I am participating in a really exciting workshop on Simondon and digital culture. Below the poster and my presentation abstract.


Affective Timing and Non-sensuous Perception in Differential Media

The relation between ethics and aesthetics defines a crucial problematic through which Félix Guattari develops his philosophy and analytic practice. Simondon exposes similar lines in his work with equally strong indications of its political relevance. He conceives of the aesthetic as immanent force in experience pertaining to its preindividual field as unexhausted resource for potential becoming. His overall theory of individuation could be also considered as continuous process of differentiation through such a field of potential.

Simondon defines the aesthetic as temporal relation between the preindividual as partially expressed present experience and its pull towards a future becoming, i.e. differentiation. The aesthetic is the interval through which experience passes as felt intensity in the immediacy of its occurrence. It is Alfred North Whitehead who links this temporal process of experience to perception, not as mere sense perception of given empirical data but through his notion of non-sensuous perception. Non-sensuous perception emphasizes the immediate past shaping the passing of the present and the present, as tendency of the future, shaping the potential function of the past. Through non-sensuous perception an interstice for aesthetic practices opens up allowing for an ‘immanent’ and ‘transcendent’ process of co-becoming between the temporal passing of the event and its metastable bodily expression.

For similar reasons Guattari, thinking at the dawn of the digital media era, envisioned post-media practices as “laboratories of thought and experimentation for future forms of subjectivation.” He underlines that what comes to be termed post-media describes a general transformation away from media as mere technological entities. Guattari interlinks aesthetic and ethical concerns pointing out that a “post-media society “will be invented, created within the perspective of a new aesthetic-political paradigm.“ For both, Guattari and Simondon technology defines an active and vital realm of potential not as a means but as enabling ecology. In their works both emphasize technology’s processual dimension, where aesthetics generates links between perception and its relation to time, ethics pertains to acts developing relations with other acts. How can we conceive of such acts not as a volitional and anthropomorphic activism but as a relaying of temporal entanglements between the immediacy of occasions of experience and their material constraints? Further investigating Simondon’s and Guattari’s take on ethics and aesthetics in a post media era I will look at digital media technologies susceptible to (temporal) differentiation. Such “differential media” (Andrew Murphie) highlight the potential of digital processes of timing as discontinuous yet relational processes of timing. Looking at Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson’s video installation The Visitor’s I will work through the affective and emotive temporalities of digital media art and its relation to non-sensuous perception. How can we conceive of such artworks as instigating collective individuation foregrounding the temporal affective tonality at the heart of their expression in experience?

While reading in parallel two fairly important texts for my work: Deleuze’s talk “What is the Creative Act?” and Toni Negri’s collection of letters published in English as Art & Multitude I feel compelled to juxtapose them with the aim to work out resonances and productive dissonances. A general statement of Negri provides the fundament:

“Art, as we have said, is labour, living labour, and therefore invention of singularity, of singular figures and objects, linguistic expression, invention of sings. There, in this first movement are lodged potenza of the subject in action, the subject’s capacity to deepen knowledge to the point of reinventing the world. But this expressive act only achieves beauty and the absolute when the signs and the language through which it expresses itself transform themselves into community, when they are embraced and contained within a common project. The beautiful in an invention of singularity which circulates and reveals itself as common in a multiplicity of subjects who participate in the construction of the world. The beautiful is not the act of imagining, but an imagination that has become action. Art, in this sense, is multitude” (xii)

In this paragraph Negri condenses the founding principles to establish art as a creative and political act of a multitude. Three important blocks occur at this intersection: 1) The function of living labour as production,2) the potenza lodged in the expressive act of a subject in action, and 3) Beauty as expressive act through a community, i.e. art as expressive act of the multitude. The repeated critique on the concept of multitude is going to be sidelined in what follows, since the concept of the collective takes a more prominent role in my work on Simondon. Another difficult part that I am dealing with in another place is the role of the subject in relation to action or the expressive act. Even though it might seem like Negri and Deleuze conceive of a subject as the locus of creation in both texts that are discussed here, I deem their concept of the subject closer to Guattari’s notion of the production of subjectivity. Hence, subjectivity is a process of creation where acts become expressive but alsways already as a collective that assembles the subjective form of an event. Such a notion of the subjective form refers to Alfred North Whitehead for whom the subjective form is the expressive moment of an event before it perishes, it is concrescence.

For Negri it is crucial to abandon a notion of the natural as separate from the human. What he calls abstraction defines the state of encounter with “nature” as always already artificially shaped by human presence. This general state is lodged in the overall transformation of labour from abstract to immaterial labour as bottom-line of his work with Michael Hardt. For Negri “living labour is nothing but immaterial production, whether it is intellectual or affective” (xiii). Enmeshed in workings of abstraction the subject and in particular the human subject cannot be accounted for as natural.

Both, Deleuze and Negri point out the importance of a necessity or the work/labour that emerges out of a struggle. For Deleuze in relation to philosophy this means not to engage with thinking in general but to invent and create concepts. In a similar way, Negri points out that the work of constitution has to engage with what he considers as the “truth of the factitious” (3). This truth is not a hermeneutic truth but a truth that is constituted by and through the real. The real is not an empirical matter of fact but rather to speak with Deleuze and Latour a transcendental-empirical matter of concern. Negri considers ontological experience “as a truth of abstraction, and the recognition of this as a condition of experience” (5). In other words, for Negri the constitution of truth as factitious means that truth will be always constituted by means of abstraction. Abstraction defines not a pure transcendentality but manifests abstraction as a mode of existence (I will at greater length deal with the notion of “modes of existence” through the work of Gilbert Simondon an Étienne Souriau in a later post and in my PhD-Thesis).

The potential of an anthropomorphizing notion of the subject shifts once we address the process of constitution as partaking in seeking the real. The real is always synthetic as Isabelle Stengers would probably say. As such the seeking of the real is not a desire for final truth. As Negri says: “There are no longer natural determinisms or historical vestiges, nor finality of fulfillments which hold: the space has become entirely a-teleological” (11). To seek the real means to seek it “until it falls into our hands: an encounter, an event” (10). Hence, it is not a final real but a singularity as part of a wider collective that is defined as the quality of art as living labour for Negri: “The abstract is the sole community in which we exist” (11). Such an abstract defines part of Negri’s use of the concept of multitude. Labour, so my own interpretation, is not necessarily only a human concept. How could it be solely human if the human itself does not hold sway as a natural entity? If the human defines an individual or an individual of labour it would lose its factitious mode of existence. From this perspective, labour is not human as such but a collective abstract process with tendencies towards autonomous production. This mode of production defines what Negri calls the beautiful as collective act, an imagination that has become action. Imagination, again, has to be regarded as synthetic and factitious. It is not human but abstract and therefore collective.

For Negri a truth that will be constituted moves trough processes of empirical traces. He proposes: “So let us begin by putting together the most simple things. Both the space of our habitat and the time of our conscience require objects in relation to which we can re-take the measure of our life” (10/11, my emphasis). The objects might be the creation of works of art. Art does not have to be a physical object but marks a mode of existence. Its presence has an incurrence into the ontological experience of the event. Negri defines the abstract as collective. This mode of collectivity is a pre-individual and potential one. For what comes along as abstract might be also called the “autonomy of affect” (Massumi 2002)[1]. The autonomy of affect as the abstract collective relational bond for potentiality to surface in its actual effects requires another component as helpmate to its emergence: space-time. Talking about the differences between philosophy, art and science, Deleuze evokes their common limit as space-time: “All of these disciplines communicate at the level of something that never emerges for its own sake, but is engaged in every creative discipline: the formation of space-time” (Deleuze 2007, 320). Deleuze extends the linking collectivity of abstraction towards its potential holding together in space-time through different modes of expression (which is another notion for disciplines). The seeking as encounter or event is a shock in a double sense: A virtual shock as much as an actual shock neither of them coming in first but both vibrating across their continuum. A shock occurring in space-times delimiting and at the same time populating the limits with potentials. Such is the creative practice that does not allow to speak of creation as such but only to “speak in the name of … creation” (320). To speak in the name of creation accounts for the act of creation as autonomous, as part of an abstraction of living labour. In that sense, as Deleuze alludes to Malreaux “art is the only thing that resists death” (328). To resists death means to engage in the process of constitution of a truth as a collective matter of concern. Negri’s conception of the multitude aims at dealing with the singularity of each mode of existence and their potential for a transindividual force of expression. Only through that abstract collectivity a work of art might achieve beauty, not as the beautiful opposed to the ugly but as a felt increase of potential for a different future to come. Such a collectivity requires always a struggle and a crisis, the continuous movement of thought, a pragmatics of of discomfort, a discomfort that does not stop to ask questions, similar to the idiot invoked by Deleuze and one of Stenger’s main protagonists. Such a struggle defines the relation between the human and the work of art expressed through Deleuze referring to Paul Klee as the people that are missing: “The people are missing means that the fundamental affinity between a work of art and a people that does not yet exist, will never be clear. There is no work of art that does not call on a people who does not yet exist” (329).

[1] Brian Massumi  grants affect an autonomous state to avoid any one-to-one mapping of affect and effect or affect and emotion. Affect exists but autonomously incurs into actual occasions (events) without pre-defining its actual effects. Without affect’s autonomous state, there would be no elbow-room for novelty (Massumi 2002, 23-45).

Deleuze, Gilles, “What is the Creative Act?,” in Two Regimes of Madness, Cambridge Mass.: Semiotext(e), 317-329.

Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham/London: Duke University Press, 2002, 23-45.

Negri, Toni. Art & Multitude. Cambridge: Polity, 2008.

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I have been asked to participate in the accompanying conference of this year’s Netaudio Festival in London. Since I attended the festival in its first generation in 2006 it has developed massively and presents itself as a solid discourse on general themes concerning collective creative production, issues of open source and various forms of sonic expression, from broadcasts, to live performances and discussion panels.

I will be part of a panel entitled “Creativity and Collaboration in the Internet Era” together with Michael Bauwens, Matt Fuller and Tamara Barnett-Herrin. Other panels include Liliane Ljin, Jeremy Gilbert, Matthew Herbert, Mark Fisher and the UK Uncut.

The format of the conference defines for me the most exciting aspect. While there will be short presentations, a main focus lies in the formation of small working groups with each of the panelists to have in-depth discussions. After some internal discourse the groups will then come together to present their insights to the rest of the panel. I deem it as a relieve to partake in a more experimental format that allows for some dialogue beyond self-representational modes usually deployed at conferences.

In my mini-presentation I will take on the notion of the transindividual in the work of philosopher Gilbert Simondon to discuss modes of collective individuation that are different from general concepts of collectivity as a multitude of bodies. If possible I will make use of the last Senselab event “Societies of Molecules” to highlight modes of collective individuation with the help of online-platforms and actual gift economies.

nouveau terrain d'apparition panoscope sphere

On January 7, 2010 we launched the first general meeting after phase one of the “nouveau terrain d’apparition” (NTA) project has been accomplished. The first phase focused on establishing a solid and properly working system to run the panoscope in a networked state, allowing telepresence between two characters in a shared and immersive virtual space. The general meeting targeted at a presentation of the technical system (mostly developed by Mike Woznieski), a demo of the system and theoretical reflections on the potentials of the system from my side. Guest at the event were students from Université Laval in the the Museology Department and members of the Institut Technologies de l’information et Sociétés, Bob White from the Anthropology Department at Université de Montréal, Erin Manning, Brian Massumi and of course head researcher Luc Courchesne.

I will here focus on some potential alleys and first insights from the conversations. My presentation was targeted at opening the NTA-system’s black box (à la Bruno Latour) and to outline its actants and interdependencies. The importance for the first phase lies in the system or rather assemblage that has been developed. As Luc pointed out the other day, the system is at its limits in terms of computation and therefore we will have to take its state as “enabling constraint.” The first important move which occurred consists in going beyond the conceptualization of such a system as dispositif and to use the notion of the assemblage instead. This shift in terminology brings us close to think different registers of realities (those realities of matter included) together and to annihilate any kind of other-worldly conception of virtual reality. To unfold this move I was drawing on Andrew Murphie’s article “Putting the Virtual back into VR.” Here Murphie claims with a Deleuzian approach through “The Fold” that Virtual Reality as a concept can help us to understand and play with what Deleuze defines as the virtual, the continuous immanence of potential in each actualization.  Since assemblages of virtual reality provide the potential to narrow the usually very crowded (with percepts and affects) experiences in our general “Umwelt” (von Uexküll), we can more precisely tap into the field of the potential. What we encounter as assemblage exists on the one hand as a complex intertwining of different realities - material, human, social, spatial and computational -  and on the other hand as a narrowing of our sensory focus to experiment with the virtual relay in our experiences.

In resonance with the system’s actual state these considerations take specific configurations:

  • Space-time: In an immersed experiential space such as the panoscope the narrowing aspect of VR allows us to experiment with new experiences of space-time. Important for a successful design of such different experiences seems to me an appropriation of affective interaction design (as developed by Jonas Fritsch). As Fritsch outlines: the account of affect will have to ”…directly address forms of experience, forms of life, on a qualitative register” (Fritsch 2009). “Affect as a whole then is the virtual co-presence of potentials” (ibid.)
  • Affect & Interaction + Memory: To feel these co-presences of affective potentials the system might not only offer shared spaces for experience but also allow the potential for interaction. This point has been uttered by Massumi and Manning, as well as in my presentation and by Mike Wozinieski. The potential to actively contribute to the system seems crucial for an enhanced interactive immersive experience. This circumstance has two important values: On the one hand the experience of space-time is always related to the way memory occurs in Bergson and slightly different in Whitehead. Memory here functions as the potential side of an actualization in a new experience. Obviously, the human participant always carries potentialities into the system through memories. Such a form of memory adds a singular (yet potentially always collective) aspect to each experience with the system. Hence, an important consideration would be the generation of memory with the system. Not only through giving machine perception the potential for interaction but also to generate an affective moreness of computing other than traditional approaches of “affective computing” as emotional aspects of programming. For the future I will follow up this thought under the concept of “affective and perceptive traces.”
  • Time and Duration: Another form of space-time configuration that might be enhanced through interactive modes of contributing actively to the system would be jumps, leaps and the sensation of duration through the system. At the moment the space inside the panoscope consists of spheres (360° images), time-lines with images that relate to certain biographies, spatial city environments (e.g. Toronto), and animated spheres with moving sound and image. Since experience here is spatialized and therefore according to Bergson misses in its euclidian appearance a thorough attribute of duration (durée), the durational aspect need to be generated by particular strategies. One of these strategies has been mentioned by Erin Manning as boredom. For her, a new user of the system has to arrive at a point of boredom to become creative with the system. To allow this creativity, we need the experience a certain durational quality inside the panoscope and the potential of active participation and contribution.
  • Collective Experience: The final point touches upon the collective experiences the system might allow. On the one hand collective experience occurs through the potential telepresence with other users. On the other hand experience surfaces through the contribution to the system and the creation of traces that can be encountered by others. What seems important here is the experience of a fully embodied state in the immersive environment of the panoscope. The embodied quality of experience allows us to embrace multiple (crossmodal) perceptive modes. On the one hand one can share experience through telepresence. On the other hand (which has been suggested by Erin Manning) one can also have the same collective experience with more than one person inside one panoscope. There is a difference in the shared expereince either through telepresence or through the physical sharing of the space in a panoscope. Interesting in that regard world be a blending of collective experience that not only includes human participants in actual physical or tele- presence but also the contribution to this experience by the flow of memories and contributions to the experience by an active and interactive (responsive) system. In that sense, to provide an initial idea, the collective individuations that might be facilitated through the system, could be generated through an internal resonance of the system with its users. To conclude with Simondon: “Internal resonance is the most primitive form of communication between realitities of different orders. It is composed of a double process of amplification and condensation.” Amplification here defines the process of an individuation (of a system for instance) as a resolution of anterior tensed states. Its condensation is the very presence as event that ties together all its anterior disparate realities and tendencies. A nexus with social character in Whitehead. The internal resonance of the user-panoscope individuation expresses its amplification and condensation through the emergent relation between different realities (of users, memories and the systems active contribution) and its condensation in an actual occasion (an event in all its complexity and singularity).

smaller panoscope for torso immersion