Art Encounters Deleuze and Guatarri: Thought beyond Representation
“A cloud is an aggregate, a nebulous set, a multiplicity whose exact definition escapes us, and whose local movements are beyond observation… Heat and flame, cloud and wind, climate and turbulences, we could refer to them as concepts of multiplicities” – Serres quoted in Art Encounters book. P 30
Affects are passages of intensity, a reaction in or on the body at the level of matter. We might even say that affects are immanent to matter. They are certainly immanent to experience. In fact, following Deleuze-Spinoza, we might define affect as the effect another body (for example an art object) has upon my own body, and upon my body’s duration.
Affects then are not to do with signification or ‘meaning’ as such. In deed, they occur on a different, asignifying register. In fact this is what differentiates art from language, although language can and does have an affective register (for example, we have an affective relationship with writing – as Deleuze often reminds us, not least in his book on Kafka, writing always involves becomings). From a deconstructive perspective it might be argued that ‘affects’ are only ‘meaningful’ ‘within’ language. Here the realm of affect is positioned as an unreachable (and unsayable) origin (the ‘before’ of language if you like). And yet affects are also, and primarily, felt experience. There is no denying – or deferring – them. They are what make up life and art”.
This is what art is: a bundle of affects, or as D&G would say a bloc of sensations. It is also what art does, that is, produces affects. Indeed you cannot read affects in this sense, you can only experience them. Which brings us to the whole crux of the matter: experience.
"Following Bergson then we might say that we are caught, as beings in the world, on a certain spatio-temporal register: we 'see' only what we have already seen. We see only that which we are interested in. At stake with art might be an altering - a switching - of this register."
O'Sullivan goes on to talk about ways in which new technologies can be seen to switch temporal and spatial registers and in doing so make visible things normally invisible - time lapse photography, microscopes are given as examples, but suggests...
"However, we need not turn to new technologies. Painting, for example, might also be seen as the making perceptible of the imperceptible, making visible of affect. (italics, mine)
“We might say then that art, as well as having a representational function (after all art objects – like everything else – can be read), also operates as a fissure in representation. And we, as participants with art, as representational creatures ourselves, are involved in a dance with art, a dance in which, through careful manoeuvres, the molecular is opened up, the aesthetic is activiated and art does what is its chief modus operandi. It transforms, if only for a moment, our sense of our ‘selves’ and our experience of our world.”
"...with our turn here from Adorno to Deleuze we have moved towards a more affirmative notion of the aesthetic impulse. Here instead of the existent and the possible as ontological categories and coordination points for art we might utilse Deleuze's categories of the actual and the virtual. Art is that genuinely creative act that actualises the virtual, the virtual here being understood as the realm of affect.”
Julia Kristeva writing on a Venice Biennale:
“in an installation it is the body in its entirety which is asked to participate through its sensations, though vision obviously but also hearing, touch, on occasions smell… [there is] a wish to make us feel, through the abstractions, the forms, the colours, the volumes, the sensations, a real experience.”
(Quoted in bann 1998, 69)