28 Oct 2008

Complicated Expression

Corry Shores
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Expression itself no longer emanates, no longer resembles anything.” (Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza 180c)

“L’expression elle-même cesse d’émaner, comme de ressembler.” (Spinoza et le problème de l’expression 164a)

The facts or states of affairs we encounter in reality neither emanate-from nor resemble some source, like God or substance (both synonymous in Spinoza). For Deleuze, Spinoza’s most penetrating insight into this pure immanence is the complication of expression: its being both explication and implication. There is only one substance, and it is infinite: it expresses itself in an infinity of attributes, which are the essences of the substance, that is, the ways it can be conceived. We have access to two, Thought and Extension. But we do not have access to more, because we are finite modes that result from modifications of substance, which are expressed variously according to the unique nature of each different attribute. So we have access both to “books” in our surounding extensive space and to the idea “books” in our thinking. Moreover, we ourselves are products of such modifications, which is why we are finite modes without access to all the infinity of other attributes.

In such modifications, substance becomes explicit: the book becomes an explicit and available thought or object. But because such modes are finite, they (and we) do not have access to all other explications in the infinity of attributes. So we may hold the book or think it, but we cannot experience it in the way it is explicitly expressed in the other attributes. However, we know that there must be other such attributes (Ethics I.11), so we know that when we experience these explications, there is as well an infinity of other explications, implicit in the ones we have access-to. It is in this way that substance expresses itself both by explicating and by implicating itself in its modifications.

“All things are present to God, who complicates them. God is present to all things, which explicate and implicate him.” (175a)

Toutes choses sont présentes à Dieu qui les complique, Dieu est présent à toutes choses qui l’expliquent et l’impliquent.” (159a)

So the modes explicate and implicate God (substance), and God expresses himself in the modifications by complicating them, that is, by expressing himself implicitly and explicitly in them.

Modes do not emanate from substance, because they are nothing other than it, they are its self-expressions. And modes do not resemble substance, because substance never self-divided so to express itself. Its modifications are immanent to it. There is no source and offspring, but rather just one substance made-up of its own modal self-expressions.

In the case of a diagrammed artwork, its aesthetic analogy is not one of resemblance. The chaotic interferences that distorted the original figuration on the canvass did not cause something to emanate from that original form, because what scrambled it was not inherent to it; rather, it was a collision remaining such. The isomorphic one-to-one relation between the original form and the resulting aesthetic analogy does not maintain the original relations. Yet, chaos needed to encounter the original form so that there would be extensive space for the intensive forces to intersect. This way both implicated intensive forces and explicated extensive lines can become complicated together. The diagram is an infusion of implicit intensive forces into the extensive explicit space, which opens up the work’s evolution (développement) by enhancing its involution (enveloppement, enfolding).

Thus the artwork’s aesthetic analogy does not resemble some forebear or source; rather, the aesthetic analogy is the fact, the state of affairs, the self-expression of the singular substantial eternal and infinite reality.

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Deleuze, Gilles. Spinoza et le problème de l'expression. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1968.

Deleuze, Gilles. Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza. Trans. Martin Joughin. New York: Zone Books, 1990.

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