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Introduction to Flix Guattaris Project for

a Film by Kafka
Gary Genosko Lakehead University
CONTROLLER: All who are here today must
remember that we are gathered in a ritual to approach
what is called Kafka through Kafka, by Kafka, with
THREE: Whatever Kafka means. (She speaks, dreamily.)
TWO: Kafka? Someone said Kafka . . . Kafka?
(A sudden cry.)
THREE: What is Kafka?
CONTROLLER. (Moving toward THREE, threatening
her with the knife). We are joined in a struggle against
incomprehensible odds. We must all enter the ceremony.
(Shein 1975: 23)
Franz Kafkas oeuvre, Guattari thought, was falsely manufactured
after the fact as a corpus and a work. Instead, Guattari found
it full with failure, fragmentation, and minoritarian tendencies:
deterritorialisations, anOedipal becomings, collective assemblages of
enunciation that loosened statements from subjects, and literary
machines of all sorts: rhizomatic letters, stories of animal becomings,
unnished and interminable novels. Failures at formalisation link
writing with becoming, and make it possible to see the singular
transversal lines crossing language and literature, but also exiting these,
too, along intensities running across institutions, professions, and social
There is, of course, the Kafka book co-written with Deleuze (Deleuze
and Guattari 1986), but that is not all, even if it should be enough
for anyone. There are many notes for unrealised projects, out of
which this translation has been created. Guattari was fascinated with
Kafkas dreams; he collected and numbered them (in Soixante-cinq
rves de Franz Kafka, 2007), commenting that they engage the most
diverse and heterogeneous semiotic means: those of theatre, dance,
146 Gary Genosko
cinema, music, plastic forms, and once again, to be sure, writing!
(Guattari 2007: 29). Moreover, these dreams are open, machinic
indices conjoining Kafka and Guattari, literary and schizoanalytic
machines, and open in the sense of how they have fertilized and broken
such and such semiotic or behavioral chains (Guattari 2006: 405).
A machinic dream interpretation follows the deterritorialising line and
its messy nonsense, fuck ups, brutality, and sputtering ows of particle-
signs. But the collective assemblage that is Guattaris Kafka also includes
his rst schizo patient, who he had copy out The Castle, and the
tape recorder Guattari used to play back sessions since this patient
liked to listen to his own voice (Guattari 2006: 146). And then, many
decades later, the internet comes along, and its Kafka potentiality is
staggering what better medium than one that enables two or three
enthusiasts to communicate about Kafkas dreams by means of keyboard
and screen, Guattari remarked (Guattari 1985: 11). Schizo processual
chain: Guattari, R.A. (patient), Kafka, journals, writing, copying, tape
recorder, e-mail . . .
Franois Dosse reminds us of another Guattari: an inventive curator
of multimedia exhibitions, a Kafka event on the occasion of the
100th anniversary of his birth, mounted in the summer and fall of
1984 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (Dosse 2007: 294 ff). Kafka
event: dream texts, dream theatre courtesy of Philippe Adrien, seminars,
dream cinema (by Franois Pain). It may be said without exaggeration
that Guattari never stopped working on Kafka who was, after all, his
favourite author (Guattari 2006: 146). He even wanted to tour the
exhibition to Japan.
The semiotic at issue here is cinema. To the existing relation of Kafka
and minoritarian becoming in a literary key, Guattari adds cinema.
For Guattari, minor cinema precipitates becomings minor (practical
enrichments of schizo desire) in the mass, just the sort of people he
wanted to reach with Le Sicle de Kafka. And to become minor is
not to be in a minority or the representative of a minority, or even
to formally acquire the characteristics or status of a minority through
some afliation. It is not a question of mimesis or membership, but of
how to produce becomings that might summon a people with whom
cinema connects. The fundamental theoretical problem here lies at the
heart of what it means to summon a new people without teleological or
messianic politics. And on television, no less! What Guattari thought he
needed to accomplish was to make a lm that would nd some funding
through the production of television shows, perhaps culminating in a
cultural series. Television was a choice medium in Guattaris search
Introduction to Project for a Film by Kafka 147
for a potential public, a public yet to come, with which he attempted
to connect through minor Kafka becomings, engaging sensibilities not
yet fully entangled in dominant normative modelisations. In short, an
anOedipal, anti-axiomatic Kafka assemblage; a Kafka not closed off
by editors and translators; a molecular Kafka beyond representation
(not about Kafka but by Kafka through Guattaris production
group); independent Kafka affects that connect across existing strata,
blending with real material uxes, intervening in and resisting stolid
representations, enriching ight paths of singularisation, right at the
heart of repetition (that is, the threshold of deterritorialization in
Titorellis companion canvases in The Trial; see Guattari 1984a: 258;
Kafka 1968: 163).
Guattari believed that Kafka was nothing less than the future, but in
addition to the sense of a people to come just evoked: Kafka is not,
as some have said, a nineteenth-century writer imprisoned in family
conicts. He is a twenty-rst century writer describing the earliest stages
of a problem whose implications we are barely beginning to grasp today
(Guattari 1984a: 259). Qua bureaucrat, Kafka struggled against the
perverse satisfactions of bureaucracy its micro-fascisms that trap power
in static forms, procedures, protocols, and hierarchies, alienating those
encountering it.
But Kafkas relation to bureaucracy has been misunderstood, Guattari
insisted. His vision was not sombre and sad, but full of humour, and
insight into the perversions of bureaucracy. Indeed, recalling a comment
in A Thousand Plateaus:
if Kafka is the greatest theorist of bureaucracy, it is because he shows
how. . . the barriers between ofces cease to be a denite dividing line and
are immersed in a molecular medium that dissolves them and simultaneously
makes the ofce manager proliferate microgures impossible to recognize or
identify, discernible only when they are centralizable. (Deleuze and Guattari
1987: 214)
The perverse mixing of transversal communication between
compartments, workstations, boxes on forms, with the boss at the top
corner ofce, and company crest at the top centre of the page, is in the
Kafka assemblage. The great paranoid bureaucratic machine and the
little schizo machine are in the same assemblage (Deleuze and Guattari
1987: 34).
Guattari worked with Yasha David on the Kafka exhibition. Here and
there he mentions this collaboration, sometimes referring to it as a joint
project, at other times suggesting he had entrusted the running of the
148 Gary Genosko
event to David (Guattari 1996: 235; Guattari 1984b: 1). Whatever the
case may have been, Guattari also notes in every instance the trouble he
experienced with the arts bureaucracy at the Centre Pompidou: Those
in charge at the Pompidou Centre made it so difcult that, on several
occasions, we thought we would have to abandon the project (Guattari
1996: 235). So Guattari, in a very Kafkaesque manner, plugged into
a bureaucratic machine, in organising the centenary celebrations of
Kafkas birth.
Project for a lm by Kafka? Yes, Guattaris emphasis is deceptively
simple. The affects with which Kafka wrote may live in lm made
for television because they are independent and survive their author,
remaining available for non-human becomings of readers to come:
artists are presenters of affects, the inventors and creators of affects.
They not only create them in their work, they give them to us and make
us become with them (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 173, 175).
Finally, it has to date been hard enough to think of Guattari as a
lm theorist (Genosko 2009), let alone as a lmmaker. Perhaps this
fragmentary outline, which is not the only evidence we have, is most
important for the role it may play in helping readers of Guattari to
overcome existing difculties, think of minor cinema, and join the Kafka
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1986) Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, trans.
Dana Polan, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1994) What is Philosophy?, trans. Graham
Burchell and Hugh Tomlinson, New York: Columbia University Press.
Dosse, Franois (2007) Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari: Biographie croise, Paris:
Le Dcouverte.
Genosko, Gary (2009) Minor Cinema, in Flix Guattari: A Critical Introduction,
London: Pluto Books, pp. 13457.
Guattari, Flix (1984a) Molecular Revolution and Class Struggle, in Molecular
Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, trans. Rosemary Sheed, Harmondsworth:
Penguin, pp. 25361.
Guattari, Flix (1984b) Un oubli et un lapsus dans un rve, Chimres online.
Les seminars de Flix Guattari (October 30), pp. 113; http:www.revue-
Guattari, Flix (1985) Interview with T. Wada [Asahi Shimbun Eurobureau,
London] (October 2). Typescript I0221. Fonds Flix Guattari, IMEC, pp. 115.
Guattari, Flix (1996) The Refrain of Being and Meaning, in Soft Subversions,
trans. Jill Johnson, New York: Semiotext(e), pp. 23347.
Guattari, Flix (2006) The Anti-Oedipus Papers, ed. Stphane Nadaud, trans. Klina
Gotman, New York: Semiotext(e).
Introduction to Project for a Film by Kafka 149
Guattari, Flix (2007) Projet pour une lm de Kafka, in Soixante-cinq rves de
Franz Kafka, Paris: Lignes.
Kafka, Franz (1968) The Trial, trans. Willa and Edwin Muir, and E. M. Butler,
New York: Schocken.
Shein, Brian (1975) Kafka, in Theatrical Exhibitions, Vancouver: Pulp Press,
pp. 1848.
DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000555
Project for a Film by Kafka
Flix Guattari
This short document, appearing for the rst time in English translation,
concerns the prospects of a made-for-television cultural mini-series
inspired by select episodes in Kafkas works. A window is opened onto
Guattaris curatorial ambitions, cinematic projects, and theory of minor
cinema, bringing into focus howhe translated theoretical preoccupations
into the cultural sector with reference to diverse semiotic media.
Keywords: Flix Guattari, Franz Kafka, lm and television, workshop,
exhibition, script
[1. DRAFT]
The Kafka draft may be divided into three large sections:
1. A video workshop, consisting of six important sessions staggered
every two months, that brings together material for a script;
2. The writing of the actual script by a small team;
3. The lms production.
We are, of course, particularly interested in phase 1. It consists of two
aspects: the study of a lm project on Kafka and the more general study
of the method of developing scripts, in terms of a critical analysis of
actual cinematic practices.
We will then be faced with three distinct nancing problems, phase 1
probably being taken care of by different television stations in view
of producing a cultural series, and phases 2 and 3 being handled by
Kafkas work and life seem to lend themselves especially to this type
of project; indeed, it would not seem proper to expect that a scriptwriter
should monopolize all the dimensions likely to go into the lm (on the
levels of design, music, sound, gesture, etc.).
Project for a Film by Kafka 151
It is worth remembering that Kafkas work has itself been largely
reconstructed, supercially, by Max Brod, on the basis of material pulled
from texts Kafka wanted to burn. This work, to borrow Umberto Ecos
expression, is essentially open. But the literary machine made of it a
closed work: it manufactured books like The Castle or The Trial out of
sketches; it made choices, and a Dutch researcher, Herman Uyttersprot,
was able to demonstrate how the order of chapters as xed by Kafka
himself had not been respected. In fact, novels were produced that
absolutely do not correspond to that which we can reconstitute from
Kafkas project (Max Brod managed to nd a sort of religious conclusion
to The Trial, whereas it was actually the chapters on the very rich
character of Titorelli, open to all the azimuths of art and sexuality, that
make up the natural continuity of the novel). We have tried to show
that the subject of Kafkas death is in fact a short story that could t
perfectly at the beginning of the book. Even a novel like Amerika, which
seems to be the most constructed, is unnished. If we take a closer look
at Kafkas work, we notice that numerous appended notes, which in
present editions have been placed outside of the text, have in fact as
much importance as the text itself. We cannot say that Kafka would not
have modied the works as we now know them on the basis of these
sometimes microscopic notes. In fact, I believe we are in no position to
distinguish, in Kafkas work, what constitutes short stories, novels, the
diary, the correspondence, etc. Because of the very fact that Kafka had
an extremely rigorous literary ideal Flaubertian, Kleistian he left us
with a work of failure, according to him, a fragmented work. He only
acknowledged the validity of certain short stories like The Verdict or
The Metamorphosis and, for the most part, he renounced his work.
But on the other hand, implicitly, he acknowledges it: certain comments
show us that what interests him are very small sentences, very small
sequences. For example, he explains that what interests him in cinema is
not the whole of the lm, but a comment, a retort, and this sometimes
even in very bad lms.
If we want to respect what seems to be the profound inspiration of
Kafkaism, we must endeavour to capture the molecular elements of
the work and to deal with them in all possible matters of expression.
What interested Kafka, and what should interest us in cinema, are
not characters, plots, but systems of intensity, gestures, reections,
looks for example a face behind a window, attitudes, sensations,
changes in gravity, in space and time coordinates, and the dilations
or retractions of all perceptual semiotics . . . For too long, Kafka has
been described as a literary hack of the nineteenth century; in fact, his
152 Flix Guattari
approach to unconscious social processes places him perhaps on the level
of the twenty-rst century, on the level of what could be twenty-rst-
century cinema.
The (inordinate) ambition of our project would then be not to make
a lm about Kafkas work, or a lm on Kafka, but a lm by Kafka;
let Kafkas machine live within the coordinates of cinema, work within
the oeuvre. It appears to me that only a group, bringing together people
with different points of view and setting out from systems of specic
singularities, will be able to contribute in ways that make the themes,
and the signications that tend to impose themselves, explode. We
could start with sequences like the ones with characters who, heads
bowed, beards crushed to their chests, curl themselves up; or those that
stand up in one shot, that put their heads through the ceiling; these
animal heads that burst in through a window or through a wall; the
diverse becomings-animal; the fact that a little detail starts blooming
and transforms the whole landscape (I am thinking specically about
this cathedral scene, when K. notices a detail on a relief and, after this,
the novel seems to turn in a new direction).
We would therefore in no way have to seek to identify a work or
esh out one type of character. Indeed, it is not the same K. character
that traverses the various works or even each of them. If we read the
text carefully, in The Castle, when K. arrives at the outskirts of the
village, we realise that a certain number of his characteristics disappear
in the rest of the novel: at the outset, he appears to be a married man,
a sort of sales representative, a little bit like Kafka himself was for an
insurance company; then the character takes shape, acquires a certain
authority, bends in different directions. With the K. of The Trial, we are
dealing, at the beginning, with an extremely ambitious, proud character
linked to the bigwigs of the bank we have to remember that Kafka
himself was not a low-level bureaucrat but an important civil servant,
much appreciated by his superiors. Along the way, K. loses some of his
rigidity and, at the same time, takes on a kind of authority . . . There is no
uncertainty here, in fact there are clues to nd, lines of desire to discover
in The Castle as well as in The Trial, or in the short stories. One of
these directions, that could be explored from the outset but just as easily
abandoned along the way, is a certain type of jouissance, what we have
called bureaucratic jouissance, that is established through the power
relations of the bureaucrat who holds his employees, who caresses his
folders, and who argues about them to the point of losing sight of them.
This should lead us to turn away from making a lm noir, a sad lm;
Kafkas work is essentially humorous, violent and cheerful.
Project for a Film by Kafka 153
The workshop of phase 1 might then consist in bringing together a
certain number of people working on Kafkas oeuvre from their own
perspective, capturing in their own way these lines of desire. Some will
retain such themes as the window, or the woman in black with her silk
shawl around the head, whom we nd in the entire work; or even the
small dog, a kind of little monster that pursues you in the night, etc.
Bringing these themes to light will give rise to suggestions concerning
composition, editing and semiotisation. We can imagine that actors such
as Jean-Pierre Laud would seek to portray such and such a gesture,
such and such an attitude; whereas a set designer would sketch the
stage setting, etc. The interval between sessions should allow a minimal
video summary [of one session] to be presented in the following session,
which does not at all mean that from one session to the next choices
or the slightest organization of work should be made. Indeed, during
this phase, we should remain within the same exploratory perspective;
nothing will prevent us from contradicting ourselves from one session to
the next. I clearly imagine the presentation I could make, at one of the
sessions, about certain Sologne farms as the setting of the new Defence
of a farm, but, just as well, on another occasion, I could suggest a wholly
abstract setting. The polyvocality of the collective inspiration should
not in the least reduce each intuition to a consensus; it is in this sense
that the fragmentation of Kafkas work should be protected. Perhaps in
this way we could bring to light certain dimensions that are generally
crushed in the typical working of cinema. This concerns the work of the
screenwriter as well as that of the musician, the set designers; indeed,
even the decorators, the lighting, sound, and make-up artists, etc. Maybe
each of them would be able to tip the balance of opinion and seize
upon a trait especially appropriate for highlighting a particular system
of intensities.
At the end of this year of work, twelve to twenty hours of video,
summarizing the totality of the work, would serve as the basic material
for two types of activity:
1. the production of a script by a team in charge of phase 2 (which
would not necessarily be dominated by lm professionals, but
depend on negotiations with the producers);
2. a series of TV shows, with the aim of absorbing costs, and that
might result in a cultural series. But it should be understood from
the get go that at no point should the workshop be impelled by
the video team towards making a show. The video team will have
to submit a report, and participate in the rest of the work, without
154 Flix Guattari
imposing its point of view, which would be that of the presentation
to television viewers.
The possibility that a part of this material accumulated in phase 1 be
used in phase 3 in making the lm implies that the work must be made
with quality video (probably 2 inch tape).
About phase 3, about the lm itself, I will not say anything else except
that, ultimately, the producer will be asked to take limited risks. In fact,
phase 1s workshop should be mainly nanced by TV stations, and the
producer will be asked to nance part of phase 2, that is to say, the part
of the work of the professional team participating in the workshop.
The whole lm takes place along a wall:
wall of the farm at K.s arrival;
wall across which runs a beamof light, indicated by the woman
who writes in the night and whom children join;
wall of the inn through which Frieda indicates Klamm
wall along which two children run and catch little Hans;
wall of the farm, this time seen from the inside and that will
open to let the ofcial procession pass . . .
During the rst half of the lm, the wall, seen from the outside, conceals
a mystery and lets K. sense the existence of the castle. During the second
part, after having cleared the wall in the childrens dramatic scene, we
discover that the castle is not mysterious at all, that everything that
takes place there is the result of typical behaviours, gesticulations and
bureaucratic rituals.
This walls plastic and musical unity should cross the entire lm,
different scenes somehow detaching themselves from it. This way,
intermediate scenes depicting, for example, a gliding motion along the
wall, or else an immobile face-to-face revealing the almost imperceptible
modications at work within it (a little like in Henri Michauxs lm
on drugs), would be of great importance, especially from the musical
perspective, thus bringing out a common thread through the same kind
of blend of sounds, noises and words these scenes would showcase.
The wall is synonymous with the absence of the face and the absence
of the eyes. I thought under these conditions, an alternative to the wall
could be suggested in the form of a face, always the same, in extreme
Project for a Film by Kafka 155
close-up, speaking very loudly and therefore integrated into this music-
noises-words complex previously put forward. As the camera gradually
gets closer to this face, we cease to distinguish its traits and seamlessly
pass to the wall.
Thus, during certain climactic moments of the lm, this complex
would suddenly reappear. A whole paranoid and bureaucratic discourse
will need to be brought into focus, owing rapidly yet in a deep
voice, linked to images that are perhaps being inscribed onto the face
itself images of streets, cities, corridors, ofces, etc.
I also thought that at a certain point, perhaps this face might be
composed of about forty videos showing the same urban images, in
a sort of ballet of changing gures, with systems of gliding lines,
symmetries, dissymmetries, rhythms, and images that skip, etc.
The very rst image of the lm could issue from such a distorted
face: in this way, that which had been initially proposed regarding the
linking together of wind, music, words and noise, would be presented
in a different order, the horizon of the wall appearing in the greatest
silence, after all the noisy images had dissipated from the face.
Elements for the rst segment:
A cart in the night. Phosphorescent horse somewhat purple
slippery, slimy image. (I am thinking about the image of the dog at the
end of Los Olvidados.
Tremendous acceleration: the cart crashes into the wall towards which
it charges. Exploded head.
(Reference: the short story A Country Doctor.)
Elements of the nal break (a few seconds):
the young man from The Verdict steps over the parapet of the
in the distance, a hand signal through a window, a few seconds
before K.s execution in The Trial.
Elements for the second segment:
Same movement of the cart.
But at the moment where the acceleration becomes unbearable: abrupt
stop. (Like in the text I lent you.) The peasant characters are almost
midgets; they are dressed in cowls, a little medievalistic, which gives
156 Flix Guattari
them a comical silhouette. Each keeps their distance. (A kind of formal
ballet, Jancs style.
For a few seconds.
Final scene, inside of the farmyard: the same characters, in a slightly
blurred background (I dont know what there will be in the foreground),
cross the eld at full speed. (In reality, this will consist of silhouettes
mounted on rails).
Womans face, rings under her eyes; she has cried a lot. Slow,
careful conversation in a foreign language. Sudden, authoritarian
interruption, in the manner of: I will take care of all of this; I will
take back control of everything.
Very quick image of the scene of the dances eruption.
For the third segment:
The cart, slowly, along the wall; summer afternoon; vegetation.
The young boys legs, sitting on the wall.
K. enters the farm. Fixed silhouette in the background of one of
these comical characters.
K. walks into the room where two old men are eating their soup. The
scene continues with children; until the client bursts in.
But then, the link is made with the licentious civil servant from the
end of the lm who pursues a young girl. (The violin scene, etc.)
(Ridiculous orchestra parade, etc.)
For the fourth segment:
Two old men get up. They direct the cart in. They lead K. through the
barn towards a door. Steam; scene of the tub; of laundry. Childrens legs
climbing down a ladder. Sketch of the wall scene.
Break 1
[Description of the rst shot:] 1 a
[Image 1:]
Sequence shot: A greyish white wall seen from the front with, in
double exposure (or an altogether different device to be determined, for
example, by intercalated images), a face in extreme close-up, but that we
can barely make out.
As the camera imperceptibly approaches the wall (or zooms in), the
face loses its contour, only the xed eyes and a talking mouth still
vaguely appear.
Project for a Film by Kafka 157
[Sound 1:]
A rapidly owing speech, while remaining in a low tone, or
progressively, transforms itself into mufed music. This music, an
arrhythmic sonorous mass, transforms itself very progressively into the
whistling of the wind which in turn will extinguish in reaching a perfect
We will only understand the text intermittently, given that, step by
step, the same voice will be superimposed on itself and sometimes this
superimposition will triple or quadruple in ts and starts. The source
texts will be extracted from the reports of the Moscow trials, for
example, Karl Rudels last statement:
The presiding judge: Defendant Rudels, you have the oor for your last
Rudels: Citizen Judges, after I have confessed to the crime of treason to
the country there can be no question of a speech in defence. There are no
arguments by which a grown man in full possession of his senses could defend
treason to his country. Neither can I plead extenuating circumstances . . . And
when I hear that the people in this dock are mere bandits and spies, I object
to it. I do not object to it with the purpose of defending myself; because
since I have confessed to treason to the country it makes little difference
from my point of view, from a human point of view that I committed
treason in conspiracy with generals, I have not that professional pride which
permits one to commit treachery in conjunction with generals, but not to
commit treachery in conjunction with agents . . . If you are dealing with mere
criminals and spies, on what can you base your conviction that what we have
said is the truth, the rm truth? . . . And that is why I contest the assertion
that those who sit here in this dock are criminals who have lost all human
shape. I am ghting not for my honour, which I have lost; I am ghting
for the recognition of the truth of the testimony I have given, the truth in
the eyes not of this court, not of the Public Prosecutor and the judges, who
know us stripped of the soul, but of the far wider circle of people who have
known me for thirty years and who cannot understand how I have sunk
so low. (Excerpt from: Report of court proceedings in the case of the anti-
soviet Trotskyite centre, heard before the Military collegium of the Supreme
court of the USSR, Moscow, 2330 January 1937, English Edition, 1937,
page 541 ff.)
[Description of the second shot:] 1b
[Image 2:]
With fade-in dissolve or any other device, we pass, without any
resolution of continuity, without any rupture of luminous intensity,
through the wall.
158 Flix Guattari
Little by little a horizontal line appears. It seems that we are in a eld
and that we are advancing, facing a wall that is still very far away. This
wall crosses the shot horizontally and cuts it through and through in the
Blunt jerk of the camera and return to the xed shot.
Again, a clumsy jerk and a soft oscillation: we are in a cart pulled by
a mule up to this point, we had not yet seen the mule.
We see, in the foreground, an arm dressed in a thick peasant cloth (on
the right side of the shot).
A hand wearing a ring quickly crosses the shot.
Camera pulls back: we see:
the mule (birds eye view);
on the occasion of a chaos [sic], two characters, seen from the back:
a peasant and K. dressed in black.
[Sound 2]:
From the sonorous mass, sounds of the mules steps and the carts
grinding gradually emerge.
[Description of the third shot:] 1c
[Image 3:]
Cutting speeds up.
Shots in quick succession.
Establishing shot of the cart.
Close-up of the mules eyes (no blinkers).
Close-up of hands.
Close-up of a paper that sticks out of the peasants pocket.
Shot facing the wall that comes closer but sways because of the
carts movements.
In passing, we catch, but very quickly, without really distinguishing
what it is: three xed heads above the wall.
[Nothing is noted regarding sound 3]
[Description of the fourth shot:] 1d
[Image 4:]
Little by little the carts motions centre on the three heads above the wall.
The middle one is placed a little higher than the other two. It sports a
long red beard.
Project for a Film by Kafka 159
Through sudden jerks, shots displaying the same stationary cart, and
the two characters K. and the peasant gesticulating nervously, are
inserted within the preceding sequence. We understand that the peasant
refuses to go further: he is scared.
[Nothing is noted regarding sound 4]
Break 2
[Image 5:]
Suddenly the lm becomes white, swept by the lm stock that seems cut.
Little by little we realise that this is not a technical incident because
1) some numbers appear,
2) in very light double exposure, the three heads reappear.
[Sound 5:]
Sounds of the projector in which the lm stock is cut.
[Image 6:]
Sudden obscurity: long shot sequence to the right, the wall and K. seen
from the back (about twenty metres away). He advances towards a dark
tree. He turns his head occasionally towards the wall as if he were trying
to nd the three heads. He approaches another peasant who is stopped
by the side of the road, slightly in front of the tree.
Close-up shot: K. calls out to the peasant
[Sound 6:]
K.: Who was the guy we could see a short while ago on
top of the wall?
No answer.
K.: Excuse me sir, is there not an inn around here?
No answer.
K.: Sir, I am speaking to you!
The peasant: Yeah, so what?
K.: Is there an inn?
The peasant: An inn.
K.: Sir, I beg of you, I would like to nd an inn for the
The peasant: What are you doing here?
160 Flix Guattari
[Image 7:]
The peasant points in the direction from which K. came. He turns
around without answering K. and goes away towards the tree.
[Sound 7:]
K. (disconcerted): But, listen, I have things to do.
The peasant: He has things to do!
The peasant: After all, I dont care! Go there if you
want, you will see . . .
K.: Sir . . .
[Image 8:]
K. goes in the direction indicated; he takes a piss a way
along the wall.
[Nothing is noted regarding sound 8]
[Image 9:]
For a second, Friedas image appears as she props herself up on her
elbow, at the point when Klamm knocks on the door.
We hear the peasant speaking to a woman. We see that a woman had
stayed in the shade, in the tree, spying on them.
[Sound 9:]
The woman: But what are you doing with this pig?
Translated by Jakub Zdebik
Permission for this translation was kindly provided by Nouvelles
editions Lignes.
1. [Note added by French editor Stphane Nadaud:] In the 1980s, Guattari was
planning to produce a lm based on Kafkas oeuvre. Many rough drafts and
work projects are deposited in the Fonds Guattari (IMEC: Institut Mmoires
de ldition Contemporaine). Here, we put forward four previously unpublished
texts which are sufciently complete to be published (the additions to make the
text coherent, which appear in brackets, are our own, as is the title of the piece).
The rst text, the draft, exposes the feasibility of the project: likely written for
eventual nanciers, it sets out the projects extremely elaborate structure. The
second is a complementary note that already envisions what the lm could be.
Guattari, in his many rough drafts, puts forward a fastidious cutting of the lm
into many parts, each composed of many segments the assembly of which is
almost impossible to follow. The third text proposes a script of the rst part of
the lm (divided in four of these segments). The fourth text is the shooting script
Project for a Film by Kafka 161
of the rst part (cut according to image and sound side by side in two columns
that we convey here by putting them in brackets).
2. Frieda and Klamm are characters in The Castle.
3. The French title of Luis Buuels lm is Piti pour eux (1950) [The English title
is The Forgotten Ones].
4. Guattari is discussing the Hungarian lmmaker Mikls Jancs. He follows a
schema representing K running along the wall with, at the level of the wall, three
barely seen silhouettes [of] soldiers from the ending.
5. [Translators note:] Guattari takes this dialogue from: Piatakov, Georgii
Leonidovich. Report of court proceedings in the case of the anti-soviet Trotskyite
centre, heard before the Military collegium of the Supreme court of the USSR,
Moscow, 2330 January 1937, in re: Y. L. Pyatakov, K. B. Radek, G. Y.
Sokolnikov, L. P. Serebryakov, N. I. Muralov, Y. A. Livshitz, Y. N. Drobnis,
M. S. Boguslavsky, I. A. Knyazev, S. A. Rataichak, B. O. Norkin, A. A. Shestov,
M. S. Stroilov, Y. D. Turok, I. Y. Hrasche, G. E. Pushin, V. V. Arnold, accused of
treason against the country, espionage, acts of diversion, wrecking activities and
the preparation of terrorist acts, i.e., of crimes covered by articles 58(1a), 58(8),
58(9) and 58(11) of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR. Verbatim report. Moscow:
Peoples Commissariat of Justice of the USSR, 1937. The text Guattari attributes
to Karl Rudels is actually pronounced by Karl Radek.
6. From this point on, Guattari does not cut his scenes. We have reconstructed the
DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000567
Lessons to Live (2): Deleuze
for C. B.
Zsuzsa Baross Trent University
Part of a series on the question of what is the good life, the essay is
structured as a montage. Part 1 contests the received notion that death
is exterior to the work of Deleuze. To this end, it gathers together a tele-
graphic collection of examples corpses in his corpus that invariably
show up whenever the question is raised. Part 2 attempts a Deleuzian
move: it puts death to work. If death is not nothing, it argues, it must
be productive of something absolutely new. Drawing upon Blanchots
seminal essay, The Two Versions of the Imaginary, it makes the case
that this creation is the cadaver: the rst time-image.
Keywords: Deleuze, Blanchot, Godard, time-image, cadaver-image,
resemblance, repetition, imaginary
The rst thoughts on the subject of this essay organised themselves
around a provocation arriving from a colleague or rather as he
himself may prefer a title that invokes the presence of an inoperative
community a literary friend. Upon reading my reections on Derridas
last lesson on learning to live (Baross 2008) only from an other and by
death (Derrida 1994: xviii) this ardent student of Deleuze exclaimed
(or so I imagine, since our communications were electronic): but why
speak of life starting from death!
It is, however, not in defence of Derrida that I begin to write, to
replay otherwise the diffrend Deleuze/Derrida or to conrm against
his not undeserved reputation of a thinker in mourning his yes to life,
until the last instant. It is rather the defence, if not the praise, of death
that motivates me. The ambition indeed folly, for the task is far too
Lessons to Live 163
great and not only because of the constraints of an essay is to show
death to be something (following Bergsons celebrated formula time is
something), to extract it from the radical exteriority imposed on it by a
calculated philosophical indifference, in whose long history Deleuzes is
only one among many illustrious names.
Resistance to Deleuze, however, requires a certain measure of faith-
fulness to Deleuze, such is the power of his work. It demands delity at
least to what Badiou considers one of its major motifs: il faut se lever
contre le ngatif (Badiou 2008: 110). I will embrace this injunction
against the negative, even as I appear to move against the grain of
Deleuzes work and inscribe death in the order of life and creation. Not
in order to restore to it the force (pulsion) of a negative principle at work
on the reverse side of life, or to replenish its negative idea (Nothing) with
signiance, but rather to render justice to its power (puissance) of cre-
ation. The power to introduce something absolutely new in the world,
something that is proper to death and death alone. This something, as
we will see, is worthy of the great reputation of its creator. Unexpected,
counter-intuitive, unthinkable by any direct route which is why
I name it provisionally and ahead of time in my narrative by way of a
hypothesis: it is the image, or better still, the rst Image.
I begin, however, with a counter provocation. My rst reactive
impulse to my interlocutors irreverence for death is to send off a
heterogeneous collection of corpses in Deleuzes corpus a macabre
enterprise, I know that invariably turn up whenever the positive
principle of life and the future is at stake: What is an adequate life? How
to live the accidents of ones life disease, war, misfortune, and yes, the
mortal wound precisely not as accidents?
Space permits only a few questions and a handful of examples from
my strange collection:
Bb cras: the grotesque image is introduced in the Spinoza lectures
as a telegraphic reference to premature death and the extreme case of a life
being extinguished right away; it arrives at the precise moment when the
question of the good life is raised: what is that curious benediction that
one can give oneself, which is different from being content with oneself?
(Deleuze 2001a). Signicantly, the damaged corpse of an infant is offered up
as an icon not of innocence (salvation) but, on the contrary, of an existence
absolutely without benediction, condemned to mortality in all its parts. A
merciless ethical lesson regarding life may be extrapolated from this cruel
image: it concerns not immortality but eternity, which is not a question
of age. The child-body signies a life at any age that failed to actualise
its essence, the singular degree of puissance it is. (I should hasten to add,
however, that in the last published text to which I will return and where
164 Zsuzsa Baross
life at the other extremity, on the death bed, is considered it is precisely
small children [who] through all their suffering and weaknesses are in-
fused with an immanent life that is pure power and even bliss [Deleuze
2001b: 30]).
Of a voluntary death whose example, I admit, constitutes a
forcing perhaps I only imagine to have read in Deleuze: someone, the
author of The Waves, or maybe one of her characters who enters the
town like a knife through everything (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 169)
(although not the poet [Celan], who hurls himself against death and whose
verse [breath/Atem] is hard as Crystal and I will have to speak more
of crystals), gently slips into death, as if into a wave. It is impossible to
pause here long enough to consider the profound pedagogy that conjugates
with this image: an understanding of life as a complex relation between
differential velocities . . . a composition of speeds and slowness, a sagesse
of living that is the wisdom of composition. It is by speeds and slowness
[lenteurs] that one slips in among things, that one conjugates with something
else (Deleuze 1981b: 1656). Before learning to swim, the child cries
out: maman, la vague ma battu. Later, he slips in between the waves
(Formidable!). One crashes (bad composition) or swims, or surfs, or
glides. If death may be conceived as a force (it is something stronger than
me that will kill me), one could also decide to slip into it as if into a wave,
choose to compose with it without fear, panic, agony or despair, and not
rage, rage against the dying of the light (Dylan Thomas). For the fear that
sings its head off in the dark this is not Deleuzes but Batailles lesson,
though their kinship is often overlooked the rage and the vomiting are so
many evasions (Bataille 1992: 50).
(At the threshold of this massive problematic, which I cannot cross here,
one question nonetheless insists on being recognised: how to discriminate
between suicide, voluntary death, and the life-negating aller au devant
de la mort that Deleuze denounces as the summit of an inauthentic life?
For obvious reasons, we must leave open the possibility of a voluntary
death that is an afrmation of life: a death willed against all death, of
which Deleuze himself writes in The Logic of Sense, or a good death that
Blanchot whom Deleuze reads closely on this very point denes as with
regard to the living [Deleuze 1990: 149]. Still, it would appear that the
Spinoza Deleuze ventriloquises in these lectures, or the Deleuze who is the
ventriloquist behind the portrait of the philosopher he paints, categorically
disallows every intimacy, every interiorisation of death. The language could
not be stronger: I deny the beauty, he says, of any writing that would lead
to the exaltation of death. Whatever the beauty, it is an offense to thought,
an offense to life, an offense to everything lived. . . It is I say the enemy
[Deleuze 2001a].
It takes an unexpected intervention from the audience signicantly, it
introduces dure, that is, nitude to breach this categorical exclusion, to
Lessons to Live 165
force an admission [inclusion]: that of a profound sentiment of existence,
an apprehension or calculation that comes from the depth of existence of
the time that remains. At the threshold, where one senses that there is
not much time left to live, where one touches the limit [and Derridas last
lesson also privileges this boundary], questions of a different order impose
themselves on the living: howto make preparations? howto arrange ones
affairs, without panic or anxiety?
Aih, cest intressant, a: the sound recording captures the familiar
cadence of this untranscribable aih. Yet, the effect of this replay [repetition]
could not be more uncanny, more untimely today [we know that Deleuze
burnt his papers before the act]. The pensive, quiet aside, which appears
to address no one, not only arrives in the living voice of someone dead,
but posthumously. It redoubles over itself, is overprinted, as if by a lm or
virtual image, with the memory of the future, which future it predicts, or
rather, subverting every chrono-logy, repeats before it would or could have
taken place.)
One momentous leap into death comes in Difference and Repetition: an
Empedokles, a Hamlet, throw[s] time out of joint, make[s] the sun explode,
throw[s himself] into the volcano, kill[s] God or the father (Deleuze
1994: 89). (The exalted language corresponds with a magnicent image
of Godard, who himself repeats Oliviers Hamlet by purely cinematic
means: rather than falling, Godards prince soars in an Ikarus ight that
metamorphoses into that of a bird lmed high against the open sky [Godard
2007]). Although ctional/mythical, the event, in the most rigorous sense
of this term, is at the very heart of the corpus. The heros becoming equal
to the act performs the crucial third repetition, the repetition that breaches
the future that is, opens a caesura in time so as to make a future that
deserves the name appear: one that leaps away from the past. Exceptionally
for Deleuze, who has no taste for the tragic, the death of the hero here
necessarily submits to the logic of sacrice. The future appears at the cost
(sacrice) of the life of the actor, who is excluded from it, whose self is
smashed into pieces, as though the bearer of this new world were carried
away and dispersed by the shock of the multiplicity to which it gives birth
(Deleuze 1994: 8990).
Another leap is historical, actual. In a terrifying fall that is the opposite
of composition or slipping into waves, the philosophers body crashes
violently onto the hard surface of the sidewalk below. (How) are we to
avert our eyes from this bloody spectacle avoid, that is, inscribing it on the
interior of his corpus as a sending, perhaps the philosophers last precisely
with regard to life? (As Derrida taught us, the body is always implicated
in testimony.) Bequeathed to us is not material work to guard but an
obligation, a task that by necessity befalls those who come after namely, to
let the work test, to taste this last mute geste of the body, to let the corpus
decide whether to expel it, violently, or incorporate it as the last word of a
life, judging itself.
166 Zsuzsa Baross
My nal example, from one of Deleuzes last published texts, is often
cited: a disreputable man is found. . . as he lies dying (Deleuze 2001b:
28). Turning from the threshold to the threshold, the writing of Deleuze
meets here, doubly, Derridas condition of rightfully teaching a lesson on
life (from the other at the edge of life [Derrida 1994: xviii]. The rest is
speculation). A hymn and prayer to life, Deleuzes last writing nourishes
itself by its double proximity to the extreme limit situation. From the
threshold of a life, it watches over the limit of another, over a deathbed
where an individual life confronts universal death (Deleuze 2001b: 29); it
watches, not as a pleureuse would, with her eyes veiled by tears for the
departed (and Deleuze, we know, confesses a passion for this vocation),
but as a keen observer. (I cannot digress here as I would like to, to read this
passage closely together with several other texts, including two magnicent
accounts of a confrontation between death and a life by Duras: in one,
she watches, for fteen long minutes, on the wall, near me, a common
ys agonising combat with death [Duras 1998: 21]; in the other, her war
diaries, she records a similar confrontation, lasting for weeks, by Robert
Antelme, or rather, the vegetable-earth body that returns from the camps
[Duras: 1986].) Vigilant, Deleuze seeks out in the narrowest of regions,
between his life and his death not the instant that is his alone but,
rather, that which is denuded of every trace of subjectivity: a moment
that is only that of a life playing with death (Deleuze 2001b: 28). The
result is something unexpected, a double benediction: in the confrontation,
the dying attains a sort of beatitude, whereas we, the living, intuit what
Derrida would call more than life a pure event, freed from the accidents
of internal and external life a homo tantum. (Once again, I can only signal
in the direction of the eld of a massive problematic that opens up here,
whose indices could be the gures of the homo sacer, or the Muselmann,
or Robert Antelme. Each leads to the same question: how to think the non-
relation between what Benjamin calls blosse Leben, also nothing but life,
and the reality of this concept homo tantum? What must be maintained in
a life that is nothing more than life for it to attain still a sort of beatitude?
In other words, what aspectus of life is nihilated when a singular life
confronts not his death but a steel-gaze under the insignia of a Totenkopf ?
Deleuzes meditation on Nietzsches life at the end may be instructive to
think precisely this difference: what life deserves the name, to be lived?
Regarding the corpus of Deleuze which I hesitate to include in my
collection, a cabinet of corpses as my anonymous reader will call it I
note precisely its vital productivity, as also witnessed by its proliferation
into several Deleuzes, by the fervent production of Deleuze studies,
conferences, journals, symposia, and so on. Certainly, the work is alive.
And yet, someone is dead. What difference does it make to the future, to
future writing, that there will be no more texts arriving in the future? Ought
(not) the corpus by virtue of its exposure and lack of defences impose a
certain limit (boundary)? Demand of us an audacious modesty? A reserve
Lessons to Live 167
and prudence, also in the sense these words have in the erotic domain in
relation, precisely, to an others corpus?
The oblique path I will be plotting here does not lead around the
work (autour de travail) of Deleuze, or encircle (dene, delimit,
outline) the body that bears his signature without being self-contained.
A relation more distant (circumspect), though not any less violent than
the reverent touch of the faithful disciple, will be sought here. In delity
to Deleuze whose philosophical portraits, to borrow a Derridean
idiom, faithfully betray their subject, and who laments the failure of
application (travail mdiocre, travail rat) but marvels at the speed with
which the thought of Bergson moves the immodest ambition pursued
here is to make a Deleuzian move, however minor and modest: to
breach a passage to a plane where death may be posited as something
(creative). It is on that plane, and only at the very end of this journey,
that I hope to intersect with, and perhaps even succeed to intercept,
As for meeting, or rather, evading, not entering, my interlocutors
objection to an overvaluation of my presence, these will be my
order-words: do not speak of my death, do not speak of the death that
is in so far as it is essentially (wesenmssig, says Heidegger) mine; do
not mistake, in other words, death for the dying (mourir) that is inde-
terminate: co-terminus with a life, with living dying, with the dying that
is living; nor speak of death as an abstraction: a rarefaction/subtraction
or an absolute each time the end of the world (chaque fois la n du
monde comme totalit unique [Derrida 2001: 9]). Approach it instead
as the production of an event in the world impersonal, belonging to no
one, even though it is always someone or something that dies, someone
or something that must die for it.
I will search neither for (a)signiance nor calibrate indifference, but
ask instead: what absolutely new immaterial thing is the creation of
death and death alone? What irreducibly new reality does the death of
any animate being a man, a dog, or a y introduce for the living into
the ux of owing matter, transforming the order of relations within
(the Whole, le Tout) irreversibly? And one must speak of an event for
the living, for the disjunction between dying and death is also conrmed
by the animal. Even if we grant to Heidegger that the animal cannot
168 Zsuzsa Baross
die, it does encounter, has the capacity to experience the encounter
with the cadaver. Writing in the summer of 2004 for a dying Derrida,
who questioned Heidegger on this very point of the poverty of the
animal (weltarm, weltlose [Derrida 2006]), Cixous reminds us of the
heartrending scene in Joyces Ulysses where the dog Tatters undergoes
the experience of the encounter with the cadaver: He stooped, stalked
around it, brother, nosing closer, went round it, snifng rapidly like a
dog all over the dead dogs bedraggled fell . . . Here lies poor dogsbodys
body (Cixous 2007: 177). What the animal example (of which there
are many) conrms is not the common subjectivity of man and animal
but, on the contrary, the exteriority of the event as irreducible to the
subjective dimension of an interior experience, whether or not we
would reserve the latter as unique privilege for the subject.
The truth of the cadaver as hypothesis I have named it in advance is
as liberating (from dread and anxiety) as it is counter-intuitive: it is, it
gives (es gibt) the rst Image. In other words, we do not know what
an image is. Common usage and its very Platonic conception victims
of an objective (structural) illusion fail to grasp the profound reality
of the image: that it does not come after its object (as secondary
representation, reection, imitation, copy); rather, it is made after (in the
image of) the rst Image, which is neither representation (of something
on the outside) nor a (natural) reection or repetition in the waters
mirror (whose mirage needs the presence of a Narcissus or a snow-
capped mountain on the outside in order to reect it, as absent, on
the inside). The model to which every image bears resemblance and
whose resemblance (image) qua image it repeats is the cadaver. The
cadaverous of every image is a memory image, in remembrance of the
cadaver as the rst Image.
All this already resonates with, or rather, nds a posteriori expression,
as we will shortly see, in the principal motif that governs Godards
cinema: an image that deserves the name is never a solitude, but an act of
memory. It recalls other images.
The initial insight, however, I owe not
to Godard but to Blanchot and this is not the rst time that I turn to
him to negotiate the difcult non-passage the Deleuzian fold introduces
in the eld that is contemporary thought.
By a strange coincidence, it
is also the same passage as before that now takes me outside the old
dilemma (another kind of non-passage) between sense and nonsense,
signicance and indifference, reverence and calculation (Baross 2000).
The strangeness of the cadaver, says Blanchot in his seminal essay,
Les deux versions de limaginaire, is also the strangeness of the image
(Blanchot 1962a: 266).
Lessons to Live 169
I cannot retrace here the path along which Blanchot dissolves his
analogy and posits the cadaver as itself image par excellence. I cite
only the three conclusive moves. The rst detaches the cadaver from
this world: what we call mortal remains evades common categories:
something is there before us, which is neither the living in person
(le vivant en personne), nor any sort of reality, nor the same as the
one who was alive, nor an other, nor another thing (Blanchot 1962a:
268). The second complicates this rst thesis: establishes the cadaver
as pure image to which then it immediately confers the status of rst
If complication means movement, thought passes here as Deleuze
would want it: with innite speed, from one niveau to another, from
an actual to a virtual real within the space of only a few phrases. In
order to preserve the rich linguistic ambivalence that drives, literally,
Blanchots meaning in two different directions, I cite the original: Quon
le regarde encore, cet tre splendide do la beaut rayonne: il est, je
le vois, parfaitement semblable lui-mme; il se ressemble. Le cadavre
est sa propre image (Blanchot 1962a: 2701, emphasis mine). (If we
look at him (it) again, this splendid being that radiates beauty: it (he) is,
I can see, perfectly like itself (himself), it resembles itself. The cadaver
is its own image.)
Thought, we can see, traverses the length of these
phrases, its movement passes along the effects of language, relying for
its passage on the sliding of meaning in the place of the strategically
positioned pronouns il/le/lui-mme. Their referent, in Blanchots
precise phrasing, remains rigorously undecidable. Simultaneously
he/him and it. But if meaning hesitates, if the semantic play oscillates
between the personal and impersonal, between a splendid being that
retains something subjective (il, the departed) and the splendid being
of the cadaver itself thought breaches a passage. It makes its move,
slides from actual to virtual object on different planes, at the very
place (of the pronouns) where the two objects are simultaneously co-
present. It slides, however, without deciding the undecidable, without
attributing their difference. Complicating rather than replacing the rst
thesis, it turns the linguistic indetermination into a more complex
formulation, extracts from the cadaver its own (propre) image: it
perfectly resembles itself (parfaitement semblable lui-mme), it is its
own image.
Having established the cadaver as pure image, Blanchot immediately
conrms it, with the lan of the same uninterrupted move, as the rst
image: This is why [because the cadaver is its own image] the living, in
fact, is still without resemblance. Self-resemblance, that is, pure image,
170 Zsuzsa Baross
is a posthumous acquisition. It arrives with and to the cadaver. Blanchot
is very precise on this last point and even interrogates himself as to the
(in)accuracy of the expression: (parfaitement semblable) lui-mme.
But no, he says, after having given way to doubt, it is the right formula.
Lui-mme designates a being impersonal, removed and inaccessible
(Blanchot 1962a: 270). It has no longer any relation with this world,
where it still appears, except that of an image.
The third and nal move completes the dissolution, dispenses with
every form of analogy and parallelism between image and cadaver,
by eliminating the last remnant of an absent referent: if the cadaver
resembles to such a degree it is because, at a certain moment it is
resemblance par excellence . . . It is the semblable [here neither likeness
nor equivalence in the two existing translations would do], semblable
to an absolute degree . . . But what does it resemble? Nothing (Blanchot
1962a: 271).
The Cadaver-Image
The cadaver is its own image. But what does this mean? A repetition
of the same without difference? Or as Blanchot says, an object doubl
par soi, uni la solennelle impersonnalit de soi par la ressemblance
et par limage (Blanchot 1962a: 270)? An object incessantly sinking
back to its own image as the unity of two aspects, an actual-virtual
in perpetual exchange? Or rather, the cadaver is itself (the pure effect
of) this exchange? Either way, if an image resembles (repeats this)
cadaverous duplicity, it will not do so as mere reection or weak,
secondary copy. On the contrary, it is starting from this tremor on
the interior itself a repetition of the rst re-semblance that an image
will summon and be summoned by other images. It is by virtue of this
(virtual) vibration that it has the potentia to recall and be recalled, to
haunt and be simultaneously haunted by other images that is, to give
birth to memory that comes to pass (takes place) only in the medium
of the image.
It is also owing to this tremulous inner vibration that an
image has the power to forge pure image-relations: montage and circuit.
The one gives birth to something more powerful than the expressed
power of any one image: a montage effect; the other simultaneously
with the rst but taking place on another plane constitutes multiple
series: circuits that at once remount the past and open (to) the
Herein lies the rst paradox and the reversal of the mytho-poetic
fantasy that translates the cadaverous into something demonic, a
Lessons to Live 171
vampiric power that feeds itself on life. Clichs for this image abound,
especially in early cinema, which cultivates, indeed, narcissistically
nourishes (itself on) this myth. Picturing the dark forces animating and
emanating from the image (see Wegeners Student of Prague, and several
early adaptations of Poes The Fall of the House of Usher), silent cinema
indirectly re-claims those forces for itself. And yet, the vampiric is not
the truth of the image, whose power lies elsewhere. In fact, it is not the
image but the word that opens a gaping hole in the universe. (When I say
this woman, writes Blanchot elsewhere, this person who is here right
now. . . plunge(s) into nothingness [Blanchot 1981: 42].) The image, on
the other hand, in so far as it paradoxically bears the mark and memory
of the work of death, gives birth to something absolutely new. And with
the cinema, as we will see, it accomplishes a miracle: a future that is open
to the future.
Why not concentrate on the dying involved in repetition? asks another
missive from my interlocutor. Certainly, there is death in repetition:
the next beat comes to/takes the place of the previous one, on whose
passage its own coming to pass depends. But the cadaver is repetition.
It resembles itself, is repetition in the same place, which is why the
cadaver is not in its place (Blanchot 1962a: 269). Its place is where all
foundation founders. A heterotopia (Foucault), it does not communicate
with any other space, just as the remains, the object-thing in the room,
does not compose with any other thing: the familiar furniture, the
scattered sheets of paper on the desk, the jacket hanging in the closet.
Together with the departed, these are at an innite distance from the
thing in the room.
Still, the cadaver is no (simple) thing. On the one hand, it resembles
itself: it is a self-same without difference and a double without being
a fusion (amalgam) both at once, simultaneously. On the other hand,
it resembles itself: is resemblance. Resemblance constitutes its being,
which is neither incarnated nor tangible (indplaable, intouchable,
says Blanchot [1962a: 269]), nor an inert efgy, a look-alike that
Merleau-Ponty called, apropos the Cartesian who cannot see himself
in the mirror, a mannequin. Not unlike the close-up in whose faciality
Deleuze intuits precisely the duplicity of the cadaverous rchissant
et rchi
the cadaver-image is neither actual nor virtual but the pure
effect of their exchange. It is re-semblance: the trembling repetition of
a semblance that incessantly refers back to itself as if to its double or
reection. A pure effect (virtuality), the cadaver is, as an electric current
is, as a musical tone is as long as the vibration continues. But until then,
172 Zsuzsa Baross
it is image without being the image of anything else. As Blanchot says, it
resembles nothing.
Even less so than Platos phantasma, this pure image has no place in
this world; it is at an innite distance both from here where we are,
standing just next to it, and from the departed, who was still with us
perhaps just a few minutes ago. Except that this few minutes ago (or
two days ago, or two hours ago) does not compose with the time of
the cadaver either. (Heterotopias are thoroughly chronique, temporal,
says Foucault [1986: 22].) To the heterogeneity of the site in space, to
the loss of every foundation (labsence et la perte de tout fondement)
corresponds, here in the room, something in but also of time. The time
of the cadaver cuts into the ow of dure, into the seamless continuity
of ex-changes, metamorphoses, mutations, becomings. For this reason
we cannot speak of cadaver becoming/ becoming cadaver. The latter
is not only discontinuous with everything else (here and now) but also
with the dying, which it does not end and which, in so far as it is co-
terminus with life, is unending.
Dying is interminable (mourir naboutit pas la mort, writes
Blanchot elsewhere [Blanchot 1962b: 103]), but the cadaver is incessant.
Unlike the interminable, the incessant is not continuous, it only cannot
stop continuing (the dog barked incessantly). If it is impossible to speak
of becoming cadaver, it is equally without sense (sans sens, as Nancy
would say) to speak of the cadavers becoming. Incessant, it does not
cease to re-semble itself, to be the pure effect of the same semblance
re-sembling itself in the same place. A pure virtuality and here I already
borrow Deleuzes language with regards to the time-image: an actual-
virtual circuit on the spot (Deleuze 1989: 80), and nothing else. At least
for a little while, until the re-semblance collapses and the object sinks
back to the world of things, the ux of matter, where it once again
composes with other things: the soil, the air, liquid matter . . . and the
worms, which in the context of immanence, a life as my irreverent
interlocutor reminds me have their right to its elements.
The cadavers inner vibration is what every image qua image
repeats. This is its only possible mode of repetition (the miracle of
Lazarus is not the resurrection of the already putrid corpse but the
impossible possibility of the second cadaverisation). It is the effect of
this cadaverous repetition (there is death in repetition) that Narcissus
recognises and surrenders to in the trembling surface of the waters
mirror as he cries out: I recognise my own image!
Fatal beauty, says Godard of the cinema (Godard 1988b: 2B).
Lessons to Live 173
Incessant vibration, the false movement of perpetual exchange in the
same place this does not translate to movement-image, which is a
temporal perspective, a mobile cut in duration. The effect of repetition
rather than of movement, the cadaver-image and the cadaverous of the
image correspond with an altogether different sort of temporal reality:
that of the time-image.
This hypothesis, we said, is not born out of perception or observation.
The image (cadaver as time-image) is conceptual: transformative,
productive of a possible world. It will not be, therefore, derived from
the direct experience of encountering the cadaver. Conrming one
more time the profound afnity linking image to thought (Godard:
the cinema is a form that thinks), the concept is mediated by the
(cinematographic) image. It appears that the principle of reversibility
that Deleuze applies to the direct time-image holds here as well,
especially well with regard to the rst time-Image the revelation, or
better still, the pedagogy (Serge Daneys term for Godards cinema)
of the photographic/cinematographic image. It is the most recent of
images that give the cadaver-image visible form, repeat it in the depth
of their interior, as the pure virtuality that since time immemorial has
been haunting the image. A vertiginous anachrony, indeed. But this
belatedness is not fortuitous; it is not by chance that the rvlateur (in
the photographic sense of the developer) of this phantasma is machine-
made and mechanically reproduced: image by repetition. Consequently,
this revelation too is an affair of time, is indissociable from the
temporalising of the machinal and the machinery of image itself.
Images, as is well known, temporalise. The photographic image, and
this is Barthess lesson, contracts a whole life time into a single divided
instant always according to the same formula, whether or not the
subject is dead, says Barthes: he is dead and he will die.
the name, the still photograph does not capture the immobile reality
of a single instant that it cuts into duration; it rather fashions a new
temporal reality: the simultaneity of two incompossible times a present
past (he is dead) and a future present that actually or virtually will
have also passed (he will die). In the space of the photograph, says
Derrida, we are already haunted by the future that carries our death.
Notre disparition est dj l (Derrida and Stiegler 1996: 131). It awaits
the cinema, however, to perfect the art of the cadaverous, its art as
cadaverous, now in the above-dened sense of the term. Without letting
go of the photographic accomplishment, the moving image shakes off
174 Zsuzsa Baross
the funerary mortuary function, the haunting that the former xes (as
one xes precisely an image or a buttery) in the photographs own time.
It does so, not by the simple (mechanical) addition of movement to the
still image, or by mobilising the image itself (the shot becoming a mobile
cut in duration), but rather by virtue of the apparatus. An apparatus of
repetition, a machine for the making of time(s).
Due to the technological nature of the apparatus, primitive cinema
already projects images that themselves project: memories of the future,
histories that come to pass for the rst time in its medium (in
every sense of this rich word). With time, the cinema teaches itself
to interiorise the cadaverous dimension, to fold it back to itself as
the expressed power of its own image. The passage from Murnaus
Nosferatu to Tarkovskys Solaris, from Dreyers Vampyr (where the
camera takes on the perspective of the corpse) to Resnais Je taime,
je taime, measures this displacement/complication. Once detached from
a gure spectre, ghost, or vampire, who cannot die and yet is dying
from this inability the cadaverous is installed, is given new life, in the
depth of the images themselves. Due to this complication, the image
acquires new powers and inaugurates a new regime: like the hysteric
who cannot forget, images now involuntarily remember (recall) other
(perception, memory, and world) images, which in turn reciprocally
both haunt and parasite them, and with which they incessantly compose
new ever deeper, ever larger circuits of time or time-images.
(In a
recent example, Wong Kar-wais In the Mood for Love, the repetition
of the street light lmed against the beating rain is not a sign for the
passage of time: this is another day, another hour, etc.; it functions rather
as a refrain which simultaneously effectuates two disconnected regions
of time: nesting inside the other is the any-time-whatever that shelters
a singular love affair, their meetings and missed encounters, outside the
order of world-time. But this latter, which envelops the rst, is itself a
pure recollection, a crystallised mythical memory-time of an irretrievably
lost life-form not of a person but of a city, Hong Kong.)
Composition is in fact unique to the cinemas method of
temporalising. The Deleuzian pedagogy is clear on this point: on the one
hand, the cinema forms images with (two) sides (crystals); on the other
hand, it assembles circuits or machines that make time (pass). Circuits
unite actual and virtual images perception and recollection, real and
imaginary, dream and memory, world and pure recollection, physical
and mental images that continually follow each other, run behind each
other, and refer back to each other (Deleuze 1989: 69) around a point
of indiscernibility the shortest circuit and the simplest crystal.
Lessons to Live 175
I will limit my concern to this most contracted point, unique among
the crystals in that it is both limit and circuit. On the one (horizontal)
plane, in relation to itself, the purest crystal redoubles over itself: is an
actual image and its immediate and simultaneous double. In one word,
it is cadaverous, or in the words of Blanchot, it resembles itself. On
another (vertical) plane, however, in relations to all other circuits, the
same crystal redoubles as internal limit that denes an open whole; it is
taken up (repeated) by a whole as its extreme point and narrow base that
bears everything and starting from which all other, vaster and deeper
circuits circuits of the future develop.
In short, the crystal is the cinemas rst and originary time-image.
As such it recalls (already assembles with) the other, the cadaver-
image except that the Deleuzian schema appears to exclude this very
possibility, permitting only two other positions: the crystal is either the
(same as the) cadaver-image, in which case the latter is absorbed into the
cinematic whole with its singularity and irreducible heterogeneity effaced
(with the additional consequence of also depriving the cinema of its
power of creating something new); or, alternatively, the cadaver, which
is its own image, maintains no relation with the simplest crystalline
structure or the circuits the cinema fashions not even a negative relation
of the reverse side, since the crystal is internal limit and the whole it
denes is without an outside. In this second case, the cadaver-image
simply falls away, it cannot but fail to compose with the cinema (whose
creations then come from nothing). In one case, we preserve resemblance
but lose the singularity of our object; in the other, we protect its
singularity but at the cost of obliterating the resemblance, that is, its
status as time-image.
This, in fact, is a false problem. To exit from its dialectic we
need to re-inscribe resemblance on the interior of the whole, as a
thing not of space but of time: as re-semblance, that is, repetition.
If, as my interlocutor reminds me, there is death in repetition, it is
because the interval separating the crystal from the cadaver in their
resemblance is an abyssal gap in time. If, on the other hand, as
Derrida also showed us in Archive Fever, there is no future without
repetition, the interval that repetition cuts in time as its condition of
possibility is creative of the future. It differentiates. The rst condition
confers to the resemblance cadaver/crystal a temporal reality; whereas
the second, which relies on the rst, conrms our hypothesis: in
resemblance, the cadaver-image is taken up as the rst time-Image by
the cinema, which repeats, that is, differentiates it on a wholly other
176 Zsuzsa Baross
This complex relation, we said, is the pedagogy of the image,
that is, the effect of a secondary repetition that reveals (revelare: re,
again + velum, veil) what comes rst. In fact, the reprise here is
reciprocal and itself forms a circuit of non-chronological time:
a) On the one hand, the cinemas crystal retrospectively recap-
itulates exhibits for the rst time in history the cadaver-image as itself
a time-image, a crystal. If the cadaver resembles itself to such a degree
that it is resemblance itself si absolument lui-mme quil est comme
doubl par soi it is because it crystallises with its virtual double: [est]
uni la solennelle impersonnalit de soi par la ressemblance et par
limage (Blanchot 1962a: 270). Deleuzes crystal, however, is not just
a name. A concept, it transports Blanchots cadaver-image to another
plane where, as circuit, it composes with other circuits machines for
giving birth to time.
b) On the other hand, the reciprocal effect or backward ow from the
direction of the cadaver, now exhibited as a singular time-image, is to
make a posteriori the cadaverous dimension of the image visible as itself
a repetition in memory of this rst image, which repetition differentiates
what it repeats: opens it to the future and opens a future.
The one question that still remains concerns now the singularity of
the cinematic crystal as internal limit to a whole: where to locate this
limit in relation to the creative interval, this operator of difference,
in time?
On the one hand, the crystal is base and support to a whole and not
the whole, to circuits of time, not to the whole of time. On the other
hand, the crystal has two faces or sides; the interval runs through it. One
face is turned towards the future, towards (future) circuits the cinema
assembles and continues to invent; the other face is towards a non-
chronological past that is older than memory, is at an innite distance
from the plural, anachronic times of the cinema and its histoire(s).
Whilst remaining internal to the whole (of Kronos), the crystal cuts a
(creative) interval into Time. Starting from one side, it is seed for all
future circuits (the future times of the cinema), an opening to an open
future: the future of the cinema (double genitive) and future cinema. The
other side, however, faces the arch of the Image, which is also the arch-
image whose repetition gives birth to the cinema. For what is unique to
the cinema is precisely this repetition, which is for the rst time in the
history of the image and is irreducible to the mechanical reproduction of
images, although not separable from it.
In Deleuze, as in Derrida, there is no future without repetition.
His third repetition in Difference and Repetition, we said, breaks
Lessons to Live 177
with the past. But so does the cinema. Even its simplest time-image
(the shortest circuit and crystal) differentiates (pluralises) time in
time in the cinemas time.
We see time in the crystal, says Deleuze, in three different states, each of
which involves the future (there is time that splits itself in each moment
in two heterogeneous directions one of which is launched towards the
future while the other falls into the past [Deleuze 1989: 81]; there is
time that leaves the crystal, gives itself a future in a leap towards, in
an opening of the future [Deleuze 1989: 88]; and, in the crystal in
the process of being made, times dividing into two, its differentiation
is the bursting forth of life [Deleuze 1989: 91]). And yet, we said,
the cadaver is cut off from the future. It is neither a becoming nor is
becoming (something else). Into the ux of becoming, it cuts a non-
passage an cart, partially analogous to the living body. But whereas
the bodys selection/extraction from the ux only changes the future
of the past (which future nds cinematic expression in the three types
of movement image: perception, affection and action image), in the
place of the cadaver, a hiatus opens in what we may call world-time:
things the trafc of people, objects and words, even animals ow
around it, as if an island in its river. An island of (other) time in the river
of time.
What is the time of the cadaver? This difcult question asks not in
what time it is situated but rather what order of time constitutes it.
Tentatively perhaps, we may advance a few propositions: as its own
image, the cadaver does not preserve the past, contract all the past lived
into the density of the corpse. Nor is it a perpetual frozen present, an
amber of dead time (a captured and immobilised insect-time). It is not a
or the past that is captured in the present; it is rather the present that is
cut off in its place from the future, from future presents arriving, without
which the present present could not be passing. This is exactly what we
see in the cadaver-crystal: time at the point of its non-passage, a frozen
and paralyzed exchange a freeze-frame, which, as we know from the
cinema, is never the same as a simple photograph which xes time; it
itself is xed in time. In the case of the cadaver-image the actual image
and its virtual double are maintained at the point of trembling, on the
threshold of reversibility, lacking the force to complete the exchange.
Does this mean that the cadaver is outside time, in an abyss of time?
No, the incessant is its time or, following Bergsons lesson on times
productivity, the cadaver is the work (dsoeuvrement) of the incessant
as time. What corresponds with it in the temporal region is not an abyss
178 Zsuzsa Baross
of time but an abyssal time, which is in time, whence it solicits every
other (concept of) time.
The incessant, then, is what we see in the cadavers crystal if, that is,
we approach it from the direction of the cinema. For this vision, as we
said, will not be derived from the object-thing in the world as it gives
itself to direct perception; it is the revelation (in repetition) of a purely
cinematic creation (even if retrospectively, the latter will expose its long
presence in literature, in painting): the time-image.
This pedagogy too is reciprocal. Once we begin to see the cadaverous
through the cinemas crystal, and vice versa, we learn one more lesson
regarding that is, how to see through this double lens. It is also here,
at this last point and lesson, that our path intersects with, perhaps
even constitutes a forcing (fecundation) of Deleuze: if the time-image
of the cinema is neither a pure creation nor a secondary copy, but
a repetition of the rst image, its differentiation, its heterogenisation,
then the stillness of the cadaver teaches something extraordinary about
the nature of this differentiation: in the cinemas crystals time passes
once again; what we witness is a resurrection of time that passes, the
resurrection of the image opens and is itself an opening to the future.
This is how I propose to read Godards enigmatic formula (an
attribution to Saint Paul): Limage viendra, au temps de la rsurrection
(the image will come at the time of the resurrection [Godard 1998b:
214]). Contrary to common analysis that the cinema mummies
dure (Bazin) the direct time-image liberates the frozen trembling, the
incessant, into a uid passage. Starting from the shortest circuit it
composes ever larger, deeper and more complex circuits, incessantly. In
other words, it effectuates a future whole in the course of making itself.
All this not just resonates with recalls in hallucinatory fashion
Deleuze. It accords with the lesson Deleuze himself learns from the
cinema: one leaves the theatre to get to life . . . imperceptibly, on the
thread of the stream, that is, of time (Deleuze 1989: 88).
Postscript: Response to an Anonymous Reader
Let me answer the provocation you sent with your comments by way
of a detour citing Blanchot, who does not think of himself when he
writes: the relation between master and disciple is one of innity
(Blanchot 1969: 5). Innite here means: a distance not measurable by
itself. Paradoxically, this often most intense and personal of relations
is also divested of every dimension of the subjective the genius, the
talent, the charm or charisma of the master (even if these attributes
Lessons to Live 179
never fail to irradiate the inter-relational space). It is not what the master
knows that matters, says Blanchot, but the unknown (inconnu) that he
represents, which afrms itself precisely in the innity of their distance.
While this formulation may be at some distance from Deleuze, who says,
Sartre, my master (Deleuze 2002: 109), we know how crucial the years
at Vincennes were for inextricably tying his research to the seminars,
for Blanchot, a noble way of being together, of thinking according to
the division, masterdisciple (Blanchot 1969: 3).
The disciple is someone who has entered (is caught by) the curvature
the masters discourse introduces in space and time. This structural
(impersonal) dissymmetry in turn explains her (fatal) predicament or,
as Derrida describes his own situation vis--vis Foucault, the unhappy
consciousness (conscience) of the disciple.
She must begin to speak (for
speak she must) in the virtual or actual presence of the master, or better
still, after his interventions have radically reworked the eld, changing
the very condition of speech itself.
One temptation which only intensies with the death of the master,
in the face of a future without more future words or works to come is a
false (corrupting) faithfulness. Foucault called it commentary. Deleuze
himself contemptuously described it as turning the masters works into a
container of content to be mined for signicance (Deleuze 1990b: 17).
Ironically, such reading (writing) too opens the path towards an innite:
the innite exhaustion/rarefaction of the work. One will comment, one
will interpret, one will ask for explanations, one will write the book of
the book, to innity (Deleuze 1990b: 17).
The other temptation is disputatious contrariety a re-activity whose
self-deceiving comedy Deleuze ever so gently but mercilessly exposes in
a patient and long letter to his severe critic. Needless to say, both of
these tendencies fail to break with and out of the binding asymmetry. As
Blanchot explains, the continuity (of faithfulness) is never continuous
enough; discontinuity (discordance) is never discontinuous (divergent)
enough. (Perhaps one notable and rare exception is Derridas terribly
daring challenge to Foucault that questions, in the masters presence,
the justication of the sense of the latters entire project. It may be
true that only a Derrida can break the glass . . . the mirror; on the other
hand, one could also say that, despite his painful protestations, Derrida
had never been a disciple of Foucault and his undoing of the innity of
the relation as purely subjective, an innite speculation on the master,
shows him to be already on another path [Derrida 1978: 32].)
As I confess in the essay right away, my writing here is guilty of
yielding to the temptation of the second kind. At least initially, for it
180 Zsuzsa Baross
corrects itself in its course. Nevertheless, the inspiration to write derives
from a re-active impulse: to issue a counter-provocation, to demonstrate
to my interlocutor that the measure of the good life of benediction,
salvation is unthinkable without reference to death, even for Deleuze,
whom I try to catch in the course of a series of gestes, afrmations
that pass through domains indelibly marked by an awareness, an
anticipation, a calculation of death. My cabinet of corpses, as you call
them, is in the service of this counter-demonstration, or, more precisely,
is an opening towards such a demonstration as possible.
Possible though not necessary. The path is opened but is not
followed through to the end. The project is not rejected or disowned,
however only interrupted when another, new path is opened. The
intuition leading to this change of heart comes to me only now as I
write this postscript in response to your provocation: whether or not
death illuminates life or vice versa is a weak question to ask of Deleuze.
(Badious example comes to mind, whose attempt at reversal this
philosophy of life is essentially . . . a philosophy of death only leads
back to Deleuze [Badiou 2000: 12.3].) In this case, the interruption of
the common reex is accomplished when the writing creates an opening
to what it does not yet know. The method for this is a hypo-thesis
(I have no time here to recall Derridas beautiful passages comparing
himself to a blind man, thrusting himself forward headlong, guided,
as if an antenna, only by a hypothesis [Derrida 1993: 2].) Mine is
fashioned after Bergson: if death is something rather than nothing,
it must create something absolutely new the cadaver, which is not
another object but the rst (time) image. This hypothesis indeed leads
to something unexpected and unforeseen: the secret relation that links
the cadaver-image to the cinema, whose cadaverous dimension has
nothing to do with spectres and ghosts of shadows. The latter are
only reections of a more profound indebtedness to the cadaver as
the rst image, which image the cinema, if and when an act of pure
creation, innitely differentiates repeats (remembers and recalls) again
and again, otherwise.
In your letter, you nd the thesis (your term) regarding the cadaver
too subtle, and the lessons learnt implicit, if not cryptic here and
there; you ask for a concluding section which would return to the
interlocutors provocation (why speak of life starting from death?), and
perhaps more pressingly, explicitly address the enigmatic last essay,
Immanence: a life. You will forgive me if in this quest for explication
I see a strange kinship with the translators decision to omit the ellipsis
from Deleuzes original title of the same essay: Immanence: une vie . . . .
Lessons to Live 181
With one stroke, the omission eliminates the pragmatics of suspension,
the indenition that places the title at the limit of the un-sayable,
converting it to a stammer. I hope you will see why a conclusion
would amount to a similar closure of an accomplished opening. First,
the trajectory of the writing is not circular or even linear. Instead,
the essay is structured as a montage of two discourses of unequal
length that operate on discontinuous and heterogeneous planes. One
discourse, not without justication, points in the direction where death
is present on the reverse side of life in Deleuzes work. And reverse is
not the same as the outside. The other transposes death to a wholly
other plane. If I dare speak of a theoretical accomplishment here, it is
only by reference to this translation opening to an altogether different
question/questioning of death. On this second plane, the concerns of
the rst discourse (is death the limit against which life benediction,
salvation needs to be thought?) are not invalidated. They simply fall
away or rather cannot take place. Yet, with regards to the whole, these
same questions continue to operate (insist) in and through the montage,
which institutes a reciprocal interplay across the interval between the
two planes.
If a montage is not a sum or summation but an opening, the question
it begs for is, as Deleuze says: what passes in between? Quest-ce qui se
passe entre? (Deleuze 1990b: 165).
1. An early version of this essay was read at the conference Gilles Deleuze: Texts
and Images, held at the University of South Carolina, 58 April 2007. It is
dedicated to Constantin Boundas, who introduced me to the work of Deleuze
and whose innitely polite but persistent provocations have always showed me
how to take one more step.
2. To my knowledge only Ren Schrer, more than a literary friend of Deleuze,
dares to turn his gaze to this bloody spectacle to propose that only a
philosophical reading of it is possible: On ne peut parler que philosophiquement
[my emphasis] de la mort de Gilles Deleuze. Signicantly, he speaks not of a fall
but of ight: il sest envol; il a pris son envol dans une dfenestration rare et
sublime arrivant sgaler lvnement de la mort . . . . By offering this rare and
sublime image, which recalls my reading above of Godards reversal of Hamlets
leap into a soaring ight, Schrer takes the rst step towards such a reading: an
a posteriori afrmation of the act that Logic of Sense phrases as saying yes to
death by the love of life (Schrer 1998: 10).
3. For a discussion of this confrontation see Nancy 2003: 5799.
4. Une image en appelle une autre, une image nest jamais seule, contrairement
ce quon appelle les images aujourdhui qui sont des ensembles de solitudes
(Godard 1998a: 173).
5. For a discussion of this fold see Nancy 1996: 10713.
182 Zsuzsa Baross
6. Under the same title The Two Versions of the Imaginary there exist two
different translations for this text, one by Ann Smock, the other by Lydia Davis,
in The Space of Literature (1982) and The Gaze of Orpheus (1981), respectively.
My translation borrows from and frequently modies both.
7. Both existing translations destroy this ambiguity. One by Anne Smock: let us
look again at this splendid being from which beauty streams: he is, I see this,
perfectly like himself. The cadaver is its own image (Blanchot 1982: 258). The
other is by Lydia Davis: If we look at him again this splendid being who radiates
beauty: he is, I can see, perfectly like himself; he resembles himself. The cadaver
is its own image (Blanchot 1981: 83).
8. We witness the birth of memory, as the function of the future which retains what
happens in order to make it the object to come of the other memory (Deleuze
1989: 32).
9. Rchissante et rchie, says Deleuze (1983: 125) of the close-up that
facialises the object framed. But whereas the two aspects of this face are
reective surfaces that open to the outside make visible affects on both sides
of the face, on its exterior and interior the cadavers redoubling is a closure: in
resembling itself, it closes upon itself.
10. In truth, it is difcult to say when the remains (dpouille) ceases to be a
cadaver. In the essay already cited, Cixous reminds me of this difculty by way
of another literary example, this time supplied by Stendhals Charterhouse of
Parma: Fabrices horse stopped [here another animal encounters the cadaver]
before the border thing [my emphasis], someones cadaver or else body? Or
else an alreadynolongerbody and notyetcadaver ? . . . Fabrice turned green at the
sight not of the whole but of the part that still detained the indecisive being in
human life: the lthiness of the feet (Cixous 2007: 177). The dirty feet sticking
out of the ground may be still cadaverous, even if the rest is already neutral,
organic matter. But so is the amputated hand displayed as war trophy on the
jeeps of ragtag soldiers in some African city even though the person it once
belonged to may still be alive.
11. The direct time-image is a phantom which has always haunted the cinema, but
it took modern cinema to give a body to this phantom (Deleuze 1989: 41).
12. For Barthes meditation on the impossible time of the photograph, see his
Camera Lucida. The photograph in question, taken at the end of the nineteenth
century, shows a young man before his execution in his prison cell. Barthes
captures the bifurcation of time that the photograph xes for all future presents
by the celebrated phrase: he is dead and he is going to die (Barthes 1981:
95). See also my Toward a Memory of the Future: Cinema, Memory, History,
13. For further discussion on the cinemas temporalising see the following essays:
A Fourth Repetition (Baross 2006a), The Future of the Past: the Cinema
(Baross 2006b), The Future of Deleuze, an Incomplete Project (Baross 2006c)
and Toward a Memory of the Future, forthcoming.
14. See especially Derridas long preamble to his severe critique of Folie et
draison. The time it takes for Foucault to answer is perhaps an indication
of the depth of the wound it delivers. Writing at once an apology and a
confession, Derrida hesitates between being challenged, rejected and accused
and being the challenger himself; or between the consciousness of an
admiring and faithful disciple and an unhappy consciousness, and then again,
between having a master and having only interiorised the master (Derrida
1978: 3163).
Lessons to Live 183
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Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Badiou, Alain (2008) Gilles Deleuze (19251955), in Petit panthon portatif, Paris:
La Fabrique.
Baross, Zsuzsa (2000) Deleuze and Derrida, By Way of Blanchot, Angelaki, 5:2,
pp. 1741.
Baross, Zsuzsa (2006a) A Fourth Repetition, in Constantin Boundas (ed.), Deleuze
and Philosophy, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 98117.
Baross, Zsuzsa (2006b) The Future of the Past: the Cinema, in C. Stivale and
F. Coleman (eds), Angelaki: Creative Philosophy: Theory and Praxis (special
issue), 11:1, pp. 514.
Baross, Zsuzsa (2006c) The Future of Deleuze, an Incomplete Project, in Constantin
Boundas (ed.), Symposium: Gilles Deleuze: The Intensive Reduction/La Rduction
Intensive (special issue), 10:1, 2533.
Baross, Zsuzsa (2008) Lessons to Live (1): Posthumous fragments for Jacques
Derrida, Derrida Today, 1:2, pp. 24765.
Baross, Zsuzsa (forthcoming) Toward a Memory of the Future: Cinema, Memory,
Barthes, Roland (1981) Camera Lucida, trans. Richard Howard, New York:
Noonday Press.
Bataille, Georges (1992) Theory of Religion, trans. Robert Hurley, New York: Zone
Blanchot, Maurice (1962a) Les deux versions de limaginaire, in Lespace littraire,
Paris: Gallimard.
Blanchot, Maurice (1962b) Luvre et lespace de la mort, in Lespace littraire,
Paris, Gallimard.
Blanchot, Maurice (1969) Lentretien inni, Paris: Gallimard.
Blanchot, Maurice (1981) The Gaze of Orpheus, trans. Lydia Davis, Barrytown,
New York: Station Hill.
Blanchot, Maurice (1982) The Space of Literature, trans. Anne Smock, Lincoln:
Nebraska University Press.
Cixous, Hlne (2007) Jacques Derrida as a Proteus Unbound, in W. J. T. Mitchell
and A. I. Davidson (eds), The Late Derrida, trans. Peggy Kamuf, Chicago: Chicago
University Press, pp. 171205.
Deleuze, Gilles (1981a) La mort vient toujours de dehors, in La Voix de Gilles
Deleuze, online at: =2534
Deleuze, Gilles (1981b) Spinoza et Nous, Spinoza, Philosophie pratique, Paris:
ditions de Minuit.
Deleuze, Gilles (1983) Cinma 1: LImage Mouvement, Paris: ditions Minuit.
Deleuze, Gilles (1989) Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. H. Tomlinson and R.
Galeta, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1990a) The Logic of Sense, ed. Constantin Boundas, trans. Mark
Lester with Mark Stivale, New York: Columbia University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1990b) Lettre un critique svre, in Pourparlers, Paris: ditions
Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, New York:
Columbia University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (2001a) Spinoza: immortalit et ternit, Paris: Gallimard, CD1,
Track 12.
184 Zsuzsa Baross
Deleuze, Gilles (2001b) Immanence: a Life, in Pure Immanence, Essays on A Life,
trans. Anne Boyman, New York: Zone Books.
Deleuze, Gilles (2002) Il a t mon matre, Lle dserte et autres textes, Paris:
ditions Minuit, pp. 109113.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1994) What is Philosophy?, trans. Graham
Burchell and Hugh Tomlinson, New York: Columbia UP.
Derrida, Jacques (1978) Cogito and the History of Madness, in Writing and
Difference, trans. Alan Bass, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Derrida, Jacques (1993) Memoirs of the Blind, trans. Pascale-Anne Brault and
Michael Naas, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Derrida, Jacques (1994) Specters of Marx, trans. Peggy Kamuf, New York:
Derrida, Jacques (2001) Chaque fois unique, la n du monde, Paris: Galile.
Derrida, Jacques (2006) Lanimal que donc je suis, Paris: Galile.
Derrida, Jacques and Bernard Stiegler (1996) chographies, Paris: Galile-INA.
Duras, Marguerite (1986) The War, a Memoir, trans. Barbara Bray, New York: The
New Press.
Duras, Marguerite (1998) Writing, trans. Mark Polizzotti, Cambridge: Lumen
Foucault, Michel (1986) Of Other Spaces, Diacritics, 16:1, pp. 227.
Godard, Jean-Luc (1998a) Godard par Godard, 19841998, Paris: Cahiers du
Godard, Jean-Luc (1998b) Fatale beaut, in Histoire(s) du cinma, Paris:
Godard, Jean-Luc (2007) Histoire(s) du cinma, Paris: Gallimard-Gaumot, DVD.
Nancy, Jean-Luc (1996) The Deleuzian Fold in Thought, trans. Tom Gibson and
Anthony Uhlman, in Paul Patton (ed.), Deleuze: A Critical Reader, Oxford:
Blackwell, pp. 10713.
Nancy, Jean-Luc (2003) La reprsentation interdit, in Au fond des images, Paris:
Schrer, Ren (1998) Regards sur Deleuze, Paris: ditions Kim.
DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000579
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette
Garin Dowd Thames Valley University
This essay sets out from the premise that the lms of Jacques Rivette
merit sustained reconsideration in the framework provided by Deleuzes
Cinema 2: The Time-Image. In particular it explores the concepts of the
powers of the false and fabulation as ways of engaging with Rivettes
cinematic oeuvre, with a particular focus on his Paris-set lms. On this
basis the article seeks to add to the readings undertaken by Deleuze
himself and, in the light of Rivettes cine-thinking, to examine in tandem
both lms to which Deleuze directly responded, such as Le Pont du nord,
and later post-Deleuze renegotiations of the city such as Secret dfense.
Keywords: Powers of the false, fabulation, the virtual, bifurcation, urban
space, the time-image
In his early study of Nietzsche Deleuze asserts: our highest thoughts take
falsehood into account; moreover, they never stop turning falsehood
into a higher power, an afrmative and artistic power that is brought
into effect, veried and becomes true in the work of art (Deleuze 1983:
105). The second of Deleuzes two volumes devoted to cinema returns
to the theme of the powers of the false rst introduced in Nietzsche
and Philosophy. In Cinema 2: The Time-Image the emergence of the
powers of the false is seen as symptomatic of the broader transformation
which Deleuze associates with the break with the movement-image that
is with the precepts and modus operandi, not to mention the
conceptual support-structure, of sensory-motor-driven or organic
cinematographic presentation. What this emergence seeks to displace
is a cinematographic model dependent on a certain stance vis--vis
representation, verisimilitude and realism. The space of a sensory-motor
situation, Cinema 2 informs us, is a setting which is already specied
and presupposes an action which discloses it, or prompts a reaction
which adapts to or modies it (Deleuze 1989: 7). Organised as it is by a
vector of transcendence guaranteed to consolidate good form, organic
186 Garin Dowd
cinematographic presentation secretes what Deleuze calls chronological
time. In chronological time, overseen by the sensory-motor situation,
interventions which jar with the narrative presupposed by that situation
are only capable of being viewed as contingently abnormal (Deleuze
1989: 128). Organic cinema presupposes the independence of its object,
and hence presupposes a discernibility of the real and the imaginary
(Deleuze 1989: 7). By contrast, the cinema which Deleuze identies
as crystalline adopts strategies of representation which see it, like the
nouveau roman, offer up descriptions which replace its own object. The
object is erased but another reality is powerfully brought out in the act
of constructing through speech or vision. In such a cinema the imaginary
and the real become indiscernible (Deleuze 1989: 7).
Pascal Bonitzer, now one of the lm director Jacques Rivettes regular
collaborators as screenwriter, once recalled with amusement an article
on the latters Cline et Julie vont en bateau (1974) written under the
inuence of Anti-Oedipus which was rejected by the editors of Cahiers
du cinma because it was out of step with the Althusserian turn which
the journal had taken in the early to mid 1970s (Bonitzer 1998: 50).
His anecdote serves as an introduction to the present study. For the
connection between the thought of Deleuze and the cinema of Rivette
has emerged with some hesitation.
In the two volumes on cinema
written by Deleuze, while there is no doubting the importance for him
of Rivette, in his account of the adventures of the movement- and time-
images in the twentieth century Rivettes work occupies at rst glance
a place more marginal than either that of Jean-Luc Godard or Alain
Resnais (see Deleuze 1985: 21314 and 1989: 1012, 19, 767, 194).
Despite the fact that discussion of the work of Godard and Resnais
respectively is considerably more substantial than the space devoted
to Rivette, a detailed examination of the opening pages of the second
volume nonetheless reveals just how central Rivette is to the subsequent
elaboration of Deleuzes taxonomy.
The visionary aestheticism of Visconti, the emptied spaces of
Antonioni which have absorbed characters and actions (Deleuze
1989: 5), and the effacement of the distinction between the spectator
and the spectacle in Fellini are components emerging from the neo-
realist tradition all of which nd themselves continued in Rivette.
The trajectory of Deleuzes argument here is marked by an important
and informative digression the discussion of Robbe-Grillet in which
Deleuze notes how the nouveau roman replaces its own object and
fabricates through indirect speech and vision (Deleuze 1989: 7). It is
to Robbe-Grillet that Deleuze will return in the key chapter as far the
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 187
present essay is concerned, The Powers of the False. Deleuze subscribes
to the view of Andr S. Labarthe that Lanne dernire Marienbad
(1961), to which Robbe-Grillet contributed the scenario, is the last
of the great neo-realist lms. In this it forms for Deleuze the logical
link between the Italian neo-realist tradition and the French nouvelle
vague. As in Lanne dernire Marienbad, in Antonionis lms, from
LEclisse (1962) onwards, the severance of character from territory
means that what we encounter is emptied space occupied or haunted
by emptied character. [T]his space refers back again to the lost gaze
of the being who is absent from the world as much as from himself
(Deleuze 1989: 9). The gaze is adrift and dislocated, thus creating an
optical drama lived by the character. In Robbe-Grillets novel Dans
le labyrinthe (1959) for example, in which an unnamed city is the
location for a soldier repeatedly to encounter a child as they circulate
in a quadrillage of identical streets, the oneiric space attens out in
several self-reexive devices such as the engraving generator, which is
itself the source of the characters in the city (Robbe-Grillet 1983: 17),
and the check tablecloth which in its gridding and interplay of chaos and
order becomes just one of the novels innumerable mises-en-abyme. On
this scene, in this place, objects come into prominence only through
their being covered, traced in their contours by an at once enveloping
and revealing substance. They are absences which are pulled back into
Being by means of being covered either by dust (if they are interior
objects) or snow (if they are exterior objects). In coming into the zone
of emergence the city and table are simultaneously and paradoxically
buried. In articulating what he sees as the common ground between neo-
realism and the nouvelle vague, for Deleuze there is in Rivette both a
consolidation of several innovations with which the ction of Robbe-
Grillet is identied and a new set of departures. The two main lm
directors identied by Deleuze at this juncture are Godard and Rivette.
Together with Jacques Tati they continue to create a cinema of optical
and sound situations, as opposed to the cinema of action, or sensory-
motor cinema.
Rivette is moreover identied by Deleuze as a lmmaker melded with
his terrain, an inheritor of Nerval a singer of Paris and its rustic streets
(Deleuze 1989: 11). It is not surprising to read this in the work of
the philosopher who so admired Edith Piaf.
But Rivettes Paris is one
which is often emptied (and in this respect unlike that depicted in one
of Piafs songs La foule), as if its population were exhausted by the
actual characters, in the manner of Antonioni (Paris nous appartient,
La Bande des quatre), or it is the launch-pad for hallucination (Cline et
188 Garin Dowd
Julie vont en bateau), experiments in reformulating and deconstructing
the traditional heterosexual couple (LAmour fou), or playful trans-
genre exercises (Haut bas fragile), all united in their common recourse
to a repertoire of fantasies, memories, or pseudo-memories . . . fable
and childrens games (Deleuze 1989: 10).
The emptied terrain is
occupied by a visionary character which does not coincide with itself,
which, staring back at its emptied space, produces and perceives only
pure optical and sound situations. Thus Deleuze writes of Paris nous
appartient (1961) that the stroll culminates in a twilight fantasy where
the cityscape has no reality or connections other than those given by our
dream (Deleuze 1989: 11). In other lms Rivette is shown to compound
the loss of circumscribed terrain by rendering unreliable the boundary
between spectator and spectacle, both poles inhabiting the mirage itself,
which in Duelle (1976) the exemplar for Deleuze takes the form of
the two women of the spectacle proceeding to eliminate all witnesses
to their cosmological conspiracy projecting an eternal mirage on to the
earth (Deleuze 1989: 11).
I. The Powers of the False and Fabulation
The problem of the powers of the false is linked to the allied
questions also central to Deleuzes work more generally of population
and of territory (Deleuze 1987: 51). In particular, through their joint
implication in the presiding concept of the time-image, for Deleuze
both the notions of the powers of the false and of territory (itself
resonant with the concept of territorialisation not explicitly a concern
in the cinema books) pertain to a modern conception of time which he
describes as belonging to the specicity of the urban.
For, although
the concept of the powers of the false has a specic function in Deleuzes
argument, it nds a complementary expression under the banner of
another Deleuzian concept (this time derived from Bergson rather than
Nietzsche) fabulation. To fabulate is essentially linked by Deleuze with
a political problem: the people are missing. The latter notion is on
the one hand historically specic (say, in the case of a postcolonial
lmmaker Senegalese director Ousmane Sembne, for instance), but on
the other, functions as a conceptual placeholder to identify traits in lms
which, while less explicitly concerned with politics, experiment with
modes of address, enunciation and representation such that fabulation is
also concerned in both geopolitical and ontological terms with ground,
with territory, with foundation and, ultimately, with the effondrement
(ungrounding) advocated at the close of Difference and Repetition
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 189
(Deleuze 1994: 292). Writing of ontological repetition there, Deleuze
had suggested that:
Perhaps the highest object of art is to bring into play simultaneously all
these repetitions [physical, psychic, metaphysical, ontological], with their
differences in kind and rhythm, their respective displacements and disguises,
their divergences and decenterings, to embed them in one another and to
envelop one or the other in illusions the effect of which varies in each case.
(Deleuze 1994: 293)
Fabulation, as the engine of the powers of the false, under certain
conditions, is an undertaking which confronts thought with its own
limit. In cinema it entails having a thought, thinking otherwise.
What we encounter is, in Stephen Zepkes words, a creative will of
cine-thought emerging in a new cinematic aesthetics (Zepke 2005:
105). Unlike the philosophical model of error, which will measure
transgressions in terms of their deviation from truth, considered as prior
and as standard, the powers of the false entail an alliance which does
not recognise truth or the truthfalsity distinction in the rst place.
In the specic context of Cinema 2 fabulation is exemplied, inter alia,
by the work of Ousmane Sembne. This is why the griot is Sembnes
way of guring in mise-en-abyme the role of the lm director. In
foregrounding the griots function Sembne is able to show how stories
have either been silenced or their context heavily contaminated, and
how in this specically postcolonial context it is necessary to create a
counter-memory, to speak for the absent, to falsify for those who will
remain absent, and for those who never were (Deleuze 1989: 222). The
cinema of Rivette of course, does not approach or embody fabulation
in the same way or to the same ends as does the work of Sembne.
Nonetheless, in the conjunction of the theme of territory and the powers
of the false, his oeuvre is marked by a mode of fabulation. Rivettes rst
full-length feature, Paris nous appartient, had already raised the question
of a population and a territory (and their relation) in its very title.
Later, Le Pont du nord (1981) articulates a conict between very specic
geographical coordinates (in a northern part of Paris in the nineteenth
arrondissement around La Villette, then being massively redeveloped)
and their modulation in the lms narrative within an imaginary global
Other Paris-set lms which embrace the typical Rivettian combination
of plot and complot, in particular Secret dfense (1998) and Histoire
de Marie et Julien (2002), concern access to the hidden and buried
layers of intrigue, the unravelling of which serves less to resolve than
190 Garin Dowd
to keep open a constitutive ambiguity. If, as Balint Kovcs observes in
an essay on Deleuze, the narrative principles of modern cinema consist
in making possible the realisation of virtually existing suprasensible
worlds (Kovcs 2000: 163), then Rivette is an important gure in this
According to Deleuze part of the specicity of the work of Rivette
is that it revisits the work of the pre-war French school (Grmillon,
Epstein, Vigo, LHerbier): I think expressionism conceives light in
relation to darkness, and their relation is one of struggle. In the pre-war
French school its quite different: theres no struggle, but alteration; not
only is light itself motion, but there are two alternating lights, solar and
lunar (Deleuze 1995: 49). In his essay published in Cahiers du cinma
on Rivettes lm La Bande des quatre Deleuze develops this theme.
The essay is organised as a taxonomy featuring three circles roles
(theatre), attitudes and postures (life), and masks (conspiracy) which
are themselves enclosed in an encompassing circle. We are all rehearsing
parts of which we are as yet unaware (our roles). We slip into characters
which we do not master (our attitudes and postures). We serve a
conspiracy of which we are completely oblivious (our masks). This
is Rivettes vision of the world (Three Circles) (Deleuze 2006: 256).
Deleuze extrapolates from this to provide an account of Rivettes
entire oeuvre based on the ideas of modulation, transformation and
intersection: In a certain way, Rivette has never lmed anything else
but light and its lunar (Lucia) and solar (Constance) transformations.
Lucia and Constance are not persons, but forces (Deleuze 2006: 258).
Through its interplay of two lights and two women, solar and lunar,
Duelle (the earlier lm) had already in Deleuzes assessment marked
a return to concerns associated with the pre-war French school.
struggle between characters associated with these lights is conducted in
a shifting terrain which disrupts any dialectical confrontation. In place
of dialectical opposition, Rivette presents a world marked by divergent
series which are endlessly tracing bifurcating paths (Deleuze 1993: 81),
or by cuts and interstices which might be said powerfully to exemplify
that aspect of modern cinema which for Deleuze is concerned, in Zepkes
words, with the interstice of images . . . Indiscernibly virtual and actual,
their actual individuation emerges from the virtual (Zepke 2005: 115).
In this respect there is a fundamental disagreement between the
approaches of Deleuze and of Jacques Rancire to cinematographic
modernism. In contrast to Deleuze, who views the sensory-motor schema
as producing effects of totalisation, narrative coherence and the solace
of good form, Rancire proposes that all cinema, and not just the
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 191
particular directors favoured by Deleuze, is founded upon what he
calls a thwarted fable. Accounts such as the one Deleuze provides
of Rivette would be examples of Deleuzes quest for a dramaturgy of
ontological restitution (Rancire 2006: 5) which Rancire nds to be
contradictory, based as it is on extracting from lm narratives (such as
Hitchcocks Rear Window) allegories of the rupture with sensory-motor
schema (such as the immobility of Jeff/James Stewart). It is beyond
the scope of this essay to engage in this debate further than simply to
note that Rancire restores a dialectical imperative which Deleuze would
resist. For Rancire opsis (emergent and accidental visions) runs against
the grain of muthos (enabling narrative), and this is for Rancire the
thwarted fable (Rancire 2006) This is quite distinct from Deleuzes
bifurcating paths, wherein the act of fabulation is implicated in a
pervasive virtuality, even if both philosophers nd in cinema an allegory
for a politics which features the idea of what Rancire describes as a
surging-forth from the shadows.
II. Bifurcation, Folding, Fabulation
In Jorge Luis-Borges renowned tale The Garden of Forking Paths
two competing impulses can be discerned: on the one hand there is a
disposition towards encompassment and synthesis, and on the other,
one towards divergence and bifurcation. Deleuzes brief reading of
Borges tale as put forward in The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque
(it is also referred to in Cinema 2), positions the text as a neo-baroque
reworking of the Baroque philosopher Leibnizs theory of possible
worlds (Deleuze 1993: 62). Deleuzes conceptualisation of what he calls
the neo-baroque, with its emphasis on folding, has the merit of what has
been described by one commentator as complicity with the world . . . a
thought of inexion and uidity, of a geometry regulated by rapports
more than by distances (le Dantec 1992: 140). In addition one of the
most notable aspects of Deleuzes concept of the fold is the specic model
of virtuality which it entails.
Deleuze takes from Leibniz a theory of
virtuality which he returns from the brink of dogmatic closure to which
the author of the Monadology is committed. Reading Leibniz somewhat
against himself, Deleuzian virtuality, in the form of possible worlds, does
not, as it does in Leibniz, work in such a way as to shore up the actual,
the state of things. John Rajchmans succinct summary of the difference
between Leibnizs possible and Deleuzes virtual will serve our purposes
here: Virtuality is not the possibility of something that might be
realised; it is already real, and it does not stand in a representational
192 Garin Dowd
or mimetic relation to what actualises it (Rajchman 1998: 125). In
Leibnizs Monadology each individual monad is the intellectual mirror
of the entirety of existence. Each, to a degree peculiar to it and dependent
on the force at its disposal (its position in a hierarchy of beings lends
the monad its force), is said to express the entire universe (Leibniz
1991: 25). In Leibnizs scheme the virtual designates that part of a
given monad which houses the unconscious expression of the universe. It
also includes under its jurisdiction worlds which are said to be possible.
However, in Leibniz any discordance between possible worlds is ruled
out by recourse to an overriding principle which declares that worlds
which are incompossible with pre-established Divine harmony only have
a contingent status. The virtual of possible worlds shores up the actual
of this world.
What is ruled out, however, in the neo-baroque (Deleuzian) version
of the possible world is the harmonic modulation of the fold by means
of which the subject (the Leibnizian monad) is formed. Instead of a
divergent world wherein the election was between the compossible and
the incompossible (with the compossible winning out in Leibniz), we
witness an inclusive disjunction, a bifurcation: the incompossible is not
simply rejected but becomes, instead, constitutive of the subject. In the
work of certain directors Rivette, Ral Ruiz and Werner Schroeter
most notably we encounter what amounts to an elaboration of a
thinking of incompossibility rst formulated in Leibniz.
Fabulation, as Deleuze understands it, is another way of thinking
through the virtual once it is returned from the threshold to which
Leibniz takes it. Fabulation is a speech/enunciative act (conceived in
the most general terms) which can engender a people (it cannot realise
that people, but it can summon it forth in germinal or viral form).
(A)s Bergson was able to see, fabulation the fabulating function does
not consist in imagining or projecting an ego. Rather, it attains these
visions, it raises itself to these becomings and powers (Deleuze 1998:
Fabulation, then, summons a protean, virtual people which always
retains a germinal status and never acquires the status of Being. The
people as a collective is not actualised in a state of things but retains
a virtual status in the specic sense in which Deleuze understands
virtuality. This people is not prepared for, nothing pre-exists, no script
is written which will accommodate it to us. Fabulation is also free
indirect discourse wherein it will be impossible to disentangle the
contributing and constitutive voices one from the other. Rivettes work,
especially of the more emphatically experimental phase, is attuned to
this consequence of fabulating utterance. On the one hand this is
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 193
true in so far as collaborative collective utterance through Rivettes
frequent work on scenarios with his cast is made possible through the
circumstances of lming.
The director as lmmaking subject is not a
unity but a multiplicity traversed by forces and vectors of becoming.
Writing of Blanchot in terms which equally apply to Rivette, Deleuze
refers to the presence to innity of another thinker in the thinker, who
shatters every monologue of the thinking self (Deleuze 1989: 168).
In order to register the intensity of fabulation, rather than neutralise
it in the name of intentionality and the ego, Deleuze argues that what is
required is the intercesseur: Creations all about mediators . . . Whether
theyre real or imaginary, animate or inanimate, you have to form
your mediators. Its a series. If youre not in some series, even a
completely imaginary one, youre lost . . . youre always working in a
group, even when you seemto be on your own (Deleuze 1995: 125). The
mediators Rivette seeks out are on the one hand his intertextual points of
reference. These include references arising fromdirect adaptation. Out 1:
Noli me tangere (197071) is loosely derived from Balzacs LHistoire
des treize, Norot (1976) is based on Tourneurs The Revengers
Tragedy (1608), Hurlevent (1985) on the rst few chapters of Bronts
Wuthering Heights, while La Belle noiseuse (1990) is adapted loosely
from Balzacs Le Chef-doeuvre inconnu. Other intertextual elements
are summoned in the shape of works of theatre, literature and lm,
for example Racines Andromache in LAmour fou (1969), Henry
James The Other House and A Romance of Certain Old Clothes
in Cline et Julie, Pirandellos As You Desire Me in Va Savoir (2001),
Brisseaus lm Un jeu brutal in La Bande des quatre (1989). In addition
mediation comes in the form of his collaborators: Bulle Ogier, Juliet
Berto, Jean-Pierre Laud, Pascal Bonitzer, et al. These mediators then
designate certain of the kinetic populations which traverse the Rivettian
oeuvre, equivalent to the mediators Deleuze describes as operative
in his own work: What mattered was not the points [. . . which. . . ]
functioned simply as temporary, transitory and evanescent points of
subjectivation but the collection of bifurcating, divergent and muddled
lines which constituted . . . a multiplicity and which passed between the
points, carrying them along without ever going from one to the other
(Deleuze and Parnet 1987: ix).
III. Relation, Belonging and Non-derived Images
Deleuzes claim made at the mid-point (to date) in Rivettes
career that the director was the singer of Paris (Deleuze 1989: 11)
194 Garin Dowd
in the tradition of Grard de Nerval has been upheld by his output.
From Paris nous appartient (1961) to Histoire de Marie et Julien (2003),
roughly half of Rivettes output is set (or partly set in the case of
Secret dfense) in Paris. What one might call the problem of Paris is
articulated in the paradox which Rivette takes from Charles Pguy and
which appears on screen in his rst feature lm: Paris belongs to us and
Paris belongs to no one. This for Deleuze is an essential characteristic
of the new type of character required by the cinema of the time-image:
It is because what happens to them does not belong to them and only
half-concerns them, because they know how to extract from the event
the part that cannot be reduced to what happens: that part of the
inexhaustible possibility that constitutes the unbearable, the intolerable,
the visionarys part (Deleuze 1989: 1920).
The question of belonging also gives rise to that of attribution. By
asking in his very rst feature lm the question which destabilises the
attribution of Paris, which disorients it, uncouples it, Rivette poses
the problem of both the dispossessed people and the dislocated city.
He poses in his own medium the question at the heart of Deleuzes
conception of the time-image: to whom is the image to be attributed?
Maurizio Grande, in his own Deleuzian analysis, has classied the
status of the image in Rivette in terms of images non-drives (Grande
1997: 297). The world, in Rivettes vision, becomes an enormous
hallucination, to which, or within which, a stable enunciative subject
and/or object cannot be appended or isolated. In his response to Norot
following its only theatrical screening in 1976, Jonathan Rosenbaum
points out how, like Duelle, it is structured on the successive elimination
of every character, developing towards a confrontation between a moon
ghost and a sun fairy (Rosenbaum 1983: 162). Thus the magic sweets
in Cline et Julie vont en bateau elicit the world of the family romance,
fabulation, the birth of a possible world. But we never simply accompany
these characters the better to return with them. For we will not return:
the drive causes the baseline to alter, to alter for all time and to always-
in-advance have altered. Film, character and scenario each take off on
a transversal trajectory which by denition rules out a return to the
point of departure. As Coureau explains, Le cinma de Rivette propose
bien une gographie faite dinstables et prcaires tentatives dinstallation
au sein de territoires (Rivettes cinema proposes a geography made
of unstable and precarious attempts at installation in the heart of
territories) (Coureau 1998: 51). In the words of Guattari, character and
terrain in Rivette would be examples of ontological threshold crossing:
I have crossed a threshold of consistency. Before the hold of this
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 195
block of sensation, this nucleus of partial subjectivation, everything was
dull, beyond it, I am no longer as I was before, I am swept away by
a becoming other, carried beyond my familiar existential Territories
(Guattari 1995: 93). Paris for Rivette is the occasion for and ground
of such a territorial fabulation.
This point can be illustrated by considering the status of urban
wandering in Le Pont du nord, the lm which occupies the same position
in Rivettes career as Passion does for Godard: that of provisional
summary (Deleuze 1989: 10). The lm appears at the end of those
annes Giscard Rivette so abhorred. What happens to the characters
of Le Pont du nord does not belong to them. The two central characters
(played by mother and daughter Bulle and Pascale Ogier) attempt to
unravel a labyrinthine thread inherited from Cervantes the coordinates
and vectors to which they respond deriving loosely from the trials of
Don Quixote. But the foray undertaken here is one into a world where
the so-called Maxes (a clandestine movement with unspecied political
motives) wreak havoc. The quest undertaken by the duo is dominated
not by the line leading from beginning of quest (a problem posed
to which the endeavours of the characters respond) to resolution of
difculty (or failure to resolve it), but by a continuum of branchings,
graftings and bifurcations. For Lauren Sedofsky Out 1: Spectre (the
short version of the 12-hour-plus Out 1: Noli me tangere) had already
established this:
it proposes to the spectator a plural vision. . . thoroughly independent
cuttings of reality. To this extent Rivette participates in a contemporary
acceptance of phenomenological incompleteness. In Spectre he works actively
against all totalizing principles, including his own, thereby dissolving the plot
(understood as conspiracy and narrative). (Sedofsky 1974: 19)
The problem posed to the characters, as so often (and arguably
always) in Rivette is one of representation: the map which they use
to accompany, trace and establish their itinerary is the equivalent of
Mallarms throw of dice which cannot abolish chance. The problem
of representation is carried along by the lm, inserting itself at each
moment. Thus, at one point, the protagonists are found suspended,
trapped in a labyrinth or spiders web of their own making. The lm
unfolds, then, according to a neo-baroque logic of the event. Subject
and object are lost in the folds, the characters becoming nothing other
than these optical haloes that are drawn at the intersection of the radii
of curvature that fold the surface of images (Cache 1995: 3). Towards
196 Garin Dowd
the end of the lm a Max exchanges martial arts kicks with Baptiste
(Pascale Ogier).
Within a classic narrative denouement quest, evasion, confrontation
the presence of the antagonists in the same frame suggests the
convention of a conict bringing to potential conclusion the problematic
posed by the lm up to and including this point. But within this moment
of framing another frame intervenes. As the frame which accompanies
our viewing of the lm is traversed by celluloid and is veering towards
resolution (i.e. the end of the lm approaches), it is transgressed and
multiplied by the emergence of the crystalline effect of another frame
(a viewnder). In the second frame, or in the partition of the moment,
the viewer sees, simultaneously, the Max and Baptiste engaged in combat
and one actor (playing a Max in the lm) and another (Ogier) practising
the moves to be employed in that (simulated) sequence. Not one after
another, or even alongside one another: to what is at work here one
cannot respond now we see that it has been a lm within a lm all
along. The moment and the partition of that moment (the frame and
the deframing) are given contemporaneously and disjunctively. While
this rehearsal is not theatrical rehearsal a concern in several other lms
by Rivette it nonetheless performs here a related function to theatrical
rehearsal, which, in the hands of Rivette, offers a paradoxical index
of what cinema cannot itself achieve: the inscription of the contingent
in every repetition. In the performances of Pirandello in Va Savoir, for
example, external contingencies determine elements of the performance
every night. The performance in the space behind the proscenium arch
differs depending on who is in the audience and visible to the actress.
Cinema screening, by contrast, is always repeated as the same. Mnils
claim that the theatre (including the idea of rehearsal in particular)
of Rivettian cinema exists only as a function of a strictly speaking
cinematographic project (Mnil 1998: 67) is all the more evident in
Le Pont du nord.
In ending with this conjoining of rehearsal and lming Le Pont du
nord operates a paradoxical closure and opening, script (plot) and
conspiracy (complot) given together in what Deleuze would call an
inclusive disjunction. For Deleuze this is an example of the crystal
image, made possible by the break with the modus operandi of classical
cinema: The crystal-image is, then, the point of indiscernibility of the
two distinct images, the actual and the virtual, while what we see in
the crystal is time itself, a bit of time in a pure state (Deleuze 1989:
82). As Youssef Ishaghpour writes of the ending: La n du Le Pont
du nord est comme le chiffre du cinma de Rivette: La ction donne
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 197
comme ction devant la camra (The end of Le Pont du nord is like the
key to Rivettes cinema: Fiction given as ction in front of the camera)
(Ishaghpour 1986: 211).
Within the space constructed in Rivettes lms one is concerned less
with a spent time which can be exchanged and cancelled in favour
of closure and resolution than with dure itself. His lms seem apt
illustrations of Deleuzes discussion:
The universe is made up of modications, disturbances, changes of tension
and of energy, and nothing else. Bergson does indeed speak of a plurality
of rhythms of duration; but in this context he makes it clear in relation to
durations that are more or less slow or fast that each duration is an absolute,
and that each rhythm is itself a duration. (Deleuze 1988: 76)
This is borne out in La Bande des quatre which divides its scenes by
means of shots of metro trains serving as blocks of sonic and visual
affect. They intervene; they are between scenes, at once cutting across
and conjoining. Theirs is a trajectory separated from departure or
destination; they are intermediate states of dislocation and dis-locution.
As Deleuze writes, apropos Leibnizs Monadology, ultimately, despite
the conservative intentions of its author, it concerns a world of captures
rather than of closures (Deleuze 1993: 81). In the lms of Rivette it
can be argued that one witnesses molecular conspiracy (capture) staged
as the subversion of a global encompassing molar conspiracy (closure).
Jonathan Rosenbaumattributes the Lang inuence, with its strong theme
of conspiracy, which returns with considerable force in Secret dfense,
to the long-standing admiration inaugurated in Rivettes 1957 review
of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt for Cahiers du cinma (Rosenbaum
1983: 165). For some commentators this theme is synonymous with an
integral aspect of modernity. As Hlne Frappat points out however:
[L]a modernit consiste inventer des complots dou toute intention a
disparu (Modernity consists in inventing conspiracies from which all
intention has disappeared) (Frappat 2001: 213). It is the fact that in his
presentation of conspiracies, in Paris nous appartient and Le Pont du
nord for example, there seems to be both a lack of any intent on the
part of the conspirators as well as a lack of any human intentionality
to ground and sustain them, that makes Rivettes most pervasive genre
coordinate so lacking in anchorage. In place of this Rivette creates what
has been called a cosmological perspective on conspiracy. In seeming to
locate itself upon this genre coordinate Rivettes oeuvre indicates all the
more its slippage from all coordinates, including those imposed upon
it in the name of interpretation. In place of resolution or of Hegelian
198 Garin Dowd
sublation, what Rivette lms is usually a crystalline moment, one of
coalescence and rapport; capture, provisional enclosure with the crystal
of time (just as the duo from Le Pont du nord are enclosed in the
spiders web).
Thus the lm-within-a-lm sequence in Le Pont du
nord; thus the doubles which proliferate in many of the works but
especially in Duelle and La Bande des quatres, or even the double
painting and erasure which forms the axis of La Belle Noiseuse; thus also
the repetition, in the form of a reverse mirror image, in Cline et Julie
vont en bateau. The equivalent of the crystalline merger of the virtual
and the actual, in Rivette one is left in the throes of an inexhaustible
possibility incompossibility rather than a conclusion. This, arguably, is
the Hawksian side of Rivette.
If, then, the site to which either character or theme would be adhered
does not serve in fact to locate or consolidate either then both are
left adrift, dislocated and in abeyance. Which is why so many Rivette
protagonists are always en route (Baptiste in Le Pont du nord, circling
on a moped the statue of the lion in the place Denfert) and often found
at dawn, on the threshold of day and night, life and death.
It is this insistence, rst on place the streets of Paris, and then on
characters-actors who cannot belong, that provides the shifting territory
of the fabulist. Paris for Rivette is a garden of bifurcating paths. The
scene in Secret dfense where Sandrine Bonnaires character crosses
Paris and journeys to the estate in the country by various modes of
public transport a particular fascination of the director comprises
three long takes. Antoine de Baecque in an otherwise quite acerbic
article representing a strong statement on the alleged irrelevance of this
manifestation of the Rivette system to contemporary French cinema,
writes eloquently of this scene: Time, then, dilates, the body see-saws
with deliberation, hastening from train to train, from speed to speed;
the world is ceaselessly sucked in by the fantastic and the irrational;
everything ows (liquids play an important role in the lm) and nothing
can settle until death is achieved (de Baecque 1998: 71). The scene
reveals several aspects of Rivettes singular project. First there is a
concern with vectors, second with duration, Bergsonian dure, but third
it reminds us of Rivettes approach to his actors.
As a director Rivette is notable for the extent to which he has
attempted to theorise lmacting. In an interviewhe refers to his attempts
to treat the text as material which plays a role exactly similar to
the other materials in the lm: the actors faces, their gestures, the
photographic texture . . . the words carried by the images are not lmed
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 199
for their meaning but rather for their materiality, as events and not as
meanings (Rivette [1973] in Rosenbaum 1977: 52).
In interview with Serge Daney in the lm Le Veilleur (directed by
Claire Denis), Rivette reveals what it is that fascinates him about actors
such as Jean-Pierre Laud. They manage, he argues, to act with their
entire bodies. This is why Rivette cannot restrict the actors body to
close-ups of the privileged part of the fragmented body, the face (as he
explains in the lm). He needs to have the entire body, not the signifying,
metonymic fragment. Rivettes cinema requires a specic type of actor
as well as a new approach to them as co-creators. Bulle Ogier and Juliet
Berto created their own roles through part improvisation and writing in
lms in which, as has been said of Out 1, good and bad acting ceased
to matter, what was at stake being behaviours Geraldine Chaplin
described to Jonathan Rosenbaum the rigours of working with Rivette
on Norot, while recently in an interview on the DVD release of Histoire
de Marie et Julien Emmanuelle Bart describes the particular challenges
working with him continues to present to actors. His approach has
counterparts in cinema and of course theatre. While the experimental
fervour of the post-1968 era which characterises his work in the 1970s
may no longer be in evidence, there remain, in lms such as Haut bas
fragile (1995) and Va Savoir, in different ways and to different degrees,
elements deriving from the period. Sedofskys account retains its force:
Like Artaud, Rivette has created a non-theological space (Derrida)
which admits the tyranny of neither text nor auteur. It is a space in which
the actors grammar of gesture and voice may play creatively, without
impediment (Sedofsky 1974: 19).
IV. Secret dfense
Sandrine Bonnaires portrayal of detachment fromthe socius had already
been deployed to great effect in Agns Vardas Sans toit ni loi (1985)
and Claude Chabrols La Crmonie (1995) when Rivette developed
her character for Secret dfense. Her character Sylvie is only partly
participatory in the world of human exchange, interacting with humans
only at the level of DNA as she conducts her research interaction
with the molecular DNA as opposed to molar human subjects (Deleuze
and Guattari 1988: 345). The only other interaction with anyone
outside her family takes place in commercial situations (or states of
transit), buying a ticket or a drink to steady her nerves en route
to Walser (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) at the estate. Sylvie exists only as
200 Garin Dowd
a force of intervention, refusing relation, and inhabits what Deleuze
calls vectorial as opposed to encompassing space (Deleuze 1985:
218). She perpetuates a question, sends a vector into the estate, and
threatens to unearth its buried secret. Indeed, as the scene from which
the lm gets its title demonstrates (as Sylvie walks past the sealed room
where missiles are being constructed Walser jokingly whispers Secret
Dfense! Top Secret), we are reminded that the secret has a kind of
radioactivity: It is as if the past surfaces in itself but in the shape
of personalities which are independent, alienated, off-balance, in some
sense embryonic, strangely active fossils, radioactive, inexplicable in the
present where they surface, and all the more harmful and autonomous.
Not recollections but hallucination (Deleuze 1989: 113).
At work in her Parisian laboratory Sylvie is attempting to nd a
cure for cancer. The cure however must kill the cancerous cells, as
the scene in which she observes the promising results of an experiment
makes clear. Likewise, in her view and that of her brother, to cure
the malaise that stalks and unsettles their present requires the death
of Walser, their fathers former associate. The photograph uncovered
by Sylvies brother sets Sylvie off on a path leading towards Walser,
as assassin of their father and supplanter of the latter both in their
mothers affections and in the role of company head. However, as
she sets off on this trajectory, the contact which takes place with him
initiates another path, incompossible with the rst: Walser as avenging
the suicide of the younger sister after the sexual abuse suffered at the
hands of the murdered father. Time, here, is off its hinges: the original
and suspended sorority is repeated in the two local sisters, both of
whom sleep with Walser. But the murdering Walsers role is accidentally
now occupied by Sylvie; beginning with the intention of revenge, she
replicates Walsers own earlier murderous act, but misdirects her own
vector of intervention: as Sylvie holds a gun to Walser not believing his
account, Walsers young lover intervenes only to be accidentally shot
as she struggles to defend him. The two surviving sisters eventually
confront each other, the local woman deliberately shooting Sylvie in
what she regards as revenge for her own sisters death. The goal to which
each character is directed is vectorially disposed is to be reached by
means of a killing and yet in killing in each case one fails to reach
that goal. Each occasion, then, is a false death, comes about as the
result of a wrong move, one brought about by the intervention of the
incompossible, the impossible. What happens to Sylvie does not belong
to her.
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 201
Deleuze says of theatrical representation in Rivette that it is a mirror-
image but, precisely because it is constantly failing, is the seed of that
which does not manage to come to completion or to be reected
(Deleuze 1989: 76). Theatricality in Secret dfense is somewhat distinct
from the literal theatrical doublings of Cline et Julie vont en bateau,
LAmour fou, or La Bande des quatre, and from the paintermodel
frontality of La Belle Noiseuse (which is a kind of bridge in this respect
taking us from the latter lms to Secret dfense), but it is present in
the form of the stand-in at different levels: two sisters, Ludivine and
Vronique, are played by the same actor (Laure Marsac), Sylvie acts
in the place of her brother, Walser acts in a paternal role towards
Sylvie, Walser and Sylvies mother together play out a scenario extending
over 15 years, within which he plays the role of faithful lover. None
of these roles is allowed to be completed: each collapses in its own
failure to represent, to render actual the virtual. Only the breakdown in
artice, the deconstruction of the plot, can identify the lmas fabulation
(Sedofsky 1974: 19), or as Rivette himself says of the lms up until and
including Cline et Julie vont en bateau: In each case there was a rst
part where we assembled a story of a search, and a second part where
little by little we wiped it out (Rivette 1974: 23).
If Rivettes work attests to possible worlds in their bifurcation,
inclusive disjunction and becoming, and if in this respect it maintains
itself as generative locus of incompossible series without resolution, then
it is in this sense that his work provides an emblem of a people to
come, in Deleuzes sense. The people does not designate a collective
of individuals bound together in the imagined community of a nation.
Instead of being an imagined community, the people to come, progeny
of fabulation, is both the object and subject of a collective utterance.
For Jean-Franois Lyotard, in the megalopolis there is only transit,
transfer, translation and difference. It is not the house passing away,
like a mobile home or the shepherds hut, it is in passing that we
dwell (Lyotard 1991: 198). Paul Virilios neologism, trajectif, is helpful
here (Virilio 1996). That which is trajective is to be distinguished both
from the subjective and the objective. It collapses the binary distinction
between these terms. In many respects the work of Rivette obeys a
trajective logic: it does not have a centre, because within any posited
centre we encounter a series of doubles (Paris and its doubles).
This imposition of a labyrinthine imperative deprives his lms of xed
coordinates, those which permit the identication and differentiation
of subject and object. The viewer, once deprived of these coordinates,
202 Garin Dowd
is presented instead with a collection of vectors and trajectories in a
cinematographic dislocation.
The lms of Jacques Rivette respond to the distinct velocity of
the contemporary world, to its altered density. He and Virilio might
agree is one of those who have invented a system of divergence, of
decoy, at the threshold of dubious consistencies and subject positions
(Virilio 1996: 25). In Deleuzian terms, to adapt Claire Colebrook,
from the thought of the constitution of this or that space from this
or that desire, one can think space as such in its innite divergence: a
thousand plateaus (Colebrook 2005: 205). The work of Rivette has,
for more than half a century, generated many molecular populations.
Through the medium of a cinema predominantly located in the city, the
space of the people, but also of the state and of the state apparatuses,
Rivette has continuously invented collective assemblages of the type
advocated by Deleuze, for whom The utterance is the product of an
assemblage which is always collective, which brings into play within us
and outside us populations, multiplicities, territories, becomings, affects,
events (Deleuze and Parnet 1987: 51).
The practical political impact of a cine-thinking such as that of Rivette
is not to be measured in the light of any discernible transformations
which it manages to effectuate through inuence upon a mass of people
as such. Rather it is to be measured in the extent to which it stages
levels of becoming (Deleuze 1998: 1) and trajective possibilities which
do not belong to a molar model of liberation (arguably still the case
with Rancire in his notion of the division of the sensible), but which,
rather, function at a molecular level and engage with the socius at that
level. Such lines of ight are dramatised in a lmic space which is also
that of thought itself, as Deleuze says in Dialogues cinematic thought,
cinematic relation. In detecting the forces of resistance which can make
power bend, the virtual is an opening for this combat, for this struggle of
thought and of language against that which, in thought and in language,
is at the same time power and servitude (Parente 1998: 564). Deleuzes
description of Le Pont du nord focuses on one side of Rivette the molar
conspiracy which distributes roles and situations in a malevolent game
of snakes and ladders (Deleuze 1989: 214) whereas in Secret dfense,
with global power structures occluded under the false immunity named
in the lms title, at a molecular level another conspiracy a collision
of love or hatred (Deleuze and Parnet 1987: 52) is at work. It is the
role of such an aesthetic problematisation of the contemporary to be, in
Deleuzes and in Nietzsches terms, untimely that is, a critique of the
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 203
present world. For Rivette, it is apparent, as it is for Deleuze, that Time
out of joint is the time of the city and nothing else (Deleuze 1998: 28).
1. Considering that Deleuze devoted an essay to the director, Anglophone
commentary on Deleuzes writings on cinema has to date been relatively silent
with regard to Rivette. In a French context, perhaps not surprisingly, there have
been more frequent critical conjunctions (see for example Chauderlot 2001,
Coreau 1998 and Mnil 1998).
2. Deleuzes 1989 Cahiers essay on Rivettes La Bande des quatre (1988) provides
conrmation of the importance of the director to his understanding of cinema
(see Deleuze 2006).
3. The admiration is emphasised in Labcdaire de Gilles Deleuze.
4. Of course several of these lms were made after the completion of Deleuzes
5. Rivette had the cast watch Mark Robsons Val Lewton-produced The Seventh
Victim (1944), a lm concerning the elimination of traitors and witnesses in a
narrative about devil worship in Manhattans East Village.
6. See Alliez (1996b: preface by Deleuze) on conducts of time, with Kant, for
example, as the rst philosopher of cities (Alliez 1996a: 231) and Stengers
(1997: 177212) on the clock and the development of urban time.
7. At the end of the paragraph (Deleuze 1994: 294) Deleuze indicates the extent
to which his thinking about this matter was already turning towards cinema
(Lanne dernire Marienbad in particular).
8. Deleuzes emphasis on other aspects of Rivette is such that he is not mentioned
in the Powers of the False chapter.
9. On conspiracy see Watts (2005).
10. The essay revisits concepts developed in Cinema 2 which was written before
La bande des quatre was released. The attitude of the body is like a time-
image, the one which puts the before and after in the body, the series of
time; but the gest is already a different time-image, the order or organisation
of time, the simultaneity of its peaks, the coexistence of its sheets (Deleuze
1989: 195). Rivette there is one of the directors discussed in the context of
the Brechtian idea of the gest [as] the development of attitudes themselves . . . a
direct theatricalisation of bodies . . . independently of any role (Deleuze 1989:
192). The lmtakes further the ideas developed in the lms Deleuze does discuss,
namely Lamour par terre and Lamour fou (Deleuze 1989: 1934).
11. Duelle is a lm which subsequent relative inaccessibility has rendered more
peripheral in Rivette commentary than Deleuze might have imagined at the time
he was writing. The fate of Norot and Merry Go Round rendered them even less
accessible (until its release on DVD in 2006, Norot had only received isolated
festival screenings since its completion in 1976).
12. Deleuzes theory of virtuality traverses much of his work. The crucial distinction
between the virtual and the possible however appears in Deleuze (1988:
13. Utopia isnt the right concept: its more a question of a fabulation (Deleuze
1995: 174). He goes on to reiterate the assertion that we ought to take up
Bergsons concept and make it political. Zepke suggests that the artistic power
204 Garin Dowd
of the false marks Deleuzes creation of the indiscernibility of Bergson and
Nietzsche (Zepke 2005: 106).
14. The collaborators multiply in Haut bas fragile with seven individuals listed.
15. On kinetic populations see Deleuze (1994: 2167).
16. For Deleuze, Eisenstein is cinemas Hegel (Raessens 1997: 270).
17. Paris and its doubles is one of the three titles which appear at the start of Out 1:
Spectre, the four-hour refashioning of Rivettes 12-hour Out 1: Noli me tangere.
18. See Benot Goetz (2002).
Alliez, ric (1996a) Deleuze: Philosophie virtuelle, Le Plessis-Robinson: Synthlabo.
Alliez, ric (1996b) Capital Times: Tales from the Conquest of Time, trans. Georges
Van Den Abbeele, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Baecque, Antoine de (1998) Un systme vide, Cahiers du cinma, 522, pp. 701.
Bonitzer, Pascal (1998) Nos annes non-lgendaires, Entretien avec Pascal Bonitzer,
Cahiers du cinma/numro hors-srie, pp. 4751.
Cache, Bernard (1995) Earth Moves: The Furnishing of Territory, trans. Anne
Boymann, edited by M. Speaks, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Chauderlot, Fabienne-Sophie (2001) Becoming Image: Deleuzian Echoes
in Jacques Rivettes La Religieuse, Eighteenth-Century Life, 23 (Winter),
pp. 88100.
Colebrook, Claire (2005) The Space of Man: The Specicity of Affect in Deleuze
and Guattari, in Ian Buchanan and Gregg Lambert (eds), Deleuze and Space,
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 189206.
Coureau, Didier (1998) Jacques Rivette: Potique des ux, Etudes cinmato-
graphiques, 63, pp. 4766.
Dantec, J.-P. le (1992) Ddale le hros, Paris: Editions Balland.
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Athlone Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1986) Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and
Barbara Habberjam, London: Athlone Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1988) Bergsonism, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam,
London: Athlone Press and New York: Zone Books.
Deleuze, Gilles (1989) Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and
Robert Galeta, London: Athlone Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1993) The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley,
London: Athlone Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, London:
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DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000580
From Negation to Disjunction in a World
of Simulacra: Deleuze and Melanie Klein
Nathan Widder Royal Holloway, University of London
This paper will articulate an underappreciated side of the psycho-
analytical Deleuze: his relation to Melanie Klein, particularly as it
appears in The Logic of Sense. Deleuzes engagement with Klein largely
follows his familiar strategy of re-reading a thinker off of a twist in one
or two of that thinkers key concepts. With Klein, this twist involves
re-reading her story of psychic development on the basis of disjunction
rather than negation, so that the psychic surface that emerges generates
a persistent non-correspondence between self and other and between
concept and thing. Deleuze thereby makes Klein a central gure in
his ontology of sense and his analysis of how the physical surface of
bodies generates a metaphysical surface of thought. However, Deleuzes
ultimate turn is a Nietzschean one towards overcoming, the thought of
eternal return, and the demolition of the Oedipal Law. As this nal turn
makes clear, even in his early writings that engaged more directly and
afrmatively with psychoanalytical thought, Deleuze was already on an
anti-Oedipal path.
Keywords: Gilles Deleuze, Slavoj iek, Melanie Klein, ontology,
psychoanalysis, Oedipus complex
In a very strange book that is purportedly concerned with Deleuzes
thought yet devotes at best 20 per cent of its pages to it, Slavoj
iek proclaims his intention to carry out a Hegelian buggery of
Deleuze (iek 2004: 48), which he later modies to a Freudo-
Lacanian buggery (81). For iek, this means showing how Deleuze
has an unacknowledged proximity to and reliance on the very thinkers
he seems to caricature and oppose the most. To this end, iek focuses
on The Logic of Sense, which he considers to be Deleuzes most Lacanian
work. Noting Lacans own approval of the text, he proclaims an identity
between Deleuzes quasi cause and Lacans objet petit a (27) and, oddly
208 Nathan Widder
enough, also declares the quasi cause to be Deleuzes name for the
Lacanian phallic signier (83). iek maintains that this thesis goes
against the current (xi) because the Deleuze who is much closer
to psychoanalysis and Hegel (xi) has been obscured by the dominant
popular image that denes him primarily through his collaborative
works with Guattari.
According to iek, Deleuze was already struggling in The Logic
of Sense with a commitment to two opposing logics embedded in
his ontology of the virtual: on the one hand, the virtual is a surface
effect of actual physical processes; on the other hand, it is the
productive foundation of the actual (iek 2004: 201).
Both logics
conform to the idea of the virtual as a sense that exceeds linear
physical causality and representation, but the second comes dangerously
close to empiriocriticist formulas: the primordial fact is the pure
ow of experience, attributable to no subject, neither subjective nor
objective subject and object are, as all xed entities, just secondary
coagulations of this ow (22). The logic of production thus leads
to the vitalist ontology often associated with Deleuze; however, this
vitalism, far from being a form of materialism, is really a post-
metaphysical idealism (24; see also 226). The other logic leads to
genuine dialectical materialism, which alone can effectively think the
immaterial void, the gap of negativity, in which mental Events emerge.
Idealism, by contrast, substantializes this void (89). iek holds that
Deleuze never directly confronts these dual logics of representation
and production, materialism and idealism, which are fundamentally
incompatible (20). This failure supposedly leads him mistakenly in
ieks view towards Guattari and a crude ontology of production in
Anti-Oedipus: Deleuze [was] pushed toward Guattari because Guattari
presented an alibi, an easy escape from the deadlock of his previous
position (21). Deleuze thus bypasses engagement with the central
paradoxes that lead post-Hegelian and psychoanalytic theories towards
a true materialism built upon contradictory entities such as the phallus,
the objet a, and so on, in which meaning and sense emerge from a
foundational lack. The political implications of this skirting of the issue
are profound. The ontology of productive Becoming, iek claims,
clearly leads to the Leftist topic of the self-organization of the multitude
of molecular groups that resist and undermine the molar, totalizing
systems of power (32) in other words, Deleuzes turn to Guattari leads
directly to the nave politics of Hardt and Negris Empire (2000). The
other ontology may appear sterile and apolitical, but it really involves
a political logic and practice of its own and it opens a domain that
From Negation to Disjunction: Deleuze and Klein 209
is crucial in transforming reality (32). Deleuze seems not to have
recognised the politics associated with this ontology, since not a single
one of Deleuzes own texts is in any way directly political; Deleuze in
himself is a highly elitist author, indifferent toward politics (20).
However, in The Logic of Sense, where Deleuze had not yet
disavow[ed] his own roots (iek 2004: 83), the basic premise of
Deleuzes ontology . . . that corporeal causality is not complete (27) is
developed into a psychoanalytical account of the corporeal origin of
incorporeal sense. Providing little or no textual support, iek holds
Deleuzes account to follow Lacan by giving a foundational role of
symbolic castration:
As it was clear to Deleuze (and not only to Lacan), the notion of castration
answers a very specic question: how does the universal symbolic process
detach itself from its corporeal roots? How does it emerge in its relative
autonomy? Castration designates the violent bodily cut that enables us to
enter the domain of the incorporeal. (85)
The phallus, of course, is therefore the signier of this process, which
raises sexuality the one drive that, being both excessive and lacking, is
capable of surpassing bodily needs to the level of neutral, desexualised
Therein lies the materialist wager of Deleuze and Lacan: the desexualiza-
tion, the miracle of the advent of the neutral-desexualized surface of Sense-
Event, does not rely on the intervention of some transcendent, extrabodily
force. It can be derived from the inherent impasse of the sexualized body
itself. In this precise sense shocking as it may sound to vulgar materialists
and obscurantists in their unacknowledged solidarity the phallus, the phallic
element as the signier of castration, is the fundamental category of dialec-
tical materialism. Phallus qua signier of castration mediates the emergence
of the pure surface of Sense-Event . . . it is the pseudo cause that sustains
the autonomy of the eld of Sense with regard to its true, effective, bodily
cause. (91)
This logic, iek argues, is jettisoned by the ontology of production
found in Anti-Oedipus and its division of productive becoming and
reied being (92). He thus declares that Anti-Oedipus is arguably
Deleuzes worst book. . . the result of escaping the full confrontation of
a deadlock via a simplied at solution (21).
There is certainly a complex and subtle relationship between
Deleuze and Lacan and between Deleuze and Hegel which, sadly
but not unexpectedly, iek does little to illuminate. His reading,
which attributes to Deleuze a variety of sharp divisions (the central
210 Nathan Widder
one being The Logic of Sense versus Anti-Oedipus [iek 2004:
21]) and unequivocal positions (for example, that Anti-Oedipus is
a wholesale rejection of psychoanalysis), is self-serving and simply
Although there are important and explicitly positive
resonances with psychoanalysis in Deleuzes mid to late 1960s solo
writings, iek is unprepared to do more with them than equate various
Deleuzian concepts with Lacanian counterparts. The results in this
regard are astonishing: iek does not even appear to notice that the
psychoanalytical account of the genesis of sense in The Logic of Sense,
worked out over some 50 pages and eight series of the book, is carried
out through a reading of Melanie Klein, not Lacan.
Deleuzes turn
to Klein is particularly damaging to ieks thesis, as she specically
contests the centrality of the castration complex while referring the
Freudian Oedipal complex of the childs third and fourth years back
to earlier processes of object relations. Given her distinctive position in
post-Freudian psychoanalysis and her key differences from Lacan, this
would seem to be prima facie evidence that Deleuze, while certainly not
rejecting his roots, was already thinking independently of them.
Deleuze typically engages with other thinkers by adding a distinctive
twist to their thought, resulting in readings that are not particularly
faithful, but also not simply invented. With his reading of Klein, Deleuze
retraces her revised story of pre-Oedipal and Oedipal development with
the twist of inserting the Kleinian infant into a world of simulacra rather
than one of substantial objects with stable boundaries. The world of
simulacra is no longer a temporary one that the infant outgrows, as it
is for Klein, who sees the infant synthesising part-objects into whole
and complete objects as its ego develops. As a result of this move,
Kleinian processes of splitting and synthesis, which she links to death
and life instincts, are in Deleuzes hands no longer dialectical negations
and reconciliations. Klein was famously alone among post-Freudians in
taking the existence of the death instinct seriously, holding it to operate
from birth. Deleuzes alterations of Klein, however, turn the death drive
into a force not of negation, but of disjunction. It compels psychic
development to go beyond the corporeal and physical and towards
a metaphysical surface of sense and thought; but, as this Deleuzian
surface is also a surface of nonsense, this process culminates not in the
consolidation of the ego, but in its dissolution.
The following discussion will rst introduce Kleins reworking of
Freuds understandings of the nature of negation and the role of the
death instinct in driving psychic development, showing how Deleuze
in turn replaces negation with a principle of disjunction in order to
From Negation to Disjunction: Deleuze and Klein 211
construct an account of the psychic surface that breaks with both
Freud and Klein. It will then analyse Kleins pre-Oedipal paranoid-
schizoid and manic-depressive positions and the processes of splitting
and synthesis that effect the transition from the former to the latter, all
of which are the central focus of Deleuzes adoption and reworking of
Kleins thought. Finally, it will explore Deleuzes use of these adapted
Kleinian themes in his re-reading of the Oedipus complex and the
passage from sexual instincts to a desexualised surface of thought, areas
where Klein uncritically follows Freud. Deleuzes reading of Klein is
certainly not a Lacanian one, assuming such a thing were possible.
And indeed, even while it incorporates Lacanian concepts such as the
phallus in the Oedipal stage of development, it culminates with a turn to
Nietzsche that is to say, not with the ascendancy of the phallic Law but
with creative overcoming and revaluation. In later writings, Deleuze is
harshly critical of Klein, holding her to obsessively Oedipalise childhood
Nevertheless, without discounting that changes take place
from The Logic of Sense to Anti-Oedipus to Dialogues, it seems that
even if the early Deleuze engages afrmatively with the Oedipus story,
it is already with the intention of doing something different. Deleuzes
early psychoanalytical writings, as will be seen, show him already to be
on a decidedly anti-Oedipal path.
I. Surfaces of Negation; Surfaces of Disjunction
In the account of sense developed in The Logic of Sense, the notion
of surface plays a fundamental role. Invoking the language of surface
is not meant to oppose sense to a deeper or more substantial essence,
as though sense were something supercial. Rather, the surface refers
to a plane that brings together but also holds apart distinct domains,
much like the oceans surface separates but also connects water and
air. Such a surface belongs to neither domain yet constitutes both. It
is therefore a site of differentiation, but it is also a difference in its
own right in Deleuzes terms, it is a difference in itself that serves
as a differenciator: Sense is never only one of the two terms of the
duality . . . it is also the frontier, the cutting edge, or the articulation
of the difference between the two terms, since it has at its disposal an
impenetrability which is its own and within which it is reected (Deleuze
1990: 28).
Nevertheless, the surface is not a singular phenomenon, as
Deleuze indicates by his discussion of two kinds of surface in the early
pages of the text. On the one hand, there is a surface formed at the
interstices of material bodies; on the other hand, a surface of sense is
212 Nathan Widder
embedded in language, allowing the propositions various functions the
designation of facts, the manifestation of a subjects intentions, and the
signication of universal concepts to operate and make sense. The rst
surface refers to material simulacra, while the second refers to phantasms
of thought. Deleuzes ultimate concern is a second-order surface where
these surfaces of thought and thing intersect.
For both Freud and Klein, this second-order surface is the psychic
surface, which mediates the minds contact with the external world.
Negation is at once the differenciator and the form of differentiation
articulated and carried out on this surface. Freud and Klein differ
fundamentally on negations primary location external versus internal,
real versus phantastic but they share a traditional understanding of it
being a force that, through its powers of separation, denial, repression,
and even destruction, at once distinguishes objects and consolidates their
distinct identities: through negation, water is water because it is not air
and vice versa. Thus, for both Freud and Klein, the development of the
psychic surface sees it more or less accurately mapped onto the bodys
physical surface in such a way as to secure the distinction between inside
and outside and the adequate correspondence between phantastic objects
and real objects.
For Freud, negation enables a compromise with repressed instincts,
allowing them to become conscious to reach the psychic surface only
in the form of denials: I express my desire for my mother only
by insisting it does not exist (Freud 1961b: 2356). It is also an
expression of the death instincts turned outwards, both as a desire
to possess or destroy external objects and as a symbol of negation
that resides within statements and without which the intellect could
not achieve independence from the pleasure principle. In its intellectual
form, negation rms up the separation of inside from outside: the
afrmation and negation of attributes assigned to subjects correspond
to the pleasure-egos oral processes of introjection and projection and
thus to the desire to externalise the bad and internalise the good;
judgements of existence, linked to the subsequent reality-ego, rest on
the idea that what is external is objectively real while what is internal
is subjective, phantasic, and imaginary (Freud 1961b: 2378). All of
these real and intellectual negations function throughout the stages of
sexual development, in which libido instincts, separating themselves
from their original link to vital functions, pass through oral, anal and
genital phases, organising the body and its erotogenic zones and allowing
external reality to be measured in terms of its promotion or hindrance
of libido satisfaction (see Freud 1966: chs 201).
From Negation to Disjunction: Deleuze and Klein 213
Freud holds negation to be absent from the unconscious, where
contraries easily condense into one another, and where there is no
reference to linear time, with its negative difference between past, present
and future, or to death, which is an abstract concept known only to
the minds higher strata (see Freud, 1961a: 578; 1966: 178). For this
reason, he maintains the development of the psychic surface is driven
by external negations, such as the temporary loss and return of objects,
which allow the ego to unify and distinguish itself from outside reality
(Freud 1994: 3), and the realistic (if not necessarily real) castration
threat that underpins neurotic anxiety and the Oedipus complex (Freud
1965: 856, 934). Such rm and factual separations the mothers
obvious presence or absence, and so forth thereby consolidate the
internal distinctions of the psyche and provide a measuring rod for the
adequacy of the childs phantasies to reality. Although the death instinct
is an internal source of negation, its existence remains speculative, as
it can be glimpsed only obliquely in negations directed outside the self
(sadism) or turned back against the self (masochism); but even these
indirect signs arise only in response to the denials and frustrations of the
external world, making the death instincts negativity derivative. Thus,
at the conclusion of his Negation essay, when linking afrmation and
negation to the primordial instincts, Freud declares: Afrmation as
a substitute for uniting belongs to Eros; negation the successor to
expulsion belongs to the instinct of destruction (Freud 1961b: 239,
emphasis added).
Once actualised, the death instincts negativity is
crucial to completing the psychic surface; in being turned outwards
and then back, it establishes conscience and the superego. These nal
negations exceed the egos reality principle, internalise the real negativity
of external authority gures, and desexualise libido energies so they can
be sublimated into thought. But they are once again linked by Freud to
actual external events through his insistence on the reality of childhood
events of trauma and on there being a real event of primal patricide at the
foundation of individual and collective psychic life. Freuds aspiration
to scientic rigour leads him to this privileging of the external worlds
negations in the constitution of the psychic surface: as he states in the
Introductory Lectures, he prefers to represent the origin of psychic
conict in terms of an external frustration that is supplemented by
an internal one because it hints at the probability that the internal
impediments arose from real external obstacles during the prehistoric
periods of human development (Freud 1966: 350).
Klein inverts many of the priorities in Freuds conception of early
development. She pushes the start of the Oedipus complex back, rst
214 Nathan Widder
to the beginning of the second year and ultimately to the second six
months of life (see Klein 1998: 129 and 1975: 2), holding it to be
largely completed by age three (Klein 1998: 151). Moreover, she links
the formation of the Freudian superego to a series of pre-Oedipal
developments, but she also posits the existence of an infantile superego
and a pregenital sense of guilt that are far more persecutory than
what Freud sees as the culmination of the Oedipus complex (Klein
1998: 133, 1867). Although initially accepting the thesis of primary
narcissism (Klein 1998: 85, 128), she eventually holds all narcissism
and auto-eroticism to result from object relations, thereby taking the
processes of introjection and projection to be primary (Klein 1975:
13, 51). As a result, it is no longer possible to privilege real and
external negations in psychic development, and the worlds of phantasy
and reality are intertwined: external and internal situations are always
interdependent, since introjection and projection operate side by side
from the beginning of life (Klein 1975: 139). Early psychic life is
governed by the often violent interplay between these two worlds,
each mirroring but also distorting the other, but external negations are
fundamentally displaced, as Klein maintains that the death instincts
destructiveness and a corresponding unconscious fear of death are
present from birth. Consequently, the origins of anxiety, mastery of
which is both the primary task of the ego (Klein 1986: 216) and the
essential determinant of normal versus neurotic psychic development
(Klein 1989: 1767), cannot be located in external frustrations such
as those linked to weaning, the loss of the mother, or castration
threat imposed by the father. Castration anxiety is a modication,
in the course of development, of the earliest anxiety situation, which
is created by the projection of excessive cruelty onto both parents
by the early sadistic super-ego (Klein 1998: 213). Moreover, if we
assume the existence of a death instinct, we must also assume that
in the deepest layers of the mind there is a response to this instinct
in the form of fear of annihilation of life. Thus . . . the danger arising
from the inner working of the death instinct is the rst cause of
anxiety (Klein 1975: 29). The psychic surface now arises only when,
through phantasy, these destructive impulses are thrust outward the
sadistic phantasies wrapped up in the oral-sucking phase constitute the
childs rst relation to the external world (Klein 1998: 2923) and they
continue in the anal-sadistic phase where faeces and urine are seen as
poisons (Klein 1998: 21920) and are then modied so that the anxiety
displaced onto the external world does not overwhelm the still weak
infantile ego and prevent the stabilisation of symbolic relations (Klein
From Negation to Disjunction: Deleuze and Klein 215
1998: 232). Conversely, schizophrenia develops when the capacity
for personication and for transference fails, amongst other reasons,
through the defective functioning of the projection-mechanism (Klein
1998: 208), leading to a severe inhibition of the capacity to form and
use symbols, and so to develop phantasy life (Klein 1975: 138). As it
is also for Deleuze, schizophrenia amounts to a failure to establish a
psychic surface able to mediate the connection between words and things
(Deleuze 1990: 8293). A controlled deployment of sadistic phantasy is
therefore crucial to psychic development.
Against both Freud and Klein, Deleuze refuses to accept negation
as the differenciator and driving force in the surfaces development.
Instead, he posits a differenciator that carries out a disjunctive synthesis
among the differences related at and through the surface. Negation
certainly establishes a disjunction among differences, but Deleuze
holds that its disjunction remains a kind of exclusion. With negation,
differences only communicate to the degree to which they still mirror
one another, making it yet another way in which difference is submitted
to the principles of identity, as what diverges no longer relates. In
contrast, the challenge, Deleuze holds, is to make divergence . . . no
longer a principle of exclusion, and disjunction no longer a means of
separation. Incompossibility is now a means of communication . . . the
whole question, and rightly so, is to know under what conditions
the disjunction is a veritable synthesis (Deleuze 1990: 174). Such
a synthesis requires that everything happens through the resonance
of disparates, point of view on a point of view, displacement of
perspective, differentiation of difference, and not through the identity
of contraries (Deleuze 1990: 175). Such a disjunctive synthesis, relating
the differences it brings together through their difference rather than any
unity, constitutes the surface as the site of an event. This event is not
merely a factual or real occasion, but a communication between real and
phantastic worlds, which never correspond. Thus, on one side, there is
the part of the event which is realized and accomplished; on the other,
there is that part of the event which cannot realize its accomplishment
(Deleuze 1990: 1512).
Being committed to negation, Klein certainly does not theorise psychic
development in terms of this kind of resonance. Indeed, for her, normal
development culminates with the ego consolidating itself in such a way
that the psychic surface not only maintains the negative separation of
inner and outer worlds but also allows the former to become sufciently
stable so that it can mirror the distinct objects found in the latter. Even
though she rejects Freuds privileging of real negations, Klein in many
216 Nathan Widder
respects follows his scientic approach of treating the real separations
between real objects as the standard to determine successful formation
of a stable psyche. However, the resonance and communication of
divergences is precisely what Klein portrays in her analysis of the
infants initial situation, a condition in which it encounters only
fragmentary part-objects that are simultaneously good and bad, loving
and terrifying. The negative force of the infants aggressive instincts,
along with the real stability of the external divisions to which its
phantasms ultimately conform, allow the infant eventually to organise
its world into fairly unambiguous, stable, and complete objects. But for
Deleuze, no such external stability exists and aggressive instincts are
not forces of negation but rather of disjunction. In Deleuzes account,
therefore, the synthesis of part-objects never fully overcomes their
II. From the Paranoid-Schizoid Position to the
Manic-Depressive Position
The major part of Deleuzes engagement with Klein deals with her
theory of pre-Oedipal positions.
The Kleinian infant rst encounters
a chaotic world of part-objects, from which springs . . . the phantastic
and unrealistic nature of the childs relation to all objects . . . The object-
world of the child in the rst two or three months of its life could be
described as consisting of hostile and persecuting, or else of gratifying
parts and portions of the real world (Klein 1998: 285). The breast,
which contains all nourishment but does not guarantee its presence or
generosity, is the prototype for good and bad part-objects alike. Through
phantasy, the infants loving and aggressive impulses are projected
onto it, so that it becomes at once benevolent and persecutory; but
these aspects are also introjected and become extreme imagos operating
within the psyche. Projection corresponds to object-relationship while
introjection corresponds to superego formation (Klein 1989: 178).
Phantastic imagos mirror and are mirrored by external objects: for
all children in the beginning external reality is mainly a mirror of the
childs own instinctual life (Klein 1998: 233); from the very beginning
of psychic development there is a constant correlation of real objects
with those installed within the ego (Klein 1998: 266). This explains the
childs xation on its mother even if, because of severe distortion in its
perceptions of both the internal and the external worlds, its phantasy
life remains inadequate to reality. A resonance thus emerges between a
From Negation to Disjunction: Deleuze and Klein 217
simulacrum of part-objects
and a phantasm of imagos, with the infant
unable to clearly distinguish the real from the imagined.
For Kleins infant, part-objects are not only mixed together but
are also merged. The mother being considered the source of all good
things, the fathers penis is thought to be within her (Klein 1989:
195). Indeed, according to the childs earliest phantasies (or sexual
theories) of parental coitus, the fathers penis (or his whole body)
becomes incorporated in the mother during the act (Klein 1998: 219).
Moreover, reecting the ambivalence in the childs sexual and aggressive
impulses, these part-objects are seemingly intractable amalgamations of
good and bad, making them both loved and hated objects, and this
ambivalence is also internalised through introjection. Both parents come
to be seen as castrators (Klein 1998: 190; also 1989: 131) and are even
united into a single terrifying imago (Klein 1989: 253). As real and
phantastic objects double one another, with reality tests applied to the
external parents serving as an indirect way of judging the corresponding
internal imagos,
a dialectic arises between inner and outer worlds that
reinforces infantile anxieties.
From the beginning the ego introjects objects good and bad, for both
of which its mothers breast is the prototype for good objects when the
child obtains it, for bad ones when it fails him. But it is because the baby
projects its own aggression on to these objects that it feels them to be bad
and not only in that they frustrate its desires: the child conceives of them
as actually dangerous persecutors who it fears will devour it, scoop out
the inside of its body, cut it to pieces, poison it in short, compassing its
destruction by all the means which sadism can devise. These imagos, which
are a phantastically distorted picture of the real objects upon which they are
based, become installed not only in the outside world but, by the process of
incorporation, also within the ego. Hence, quite little children pass through
anxiety-situations (and react to them with defence-mechanisms), the content
of which is comparable to that of the psychoses of adults. (Klein 1998: 262)
Responding like a tiny Manichean, the infant struggles to secure itself
from anxiety by strictly separating good and bad. It does this through
both phantasies and real actions, unable completely to tell the difference.
It thus it takes its most sadistic phantasies to be acts it has really carried
out on its parents.
Its ego being weak and dispersed, splitting is the
infants primary defence mechanism. Its sadistic and aggressive impulses
being ascendant, the infant aims to divide part-objects, expelling and
destroying what it deems bad and introjecting and possessing the good.
But as its world lacks any stable boundaries, these separations cannot
be sustained. To ward off the anxiety generated internally by its own
218 Nathan Widder
death instinct, the infant directs its aggression against bad part-objects,
but anxiety then returns as a fear of these objects retaliating (Klein 1998:
220); meanwhile, the infant cannot project its aggression onto external
part-objects without also identifying with these part-objects and so re-
internalising the bad, the end result being that it suffers persecutory
anxieties from both internal and external attackers. Attempts to introject
the good object so as to protect it are ultimately ambiguous because of
continuing anxiety and the infants sense that its inside is also a bad place
(Klein 1998: 2645). Furthermore, the ego is incapable of splitting the
object internal and external without a corresponding splitting taking
place within the ego (Klein 1975: 6), so that the egos own defence
mechanisms weaken it. On the one hand, the ego becomes excessively
dependent on external objects it idealises as good (Klein 1975: 9); on the
other hand, while the ego strengthens itself by introjecting good part-
objects, it cannot avoid incorporating bad or sadistic objects as well.
Finally, since good and bad cannot be cleanly separated, attacks on bad
part-objects necessarily bring harm to good part-objects as well (Klein
1975: 6), and good objects are easily transformed into bad ones (Klein
1998: 268).
All of this denes the paranoid-schizoid position that dominates the
rst months of life: The accumulation of anxieties of this nature, in
which the ego is, as it were, caught between a variety of external and
internal persecution-situations, is a basic element in paranoia (Klein
1975: 1112). It is marked by an early superego that works off the
anxiety aroused by the childs sadism, as opposed to the adult superego
that arouses less anxiety and more sense of guilt (Klein 1998: 252).
However, as sexual development approaches the genital stage, where
sexual instincts nally attain independence from vital and aggressive
ones, libidinal impulses grow stronger and sadistic ones weaken (Klein
1989: 175). With this, the most terrifying and anxiety-producing imagos
retreat, the discrepancy between the superegos phantastic objects and
the egos real objects diminishes, and the egos suppression of the id
becomes less violent (Klein 1989: 1545). As early sadism subsides, the
infant can synthesise part-objects into complete objects, coming to see
its mother as a person, for example. But in achieving this synthesis of
good and bad part-objects, the resulting unity is a whole but damaged
love object.
The infant now enters a new, manic-depressive position, characterised
by feeling the loss of the loved object Not until the object is loved
as a whole can its loss be felt as a whole (Klein 1998: 264). Its
stronger ego being more capable of love but also now able to assume
From Negation to Disjunction: Deleuze and Klein 219
responsibility for itself, depressive anxiety is intensied, for the infant
feels he has destroyed or is destroying a whole object by his greed
and uncontrollable aggression . . . he now feels that these destructive
impulses are directed against a loved person (Klein 1975: 50). A quest
now begins to repair the damaged parent, its specic form guided by the
choice of primary sexual object at the genital stage: the boy, whose libido
changes to the aim of penetration, retains the mother as his primary
object, while the girl, keeping the receptive aim of the earlier oral phase,
turns to the father (Klein 1998: 186). The project is encouraged by a
new sense of omnipotence, which works as a defence against depressive
anxiety but which is also closely bound up with unconscious sadistic
impulses, so that the child feels again and again that his attempts at
reparation have not succeeded, or will not succeed (Klein 1998: 350).
The penis visible in the boys case and introjected from the father in
the girls becomes the representative of this power (Klein 1998: 244;
also 1989: 233) and thus a tool of reparation. For the boy, the penis
is then felt to be a good and curative organ, which shall afford the
woman pleasure, cure her injured genital and create babies in her (Klein
1998: 315), while for the girl, the discovery that she cannot make these
reparations leads her to penis-envy (Klein 1989: 216). At this point,
obviously, the Freudian Oedipus complex appears: Anxiety and guilt
add a powerful impetus towards the beginning of the Oedipus complex
(Klein 1975: 50). Its resolution, like its inception, is made possible
by the passage through the two pre-Oedipal positions, as a result of
which the demarcation between conscious and unconscious is more
distinct. These developments make it possible for repression to take a
leading part among the defences (Klein 1975: 86). Through its use of
repression, the ego can now full the demands of the superego without
risking itself: since in repression the splitting predominantly effects a
division between conscious and unconscious, neither part of the self
is exposed to the degree of disintegration which may arise in previous
stages (Klein 1975: 86). Repression is also a pre-requisite for symbol
formation, which functions primarily to direct the sublimation of libido
energies towards non-sexual interests (Klein 1998: 86; see also 221, and
1975: 83, 115, 1378). The next several years are lled with vacillations
and regressions, but culminate in the resolution of the Oedipus complex
and the establishment of the nal form of the superego.
The development Klein traces depends on the separations between
real objects being sufciently stable so that phantastic imagos can adapt
to them. Because there are real complete objects to which the child
can conform, it is able to move from the paranoid-schizoid to the
220 Nathan Widder
manic-depressive position and then to the Oedipus complex. Deleuze
breaks with Klein precisely on this point: the child, he holds, never
outgrows the original chaos of part-objects, because reality is a
simulacrum a multiplicity of differences that never forma unity because
they are synthesised through a difference in itself that both connects
them and sustains their discontinuity. As such, the phantasm of imagos
that relates to this external reality at and through the psychic surface
can never amount to a good or bad copy of this reality, and the
issue of whether phantasms have real or imaginary causes is thereby
displaced. The two domains relate not through their correspondence
but rather through their difference: phantasms, even when they are
effects and because they are effects, differ in nature from their real
causes (Deleuze 1990: 21011). However, the phantasm itself is also
a disjunctive synthesis, and, as such, it is constituted as an event within
thought that allows thoughts linguistic propositions, which relate it to
things, to make sense. As such, negation whether held to originate in
the psyche or in the outside world cannot account for the separations
between the constituents of the internal and external domains, nor the
separations between the domains themselves. Indeed, it is not even a
matter of the two worlds being separated but also mediated in a way
adequate to reality, but of their folding into and resonating with each
other: The question of whether particular events are real or imaginary
is poorly posed. The distinction is not between the imaginary and the
real, but between the event as such and the corporeal state of affairs
which incites it about or in which it is actualized (Deleuze 1990: 210).
But the effects of replacing negation with disjunction go beyond
just preventing any nal stability for Kleins infant. It also changes
completely the mechanism of the childs passage through pre-Oedipal
positions. The infant may never be successful in this world of simulacra,
but it nonetheless endeavours to split the good from the bad, and,
eventually, to repair a complete good object and identify with it (Deleuze
1990: 1878). However, Deleuze maintains, since good is associated
with purity and fullness, all part-objects are necessarily bad: every
piece is bad in principle (that is, persecuting and persecutor), only what
is wholesome and complete is good (188). Furthermore, and against
Klein, Deleuze contends that because of the ambivalences associated
with introjection and projection, these processes cannot secure the
synthesis that constitutes the good object: introjection, to be precise,
does not allow what is wholesome to subsist . . . the equilibrium proper
to the schizoid position and its relation to the subsequent depressive
position do not seem capable of coming about from the introjection
From Negation to Disjunction: Deleuze and Klein 221
of a good object as such, and they must be revised (188). But given
that reality does not offer whole objects with stable boundaries to
serve as a guide, where within the simulacrum of corporeal part-
objects does the child nd inspiration for its enterprise? The answer
for Deleuze is in the simulacrums differenciator, here termed the body
without organs what the schizoid position opposes to bad partial
objects . . . is . . . an organism without parts, a body without organs, with
neither mouth nor anus, having given up all introjection or projection,
and being complete, at this price (188). Deleuze associates this body
without organs with the urethral attacks of the anal-sadistic phase
(1889), noting that Klein makes no such distinction between urine
and faeces (3512 n. 3). Circulating through the dispersed part-objects,
this uid body without organs provides a principle of purity that the
child can use to organise itself and its surroundings. But its resistance
to introjection also places it on another level, which corresponds to the
manic-depressive position that follows the paranoid-schizoid position.
It seems to us that the good object is not introjected as such, because it belongs
from the very start to another dimension. The good object has another
position. It belong to the heights, it holds itself above, and does not allow
itself to fall without also changing its nature . . . The superego does not begin
with the rst introjected objects, as Melanie Klein says, but rather with this
good object which holds itself aloft. (189)
Thus, although the splitting process does not move the infant out of
the paranoid-schizoid position, the mechanism for this transition is
immanent to it, as the good object forms itself in the current of this
[schizoid] position, with borrowings, blockages, and pressures which
attest to a constant communication between the two [positions] (190).
The way the body without organs, arising fromwithin the simulacrumof
part-objects, generates the appearance of a transcendent reference point,
an idol on high (192), raises the infant to the manic-depressive position.
From there, it sets the conditions for the intervention of the castration
threat and thus the introduction of the Oedipal drama.
III. From Oedipus to the Thought of Eternal Return
For Klein, the passage through the Oedipus complex brings the superego
and external objects into alignment so as to comply with both the
requirements of reality and phantastic commands (Klein 1989: 180).
Upon reaching this level, the internalized imagos will approximate more
closely to reality and the ego will identify itself more fully with good
222 Nathan Widder
objects (Klein 1998: 264). As the child learns that its own aggression
was the source of bad objects, it comes to see its parents more accurately
(Klein 1975: 242). Thus, although every synthesis of good and bad part-
objects also renews the splitting of imagos, this splitting is carried out
on planes which gradually become increasingly nearer and nearer to
reality (Klein 1998: 288).
In contrast, Deleuze rejects the possibility
of such correspondence because the complete good object that leads
psychic development from the paranoid-schizoid to the manic-depressive
position and beyond is not a real object but only a simulation. At this
point Lacanian elements enter Deleuzes account, as the good object
becomes associated with the phallus.
The phallus marks always an
excess and a lack. . . It is essentially an excess, as it projects itself over the
genital zone of the child, duplicating its penis, and inspiring it with the
Oedipal affair. But it is essentially lack and deciency when it designates,
at the heart of the affair, the absence of the penis in the case of the
mother (Deleuze 1990: 2278). Nevertheless, this does not make it a
foundational negativity. Instead, oscillating between one and the other
[excess and lack] and even being both at once (227), the phallus is
fundamentally a differenciator of difference. As such, its negativity is at
best derivative. Furthermore, acting as a differenciator, the phallus does
not ultimately consolidate the ego but instead effects its dissolution.
Consigned to the heights, the good object is by nature a lost object.
It only shows itself and appears from the start as already lost, as having
been lost (Deleuze 1990: 191). Its ambivalence is thus fundamentally
different than the ambivalence of part-objects in the paranoid-schizoid
position: it is both loving and threatening because it is pure, mysterious
and good (191). Characterised as transcendent, the good object begins
the separation of the incorporeal from the corporeal the depressive
position prepares us for something which is neither action nor passion
(192) but, as a hidden source, it lacks the connection to subjects,
objects, and concepts required for the incorporeality of language and
thought. The good object has the dimensions of a language without
having its condition; it awaits the event that will make it a language
(193). In other words, it must be reinvested, not into the part-objects
that belong to an opposing world of depth, but onto a surface that can
cause the two domains to resonate.
This is achieved through the good objects organisation of
erotogenetic zones on the bodys physical surface, a process that
culminates in the genital phase, where sexual drives attain their
independence and the libido becomes a veritable supercial energy
(Deleuze 1990: 199). In this process, the phallus becomes the privileged
From Negation to Disjunction: Deleuze and Klein 223
signier of the lost object, serving the direct and global function
of integration, or of general coordination . . . And the phallus, in this
respect, does not play the role of an organ, but rather that of a particular
image projected. . . onto this privileged (genital) zone (200). But rather
than being a signier of transcendent law, the phallus is an image
donated by the good object the child receives the phallus as an image
that the good ideal penis projects over the genital zone of his body
(203) but a donation that inhabits the surface, aiming to mediate the
childs relation to the heights. It is an instrument of the surface, meant
to mend the wounds that the destructive drives . . . have inicted on the
maternal body, and to reassure the good object, to convince it not to turn
its face away (201). It gives to the childs penis the force of embarking
on the venture (206) of making reparations to the damaged object.
However, it also initiates Oedipal anxiety, introducing negation into
the story as the delineation of the sexual surface denes the mothers
body by a lack and elevates the father to the position of being owner
of the penis. For the boy, his loving attempt to restore his mother by
substituting himself for his father also introduces murder and castration:
by wishing to restore the mother, the child has in fact castrated and
eventrated her; and . . . by wishing to bring back the father, the child has
betrayed and killed him, transformed him into a cadaver (206). The
destructive impulses, which were subordinated along with the pregenital
organisation of the sexual surface when libidinal instincts were elevated,
now return, but in a different form, as the Oedipal drama establishes
intention as an ethical category (206), which raises the agency of
aggressive impulses to a new level of thought. Death and castration carry
out a desexualisation of libido energies, which are then sublimated to
form the second screen, the cerebral or metaphysical surface (218).
Oedipus thereby not only traces a line of castration on the physical
surface of the body, but enacts a process of symbolisation (208).
Death, castration and murder now become the never fully identiable
components of an Oedipal phantasmthat circulates between the physical
surface of sexuality and the metaphysical surface of thought. Deleuze
here rejects the Kleinian ascription of phantasms to the pre-Oedipal
positions, holding the phantasm to arise only with desexualisation and
symbolisation, not prior to them (Deleuze 1990: 21516). Through
the phantasm acting as a differenciator between the physical and
metaphysical surfaces, sexuality is brought into thought, as the trace
of castration remains even after sexual energies have been sublimated,
while, thought, via symbolisation, reinvests its desexualised energies
onto the bodys surface (2423). The two surfaces thereby fold into
224 Nathan Widder
each other yet remain irreducible: the sexual organisation of thought
pregures language (2303, 2412), but language arises only in so far as
sexuality is sublimated into something different; symbolisation, in turn,
never fully collapses the symbol into what is symbolised. The Oedipal
phantasm resonates between these sexual and desexualised surfaces, but
it also refers to the pregenital and genital organisations of the body, since
it constitutes a traumatic event that separates the two orders and, indeed,
constitutes them through this separation (226). Through the phantasm,
pregenital and genital sexualities continue to resonate in the unconscious
Ultimately, then, the Deleuzian surface is composed of disjunctions
upon disjunctions: the disjunctions of simulacra produce the appearance
of the lost good object that, through the image of the phallus, guides
the separation of sexual and aggressive drives and the subordination
of the pregenital organisation of the sexual surface to the genital
organisation; the disjunction of these surfaces via castration desexualises
and sublimates libido energies into thought; and the surfaces of sexuality
and thought continue to resonate through their difference. The body
without organs, the phallus donated by the good object, and the Oedipal
phantasm are the three surface differenciators effecting the necessary
disjunctive syntheses. Each is a difference in its own right, a difference
in itself marked by a certain opacity, but each is also immanent to the
differences it brings together. But only the phantasm brings together
all the constituents, as it recovers and integrates not only images but
even idols and simulacra (Deleuze 1990: 219). And, ultimately, it is the
resonance of the phantasms disjunctive movement that is the nonsense
that generates sense, although this includes the phallus in so far as it gets
involved in Oedipal dissociations (227). The phantasm functions in this
way because
throughout all of that which language will designate, manifest, or signify,
there will be a sexual history that will never be designated, manifested, or
signied in itself, but which will coexist with all the operations of language,
recalling the sexual appurtenance of the formative linguistic elements. This
status of sexuality accounts for repression. (243)
The phantasm thereby underpins the identities of denoted bodies,
signied concepts, and the self that manifests or expresses itself in
language; but precisely because it is a movement of disjunction, the
phantasm is also linked to a decentring through which these identities,
and particularly the identity of the ego, are dissolved. Although the
From Negation to Disjunction: Deleuze and Klein 225
phantasm nds its point of departure (or its author) in the phallic
ego of secondary narcissism, seeming to depend on the pre-Oedipal
consolidation of the ego traced by Klein, within the phantasm the ego
is neither active nor passive and does not allow itself at any moment
to be xed in a place, even if this place were reversible (212). This
dissolution of the ego, Deleuze argues, must not be confused with a
similar dissolution carried out in dialectics: if the ego is dissipated in
it [the phantasm], it is not perhaps because of an identity of contraries,
or a reversal whereby the active would become passive (213). Arising
through disjunction, this process transforms the ego into an event: the
individuality of the ego merges with the event of the phantasm itself,
even if that which the event represents in the phantasm is understood as
another individual, or rather a series of individuals through which the
dissolved ego passes (21314).
As the process of the constitution of the incorporeal (Deleuze 1990:
220), the phantasms extrinsic or external beginning is castration (219),
but it also has an intrinsic beginning in a repetition of beginnings
(220) that is to say, in the resonance of pregenital and genital sexual
series through the differenciator of the phallus, each series repeating the
other without one being the original and the other the copy. Ultimately,
however, the phantasm develops to the extent that the resonance
induces a forced movement that goes beyond and sweeps away the basic
series . . . the forced movement of an amplitude greater than the initial
movement (239). In this regard, while Eross sexual instincts initiate the
surfaces development, it is Thanatos, the death instinct, that performs
the excessive forced movement, dissolving the ego, desexualising libido
instincts, and sublimating theminto thought: We can therefore name the
entire forced movement death instinct, and name its full amplitude
metaphysical surface (240). In Difference and Repetition, Deleuze
criticises Freud for restricting himself to a material model of death and
brute repetition, which is reected in the conception of the death instinct
as a drive to return to an earlier, inorganic state (Deleuze 1994: 11112).
With Freud, death is thereby reduced to negation . . . to the negative of
opposition . . . [or] the negative of limitation (112). But with the death
instinct transformed into a force of disjunction, it becomes the principle
of the repetition/resonance of sexuality, driving sexuality beyond itself:
Thanatos (as transcendental principle) is that which gives repetition to
Eros, that which submits Eros to repetition (18).
The creation of the surface now culminates with Nietzsche, as the
Oedipal phantasm becomes the site of the eternal return (Deleuze
1990: 220). Although the phantasm could not have emerged without the
226 Nathan Widder
positing of the idol of the lost good object, it ends with the subversion
of this world the twilight of the idols (262). It ends, in other words,
with the destruction of the Oedipal Law. By dissolving the ego, the
phantasm paves the way for self-overcoming. And by raising disjunction
to the level of thinking and going beyond its sexual origins, it makes
way for a creative break with the compulsions and necessities of both
the instincts and the past. In explaining the temporal structure of eternal
return, Deleuze argues that the present is no more than an actor, an
author, an agent destined to be effaced; while the past is no more than a
condition operating by default (Deleuze 1994: 94). The past delineates
the conditions for action in the present, but action still could not occur
without a consolidation of the ego in relation to an ego-ideal from on
high, which makes the self equal to the task (11011). Nevertheless,
the event and the act possess a secret coherence which excludes that of the
self . . . they turn back against the self which has become their equal and
smash it to pieces, as though the bearer of the new world were carried away
and dispersed by the shock of the multiplicity to which it gives birth: what
the self has become equal to is the unequal in itself. (8990)
There is thus a link between the eternal return, death and the futures
To think and to act is to work off of a simulation of
transcendent unity in order to replace unity with a resonance and
communication between divergent differences.
There is, of course, an uncreative form of thinking the risk is
obviously that the phantasm falls back on the poorest thought, on a
puerile and redundant diurnal reverie about sexuality (Deleuze 1990:
220) but when the phantasm sustains the resonance between sexuality
and thought, it nds its path of glory in the thought of eternal return:
What kind of metamorphosis is it, when thought invests (or reinvests)
that which is projected over its surface with its own desexualised energy?
The answer is that thought does it in the guise of the Event (220). Raised
to this level, thinking becomes inseparable from transmutation and the
revaluation of values, and to a dissolution of identity that is part and
parcel of Deleuzes political and philosophical thought throughout his
1. This paper is a development of analyses rst published in my Reections on Time
and Politics (Widder 2008). They were also presented in a paper of the same title
at the rst annual Deleuze Studies conference in Cardiff in August 2008.
From Negation to Disjunction: Deleuze and Klein 227
2. Deleuze himself asks: How can we maintain both that sense produces even
the states of affairs in which it is embodied, and that it is itself produced by
these states of affairs or the actions and passions of bodies (an immaculate
conception)? (Deleuze 1990: 124).
3. The politics linked to this seemingly sterile ontology is, of course, the one that is
explored in different ways by iek, Laclau and Mouffe (1985), and others who
insist upon the need to construct collective identity through strategies such as
hegemonic articulation. On the limitations of the political theory and practice
that iek seems to think goes unnoticed by Deleuze and his followers, see
Widder (2000). The differences between contemporary Deleuze- and Lacan-
inspired approaches to ontology and politics has been cashed out by Tnder and
Thomassen (2005). The contributions to that volume show quite clearly that
Deleuzian politics is neither limited to the Hardt and Negri variety nor reducible
to the collaborative work with Guattari.
4. In addition to little direct engagement with Deleuze, iek singularly ignores
evidence of Lacans approval of or at least his unwillingness to dismiss Anti-
Oedipus (see Smith 2004: 6356), as well as Deleuze and Guattaris consistent
separation of Lacan from Lacanianism, which is apparent all the way up through
Deleuzes highly critical and polemical Dead Psychoanalysis: Analyse, where
he writes: It cannot be said that they [psychoanalysts] are very jolly; see the
dead look they have, their stiff necks (only Lacan has kept a certain sense of
laughter, but he admits that he is forced to laugh alone) (Deleuze and Parnet
1987: 82). Moreover, ieks reading is built around the questionable ascription
of a series of oppositions to Deleuzes thought, many taken from Badious
Deleuze: The Clamour of Being (Badiou 2000), on which iek admits he relied
extensively (iek 2004: 20 n. 24). It is simply a joke, for example, to equate
the virtual with pure becoming and the actual with stable and reied being, as
iek consistently does (see iek 2004: 910, 20, 24, 26, 28), or to proclaim
that virtualization and actualization are two sides of the same coin (84). The
former idea is belied by Deleuzes statement in Difference and Repetition that
all identities are only simulated, produced as an optical effect by the more
profound game of difference and repetition (Deleuze 1994: xix), which suggests
that no coagulation of becoming actually takes place; the latter is contradicted
by Deleuze and Guattaris statement that if we go back up in the opposite
direction, from states of affairs to the virtual, the line is not the same because it
is not the same virtual (we can therefore go down it as well without it merging
with the previous line) (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 156). Of course, it goes
unnoticed by iek that Deleuze does not even use the terminology of virtual
and actual in The Logic of Sense. This paper does not aim to go systematically
through ieks reading, but Smith (2004) provides an excellent review. On
Deleuzes relationship with Hegel see Smith (2000); Widder (2003; 2008). On
his relationship to Lacan see Widder (2005; 2008).
5. Indeed, Melanie Klein is not mentioned once in ieks book although Naomi
Klein earns some of his attention.
6. When Melanie Kleins children say a tummy or ask How do people grow
up?, Melanie Klein hears my mummys tummy or Will I be big like my
daddy? When they say a Hitler, a Churchill, Melanie Klein sees here the
possessive of the bad mother or of the good father (Deleuze and Parnet 1987:
7. On difference in itself as a differenciator of difference, see Deleuze (1994: 117).
8. Deleuze here follows mile Brhiers (1997) reading of the ancient Stoics
conception of the four incorporeals: place, void, time and sayables (lekta).
228 Nathan Widder
On the one hand, Brhier maintains that Stoic incorporeals have the character
of becomings or events that arise from and circumscribe the interactions of
corporeal bodies; on the other hand, he holds them to constitute corporeal
interactions, which could not occur without these incorporeals acting as a
surface through which bodies interact. The incorporeals embedded in corporeal
utterances allow these utterances to have meaning and to correspond to the
events that arise from bodies. The relationship of these incorporeals thereby
forms a surface that allows corporeal thought and the corporeal world to
connect. Deleuze here breaks with Brhier by treating this surface as a disjunctive
differenciator that brings together thought and things but prevents them from
ever corresponding.
9. This issue of negations secondary status is taken up in Lacans seminars.
Hyppolite (in Lacan 2006: 74654) holds that as a successor to expulsion,
negation must be a distinct and subsequent development of the death drive,
whose original processes can be pleasurable. Lacan himself (2006: 30833)
holds Freuds expulsion to refer to a primordial excision of oral impulses that
goes beyond repression and constitutes the real, making negation a subsequent
symbolisation of the trace of this unsayable real. On the controversy that ensued
between Klein and her opponents over the existence of negativity and anxiety in
the infantile unconscious see Kristeva (2001: 16977) and Rose (1993: ch. 5),
who both also discuss Kleins theories of negation and symbolisation in relation
to Lacan.
10. Klein explains her use of the term position, which she introduces after
The Psycho-Analysis of Children (Klein 1989), as follows: I chose the term
position in regard to the paranoid and depressive phases because these
groupings of anxieties and defences, although arising rst during the earliest
stages, are not restricted to them but occur and recur during the rst years of
childhood and under certain circumstances in later life (Klein 1975: 93).
11. Deleuze explicitly uses the term simulacra to describe the early world of
Kleins infant: We call this world of introjected and projected, alimentary and
excremental partial internal objects the world of simulacra (Deleuze 1990: 187).
12. The fact that by being internalized, people, things, situations and
happenings the whole inner world which is being built up becomes
inaccessible to the childs accurate observation and judgement, and cannot be
veried by the means of perception which are available in connection with the
tangible and palpable object-world, has an important bearing on the phantastic
nature of this inner world. The ensuing doubts, uncertainties and anxieties act
as a continuous incentive to the young child to observe and make sure about
the external object-world, from which this inner world springs, and by these
means to understand the internal one better. The visible mother thus provides
continuous proofs of what the internal mother is like, whether she is loving
or angry, helpful or revengeful (Klein 1998: 346).
13. A most important feature of these destructive phantasies, which are tantamount
to death-wishes, is that the baby feels that what he desires in his phantasies has
really taken place; that is to say he feels that he has really destroyed the object
of his destructive impulses, and is going on destroying it: this has extremely
important consequences for the development of his mind (Klein 1998: 308).
14. This reconciliation of phantasy and reality, however, seems largely an
assumption. And, as Klein acknowledges, irrational splitting and idealisation
recur in adolescence: Young people tend to be very aggressive and unpleasant
to their parents, and to other people who lend themselves to it, such as servants,
a weak teacher, or disliked schoolmates. But when hatred reaches such strength,
the necessity to preserve goodness and love within and without becomes all the
From Negation to Disjunction: Deleuze and Klein 229
more urgent. The aggressive youth is therefore driven to nd people whom he
can look up to and idealize (Klein 1998: 329).
15. The link to Lacan is made even stronger by Lacans association of the phallus
with simulacra: The phallus can be better understood on the basis of its function
here. In Freudian doctrine, the phallus is not a fantasy, if we are to view fantasy
as an imaginary effect. Nor is it as such an object (part-, internal, good, bad,
etc.) inasmuch as object tends to gauge the reality involved in a relationship.
Still less is it the organ penis or clitoris that it symbolizes. And it is no accident
that Freud adopted as a reference the simulacrum it represented to the Ancients
(Lacan 2006: 690).
16. The secondary status of repression is also a theme in Difference and Repetition:
I do not repeat because I repress. I repress because I repeat, I forget because I
repeat. I repress, because I can live certain things or certain experiences only in
the mode of repetition. I am determined to repress whatever would prevent me
from living them thus (Deleuze 1994: 18).
17. The ultimate synthesis concerns only the future, since it announces in the
superego the destruction of the Id and the ego, of the past as well as the present,
of the condition and the agent . . . If there is an essential relation between eternal
return and death, it is because it promises and implies once and for all the
death of that which is one. If there is an essential relation with the future, it
is because the future is the deployment and explication of the multiple, of the
different and of the fortuitous, for themselves and for all times (Deleuze 1994:
18. These last connections between death, the death instinct, the structure of time
and Nietzsches eternal return are developed more fully in Widder (2008).
Badiou, Alain (2000) Deleuze: The Clamour of Being, trans. Louise Burchill,
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Brhier, mile (1997) La Thorie des Incorporels dans lAncien Stocisme, ninth
edition, Paris: Librarie Philosophique J. Vrin.
Deleuze, Gilles (1990) The Logic of Sense, ed. Constantin Boundas, trans. Mark
Lester with Charles Stivale, New York: Columbia University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, London:
Athlone Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Claire Parnet (1987) Dialogues, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and
Barbara Habberjam, New York: Columbia University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1994) What is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh
Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, New York: Columbia University Press.
Freud, Sigmund (1961a) The Ego and the Id, in The Standard Edition of the
Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. and trans. James Strachey,
24 vols, London: Hogarth Press and the Institute for Psycho-Analysis, vol. 19,
pp. 366.
Freud, Sigmund (1961b) Negation, in The Standard Edition of the Complete
Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. and trans. James Strachey, 24 vols,
London: Hogarth Press and the Institute for Psycho-Analysis, vol. 18, pp. 2339.
Freud, Sigmund (1965) New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis, trans. James
Strachey, New York: W. W. Norton.
Freud, Sigmund (1966) Introductory Lectures to Psychoanalysis, trans. James
Strachey, New York: W. W. Norton.
230 Nathan Widder
Freud, Sigmund (1994) Civilization and its Discontents, trans. Joan Riviere,
New York: Dover Publications.
Hardt, Michael and Antoni Negri (2000) Empire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Klein, Melanie (1975) Envy and Gratitude and Other Works: 19461963,
New York: Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence.
Klein, Melanie (1986) The Selected Melanie Klein, edited by Juliet Mitchell,
Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Klein, Melanie (1989) The Psycho-Analysis of Children, trans. Alix Strachey, revised
by H. A. Thorner with Alix Strachey, London: Virago Press.
Klein, Melanie (1998) Love, Guilt and Reparation and Other Works: 19211945,
introduced by Hanna Segal, London: Vintage.
Kristeva, Julia (2001) Melanie Klein, trans. Ross Guberman, New York: Columbia
University Press.
Lacan, Jacques (2006) crits, trans. Bruce Fink in collaboration with Hlose Fink
and Russell Grigg, New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company.
Laclau, Ernesto and Chantal Mouffe (1985) Hegemony and Socialist Strategy:
Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, London: Verso.
Rose, Jacqueline (1993) Why War? Psychoanalysis, Politics and the Return to
Melanie Klein, Bucknell Lectures in Literary Theory, Oxford: Blackwell.
Smith, Daniel W. (2000) Deleuze, Hegel, and the Post-Kantian Tradition,
Philosophy Today, 44, pp. 11931.
Smith, Daniel W. (2004) The Inverse Side of the Structure: iek on Deleuze on
Lacan, Criticism, 46:4, pp. 63550.
Tnder, Lars and Lasse Thomassen (eds) (2005) Radical Democracy: Politics
Between Abundance and Lack, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Widder, Nathan (2000) Whats Lacking in the Lack: A Comment on the Virtual,
Angelaki, 5:3, pp. 11738.
Widder, Nathan (2003) Thought after Dialectics: Deleuzes Ontology of Sense,
Southern Journal of Philosophy, 41:3, pp. 45176.
Widder, Nathan (2005) Two Routes from Hegel, in Lars Tnder and Lasse
Thomassen (eds), Radical Democracy: Politics Between Abundance and Lack,
Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 3249.
Widder, Nathan (2008) Reections on Time and Politics, University Park: Penn State
University Press.
iek, Slavoj (2004) Organs Without Bodies: On Deleuze and Consequences,
New York and London: Routledge.
DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000592
Forum on Deleuze and Bacon
Introduction: Folie Deux
Andrew Conio University of Wolverhampton
On the 29 November 2008, to coincide with the rst major retrospective
of Francis Bacons works to be held in Britain since 1992, Darren
Ambrose, Andrew Conio, Margarita Gluzberg and Simon OSullivan
spoke at Tate Britain about the extraordinary folie deux between Gilles
Deleuze and Francis Bacon.
This event was an important opportunity to
evaluate the potential of Deleuzes work to lift the debate about Francis
Bacon away from the art historical, technical and psychological clichs
to be found in other works and bring to bear the full panoply of Deleuze
and Guattaris conceptual armoury to be found in Francis Bacon: The
Logic of Sensation, and in Deleuzes more general aesthetic theory
and philosophy. None of the speakers adopted a slavish conformity to
Deleuzes claims, preferring active, productive encounters with some of
Deleuzes most problematic aesthetic concepts. Three of these papers are
presented here, each providing very different reections on the multiple
paths into and out of this open and expansive relationship between
painter and philosopher.
Darren Ambrose attends to Deleuzes complex hypothesis on the
nature of the triptych, its law and order, and particularly how the
triptych recongures the gural as rhythm. In this peristaltic rhythm
is to be found the continuity between the matter of fact of painting
and the spiritual sensation of the eternity of time that is the sensations
logic. Through a close and detailed reading Darren draws out the special
importance of Deleuzes Spinozist reading of the immanent spirituality
of the modalities of the temporal made palpable through the non-human
becoming of sensation.
Simon OSullivans paper unravels the disruptive potentials brought
about by the glitch or the stammer, from Deleuze and Guattaris idea
of a minor literature, and the parallels between this and the potentials
effectuated by the diagram. In both, he argues, we nd the potential to
counteract the sclerosis and connements of regimes of signication as
232 Andrew Conio
well as the call for a future form, for a new earth and people that do
not yet exist, something that characterizes the afrmative potential of
contemporary art.
Like Simons, my own contribution aims to create appositions as
a strategy to draw correlations and disjunctions: to make concepts
work. The paper sets up a four-fold arrangement of convergences and
contradistinctions between 1) concepts from the general aesthetics to be
found in Deleuze and Guattaris What is Philosophy? and A Thousand
Plateaus, 2) the pack Deleuze/Bacon, 3) Damien Hirsts early work,
and 4) the state of the food production industry, exemplied by the
phrase becoming-packaging. Through this, it becomes possible to test
to what extent The Logic of Sensation reaches beyond the connes of
painting, and whether Hirsts art disrupts its intense formalism.
The fundamental claim of Deleuzes book is that paintings logic
of sensation is the paradigmatic form of the collapse of divisions and
oppositions such as those between gure and ground, the general and
the singular, sensual particularity and abstraction to create new sensual
relations, pulsations in the folding of materials, of peoples and worlds,
taking place on the plane of immanence. For Deleuze, the plane of
immanence is the non-thought within thought . . . it is the most intimate
within thought and yet the absolute outside an outside more distant
than an external world because it is an inside deeper that any internal
world (Deleuze 1994: 5960).
Each of the following essays argues in its own way that what
distinguishes this exceptional folie deux is its power to produce
encounters with the innite potential of the perfectly liquid (folded and
innite) distributions of intensity of the plane of immanence.
1. The event was supported by the University of Wolverhampton.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1994) What is Philosophy?, trans. Graham
Burchell and Hugh Tomlinson, New York: Columbia University Press.
DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000609
Deleuze, Bacon and the Challenge of the
Andrew Conio University of Wolverhampton
This paper tests the aesthetic theory presented in Francis Bacon: The
Logic of Sensation against the Foucauldian Turn in art in the 1980s
and Damien Hirsts early artworks, in order to ask if the concepts
taken from the more general aesthetics to be found in A Thousand
Plateaus and What is Philosophy? are better suited to an understanding
of contemporary art, before returning to the question of whether there is
something truly signicant at work in this folie deux between painter
and philosopher.
Keywords: Damien Hirst, becoming-packaging, sensation, thinking
painting, the Foucauldian Turn
For Deleuze, Bacons paintings achieve a becoming-animal, not through
correspondences but through incarnations of traits, through meat and
through the creation of zones of indiscernibility or undecidability
between man and animal that state the common fact of both. This
is all well and good, but while Bacons meat bears the suffering
and pain of man, nowhere is becoming-animal a state of repose,
stillness or grace. Bacons animals dont sleep, nurture or caress.
In the pack Deleuze-Bacon, becoming-animal is a wretched affair,
the animal emerging only through contortion and spasm. Only in
scant references to birds and music do we nd the richly and
brilliantly colourful imagery of the individuations and singularities of
melodic refrains. We have to look to A Thousand Plateaus for an
outline of the melodic counterpoints of nature as natura musicans, as
Deleuze constructs a phylo/ontogeny of becoming that has a distinct
directional (albeit without structure or genesis, therefore diachronic
and crystallising) impulse from the human to becoming-woman to
234 Andrew Conio
becoming-animal, and nally, to the higher deterritorialisation of
Bypassing its masculinism, Francis Bacons inherent evolutionary
theory has plenty to say about the ber-technological world of
contemporary food production. Becoming-animal as an aesthetic
project, and the privatisation of food production, share the basic
formula of evolution by contagion and alliance. Through the
transgression of the boundaries of liation transversal traits are to be
found both in Deleuzes aesthetic theory and in the food industrys
processes of selection. Both challenge the autonomy of entities and
unities. In art, becoming-imperceptible is to reduce oneself to an
abstract line, a trait, in order to nd ones zone of indiscernibility
with other traits, and in this way enter the haecceity and impersonality
of the creator (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 280). In the privatised
food production process, where the entire process of cellular division,
selection, reproduction, husbandry, labour and marketing is geared
towards only one outcome, becoming-molecular serves only the
exploitative potential of the phenotypic trait in order to transcend the
boundaries of descent by liation. A process that can be captured by the
phrase becoming-packaging.
Of course, becoming-animal in art and becoming-packaging are
governed by two wholly different logics. The former forms a[n]
(a-subjective) phenomenological becoming governed by the logic of
sensation and the modulation of heterogenic forces, while the latter
emerges from the capitalist colonisation of life. Capitalism exploits, and
despite its miraculous agency, that is its nature. And having exploited
the reproductive process and colonised the virtual and the unconscious,
it has now intensied its colonisation of the planets species. A process
elegantly captured by Eugene Holland;
They argue that capitalism is able to continually displace any apparent
limits to its growth by adding new axioms to its systems of axiomatization.
Thus for example when biological and/or political limits appear as obstacles
to the extraction of . . . surplus value . . . capital adds axioms of technology
to increase productivity within the system of production so that more
value . . . can be extracted. . . (Holland 1999: 114)
This appears to set up a conict between, on the one hand, the
heterogenic potential of organic life, society and human consciousness,
and the crude expropriation of lifes creative potentials by capitalist,
machinic rationality. However, as Deleuze and Guattari tirelessly point
Deleuze, Bacon and the Contemporary 235
out, subjectivity is machinic and machines are often the non-human
becomings of man.
The plane of consistency of nature is like an immense Abstract machine,
abstract yet real and individual; its pieces are the various assemblages and
individuals, each of which groups together an innity of particles entering
into an innity of more or less interconnected relations. There is therefore a
unity to the plane of nature, which applies equally to the inanimate and the
animate, the articial and the natural. (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 254)
And what more perfect example is there of man becoming more through
the non-human becomings of a machine than cinema? The machinic is a
site of becoming, or a threshold to many possible worlds, whilst nature
itself operates on the basis of machinic phylogenetic becoming (Ansell-
Pearson 1997: 135).
What is clear in becoming-packaging, however, is that difference is
indeed sought-after to create extra-ordinary new becomings, becoming
scorpion/mushroom/corn, but the heterogeneity of germinal life has now
been replaced by the repudiation of expansion, propagation, contagion
or unnatural participations. Any trait that might serve the animal
itself, any inconsistency or potential for anomaly is screened out and
destroyed. Any attempt at a re-enchantment with the natural world,
from wherever its source, is repudiated by the techno-sphere.
There are a number of clear difculties in creating homologies
between becoming-packaging and the Deleuze/Bacon coupling. We are
dealing with fundamentally divergent worlds and further parallels would
stretch the concepts to breaking point. Instead, we should perhaps ask if
Damien Hirsts work responds to the logics of becoming-packaging that
are symptomatic of capitalisms relationship with the entire life world.
To do so, we must rst situate Hirsts work within the broader terrain
of Contemporary Art.
I. The Foucauldian Turn
Over the last thirty to forty years the ideas of Jacques Derrida (the
trace and diffrance), Jean Baudrillard (simulacra, hyperreality,
and the loss of the Real), Jean-Franois Lyotard, (on the sublime
and Newman) Jacques Lacan (misrecognition), have proliferated, and
their various interpreters (Owens 1992, Krauss 1993) have provided
the philosophical balustrades for academic writing on art as well
as an indispensable intellectual infrastructure for contemporary art
practice. Despite having written relatively little on art,
236 Andrew Conio
inuence on both the values that pertain to Contemporary Art and
how those values are constructed and institutionalised, especially
his disassembling of the notions of authorship and originality, has
been considerable. This is exemplied by the Sculpture Project
Muenster (2007), which encapsulated the degree to which sculpture
has transcended the boundaries of the object and the formal concerns
of modernism to become imbued in the social and political fabrics of
architecture (Manfred Pernice), space (Pawel Althamer), desire (Mike
Kelly), education (Maria Pask), corporations (Andreas Siekman), and of
societys forgotten underclass (Valrie Jouve).
Foucaults works on the body, power and subjectivity are widely
held to have made a major contribution to the reconguration of art
practice and theory (Boyne 2002: 33748). Together with his writings
on the assignation of subjectivity, this was contiguous with new art
practices that questioned authorship, individuality and the testing of the
bodys limits in the burgeoning performance art scene of the 1980s. The
present paper, however, looks chiey to Foucaults theory of discourses,
the function of which are to organise signication, knowledge and
material practices. These discourses for example, those of madness,
punishment and sexuality regulate systems of rules for behaviour and
knowledge as well as the domain of the discourses own existence and
their functions. Claims to truth, even when they are touchingly intimate
or epistemologically or ontologically potent, are regulated according
to rules that determine what can legitimately be called knowledge.
And these claims for truth are codied into series of permissions and
legitimations governing who can claim to make statements, the place
from which they might be spoken, and their nature and object. We
nd, then, that the general terrain for much that is interesting in
Contemporary Art is provided by an acute if implicit sensitivity to
discourse formations and the potential of art to unravel hidden power
relations, as well as the articulation of strategies to intervene in and
disrupt their operations.
Instead of a search for the sublime or the transcendental, in either
its philosophical, quasi-spiritual or social forms, artists now seek to
unravel power relations that sanctify the art objects various claims
to truth. Although this is by no means an exclusively Foucauldian
project, Foucault was pre-eminent in his concern with how power and
subjectivity are naturalised and how, because power operates in minute
and seemingly unobtrusive ways, subjects are not necessarily aware
that they are being trained or disciplined. This is a concern echoed
in contemporary art practices that foreground the microstructures
Deleuze, Bacon and the Contemporary 237
of domination, not least in response to the transformation from a
Disciplinary Society to the Society of Control, according to the logic
of which power becomes anonymous and ubiquitous.
If the Foucauldian Turn provides the general milieu of Contemporary
Art, artists are certainly acting in a way that conrms Foucaults
hypothesis; if anything, they are challenging discourses by opening them
up to the wider non-discursive forces from which they are formed, in
ways that are interruptive, troublesome, dissonant. Moreover, many
contemporary art practices can be understood as implicit critiques not
only of the regulative functions of discourses, but also of the limits of a
theory that attempts to determine what is inside and outside a particular
Deleuze departs from Foucault in devising a number of other more
supple concepts to describe the formation of social bodies, including
assemblage, milieu, and abstract machine. Deleuze is rarely interested
in entities, no matter how transitory, or in describing their functions,
domains, genus and so forth. His is a philosophy of ows, of pulsations,
of becomings that are movements across discourses, logics, systems and
Thus, whilst contemporary art practices articulate an implicit
cognisance of discourses, Deleuzian strategies for the release of
transversal becomings from the grip of whatever discourse is blocking,
restricting or codifying the free-owing potentials of life provide a richer
loam for Contemporary Art. This leads to the basic distinction between
Foucault and Deleuze: where Foucault is the archaeologist or genealogist
of disciplinary practices, Deleuze, in asking other questions of affect and
intensity, seeks to release desire from their grip.
II. Deleuze Studies Damien Hirst
Deleuze and Guattaris aesthetics of the bloc of affects and percepts and
the mounding of sensation into a plane of composition provides more
mobile and shrewd terms for understanding the values of Contemporary
Art. This can be demonstrated in relation to Damien Hirsts early works
(this paper has no interest in the later works or the celebrity/speculator
Hirst), with their commitment to issues of decay and mortality shared
by humans and other species. In A Thousand Years (1990), the life cycle
of the y is staged as it changes from maggot to, in the unmistakable
eloquence of brain Sewell, the breeding buzzing dying business of the
blow y, until nally brought to its indifferent end by the insecticutor.
In Mother and Child Divided (1993), the viewer has the disconcerting
238 Andrew Conio
exemption to walk where no person should ever go,
between the divided
corpses of a cow and a calf suspended in formaldehyde: pity the meat!
Affect infuses the viewer through haptic eyes,
which are concurrently
fascinated and repelled by the human capacity to turn living matter into
nothing more than a facile exhibit for our aesthetic pleasure. The visceral
shock to be had from walking between the sinews of once-living matter;
the palpable tragedy of humanitys imperious and supercilious attitude
to life; the terrible beauty of the division which transforms a sentient
being into a textbook-like diagram of its own organs these are affects
combined in such a way as to create new relations of speed, proximity
and intensity. Specically, the calfs eye is now indenitely open and its
digestive process responds to the rhythms of spectatorship. Its organs
no longer organise the differential processes that sustain life, but create
a macabre body without organs. These incommensurable durations are
recomposed to create a new achromatic time associated with becoming,
instantiated by the artwork itself.
In becoming-packaging little space is allowed for individualism.
People and animals play merely supporting roles in the logistics of a
system that sustains societys standard of living. Yet, in Mother and
Child Divided both are given new roles as the viewers soul is reinserted
in the machinic. The viewer is invited to disentangle naturalised
relationships between food production, labour, consumption, scientic
objectivity, biology and mythology (it is Mother and Calf divided).
The precision and instrumental rationality of becoming-packaging is
refracted in the sculptural precision of the frames, the glass and
suspension, not as perceptions but as the rendered perceptible of the
imperceptible forces that populate the world, that affect us and make us
become (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 172).
To be precise, Hirst stages these sculptural soliloquies upon matters
of life and death with explicit reference to the minimalism of Sol
LeWitt and Donald Judd, while the title The Physical Impossibility
of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991) adopts the playful
conceptualism of Michael Craig Martin. Hirst shares with most Young
British Artists an adoption of only those dimensions of conceptualism
Kosuth dismisses as stylistic (as opposed to theoretical) Conceptual
Art, or that which Art and Language would dismiss as idealistic and self-
mythologising. A clear distinction cannot be manufactured between the
concepts of Conceptual Art and Deleuzes percepts. Not least because
the denition, practices and practitioners, geography, role and legacy
of Conceptual Art cannot be adequately described by a single term
that covers linguistic, dematerialising and performative practices or
Deleuze, Bacon and the Contemporary 239
indeed practices that are embedded in analytical philosophy (Kosuth),
or the imperatives of institutional (Daniel Burren) or social critique.
Notwithstanding this, in any of its diverse formulations Conceptual
Art lacked the conceptual tools necessary to articulate the distinction
between concepts, percepts and affects. As Deleuze and Guattari
say: conceptual becoming is the action by which the common event
itself eludes what it is (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 177). We can
situate Hirsts works outside the interminable and unsatisfactory debate
over what constitutes valid Conceptual Art, since his (albeit early)
artworks do not just present concepts in another form, they think
through percepts, percepts that are not given and represented but are
recongured in such away as to create a new type of thinking; that
is, in the manner of arts distinctive character. This may sound similar
to Kosuths formulation of art as philosophy, but what distinguishes
Deleuzes aesthetics fromany formulation of the conceptual in its general
privileging of the role of the idea over sensual particularity is his
emphasis on the central role of sensation in the moulding of percepts
and affects into a plane of composition.
In Hirsts early works, the conventions of the gallery, the conse-
quences of the Foucauldian Turn, and the dynamics of social forces
and epistemological struggle are not illustrated or represented. Instead,
dynamic rhythms issue from newly forged, embodied relationships
between the legacy of conceptualism brought into a new contrapuntal
relationship with the intensities of decay, mortality and despair. These
works undo the propositional nature of signication by bringing distinct
and differentiated pulsations into a new relationship. And, precisely
because they are distinct modalities of experience, the act of bringing
them together creates disjunctive and conjunctive pulsations, pulsations
that are, in sum, refrains. As Ronald Bogue notes: The refrain is the dif-
ferential rhythm constituted in milieus, the relation between milieu com-
ponents . . . their contrapuntal relation is the refrain (Bogue 2003: 74).
This creates not a Greenbergian autonomy of art but a relative
autonomy from the sedimented, axiomatic forces of restriction that
reduce life to organised and nite manageable units. And crucially, the
metrical rhythm of becoming-packaging is detached from its source and
transformed into a transversal rhythmic component of the milieu. Meter
is substituted with the pulsations of augmentation and diminishment,
the amplication or elimination of pure sensations imbricated in the
artworks themselves.
Both Bacons and Hirsts work exude rhythmic pulsations and refrains
that undo the usual tropes of guration. According to Deleuze, Bacons
240 Andrew Conio
gures are composed of systolic and diastolic rhythms, ascending and
descending pulsions. Hirsts Figures emit rhythms of contraction and
release in the embodied participation of viewing, walking by, standing
near, and perceiving sculptural forms; through images that are more
lmic than painterly his work releases new virtualities from their
material by the contrapuntal refrains mentioned above. Hirsts and
Bacons works can be understood equally well in terms of refrains,
the difference being that while Hirst moulds out of already clichd
and coded materials, Bacon moulds out of pure intensities. In both,
these melodies have the de- and re-territorialising effects of fashioning
new territories, allowing expressive components to create a shock to
Whilst each artist and here we begin to cleave the two apart creates
a phenomenological engagement with their respective objects, in the case
of Hirst, this is no more than a repetition of the common or garden
mode of the reception and experience of art objects, consumer goods and
artefacts. Hirsts signications are of the type Deleuze associates with
Peirce: Icons dened by similitude and symbols of conventional rule,
(Deleuze 2003: 116), in short, spectatorial signs. Hirsts sensations
are palpable, but, reading from The Logic of Sensation: narrative
or symbolic guration obtains only the bogus violence of sensation
(Deleuze 2003: xiv). They do not mobilise a more profound level of
sensation, of sensations that reveal, or better are, as matters of fact, new
forms of thinking. The implication of this distinction is made clear by
Deleuze: When Bacon distinguishes between two violences, that of the
spectacle and that of the sensation, and declares that the rst must be
renounced to reach the second, it is a kind of declaration of faith in life
(Deleuze 2003: 61, emphasis added).
However, this argument can be turned around to suggest that Hirsts
work presents a challenge to Bacons intensive phenomenology. Such is
the intensity of the paintings in which esh and meat and subjectivity
are enraptured by the energetic combat of the aying pulsations of
ascending and falling rhythms that the exegesis of the political, social
and physio-biological are pushed off the canvass, to become the social
unconscious of the painting. In this age of becoming-packaging all
asignifying, alogical pulsations of life are already codied. This is
no longer the age of the spirit pig-spirit, buffalo-spirit, dog-spirit,
bat-spirit as the pure animal spirit of man is already stratied and
coded. These primal forces enter into society commodied, organised
and subject to whatever regime of thought (medicine, jurisprudence,
education) predetermines their being. This chimes with the art practices
Deleuze, Bacon and the Contemporary 241
of many leading contemporary artists from Jeremy Deller to Michael
Landy, from Gordon Matta Clark to Mike Kelly, who no longer deal
with pure experience but with rhetorical strategies such as synecdoche,
synonym, metonymy and syllepsis applied to objects and images rather
than language to invert the naturalised order of things.
Arguably, for all its inventiveness and social critique, Contemporary
Art merely recongures regimes of signs, using what Daniel Smith
describes as techniques of graphic representation of intelligible relations
or coordinates (Smith 2003: 43). Bacons position is essentially eccentric
to the modern world and its concerns; which leads to a claim, to
be referred to below, that may sound extraordinary to non-Deleuzian
ears, namely, that Bacons forces are those of the universe, of absolute
territorialisation and abandonment to the plane of immanence.
III. The Diagram
The diagram is by no means unique to art but Deleuze gives it a specic
role in painting. The diagram has two parts, the catastrophe and the
modulating function. Whilst Bacon is embedded in the force of the
catastrophe, Hirst follows the postmodern tradition by showing little
concern with the forces of pure chaos or collapse. Firstly, however,
we should bear in mind that Deleuzes description of the collapse in
The Logic of Sensation is ambivalent. On the one hand it is not the
pure collapse of a fall into an abyss, it is a highly systematised and
specic collapse from representation and guration. And the catastrophe
is methodologically operative through challenging the supremacy of the
eye with the hand, and through particular marks, scrubbing, smearing
and rubbing out. Hence, for Deleuze, the diagram must remain localised
in space and time. On the other hand, in the emergence of another
world, the catastrophe is also the catastrophe of being (Deleuze 2003:
159). This is not psychological collapse but, according to Deleuze, one
brought about by forces of pressure, dilation, contraction, attening,
and elongation, which are like the forces of the cosmos confronting
an intergalactic traveller immobile in his capsule (Deleuze 2003: 58).
We have seen this correlation of the local action of matter on the
canvas with the vital movement of cosmological forces worked out at its
farthest and nearest reach in Deleuzes description, taken from Spinoza,
of a Universes diastolic and systolic movements and planes of various
speeds and slownesses, all in relation and variation in the creation of
refrains the natura musicans discussed above.
242 Andrew Conio
The diagram modulates not just concepts or signications, clichs
or order-words; its rst principle is manual in the creation of
modulations between haptic world and haptic sense. In this way,
Deleuze argues, the diagram creates a more profound resemblance
than any produced through guration, abstraction, and by implication,
conceptual art. Hirsts compositions of deterritorialised stratications
and axioms are only embodied to the extent permitted by the highly
conventionalised modes of reception of the artwork in the gallery system.
The fundamental difculty in transposing the diagram from Francis
Bacon to Damien Hirst is that Hirsts work is a continuation of already
embedded systems of thought by other means. In contrast, the diagram
overturns the optical co-ordinations and gurative coordinates that
Hirst accepts. The diagrams work is more fundamental; it introduces
or distributes forces, and it places forces in relation, modulating them
in order for something to emerge from it, if nothing new emerges . . . it
fails (Deleuze 2003: 159). In short: it would be an act of conceptual
vandalism to apply the diagram to Hirsts work.
It is of note that the diagram is an iteration of the same basic design
found in all of Deleuzes work. In none of his differential systems
of thought is Deleuze a philosopher of pure unbridled chaos. All of
his books are concerned in some sense with the same issue: how to
gather the heterogenic forces of difference in a contraction, territory,
milieu, assemblage or abstract machine so that they retain their extreme
openness yet become operative or, more importantly, productive. In
this vein, Elizabeth Grosz talks of networks, Field and territories that
temporarily and provisionally slow down chaos (Grosz 2008) in our
case the diagram and the Figure are the operative terms in relation to
IV. Sensation
As is to be expected, it is in terms of sensation that the real distinction
between Hirst and Bacon is to be found. Whilst Hirsts viewers may
experience intense sensations these cannot be classied as pure sensation
because Sensation transcends apperception by either mind or the body.
As such, sensation is not the property of an object itself (it is not the
redness of the apple), or of the facility of the eyes cones and rods to
perceive colour; it is rather the innitive to redden, or, in the case of
Francis Bacon, it is the scream itself. As sensation is not the attribute
or quality of an object that acts either as sensations substantive or
Deleuze, Bacon and the Contemporary 243
predicate, it is the action (the change in direction and intensity) by which
something or someone ceaselessly becomes other; it is, in short, valence.
This does not imply that sensation is somehow non-attributable.
Sensation ows through actual objects; it has to be, in some sense,
palpable. James Williams has adroitly summarised this recently and in a
way that resonates with the approach of this paper: Sense ows through
actual things, sense changes all things. For example, when a species is
extinct, the sense of that changes the whole world forever. When sense
changes the senses of past and present, all senses are changed at once
(Williams 2008: 8).
Once sensation is released from the domain of the subject, because its
properties are no longer in service to the assignation of subjectivity, it
becomes logically ineluctable to ascribe sensation to the world beyond
the subject. Life itself (with this, Deleuze also includes the inorganic) is
an endless ux of pulsions, of rhythmic counterpoints, individuations,
haecceities and events, all in endless relation far beyond the domain
of man. It is only our species that perceives of its relatively frugal
(although miraculous) portion of life and the world through its own
image. Whereas, in the world, when song relates to esh, sea to wind,
machine to organism, each of these relations are relations of sense. Here
is Deleuze and Guattari: the being of sensation is not the esh but the
compound of nonhuman forces of the cosmos, of mans nonhuman be-
comings, and of the ambiguous house that exchanges and adjusts them,
makes them whirl around like winds (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 183).
One of Deleuzes signicant disagreements with phenomenology
concerns the nature of thinking. For phenomenology, the entwining
of the subject and world means that consciousness is co-enacted with
the world. However, as subtle as this might be (and I attend to the
consanguinity between Deleuze and the Merleau-Ponty of Partout et
nulle part elsewhere), phenomenology ultimately looks to this folding to
explain the endowments of consciousness and the domain for a natural
perception in the world that is tied to the experiencing subject.
The restatuation of what it means to think, rather than the nature
of consciousness, is of pre-eminent concern for Deleuze. In different
ways, each of Deleuzes works raises the question: what does it mean
to think? He displaces thinking from the thinking subject to the world
that thinks through its relations and variations. This is not an image of
thinking as a purely cognitive process, or even as an eneshed thought,
it is the non-human thinking of the world itself. According to Deleuze,
the expressions of milieu components in the creation of a territory the
contraction of the mollusc, the reaction of the plant to the sun are all
244 Andrew Conio
forms of thinking. And thought is not limited to nature: ATMs; mobile
phones, stock markets all develop consistencies and potentials, in short,
they share autopoietic characteristics. As Keith Ansell-Pearson notes: an
autopoietic machine is one which continuously generates and species its
own organisation through its operation as a system of production of its
own components (Ansell-Pearson 1997: 1401).
What painting offers is the paradigmatic form of thinking through
sensation; all begins with sensibility: it is always through an
intensity that thought comes to us, says Deleuze (Deleuze 2004:
182). This is an encounter and commingling of the forces and
rhythms of world, materials, thinking and sense. In this way painting
addresses its own problems, distinct from other arts or other domains
(science/philosophy), through the sensations it intensies and the
variations and relations between sensations it creates.
Painting is paradigmatically, a-subjectively, phenomenological and
carnal; carnal in its mode of production and carnal in its mode
of reception. But this alone does not make it the exemplary mode
for the expression of sensation. What does is paintings capacity to
interlace materials, bodies, affects and percepts in such a way as to re-
substantiate, as a matter of fact, the non-human becomings of man
through sensation.
However, a note of caution needs to be raised lest sensation becomes
hypostatised as the apeiron of life. Deleuze and Guattari answer their
own question in What is Philosophy?: can sensation be assimilated to
an original opinion, to Urdoxa as the worlds foundation or immutable
basis? (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 179). As we have noted, Deleuze
and Guattaris works consistently illustrate interest in the things that
modulate the zones of indeterminacy, whilst maintaining the most
intensive potential for absolute deterritorialisation.
With this in mind, we can now revisit the claim we made earlier, that
something truly exceptional emerges through this folie deux between
Deleuze and Bacon. This concerns what for the non-Deleuzian is the
most fanciful aspect of Deleuzes ontology. That is his attempt to connect
thinking, experience and sensation to the innite: to elaborate body and
universe, nite and innite, cosmos and chaos, as folded, co-enacted
and consubstantial. For Deleuze the artist is someone for whom there
is something unbearable in life, who senses the mutual embrace of life
with what threatens it (Deleuze 1994: 171). As such, through its truly
eccentric relationship with the regimes of signication of the modern
world, by embracing invisible chaotic or cosmological forces, painting is
Deleuze, Bacon and the Contemporary 245
able to use its own material practices to disrupt and confront habituated
modes of thinking, experiencing and sensing.
This abandonment does not function without disjunction, intervals
and interruption, as Bacon casts himself adrift to adopt the role of
the anomalous. As such, Bacons practice is apolitical only if politics
is already aligned with powers own representation of itself; that
is, a politics that repudiates the idea that cosmological, geological,
innite transcendental forces are part of our lives. Against powers self-
determination, painting is able to offer a remodelling of the potentials
of thought to enable the phrasing of the questions: what does it mean
to think? what is thinking within the dominions of the abyss, chaos and
the universe as expansions and contractions are weaved through bodies,
concepts and materials? These are not asked so that an answer might be
given, but so that the potentials of thought might be revealed. As Claire
Colebrook says: The task of thinking is not to establish the truest or
highest world but to think the multiplicity of perception that unfolds in
divergent worlds (Colebrook 2006: 139).
That is to say, what is it about a particular art form and the way
it poses its own problems that gives to its form of thinking its own
conditions of possibility? As Deleuze is not a philosopher of moribund
concepts or dry abstractions but of incitations to creative and experi-
mental activity, the modest aim of this paper has been to do just that:
produce new alignments of thought through the apposition of the food
production process encapsulated in the phrase becoming-packaging,
Damien Hirsts early works, and the pack Bacon-Deleuze.
1. For example, the chapter Las Meninas in The Order of Things (Foucault 1982),
and This is Not a Pipe (Foucault 1973).
2. Literally billions of animals are divided in abattoirs, but the specic capacity of
art to decode and recode affects has the effect of making this palpable, bringing
to our senses what has become invisible, or unconscious, the privatised nature of
mans relationship between himself and species.
3. The eyes that feel the surface of the visible.
Ansell-Pearson, Keith (1997) Viroid Life: Perspectives on Nietzsche and the
Transhuman Condition, London: Routledge.
Bogue, Ronald (2003) Deleuze On Music, Painting, and the Arts, New York and
London: Routledge.
246 Andrew Conio
Boyne, Roy (2002) Foucault and Art, in Paul Smith and Carolyn Wilde (eds), A
Companion to Art Theory, Oxford: Blackwell.
Colebrook, Claire (2006) Deleuze: A Guide for the Perplexed, London: Continuum.
Deleuze, Gilles (2003) Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel Smith,
London: Continuum.
Deleuze, Gilles (2004) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, London:
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1994) What is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh
Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, London: Verso.
Foucault, Michel (1982) The Order of Things, trans. A. Sheridan, New York:
Foucault, Michel (1973) This is Not a Pipe, trans. James Harkness, Berkeley:
University of California Press
Grosz, Elizabeth (2008) Chaos, Territory, Art: Deleuze and the Framing of the Earth,
New York: Columbia University Press.
Holland, Eugene W. (1999) Deleuze and Guattaris Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to
Schizoanalysis, London: Routledge.
Krauss, Rosalind (1993) The Optical Unconscious, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1956) Partout et nulle part (Everywhere and Nowhere),
originally published as the preface to Les philosophes clbres, Paris: Lucien
Owens, Craig (1992) Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power and Culture,
Berkeley: University of California Press.
Smith, Daniel W. (2003) Translators Introduction: Deleuze on Bacon: Three
Conceptual Trajectories in The Logic of Sensation, in Gilles Deleuze, Francis
Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Williams, James (2008) Gilles Deleuzes Logic of Sense, Edinburgh: University of
Edinburgh Press.
DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000610
From Stuttering and Stammering to the
Diagram: Deleuze, Bacon and
Contemporary Art Practice
Simon OSullivan Goldsmiths, University of London
This article attends to Deleuze and Guattaris idea of a minor literature
as well as to Deleuzes concepts of the gural, probe-heads and the
diagram in relation to Bacons paintings. The paper asks specically
what might be usefully taken from this DeleuzeBacon encounter for
the expanded eld of contemporary art practice.
Keywords: Francis Bacon, gural, diagram, contemporary art, minor
literature, probe-head
I. Minor Literature
Deleuze and Guattaris concept of a minor literature (at least as it
is laid out in Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature from where the
following denition has been condensed [see Deleuze and Guattari 1986:
1618]) involves three components: 1. The foregrounding of the affective
and intensive quality of language or its operation on an asignifying
register. A minor literature stutters and stammers the major. It breaks
with the operation of order-words. It stops making sense. 2. The
always already political nature of such literature. A minor literature
is always connected to the wider social milieu and not xated on
the domestic/Oedipal. 3. Its specically collective character. A minor
literature is always a collective enunciation. In fact, a minor literature
works to pave the way for a community sometimes a nation yet to
come. This is a minor literatures future orientation.
Each of these components of a minor literature, I would argue, can
be applied to contemporary art practice (and I think operate as a
corrective to any simple afrmation of the new as it is incarnated in the
248 Simon OSullivan
commodity form). Elsewhere I have attended to the third point above,
which seems to me to be a particularly useful way of thinking through
many of the most interesting of todays art practices and their mode of
effectivity, as it were. To briey repeat that point here: such practices
are not made for an already existing audience, but to call forth or
invoke an audience. They do not offer more of the same. They do not
necessarily produce knowledge. They do not offer a reassuring mirror
reection of a subjectivity already in place. With such art the people are
missing, as Deleuze might say. In fact, I would argue, the operating eld
of these practices can be thought of as the future and, as such, the artists
in question here operate as kind of prophets. We might even say traitor
prophets, in so far as they perform a treachery in relation to our more
dominant affective/signifying regimes (that is to say, consensual reality).
All of this gives such art a utopian function inasmuch as part of
its being is somehow located elsewhere. Importantly, and following
Deleuze, and Deleuze and Guattari, we can understand this as a
specically immanent utopia intrinsically connected to the present,
made out of the same materials, the same matter (after all what else
is there?) but calling for a future form, for a new earth and people that
do not yet exist (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 108). This last quotation is
from an argument Deleuze and Guattari make in relation to philosophy,
and to the creation of concepts; however, it seems to me it is equally
applicable to a minor literature, and indeed to contemporary art practice
(not least given the fact that art practice post-Duchamp has increasingly
concerned itself with the conceptual, and indeed, in some cases, with the
invention of concepts). In passing, I think we could make the argument
that Bacons paintings are traitor paintings in this sense. Certainly they
are different to the other objects that surround us and constitute our
everyday habitual milieu. Bacons paintings might also be thought of
as future-orientated in that they are not merely of the present in the
sense of being easily readable by our present subjectivity as it is. They
call something forth from within us, in fact something that is not just
another reading/interpretation of the paintings in question. This affective
response or reaction might involve a certain interest or excitement, a
point of inspiration perhaps (and Spinozas notion of a productive, joyful
encounter would be pertinent here), but it might also be a certain horror
or disgust, even an irritation or boredom. These last two often mask the
fact that something has been encountered that in some way challenges a
given subjectivity. They operate as defensive mechanisms. As far as art
goes reactions such as these might indicate that we are at a limit point
or edge and that if we can stay with these uncomfortable affects then
From Stuttering and Stammering to the Diagram 249
something, nally, might happen. We might say then that this future
orientation of art as I have been calling it opens us up to what we might
So much for this third modality of a minor literature. Below I want
also to focus on the rst characteristic of the latter its operation on an
intensive register. To repeat, for Deleuze and Guattari, a minor literature
foregrounds asignication or simply the intensive aspects of language.
It counteracts the operation of order-words and the exercise of power
this involves by breaking language open to a howling outside/inside. It
is these moments of noise or glitches as we might call them that free
language from itself, at least, from its signifying self, by putting it into
contact with other forces. This is an experimentation with, and from
within, language. A rupturing of representation. A breaking of the habit
of making sense, of being human. We can perhaps begin to see here
the connections with Bacon.
In more technical terms, such a stuttering and stammering of language
operates to produce what I would term an affective-event that in itself
can produce what Guattari calls a mutant nuclei of subjectication and
thus the possibility of resingularisation (a reordering of the elements
that make up our subjectivity) (Guattari 1995: 18). In fact, when
attending to this event in his own writings Guattari turns to Mikhail
Bahktin and writes of the detachment of an ethico-aesthetic partial
object from the eld of dominant signications that corresponds both
to the promotion of a mutant desire and to the achievement of a certain
disinterestedness (Guattari 1995: 13). The partial object here operates
as a point of entry into a different incorporeal universe. A point around
which a different kind of subjectivity might crystallise. Crucially, and as
Guattari remarks, this operation must involve a certain disinterestedness
(Guattari is indebted to Kant in this sense). We might say that the
listener or spectator must respond to the glitch, the affective-event, as
an event, as the bearer of the potentiality of something else. Put simply,
one must, in order that this procedure work, be open to the possibility of
something different occurring. This, I think, is crucial. The artwork or
the work that art demands of us involves an active engagement, a
participation as it were. Without the latter even the most seemingly
radical work will remain inoperative. The glitch then, I would argue,
is co-produced through object and subject in fact, it names a passage
between the two. This last point would be to bring Guattaris expanded
notion of art briey laid out above, and indeed the central notion of
becoming in A Thousand Plateaus, into conjunction with the apparently
more conservative version of art given in What is Philosophy?, where
250 Simon OSullivan
art is seen as precisely the place of a passing between things. As Deleuze
and Guattari remark in the latter volume: Life alone creates such zones
where living beings whirl around, and only art can reach and penetrate
them in its enterprise of co-creation (Deleuze and Guattari 1994: 173).
Deleuze and Guattaris work on the notion of a minor literature and
specically, here, the necessity of stammering and stuttering a major
language, or the foregrounding of what I have been calling the glitch, is
then a highly productive text for thinking the eld of contemporary art
in its conservative and in its more expanded form (we might say, within
painting [as we shall see with Bacon] but also within video for example
[that often stutters and stammers reality and indeed the major language
of lm]). Such affective stammering operates as a kind of singularity that
in itself counteracts already existing affective/signifying regimes, whilst
at the same time, crucially, opening up a gap within these all too familiar
series and circuits of knowledge/information. A gap which we might also
congure here as a form of non-communication. This is to bring art close
to what Deleuze calls (and calls for), in his Postscript on Societies of
Maybe speech and communication have become corrupted. Theyre
thoroughly permeated by money and not by accident but by their very
nature. Creating has always been something different from communicating.
The key thing might be to create vacuoles of non-communication, circuit
breakers so we can elude control. (Deleuze 1995: 175)
Art is not, I would argue, ultimately concerned with knowledge or, at
least, with what passes for knowledge within our everyday knowledge-
economy (simply, information). It is not useful in this sense. Indeed,
even those so-called art practices that seek to produce counter-
knowledge can become caught by the very thing they attempt to work
against. Such practices necessarily have to work on the same terrain as
it were and thus utilise the same terms. Art, it seems to me, might be
better thought of as an event that interrupts knowledge that breaks
information. In fact, art is one of the very few things we have left that is
able to creatively make this break.
We might also understand these moments or rupturing events in
Bergsonian terms as opening further the gap between stimulus and
response that denes us as human (the complexity of the nervous system,
which allows a multiplicity of different pathways for stimulus-response,
determines a hesitation or gap in that response). This is to identify a
certain slowness, even a stillness, which might work against the incessant
speed of contemporary life. For Bergson, this gap opens us up to the
From Stuttering and Stammering to the Diagram 251
pure past a kind of ontological background to ourselves. It is through
this gap that we become creative rather than reactive creatures (see
Bergson 1991: 1012). This is the very denition of freedom, at least
freedom from habit or simply the (impasses of the) present plane of
Another way of understanding this potential of the glitch following
Guattari is that it operates as a point of indeterminacy, and, as such,
opens up the possibility of a multiplicity of subsequent pathways and
thus a multiplicity of possible worlds. We might say in fact that the
glitch always contains within it the germ of a new world. Indeed, I would
argue, it is this functioning as a point of indetermination that gives much
contemporary art its inspirational, we might even say hopeful tenor.
Such glitches or breaks in the typical are a kind of reverse-technology
in that they offer an escape from the manipulation performed by those
other affective assemblages that increasingly operate in a parallel logic
to art. I am thinking here of the complex utilisation of affect, specically
by the mass media that increasingly operates on a self-consciously
affective register as a kind of nervous system utilising the temporally
indeterminate aspect of the event in an ever expanding exercise of power
(what we might call a politics of pre-emption, or simply, the colonisation
of the virtual).
We might say then that the glitch names two moments or movements.
To break a world and to make a world. In fact these two are never
really divorced from one another: to dissent means invariably to afrm
some where/thing else. To afrm an elsewhere we have to turn from
that which is already here. The glitch is then a moment of critique, a
moment of negation but also a moment of creation and of afrmation.
Indeed, the glitch in whichever regime it operates and ruptures is the
sound of this something else, this something different attempting to get
through. To end this rst section then, we can return to the artist as
the one who specically uses this logic of the glitch. The artist as traitor
prophet names a twin orientation: the betrayal of one world and the
afrmation of a world-yet-to-come.
II. Deleuze-Bacon
I want now to shift sideways, before returning to this idea of stuttering
and the glitch, and look at Deleuzes book on Bacon and at a number
of concepts Deleuze invents there to think Bacons paintings. As
with the above section I am particularly interested here in how these
252 Simon OSullivan
concepts and the paintings attempt to undo representation, and how
we might extend their workings to the eld of contemporary art in
Firstly then, the gural. The gural for Deleuze-Bacon is that which
deforms, or does violence to, the gurative. We can understand the latter
here as the typical way we are represented and represent ourselves within
the world. Those forms that reassure us of our identity. Indeed, for
Deleuze, representation is not solely a type of art, as it were, but the
very means by which we constitute ourselves as an organism and as a
subject in the world. To quote Deleuze:
If representation is related to an object, this relation is derived from the form
of representation; if this object is the organism and organisation, it is because
the form of representation is rst of all organic in itself, it is because the form
of representation rst of all expresses the organic life of the man as subject.
(Deleuze 2003: 126)
The gural achieves this disruption, rstly, through a mechanism of
isolation. The gure is presented as a matter-of-fact, detached from
narration or any illustrative function. To quote Deleuze again:
Isolating the gure will be the primary requirement. The gurative
(representation) implies the relationship of an image to an object that it is
supposed to illustrate; but it also implies the relationship of an image to other
images in a composite whole which assigns a specic object to each of them.
Narration is the correlate of illustration. A story slips into, or tends to slip
into, the space between the two gures in order to animate the illustrated
whole. (Deleuze 2003: 3)
Isolation then is a method for breaking with a certain use of images in
our world the way in which they tend to be mobilised for a certain end,
almost always to sell us something (witness advertising). In passing, and
with a nod to Guattaris writings on the Readymade, we might expand
this requirement of isolation out to the wider eld of contemporary
art in general. An object might be detached from its habitual mode
of circulation and specically its position within capitalist relations
of exchange. We might say simply, that it is, in one sense, rendered
inoperative, placed as it is within the frame of art.
However, to return to Bacon, this isolation is only one moment in a
process, for the isolated gure also operates as a point of departure for
deterritorialisations, for a moving beyond the gure. In this sense the
gural is a kind of in-between the gurative and the non-gurative. Put
differently, the gural involves a becoming of the gure. A becoming-
animal (in place of formal correspondences what Bacons painting
From Stuttering and Stammering to the Diagram 253
constitutes is a zone of indiscernability or undecideability between
man and animal [Deleuze 2003: 21]), and ultimately a becoming-
imperceptible (whatever its importance becoming-animal is only one
stage in a more profound becoming-imperceptible in which the gure
disappears [Deleuze 2003: 27]).
To return to my digression on the Readymade, and following Guattari
once more, we might say that the object isolated from a given series
works as a trigger point to open up other incorporeal universes of value
(and no doubt, given the increasing emphasis on productivity and speed
within our information age, this isolation and opening will involve the
type of slowness I mentioned above). Hence Guattaris understanding
of the Readymade laid out in his essay Ritornellos and Existential
Affects as that object which has been taken out of a normal series thus
allowing the latter to be put to work in a different manner:
Marcel Duchamps Bottlerack functions as the trigger for a constellation
of referential universes engaging both intimate reminiscences (the cellar of
the house, a certain winter, the rays of light upon spiders webs, adolescent
solitude) and connotations of a cultural or economic order the time when
bottles were still washed with the aid of a bottle wash. . . (Guattari 1996:
It is this power of art to access these other universes and other times
away from a narrow and alienated present that, we might say, is the
time of art.
Secondly, probe-heads. We can see the above becoming-animal
in relation to Bacons treatment of heads where, in the terms of
A Thousand Plateaus, Bacon attempts to disrupt the processes of
faciality, understood here as that abstract machine of modernity that
produces signiance (the white wall) and subjectication (the black
hole). To quote Deleuze and Guattari from the latter volume:
if human beings have a destiny, it is rather to escape the face, to dismantle the
face and facialisations, to become imperceptible, to become clandestine, not
by returning to animality, nor even by returning to the head, but by spiritual
and special becomings-animal, by strange true becomings that get past the
wall and get out of the black holes. (Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 171)
Bacons heads are probe-heads in this precise sense, lines of escape from
the face and from faciality. Crucially, they are not a return to some kind
of primitive pre-faciality. They are in fact an escape that takes place
from within the terrain of the face itself, a kind of stammering from
within. Of course, probe-heads need not necessarily be pictures of heads
but rather any device that disrupts faciality, for the latter applies not
254 Simon OSullivan
just to heads but to all of the mechanisms that produce signiance and
subjectivity (from faces and landscapes within painting to facialisation
and lanscapication within the world). To quote Deleuze and Guattari
once more:
You will be pinned to the white wall and stuffed in the black hole. This
machine is called the faciality machine because it is the social production
of the face, because it performs the facialisation of the entire body and all its
surroundings and objects, and the landscapication of all worlds and milieus.
(Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 181)
A probe-head is then that which explores the terrain beyond the face,
the terrain from which the face is nothing more than an extraction
or crystallisation. Probe-heads are in this sense a move into chaos.
Probe-heads are those devices that dismantle the strata in their wake,
break through walls of signiance, pour out of the holes of subjectivity,
fell trees in favour of veritable rhizomes, and steer the ows down
lines of positive deterritorialisation or creative ight (Deleuze and
Guattari 1988: 190). They are, however, not just destructive, but,
as the name suggests, productive of other, stranger and more uid
modes of organisation: Beyond the face lies an altogether different
inhumanity: no longer that of the primitive head, but of probe-
heads; here, cutting edges of deterritorialisation become operative
and lines of deterritorialisation positive and absolute, forming strange
new becomings, new polyvocalities (Deleuze and Guattari 1988:
1901). As well as being a name for Bacons portraits (and indeed
his other paintings), probe-heads might also be a useful name for
more experimental, non-traditional art practices, or indeed for other
practices of living differently not normally considered art. Such
practices might not seem to be de-facialisations, but with the systems
of facialisation becoming increasingly complex (one thinks here again
of the mass media and especially of new communications technologies)
then the lines of ight from these will themselves become increasingly
complex and unfamiliar, as will the territories produced on the other side
of the white wall. A case study of this new production of subjectivity
might be collective and collaborative practices, those that deliberately
dissent or simply turn away from the production of individualist and
atomised subjectivities and other typical capitalist formations.
Importantly, probe-heads do not arrive from some other place. They
are in fact made from the same stuff as faces. Indeed, we might say that
the same (capitalist) machines that produce probe-heads also produce
faces. The latter being subjectivities and assemblages that are useful,
From Stuttering and Stammering to the Diagram 255
the former often appearing as redundancies or dead ends. We have here
a denition of sorts of art: it involves a kind of super-productivity arising
from what appears, on the face of it as it were, to be non-productive.
Third, and nally, the diagram. For Deleuze-Bacon it is the diagram
that enables this deterritorialisation of the face and the production of
the body without organs (the latter understood here as that which
lies under the organism/organisation [Deleuze 2003: 50]). In painting,
and specically Bacons painting, the diagram involves the making of
random marks that allow the gural to emerge from the gure. The
diagram is . . . the operative set of asignifying and nonrepresentative
lines and zones, line-strokes and colour-patches (Deleuze 2003: 101).
We might apply this rule of the diagram to other kinds of modern
and contemporary art practices that necessarily involve this play with
chance, this contact and utilisation with that which goes beyond
conscious control, if only to circumnavigate the reproduction of just-
more-of-the-same. It would be an interesting project to identify how
specic artists incorporate this lack of control into their practice, or
simply, how they contact and somehow use that which is outside them
selves. How, for example, they might mobilise chance (and perhaps
error) in the production of something new.
Here random occurrences are ontologically constitutive of art (and
not an accident that befalls it). Indeed, an art practice rather than a
practice that just produces products is always open to an outside in
this sense. It needs to have a certain cohesiveness and form, but equally
must be able to access a certain formlessness, as it were (simply put, it
must have points of collapse). It is in this sense that art can never be
wholly predetermined or worked out in advance but must involve this
productive encounter with chaos (it is also in this sense that the artist
seeks to make work that speaks back to him or her, as it were, or, in
the painter Gerhard Richters terms, that something will emerge that is
unknown to me, which I could not plan, which is better, cleverer, than I
am [Richter, quoted in Gidal 1993: 47]).
The diagram is then a chaos, a catastrophe, but it is also a germ
of order or rhythm. It is a violent chaos in relation to the gurative
givens, but it is a germ of rhythm in relation to the new order of the
painting (Deleuze 2003: 102). The diagram is rhythm emerging from
chaos, the manipulation of chance to suggest the emergence of another
world (Deleuze 2003: 100). Again, all sorts of art practices might be
said to produce rhythmic worlds in this sense, worlds hitherto unseen but
always produced from within the seen. Art is the production of worlds
(the gural) that sit between that which is known (the gurative) and
256 Simon OSullivan
that which is unknown (chaos): the law of the diagram, according to
Bacon, is this: one starts with a gurative form, a diagram intervenes
and scrambles it, and a form of a completely different nature emerges
from the diagram, which is called the Figure (Deleuze 2003: 156). Art,
when it really is art, is always located at the edge of things in this sense.
It faces, as it were, in two directions. It is a bridge, or again, a passage
This is, however, not all without its dangers. Indeed, for Deleuze-
Bacon there are two wrong positions as it were, which the middle
way of the gural must avoid. Figuration (narration and illustration,
which is to say representation), but also the absolute deterritorialisation
of the gure (the move to total abstraction). We might call these the twin
dangers of moving too slow of remaining within representation but
also of moving too fast and ultimately following a line of abolition.
Figuration operates through clich, understood as that which surrounds
us everyday: We are besieged by photographs that are illustrations, by
newspapers that are narrations, by cinema-images, by television-images
(Deleuze 2003: 87). These are the clichs physical, though there are also
psychic ones (ready-made perceptions, memories, phantasms [Deleuze
2003: 87]) that ll the canvas even before the artist has dipped his
brush (for Deleuze-Bacon, unlike Clement Greenberg for example, the
canvas is not empty, but always already full, teeming as it were with
virtualities). Another way of understanding these clichs is as habits;
habits of sight and also of thought. Art opposes the latter with its own
logic of difference.
The other way, abstraction, can be divided further into two
tendencies: 1. Pure or geometric abstraction, which elevates the optical
and ultimately returns to guration inasmuch as it contains a code
(visual and spiritual) or, to say the same differently, passes through the
brain (as is the case, Deleuze argues, with Kandinsky) (Deleuze 2003:
1045). In this regard, the same criticism can be made against both
gurative painting and abstract painting: they pass through the brain,
they do not act directly on the nervous system, they do not attain the
sensation, they do not liberate the Figure all because they remain at one
and the same level (Deleuze 2003: 36). This is a signifying art waiting
to be read. 2. Action painting, as paradigmatically the case with Jackson
Pollock, that provides an all-over diagram (a purely haptic space) but
in so doing, according to Deleuze-Bacon, loses its capacity to act on
our nervous system (such painting is not controlled enough) (Deleuze
2003:109). The gural avoids these, although it is, according to Deleuze,
no less radical in its own path.
From Stuttering and Stammering to the Diagram 257
In concluding this second part of my paper we might say then that the
gural involves a not-too-fast but also a not-too-slow deterritorialisation
of the gure a rupturing of the latter so as to allow something else to
appear, or to be heard behind the gure as it were. The gural might
seem less radical than other avant-garde techniques, other attempts at
bringing art into life (one thinks here of not just the many movements of
modernism but also of their stuttering and stammering manifestos . . . ).
There is indeed a cautious aspect to Bacons practice of painting a
certain control that accompanies the wildness. The same might be said
of Deleuze who, in his writings, practises an art of dosages. It might be
argued however that it is only through this caution, through this careful
engagement with the matter of representation, that the line of ight from
representation can be actually located. To quote Deleuze and Guattari
themselves specically on this methodological point:
This is how it should be done: Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with
the opportunities it offers, nd an advantageous point on it, nd potential
movements of deterritorialisation, possible lines of ight, experience them,
produce ow conjunctions here and there, try out continuums of intensity
segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times. It is through a
meticulous relation with the strata that one succeeds in freeing lines of ight.
(Deleuze and Guattari 1988: 161)
III. Conclusion
In conclusion, we might say that the gural within Bacon parallels
Deleuzes own philosophical project (and even more particularly the
joint project with Guattari as laid out in A Thousand Plateaus) of
thinking beyond the human. The human is to be understood here
as a habitual mode of being (a representational mode). Both projects
involve less a simple abandoning of the gure or of the human (that
is, a complete disruption/abolition), but rather a kind of stretching or
twisting of the latter. A rupturing that allows for the releasing of forces
from within and the contact of forces that are without (both in fact being
the same operation). Both Bacon and Deleuze are specically mannerist
in this sense (Deleuze 2003: 161). Both are interested in accessing the
gural behind the gure; the invisible behind the visible.
We are now in a position to attempt an articulation of the
connections between the notion of the diagram in painting and the
intensive functioning of a minor literature: both involve a stuttering
and stammering of the gurative, of language of representational
modes. Both also involve the utilisation of these glitches as points
258 Simon OSullivan
of indeterminacy that might nally allow something new, something
different, to emerge. Indeed, although specic in many senses to
Kafkas writings and to Bacons paintings, both are, I think, incredibly
productive concepts, not least in thinking through the effectivity of the
expanded eld of contemporary art practice as it exists today.
Bergson, Henri (1991) Matter and Memory, trans. Nancy Margaret Paul and
W. Scott. Palmer, New York: Zone Books.
Deleuze, Gilles (1995) Negotiations: 19721990, trans. Martin Joughin, New York:
Columbia University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (2003) Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel W.
Smith, London: Continuum.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1986) Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature, trans.
Dana Polan, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1988) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, London: Athlone Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Flix Guattari (1994) What is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh
Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, London: Verso.
Gidal, Peter (1993) Endless Finalities, Parkett: Gerhard Richter, 35, pp. 458.
Guattari, Flix (1995) Chaosmosis: An Ethico-aesthetic Paradigm, trans. Paul Bains
and Julian Pefanis, Sydney: Power Publications.
Guattari, Flix (1996) Ritornellos and Existential Affects, in Gary Genosko (ed.),
The Guattari Reader, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, pp. 15871.
DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000622
Triptychs, Eternity and the Spirituality of
the Body
D. C. Ambrose Canterbury Christ Church University
This paper develops a detailed reading of Deleuzes philosophical study
of Bacons triptychs in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. It
examines his claims regarding their apparent non-narrative status, and
explores the capacity of the triptychs to embody and express a spiritual
sensation of the eternity of time.
Keywords: Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon, triptychs, eternity, spiritual
realism, rhythm
One of Deleuzes ambitions in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation is
to outline an experimental conceptual analogue of Bacons paintings that
demonstrates a genuine delity to the specicity of his work. His book
produces a philosophy of painting where Bacon is conceived as one of
the great painters of immanence, a painter of the body without organs.
His gural paintings are understood to repeatedly explore the vital
intensities and sensations associated with the dynamisms of becoming,
processes of individuation and the destratication of the organism,
subject and individual. Deleuze suggests that a brutal form of realism
is manifested by Bacons art, but it is not a realism associated with
the violence of appearance but a violence of sensation associated with
a spiritual realism of the body. Bacons paintings depict, he claims,
a visceral topography of embodied sensation that is profoundly non-
representational and spiritual.
One of the most complex and creative sections of the book is his
philosophical analysis of the triptychs. In just a few dense pages he
arguably provides one of the most powerful accounts yet written about
triptychs in relation to the questions of what they are, howthey function,
and what operative principles govern their production. In this paper
I wish to develop a reading of Deleuzes philosophical understanding
of the triptychs that incorporates his arguments regarding their
260 D. C. Ambrose
non-narrative status within the claims he makes about their capacity
to express a spiritual sensation of the eternity of time.
I will briey
demonstrate that the notion of eternity being elicited from Bacons
triptychs is largely derived from Spinozas Ethics, namely, the eternity
of substance and the eternal cycles of becoming. However, in order to
fully grasp the signicance of Deleuzes claims regarding the eternal time
of triptychs it is necessary to re-examine his initial analysis of classic
religious painting which forms much of the context for his argument.
Despite the fact that religious art labours under the auspices of obvious
narrative content, Deleuze will claim that it is still capable of conveying
intense spiritual sensations associated with the celestial and abstract
realm. Once we develop an understanding of how this was achieved
in the past, the signicance Bacons liberation from the constraints of
narrative has for his ability to embody a Spinozistic sense of eternity
within the mechanism of triptychs can be explored.
In an interview from 1981 Deleuze talked explicitly about the role
intuition played in developing his own understanding of the triptychs
when writing: I was looking at the triptychs and had the feeling
that there was a certain internal law, forcing me to jump from one
reproduction to the other to compare them (Deleuze 2006: 184). Some
initial remarks on the triptychs are also contained in the preface to the
English translation of the book,
where he clearly identies the broad
shape of his subsequent, more detailed reading. From the very beginning
Deleuze aligns himself closely with Bacons own remarks on triptychs,
which were made in an interview from 1962 with David Sylvester
(Sylvester 1987). Deleuze recognises an inherent quality in Bacons
triptychs, which he terms their internal law. Triptychs are composed
of three distinct sections, with the separation between panels serving
to effectively negate any imposed narrative meaning across the different
parts. However, for Deleuze it is precisely this separation which provides
the means for linking the three panels in newand unique ways. He argues
that there has to be some kind of relationship between the separated
parts of each triptych, but that this relationship cannot be narrative or
logical in any straightforward way. As he identies in his subsequent
analysis, there is a denite logic but it is of a profoundly irrational
order it is a logic of sensation. The triptychs establish a common
unifying fact for the diverse and separated gures within each of the
three panels, but it is a unity radically removed from narrative meaning.
Figures present in triptychs become reconceived as rhythmic characters
rather than agents or subjects operating within a narrative. Triptychs
exhibit a brutal unity where an array of complex forces and sensations,
Triptychs, Eternity and the Spirituality of the Body 261
rather than stories, are distributed across the separated panels. Each
triptych operates like an infernal machine producing novel circulations
and rhythmic interplays of these characters, forces and sensations.
Somewhat enigmatically, Deleuze identies a mysterious, unifying force,
which is captured by the arrangement of the triptychs but which is also,
simultaneously, the force operating to structure and unite the triptychs.
This force acts to separate gures, both within and across the panels, and
the panels themselves. Deleuze suggests that this unifying and separating
force is the force of eternal time.
Before progressing with an analysis of Deleuzes complex reading
of the triptychs, I think it is necessary to question the legitimacy of
his emphasis on the non-narrative status of Bacons triptychs. One
might take the view that Bacons insistence, when in conversation with
Sylvester, on there being no explicit straightforward narrative is in
fact mendacious, that it is part of his effort to control and conceal
inconvenient biographical truths and sources in favour of constructing
an elaborate mythological artistic persona. Whilst this is probably
the case, it remains possible that his broader non-narrative ambitions
indicate a more signicant philosophical and artistic ambition that is
indeed worth taking seriously. For Deleuze, Bacons work instantiates
a profoundly anti-narrative spiritual dynamic of matter. Nevertheless,
by focusing on the non-narrative element I do not believe that Deleuze
is altogether denying residues of narrative content that might be clearly
present and form an important factor in fully understanding a specic
composition. Bacons deeply personal obsessions, experiences and
inspirations form and shape the voluntaristic intentions that guide his
hand at a primary pre-pictorial level and at the rst level of guration
on the canvas.
Deleuze is not necessarily denying the existence of this
type of intentionality, rather he is bracketing it off, suspending explicit
consideration of it, in order to concentrate upon the involuntaristic
aspect of Bacons practice or the second order of guration. It is here,
within what he calls the diagram, that Bacons particular range of visual
motifs are injected into a metamorphic, transformative and liberating
realm (or experimental amphitheatre) of paint on the canvas.
A signicant clue to understanding Deleuzes attitude towards specic
narrative residue emerges from his treatment of religious painters whose
gurative innovations are linked to Bacons own. When discussing the
structural and historical underpinnings of Bacons practice, Deleuze
discusses one of Bacons operative propositions (a proposition derived
from Andr Malraux) that is almost a truism within modern art, and
would seemingly necessitate a move within painting towards a form
262 D. C. Ambrose
of total or absolute abstraction. This is the supposed conditioning of
painting by religious possibilities or imperatives which simply no longer
apply, given that we arguably exist within an atheistic milieu. Deleuze
contests whether this historical proposition is really adequate. Such
contestation is only the rst of a series of critical contestations of Bacons
ideas as outlined in the Sylvester interviews, many of which go some way
towards countering the idea that Deleuze is guilty of the most crude and
nave intentional fallacy, and of slavishly adhering to Bacons point of
view. I want to argue that Deleuzes remarks on religious painting are
critically incisive and do genuinely illuminate an important aspect of
Bacons work. More importantly, for my purposes, they provide useful
insight into Deleuzes concentration on the non-narrative character
of Bacons triptychs. When writing of Bacons proposition regarding
the way paintings representational function was largely conned by
religious or theological sentiment, Deleuze responds by arguing that
the link between the pictorial element and religious sentiment . . . seems
poorly dened by the hypothesis of a gurative function that was
simply sanctied by faith (Deleuze 2003: 9). To support his argument
Deleuze analyses El Grecos The Burial of Count Orgaz. He notes the
presence of a horizontal division separating the painting into two distinct
sections the terrestrial and the celestial. In the lower section of the
painting there is gurative and narrative content (albeit unorthodox and
already displaying a degree of gural distortion) as the Counts terrestrial
dead body is laid to rest in the Earth. However, in the upper section
where the counts living spirit is being received by Christ, there is an
astonishing gural liberation the Figures are lifted up and elongated,
rened without measure, outside all constraint (Deleuze 2003: 9). The
gures in this section of the canvas are relieved of their representative
(earthly and bodily) role, and are placed upon an entirely different,
spiritual register (they are being put into relation with an order of
celestial sensations [Deleuze 2003: 9]). Deleuze uses this particular
work to demonstrate how a Christian painting, ostensibly governed
by the historical task of representing and communicating a sacred
narrative, discovered startlingly aberrant painterly means for expressing
non-representational and sensational affects. Here lines, colours and
movements are freed from the demands of representation and narration,
and express celestial, infernal, immaterial and spiritual sensations. This
is particularly true if one spends any time at all looking at the different
ways Christs body is depicted within the history of Christian painting
as a means of expressing the broadest range of intense and extreme
sensations, ranging from Cimabue to Grnewald.
Triptychs, Eternity and the Spirituality of the Body 263
Deleuzes argument suggests that great religious narrative paintings,
marked by representational imperatives, provide the conditions of
possibility for an essential liberation of gures, i.e. the emergence of
freed fromgurative constraints and able to become the vehicles
of sensation. He notes that Christianity contains a germ of tranquil
atheism that will nurture painting; the painter can easily be indifferent
to the religious subject he is asked to represent (Deleuze 2003: 124). In
Christian painting representational and narrative space is placed into
a direct relation with not only accidents but also an aberrant non-
representational space (an any-space-whatsoever), a spiritual space, the
realm of the immaterial and the invisible. Intriguingly, Deleuze returns
to the theme of Christian painting at the end of the book with a
discussion of pictorial fact (as opposed to representation, thematisation
and narration) in Michelangelos work. With Michelangelo pictorial
fact emerges in its purest state from Christian art where the forms
may still be gurative, and there may still be narrative relations between
the characters but these constitute the residues of the primary act of
gural painting which are supplanted by the properly pictorial fact
(Deleuze 2003: 160). With Michelangelo Christian painting achieves
an extraordinary level of pictorial facticity which no longer tells a
story and no longer represents anything but its own movement, and
which makes these apparently arbitrary elements coagulate in a single
continuous ow (Deleuze 2003: 160). His gures realise, within the
realm of Christian art, a form of proto-Baconian pictorial fact where
organic guration provides a painterly vehicle for the revelation of the
body beneath the organism (i.e. the body without organs).
This body
beneath the organic gure causes it to crack or swell and imposes a
spasm on it forcing it into a relation with forces sometimes with
an inner force that arouses them, sometimes with external forces that
traverse them, sometimes with the eternal force of an unchanging time,
sometimes with the variable forces of a owing time (Deleuze 2003:
If the extraordinary manifestation of bizarre gural metamorphoses
in classical religious art (Cimabue, El Greco, Tintoretto) are functions of
a religious sentiment being explicitly narrated, gured and represented
in the paintings of this time, then one cannot legitimately abstract the
religious sentiment from them, despite recognising within modernity
that such truths no longer hold. Religious sentiment and narration (for
example, Christs passion, the Creation, the Apocalyptic visions of Hell)
animate and inform not only the efforts within painting to represent
them as events in space and time, but also the efforts to express them
264 D. C. Ambrose
as intensities, sensations, and extreme modes of affectivity (a divine
realm seen and a divine realm felt). The affective register of religious
painting remains locked into a causal relationship with the narrative
content of the Christian religion. Such art might aim to represent a
particular event in Christs life (e.g. the crucixion) as a type of religious
or spiritual portrait, however to do this it is not enough merely to
illustrate it as a discrete event in time. Rather, it is important to utilise
the depiction of such events to communicate the affective force of the
spiritual depth associated with them. This affective quality, informed
by religious sentiment, operates as a disruptive modulator to good
stable representational form and the earthly body becomes subject to
deformation by invisible celestial forces. Bacons own practice inherits
much of this dynamic structure in so far as his work displays repeated
motifs seemingly borrowed from (or almost certainly analogous to)
traditional religious art i.e. crucixions, death and physical dissolution,
bodies in the process of becoming immaterial (a process of becoming-
indiscernible), bodies confronting spirits, and bodies placed in relation
to animals (a process of becoming-animal). However, the religious
sentiment and concrete theological concerns have been extracted and
are no longer being represented or narrated. For Deleuze, Bacons
paintings operate like great religious paintings evacuated of their
religious narrative and representation. Such content is simply of no
relevance to Bacon his work signies an accelerated form of pictorial
atheism, the very roots of which Deleuze identies as being present in
great Christian art itself. This explains the insistence upon the non-
narrative quality of Bacons triptychs rst and foremost Figures become
the vehicles of sensation (rhythmic characters) and survive to serve as
representative characters in a depicted narrative only in a residual and
secondary manner, as in Michelangelos work.
Deleuzes account is not incompatible with the idea that certain
residues of narration remain as inevitable, irreducible or deliberate
traces. Indeed, his account allows for the insistence that the primary
narrative content (in so far as any can be adequately and accurately
established) forms an important framework in the overall germination,
negotiation and sculpting of forms in space and time on the canvas.
What Deleuze does insist upon, and in this he is absolutely aligned
with Bacons own statements, is the subsidiary status of such content.
Bacons paintings involve an evacuation of religious content, theological
narrative and spiritual drama, and the effort to replace it with an
elaborate and audacious attempt to translate elements and events
drawn from his own physical existence and lter them through his
Triptychs, Eternity and the Spirituality of the Body 265
particular nervous system onto the canvases as gured sensation. The
historical specicity of Bacons life becomes recongured through art
into the grandeur of elemental eternity. This clearly ts with Deleuzes
recognition of how the eternity of art remains a constant reference for
Bacons practice: Like Rodin, he [Bacon] thinks that durability, essence,
or eternity are the primary characteristics of the work of art (Deleuze
2003: 123)
In my reading of Deleuze an understanding of Bacon emerges as
a spiritual painter (a mystical atheist). He enacts a similar dialogue
between the actual and the virtual as El Greco had explored
between the material and the spiritual, or the terrestrial and the
celestial. Following the pictorial facticity of Michelangelo, Bacons
paintings pursue a hyperbolic form of pictorial hysteria where he
is directly attempting, again and again, to release the presences
beneath representation, beyond representation. His paintings repeatedly
attempt to make such overwhelming and intense presence immediately
visible. When discussing Bacons renunciation of represented violent
spectacles in favour of excavating the invisible forces beneath or beyond
appearance as sensation, Deleuze comes close to identifying Bacons
spiritual thematic, his spiritual conviction, as a kind of declaration
of faith in life (Deleuze 2003: 61). He considers statements from
the interviews with Sylvester (particularly the remarks about cerebral
pessimism and nervous optimism), and asks why choosing to paint the
scream more than the horror, the violence of sensation, more than the
violence of the spectacle, is an act of vital faith. In his clearest and
most unambiguous passage Deleuze writes of Bacons indomitable and
visceral spirituality which has supplanted hoary old religious truisms and
transcendental myths:
But why is it an act of vital faith to choose the scream more than the
horror, the violence of sensation more than the violence of the spectacle?
The invisible forces, the powers of the future are they not already upon
us, and much more insurmountable than the worst spectacle and even the
worst pain? Yes, in a certain sense every piece of meat testies to this. But
in another sense, no. When, like a wrestler, the visible body confronts the
powers of the invisible, it gives them no other visibility than its own. It is
within this visibility that the body actively struggles, afrming the possibility
of triumphing, which was beyond its reach as long as these powers remained
invisible, hidden in a spectacle that sapped our strength and diverted us. It is
as if combat had now become possible. The struggle with the shadow is the
only real struggle. When the visual sensation confronts the invisible force that
conditions it, it releases a force that is capable of vanquishing the invisible
266 D. C. Ambrose
force, or even befriending it. Life screams at death, but death is no longer
this all-too-visible thing that makes us faint; it is this invisible force that life
detects, ushes out, and makes visible through the scream. Death is judged
from the point of view, and not the reverse, as we like to believe. Bacon, no
less than Beckett, is one of those artists who, in the name of a very intense
life, can call for an even more intense life. He is not a painter who believes
in death. His is indeed a gurative misrabilisme, but one that serves an
increasingly powerful Figure of life. . . In the very act of representing horror,
mutilation, prosthesis, fall, or failure, they have erected indomitable Figures,
indomitable through both their insistence and their presence. They have given
life a new and extremely direct power of laughter. (Deleuze 2003: 612)
This ethos is clearly linked to Bacons efforts, following Michelangelo,
to render life and time visible through the material of the body. For
Bacon there is the chronomatic force of changing time which he depicts
through the allotropic variation of bodies, and which involves a degree
of gural deformation; and then there is the force of eternal time, the
eternity of time, which is established through the unitingseparating
that reigns in the triptychs, a pure light. One can begin to discern
the reason for Deleuzes insistence upon the complete evacuation of
represented narrative from Bacons work (as he insists is evident within
Michelangelos work too), or at least its relegation to secondary traces
or residues. What Bacons work ultimately tries to gure is an expression
of something fundamentally inexpressible, what it brings to visibility is
something which is usually invisible, what it attempts to gure is the
un-gurable. His work cannot be simply reduced to a matter of what
is straightforwardly representational or narrative, since these imply the
prior existence of things, events and ideas to be merely represented as
such. It presupposes that all the things in Bacons paintings exist prior
to the work as something to be represented or narrated. For Deleuze,
Bacons ultimate theme lies outside all such coordinates, in much the
same way as the divine celestial realm had for the classic Christian
painters. There, a sensation (an affective element) of these realms could
be allied to the familiar representational coordinates of the religious or
theological dogmas of the time. With Bacon no such scripture exists
apart from his own lived reality in time, his own nervous system, which
he transmutes into gures resonating and hystericised by the invisible
forces and intensities of the virtual in matter and the eternity of time.
Having established the spiritual dynamics and thematics of Bacons
work, this paper will now proceed with an analysis of how that
work specically functions to encapsulate a certain sensation of time,
namely of eternity. Deleuze initially establishes the key elements in their
Triptychs, Eternity and the Spirituality of the Body 267
structural mechanics. Underpinning their mechanics is the principle of
rhythm. In the triptychs, he argues, rhythms become characters and
objects. By initially focusing on their rhythmic characteristics, Deleuze
identies three basic rhythms being circulated across the separated
panels of many triptychs.
1. A steady or attendant rhythm
2. Crescendo or simplication
3. A diminuendo or elimination
Referring to Bacons triptychs, Deleuze attempts to uncover each of
their rhythmic elements and demonstrate the full complexity of their
actual interplay across the panels. The attendant rhythmic character
does not necessarily always signify a straightforward visible observer
or spectator/voyeur despite their frequent appearance in triptychs (for
example, the presence of a voyeuristic gure in the right panel of
Triptych Inspired by T.S. Eliots Poem Sweeney Agonistes, 1967;
a sinister cameraman in the right panel of Triptych Studies from the
Human Body, 1970, and the spectators in both the left and right panel
of the Crucixion Triptych, 1965). Rather the attendant refers to a
constant function, a steady measure or cadence in relation to which
spectators are able to discern or distinguish rhythmic variation. This
function can have multiple objects which might include, but not be
restricted to, the circular arena, photographic apparatus, photographs
of gures, faces or objects which are attened out onto two dimensional
mirror-like surfaces, or it can be presented in several gures. Deleuze
claims that it can be gured through at hysterical smiles, the prone
bodies of sleepers, and/or coupled or copulating bodies. These are
dened as attendants because of their steady and almost constant
horizontality. This horizontal quality denes a rhythm without increase
or decrease, augmentation of diminution. However, the attendant
function is anything but simple, and Deleuze goes some considerable
way to further developing an account of its apparent complexity. Whilst
the attendant function can initially be seen as something deliberately
imposed upon certain visible characters in the paintings, it actually
abandons them to become an autonomous rhythmic character which
emerges into existence at different points throughout the three panels
of a triptych. It does this by being assigned as that character by
the active rhythmic characters in other parts of the painting. This
dynamic, autonomous and self-generating character of the work is
clearly something that resonates deeply with Bacons own understanding
of the process of auto-composition and auto-guration. In an interview
268 D. C. Ambrose
with Sylvester from 1979, Bacon said: I dont really think my pictures
out, you know; I think of the disposition of the forms and then I watch
the forms form themselves (Sylvester 1987: 136). This auto-formation
of forms explains the type of emergence of the attendant rhythmic
character in triptychs that Deleuze indicates. Attendant function might
subsequently emerge from gures in full context which, if isolated
from the entire composition, might actually appear to have either
active or passive rhythms. For Deleuze this is why some of the prone
sleeping characters in the triptychs have an odd trace of activity or
passivity so although explicitly situated across the horizontal they
retain a certain heaviness or vivacity, relaxation or contraction, that
comes fromelsewhere. Equally, attendants can be seen as assuming other
functions as on the brink of turning to an active rhythm or passive
rhythm thus linking themselves to one or the other and ceasing to be
an attendant.
This uid autonomy creates not only great tension and
instability but is also indicative of an extraordinary mobility within
triptychs, what Deleuze terms their great circulation. It is as if the
triptychs function like musical machines possessing a range of different
rhythmic permutations.
Having introduced the attendant rhythmic character, Deleuze
proceeds with an explanation of the two vertical directions of active and
passive rhythms. The simplest variation consists of descending or rising
opposition (for example, Triptych Three Studies for a Crucixion,
1962) or perhaps a diastolic/systolic opposition. Occasionally the
opposition at play is between being naked or clothed, or an
augmentation/diminution of the esh. Throughout different triptychs
there exists an extraordinarily subtle and diverse process of additions
and subtractions. The example which Deleuze talks about in most
detail is Bacons Triptych August, 1972 depicting George Dyer, which
he claims is Bacons most profoundly musical painting. Across this
triptych Bacon uses gural mutilation and prostheses in a game of
added and subtracted values (Deleuze 2003: 79). The triptych is like an
assemblage of hysterical sleepings and wakings affecting diverse parts of
the body. Here, the attendant couple in the centre panel are accompanied
by organic elongations and a clear and well dened mauve oval. On
the left panel the gure has a diminished torso, having had a signicant
portion of its body subtracted; while on the right the gure is in the
process of being built up or added to. However, everything changes
if one looks at the legs. In the left panel one leg is completed while
the other is being subject to further addition and denition, while in
the right panel, it is just the opposite one leg has been amputated
Triptychs, Eternity and the Spirituality of the Body 269
and the other is apparently owing away. Correlatively the dened
mauve oval in the centre panel changes its status within the other two
panels on the left panel it is transformed into a pink liquid pool lying
next to the chair, and then becomes a red liquid discharge owing out
from the gures leg in the right panel.
For Deleuze this profoundly musical triptych is emblematic of the
degree of rhythmic complexity and variation achieved by triptychs. The
diverse oppositions across different panels are never logically equivalent
in any normal sense and their different terms never quite coincide. What
triptychs represent is a radical combinatorial freedom where multiple
permutations can be produced. Each and every element can coexist in a
unied way share a simple matter-of-fact yet the different oppositions
set up can vary in diverse ways or even be reversed depending on the
perspective or viewpoint that one adopts as a viewer. One cannot assign
a single univocal role to the centre panel, since the constancy they
seemingly imply can change depending on the case at hand. Hence,
the horizontal of the constants govern extremely variable terms from
the viewpoint of both their nature and their relation. The dynamic
circulation is always composed of variable, opposable rhythms (where
each operates as the retro-gradation of the other) offset against a
common and constant value in the attendant rhythm.
At this point, in developing his understanding of the active rhythm,
Deleuze insists upon the primacy of the fall in Bacons triptychs.
However, it is not a sense of descent which should be identied with
any straightforward spatial notion. The active is a fall in the sense of it
being a descending passage of sensation, a passage identifying variation
and difference of level within sensation. He claims that differences of
intensity in sensation are often experienced and gured in Bacons work
as a fall. Flesh descends from bones, the body descends from arms and
thighs. Sensation develops though this fall by falling from one level
to another. The fall thus exists to afrm a variation in level. Whilst
Deleuze reiterates Bacons view that one shouldnt confuse the violence
of sensation with the violent spectacle, he also indicates that the so-
called fall of a sensation should not be confused with a fall through
spatial extension. Rather the fall records variation and change and is
simply what is most vital and alive in sensation. The fall is that which is
experienced as the sensation of living. This does not of course preclude
the possibility that it could coincide with a spatial descent. But equally
it could coincide with a rise. It could also be expressed through a variety
of different movements in the paintings diastolic or systolic, dilation
or dissipation, diminution or augmentation. In this sense, the fall as
270 D. C. Ambrose
the measure of variation in sensation is precisely what is meant by the
active rhythm in the triptychs. Again, this active rhythm is uid and
variable, and the degree to which it is assigned to a particular gure or
object within the painting rests upon which viewpoint or perspective one
chooses to adopt. It thus exchanges its function with the passive rhythm.
Having analysed the different rhythmic characters associated with
the triptychs, Deleuze establishes what he describes as the laws of the
1. There are three distinguishable, rhythmic gures.
2. There is the existence of an attendant rhythm which circulates
uidly through the panels as both visible attendant and rhythmic
3. There is a determination of an active and passive rhythm with all
of the variations that depend on the character chosen to represent
the active rhythm by the spectator.
Having set out these formal laws, Deleuze concludes by claiming that
they broadly embody a profoundly irrational logic, a logic of sensation,
that constitutes the art of painting in general. By stressing the power
and vitality of this non-normative logic and non-voluntaristic means
of composition, Deleuze instinctively aligns his own account again and
again with Bacon. In 1979 Bacon told Sylvester:
One of the things Ive always tried to analyse is why it is that, if the formation
of the image that you want is done irrationally, it seems to come on to the
nervous system much more strongly than if you knew how you could do it.
Why is it possible to make the reality of an appearance more violently in
this way than by doing it rationally? Perhaps its that, if the making is more
instinctive, the image is more immediate. (Sylvester 1987: 121)
The full complexity of the formal elements now established, Deleuze
crucially shifts his attention to the question of what forces correspond
to the triptychs. What precisely is this complex machinic apparatus a
means of capture for? And in what way does this force impact upon the
structure of the triptychs? In the triptychs the question of the relation
between the different Figures becomes extremely signicant. Figures are
violently projected onto the eld and are often governed by the simplicity
and clarity of uniform colour or naked light. In many cases, the gures
look like trapeze artists whose milieu is nothing but light or colour. The
particular methodology identied by Deleuze within triptychs is again
something Bacon talks about with Sylvester. Particularly in relation to
the question of precision and clarity: Ive increasingly wanted to make
Triptychs, Eternity and the Spirituality of the Body 271
the images simpler and more complicated. And for this to work it can
work more starkly if the background is very united and clear. I think
that probably is why I have used a very clear background against which
the image can articulate itself (Sylvester 1987: 121).
Deleuze observes that if this unity and clarity of light or colour
immediately incorporates and unies the relationship between Figures
and the Field, the result is that Figures also attain their maximum
separation in light and colour. A force of separation or division
sweeps over them, placing them within an almost spiritual milieu of
eternity. This separation is therefore the unique principle of the triptychs
(their pictorial fact) maximum unity of light and colour for the
maximum division of Figures. It is the force of this separating light and
colour that engenders the distinct yet interrelated, rhythmic characters.
The separation of bodies in universal light and colour becomes the
common fact of the Figures their overall rhythmic being a disjunctive
synthesis a union that separates. A joining-together acts to separate the
Figures and colours. Such, Deleuze claims, is the quality of light. Figures
separate while falling into black light; colour elds separate while
falling into white light. In the triptychs everything becomes aerial the
separation itself is in the air. Here time is no longer simply expressed in
the apparent chromatism of bodies via the broken tones across esh it
has become a monochromatic eternity. In the triptychs an immense
space-time unites all things as if in a fourth temporal dimension. Deleuze
writes of how triptychs, evacuated of any straightforward narrative
linkage, unite things only by introducing between them
the distances of a Sahara, the centuries of an aeon. Within the triptychs
there resides the mysterious force of the eternity of time. The three canvases
remain separated, gures within them remain separated, yet they are no
longer isolated. They are united within the eternity of time. The frames or
borders of each panel and the outlines of each gure no longer refer to the
limited unity of each but represent and gure the distributive unity of all.
(Deleuze 2003: 85)
In Bacons triptychs a profound sensation of eternal time is being
gured, producing brilliant aberrant gural spaces which resonate
historically with the greatest achievements in religious art to gure
the divine celestial realm. Bacons rhythmic characters ow with an
extraordinary dynamism across the vast spaces of the monochromatic
eternity presented within the triptychs, each expressing a new
spiritualism of matter, a new spiritualism of the body, as they perform
their small embodied feats upon the grand amphitheatre of nowhere,
272 D. C. Ambrose
all playing their different roles in the musicality of becoming. Deleuzes
most complex and controversial claim about Francis Bacon in The Logic
of Sensation is thus to recongure him as a Spinozistic mystic, engaged
in the profoundest of spiritual revaluations of existence through art.
In the Ethics Spinoza denes eternity as that which stands outside
all duration or time Eternity can neither be dened by time nor
have any relation to time (Spinoza 1992: 214). True eternity stands
outside of all temporal categories whatsoever. Before, after, now,
later and all such ascriptions are completely inapplicable to what is
eternal. According to Spinoza God and Substance are both eternal,
and even individuated and singular things as instances of substance are
eternal. Despite the fact that we have no recollection of our own bodily
emergence from eternity we feel and experience that we are eternal
(Spinoza 1992: 214). For individuated bodies to be seen as eternal
they must be considered not in their temporally and spatially bound
state, where they are in relation to other nite things in their normal
durational existence, but from a more abstract perspective as atemporal
essences what Spinoza terms sub specie aeternitatis. Thus, according to
Deleuzes reading of Bacons triptychs, what Bacon ultimately manages
to elaborate is a profound spiritual mechanics for displaying Figures
under the aspect of eternity.
1. It is the revelation of the spirit immanent to the body which Deleuze suggests
as the entire spiritual thematic of Bacons work. This point is claried in
the chapter on Hysteria where Deleuze links the spiritualism of Wilhelm
Worringers Gothic Line to Artauds Body-Without-Organs: It [the Gothic Line]
attests to a high spirituality, since what leads it to seek the elementary forces
beyond the organic is a spiritual will. But this spirituality is a spirituality of the
body; the spirit is the body itself, the body without organs (Deleuze 2003: 467).
2. This text rst appeared in Artforum in January 1984, and is republished (with
minor emendations) as a preface to the English translation of The Logic of
3. See Deleuzes remarks in The Logic of Sensation (Deleuze 2003: 978) regarding
rst and second order guration in Bacons work.
4. This would seemto call for a rigorous study of Hegels remarks on the history and
development of Christian painting in the second volume of his Aesthetics. When
writing of how certain painters had depicted Christs suffering on the cross, he
notes how some masters discovered an entirely peculiar tone of colour which
is not found in the human face. They had to disclose the night of the spirit,
and for this purpose fashioned a type of colour which corresponds in the most
splendid way to this storm, to these black clouds of the spirit that at the same
time are rmly controlled and kept in place by the brazen brow of the divine
nature (Hegel 1975: 824). Hegel writes at length about how painters had to
betray the verisimilitude of representation in order to express spiritual depths
Triptychs, Eternity and the Spirituality of the Body 273
and sensations. Deleuzes own remarks on what he calls the accident and the
depiction of Christs body in the history of Christian painting recall Hegels
remarks. Deleuze notes how Christ is besieged, and even replaced by accidents
(Deleuze 2003: 124).
5. This differentiation is marked in Deleuzes text with the capitalised form of
6. Note Deleuzes use of the specically religious notion of revelation.
7. In a footnote to this passage Deleuze cites Luciano Bellosis work on
Michelangelo, which has shown how Michelangelo destroyed the narrative
religious fact in favour of a properly pictorial or sculptural fact (Deleuze 2003:
8. Of particular note here are the two spectral gures in the left panel of
Triptych Three Studies for a Crucixion, 1962. These two gures hover and
resonate with an ambiguous rhythmic character that is extremely disturbing and
Deleuze, Gilles (2003) Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, trans. Daniel W.
Smith, London: Continuum.
Deleuze, Gilles (2006) Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 19751995,
ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Ames Hodges and Mike Taormina, New York:
Hegel, G. W. F. (1975) Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, Volume II, trans. Malcolm
Knox, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Spinoza, Baruch (1992) Ethics, trans. Samuel Shirley, Indianapolis/Cambridge:
Hackett Publishing Company.
Sylvester, David (1987) The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, third
revised edition, London: Thames and Hudson.
DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000634
From the Archive
Introduction to Gnther Anders
The Pathology of Freedom
Katharine Wolfe State University of New York
Never act in such a way that the maxim of your action contradicts that of the
machine of which you are or will be part.
(Gnther Anders, Die Antiquierheit des Menschen; see van Dijk 2000: 82)
In the twenty-second series of The Logic of Sense, Porcelain
and Volcano, Deleuze refers to a remarkable essay by Gnther
Stern mistakenly referred to as Stein. Stern is better known under the
name of Anders different in German. What relevance does Anders
essay have to this series? The series opens with a passage from F. Scott
Fitzgeralds The Crack Up, and moves from the crack up as an event
no more internal than external (think of a crack in the shell of an egg,
or, perhaps, ones own birth, or of how the blurriness of eyes tired from
a day of reading is matched by dizziness in the world Sartre) to the
temporality of a particular kind of addiction: alcoholism. A crack or
ssure extends along a life, as estranged as it is strangely ones own.
Indeed, the crack up is not so unlike what Georg Simmel, in an essay
Anders references, calls an adventure:
The most general form of adventure is its dropping out of the continuity
of life. Wholeness of life, after all, refers to the fact that a consistent
process runs through the individual components of life, however crassly
and irreconcilably distinct they may be. What we call an adventure stands
in contrast to that interlocking of life-links, to that feeling that those
countercurrents, turnings, and knots still, after all, spin forth a continuous
thread. An adventure is certainly a part of our existence, directly contiguous
with other parts which precede and follow it; at the same time, however, in
its deeper meaning, it occurs outside the usual continuity of this life. (Simmel
1971: 1878)
Introduction to The Pathology of Freedom 275
Alcoholism extends the impersonal and transcendental event of the
crack up across a life by way of a caesura of time. Alcoholism,
Deleuze writes, hardens the present (Deleuze 1990: 158). In Fitzgerald,
alcoholisms temporality is that of the past perfect I have-acted, I have-
broken, I have-touched where the present auxiliary is the hardened
present and the past participle the volatile, churning real it extends
across and holds in its entirety: a volcano held in porcelain. Still, in
alcoholism, the I have-drunk collapses the near past of the last drink
with the distant past of sobriety (Deleuze 1990: 159). Hardness becomes
indifference and the present loses its hold on the past without ceasing to
enclose it; lava turns to dust. Further, each drink is always already a
drink I have-drunk, faded into the past at the same time that the past
is washed out by the indistinction of its points. For the drink to break
through the present is for the undifferentiated past to break upon the
present and wash over it. The crack becomes a wound as the drunk
meets her alcoholism and becomes an alcoholic, and no longer a sober
companion to another self who has drunk. The self collapses into a
single ego, no longer split into the actual event and a double that might
counter-actualise it.
Anders essay is likewise concerned with the paradoxical and ever-
incomplete synthesis of life with self and with what has happened within
it. His Pathology of Freedom diagnoses numerous ways of negotiating
ones not being cut out for the world that disavow rather than afrm
this existential state. Deleuzes invocation of Sterns work comes within
his sketch of a second form of alcoholism captured in Malcolm Lowrys
novel Under the Volcano. In Under the Volcano, alcoholism is lived as a
piercing and dire need. Time ssures under this need, but in a different
modality. It hardens around a future under the form of a future perfect:
immanently, I will have drunk. It is to Gnther Anders remarkable
essay that Deleuze turns to describe this future-oriented caesura in time.
Readers of Deleuzes The Logic of Sense will also be interested in Anders
suspicion of identication with what happens to one as what one is
worthy of or equal to, as well as Anders account of paradox, repetition,
memory, space, and the relation between life and self, to mention but a
few of the themes touched on in this essay.
Gnther Anders (190292), born Gnther Stern, was the cousin of
Walter Benjamin and the rst husband of Hannah Arendt (between
1929 and 1937). Anders spent 1921 as a student of philosophy
under Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger at the University of
Freiburg, and completed his doctoral dissertation under Husserls
direction in 1923. In 1930, still working under his given name of Stern,
276 Katharine Wolfe
Anders gave a presentation of his developing negative anthropology
before the Kant society of Frankfurt and Hamburg entitled Die
Weltfremdheit des Menschen (The Unworldliness of the Human
Being). This lecture, included in Anders Nachlass housed in the
Austrian Literary Archives of the National Library in Vienna, was the
basis for the rst French translation of Anders work, by Emmanuel
Levinas, published in Recherches Philosophiques IV (193435) under
the title Une interpretation de la posteriori (An Interpretation of the A
Posteriori). Levinas translated the rst 24 pages of the manuscript. The
essay which appears here rst published in Volume VI of Recherches
Philosophiques (193637), and translated by P.-A. Stphanopoli under
the title Pathologie de la Libert (The Pathology of Freedom) shares
some content with passages from Die Weltfremdheit des Menschen
but does not have a clear predecessor in this text. The sterreichische
Nationalbibliothek in Vienna, where Anders work is archived, considers
the original lost, and has undertaken a reverse translation into German
based on the French and informed by some corresponding passages in
Die Weltfremdheit des Menschen. (My thanks go to Peter Hertz for
reviewing the archive directors notes on this reverse translation.)
Stern took up the name Anders while working as an editor for the
Berliner Brsen-Courier (193033). The rise of National Socialism and
of Hitler in Germany changed the focus of Anders work, directing him
away from the academy with which he already felt only a tenuous bond.
In 1931, alarmed at the inability of many intellectuals to fathom Hitlers
potential to rise to power, he began writing a dystopian, anti-fascist
novel entitled Die Molussische Katakombe (The Molussian Catacomb).
In 1933, the advance publication of this novel together with the inclusion
of his name among those in Bertolt Brechts address book, conscated
by the Gestapo, made it unsafe for him to remain in Germany. He took
refuge in Paris and then, in 1936, New York. After learning of the
Holocaust from Arendt upon her arrival in New York in 1941, and later
of the bombing of Hiroshima through President Trumans radio address
to the nation, Anders life work became centred around a critique
of technology: what we can produce exceeds what we can imagine,
the machine becomes the subject of history and its makers its raw
material, and our primary affective relationships become relationships
with machines and artefacts, which treat us in ways that, in the words
of Paul van Dijk, render us both greater and smaller than ourselves
(van Dijk 2000: 78). Further, Jean-Paul Sartre once said that it was
Anders who inspired his understanding of the human being condemned
to freedom (van Dijk 2000: 29).
Introduction to The Pathology of Freedom 277
Deleuze, Gilles (1990) The Logic of Sense, ed. Constantin Boundas, trans. Mark
Lester with Charles Stivale, New York: Columbia University Press.
Simmel, Georg (1971) The Adventurer, in On Individuality and Social Forms, ed.
Donald N. Levine, Chicagoand London: University of Chicago Press, pp. 18798.
van Dijk, Paul (2000) Anthropology in the Age of Technology: The Philosophical
Contribution of Gnther Anders, Amsterdamand Atlanta: Rodopi.
DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000646
The Pathology of Freedom: An Essay on
Gnther (Stern) Anders
Translated by Katharine Wolfe
In the twenty-second series of The Logic of Sense, Gilles Deleuze
references a remarkable essay by Gnther (Stern) Anders. Anders
essay, translated here as The Pathology of Freedom, addresses the
sickness and health of our negotiation with the negative anthropological
condition of not being cut out for the world.
Keywords: Nihilism, historicism, philosophical anthropology, freedom,
A Note on the Translation
It is Stphanopolis version of the essay, the one which Deleuze read and
referenced, that is translated here. Incomplete and inaccurate citations
in the French suggest that the piece Stphanopoli worked with remained
very rough. Here, citations have been corrected and completed for
readability, with reference to English-language editions of sources where
available, and hopefully without too great a harm done to the feel
of the text. German passages and terms preserved in the French have
been carried over into the English. All endnotes are my own. Anderss
original footnotes have been incorporated into the body of the text, in
parentheses {} and introduced with Note. Although any shortcomings
are my own, I wish to thank both Anne OByrne and Marcus Michelsen
for their assistance in revising and improving early drafts of this
An analysis of the situation of man in the world has revealed to us, in
broad strokes, the following conclusions [see Stern 193435: 65]:
The Pathology of Freedom 279
In contrast to the animal that instinctively knows [connat] the
material world belonging to it and necessary for it like the bird
migration south, and the wasp her prey man does not foresee his world.
He has but one formal a priori. He is not cut out for any material
world, cannot anticipate it in its determination, and instead must learn
to know it [connatre] after the fact,
a posteriori; he needs experience.
His relation with a factual determination of the world is relatively
weak, and he is in the awaiting of the possible and the indeterminate
[le quelconque].
Likewise, no world is in fact imposed on him (as, for
example, on every animal a specic milieu), and instead he transforms
the world and builds over it according to a thousand historical variants
and in a way as a superstructure; sometimes as a second world,
sometimes as another. For, to put it paradoxically, articiality is the
nature of man and his essence is instability. The practical constructions
of man and his theoretical faculties of representation testify equally to
his abstraction. He can and must disregard the fact that the world is
such as it is for he is himself an abstract being; not only part of the
world (it is this aspect that materialism treats) but also excluded from
it, not of this world. Abstraction thus meaning freedom vis--vis the
world, the fact of being cut out for generality and the indeterminate, the
retreat from the world, and the practice and the transformation of this
world is the fundamental anthropological category, which shows the
metaphysical condition of man as well as his o, his productivity, his
interiority, his free will, and his historicity.
Man proves his freedom vis--vis the world with all his acts, but in
none so expressly as in the act of retreating within himself. For by this
act he now takes in hand the destiny of his rupture with the world, he
intensies it until a gateway to the world is made, and he offsets the
world by himself. What will follow proceeds from this self-experience
and from the adventures of the unhappy consciousness, as Hegel calls
it. This will be reduced in the rst part to a description simply of the
nihilist of the man who, because sometimes free and sometimes not,
sometimes of this world and sometimes not of this world, loses the
possibility of self-identication. This failure of identication will be
brought to light through an analysis of the nihilist states of the soul.
In the second part, an antithesis will be opposed to the picture of the
nihilist, that of the historical man. In conclusion, in place of a synthesis,
the problematic will be put in question as such, and we will attempt
to determine if the question, relative to philosophical anthropology, of
knowing what man in general could be is justied according to this
280 Gnther (Stern) Anders
I. Thesis: Picture of the Nihilist
1. The shock of the contingent: That I am precisely myself.
The identication of the I and its failure.
It is not necessary for man to accomplish a deliberate act of self-
positing or self-determination (expressions that constantly recur in
transcendental philosophy, particularly in Fichte) in order to secure the
guarantee and the coronation of his freedom.
Mans retreat within
himself reveals the ability to disregard the world and is already sufcient
proof of freedom. But the expressions persist with all their excessive
pretension. And they conceal the ensemble of difculties and antinomies
that lead to this free act of retreat into oneself: i.e., the paradoxical
fact that only if man discovers himself freely, by an act emanating
freely from him, then he discovers himself precisely as non-free, and
as non-self-determined. The character of the non-positing by oneself
has a double aspect. On the one hand, the man who nds himself in
the state of freedom discovers himself as existing there beforehand,
as delivered and condemned to himself, as non-self-constituted, as
a real, irrevocable presupposition of himself, as a part of the world,
as an a priori of oneself defying all subsequent freedom; as all that
which the term Amor fati attempts to rise above. On the other
hand, and this is in close correlation with the previous point, this
irrevocable presupposition appears qualitatively as something absolutely
indeterminate. Man experiences himself as contingent [Troeltsch 1951:
879], as indeterminate, as me precisely (such as he has not chosen),
as one who is precisely as he is (although he could be entirely different),
as coming from an origin to which he does not answer and with which
he nevertheless has to be identied; as precisely here and as now. This
deepening paradox of freedom and contingencys reciprocal belonging,
this paradox that is an imposture, freedoms fatal gift, is elucidated in
the following way.
To be free, this means: to be strange [tranger],
to be bound
to nothing specic, to be cut out for nothing specic, to be within
the horizon of the indeterminate and in an attitude such that the
indeterminate can also be encountered amongst other indeterminates.
In the indeterminate, which I am able to nd thanks to my freedom,
it is also my own self that I encounter; by the same token, for as
much as it is of the world it is strange to itself. Encountered as
contingent, the self is, so to speak, the victim of its own liberty. The term
contingent must consequently designate these two characteristics: the
The Pathology of Freedom 281
selfs non-constitution of itself by itself and its existence precisely such
as it is [telle et ainsi].
This holds for all that will follow. {Note: Hegel
has presented a dialectic that we have totally neglected; it also relates
to the insistence of the I on its own formalisation. The expression I
designates something precise, stripped of all contingent reality; but it
does not only designate only the self. The expression is misleading, for
everyone can say I, and the I is everyone; thus, in existence there is
moreover the general. If we put the Hegelian antinomy together with our
own, it can be said that the self searches in vain to take place between
its contingencies, the attributes that are accidental for it (but that always
belong to it), and the form I in general [Ichheit] (that is not its alone). A
painful position.}
2. Formulation of the shock of the contingent; falsication thereof.
Why, demands Schopenhauer in his Tagebchern, is the now precisely
now? [sic] [Schopenhauer 1969: 279].
This type of question is
characteristic of the shock of the contingent. In so far as Schopenhauer
does not intend to answer it, the question is nothing other than a
formulation of this shock.
Nonetheless, the translation of the shock (that I am precisely myself)
into an interrogative proposition and it is only under this form that the
problem of contingency appears in the history of philosophy seems to
us to emanate already from a theoretical point of view, and appears
falsied. The real shock can be formulated only in a subordinate
anacoluthon; it is much too fundamental and much too absurd for one
to be able to answer it. For alone susceptible to answers are the questions
that arise as formulations of the lacunae that a context, unquestionable
in itself, may comprise. And in the case of the shock of the contingent this
context and its non-problematic state are precisely shaken. Even more
illegitimate than to translate the shock into an interrogative statement
would be to transform it into a judgement to return it, for example, to
the proposition I am not myself, the like of which may be encountered
in numerous formulas imitating Hegel. All judgement, even dialectical
judgement, observes [constate].
But the observation [constatation] at
the base of the shock is precisely this one: that however unhappily, I am
nevertheless myself. Translation: I am myself.
Without fail, judgement also knows the distinction between Subject
and Predicate as such a rupture. But although it is possible to transform
or to exchange the predicate, this cut presupposes the identity of the
subject with itself. It is precisely this identity that will be shaken in
282 Gnther (Stern) Anders
the subordinate. For what shocks in the shock of the contingent is
not even primarily the fact that I am thus or not, but precisely the
fact that myself, I am myself. The intention to formulate this state of
affairs by a dialectical formula runs up against the fact that in dialectical
logic is almost always means becomes, the transformation of one
determination into another by the intermediary of a phase of transition
ambiguous in itself. There can be no question of it in our case. What
is there only a more or less ambiguous phase of transition becomes the
theme of our research.
3. An extension of the matter of contingency.
The contingency that the I discovers within itself must not decrease
when it enters into relation with the world. Although by this route
the I loses itself in the world most of the time, to such an extent that
the internal division of this free and contingent I is only a neutralised
element of consciousness, it can happen, conversely, that the relation
with the world and the encounter with anything whatsoever can hold
the being-precisely-me [Gerade-ichsein] in suspense, further still than
before and in a continuous way. Astonishment [tonnement]
before the
contingent formulated initially in the proposition that I am precisely
myself now discovers in every thing and in every place an occasion to
show itself and a source of nourishment, and is expressed thus: that I am
neither this one here nor that one there, but precisely myself. {Note: The
many forms of Pantheism that convey fraternisation and identication
with the All are revealed on more in-depth examination as no more than
opportunist dissimulations and a deciency of self-identication. See the
following implications of contingency and of Pantheism in Hlderins
Empedocles.} This possibility of being everything thus signies neither
the unity nor the afnity of the I with man and with world, but,
conversely, its perfect strangeness: it can be all, because it is as strange
and as contingent to itself as to any other part of the world. Each
contingent thing that I am not increases once more the weight of
the fact of being that which I am precisely. The I and the world
complement each other, reciprocally rising up in their fortuitousness.
If the I, itself contingent, seizes the occasion of the world to conrm
its own contingency once more, that of the world will be likewise
made more radical. From now on the accident of self-identity and the
uselessness of self-identication will be attributed to each fragment
of the world as such, that is, outside of human contingency: the one
who is astonished now pronounces that this, which is here, is precisely
The Pathology of Freedom 283
here and nothing else. Likewise in this new phase, nothing contingent,
an accident, will be observed [constatera] starting from something non-
contingent, a substrate; astonishment will still remain in a way within the
eld of the validity of the principle of contradiction, with the pathology
of this astonishment characterised precisely by constantly breaking such
frameworks. And what this boils down to is that any Hoc and Illud is
really itself. {Note: Thus formulated, this paralysis of things and this
nihilist stage of freedom appears completely contrived. Nevertheless, we
are acquainted [connit] with it in pictorial art. The majority of still-
life paintings make it their theme. For in these paintings, man not only
depicts the thing that has lost its relations with others and has become
strange to them as if it were not his thing, the thing that is no longer
either mans neighbour or handled by him, and which, isolated in a space
without atmosphere, is simply there (Chardin) but also the thing as
contingent, as if it were blameworthy in its own mode of existence, and
which, xed now in the painting, can no longer escape from the shame of
its contingent existence (for example, the chairs and the shoes in the rst
Van Gogh). It is not by accident that this ridicule and strangeness can be
represented by art. For isolation is not only characteristic of strangeness,
but is also an important condition of the beautiful (cf., for example, the
function of the frame). Painting that xes the aspect of a man or a thing
in a picture seems as it were to repeat the act by which each thing is
already condemned to itself.}
Hlderlin, in his rst outlines for Empedocles, described contingency
and what is unbearable in it in the following way: Empedocles would be
unsatised, inconstant, suffering simply because (these relations) would
be particular relations [sic].
Each determined relation is thus for him
the loss of all the others; each being-itself the loss of all the beings whose
form it could take.
But Empedocles contingency is not the most radical. Empedocles
searches and nds deliverance anew from his Being-precisely-this, the
pantheistic salvation: total being, to which he entrusts himself while
leaping in the crater and in which his personal being, the being that
he is precisely, is sublimated, remains for him the non-contingent, the
last absolute. It is certainly understandable that one reserves such a
salvation, a non-contingent residue. But this goes against the nihilists
classical principles. For the radical nihilist, in his fury at contingency,
renounces not only the unique, the particular, and the indeterminate,
not only the being that he is personally, but the being of the existent
itself, which falls now under the curse of indeterminate contingency, as
if it were any existence whatsoever. That there exists a world in general,
284 Gnther (Stern) Anders
that there exists a there is something, that I am quite simply, that
there is something in general which I am; such are the formulas that the
nihilist employs.
In truth, the henceforth unlimited astonishment that is expressed in
these expressions and the shaking of beings simple existence have their
deepest foundation in this state of things: that man at bottom is not
cut out for any mode of existence whatsoever, but for himself, in so far
as he is also of the world. He reaches a pathological extreme in so far
as he remains within theory alone, in so far as he does not realise his
freedom in practice, in the constitution of his world. {Note: This goes
for all the forms of freedom that are here discussed. They all belong to
the domain of reason, described by Kant, that deceives itself and that, in
place of being understandable as praxis, in place of transforming itself
into practical reason, remains theoretical, and so moving and tragic that
it is possible for the antinomies and pathological forms of freedom born
henceforth to arise. These antinomies, insoluble within the framework
of theoretical reason, will be resolved by practical reason; further still,
they will no longer be posed.}
4. Digression on the general validity of the statements concerning
philosophical anthropology.
These rst formulations of the non-identication of man with himself
are exaggerations. But they are, if it will be allowed, philosophical
exaggerations. The principle indicated is at the root of the facts,
but, taken as such, it appears more radical than reality and seems
pathological. If man dwelled perpetually on the impossibility of self-
identication, there would remain for him no other solution [issue],
to put it bluntly, than suicide the only one the Stoics perceived; no
other means to abolish what one is in the state of non-freedom, to cancel
contingency. However, what we are calling philosophical exaggeration
is not falsication; if consciousness of contingency is, admittedly, almost
always less precise and more illusory than the formulas claimed to
express it, these formulas are nevertheless born of the nihilist life itself,
and must be once again, as it were, there transposed. They are thus
not only statements concerning the life that unfolds in the paradoxical,
but documents emanating from this life itself. The exaggeration stems
from what these statements in principle only express in situations
of exception, of which, moreover, certain formulations complete and
specify actual [effectifs] states, and lead them only then to their actual
truth [effective]. What is exaggerated, that is to say, pushed to an
The Pathology of Freedom 285
extreme of acuity and to a bare truth, is in the rst place the situation
of contingency itself, and in the second place only the statement of
which it is the object. The formulations are thus not only expressions
of this existence but they inform it, and in such a way that they
become real.
Although we take them to be rare, situations of non-identication are
probably not. They are only rarely expressed and rarely communicated
because their formulas are not the starting point of anything and because
they come from a socially non-existent point of view (for they are neither
questions nor answers; they reveal only astonishment). Even if it will be
admitted that such situations are extremely rare, this will say nothing
against their philosophical value or against their utility in philosophical
anthropology. It should be noted, moreover, that philosophy preserves
a certain antipathy towards treating the infrequent philosophically, be it
due to the identication of the general and the essential, fatal in many
respects to Western philosophy, or because the veriable in general is
accepted as criteria of the scientic. It is very characteristic of this state
of things that Jaspers dealt with his theory of limit situations, which
are certainly rare, in a psychology of conceptions of the world. It
was not quite obvious in his eyes still wholly confused by a naturalist
conception of science that he was philosophising in treating despair,
death, ecstasy, etc. . . . It is necessary to uphold, on the contrary, that
the rarest human situations and the least familiar human types can
play a part in an interpretation which would aim at the general on
the condition of considering and interpreting the very fact of their
rarity. To return to our case, we can say that an extremely precise
state of shock of the contingent is rare, because, in the rst place, the
duplicity of the I is not experienced in practice the man who discovers
himself as already existing can really make something of himself and
because, in the second place, the mortal shock is resolved into attitudes
that already constitute a modus vivendi, attitudes that conceal their
character of contingency. The study that is attempted here can thus
only have for its theme a subject whose life continues, and thus of
such compromise attitudes. {Note: What goes for these exceptional
human situations goes for all the phenomena and human types that must
be explored in philosophical anthropology, this being something that
must not remain perfectly empty out of consideration for the concept
of validity in general. Such an account, which seems directed against
scientic rigor, and just as easily justies precisely those who depend
on the xation of general traits, that, more often than not, must admit
of statements that are valid in general, does not sufciently question
286 Gnther (Stern) Anders
the philosophical signicance of the term generality, and does not
hesitate to take generality for a purely logical category that could be
indifferently applied to all classes of objects. These statements are false.
For the general plays different roles in different places (different in the
domain of the animal, for example, than in that of man); it becomes in
each case signicant only in relation to individuation and specication,
in such a way that, consequently, these general statements have for each
class of objects a different essentiality and dignity. Man is general in a
very specic [spcial] way; he is not realised according to a single form
foreseen in principle and valid in general, but, as daily life and history
indicate, according to many different types. Man is in plural men in
an entirely different way than the animal is in plural animals. In the
latter case the plural signies the generality of the specic [spcial];
in the former, the set of the multiple specications of the general.
Such a plural represents much more than just empirical variants of an
a priori humanity in itself. It is the fact of the variation, and not
the constancy of the variable, that denes the specically human in
philosophical anthropology. Therein, it is true, something of the general
is likewise still expressed. To what extent is a general determination
The fact of not being xed on any a priori material world, of not
being settled on any world, of not having any foreseen determination,
thus of being indeterminate, denes man essentially (as we have shown
elsewhere, Recherches philosophiques, IV).
It is thus only to the point of specic indetermination that the
general determinability of man is possible. What comes from this
indetermination, what man makes of it, can no longer be determined
from the point of view of the general if one does not want to afrm
and deny indetermination simultaneously. The case of the nihilist who
perpetuates the instability and the indetermination of his role, who does
not decide in favour of any determination and who ceaselessly confuses
the indicative can with the conditional could, and who does not want
anything other than to nd himself in his most formal I, is a special case.
We will not hesitate in what follows to introduce a different type of man,
equally held up to philosophical anthropology.
We are aware of thus making ourselves advocates of the concept of
the type, employed and rejected in an equally vague way. The criticism
addressed to this concept, namely, that it does not have the univocal
structure of vo, should be handed over to another court. The famous
accusation of the good Lord with which the biologist set an end to the
ideas of his colleague, the mathematician, is also applicable here.
The Pathology of Freedom 287
If the essential is not essential through its generality, the question of
knowing if a thing will be general or specic [spcial] could be rejected as
non-philosophic. Undoubtedly, the philosophical enterprise, accustomed
to an average generality, becomes unstable in renouncing its claim to
the general; it does not know to just what specic [spcial] and to
just what concrete it can and must advance. When it deepens into the
specic [spcial], an external limit of its competence is not prescribed in
advance. Instead, as in historical research, the thing that one discovers
and the documents by which one discovers it are mutually conditioned
and corrected; it is the result of this working together, which decides the
degree of specication [spcialisation] and this decides the result.
5. Shame as the reality of the consciousness of the contingent, and as
the classical form of its concealment.
{Note added by Stphanopoli: The states of the soul to be treated further,
and encompassed in the German term Scham, are exhausted neither
by what we call shame nor modesty considered independently of one
another. Sometimes expressed as shame and sometimes as modesty, it
is a matter of shame of being such as one is, of ones own origin, and
thus of something pre-existing which serves as the foundation of these
expressions, and of others as well, to which a nuanced analysis might
appeal. (It is thus a matter of an affective state inherent to an existence,
not to an action. Shame of the act is remorse. Shame of being diversies
up to the point of regret and sometimes reaches shame of the Act. The
shame in question goes thus from regret of the Act from which I arose,
and which is not mine, to modesty in unveiling my self, which is not as I
would have liked.)}
Thus we return to contingency.
The state of shock of the contingent, as an attitude within life, and
stripped to the fullest extent possible of all shocking character, is called
shame. Shame is not originally shame of having done this or that, even
though this form of shame already signies that I do not identify myself
with something that emanates from me, my action, and that nevertheless
I must, that is, by constraint, identify with it. The fact of being capable
of this special moral shame itself already requires that I am at the same
time identical and non-identical with myself as a formal condition; that
I can not get out of my skin, even though I can conceive of it as such,
which I meet in the freedom of the experience of myself but as non-free.
Shame is not born of this incongruity; this incongruity is itself already
shame. In shame the self wants to free itself, in so far as it feels denitely
288 Gnther (Stern) Anders
and irrevocably delivered to itself, but where it escapes it remains in a
deadlock; it remains at the mercy of the irrevocable, and thus of itself.
Nevertheless, man makes in this a discovery: precisely whilst he
experiences himself as not-self-made, he has a presentment for the rst
time that he comes from something that is not him, he has a presentment
for the rst time of the past; not, however, of what we are accustomed to
calling the past, not our own, familiar, and historical past, but precisely
the completely strange, irrevocable, and transcendent past; that of the
origin. Man has a presentment of the world from which he comes but to
which he no longer belongs as himself. Thus shame is above all shame
of the origin. We defer to the rst biblical examples of shame: to the
coincidence of shame and the fall, and to the example of the sons of
Noah who, the face turned away from shame [sic],
covered the nudity
of their father. {Note: In the case of historical man, Scheu (veneratio
respectus), that is, timid respect, is the piety that replaces shame. It is the
circumspect approach of ones own past and of the one that precedes it,
which is undoubtedly further off, but which is no longer beyond.}
Although the origin arises as what one is not as free, and what
one could not elect by a free choice, the category of the origin is
a characteristic category of human existence. The animal has not
accomplished the denitive leap from the origin [Sprung aus dem
Ursprung] into freedom. It remains constantly bound to the reality from
which it comes and confused with it in such a way that the origin can no
more be considered as anterior reality than the animal can be considered
qua individuum.
For this being only, separated from the reality from which he comes,
and for whom it is not there for him alone, this reality is something
unique; it is the origin and as such it is to some extent endowed
with a transcendence that presents itself under the aspect of anteriority
[Transzendenz nach rckwarts]. In man alone, the liaison with that from
which one comes can be maintained.
What starts as shame [Schande] ends as honour:
the one who is
ashamed undoubtedly returns to himself. The power to not remain in
the grips of the world, with its heritage of being-precisely-oneself and
being-also-of-the-world, and the power to refer yet again to oneself,
testies already to the double condition of man: although he is something
other than himself, he is nevertheless himself. The one who is in the
state of shame undoubtedly ees, but only towards himself. He would
like through shame to retreat underground, but he only retreats into
himself up to the point where he forgets, proud of the power to escape
(in himself), the motive that he had for eeing (from not being himself).
The Pathology of Freedom 289
Then the one who is in the state of shame prides himself on his power of
concealment. He sublimates and falsies his genuine motive, which has
been presented as the scandal of shame in the failure of identication.
He now makes the misery of shame a virtue. In the concealing, he
rehabilitates the concealed under the aspect of the secret, or alternatively
holds it in reserve as his most intimate and deliberate self, and as what
belongs to the self expressly and belongs only to the self. In concealing,
he appropriates what he must conceal, what is of the world, what
is common in the world, and what there is in common with the
world, in such a way that it now becomes private and ones own.
The weariness of being-precisely-myself and the original motives of
concealment are now not only stied and disowned but are also the
occasion of a strengthening of oneself and of a positive pride. The man
who has so transformed shame is no longer engaged in this world, it is
no longer offered to him. And he denies afterwards, while abstaining
from the world through callousness and through purity, the fact of
having come into the world through contingency and the imposture of
Precisely because of this moral happy ending, shame is the most
typical symptom. In it, since life continues, the antinomy is transformed
into a modus vivendi. Among many other equally instructive symptoms
the most important is self-disgust because it presupposes the habituation
of the I to itself, which is fullled in the course of life, and thus its
identication despite itself. Self-disgust is the occasional protest against
this automatic habituation of the I precisely to itself. At the moment
when disgust occurs, life takes on, as it were, the function of an external
milieu in which the I is misled in perpetuity. In self-disgust, one is not
strange to oneself and astonished, as in the shock of the contingent
but, on the contrary, is too familiar to oneself. Yet this self-habituation
proves next to nothing against contingency. Why, asks the I in disgust,
is this self precisely so familiar to me? Why does all this concern me?
And it returns so-called normal self-identity to the simple habituation
of the parts of the self to each other.
The thousand forms of hypocrisy, of disguise, and of comedy
positively exemplify the negative proof of shame and disgust: the
instability of man in relation to himself, his vagueness. The self succeeds
only provisionally at abandoning its precise existence as such and thus
at taking the form of another and making itself, as it were, the occasion
and the matter of multiple personications. The provisional is itself
conclusive: among all the species, man is the one who has the least
290 Gnther (Stern) Anders
6. The future perfect; the spirit of escape [fugue];
man in the
In shame, man discovers himself as delivered to himself, as a being that
was already there before the act of self-experience. The imperfect I was
there is in a sense already a disavowal of my self as free [mon moi en
tant que je libre]; even more so is the past perfect, as far back as one can
go. For the past perfect announces that what had been there, that was
not me.
This dubious freedom to proceed as far as the past perfect, and to act
as if one reached what is underneath the self, has a parallel in mans
possibility of reaching the future perfect. This possibility is equally the
sign of his freedom and his non-freedom; it also leads to the failure of
For a start, the simple future is the most common symptom of human
freedom. It is no more than a clich that the future is the dimension of
indeterminacy, the dimension within which I can act. It is no surprise
that philosophies that spring from the Kantian theory of freedom, from
Hegels to Heideggers, are philosophies of time.
But in so far as man does not realise this freedom in the practical in
so far as he uses the dimension of the future to override his contingent
being-precisely-now [gerade-jetzt-Sein], as he reserves all the energy
required by the demands of the hour, as he spends it in order to realise
this dimension as such and is committed more and more, hands tied,
to the positive direction of time, ad innitum he compromises his
freedom: for the more he proceeds, abandoning his ties, in the direction
of the future that this freedom makes him glimpse, the more he is led
astray in the domain of the indeterminate [lindtermin]. The future
thus prolonged is qualitatively transformed, it is dialectically reversed,
and all of a sudden it is no longer the future that is mans own. This is
mislaid in something that is no longer available to him. To this time not
even the specic direction of time, its forward sense, applies; it is reduced
to something that will no longer be of the future, to an i v irrelevant
to the self. Man can surely still think and indicate the existence of this
i v, but in a sterile way, without comprehending or realising it; it is
too far beyond the horizon of life that is close and ones own.
The I will be is henceforth changed into a what will be, I will not
be. The positive expression of this formula is the future perfect: I will
have been.
That man can declare I will have been and that he can outlive
himself in thought constitutes an astonishing act of freedom and of
The Pathology of Freedom 291
self-abstraction. In anticipating memory, he returns to himself as if he
were not imprisoned in the framework of his present life, as if he were
able to live his life in advance, to be transported beyond it, and to
preserve its memory; a memory to which he is nevertheless referred in the
time of his present life, for which the future is henceforth neutral. But
what he discovers in these acts of free self-transposition is once again
something negative; he sees himself pushed back into the deepest past
and already sees his death still future as past, like his birth. Everything
is already seen as past, and, as in Ecclesiastes, everything that does not
accidentally express its nihilism in the future perfect is understood as
vanity. To those that will be, no memory will be granted by those that
will come after them, because they will have simply been. And already
the future becomes past.
This freedom to exceed oneself (of which the future anterior is both
the triumph and the failure) has its analogue in the spatial freedom of
man. This is particularly important because space, more than anything
else, represents a possibility of evading the being that I am precisely. This
degenerates into spatial panic and the spirit of escape.
One can envisage space, as does Max Scheler, as a milieu, seeing it as
the product of the freedom characteristic of motility [libert motrice], as
the independence of the here and the there, and as their permutability.
This freedom can now go astray, veering off into areas of complete
irrelevance to me. If it sets its course according to its own impulse, a
moment comes where it exceeds the limits of its own domain. Countless
also-theres [auch-dort] arise without any differentiation: they are
there simultaneously and claim to be there singularly, without this
simultaneity being fullled in such a way that man could be there-and-
there at the same time. Together these points remain in the subjunctive.
Since I could have been here, but also there and there, every here is
changed into a precisely-here, whose contingency makes it unbearable.
No here is preferred to another.
The original sense of spatial freedom,
in so far as it consists of a power [pouvoir] to pass from a certain here
to a certain there, is neutralised by the fact that free movement [libert
motrice] is on the wrong track. This neutralisation can present itself as
inertia or as the spirit of escape. The one to whom space presents itself
under the aspect of the pathological and who falls into the contingency
of the here no longer attempts any movement because this would be
entirely useless; or, indeed, the anxiety of never being able to be here
precisely and of having, nevertheless, to be precisely here will become
identied with the panic of the nihilist in the paradox of freedom:
to want never to be precisely-me and to be nevertheless perpetually
292 Gnther (Stern) Anders
restrained to the precisely-me. Space appears now as the ensemble of
the possibilities of eeing the precisely-there and the Being-precisely-
me. But all emigration ends nevertheless in a new here and pushes the
wanderer from one contingency to another, and from one subjunctive to
Pulled from one side to the other by the excessive possibilities of
the world and of things that he knows simultaneously, and of which
he knows that to experience them is to lose them, the one who is sick
with the sense of Space, snatched from the place that he has just given
up, does not arrive at nothing; he remains, in the strong sense of the
term, always himself, because he is the only constant within the change.
Nevertheless, he never actually [effectivement] returns to himself. At
bottom, he searches for nothing. If he seeks something, it is not the
determinate, but precisely the end of determinations. He wants to impose
the equivalence of this there and another there in order to occupy it
with his own present, because, in another way, this would remain an
imaginary dimension. This equivalence, however, can never be veried
through an omnipresent existence. It oscillates thusly, seeking over every
thing the indetermination of everywhere; but it is deceived at every step
of the way by the determination of the precisely-here.
Nothing can stop this pursuit; it comes to its end only there where
the sick fall blind and dizzy. The points reached, then lost again, and
all those not even reached, are reduced to each other and interchanged.
Omnipresence nally seems achieved because during the short duration
of vertigo, they enkindle the indetermination sought. But this is only
an appearance for this indetermination costs too much. It cannot be
preserved because we have ourselves been struck by indetermination
at the moment where it sprung up in space, and as guarantee of our
own existence, there is nothing more than the uneasiness of vertigo.
Just like the fundamental panic of being-precisely-me, this wandering
is condemned to a perpetual repetition: the pursuit begins again. This
attempt to make Being-precisely-there disappear is once again overcome:
That is, the specic precisely-Here loses its signicance, and the
pursuit of other heres and other theres becomes unmotivated and
superuous, as soon as the space of all heres the space of the world
itself gathers in one and the same precisely-Here. One is now the
prisoner of the precisely-Here, in spite of the incalculable number
of fragments of the world still unrealised; in whatever direction one
turns, one always remains precisely-here that is, in this world and
the attempt to steal away from this world, to escape from it through
any other place, is thus revealed as impossible, for there is no wall
The Pathology of Freedom 293
surrounding the Here that could lend itself to any effraction. One is
prisoner of the precisely-Here not despite but because it is precisely
without limits. The terror is transformed into torpor.
It is necessary to explain once more why being-precisely-here is
identied with being-precisely-me, and why, in the impulse that
determines the escape from the self, in the ight before the being-
precisely-me, the Here is abandoned in the place where it is oneself.
For the man who possesses xiv]oi xt toto], the system of spatial
positions appears as the very principle of immobility and contingency:
no point can transform into another, none concerns the other, each is
nothing but itself. Space is thus the Principium individuationis. This
reciprocal indifference will undoubtedly only be manifest for the being
who can pass from one point to another, for the being that can go out
of the element to which it is accustomed. This the animal cannot achieve
because, despite its xiv]oi, it remains in its specic vital space, its own
milieu, and never transports itself in what is strange as such. This only
man can do. He can abandon his place, and he hopes that by losing it
he can forget the principle of individuation and his own belongings. And
in losing what belongs to him the his he hopes to lose himself.
7. Thirst for power and search for glory.
The one ill from the sickness of space wants the contingency of where
he is precisely to be neutralised. He wants to be everywhere at the same
time; he wants to seize totality in one fell swoop. But the desire to possess
is only one specication of a deeper thirst for power: the desire to render
the world congruent with oneself, more exactly, to force the world to
become the I. It can at most become mine instead of becoming I; for the
thirst for power, this is the rst scandal and the rst compromise.
Although a symptom of the shock of the contingent, the thirst for
power also strives to neutralise the fact of contingency. In the fact
that man is given to himself in advance, that he can only discover
himself without being able to invent himself, and that the world and
the Other are always ahead of him, the weakness of man is ceaselessly
demonstrated to him and reproached. He cannot bear that there is still
something outside of him that is not him. He cannot bear to be in the
world superuously, like a fth wheel on a car, for it works just as
well without him, or that once condemned to being, he must content
himself with being only one being among others. The total absence
of limitation to the thirst for power which wants to hold everything
under its thumb, even beyond all necessity, is only the expression of the
294 Gnther (Stern) Anders
absolute disappointment that the I feels when it realises that once in
existence it is conned to share it with other beings and that the totality
of existence is not its alone. A word from Nietzsche, If there was a
God, how could I endure not to be God [sic], constitutes the denitive
formulation of this painful state.
In the desire for power, man seeks to
make up for the advance that the world has on him; since already he is
not all, he must have all. He gets his revenge on the world by spreading
his contingent self over the world, by incorporating it within himself
and by representing it. For the one who is powerful is no longer only
himself, such as he was in his miserable condition, but this one and that
one, himself and the other, an ensemble. He is simultaneously here and
there and there again. For he is, in domination, in representation, and in
glory, to employ an expression from theology, omnipresent.
So he wants to be now and always. That is, he attempts to be
immortalised in time, just as he worked to be gloried in space; he
attempts to subsequently refute the contingency of the now to which
he is abandoned. And he endeavours to set up his authentic being in
the form of a permanent monument, in relation to the Memory and
in the Renown of which his actual and incomplete form stands merely
as the phenomenon to the Idea. His being is still only the unfaithful and
temporal copy of this glorious monument. Here is the paradox: the more
its glory increases, the less he himself seems to have to do with his own
monument. It has usurped his name and will reap the glory in his place
even long after his death. Crushed and devastated, he is now envious of
his own great name.
It is not by chance that we have entitled the preceding the pathology
of freedom. It would undoubtedly be vain to think that the goal of this
designation is to draw a portrait of the complete man. The descriptions
that correspond to it are, as we said, philosophical exaggerations. But
the pictures that we have presented, considered in themselves, are not
absurd. They represent the radical dangers that man can be subject
to, and they are better known to each of us than one usually thinks;
dangers which are here pushed to their ultimate, catastrophic aspect,
compromising life itself. The forms of shame, disgust, desire for glory,
depict compromises that are all too familiar to us. And if, in these
ordinary phenomena, we are not in the habit of discerning the shock
of the contingent, it is because of their ambivalence. They all present
themselves, as it were, in positive disguises; they constitute the refuges
where one escapes from the threat of the contingent, and, compared
to suicide, they are already modi vivendi. Shame, disgust and desire
for glory take place, in the nal analysis, in the course of contingent
The Pathology of Freedom 295
life; since practical life is a self-afrmation, they are already constant
compromises with life accused of contingency; they are protests and
insults. They are the protests and injuries that splinter on the back of
the insulted enemy, and which are nevertheless made for him to carry,
less in order to constantly devastate him by their sarcasms than in order
to remain purely and simply with him in order to live. Antinomies are
rarely stronger than the love of life. The Nihilists also want to live.
II. Antithesis: Picture of The Historical Man
8. Life continues. The shock of the contingent repeats itself
One thing alone can cure us from being ourselves.
Yes, but at bottom, it is less important to be cured than to be able to live.
(Conrad, Lord Jim
The man who gets lost ceaselessly and futilely in the deadlock of his
own contingency, and who nds his way in his being-precisely-me, as
if he did not have life behind him, and precisely as if each time he had
just been born, pursues his life. This is to say that paradox does not
spring forth suddenly, from an imaginary point of departure situated
before life. It is rather in the middle of life itself, of life as it goes on in
deance of paradox and from under it, in so far as man does not make
paradox a pretext for putting an end to himself. To whatever extent he
compromises and impedes the course of life with his fanatical formalism
and constant interruption, alleging that it is not itself, and that it cannot
continue because it can take place in iteration and indeed must take
place in iteration if it wants to remain effective [efcace], he concedes
the possibility of life that perseveres in spite of him and he yields to it.
The possibility of its repetition thus drives paradox ad absurdum; this is
itself paradox and contradicts its own destructive claim. Consequently,
the condition of paradox is iteration. The latter is itself paradox anew;
for paradox should never be repeated within this life which it claims can
never have a positive outcome. In fact, that paradox repeats does not
mean that it repeats itself on its own initiative. Its movement is neutral
from a temporal point of view; neither would it want nor would it be
able to generate the temporal mode of repetition on its own. Repetition
is rather the paradoxical temporal mode of life itself as it is realised
in duration against all paradox: life hastens against the resistance of
paradox opposed to its course, and at each point of this current of life
296 Gnther (Stern) Anders
paradox is experienced in so far as it plays the part of a barricade. It
is thus not paradox that repeats but life that repeats the experience of
paradox at every moment. Fromthe point of viewof the resistance which
paradox represents, it is always the same life that collides with it in order
to afterwards continue its course from under it. Repetition only takes
place for the life that goes on; it thus develops as the permanence of
its arrest. It always represents the specic negation of life carried out in
As iteration of the identical, movement opposed to memory [sic],
repetition is thus the principle of the neutralisation of historical time
within a life that can continue its course even outside historicity [cf.
Kierkegaard 1941: 33].
That is, the nihilist paradox of the experience
of freedom characterises non-historical existence, or more exactly,
existence against history; this [existence] consequently heightens its own
difculty and attempts with so much obstinacy to attack the walls of the
antinomy that contains it as it is deprived of time, which alone, in so
far as it could be historical, would pass for an answer to paradox. The
man henceforth deeply engaged in the idea of the antinomy is actually
non-historical. What so falls due to him in division and this necessarily
since he now pursues his life once and for all that is, what he is and
what he was, is not in a strict sense a life; it is at bottom only an
event arriving accidentally, an event that in relation to the constancy
of paradox remains something simply possible and does not lend itself
to recollection [cf. Simmel 1971: 190].
The shock of the contingent
thus destroys the strict possibility of experience itself, of appropriating
life lived de facto. Everything happens as if it took place for nothing;
even the fact that it has been lived is constantly repudiated by paradox.
Since he has been exposed to the accidental change of his fortuitous
experiences, if man tried to return to himself, he could no longer capture
his life in concreto. For there is no life, strictly speaking. Not because
of but despite the paradoxical nature of mans situation at large, at the
moment when paradox takes place at the interior of life, it becomes
increasingly stringent, and all the more stringent as it neutralises life and
makes it unt for memory. Yet it becomes in the end the one and only
real. That is to say, it is not only paradox that is disavowed by the life
that continues, but life is in its turn disavowed by paradox; because it
is unt for recollection, and because it has yielded its vital force and its
reality to paradox, it passes by as if it were not there.
It is only an apparent contradiction that both life and paradox
are at once the conquered and the conqueror. If life merely goes on,
it is defeated; paradox loses out in turn because it is constrained
The Pathology of Freedom 297
precisely to repetition, constrained to ceaselessly seek to overcome. This
ambiguity and oscillation between victor and vanquished, never nding
the equilibrium of indifference, preserves precisely the paradox of life;
and the duration of what is lived in life in spite of paradox determines
paradoxs pride. For the larger the eld in which man continues,
the more paradox proves that it was right. Thereby man in despair
nally grabs hold of himself and of the contingent fact of his being-
precisely-me, and remains suspended in this situation, without having
succeeded at discovering himself or at unifying himself through a positive
Here already, with man in the grips of paradox, the historical path
takes shape as the power [puissance] opposing paradox. This fact
expresses that historical life is itself placed outside of paradox, but also
that the man opposed to history, instead of simply meeting paradox,
brings it to light as his characteristic property. It maintains, xes and
tyrannises man, acquiring for him a sort of retro-active truth. That is to
say, paradox is only valid for the man who experiences it in its acuity,
and who does not easily come to the end of it. Thus paradox expresses
the troublesome character of the very one who questions; it is not the
sign of a question in itself which would exist apart from the one who
questions or which would apply to man in general. The special situation
corresponding to the paradox of identication is thus determined. But
if we now cross over to a new type, the historical man, we can no
longer conceive of man as a fugitive before the shock of the contingent;
it is necessary to consider him as a type sui generis which is already
beyond the state of contingency, and of which the principle traits, such
as memory and the ability to experience, do not represent ulterior acts
carried out with an eye to salvation, but original modi vivendi. {Note:
admittedly, these are still modi vivendi that do not yet reveal man in full
possession of himself and in the free exercise of his freedom. We do not
quite reach to the highest degree of self-concretisation. It is a matter of
a return to the concrete, the steps of which have already been marked
out in the history of the philosophy of freedom: between the Kantian
philosophy of the I and the Marxian theory of practice and of action,
there is a Hegelian philosophy of history.}
9. The I remember, therefore I am myself as the minimum of
The nihilist who expresses himself in the proposition that I am precisely
myself, when he wants to escape from himself, turns in circles or only
298 Gnther (Stern) Anders
encounters a contingent stranger who bears his name. It is difcult to
positively determine the mode of identication that such an I awaits
and claims. The proposition that he states expresses at bottom his
indignation in the face of the fact that the various parts of his self do
not coincide through the miracle of a pre-established harmony. He does
not realise that identity can be stabilised subsequently by memory. This
can be brought to light by a kind of Cartesian argumentation.
From the point of view of memory, the antinomy and the difculties
of identication that have just been described are inconceivable. Because
what I discover as myself in memory does not only contain the strange,
but also precisely me, the subject itself that is afrmed. The man
of yesterday whom I remember already contains the two Is in an
indissoluble union. For the same reason, the very man who is astonished
today by his contingency has the possibility of remembering his being
astonished yesterday.
Thereby, a minimum of identication is achieved, so to speak, in a
Cartesian manner: the I now no longer insists on its being-here and
its being-now; he has suddenly discovered in himself a determination
(i.e. yesterdays shock of the contingent) with which he can identify in
good conscience today. He no longer discovers only the contingent man
that he avoided, but the one who avoided contingency. But here is what
is strange: both are already unied in memory. It is not only the act
of recollection that confuses them. The object of memory is already an
identity in memory. This will be further interrogated. Speaking rst of
the forms of identication: they are thus not immediately expressed by
the formula I am myself, but by the alternatives, that which I was, I
am, and I remember, therefore I am myself.
This argument appears somewhat complicated. Two different types
of identication intersect; it is rstly todays I that is identied with
yesterdays; then in yesterdays I, the formal and contingent I merge. The
second point is the most important: in yesterdays I, all that happened to
it, all that it experienced, is confused. For yesterdays I is not exactly an
I but a fragment of life at least in the eyes of todays memory.
10. Identication and the possessive.
For what does one remember? {Note: This question has not been
posed despite the imposing number of monographs devoted to the
psychology of memory; for this psychology is nearly always interested
in the quantum and duration of memory. Philosophy, for its part,
barely caught sight of the question. It accepted as a matter of course
The Pathology of Freedom 299
that memory agreed in its object with perception, that only their
acts and their temporal value differed. An analysis along the lines of
ours, which is even phenomenological in the sense of the school, has
been curiously neglected in thorough analyses of phenomenological
time.} This seemingly crude question is decisive for philosophical
anthropology. Unlike perception which has its object in front of it, a
fragment of the world, memory is memory of a situation in which the
perceiving and the perceived, the I and the world, are already confused
to such an extent that neither the I without the world nor the world
without the I can be abstracted as such from this single given.
I see, for example, a misfortune approaching me; it is still strange
to me. It lls me with anguish: this anguish is nothing other than the
stupefaction of the I before a radically strange object. But in memory,
the misfortune is already mine. Not only do I remember its approach
and my subjective reaction, but I remember the whole of the situation,
which consists of the two preceding aspects, and thus presents itself as a
fragment of life. It is henceforth impossible in the face of this fragment
of life to fall back into astonishment that as myself I must be myself,
because, in the case of painful experiences, it is in truth no longer the
I that recalls memory and which arranges that which is recollected, but
memory itself that forewarns the I and arranges it. In identical cases it is
not the I that denes the self but lived experience; and now the I is no
longer as indeterminate as before. From this point of view the shock of
the contingent, in spite of the terror that accompanies it, even seems to
be a kind of supplementary element: this terror of being precisely myself,
disappearing because of a really unpleasant memory, can be postponed
to a subsequent epoch and appears futile.
In memory, the contingent events that one has lived, those which
occurred by accident, are thus already confused with the I. Identity
was established before the terror of identication could rush to the
surface. From this, one can draw very important conclusions for the
notion of experience. Memory thus abolishes what we have recognised
of the indeterminate and of the contingent in experience. In memory man
discovers himself as a situation and not as an I; what he experienced, he
now is; and if he disregarded the experience of his being such as it is
[tel et ainsi] [sosein], as well as everything he experienced and the
modalities of his entire history, nothing of him would remain, not even
his former I.
But this is not enough. For it is not only particular situations and
fragmentary experiences which appear in memory, but life as a totality;
life in the sense of bibliographical life. But it does not present itself as
300 Gnther (Stern) Anders
a Gestalt, or as the unity of a thing; it is there as a medium: one is
at home in ones own life, this life is my life, in spite of and through
the multiplicity of beings and of things experienced. It is furthermore
the eld of all particular experiences wherein each is identied as mine;
and I can run through it at any time. Through his history, which becomes
one with him and envelops him, man escapes from the strangeness of the
world and fromthe contingency of his being-precisely-me. The identical
proposition I am myself, analytical at its origin, and contradicted by
the shock of the contingent, is transformed into this more meaningful
proposition I am my life or the self is life, and thus into a proposition
of identication that is synthetic in the true sense of the term. It is
completely characteristic that the am and the is of the two preceding
statements are interchangeable. Life is not only the rst person (I) nor
only the third person (something strange and contingent), but is a
possessive: it is mine, it is MY LIFE.
In truth, this my does not indicate the presupposition of the I as the
proprietor to which life belongs. This would be to argue against history
from a nihilist point of view of existence all over again. The possessive
pronoun does not ordinarily designate only the fact of possession but
also the fact of being possessed; neutrally, it designates the general
fact of belonging. My life thus equally signies the fact that I belong
to my life, as I, and that my life belongs to me, as mine. {Note: It is
only now that we reach the concept of authentically human experience.
It represents here the having of the experience of life, a concept that
indicates a knowledge of what there was to experience in life, a complete
mode of man: this concept of experience could not have arisen earlier.
Originally, that is, for the man against history, experience is not. For
originally, that is, for the man against history, experience is not in
itself experience of life, but rather announces a need for experiences.
Experience thus becomes experience of life only from the point of life
recollected and already lived as such. Curiously, in this situation, man
nds not only himself, and even less the contingent things that he has
experienced, but he extends his experiences to a characteristic generality
that one can neither dene nor refute theoretically. In any case, this
generality signies that the type of experience in question is not simply
the subsequent result of experiences previously undergone, but that it
is qualitatively more than the sum of these specic experiences. In so
far as man can continue his life and grow old, and consequently no
longer remains, like the nihilist, in the perpetual repetition of the now,
this type of experience can become the specic character of the stage he
The Pathology of Freedom 301
The most diverse traits of historical man testify to the self-identity
memory reveals under its formal aspect. He no longer knows the surprise
of being such as it is [tel et ainsi], of being-precisely-me; he no
longer knows the concrete faces of the shock of the contingent. The
historical man would consider absurd the ideas of the nihilist on an
indeterminate transcendent origin, and on his being placed here below
thanks to a strange design. He is beyond the polarity of the present and
the transcendent past that the nihilist, on the contrary, felt with such
acuity. For he has his own past, a past in which he is not only united
with his experiences, but with other beings and other persons. Even the
time of his ancestors is not, in truth, strange to him; it is only distant.
He can approach it with piety. And if piety, like shame, is at the same
time respect and fear, it does not compromise identication, as shame
did. Piety consists instead of recognising the distance that the act of
identication must cross when it realises the identication of a being
with his ancestors.
11. What today is called I as of tomorrow will be life; of what the
Is formality consists.
If the I nevertheless restores these a posteriori and contingent original
experiences to its life through memory, this subsequent identication
does not present any incorporation nor any organisation of the matter of
life by an already formal I. For this I is nothing other than the vanguard
of the plenitude of material life itself. If the I is formal, it is thanks to life;
it is because life laid out and forced to consider all the possibilities, to
experience the new, and to show presence of mind, formalises itself in an
I, and ends at the point of an acute and lucid present, in such a way that
it puts an end to its material richness at the point where it culminates.
Whereas the nihilist I believes he chances to be precisely this man or that,
and claims: Me, I am called man, it is, on the contrary, man who gives
himself the name of I, and who actually formalises himself as an I. Man
is not the rear-guard of the fact named I, but the I is the vanguard of
the state of affairs named man. What is I today, so as to introduce life
to experience and the world, constitutes my life as of tomorrow, joined
together with all that was present; and a part of what is my life today
was the I yesterday.
The alternative between the I and contingent determination that
ceaselessly shocked the nihilist is, so to speak, a mistake the I makes
about its own role: it emphasised its conditioned formality and its
presence as positivity and freedom; it opposed this to life which is only
302 Gnther (Stern) Anders
material, and which sinks into the past. This mistake about the self,
which brings the I to actually [effectivement] break with life in the case of
counter-historical existence, does not take place in the case of historical
The conception of the I as a constitutive element of life (at once in
a logical and a temporal way) must yet not be understood as if there
were no difference between the form of life and of the I. Certainly, they
form but one in memory; yet memory itself is not an indifference, but
a perpetual identication. A certain duality is incontestable; a certain
hiatus remains, ventured through life between itself and the I. It is only
when it gets ahead in the freedom of its possibilities and when it wants
to be in the know [au courant] that it takes precisely the form of the
I. This hiatus admittedly always disappears in memory, and identity is
restored anew.
We said above that memory informs. We understand by this not
only that the I remembers, and not only that the I keeps its life in
the know, but that life draws its I close to it and into itself. This type
of memory is even more frequent than the rst. It has commonly been
neglected in theories of memory, for this relapse of self within life does
not present itself as an act, and psychology, like philosophy, is quite
elementary when it comes to the vocabulary of the Is passivity. The
conditions of normal memory are such, in any case, that the I yields
to lifes gravitational force [Schwerkraft], where it is then charged
with melancholia [Schwermut] and drawn to lifes interior: it thus
disappears as the I and as the terminal present.
For memory, life is
no longer its own life, for life and I are now confused, there is no longer
between them this distinction, this separation, which alone allows the
use of the possessive pronoun. The life that is thus at home in memory
no longer has need of particular representations, of the realisation of
former situations, of the precise repetition of past experiences. It can
fully sufce with the states of the soul of another time, of which
images and realisations constitute a secondary process. {Note: Cf. the
classical example of Proust (A la recherche du temps perdu, I, ch. I)
12. Identity in certain stable situations.
The presentation of the problem of identity and of identication would
be incomplete without mention of the situation in which the panic of
identity does not break forth, and where no problem of identication
The Pathology of Freedom 303
If in order to be at home, man is forced to superimpose on the natural
world an articial world, arrested and constructed by him that is, the
social and economic world with its customs and its laws he shows
undoubtedly that he is not cut out for the natural world. But this second
world, ever varied according to historical conditions, can nevertheless
succeed and stabilise, to such an extent that man is in his element there
and the problems and pathological attitudes of identity fade into the
background, just as identication does through history. In these stable
social states, it is the world itself that takes care of identifying the self
before auto-identication is necessary.
The social world already realises a minimum of identication in the
name. Once man is baptised and no one can baptise himself the name
persists as a constant in life; and it is a constant so natural that the one
who is named, without worrying about the debate between nominalism
and realism, not only claims to be called John or James, but to be James
or John. Conversely, in the case where the name is changed (as is, for
example, the name of the woman who becomes a wife), a real [effectif]
change takes place.
James is thus named James today and tomorrow, and is regarded as
James yesterday. Identication thus seems assured. But as we have said,
it is only so when the milieu remains relatively identical and identiable.
For the identity of the self is a function of the identity of the world which
is its correlate.
In this world, we thus exceed the minimum guaranteed by the name
and the I now plays a determined role. This role can be so stable and
so natural that it obstructs the role of man (the judge, the professor, the
general, etc.), and disregards it. Thus it is conceived of as independent
of him, as his simple substrate, and as simple role overload; thus
as an empty I. This ensures that man sees neither difference nor
antinomy between himself and his function, and that he cannot restrict
his authentic existence to an abstract self. In these stable situations, the
phenomenon of the role of what and that which one is, is no less a
primary phenomenon than the phenomenon I. That the role represents
the accident and the I the substrate a distinction which undoubtedly
applies to the situation that we experience in this day and age, in
which the social world ceaselessly transforms itself and in which man
continually changes position, as well as to a great number of social
and historical situations is not a priori and is not demonstrated by
the philosophy of the I. In stable or stationary epochs, it is entirely
possible that it is not the self that has a role, but conversely the role
that has a self; at the very least it is possible that the tension and
304 Gnther (Stern) Anders
the non-identity that were treated in the portrait of the nihilist are not
In the situation outlined here, the relation between man and the world
differs essentially from the one that has been described up to now. Under
the form of the role, belonging to the social world, social worldliness
[soziale weltlichkeit], is already in place. That here the world is not
something exterior, something that is added on to me, shows the
uselessness of terror in the face of the contingent as well as the necessity
of its interiorisation by memory and its subsequent assimilation. One
might think that in the stable situation where man is identied through
the world, he is discharged of and exempted from all collaboration with
identication. This is not the case. Rather, even in stable situations,
man must comply with and answer to the claim to identity that the
world places in him. This correspondence consists, in truth, of other
acts than the simple acts of recollection that are the means of historical
identication. It consists of moral acts, of acts of responsibility above
all. Today I must answer before the world for what I did yesterday. This
identity is clearly no longer of a historical nature, but is of a juridical and
moral nature. It is historical only when, on the one hand, the place and
the role of man, and on the other hand, the claim and the authority of
the world in him, become so vague that man is forced to call himself by
his name so that he can answer to it through identity and so be put back
in himself. Just as it is from the heart that one obeys for his part the
call of duty according to Kant, the call of identication now springs up
from the heart of the historical man. When he answers his own call and
when called by his name, when he pulls himself together and is put back
in himself, he resembles, from the point of view of the stable situation,
the Mnchhausen knight who pulls himself out of a marsh by his own
From the point of view of this identity guaranteeing the social, the
two types that we have described up till now, the nihilist who does
not succeed in identifying with himself, and the historical man who
takes charge of his own identication, no longer appear so far from one
another as it seemed before. For both need identication. And the forced
staging of the rescue of the historical man together with the unconcealed
catastrophe of the nihilist testify to their identical position: strangeness
in relation to the world.
Despite this similitude, the portrait of the nihilist appears
philosophically much more important to us than that of the man placed
in historical existence. If the essence of man actually [effectivement]
consists of his non-xity, and thus of his propensity for a thousand
The Pathology of Freedom 305
incarnations, it is the nihilist who makes of this instability as such
his denitive destiny, and who is determined by indetermination;
he does not prot from specifying in this or that manner. The
nihilist, indetermination incarnate, paints an exaggerated portrait of
man through his manner of aunting his faults without the least
Next to this the portrait of historical man appears of dubious ease.
Man as historical presents himself as a being who is worthy of [ la
hauteur de]
what happens to him, of his contingency, and as a man
who has the courage to risk amor fati because he follows fatum closely
and always calls it myself, who thus, to employ a famous Hegelian
formula in a non-orthodox sense, makes all that is in him, and in him by
contingence, reasonable after the fact [aprs coup]. Certainly, he takes
pride in saying in the face of all that happens to him this is mine. But
he cannot dispose of what has become mine: this identication is thus
13. Calling into question the problem of philosophical anthropology.
Identication is not so simple. Undoubtedly, it is necessary, when one is
not identied and situated by the world itself, to be identied through
oneself. Nevertheless, it is not enough to be situated in oneself. Without
the world, identication is impossible. The one who acts (disregarding
the socially identied self) is alone set apart from the difculties of the
terror of contingency; for he does not insist on his ceaselessly assimilated
past but on his task, which relates him to the world. Although the world
did not assign him a determinate place anymore than the nihilist and the
historical man, he actually [effectivement] achieves identity.
In the eyes of the one who wills, what is willed is thus,
compared to everything which is only encountered and to his empirical
existence, something non-contingent. This non-contingent, in contrast
to experiences, goes without being assimilated; it is the will that must
assimilate the world. {Note: It is not by chance that many want to will
simply in order to escape from contingency, and that the fact of having
a task is a solution for them.}
It is true that there is a good possibility that the world appears
contingent to the one who seeks to transform it. But it is beyond all
contingency that it is him who has the will to transform it. If one now
wants to attempt to mimic the proposition we have stated that I am
precisely me in the formula that I will precisely this, the latter would
be revealed as a pure construction: it is absolutely inconceivable starting
306 Gnther (Stern) Anders
from the will. And if one accepted this formula in the situation of will, it
would neutralise it. The man who seeks something precise can be against
the world, and although the world did not assign him a determinate
place, can thus achieve an actual [effective] identication. This would
be expressed by a formula that is neither that of the nihilist I am
myself nor that of the historical man I am that which was but
which is stated as follows: what I willed, I will. In the concept of the
task, the constant is already there; it is thus not necessary that it be
maintained as such, in the form of a memory or of any experience.
For the task disappears only once the result is achieved. {Note: It is
entirely characteristic to observe that from the permanence of the will
results, without the least secret intent, a life, and that few biographies,
and even few autobiographies, offer a unity as clear as those of the
life of great men of State or revolutionaries, whose will aimed at
everything but identity. This unity is thus a kind of bonus, unlike that
of autobiographical existence.}
Through this recourse to action, it is true that philosophical
anthropology reaches the limits of its legitimacy, its capacities and its
competence. From the point of view of what man does, the question
what is he and who is he authentically? seems wrongly posed. For
acting is not being.
It was Hegel who made the act disappear in considering it as already
both developing and to come (and it becomes an actual [effectif] being
subsequently and as past). In making it already engulfed by being itself,
he transformed it in any event into a kind of being, and a kind of being
not specically human, for it is not by chance that it is called organic.
This attempt, the consequences of which are unlimited, now obscures
the phenomenon of action. It was Kant, however, who treated the
question as such and without any mask, although Hegel more explicitly
than Kant gave an expression to the problem of self-identication. (He
characterises history as the fact of coming to itself for the spirit that
is not identical with itself). Self-identication through Aufklrung and
through the critique is an action for Kant: there is no question for him
of observing [constater] what reason is (and for him it is equivalent to
man), but of constituting it through the critical operation.
Hegel asks himself on the contrary what it is in order to answer
dialectically that it is not Being; thus, although proceeding by negation,
the answer that he gives remains within the framework of the theoretical.
It recoups the qualitative leap from the theoretical to the practical
from the term genesis, and replaces it in the theoretical domain
itself. Historical materialism gets credit for having formulated anew
The Pathology of Freedom 307
the specic sense of Kantian idealism, that is, the transformation of
theoretical reason into practical reason.
The aims of Kant are ours also. And we presume that they carry
a much greater signicance than we had supposed at the start.
Philosophical anthropology and its problem of the denition of
man must consider itself opposite human action as a productive
misunderstanding, and put an end to itself.
The question of knowing what man is authentically [Eigentlich] is
consequentially wrongly posed. For the theoretical denition is only a
shadow that decision rejects in the theoretical realm [sic].
[W]hat I am
in an authentic sense, what I discover in me, is always already decided,
whether by myself or by another. What is opposed to the denition of
man is thus not the irrational but the fact of human action; the action
whereby man is constantly dened in fact, and whereby he determines
what he is on each occasion. In this perpetual denition of himself
that man presents in acting, is it useless to appeal to the principle of
order, to demand a moments pause to pose questions of authentic
denition, and to establish what man is in an authentic sense. There
is nothing more suspect than this authenticity [Eigentlichkeit]. It is no
accident that the German term feststellen [constater] signies both to
state something [konstatieren] and to x something. And it is not by
chance that the problem of denition (for example what is authentic
to a German? and also what is man authentically?) presents itself in
conditions of reaction; in particular, in the state of incertitude and of
crisis where one is no longer anything precise. The one who poses the
problem of denition is now the inactive one, the one who compromises
the real transformation and poses this problem retroactively, so to
speak. Who am I authentically?, he asks, in place of being actually
[effectivement] dened and of making someone of himself. While he
poses the question and as he poses it, to put it hyperbolically, he is
nothing at all; he is thus whatever he or another has made of him
with the aid of an outdated practical denition. This is what he can
consequently discover and dene as his authentic existence. The question
of knowing who I am is not of the sort that it is sufcient to pose, but of
the sort that it is necessary to answer.
We nish with this consideration. The problematic of philosophical
anthropology, which explored in the rst part the pathological
specications of human freedom, appears from this point on as itself
a contaminated form that denatures its problems. It makes of autonomy
a denition of oneself; and while it teaches man to run after his
authenticity [Eigentlichkeit], it abandons him to those who have
308 Gnther (Stern) Anders
an interest in putting him in his place, and makes him his lose his
1. The reference is to Emmanuel Levinas translation of the rst part of (Stern)
Anders presentation before the Kant society of Frankfurt and Hamburg in 1930,
entitled Die Weltfremdheit des Menschen (Stern 193435). Pathologie de la
Libert shares some content with the later half of the same lecture.
2. Stphanopolis quotation marks suggest that Anders term is Nachtrglichkeit,
from Freud. The term is conventionally translated as aprs-coup in the French,
and is translated as deferred action in James Stracheys English translations of
Freud. Jean Laplanche suggests afterwardness as a preferable English rendition.
See the editors introduction to Laplanche (1999).
3. Alternative translations of le quelconque include the whatsoever, being
whatsoever, anything whatever, and the indenite. I have chosen to translate
le quelconque as the indeterminate throughout, due to its adequacy in every
context. Where noted, the indeterminate translates indtermin rather than
4. Stphanopolis translation uses the terms auto-position and auto-production.
In the English scholarship, self-positing carries the signicance of Fichtes
setzen, which means to position or place as well as to posit.
5. I have translated tranger as strange throughout the text.
6. Alternatively, telle et ainsi might be translated in such a way. Literally,
it translates as such and so, such and thus, or such and in this
way. Stphanopoli may be translating the German sosein suchness or
essence with this locution.
7. Why is this now, his [the questioners] now, precisely now and was not long
ago? Since he asks such strange questions, he regards his existence and his time as
independent of one another, and the former as projected into the later. He really
assumes two nows, one belonging to the object and the other to the subject, and
marvels at the happy accident of their coincidence (Schopenhauer 1969: 279).
8. See Anders remarks belowon the dual meaning of the termfeststellen in German
which Stphanopolis constater is likely translating here.
9. I have translated tonnement as astonishment throughout the text.
10. The early sketch for Empedocles, called The Frankfurt Plan, opens with this
passage: Empedocles, by temperament and through his philosophy long since
destined to despise his culture, to scorn all neatly circumscribed affairs, every
interest directed to sundry objects; an enemy to the death of all one-sided
existence, and therefore also in actually beautiful relations unsatised, restive,
suffering, simply because they are special relations, ones that ll him utterly only
when they are felt in magnicent accord with all living things, simply because
he cannot live in them and love them intimately, with omnipresent heart, like a
god, and freely and expansively, like a god; simply because as soon as his heart
and his thought embrace anything at hand he nds himself bound to the law of
succession . . . (Hlderlin 2008: 29).
11. Issue also translates as exit.
12. The French term spcial carries the Latin speci aliss sense of being of a given
13. See Genesis 9: 23: But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon
both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their
The Pathology of Freedom 309
father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their fathers
nakedness (New American Standard Bible 1995).
14. The German term Schande carries the sense of both shame and dishonour.
15. The term here is mondanit, which is the standard French translation of
Heideggers Weltlichkeit.
16. The term fugue can also be translated as ight and, like fuite, comes from
the Latin term fugere.
17. My translation of the preceding three lines in part follows and in part differs
from Mark Lesters translation in The Logic of Sense (Deleuze 1990: 349, n. 5).
The most signication difference is that I have translated le sens positif as times
forward sense, whereas Lester translates it as positive sense or direction.
18. The term libert motrice may be a play on Schelers notion of motor intention,
subsequently developed in the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and possibility
also on the phrase freedom of movement libert de mouvement.
19. Stphanolis text reads: Puisque que jaurais sment que sa contingence
rend insupportable. Aucun ici nest prpu tre l, mais aussi l et l,
tout ici se transforme en un ici-prcifre un autre. My translation
follows the changes suggested on the site Les Amis de Nmsis, with
the difference that I change the rst la in their [p]uisque que jaurais
pu tre l, mais aussi l et l to an ici in light of the context. See
20. Nietzsche (1961: 110): If there were Gods, how could I endure not to a be God!
21. One thing alone can us from being ourselves cure / Yes . . . strictly speaking,
the question is not how to get cured, but how to live (Conrad 2002:
153). This passage is notable not only for its signicance but for its
unconventional and improper grammar, possibly intended to demonstrate one
language moving bumpily into another. See Sylvre Monad, Joseph Conrads
Polyglot Wordplay, available at:
22. Repetition and memory are the same movement, only in opposite directions; for
what is recollected has been, is repeated backwards, whereas repetition properly
so called is recollected forwards (Kierkegaard 1941: 33). In the French, the
passage in quotation marks reads: mouvement oppos au souvenir (literally:
movement opposed to memory), but Kierkegaards text suggests that the sense
Anders intended is something more like movement in the opposite direction of
23. In his original note, Anders references page 14 of Simmels Philosophie der
Kultur. The actual title of this text is Philosophische Kultur: Gesammelte Essais
(Leipzig: W. Klinkhardt, 1911). Das Abenteuer, or The Adventurer, spans
pages 724 of this volume. Simmel conceptualises the adventure thusly: The
most general form of adventure is its dropping out of the continuity of life.
Wholeness of life, after all, refers to the fact that a consistent process runs
through the individual components of life, however crassly and irreconcilably
distinct they may be. What we call an adventure stands in contrast to that
interlocking of life-links, to that feeling that those countercurrents, turnings, and
knots still, after all, spin forth a continuous thread. An adventure is certainly a
part of our existence, directly contiguous with other parts which precede and
follow it; at the same time, however, in its deeper meaning, it occurs outside
the usual continuity of this life (Simmel 1971: 1878). On the corresponding
page in the English translation, Simmel adds: the adventurer is also the extreme
example of the ahistorical individual, of the man who lives in the present. On
the one hand, he is not determined by any past . . . nor, on the other hand, does
the future exist for him (Simmel 1971: 190).
310 Gnther (Stern) Anders
24. Schwerkraft is the force of gravity; schwermut is melancholia. Their shared
root, schwer, can be translated as heavy, indicative of the weightiness and
overwhelming force that marks both the force of gravity within nature and
of melancholia within an individual life. Les Amis de Nmsis note this; see
25. la hauteur de can also be translated as equal to.
26. Car la denition thorique nest quune ombre que la decision rejette dans
le domaine du thorique. It seems that the second thorique should read
practique (practical).
Conrad, Joseph (2002) Lord Jim, ed. Jacques Berthoud, Oxford: Oxford University
Hlderlin, Frederich (2008) The Death of Empedocles, trans. David Farrell Krell,
Albany, New York: SUNY Press.
Kierkegaard, Sren (1941) Repetition: An Essay in Experimental Psychology, trans.
Walter Lowrie, New York: Harper and Row.
Laplanche, Jean (1999) Essays on Otherness, ed. Jean Fletcher, London and New
York: Routledge.
Monad, Sylvre (n.d.) Lord Jims Polyglot Wordplay, available at:
Nietzsche, Friedrich (1961) Zarathustra, trans. R. J. Hollingdale, London: Penguin
Simmel, Georg (1971) The Adventurer, in On Individuality and Social Forms, ed.
Donald N. Levine, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, pp. 18798.
Schopenhauer, Arthur (1969) The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1, trans.
E. F. J. Payne, New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
Stern, Gnther (193435) Une interprtation de la posteriori, trans. Emmanuel
Levinas, Recherches Philosophiques, IV, pp. 6580.
Troeltsch, Ernst (1951) Contingency, in Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol.
IV, ed. James Hastings, New York: Charles Scribners Sons, pp. 879.
DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000658
Review Essay
A Stirring Alphabet of Thought
Marcelo Svirsky Cardiff University
Jos Gil (2008) O Imperceptvel Devir da Imanncia Sobre a Filosoa
de Deleuze, Lisbon: Relgio Dgua.
One might interpret and explain the great philosophers as one pleases,
but an honest interpretation must not smother the soul of their oeuvres,
however much one may admire or criticise them. Many would agree that
Deleuzes writing is often obscure and difcult, and therefore the attempt
to introduce some clarity through interpretation must be welcomed.
However, too much order can compromise the delicate mechanism of
his work and literally freeze its internal dynamics when, for example,
concepts and planes of thought are arranged without regard for their
links and junctures. In the case of Deleuze, it seems that if anything
must be respected, it is the sense of constant movement through the
connections that he was able to forge for the benet of philosophy.
This movement is related rst and foremost to his critical dwelling
on the dogmatic image of thought, which Nietzsche was undoubtedly
instrumental in fostering, as Deleuze himself describes in the preface to
the English translation of Nietzsche and Philosophy:
And without doubt this is the most important point of Nietzsches
philosophy: the radical transformation of the image of thought that we create
for ourselves. Nietzsche snatches thought from the element of truth and
falsity. He turns it into an interpretation and an evaluation, interpretation of
forces, evaluation of power. It is a thought-movement, not merely in the sense
that Nietzsche wants to reconcile thought and concrete movements, but in the
sense that thought itself must produce movements, bursts of extraordinary
speed and slowness. (Deleuze 1986: xii; emphasis mine)
Deleuzes diagram is perhaps an apposite concept in this respect: as
Williams explains, a Deleuzian diagram is an apparatus expressing
a series of dynamic transformations . . . these movements are not
displacements of things as the effect of forces, but changes in things
312 Marcelo Svirsky
as they move and encounter others (Williams 2008: 79). This constant
movement evades the very possibility of capture for the sake of
recognition, representation, or static identity. And it is here that Jos
Gils book scores a major achievement: his writing ties in neatly with
Deleuzes agility, because he chooses to interpret Deleuze as a thinker
of movement, one who manipulates philosophical concepts, problems
and ideas by alternately pushing them away, turning and twisting
them this way and that, beyond their intended boundaries, and beyond
their previous identities. With Deleuze, there is always a Deleuzian
movement of thought. Thus, for Gil, we always nd in Deleuze a
movement of torsion that immediately allows us to contemplate a sphere
of difference (Gil 2008: 30).
Viewing thinking as a motion means
it is a potentiality and therefore an action and a critique without
transcendent referents (Gil 2008: 1667). But this torsion of concepts
done not merely for the sake of creating new concepts, but also for the
purpose of dening a new eld of experience and thought, one marked
by excess that is, beyond the bare empirical exercise of the faculties
(Gil 2008: 645). And to this end, a proper pedagogy of the senses is
required: to educate the senses to discern that which is transcendentally
But it is more it is also a matter of language. There is something
particularly agile in Gils Portuguese Deleuze. Perhaps it is the Latin
kinship with the French that explains this airy and lyrical version, the
sense of the French rhythms. The rhythm and sense of anticipation that
Gils Portuguese instils in Deleuzes philosophy lift the written word
above the idiomatic technicalities and rigidities that occasionally stem
the ow of Deleuzes prose in other languages. In this respect, Gil keeps
the reading in ux, in a state of constant becoming. And yet, in spite
of Gils aspirations, this book cannot be considered an introduction to
Deleuzes thought. Although he carefully explores Deleuzes complicated
concepts and ideas and offers a rich interpretative language, Gil also
does not refrain from embarking upon the complicated task of offering
a micro-dynamic of Deleuzes body of thought, thus rendering his book
less suitable for novice readers of Deleuze. This is increasingly apparent
as one progresses through the book and witnesses Gils evident mastery
of the broad material written by Deleuze (and Guattari), and his ability
to crisscross at will the length and breadth of Deleuzes work, and
make connections between what he judges to be the different stages
and transformations of Deleuzes concepts (Gil 2008: 178). However,
in one respect, the book is introductory, in that it is not a work in which
Deleuzes thought is applied to specic problems in philosophy, politics
A Stirring Alphabet of Thought 313
or any other eld. It is an interpretative work of Deleuzes thought and,
seen in perspective, Gil serves as Deleuzes conceptual biographer.
Covering Deleuzes works from before and after his volumes on
Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Gil greatly expands upon the notion of
the plane of immanence as the ontological axis of Deleuzes thought,
in a way more suited to experienced readers of the genre. Nonetheless,
his writing is clear and makes for pleasant and uent reading. Thus,
for example, as he puts it, the process of learning as explained in
Difference and Repetition is the discordant exercise of the faculties
divorced (disconnected) from every form of identity (Gil 2008: 34). In
other words, for Gil the activity of learning is something that can never
be achieved, but rather only be the focus of constant experimentation.
I. Introduction
Before considering the main arguments of Gils book, a few preliminary
comments are in order. As noted, central to its theme is a Deleuzian
exploration of the transcendental conditions of the plane of immanence.
To this end, Gil explores the realm in which the conditions for
thinking and of real experimentation must be found (thereby underlining
Deleuzes distance from transcendental Kantianism, in which these are
regarded as mere replications of the empirical). But what exactly do
these conditions point to? They allude to the invisible which is stronger
than the visible forms, Gil argues to the sub-representative realm of
singularities, that is, to the virtual (Gil 2008: 634).
According to Gil, Deleuze developed his problematisations through
two lines of inquiry. The rst was induced by his desire to follow in
the footsteps of other great philosophers, from Aristotle to Husserl,
to rescue the sensible but in deance of tradition, rather than with
it. This in turn led to the second, more positive, line of inquiry,
in which Deleuze set out to present the sensible, or the concrete
as something that is beyond what our physical senses might grasp
as concrete. This beyond is dened by Gil as the insensible that
only may be felt, the unimaginable that only can be imagined (Gil
2008: 14). It is a terminology that he adopts to designate singularity
in concrete experience, that which embodies difference itself. The
insensible, however, can only be generated in a eld that is distinct
from the comparative eld of the empirical: it is there that we nd the
Deleuzian transcendental conditions of experience. For Gil, Deleuzes
lines of philosophical inquiry compelled him to build primarily
from Difference and Repetition to The Logic of Sense a supportive
314 Marcelo Svirsky
topological ontology of difference that connects the concept of repetition
with an original reading of the eternal return, culminating in the plane
of immanence in his later works with Guattari.
But how exactly does repetition open up the future as a dimension
of creation? To put it another way, where lies the habitat of difference?
According to Gil, it is the depth of the spatial texture of the eternal
return (as opposed to Platos false depth) or the texture of immanence,
which guarantees the logic of excess, the produao do novo (Gil 2008:
60). Without this ontology, Deleuze would be unable to offer a dynamic
of thought based on nomadic distributions (and away from sedentary
distributions of analogy) with which life may be re-thought. As Deleuze
writes in the last pages of Difference and Repetition:
Repetition in the eternal return appears under all these aspects as the peculiar
power of difference, and the displacement and disguise of that which repeats
only reproduce the divergence and the decentring of the different in a single
movement of diaphora or transport. The eternal return afrms difference; it
afrms dissemblance and disparateness, chance, multiplicity and becoming.
(Deleuze 1994: 300)
II. Structure and Main Arguments
Over ten chapters and an appendix, Gils book revolves around the ways
in which Deleuze presented a new style of thought, one never anchored
in a model or an image. For Gil, Deleuze created a revolutionary
alphabet of thought, one always in ux, averting nodes of sedimentation
and creating lines of ight. The Deleuzian alphabet of thought is the
medium through which we learn to think it is his conceptual machine,
with movement as the only vehicle within this medium. This alphabet
is also of the eld of virtual singularities from which a calculus is
forged, and a grammar or a language comes into being in different
domains (Gil 2008: 402). How does it move and change? While the
alphabets letters are the conditions of intelligibility of the Idea
elements articulated by the dice in every throw these conditions change
in the face of new problems that emerge with every throw (in every
domain). Here the letters must be understood not literally, but as the
changing elements of the alphabet, which in turn animates thought.
It is an innite alphabet in terms of its potential combinations: there
are always new integrations of letters a genuine machine for the
creation of concepts (Gil 2008: 42). It follows that the Deleuzian
alphabet is not a xed model of construction, but a constantly moving
machine of differenciation: dislocation of terms, corrections of concepts,
A Stirring Alphabet of Thought 315
abandonment and adjunctions of other notions indicating how the
alphabet experiences transformations from one text to another, from
one work to another (Gil 2008: 42) (here Gil expands upon Deleuzes
concepts, as for example, with the Idea in Difference and Repetition
and its evolution to the Event in The Logic of Sense).
How does this alphabet of thought move one to create and
perceive difference? Broadly speaking, Gil answers by structuring and
connecting Deleuzes fundamental concepts in the following elliptical
and centrifugal fashion: to begin with, a thought of this kind is one
of excess, since it always takes itself to its limits; second, multiple
logics of excess (life and death, freeing blockades and auto-destruction)
are found in what is engendered by the connection and disjunction
of divergent series; third, a beyond the organic and the empirical, in
which excess or difference circulates and therefore must be localised
and described; fourth, this beyond is given by the n dimensions of the
plane of immanence; fth, immanence follows the logic of potentiality,
the strategy of reciprocal determination between the virtual and the
actual (or between sense and the expressed), works from within desire
and gives it a plane in which to operate; sixth, and therefore, what
emerges is delirious reality (history is delirium), so immanence is the
ontological texture of the real; seventh, the texture of the plane depends
on the matter of expression (thought, writing, dancing, etc.), and its
transformation (or becoming) is conditioned by rhythmic connections
and by consistency between heterogeneous forces; eighth, agency is
about microscopic processes of becoming, and not a model to follow
(here we nd a pillar in Deleuzes signicant revolution of thought); and
nally, since Deleuzian thought is rhizomatic, it is a thought of excess.
What is a thought of excess? For Gil (Chapter 3),
in terms of
syntheses of time, excess means to regard the future as the ontological
dimension of the new, as an empty form that allows for forgetting and
connecting (the task of the eternal return). In terms of energy, excess
liberates that which is buried by blockades unfolded by an inequality
or difference in intensities (like erupting volcanoes).
Gil argues that Deleuzes treatment of excess evolves through two
different stages. How can we break with the false entropic system with
which the world is represented and liberate the intensities? According
to Gil, in Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense Deleuze
introduces excess as an augmentation of forces that rupture the systems
of common sense and the doxa a norm attacked by a movement of
dissolution. Therefore, thought is reterritorialised with a ux of excess
breaking with that which it imprisons. Up to this point, it might be said
316 Marcelo Svirsky
that the logic of excess operates in a sort of actionreaction fashion,
since the line of ight appears as a result of the violence exerted by
the excess of external forces. But according to Gil, this logic of thought
abruptly changes, to the point where he is able to distinguish between a
First thought and a Second thought of Deleuze (Gil 2008: 202). From A
Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari put forward a different image
of the world: here excess is a part of all systems, creating lines of ight
and war machines. The world is machinic at every level or plateau. There
is no excess relative to a norm, since every norm is already distorted by
a war machine, meaning that there is no state apparatus without lines of
ight. Therefore, there is excess everywhere. In other words, the change
in A Thousand Plateaus in relation to Difference and Repetition and
The Logic of Sense is given by a movement of thought, which introduces
immanence within the actual texture of the concepts. This is to the
benet of connectivity, since the tempo of incessant movements within
concepts allows not only for internal modications of components, but
mainly for an in between (or opening) to connect across concepts (Gil
2008: 80). But with the advantages, Gil warns, there are also dangers:
an excess of excess might appear when immanence is introduced within
the texture of the concepts, thus an escalation in the ux of variation
outlives a boundary, making the ux homogeneous (Gil 2008: 83).
This mechanism, says Gil, explains micro-fascisms and why desire turns
against itself, and why the line of ight loses its power of becoming.
The argument goes like this: from the plane of immanence in which
everything is in circulation, at certain rhythms and conjugations the
plane can be lled with energy of just one type (hate, love, etc.).
The excess of this type of energy is equivalent to a drastic reduction
in the potential of the bodies (homogenisation takes place) and of
heterogeneity. In summary, the excess of energy in the plane of
immanence, as excess without limits, transforms the lines of ight (the
trajectories of the singularities) into lines of impasse and destruction,
and as a result, the power of becoming is lost.
As an example of the transformation of lines of ight into lines of
destruction, Gil cites Fernando Pessoas schizophrenic writing. Pessoa,
on whom Gil has written two books and several articles, is one of the
most celebrated Portuguese poets. Writing as Alvaro de Campos (one
of Pessoas many heteronyms), Pessoa gives us an image of destruction:
the self-multitude, producer of multiplicities . . . who multiplies through
innite forms of sense and innite selves freezes into an immutable
and self-destructive unity (Gil 2008: 84). The destructive movement
is from a centrifugal movement to a centripetal and unifying one,
A Stirring Alphabet of Thought 317
converging onto the self-individual, emerging after the struggle with the
self-multitude. Thus, we have multiple logics of excess: a line of ight
might stop blocking concepts, but it might also lead to self-destruction.
To some extent, Deleuzes criticism of Platonism in Difference and
Repetition undermines Gils argument regarding the change in Deleuzes
thought. On the one hand, Deleuze attacked the dogmatic image of
thought in Plato with an external movement of dissolution, to unblock
concepts. But on the other hand, for Deleuze the touchstone of Platonism
is also its undoing, with Plato himself providing the ammunition. In
other words, Deleuze found in Plato an internal war machine that allows
for transformation. Although Platonism as a whole is erected on the
basis of the desire to hunt down the phantasms or simulacra that are
identied with the Sophist (Deleuze 1994: 127), it is the distinction
between the two kinds of images (and not between the original and the
image) the copy and the simulacra that seems to Deleuze to be the
decisive junction of a philosophical decision which could have ended
otherwise: namely, the decision as to which model Plato chose. The
simulacra are the false pretenders, demonic images according to Plato,
not eligible for inclusion in the system that measures the copy against
the identity of the original Idea. Does this not mean, however, that if
simulacra themselves refer to a model, it is one which is not endowed
with the ideal identity of the Same but, on the contrary, is a model of the
Other, an other model, the model of difference in itself from which ows
that interiorized dissimilitude? (Deleuze 1994: 128) Yes, is Deleuzes
answer: Plato had sown both models, of the identity of the Same and
the resemblance of the Similar on the one hand, and of the terrifying
dissimilar on the other. He opted for the former, but also provided the
means for criticising this choice, which Deleuze saw and seized upon.
Divergent series (composed of intensities) are in relative displacement,
explains Gil, implying a differential correspondence between the
elements of the series, a disequilibrium, which is the excess of one series
over other (Chapter 4). The emphasis here is on the communication
between the series, given that it is through this connection that the
excess of forces circulate. This connective element is the dark precursor
of Difference and Repetition or the empty square of The Logic of
Sense. It is an intensive element and an active difference. Fernando
Pessoa himself, for example, is the dark precursor in his oeuvres:
he communicates across the series and assembles the heteronyms
through their edges, their margins. This is the signicant function
of the empty square its circulation across the series in the structure
and the attendant displacement of frontiers or, in other words, it
318 Marcelo Svirsky
is also the signicant function of the structure which is in fact a
machine for the production of incorporeal sense (Deleuze 1990: 71).
The dark precursor as embodiment of difference is decentred, outside
itself, dislocated, in constant movement (Gil 2008: 1026). Pessoa
cannot be identied by means of the traditional tools of recognition
and representation: he is not; he moves. How does the moment of
communication take place across the series? Here Gil points out that
the disjunctive syntheses are the true machine of innovation in Deleuzes
thinking of the event (Gil 2008: 18). According to Gil, citing Deleuzes
critique of Leibnizs theory of the incompossibles (series 24 in The Logic
of Sense), he is able to offer an innovative concept of disjunction as
the synthetic movement of divergent terms, where the distance between
two inherently different terms is breached not by macroscopic wholes
but by pre-individual singularities (Gil 2008: 20). The connection or
ligaao creates difference and introduces variation: this is the Deleuzian
denition of the Event.
From this point onwards (starting from Chapter 5) Gil devotes the
book to a critique of how Deleuze denes the transcendental as the
realm that determines the changing conditions of the possible, and
to the passage, or the genetic process between the virtual and the
actual. Without this realm, it would be impossible for thought to create
movement beyond common sense and good sense. The whole question
becomes one about how to localise and describe a space for that which
is beyond the organic and the empirical where the intensities from
Difference and Repetition attest to an ontological-virtual depth. From
the perspective of this task, Gil maintains that prior to Anti-Oedipus
Deleuze had failed to assure univocity of sense through the notion of
surface. With Guattari, and following May 68, a second philosophy
emerges. A conceptual evolution in Deleuzes thought takes place, and
previous concepts are rethought and expanded upon (Gil 2008: 163). It
is worth noting that scholars differ in their identication of the various
turning points in Deleuzes work. The argument over Deleuzes change
following his collaborative work with Guattari and the events of May
68 is well known. But for James Williams, a signicant singularity
appears with Logic of Sense, in which Deleuze experiments with a style
of writing and a more free approach to the tradition [that] break out and
allow novel ideas and a different ethos to guide philosophical thought
(Williams 2008: 77). However, this sort of identication of Deleuzes
changes of attitude is instructive in itself, and opens up doors for further
analysis and implementation. (It is possible that Deleuze himself would
resist even this attempt to represent a passage and the stages used in
A Stirring Alphabet of Thought 319
this type of interpretation.) This is in contrast to the genealogies through
which Deleuzes philosophical perfect origins are usually sought.
According to Gil, in Anti-Oedipus and in A Thousand Plateaus, the
surface is replaced by the plane as the place where sense is engendered.
This plane is what is necessary to provide a basis for the thought of
immanence, and the concept of the body without organs (BwO) starts to
play a major role in its construction. In Anti-Oedipus, the BwO acquires
a precision and consistency that it hadnt in The Logic of Sense; it is now
the plane of immanence. A whole battery of new concepts describing the
movement of the BwO arises, and it is further developed in A Thousand
Plateaus (Gil 2008: 164). The signicant change is Deleuzes incursion
into the social eld and history, and the relationship of the latter to
a theory of desire; particularly important is the crossed parallelism
between the production of desire, its inscription and reception, and the
capitalist production and its recording and consumption (Chapters 7
and 8). According to Gil, most important is the convergence between
these two series and the emplacement of the BwO not as a metaphor, but
as the socius itself and the place of becomings: desire is the real, and the
real comprises desire. The convergence between the desiring-production
and the capitalist production is the real. The plane of immanence is
the real and it is of the order of production of desire, of capitalist
production, and of power, or in other words, history is delirium. This is a
new regime of concepts and thought. It is at this point, according to Gil,
that Deleuze and Guattari start to perceive thought itself as immanence
and as life.
Immanence works from within desire. Desire is a force of
composition, an innite, incessant machine of connection, creation
and agency. When we desire, we are on the BwO. Desire needs a
space or a plane on which it can circulate: this is the BwO. Here Gil
explains Deleuzes choice for Artauds concept, against the organism,
the organised structure. An organism presupposes an organisation of
organs, and it is an obstacle to the intensication of free energy.
For this reason, the un-doing of the organism is a precondition for
the construction of the BwO. It is important to stress that the BwO
is not inhabited by the basic units of empirical life, says Gil. He
elaborates on this further. For example, the BwO of a writer is not
words, but the result of their work on words. Gil maintains that the
point of departure to reach a BwO is our empirical body-organism.
What we have is just an interpretation of the body, ready to be
undone. That is our point of departure in constructing the BwO: our
materials are transformable. It has all the necessary materials to be
320 Marcelo Svirsky
transformed into another body. The BwO is a body of sensations,
and the result of transformation of the empirical body; it lies beyond
the empirical body. It is virtual-real. The transformation has an initial
phase that is negative: here it is necessary to undo the organism, to
combat strata (or opinions); in the second phase we encounter chaos;
and nally, a strategy to form the plane of immanence is adopted
in order to leave chaos.
The construction of a BwO passes through
these phases, not necessarily in the linear sequence as explained (Gil
2008: 187). What are the three great strata opposing the construction
of the BwO? They are the organism, signicance and subjectivity.
Against the organism, Deleuze and Guattari propose disarticulation and
multiplication of articulations; against signication, experimentation;
and against subjectivity nomadism. There is an important operation
in the stage of dissolution of strata, present through the three strata. It
is the disorganisation of the order of stratication of the internal organs
of a body. In the course of the making of the BwO, we ght against
consistency and return to new forms of it. Consistency is simultaneously
coexistence and conjunction: in order to have consistency, the elements
must be capable of assembly.
Regardless of the nature of the plane, its construction must provide
consistency, necessary for the coexistence of the most diverse
elements . . . because the encounter, the interlacement and the composition
of the heterogeneous as heterogeneous is a rst condition of creation and of
intensication of uxes. (Gil 2008: 184)
In response to the question where are we supposed to nd the weapons
(war machines) for the struggle to make a BwO, Gil says that Deleuze
is obscure: he addresses voluntarism and the spontaneity of desire at the
same time (Gil 2008: 199). It is necessary to violentar (to force) the strata
that condition the interior of desire, but it is also necessary to violentar
our thought (Chapter 9). This is why to think is dangerous:
Because in order to think, it is necessary to destroy the strata of good sense
and common sense namely, to destroy normalised thought and generalised
opinion; because the philosopher, as the artist, must engage with chaos in
order to cut from it a plane of immanence. To enter into the chaos into
doubt, into the epoch and the vertigo of thought to leave the doxa of
the natural attitude, implies imposing violence upon the total of common
existence. (Gil 2008: 221)
The solution resides in the ideas of chance and encounter. We desire,
and leave the strata by virtue of a chance encounter. In a life dominated
by strata, adventure always produces encounters that sprout desire.
A Stirring Alphabet of Thought 321
All these strategies imply a continuous oscillation between man and
his environment; between external forces and the uxes of the body;
between the strata and desire . . . It assumes a body that is able to
combine different kinds of energy with its own. . . a body capable of
taking a line of light, of knowing what is best for itself (Gil 2008: 200).
A body like this forever nds itself partly beyond the strata and partly
stratied. At this point, in the manner of other Deleuzians wrestling with
the problematic nature of agency, Gil quotes the famous non-recipe
recipe: This is how it should be done: Lodge yourself on a stratum,
experiment with the opportunities it offers. . . (Deleuze and Guattari
1987: 161).
Prudence, however, must be adopted to avoid fatally risking ourselves
whilst breaking with the strata of the organism, of signicances, and of
subjectivity. This is why Deleuze insists on prudence, Gil reminds us.
According to Gil, prudence is not an attitude or a moral prescription,
but a technique (Gil 2008: 188). He considers it a technique of
mastering the struggle against the strata. As Deleuze and Guattari
warn, to be prudent means to conserve small amounts of organism,
of signication and subjectivity. But it is a twofold technique, because
those small pieces of strata must be reactivated by breaking them every
day. It is a technique that saves us from destruction, while at the same
time bringing about the erosion of the dominant strata. In this way we
must respond to the dominant reality:
To maintain small resources of signication and subjectivity, to reproduce
the codied game of the social networks every morning, and simultaneously
to practice new strategies of struggle, by reproducing the enemy and
experimenting with its efcacy. The deliberate repetition of interpretations
and subjectivities imposed by the dominant order creates a distance in relation
to them and supplies stages on the road to destratication. (Gil 2008: 188)
To what extent is this distance planned and acted upon? How does
knowledge (regarding selection of strata to be repeated or forgotten)
stand here in relation to chance and spontaneity? If it is a distance
between the actual and the virtual, how is unconscious desire accounted
for here? If this distance accounts for the critical turn in reactivating
the strata, then under which conditions does repetition become an
experiment in the beyond? These are perhaps the most troubling
questions regarding agency and activism, and in fact, the scholarly
literature on Deleuzes thought is mostly mute about them. At the
phase where the debate deals with agency, and like many Deleuzian
scholars before him, Gil is disappointing. His writing lacks the social and
322 Marcelo Svirsky
political landscapes that might enhance the notions of agenciamento
and prudence, and the roles of the BwO. Expectations are hampered by
abstract language and by literary examples (from Gils and Deleuzes
works) with a narrow spectrum of political implications.
I will conclude with two themes present at the end of Gils book:
the function of time in the formation of the plane of immanence
(Chapter 10), and the notion of becoming (Appendix). The time of
immanence is given by the Ritornello (A Thousand Plateaus), explains
Gil. The repetition creates an aperture to a continuation, something that
facilitates orientation and calm a beginning of order within chaos.
For example, eldworks are accompanied with Ritornellos; they work
by tunnelling forces of the body to combine with forces of the land.
The Ritornello creates a space, a territory, in which forces are selected,
combined, joined. It delimits the borders of an internal space, just
as a bird might stake out its territory with its songs. In the end, a
melody becomes a landscape (Gil 2008: 232). The micro-dynamics
of the Ritornello goes in this way: the internal forces of the body
must be freed from their biological impulses to allow for expressive
combinations. The Ritornello then disconnects itself from the territory
which enabled it to become expressive, and it is deterritorialised,
acquiring an independent dynamic which allows for new connections
with other forces. How do the heterogeneous elements (heterogeneous
matters of expression, e.g., body and land, artist and colours and canvas)
consolidate? To consolidate (consistency) is not about coexisting in
proximity, but to engage in articulation, to connect (Gil 2008: 234).
According to Gil, it is the rhythm of the Ritornello that enables matter
to capture heterogeneous forces. Capture means transformation of the
time of a matter to permit connection with another matters time. And
transformation means becoming.
Becoming is a pre-philosophical condition of a thought of immanence.
Becoming is a process of transformation of intensities, and takes place in
a zone of the indiscernible. It is where reciprocal transfer of forces and
intensities occurs across traditional categories. The molecular dynamic:
forces move particles of becoming, creating a relation of movement and
repose, through which micro-parts of the body enter into a zone of
vicinity of the others micro-parts. Everything is in a state of becoming,
and we are in a perpetual state of becoming of several types. Even the
most blockaded entity in a stratum emits virtual particles which places
it partially in a plane of immanence. Or, to put it in other way, says Gil,
even the most petried stratum is transversed by lines of ight through
which molecular becoming escapes.
A Stirring Alphabet of Thought 323
A becoming is not a transformation of form, an identication of an I,
an imitation of a macroscopic gure (molar). It is a microscopic process
(molecular) through which strata are dissolved (with I as a stratum of
subjectivity). Between all the kinds, the imperceptible becoming is that which
saves us from paralysing molar capture. (Gil 2008: 258).
This brings us to the title of Gils book. The Deleuzian primacy
of the molecular over the molar is there for the purpose of
combating recognition and representation, because the imperceptible,
the indiscernible and the impersonal cannot be recognised or formally
represented (Gil 2008: 260). This is the majestic voice of becoming.
The thought of the molecular brought Deleuze to a molecularisation
of the thought. The molecular is neither a standpoint nor a scale. It is
an objective dimension of the real. To think the real is to think on a
molecular level.
1. Translations mine.
2. The torsion of concepts needs to be understood, according to Gil, as Deleuzes
method of critical thinking based on a special form of negation. Rather than
negating a concept by its mere categorical opposite, Deleuze applies a movement
of critique through which the identity (or the principle) of the foundation (of the
concept under critique) is no more sustained (Gil 2008: 27). By this movement
of torsion a eld of difference is nally opened and afrmed, and this afrmation
is in itself the movement of thought. Gil returns to a similar description also for
3. Despite Gils commitment to the theme of transcendental empiricism
articulated by Deleuze from his early writings it is surprising not to nd any
reference to Deleuzes book on Hume.
4. Following Deleuze, Gil explains that the Idea cannot be represented or
identied. The Idea is a sub-representative virtual multiplicity. Its object is a
problematisation and its state of being is in movement. There is a complex
eld of connection between Ideas. Here the notion of Perplication appears:
the differential interrelation of Ideas (clarity and obscurity). The notion of
Perplication assumes the internal mobility of the Idea.
5. In Chapters 1 and 2 Gil introduces Deleuzes ontological concepts mainly from
Difference and Repetition and The Logic of Sense.
6. According to Gil, the same philosophical logic is at work in those philosophers
Deleuze wrote against: Plato, Descartes and Husserl (Gil 2008: 201). What
distinguish Deleuze from the metaphysical philosophers is that he is after how
to acquire consistency without lose the innite where thought is immersed. If
the innite movement of thought is not stopped where innite is the condition
of immanence explains Gil, then the transcendental cannot be introduced (Gil
2008: 203). Therefore, the rst big difference consists in the way we handle
chaos: either it is negated, excluded (as with Descartes), or the movement and
the innite velocities that animate concepts are extracted from it (Gil 2008:
203). The second difference resides in the fact that the circulation of concepts
on the plane of immanence are aleatory; they dont obey any law, rule or a
324 Marcelo Svirsky
despotic signier, but only the chance of the encounter the ideal game of the
eternal return. There are nomadic movements and not xed trajectories on a
map in which the territorial distributions are determined by categories; this is a
philosophy of difference in which everything changes (Gil 2008: 203). Then, if
the concept is a movement of thought, how was it possible to handle it as a static
7. The research and writing of this article was supported by a Marie curie
Intra European Fellowship within the 7th European Community Framework
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Deleuze, Gilles (1990) The Logic of Sense, ed. Constantin Boundas, trans. Mark
Lester with Charles Stivale, New York: Columbia University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles (1994) Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, New York:
Columbia University Press.
Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Flix (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and
Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Gil, Jos (2008) O Imperceptvel Devir da Imanncia Sobre a Filosoa de Deleuze,
Lisbon: Relgio Dgua.
Williams, James (2008) Gilles Deleuzes Logic of Sense: A Critical Introduction and
Guide, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
DOI: 10.3366/E175022410900066X