3 Jan 2009

Deleuze, One Manifesto Less (Un manifeste de moins), §4 "The Theater and Its Gestures" (Le théâtre et ses gestes)

by Corry Shores
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[The following is summary; my commentary is in brackets.]

IV. Le théâtre et ses gestes

The Theater and Its Gestures

Bene disrupts the motion of the characters’ bodies, but never does that cause them to interfere with each other. Often Richard slips. But this is merely a continuous variation of his body, and not a conflict with the things around him. So his continual removing and wearing his cloak is a “variation of clothing” (111b-112a/214b.c), and the flowers vary as well. But their variations never interfere with each other’s liberty to vary, so they do not create oppositional power relations [for video of these examples, see the Richard entries.]

Likewise in S.A.D.E., the sadistic master tries to force the naked girl to metamorphose through a series of use-objectifications. But she escapes his control by expressing her gestures through an independent series of modifications. [This example left a potent impression on Deleuze. He writes, “Hommage à l’actrice qui joua à Paris.” “Hat’s off to the actress who played the part in Paris!” (113a/214d).] So although Bene’s theatre is “cruel” and “tough,” it does not create oppositional force-relations.

the relations of force and opposition belong to that which is shown only for the purpose of being subtracted, cut away, neutralized.


les rapports de force et d’opposition font partie de ce qui n’est montré que pour être soustrait, retranché, neutralisé.


Any conflicts Bene does employ are merely media for variations that eliminate “masters.” (113b/215a)

[The following paragraph in Deleuze’s text runs from the middle of page 113 to the beginning of 115 in the French, and it is the complete paragraph on page 215 in the English translation. This is one of the most critical parts in all of Deleuze's writing, so we will proceed with patient care.]

In variation, what count are relations of speed or slowness, the modifications of these relations insofar as they involve gestures and statements, following variable coefficients along a line of transformation.


Dans la variation, ce qui compte, ce sont les rapports de vitesse ou de lenteur, les modifications de ces rapports, en tant qu’ils entraînent les gestes et les énoncés, suivant des coefficients variables, le long d’une ligne de transformation.


[Differential coefficients are derivatives, here in the context of physics. For an explanation of instantaneous velocity and derivation, see this entry that carefully follows a profoundly illuminating explanation by MIT’s David Jerison.

So here we must recall Deleuze’s concept of Spinoza’s “instantaneous affections” and the way they relate to Bergson’s duration. In Cours Vincennes 20/01/1981, Deleuze explains that we undergo continuous affection, but it is a continuum of differential coefficients. So there are no atomic units of time, rather just pure instants. Between these instants there is no time, but we still experience a passage between them, as Bergson describes in §45 and §46 of Time and Free Will. So here Deleuze is defining continuous variation. It is not made up of atoms, but it does have simple parts, which are differentials. Such parts are relations without terms, which is why they are not atomic. (For a thorough explanation, see Deleuze’s Cours Vincennes: 17/02/1981.) They instead are tendings. They are the tendencies of forces, the way they tend at any moment, the direction they intend to go if released from all future obstructions. The are intensities. And because they are real, they are virtualities and not possibilities.

So first we imagine a series of instantaneous changes with no temporal extension between them. But each is different from the others in the series. The differences between them cannot be extensive, although they do still have magnitudes. One is this much more-or-less than the others. These magnitudes are matters of degree. They are intensities.

So in Manifesto Deleuze has us apply this to communication. We must think of gestures and statements as continuums of differentials. If we were to vary them consistently, there would not be intensity, because the differences between differences would not be significant. So we must change the rates of change. We must continually change the change. This is what creates intensity. This is stuttering.]

It is in this way that the writing and gestures of CB are musical: it is because every form is deformed by modifications of speed, with the result that one does not use the same gesture or the same word twice without obtaining different temporal characteristics. This is the musical formula of continuity, or of transformable form.


C’est par là que l’écriture et les gestes de CB sont musicaux : c’est parce que toute forme y est déformée par des modifications de vitesse, qui font qu’on ne repasse pas deux fois par le même geste ou le même mot sans obtenir des caractéristiques différentes de temps. C’est la formule musicale de la continuité, ou de la forme à transformation.


[Just as musicians might modulate speeds or keys, Bene modulates the speed-changes of the speech and gestures.]

The physicists of the Middle Ages spoke of deformed movements and qualities according to the distribution of velocities among the different points of a moving body or the distribution of intensities among the different points of a subject. The subordination of form to speed, to variation in speed, the subordination of the subject to intensity or affect, to the intensive variation of affects: these are, it seems to us, two essential goals to achieve in the arts.


There is a whole geometry in CB’s theater, but a geometry in the manner of Nicolas Oresme, a geometry of speeds and intensities, of affects.

(215bc) (215c)

Les physiciens du Moyen Age parlaient de mouvements et de qualités difformes, suivant la distribution des vitesses entre les différents points d’un mobile, ou la distribution des intensités entre les différents points d’un sujet. La subordination de la forme à la vitesse, à la variation de vitesse, la subordination du sujet à l’intensité ou à l’affect, à la variation intensive des affects, c’est, nous semble-t-il, deux buts essentiels à obtenir dans les arts.


Il y a toute une géométrie à la manière de Nicolas Oresme, une géométrie des vitesses et des intensités, des affects.

(114a.c) (114-115)

[Here Deleuze refers to Oresme. We treat in detail his “latitude of forms” in this entry. Oresme lies at the very heart of Deleuze’s philosophy. Oresme invented the science of intensity, by creating a graphic way to depict it. What he illustrated was that there is a series of degrading forms of qualitative change. It is easiest to consider speed. When something maintains its speed, it moves from one place to another during a period of time. So its extensive properties change. But, the relationship between time and space do not change. This relationship is an intensity, a non-extensive dimension made by placing two extensive dimensions into a differential relation. A bird in flight has a quantity of speed, but speed does not extend in space, yet it is a tendency that is in extension; it is an intensity.

If the bird were to accelerate at a constant rate, then we have another dimension of change. The first dimension was change in extensive position. This second change is another differential relation: speed per time. This qualifies more as an intensity, because it is a difference of powers. For, speed is already distance over time. When you divide that again by time, you have distance over time squared, that is, distance divided by time to the second power. In a sense, we have deformed the motion, stretched it into another dimension.

But we may deform the motion even more. We may vary the acceleration of the bird. It can go faster at one point, abruptly slower at another. In other words, we can make its motion stutter. This is a far better example of intensity, because it is more of a difference of differences, that is, of pure difference in itself.]

Bene thereby creates affects without subjects and velocities without form. But what is important here in Bene’s technique is that it is not schizophrenic: there is a continuity to the change, a “grace in the movement of disgrace” (la grâce au mouvement de la disgrâce.)

He wishes only to subordinate the designated forms to the deformity of movement or of quality themselves.


Il ne veut rien d’autre que subordonner les formes qualifiées à la difformité du mouvement ou de la qualité mêmes.


In theatre, there is a music in aural speeds. In cinema there is a music to the visual speeds. Bene films his theatre, and intersects the two. They do not run parallel. They disrupt each other. Nonetheless, they do not interfere with each other’s freedom of variation. Rather, they form one and the same continuum. (115a-116a/215-216)

There are two lines of variation in Bene’s Richard III.

1) Richard’s gestures continually disrupt themselves, and

2) The Duchess’ voice never ceases fluctuating.

At the play’s start, these two lines of variation do not intersect, because Richard has not yet been constituted. (116b-117b/216b) Richard still needs to run through emotions and raise his war-machine.

He has not yet attained the disgrace of “his” grace, the deformity of his form.


Il n’a pas encore atteint la disgrâce de « sa » grâce, la difformité de sa forme.


The constitution will begin with Richard’s “comprehension” scene with Lady Ann:

1) The actor playing Richard realizes his own idea. He goes through his drawers, passing through casts and prostheses, until finally achieving the “miracle” that cripples his good hand like his bad one. He thereby “wins his political choice” and “constitutes his deformities and his war-machine.” (117c/216c)

2) When Richard has his “form,” Lady Ann aggresses him. But when he deforms, she becomes distraught and consenting. She constitutes herself in contrapuntal variation to Richard’s. She then helps Richard find his prostheses.

And, better and better, faster and faster, she starts to seek herself for the amorous deformation. She will wed a war-machine, instead of remaining in the dependency and power of a State apparatus.


Et, de mieux en mieux, de plus en plus vite, elle va chercher elle-même la déformation amoureuse. Elle va épouser une machine de guerre, au lieu de rester dans la dépendance et le pouvoir d’un appareil d’Etat.


Her variation continues independently while wedding with Richard’s: they together create differences of differences. She never ceases undressing and redressing

to a rhythm of regression-progression that corresponds to the subtractions-constructions of Richard.


sur un rythme de régression-progression qui répond aux soustractions-constructions de Richard.


3) Their visual variations in gesture and aural variations in vocal tonality themselves remain along their own lines of variation. But as well, they create another dimension of variation by increasingly coming to vary with each other. (118c.d/217a)

In this way, “the Idea becomes visible, sensible, politics become erotic.” At this point, the two continua of variation become one continuum varying to a higher power, and hence within a higher dimension. (118d/217a.b)

Deleuze, Gilles. “One Manifesto Less.” in The Deleuze Reader. Ed. Constantin V. Boundas. Transl. Alan Orenstein. New York: ColumbiaUniversity Press, 1993.

Deleuze, Gilles. “Un manifeste de moins.” in Superpositions. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1979.

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