15 Nov 2008

Substitution Substituting Creativity

Corry Shores
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Scott Wollschleger asks in the comments to the Symbols of Generality in Difference and Repetition post:

thank you, i understand it much better. i wonder if these generalities can become confused, maybe thats why i say, a cycle = 1. would this be a confused way of conduct? maybe you can say more about the role conduct plays for you? is it related to a modality? i feel a need to ask myself; What is the best way to substitute things? And if i found that way, for whatever reasons, i would also have to be at a point of view which is of the "best" conduct. in the creative act, i would think the best conduct would be a mixing of different ways of substituting things.

CS response: Yes, both generalities can become confused, in fact, both generalities can become "generalized" as being in general two ways of generalizing. Personally, I would prefer a formulation more like either

"cycles equal equality" (cycle = =)
"equality cycles cyclically" (= cycles cyclically)

because if we are going to confuse one for the other, I would set them into substitutable relations with each other. This is a confused way to conduct generalization so long as one needs to maintain the taxonomy, for example, when doing mathematics, if I say, "1" will take the place of "7" in my equation, because they practically look the same. Or if when solving an equation I always substitute the variable letter 'O' with the number '0' (and the letter "l" with the number "1") on account of there being negligible differences of appearance, then of course my equation will likely come out wrong.

However, suppose you were to break one of my expensive dishes, and I was upset that I lost a 100 dollar antique, in fact, that it was really the value of the dish I missed most, because I do not display it or take pride in its appearance. You could give me 100 dollars, and that would be a substitution by equality, certainly not by resemblance, because dollars and dishes are unalike in appearance. Although, I really want the dish and not the money, because I expected the dish to appreciate in value. Or you could give me a fraudulent replica worth 10 cents, which I would reject, despite it looking exactly like the one you broke. However, say you were to find the exact same model dish, and it by chance was priced at 100 dollars, then you would be substituting something both by equality and resemblance. Here substituting by means of the confusion between the two was precisely the conduct required.

So the role of conduct is merely the sort of actions we take in substitution.

And yes, it would be helpful to consider the types of behavior as modalities. In the one case, the modification, or modulation, of your behavior results in you treating items as substitutable by means of resemblance, and in the other case, your mode of behavior is one in which you treat the items as substitutable by means of equality.

If left only with the choice of substituting things, I think it would be creative for you to alternate modalities to produce interesting results.

However, Deleuze is speaking of something that does not involve substitution: repetition. And it is by means of repetition that we might achieve a "more profound and more artistic reality" (Différence et répétition 9c/Difference and Repetition 3a). Repetition is not substitution, because its items are singularities, which means one cannot replace another. His convincing example are human souls. We cannot replace one human's soul with another's, and have the same thing, because each are singularly unique unto themselves and cannot be generalized. There cannot be another Scott; no one can take your place.

So the creativity Deleuze calls-for is not so much an interesting defiance of conventions by doing a substitution of resemblance when normally a substitution of equality is called-for, or vice-versa. The repetition in this case would not be a substitution but a creation of something new and irreplaceable. This adds things to things, and does not replace them. More precisely, it exponentializes things, because each one is not so much a new thing subtracting-from or even adding-to the previous, as much as it is an expression of a new level or degree of something, that is, a new dimension that was already expressed but implicitly so. When Francis Bacon throws paint onto the proto-formed figurations on the canvass, he then is left with many different ways to develop the painting, implicit in the combination of chaos and order. He develops many of these, creating a distortion, but this causes our minds to continually try to arrange the unorderable images in the painting. So in other words, Bacon is able not to cause us to have a sequence of interpretations, each one supplanting the last, but we have one painting that continually stretches into new interpretive dimensions that themselves stretch out. In a sense, Deleuze is a monist like Spinoza. There are not a endless plurality of simulacra, but rather there is one substance continually expressing more and more dimensions in a multiplicative way.

So in the case of substitutions, the sort of creativity Deleuze calls-for would say do not substitute, but bring out a new dimension with its own singularity, despite it being implied in its previous envelopment and despite that previous envelopment remaining un-erased.

Deleuze, Gilles. Différence et répétition. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1968

Deleuze, Gilles, Difference & Repetition. Transl. Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

1 comment:

  1. right, I see what you mean and see how substituting would be the wrong path if we are looking to create something new. Is there something weak in the idea of Substitution maybe? Maybe weak is not the best word. Substitutions can have a diminishing effect. Remember in high school, when a Sub would teach class, the students would torture the Substitute teacher? Maybe it had to do with the fact that a person cannot be substituted, and we had to punish the teacher, as it were, for being part of a false reality. There are times when substitution lends to flexibility, which can lead to an amplification. But in any event, thanks for the comments and we can move on to repetition, i think it offers more in the creative realm.