orpheus institute ghent | concert hall | 02.10.2014




Paulo de Assis | presentation


Paolo Giudici | presentation



by Paulo de Assis

Abstract. In A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity (2006) Manuel DeLanda introduces a novel approach to social ontology based on Deleuze and Guattari’s theories of assemblages and of ‘the processes that create and stabilize their historical identity’. Taking the few pages dedicated to ‘Assemblage Theory’ in the work of Deleuze and Guattari as a starting point, DeLanda massively expands the topic, challenging existing paradigms of social analysis and proposing different types of assemblages, ranging from the personal level to territorial states. DeLanda’s ‘Assemblage Theory 2.0’  therefore primarily focuses on collective assemblages of enunciation, referring to social constructions. If one tries to unravel what is specifically Deleuzian and what is Guattarian in their collaborative writings (mainly in A Thousand Plateaus, 1980) one could claim that the concern with social ontology is the more specifically Guattarian stance, dealing with collective agencements such as communities and institutional organizations. On the other hand, Deleuze’s concern is represented by the recurrent example of an assemblage as the mounted warrior, the combination of horse-warrior-weapon—something that is more than the sum of its parts, with emergent properties, and whose components are characterized by relations of exteriority. Where Guattari stresses the formation and processes of collective human enunciations, Deleuze refers to human and non-human machinic assemblages of things. In this perspective, DeLanda’s endeavor seems to be a highly elaborated expansion of Guattari’s concerns.

  ME21 proposes to go in the opposite direction: not from the Deleuze/Guattarian ‘agencement’ to ever bigger and more complex human/social agencies of enunciations, but toward smaller, aesthetic-epistemic or purely artistic ‘machinic assemblages’ of things. One might call it ‘Assemblage Theory 3.0'. In order to do so, both the Deleuze-Guattarian terminology and DeLanda’s parameterization of concepts are used as fundamental operative tools. The focus on particular parameters – such as affects on the assemblages (territorialization/deterritorialization), role of the components (material/expressive), modes of recurrence (coding/decoding), and genesis of the processes (actual/virtual) – allows for the construction of several ‘machinic assemblages of desire’. The precise calibration of these parameters (in the framework of ‘experimental systems’) allows for a broad range of artistic assemblages: from strata, collages, montages, assemblages (in the sense used in visual arts), installations, and performances, up to nomadic events, the ultimate goal being to explore a novel approach to artistic ontology: that is, an ontology of things that is descriptive, but also creative and productive, enabling the construction of new aesthetic-epistemic assemblages.


1. Things


There is a painting by Klee called Angelus Novus. An angel is depicted there who looks as though he were about to distance himself from something which he is staring at. His eyes are opened wide, his mouth stands open and his wings are outstretched. The Angel of History must look just so. His face is turned towards the past. Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet. He would like to pause for a moment so fair, to awaken the dead and to piece together what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise, it has caught itself up in his wings and is so strong that the Angel can no longer close them. The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky-high. (Walter Benjamin, 9th Thesis, On the Concept of History, 1940)


Benjamin’s Angel of History desperately stares at the steady accumulation of debris that the past throws before his eyes. In the place of a sequence of detached events, he sees ‘rubble on top of rubble’, a continuous collection of wreckage. However, violently pushed into the future, his desire to stop and reassemble those fragments cannot be fulfilled. His mouth is wide open, yet he cannot talk. One could start by translating this metaphor into music: in the place of ‘works’, the Angel of History would see innumerable things on top of things—sketches, drafts, manuscripts, editions, recordings, transcriptions, treatises, manuals, instruments, depictions, contracts, commissions, letters, postcards, scribbles, diagrams, analytical charts, theoretical essays, articles, books, memories, forgeries, etc. All these things—brought together in different combinations and arrangements, in different times and geographies—are material objects that exist in the real world. Brought together in specific combinations, they make up those reified generalities that we used to call ‘musical works’. Let’s take the most famous example yet again: where is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to be found? Is it in the Breitkopf & Härtel first edition from 1808? In any of the 161 recordings officially registered in 2012 by the Beethoven-Haus Bonn? In any of the innumerable manuscripts, currently dispersed between Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Krakow, Nelahozeves and Bonn? In the corrected manuscript ‘An 67 k, I, 83’? In Liszt’s piano reduction? In a Schenkerian analysis? The list of questions could easily continue for dozens of pages as we are referring to the concrete, material documents that allow the construction of an abstract image of the work. As Foucault exhaustively demonstrated:


The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines, and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network. [...] The book is not simply the object that one holds in one’s hands; and it cannot remain within the little parallelepiped that contains it: its unity is variable and relative. As soon as one questions that unity, it loses its self-evidence, constructs itself, only on the basis of a complex field of discourse. (Foucault 2010: 23)

 The unity of a book (or of a work) belongs therefore to the imaginary: to a complex set of fictional, simulated, or virtual conglomerates that we accept to consider as part of reality. However, from a materialist ontological perspective, works only exist as elaborated products (Foucault’s ‘nodes’) of a network of relations and interactions between innumerable documents. From our contemporary perspective, with our all-encompassing, almost infinite archive of historical data, we all have become surrogates of Benjamin’s angel of history. Confronted with the overwhelming mass of currently easily available documents (Benjamin’s ruins of the past) we have the responsibility to establish ever-new articulations between them, to build different orders of things, to questions legitimacies, to propose radical shiftings of perspective.

  Benjamin’s angel does not wish to worship reified generalities, but to reassemble, to put back together the ruins left behind by history—in a particular, ever changing configuration.. In the act of reassembling fragments, Benjamin saw a power to rupture and to heal; to rearrange things in an unexpected world of their own. Once one breaks with the ideology of the unity of the artwork, and starts considering its innumerable constitutive parts as the basic materials for artistic and research activities, infinite possibilities instantly emerge into view. Crucial is the finding of singularities—particular points where something cracks, changes phase, or simply vanishes. As Foucault puts it:


(...) in every oeuvre, in every book, in the smallest text, the problem is to rediscover the point of rupture, to establish, with the greatest possible precision, the division between the implicit density of the already-said, a perhaps involuntary fidelity to acquired opinion, the law of discursive fatalities, and the vivacity of creation, the leap into irreducible difference. (Foucault 2010: 142)

 The shift from a work-centered perspective to a vision of an exploded continuum made of innumerable objects and things in steady interaction with one another creates fields of discourse based on pure difference, leading to processes of differential repetition. When looking at those exploded things, the angel of history has two options: one analytical, where he remains at a certain distance (taken by the wind) and questions things in terms of what they are, how they appear, which properties they have, and what relation they entertain with each other; the other option more active and creative (countering the wind and going back and forth between the present and the past), where his main thoughts and actions are focused on what to do with these things, how to reactivate them, which futures they possess, which potentialities they carry, how to give them renewed sounds and furies, and how to express them anew. The first approach looks into the past, while the second creatively designs new futures of past objects and things. The first relates to conventional scholarly research and disciplines, the second—so I claim—to new modes of research, including artistic research. The question is: how does one generate differential knowledge by means of a research centered artistic practice? How does one validate research as artistic practice, and, conversely, the making of art as research?


2. Assemblage

In our ongoing research programme Music Experiment 21 (ME21), these questions are being addressed using the concept and practices (the concrete doing) of assemblages. As this word has many different meanings – in everyday language, in the visual arts, in science and technology, and in diverse philosophical currents – it is important to clarify what I mean when using it. As a starting point, I am referring to the concept of assemblage as Manuel DeLanda proposed in the last decade, particularly in his books A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity (2006) and Deleuze. History and Science (2010). It is a strongly parametrized concept, i.e. it includes several parameters that might be differently calibrated, being scalable and therefore more or less active in the final assemblage.

  DeLanda developed his theory on the basis of the joint work of Deleuze and Guattari on assemblages, and he named his theory ‘Assemblage Theory 2.0’ to indicate the differences between his developments of the concept and its formulation in the books of Deleuze and Guattari. The origins of this particular philosophical stance go back to the Deleuze and Guattari book Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (1986), where it appears for the first time and where the original French word is agencement, and not assemblage. It reappears as a central concept in the third and twelfth plateaus (‘The Geology of Morals’ and ‘Treatise on Nomadology’) of A Thousand Plateaus (1980), and is fundamental to the whole book on Foucault (1988). It is due to the first English translation of A Thousand Plateaus (from 1981), where Paul Foss and Paul Patton translated agencement as assemblage, that the term started gaining new tonalities. Brian Massumi retained the term, and it has since then become normative, even if most people agree that it is not really a good approximation of the original meaning of agencement. For the definition of the concept we are dealing with here, Deleuze and Guattari actually use two terms: agencement and strata. Agencement is, on the one hand, an ensemble of material relations, a state of things, a form of content; and, on the other hand, a regime of signs, a form of expression. Agencements therefore have two poles: those of the strata and the abstract machine. The strata pole refers to wider social assemblages, defined by particular codes, with a stable form and reproductive functioning, while the abstract machine pole refers to particular assemblages that decode and deterritorialize the more stratified assemblages. As already noted in 2003 by François Zourabichvili, artistic agencements would be particular cases of abstract machines, a point that is crucial to us.

  DeLanda’s theory remains primarily focused on collective assemblages of enunciation, referring to social constructions, an aspect that he derives from Deleuze and Guattari:


In his own texts, Deleuze uses the term to refer not only to social assemblages, like the man-horse-weapon assemblage, but to biological ones (the wasp-orchid symbiotic assemblage) and even non-organic ones, like the assemblage formed by copper and tin when they interact to form an alloy, bronze, with its own emergent properties and capacities. But in his joint work with Guattari the term refers only to social assemblages. (DeLanda 2010: 72)


In this sense DeLanda’s endeavor seems to be a continuation and highly elaborated expansion of Guattari’s concerns, expanding the Deleuze-Guattarian agencement to a wider scale. He deals more with the  strata pole than with the  abstract machine pole, a focus that ME21 wants to revert. In place of the two terms strata and agencement, DeLanda proposes to use a single term – the English assemblage – and to install ‘control knobs’ (parameters) that can have different settings at different times: for some settings the social whole would be a stratum, for other settings an assemblage. This parametrization of the concept allows DeLanda to think of an ‘assemblage machine’ with two main control knobs: territorialization/deterritorialization and coding/decoding. The control knob territorialization/deterritorialization has to do with the degree of homogenization of the components, while the control knob coding/decoding relates to the degree to which the assemblage’s identity is rigidly or flexibly determined. When both knobs are turned up high (high territorialization, high coding), one talks of strata; when territorialization is high and coding low it is an assemblage as Deleuze and Guattari defined it; when both knobs are low we have a deterritorialized assemblage; and in the case of low territorialization combined with low and high coding, we are facing nomadic events.DeLanda’s assemblages include diverse entities, such as persons, public personae, conversations, communities, institutions, cities and nation-states. We propose to use DeLanda’s conceptual tools, but also, and crucially, to go back to Deleuze and Guattari’s seminal texts in order to formulate an assemblage theory for the arts – or at least, for artistic research. Given the specific nature of our endeavor, one might label it ‘Assemblage Theory 3.0’.


3. Artistic Research

In order to apply assemblage theory to music one has to establish an ontology first: which things do we consider legitimate to assert that they exist? Appropriating Deleuze and Guattari’s terminology on strata, and remaining aware of the unavoidable anisomorphism between philosophy and art, one can identify four types of strata in those music materials that physically exist in the real world: substrata (sketches, drafts, first editions, letters, writings by composers and performers, annotations, etc.); parastrata (treatises, manuals, iconography, period instruments, descriptions of concerts, critics, archives, lists of personnel, payments, etc.); epistrata (period editions, editions throughout time, analysis, reflexive texts, theoretical contextualizations, recordings, etc.); and metastrata (future performances, expositions, recordings, transcriptions, etc.). In music, these strata are not only being added and superposed in a linear progression—they infiltrate or contaminate each other throughout time, generating interstrata: complex arrangements of forces and intensities. By focusing on these innumerable documents (the pile of debris that the past puts in front of our eyes), ‘works’ are being considered as multiplicities, as historically constructed conglomerates of things. In this sense, works can be seen as meta-assemblages, since all of their constitutive things are in themselves machinic assemblages (editions, recordings, essays, performances, etc.). 

  Methodologically, this perspective allows for a three-step modus operandi: first, the ‘ruins of the past’ are archaeologically identified and retrieved for further consideration; secondly, the relations and connectors they entertain with each other, as well as their serialization throughout time, are studied in terms of a genealogy, disclosing singularities, i.e., particular points of high energy or concentration of forces; and finally, specific selections of things are brought together as machinic assemblages that problematize them anew. The archaeological moment relates to conventional scholarly research, including archival and sources studies; the genealogy calls for interpretation, semiotics and transtextuality; and the problematization happens by constructing new and experimental machinic assemblages. With the latter, the artistic dimension becomes inescapable, and it requires the kind of artist and the kind of researcher that can cohabit the same body—something like Nietzsche’s vision of the ‘artist-philosopher’ – or, in our current language, the ‘artistic researcher’.


Essential references

Benjamin, W., Selected Writings, Vol. 4, 1938-1940, 2003, Cambridge: Belknap Press.

Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge [1969] 2010, New York: Vintage Books.


De Landa, M., A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity, 2006. London/New York: Continuum.

De Landa, M., Deleuze. History and Science (2010), New York/Dresden: Atropos Press.


Deleuze, G. and F. Guattari, 2004 [1980]. A Thousand Plateaus. London/New York: Continuum.

Excerpt from the film The Angel of History, Ariella Azoulay, Israel 2000.

Video recording of Paulo de Assis' talk upcoming soon!



by Paolo Giudici



Abstract. At the Paris debut of his Romeo e Giulietta, the actor, playwright, film director, writer and poet Carmelo Bene met the philosopher Gilles Deleuze for the first time.  A few months later, their encounter bore a unique book, first published in Italian in 1978 in three parts: Bene’s play script of Shakespeare’s Richard III, Deleuze’s philosophical essay ‘One Less Manifesto’ and Bene’s artful response ‘Well, yes, Gilles Deleuze!’ The title of this book-machine also introduces the concept of superposition, later developed with Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus. Generalizing the concept, degrees of superposition on a continuous scale may serve to roughly identify different modes of encounters between Deleuze and other persons, yielding a fourfold typology: superposition, for instance with Guattari and Parnet; (super)imposition, for instance with Hume, Spinoza, Bergson and Nietzsche; super(imposition), for instance with Proust, Sacher-Masoch, Kafka and Becket; and juxtaposition, for instance with Derrida. Deleuze considers (super)impositions with writers or artists as captures, characterized by anisomorphism, as art and philosophy can never translate one into another; and as semiotic appropriation, as philosophy does attempt to translate art anyway. In particular, if both sides attempt capture, Deleuze also speaks of ‘double capture’, of which Sovrapposizioni can effectively be considered the only example. Double capture may offer a model for resolving a fundamental problem raised by artistic research, namelyidentifying valid knowledge in its outcomes, while preserving epistemic specificity. The double capture between philosophical statements and artistic visibilities constitutes differential knowledge that is specific to artistic research (though not exclusive to it); and conversely, artistic research draws a technical and institutional threshold by which differential knowledge acquires its discursive validity as research.


1. Book-machine


Given a certain effect, what machine is capable of producing it? And given a certain machine, what can it be used for? (Deleuze and Guattari 1983, 3)


Along the same lines as this quote from Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze and Guattari elaborate a concept of book as assemblage and machine in ‘Rhizome’:


As an assemblage, a book has only itself, in connection with other assemblages and in relation to other bodies without organs. We will never ask what a book means, as signified or signifier; we will not look for anything to understand in it. We will ask what it functions with, in connection with what other things it does or does not transmit intensities, in which other multiplicities its own are inserted and metamorphosed, and with what bodies without organs it makes its own converge. A book exists only through the outside and on the outside. A book itself is a little machine […]. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 4)


Precariously standing on its edge, I wish to consider the book-machine Sovrapposizioni, devised by Gilles Deleuze and Carmelo Bene (first published in Italian in 1978), and how it can be used to exemplify a mode of knowledge that I consider characteristic of artistic research. But what is so special about Sovrapposizioni?

  Firstly, it is the only book that Deleuze dedicated to theatre and therefore also to performance. Theatre featured prominently in Difference and Repetition, and after Michel Foucault's review ‘Theatrum Philosophicum’ (1970) it became one of its earliest interpretative frameworks, recently under reappraisal. Deleuze’s text in Sovrapposizioni ‘One Less Manifesto’ (1997 [1979]) revises his philosophical theatre; for instance by eliminating the concept of the ‘theatre of repetition’ and at the same time outlining his philosophy of performed theatre, which remains utopian (hence the title) and beyond reference to Bene or other theatre makers. ‘One Less Manifesto’ marks the high point of engagement, but also the beginning of Deleuze’s progressive devaluation of theatre, first reduced in Anti-Oedipus to the ‘little order theatre’ of psychoanalysis, and later … ‘it is only theatre or cinema’.
  Secondly, ‘One Less Manifesto’ also marks the high point of Deleuze and Bene’s personal friendship. The two first met at Bene’s request after the performance of his Romeo e Giulietta. Instrumental was Jean-Paul Manganaro’s mediation, who edited the first publication on Bene’s theatre in France and organized his performances in Paris (Festival d'Automne, Opera-Studio, 22 September – 13 October 1977). Differences in personality prevented further developments in their collaboration, but Deleuze shows a consistent appreciation in all of his references to Bene: ‘One Less Manifesto,’ Cinema 2, ‘Manfred: an Extraordinary Renewal’ and a mention in ‘N for Neurology’. While Deleuze kept Bene at a distance and avoids referring to him as a friend (unlike Ghérasim Luca), Bene on the other hand considered Deleuze an ‘older brother’ and often expressed admiration in his interviews and autobiographies. There is no reason to cast doubt on his sincerity by accusating him of opportunism, but his writings tend to exaggerate his personal connection to Deleuze, so that Deleuze’s intellectual influence is often exaggerated in the literature - for instance, at Derrida’s expense. With few exceptions, the reading of his work is still largely influenced by Deleuzian categories, although the sources of Deleuze’s influence on Bene are limited to a few texts preceding A Thousand Plateaus and then mostly dissipate after Bene’s Otello (1981). Significantly, none of the key contributions to theatre that Bene ascribes to himself in the ‘Autografia di un ritratto’ is directly connected to Deleuze’s philosophy.
  Thirdly, of the monographs that Deleuze (and Guattari) dedicated to writers (Proust, Sacher-Masoch, Kafka and Beckett) and artists (Fromanger and Bacon), Sovrapposizioni is the only one that included a response by the artist, although only in the Italian edition. ‘Well, yes, Gilles Deleuze!’ is now available in English for the first time (2014), which may contribute to more direct critical attention being focused on Bene’s thought and to reassessing his work in the light of what he later calls ‘the impossible research’ (1990), an expression I regard as a synonym for artistic research.

2. Encounter

The chapter titles in The Logic of Sense (1969) are meant to orient the hermeneut within  the book and the relation of title to chapter replicates  the whole series of concepts to events. The same applies to Sovrapposizioni, where the meaning of the title ‘superpositions’ is not explained by Deleuze anywhere in the book, but still organizes and articulates the relations of its authors and texts: Bene's Riccardo III to Shakespeare’s Richard III, Deleuze’s ‘One Less Manifesto’ to Bene’s Riccardo III and (his?) theatre, Bene's and ‘Well, yes, Gilles Deleuze!’ to Deleuze’s ‘One Less Manifesto’ and (his?) philosophy. Although superposition hasn’t yet received the scholarly attention it deserves, the concept proves its importance for understanding that more fundamental of encounter which Deleuze sometimes refers to assemblages in general.
  Superposition and juxtaposition in Deleuze’s assemblages represent theoretical ends of a spectrum, and the capacities of the assemblage components determine the degree in which they interact with one another. On this intensive scale, all encounters are superpositions of a  different degree. In the rest of the section, I propose four kinds of encounters, based on the superposition of its components from highest to lowest. The scope of this typology is not assemblages in general, but Deleuze’s personal encounters, although he draws no line of demarcation.


3.1 Superposition

The term, as seen above, may refer to a combination of physical states into one, in which the individual components cannot be distinguished. For instance, this is the case when two different sound waves are perceived as one. In the same way, commenting on the Anti-Oedipus, Deleuze stresses the importance of the authors’ indiscernibility:


And then there was my meeting with Felix Guattari, the way we understood and complemented, depersonalized and singularized - 
in short, loved - one another. (Deleuze 1995, 7)


His friendship with Claire Parnet certainly belongs to this kind of encounter, but Deleuze also mentions love referring to Bene’s encounter with Shakespeare:


It is a theater experimentation that bears more love for Shakespeare than all of idle commentaries. (Deleuze 1997, 240)


Nevertheless, Bene clearly rejects the schizo-love that Deleuze recognizes as the motor of his artistic experimentation. In ‘Well, yes, Gilles Deleuze!’ he substitutes love with ‘abjection’ and, although it would be impossible here to follow that trajectory, some of Bene’s reasons may become apparent under closer scrutiny.


3.2 Super(imposition)

Photographic images can be superposed upon one another in order to create a single image -  either with multiple exposures in the camera, or during editing by splicing negatives or by digital compositing. A superposition is ambivalent: on one side, it relies on its components not being immediately distinguished; on the other, precisely the heterogeneity of the source-images and the artificiality with which they are assembled produces the emerging properties of the new image. This feature captures the non-linearity of historical stratification in general, as for instance a passage of the ‘Geology of Morals’ describes, and in particular Deleuze’s strategy for encountering Hume, Kant, Bergson and the other personae in the history of philosophy. The relevant passages in Negotiations and Difference and Repetition need not be repeated, to see why Deleuze seeks an affinity between Bene’s super(imposition) to Shakespeare in theatre and his own in philosophy.


3.3 (Super)imposition

In overpaintings or palimpsests, only the last superimposition remains visible. This process illustrates the geometrical sense of superposition, in which a rigid movement placing one figure on top of another graphically establishes congruence between figures. For instance, Deleuze uses superposition in this sense referring to the ‘masks of Dionysus’ in Difference and Repetition, but I believe that this concept can be extended to all encounters of ‘disparate’ series that relate by non-relation the different with the different.

  To the question of what his encounter with Carmelo Bene had been, Deleuze replies to himself: ‘Il y a quelque chose qui passe’, which could be translated as ‘something happens’ or literally, as ‘something passes.’ The precise reference to the ‘dark precursor’ in Difference and Repetition shows that an unforeseeable clinamen between the philosopher and the man of theatre is needed as a necessary condition to their encounter. Still, that ‘something’ does not explain how the encounter works which is achieved instead by the concept of capture. Deleuze and Guattari’s appropriation from the game of chess not only applies to the State and War-machines, but to all divergent series and, in particular, to philosophy and art. Encounters between art and philosophy, but also between philosophy and science and science and art, either happen as capture or not at all: it is the (iron) mask imposed on the artist that makes him speak. 
  Doubts on the genuineness of Deleuze’s encounters seem largely based on the confusion between common usage of the term and Deleuze’s technical meaning, and on the assumption that all his encounters are of the same kind. I hope that my typology may help clear these doubts, but more importantly, I hope that it can demonstrate the singularity of the Deleuze/Bene encounter. I already pointed out in the first section that ‘Well, yes, Gilles Deleuze!’ is the only response by an artist to Deleuze in his monographs. For this reason, if Deleuze’s philosophy encounters art by capture, Sovrapposizioni stands out as a unique example of ‘double capture’. Admittedly, Bene’s double capture is different from the nuptial between ‘the wasp AND the orchid’, because he is aware of Deleuze’s power relation:


Gilles was a self-destructor. He was the greatest thinking-machine of this century. It was enough for him to take an interest in anything to fall in love with it unreservedly: theatre, music, painting, cinema, no matter what sport, the phonè, etc. It cost him nothing to love and phagocyte what he loved. (Bene 2013, 326; my translation)


and capable of resisting Deleuze’s ‘semiotic capture.’ With his art writing, Bene captures Deleuze in turn, transforming his concepts (such as that of ‘machine’) and appropriating his texts for performances, publications and interviews.


3.4 Juxtaposition

For the sake of completeness, I should also mention a fourth kind of encounter, in which superposition approaches its zero degree. About Paul Virilio’s misunderstanding of Michel Foucault, Deleuze comments that ‘encounters between independent thinkers always occur in a blind zone.’ The ‘blind zone’ does not refer to a generic scotoma but specifically to the blind spot in each thinker’s visual field: their encounter occurs precisely where each thinker remains invisible to the other. It can only be resolved from the outside, as the case of Deleuze’s encounter with Derrida may demonstrate.


3. Artistic Research

The recent project Neuland / Unchartered Territory at the Bern University of the Arts recently ‘investigated the possibilities of artistic research and asked for the conditions in which artistic productions can be considered as research.’ (Dombois and Ofosu 2007-8). The concrete examples of artistic research from various disciplines ‘focused on historical works of art that did not try to connect concepts of Research and Art, but to match works of real artistic interest with the requirements of research’. Can Sovrapposizioni fulfill that condition?
  The first editorial of the leading Journal for Artistic Research introduces the concept of exposition referring to:


what is commonly known elsewhere as a ‘journal article’ […]. This choice of words indicates that a contribution to the journal must expose as research what it presents using the technological framework offered by the Research Catalogue. Depending on your field, ‘exposition’ might not always be a suitable word. For this reason, we encourage you to believe that instead of exposing practice as research, you could also stage, perform, curate, translate, unfold or reflect practice as research. Your chosen descriptor here is less important than the doubling it entails, which creates distance within practice through which understanding can operate.’ (Schwab 2011)


The technology available at the Research Catalogue and the institutional processes of peer-reviewed publication form the ‘technical support’ for an exposition and constitute a new medium for research and artistic production. It is less obvious, perhaps because of its deceptive simplicity, that Sovrapposizioni alsooperates a contextual displacement, pushing Bene’s theatre and art writing towards philosophy, and pulling Deleuze’s philosophy towards theatre. Double capture affects Bene and Deleuze individually, but at the same time - as a double displacement - also produces a site of encounter, the book-machine.

  However, in order to consider Sovrapposizioni as artistic research, the difficulty remains of meeting the requirements of research in terms of evaluating its epistemic outcomes and processes, according for instance to the AHRC definition of research. In the Foucault book (should I remark that the Deleuze/Foucault is a super(imposition)?), Deleuze describes the relations between statements and visibilities as mutual (double) capture:


Between the visible and the articulable we must maintain all the following aspects at the same time: the heterogeneity of the two forms, their difference in nature or anisomorphism; a mutual presupposition between the two, a mutual grappling and capture; the well-determined primacy of the one over the other. (Deleuze 1988, 67-8).


In the preceding sections, I already argued the validity of  considering the Bene/Deleuze encounter as a double capture. Assigning Bene’s theatre to the ‘visibilities of art’, and Deleuze’s philosophy to the articulable, is not unproblematic and would require a discussion that the scope of this paper imposes to defer. However, if I may provisionally assume it here, the production of knowledge in Sovrapposizioni may be justified by Foucault’s theory of visibilities:


Knowledge is a practical assemblage, a ‘mechanism’ of statements and visibilities. There is therefore nothing behind knowledge (although, as we shall see, there are things outside knowledge). That is to say that knowledge exists only according to certain widely varying ‘thresholds’ which impose particular layers, splits and directions on the stratum in question. (Deleuze 1988, 51)


Three points may follow: Sovrapposizioni and expositions of artistic practice as research are little machines, practical assemblages of statements and visibilities; their epistemic outcome is differential knowledge that, remaining immanent to the machine itself, is strictly speaking not an outcome; finally, artistic research is a socio-historical threshold, contingent but not arbitrary, that “produces” new knowledge out of those machines. ‘[… T]hat is what makes truth a problem.’ But under these conditions, how do we know thatwe know what we know? One way of answering this question may be to translate the differential knowledge of artistic research into propositional knowledge, as for example I tried to do with Bene’s concept of actor. This only leads us far enough to then ask how good a translation it is, which of course presupposes having already had an answer to the starting question. Maybe this question is simply wrong and, with Deleuze and Guattari, one should ask instead: Given certain knowledge, what exposition is capable of producing it? And given a certain exposition, for what can it be used?



Essential references

Bene, C., 2013. Vita di Carmelo Bene. Milano: Bompiani.

Deleuze, G., 1988. Foucault. Translated by Sean Hand and Paul Bové. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press

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Video recording of Paolo Giudicis' talk upcoming soon!