Monday, November 12, 2007

Deleuze repeatedly praises works of art and literature in almost rhapsodic terms

The "Wrenching Duality" of Aesthetics: Kant, Deleuze, and the "Theory of the Sensible"
Steven Shaviro November 10, 2007
In this way, the problematic of beauty pertains not just to the creation and reception of works of art, but to sensible experience more generally. Acts of sensible intuition and judgments of beauty alike involve feelings that are receptive and not spontaneous, and for which there can be no adequate concepts. Neither the attribution of time and space to phenomena, nor the attribution of beauty to phenomenal objects, can be justified on cognitive grounds. And yet neither of them is simply arbitrary. In both cases, there is a certain act of creative construction on the part of the subject; yet this construction is responsive to the given data, and cannot be described as the imposition of form upon an otherwise unshaped matter. For if feeling, or being-affected, rather than active cognition, is the basis of experience, then the only way of organizing and ordering this experience must be an immanent one, from within subjective feeling itself, or from within what Kant calls the receptivity of sensible intuition. This problematic of aesthetic singularity, or of a sensible intuition to which no cognition is adequate, is what allows Deleuze to overcome the "wrenching duality" at the heart of aesthetics, and to reunite the two senses of aesthetic experience. What the "Transcendental Aesthetic" in the First Critique shares with the "Analytic of the Beautiful" in the Third, is that they both give an account of non-cognitive, or pre-cognitive, sensible experience.
For Deleuze, the reuniting of the two domains of aesthetics is itself singular and not generalizable; which means that this reunion cannot be accomplished in theory, but only in practice, through actual, singular processes of actualization and individuation. Deleuze often credits modernist art works, like Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and Gombrowicz’s Cosmos, as instances in which "the conditions of real experience and the structures of the work of art are reunited" (1990, 261). But beyond the choice of particular works, I think that Deleuze’s view implies a more general attitude of aestheticism. It must be in the world of everyday experience, and not just in works of art, that we dance the dance of counter-effectuation, converting Kant’s transcendental conditions of possibility into generative conditions of actualization.
I think that this aestheticism is the biggest stumbling block to any appreciation of Deleuze’s thought. Both in his own writings and in those co-authored with Guattari, Deleuze repeatedly praises works of art and literature in almost rhapsodic terms. Works of art are expressions of the virtual, of becoming, and of transformation. When we experience them, "we are not in the world, we become with the world; we become by contemplating it. Everything is vision, becoming. We become universes. Becoming animal, plant, molecular, becoming zero" (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 169). Such aesthetic contemplation is explicitly opposed to action. Great films, for instance, paralyze the viewer. They leave him or her suspended in what Deleuze (1989) calls "a pure optical and sound situation," one that "does not extend into action, any more than it is induced by an action" (18). That is to say, they interrupt the sensori-motor circuit that is the basis of the "normal" situation of perception and action. This interruption involves both a heightening of affect, and the sort of detachment from immediate concerns that Kant called "disinterest." To have an aesthetic experience is many things; but at the limit, it is to feel – and perhaps thereby to cry, to laugh, or to scream. As Deleuze says, "it makes us grasp, it is supposed to make us grasp, something intolerable and unbearable" (18). But the intolerable and unbearable is also the unactable and the untenable: that which we cannot affect or act upon.
Describing works of art as he does in this way, Deleuze never looks at them as ideological formations subject to critique. This cannot fail to disconcert postmodern, or even just post-Frankfurt School, theorists, haunted as we are by Walter Benjamin’s warning about fascism as the aestheticization of politics, and his counteradmonition as to the necessity of polticizing art. At most, we may wish to follow Adorno in grasping the autonomy of art as its radical negativity; many postmodernists would not even want to go that far. For instance, I think that an (entirely understandable) uneasiness with Deleuze’s aestheticism is what really lies behind Peter Hallward (2006) criticisms in his brilliant and controversial recent book on Deleuze. Hallward concludes his reading of Deleuze by saying that, although Deleuze’s work may be inspiring, it is so otherwolrdly that it cannot possibly be useful: "those of us who still seek to change our world and to empower its inhabitants will need to look for our inspiration elsewhere" (164).
I would suggest that otherwordliness here can really be read as aestheticism, with its corollary of a paralysis that (Gene Holland to the contrary) cannot be read merely as a pause for reflection... Deleuze’s Aesthetics from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro 1:18 PM

1 comment:

  1. Isnt it strange.

    Everyone (that is all these earnest professors, theorists and interpreters) talks about getting their "inspiration from else-where" and yet when pointed to the most extraordinary source of INSPIRATION that has ever existed, and that is alive right now, they scratch their heads in bewilderment---and keep on their endless "meaningful" conversations always waiting for the next big.............

    A source of inspiration that exists and WHO knows EXACTLY what he is communicating, right down to the most minute and intimate detail.

    These related references cover ALL the primal themes of human existence-being.