Friday, October 9, 2009

Creative Misreading: Philosophy as Critical Poetics

I am irresistably drawn to writing, of which the powers of suggestion seem to overflow the bondries of their defined fields. That is to say, work which invites creative misreading, writing which is in-formed by an implied aesthetic structure that opens it to multiple re-formations, multiple interpretations.
In philosophy: Plato (over Aristotle), Vico, Wittgenstein, Spinoza, Kierkegaard.  What is it about Freud that lends himself to endless reinvention and revision, if not this?
I return to Paul Levi Bryant's Larval Subjects  because, again and again, he touches on something that makes my brain fizz!--on multiple  levels. His thinking within the confines of his own field is always challenging and inovative, worth reading in itself, but more important for me, because again and again, he formulates his idea in such a way that I find myself reading them as though their subject were something entirely different than that intended. Even when, as in the following, it's through texts he's choosen to quote for comment and analysis.
Read these quotes from Deleuze, and tell me you can't follow them simultaneously for what they are meant to be, and as part of a critial exposition on the aesthectics of assembledge in painting and poetry.
(Please do listen again to MC Hyland and her collage poems, assembled from lines taken from The New Yorker.)
This is from a post on Larval Subjects HERE
In preparing my talk on Deleuze’s overturning of Platonism and his theory of simulacra for the RMMLA on Friday, I came across the following terrific interview with Deleuze on A Thousand Plateaus and assemblages:

If there is no single field to act as a foundation, what is the unity of A Thousand Plateaus?

I think it is the idea of an assemblage (which replaces the idea of desiring machines). There are various kinds of assemblages, and various component parts. On the one hand, we are trying to substitute the idea of assemblage for the idea of behavior: whence the importance of ethology, and the analysis of animal assemblages, e.g., territorial assemblages. The chapter on the Ritornello, for example, simultaneously examines animal assemblages and more properly musical assemblages: this is what we call a “plateau,” establishing a continuity between the ritornellos of birds and Schumann’s ritornellos. On the other hand, the analysis of assemblages, broken down into their component parts, opens up the way to a general logic: Guattari and I have only begun, and completing this logic will undoubtedly occupy us in the future. Guattari calls it “diagrammatism.” In assemblages you you find states of things, bodies, various combinations of bodies, hodgepodges; but you also find utterances, modes of expression, and whole regimes of signs. The relations between the two are pretty complex. For example, a society is defined not by productive forces and ideology, but by “hodgepodges” and “verdicts.” Hodgepodges are combinations of interpenetrating bodies. These combinations are well-known and accepted (incest, for example, is a forbidden combination). Verdicts are collective utterances, that is, instantaneous and incorporeal transformations which have currency in a society (for example, “from now on you are no longer a child”…).

These assemblages which you are describing, seems to me to have value judgments attached to them. Is this correct? Does A Thousand Plateaus have an ethical dimension?

Assemblages exist, but they indeed have component parts that serve as criteria and allow the various assemblages to be qualified. Just as in painting, assemblages are a bunch of lines. But there are all kinds of lines. Some lines are segments, or segmented; some lines get caught in a rut, or disappear into “black holes”; some are destructive, sketching death; and some lines are vital and creative. These creative and vital lines open up an assemblage, rather than close it down. The idea of an “abstract” line is particularly complex. A line may very well represent nothing at all, be purely geometrical, but it is not yet abstract as long as it traces an outline. An abstract line is a line with no outlines, a line that passes between things, a line in mutation. Pollock’s line has been called abstract. In this sense, an abstract line is not a geometrical line. It is very much alive, living and creative. Real abstraction is non-organic life. This idea of nonorganic life is everywhere in A Thousand Plateaus and this is precisely the life of the concept. An assemblage is carried along by its abstract lines, when it is able to have or trace abstract lines. You know, it’s curious, today we are witnessing the revenge of silicon. Biologists have often asked themselves why life was “channeled” through carbon rather than silicon. But the life of modern machines, a genuine non-organic life, totally distinct from the organic life of carbon, is channeled through silicon. This is the sense in which we speak of a silicon-assemblage. In the most diverse fields, one has to consider the component parts of assemblages, the nature of the lines, the mode of life, the mode of utterance…

In reading your work, one gets the feeling that those distinctions which are traditionally most important have disappeared: for instance, the distinction between nature and culture; or what about epistemological distinctions?

There are two ways to supress or attenuate the distinction between nature and culture. The first is to liken animal behavior to human behavior (Lorenz tried it, with disquieting political implications). But what we are saying is that the idea of assemblages can replace the idea of behavior, and thus with respect to the idea of assemblage, the nature-culture distinction no longer matters. In a certain way, behavior is still a countour. But an assemblage is first and foremost what keeps very heterogeneous elements together: e.g. a sound, a gesture, a position, etc., both natural and artificial elements. The problem is one of “consistency” or “coherence,” and it prior to the problem of behavior. How do things take on consistency? How do they cohere? Even among very different things, an intensive continuity can be found. We have borrowed the word “plateau” from Bateson precisely to designate these zones of intensive continuity. (Two Regimes of Madness, pgs. 176 – 179)

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