a threshold of synchronicity and contrast, hold and release, a moving with and against. The surface presses, splits, and peels, intensifying the relation of the skin organ pressing against the materiality of interior flesh and bones, making interiority felt with the weight, volume, and plastic consistency of kneading clay.
Plastic skins press weight, press movement into sides,
always into sides, into insides, then into surfacing contours.
kneading tight and loose, skins pressing tight, bulging, pleating, never full frontal.
Alanna Thain (2008, 5) explains that to be ‘against full frontal’ is to generate relations of non-relation, or relations that move in the energetic field of intensity before the trace, before naming. ‘Against full frontal’, then, always emerges from the sides, in groping at new edges, in edges that lift into topographic contours then recede in a fizzling mass of fitting and starting, never fully separating from the energetic textures from which they emerge. But however partial, haptic folding pulls from across an inhabited field, infusing tendency with the intensities of movement in space, duration, tone, and volume. To feel the folds of texture, one must then feel its contrasts and continuities, or the way it thins, thickens, and unravels in a kind of proposition or invitation to a corporeal morphology. As the surface moves into contour, it is always a plastic mutuality of surfacing and sinking, thinning into fine beams of shadow or receding into blinding light. The energetic complexity of the folding, textured surface continually recalibrates and re-emerges with the movement of dancing contours into new convergences, of dancing shadows into highlights, and of sound into dust.
Folding generates a body in serial recomposition, always from within the amodal: ‘the limit of the series […] can be anywhere in the flow: between two terms, between two voices or the variations of a single voice – a point that is already reached well before one knows that the series is exhausted’ (Deleuze 1997, 158). The series in folding textures opens the potential to exhaust form in movement and movement in form so that both are indistinguishable in their mutual composition and exhaustive decomposition. And in turn, exhaustion dissipates the directional energies of the textural field so that movement can re-emerge from the inhabited past in any which way. Importantly, the emergent potential of these transversal edgings sustains an improvisational milieu with wording and meaning and across media.
Then elastic skins hold the excess in smooth, taut, flatness
coaxing delicate touch more than any finger could pulling pressure in from the sides
spreading weight in perfect full contact – fast and simultaneous with the cheeks becoming humid
then beams of light curl out from the underside, an underside where weighted tack
normally never lets the light
sticks the damp clay surface
then splitting under plastic spread, perfect tears outline drifting foil islands.
Then edging into kneading, into aggregate rhythms,
breathing light into the smallest of surfaces.
The grip closes in and folds into knuckles, bulging knuckles that bend,
plastic in the mass of clay
smooth, plastic fingers
creasing the surface from the inside, out