12 Oct 2009

Wild before Time. Darren Ambrose. 30,000 BC: Painting Animality – Deleuze and Prehistoric Painting. pp1-10

presentation of Ambrose's work, by Corry Shores
[commentary in brackets is my own]

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May I very sincerely thank all the sources for the images provided below. Their credits are given in the text and at the end. Click on the links for their sources, and click on the images for enlargements.

Wild before Time

Darren Ambrose

30,000 BC: Painting Animality Deleuze and Prehistoric Painting

Pages 1-10

Prehistoric Art Chaos, Magma and Life

Our prehistoric ancestors carved and painted animals along cave walls. And yet still today contemporary painters exhibit a similar sense of raw wild vibrancy. Ambrose writes,

The cave art at Altamira, Lascaux and Chauvet continues to directly convey a profound intensity and extraordinary beauty with a vitality and invention often associated with modernist abstract painters like Picasso, Klee or Miro; as the prehistorian Emmanuel Anati claims, it is an art that remains “contemporary” (Ambrose 1a)

Bison at Altamira

[forum.stirpes.net. Thank you Yago.]

Horse at Altamira

[forum.stirpes.net. Thank you Yago.]

Deer at Altamira

[forum.stirpes.net. Thank you Yago.]

Mammoth at Chauvet

[bradshawfoundation.com. Thank you Bradsaw Foundation.]

Bear at Chauvet

[web.me.com. Thank you Donald L. Engstrom-Reese.]

Horses at Chauvet

[d.umn.edu. Thank you Timothy G. Roufs.]

Lions at Chauvet

[d.umn.edu. Thank you Timothy G. Roufs.]

Bison at Chavaut

[hmc.org.qa. Thank you Heart Views.]

Bison at Lascaux

[ecfs.org. Thank you Interactive Class Notes.]

Horse at Lascaux

[palaeogeek.net. Thank you Daniel.]

Deer at Lascaux

[chenzhaofu.cn. Thank you Rock Art Research Association of China.]

Lascaux Hunting Party

[coquinadaily.com. Thank you Coquina Daily.]

Paul Klee: A Tiny Tale of a Tiny Dwarf (1925)

[picasaweb.google.com. Thank you Faith.]

Picasso: Bull Plates I-XI (1945)

[pbs.org. Thank you Clifford Johnson.]

Joan Miró: Hommage á Miró (1972)

[galerieart.cz. Thank you Galerie Art.]

Besides the more organized animal representations of cave art lie abstract images whose ‘figurative’ or ‘symbolic’ nature seem hopelessly obscure” (Ambrose 1a). Prehistorian Denis Vialou claims they are ‘separate graphic units.’

So far, there have been a wide variety of theories that explain these wilder elements. The early theorists for the most part examined primarily the recognizable images to the exclusion of the “seemingly irreducible entanglements of lines, marks, dots, daubs, scratches, etc.” (1c). Breuil even held contempt for these valueless and distracting “lines of interference.” Even such later theorists as Leroir-Gourhan and Vialou still placed the representational figurations in dualistic opposition to the abstract imagery.

And yet, says Ambrose, “the great majority of Palaeolithic parietal art precisely consists of such ‘graphic units’, i.e. abstract and complex interweaving lines and marks, abstracted and isolated parts of animals, unrecognisable biomorphic forms” (Ambrose 1-2). So Ambrose rejects this “graphic dualism that insists upon separating the integral animal forms from the seemingly disorganised, chaotic and non-figurative elements” (2a). The wild and disorganized is no less important to graphic expression. Yet despite the fact that such a “radical graphic fluidity” in prehistoric art has been marginalized, there are two recent prehistorians, Michel Lorblanchet and Emmanuel Anati, who appreciate the role that the indeterminate elements play in “overall prehistoric aesthetic” (1a).

Anati distinguishes three types of signs found in all prehistoric art:

1) Pictograms. These are images recognizable as humans, animals, structures, and objects.

2) Ideograms. They are conventional symbols that are repeated used.

3) Psychograms. The prehistoric artists created these non-standard and non-repeating ‘exclamations’ “under the influence of intense impulses, violent discharges of energy and as such were capable of expressing sensation. Each psychogram is unique” (Ambrose 2b).

Anati’s distinctions do not establish a hierarchy of graphic types. Rather, he regards “prehistoric art as a coherent and unified graphic assemblage where figuration and abstraction are seen to be fundamentally related and as operating together” (Ambrose 2c).

Lorblanchet also sees the importance of the way that the animal images relate to the “unorganized tangles” (2c). In fact, they are “a primeval magma where all living and imaginary beings merge in formal games” (Lorblanchet, qt by Ambrose 2c). Out from this magma, new beings can be created. It is a whirlwind of generative forces. Ambrose says for example “from the formless web of subsidiary lines perhaps a hoof or an antler emerges, perhaps a muzzle or a creature’s spine, perhaps an eye stares out from the depths of the graphic chaos. The seemingly incohesive graphic chaos is seemingly vibrant with emergent forms of Life” (Ambrose 2d).

Ambrose follows a similar line of thinking. And he notes that prehistoric cave artists often depicted animals with unusual traits. They transgressed the normal boundaries between animals, in many cases producing hybrids. Consider for example the ‘unicorn’ at Lascaux.

[lifeinthefastlane.ca. Thank you Deborah]

Or note what seems to be the mixture of a bison and human forms in Chauvet’s ‘Venus Bison.’

[seshat.ch. Thank you Bradsaw Foundation.]

This is one example of how the ‘stylistic free-play’ found in the chaotic magma enabled prehistoric cave artists to create new styles of visual expression. Ambrose has us consider a panel from Trois Freres.

[Click to enlarge. From donsmaps.com. Thank you Don Hitchcock.]

Note the “dynamic ‘magma’ of primordial animality,” the wilderness of primordial transgressions of form, the raw new creations emerging from the anarchy of indeterminate lines and markings.

Ambrose’s remarkable thesis is that we may use Deleuze’s & Guattari’s ‘philosophical aesthetics’ to restore prehistoric art’s “necessary radical graphic ‘holism’ (Ambrose 3c).

Ambrose does not seek a way to interpret the meanings in prehistoric art. Rather, he wants to “demonstrate is that prehistoric art itself, when radically conceived, is capable of disrupting certain aesthetic paradigms within Western thought” (Ambrose 3d). When we see prehistoric art in this light, we might be more able to break from our tendencies to prefer recognizable images, and instead be more sensitive to the ‘invisible’ forces at work in artistic creation. [For more on these invisible forces, see the entry for Ambrose’s lecture on the diagrammatic in art and philosophy.]

In our lives, we experience affects, energies, rhythms, and forces. Deleuze & Guattari think that art since prehistoric times has invented ever newer ways to explicate these intensities into a visible rendition.

Two great 20th century aesthetic theorists, Riegl and Worringer, thought that every artistic era (including the prehistorical) has its own characteristic way of expression its ‘will to art’ (Kuntswollen). Deleuze & Guattari offer an alternate genealogy (a ‘secret history’) that breaks with the critical tradition that sees art in terms of representation. Instead of representation, the ‘common problem’ shared by all artists is finding a way capture and render-visible forces that begin invisibly.

Art, Sensation and Becoming

[Now consider Melville’s Moby Dick. The whale is wild. He took Captain Ahab’s leg. Now Ahab is wild with vengeance. But Ahab was driven to his peak use of rational faculties. And the whale was smart too. Both were wild titans of the sea. Their clash itself became a sea-scape, something perceived. Their ocean space is fully real. When we read of it, we perceive it too; it flashes every instant before our mind’s eye. But it stays with us too, long after we finish our reading. And we know that others too saw that same sea battle-field, even though it is a fabulation. That thing being perceived, that being of perception, the Dick-Ahab ocean-field, is eternally instantaneous. There are our perceptions of it. But there is something else to it that is more than our durational perceptions. We might call that something more the percept. It comes about when a landscape is created that is not a human landscape. Ahab becomes an animal. That creates the instantaneously eternal ocean-scape of their clash. Each is so affected by the other, and affects the other so much, that they together become one another. When we are wild and mad in Ahab’s way, we flee from our humanity. This happens under these intense instances when there is incredible mutual affection. When a human becomes something non-human in this wild way, we might call it an affect. (Deleuze & Guattari, What is Philosophy?, 168-169)]

For the artist to capture these invisible forces of generation, she must extract

a) percepts from perceptions of objects [she must animate a wild-becoming that creates an eternally instantaneous landscape. For example, consider Van Gogh, Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers.

[entertainment.howstuffworks.com. Thank you Debra N. Mancoff, PhD.]

There is something incredible in his depiction. He was really ‘in touch’ with the flowers. He must have been profoundly affected by them– so much so, that in a way, in that event of painting them, he became one with the flowers, he became them. Picasso’s painting the flowers creates this act of becoming. And what he paints is a scene that we see. But it is more than any other time we view flowers or paintings of them. We are seeing a human become something inhuman. There is more to the painting than just the scene we perceive. There is also the percept of it, the eternally instantaneous scene of Van Gogh’s inhumanly becoming a flower (his affect, that is, his being so intensely affected by the flower in a wild way, that he becomes it).]

And also, to capture the invisible forces, the artist must extract

2) the affect from the affections, which are passages from one state to another. [In a sense, Ahab does become a whale. And Van Gogh becomes flowers. Ahab has the tendency to be human, and also the tendency to be wild. As he makes his passage over to being a whale, his wild animal tendencies actualize. But in that process there are instants of indeterminacy, when it is has not yet been decided whether he will change or not. All the implicit intensities then are contracted into that non-durational moment of time. This is the pure becoming of Ahab’s becoming a whale. The passage happens on account of his profound affective relationship with the whale. But the affect is that eternal instant of undecided becoming. The artist must do more than just depict a human becoming something non-human. He must eternalize that moment of pure becoming that occurs in the passage.]

[Now consider again Moby Dick. We might perceive a whaling. But Melville was able to present to us Ahab’s becoming a whale and the timeless yet instantaneous scene that creates. That is to say, he extracted the affect from the affection, and the percept from the perception. So normally we would be affected in certain ways, and perceive certain things when seeing a whaling. However, when witnessing Ahab wildly and madly becoming a whale, we experience the act of inhuman-becoming and the unique scene that creates. Normally there would be certain sensations and perceptions that we would have of such a scene. But each instant that we read or recall this scene, we will be called-back to experience it again. And other readers who do the same will join us in the ocean to witness the wild action. So the sensations we have group together in a way that is unique to this event. We might say, then, that there is a particular compound or aggregate of sensations that we obtain when reading about Ahab’s becoming the wilderness.] Deleuze & Guattari explain that these sensory aggregates make us one with the world, just as Ahab became one with the oceanic wilderness. Our sensations are so affective, that like Picasso and his flowers, we merge into and imbue the world around us.

[When we live life in its fullest intensity, we bleed into the things around us, and they bleed into us as well. Now consider how powerfully Rodin's sculptures affect us.

The Bronze Age

[comment.myspace.com. Thank you Who’s Who?]

We instantaneously feel sensations. Many of his works reveal the underlying raw and wild material out of which the sculptures emerge.

The Hand of God

[metmuseum.org. Thank you Metropolitan Museum of Art.]


[realmagick.com. Thank you Anja Heij]

Fallen Angel: Illusion Being Received by the Earth

[flickr.com. Thank you jordanstratford.]

When we view these works, we both have profound sensations while also getting in touch with the primordial and chaotic ‘lava’ of creation. Now consider also works by Goya, Daumier, and Redon, which blur the boundaries between human and animal.

Goya The Witch’s Sabbeth

Goya: Asmodeo (1821)

[listology.com. Thank you lukeprog.]

Daumier, La république, 1848

[histoire-et-archeo.over-blog.com. Thank you Dio]

Redon Pegasus and the Hydra

[illusionsgallery.com.Thank you Illusions Gallery.]

Odilon Redon The Crying Spider

[blogs.myspace.com. Thank you Yammerskooner.]

Redon "Winged Man"

[wikimedia commons]

Artists are able to work with this chaos, and pull us into a realm where we feel ourselves becoming something else, something wild, something animal. Ambrose writes,

Artists are the presenters of affects, i.e. becomings with the world, they are literally the inventors and creators of affects, of folds where one goes from “one form on the organic stratum to another” Artists not only create them in their work, but they give them over to us in such a way that we become with them, they draw us into the compound of sensation. [Ambrose 6d]

[So there is the event where things are twisted and deformed in the wilderness of divergent forces, the primordial ‘lava’ of creation. And we are drawn into it. Art allows this to happen, because it embodies the event; it gives the event a place in the cosmos. The forces in these embodiments are virtual: they are real but implicit and on the absolute verge of being actualized. But as well, because they embody the event, works of art also are not actualizations either; for, they hold the event in action. So they are not actual either. Hence,] Deleuze & Guattari consider artworks to be ‘possibles;’ [because, there are so many virtual events that can transpire in that one embodiment of forces.] [Now consider how a painting for example is made-of paint. And the paint is arranged sometimes to make images, figures for example. We might say that the painting on a physical dimension (or plane) is composed of paint, and on an image plane it is composed of figures, background, and so forth. More generally speaking, we might refer then to a dimension or plane of its composition, taken in all its other varieties of compositional-dimensions that is expressed in it. But we have been discussing how the work of art is made of compounds of sensation. Moby Dick is more than ink and paper, and more than a cast of characters set into scenes. Melville created those eternally instantaneous experiences of becoming, where Ahab becomes the whale, and creates an oceanic scene that is really a conglomerate of ways that we are affected when reflecting on it. What allowed Melville to accomplish this was his incorporating into his materials the anarchy and animality of the way things change and become in the wilderness of forces. This also involved him using techniques to create organized formations, like Ahab, the whale, and the ocean, even though they were caught-up in a whirlwind where they chaotically created and became one another. But as a result, he creates in us a conglomeration of sensations that in a way has a life of its own, even when no one is reading the text. So we might say that] for Deleuze & Guattari there are two subdivisions of the plane of composition: the technical and the aesthetic planes. [Consider that there were certain writing-techniques that Melville used so that we have our experience of the wild scenes of chaotic becoming while reading Moby Dick. This is how the conglomerate of sensations finds a material gateway so that we may be affected. Melville creates these scenes of becoming by extricating the affects from the affections and the percepts from the perceptions, that is, by creating a scene of becoming. But first we encounter those materials that have been crafted by the artist’s techniques. In this way,] for the technical plane of composition, sensations are realized in the material and they do not exist outside of it. [But then the scene of wild becoming has a life and power all its own. So on another level or plane, it is purely a conglomerate of affections. The work of art, in a way, exists outside its materials as this characteristic intertwining of sensations. Thus,] for the aesthetic plane of composition, the sensations reach out beyond their material instantiations, to be something all their own. Ambrose explains that on the technical plane, “the sensation adapts itself to a well-formed, organised, and regulated matter” (Ambrose 7a). The matter is thought to be formless, and the organization structuring it is “projected in advance by an external producer, a form which organises what would otherwise be chaotic or passive matter” (7b). But in the aesthetic plane, matter is thought to have its own self-ordering principles. [Out of chaos arises in transitory zones of self-organization. See this entry on cellular automaton.]

[Now let’s explore the nature of space. If we divide an extending line in half, we should obtain two smaller lines of equal length. This would even be more apparent on graph paper.

[faculty.matcmadison.edu. Thank you Kevin Mirus.]

The space does not distort each time we divide it. We see that there is a blank field that has been marked, or if you will, scored, scratched, or striated. Consider these images of striated rock.

Striated Cliff

[travel.webshots.com. Thank you pfcdle.]

Diagonal Striated Hillside

[parkerlab.bio.uci.edu. Thank you Ian Parker]

Pebbles and Striations

[parkerlab.bio.uci.edu. Thank you Ian Parker]

Amphitheater Striations

[parkerlab.bio.uci.edu. Thank you Ian Parker]

Deleuze & Guattari adopt the term ‘striated space’ from music composer Pierre Boulez. Let’s first consider striations etching the ‘space’ that time takes-up. We discussed previously the irregularities of the rhythm of sensation: we are affected in different ways at varying different speeds. Deleuze illustrates with Boulez’ distinction between pulsed and non-pulsed time. A pulsed time is one with homogeneous divisions, like ticks of a clock. However, time-flow without pulsations is heterogeneous. This sort of time would be like if you were to play a record album by manually spinning the turntable. You might vary the speed to get it around where it should be, then play around with it, and while having fun, randomly make changes in the speed to hear what happens. Say the record just played the ticking of a clock. And say also you could feel your wrist watch ticking each second. You would find that while your watch remained steady, the ticks on the record would not mark equal intervals. And the changes in accelerations will make the intervals between ticks temporally heterogeneous. Unlike with your watch or with the graph paper, if you divide the space between the irregular ticks, you will not obtain units of time that extend the same way. I invite us to analogize this sort of continuously varying heterogeneity with the metaphor of a carnival mirror. Here is a small bit from Danny’s youtube demonstration of a carnival mirror effect.


[www.youtube.com. Thank you DannyJP83]

Notice how it is as though there are competing forces that are bending and stretching her face in a multiplicity of directions, all at one. We see that sort of effect from Bacon’s diagramming technique, as well.

Bacon Self Portrait 1973

[seansturm.wordpress.com. Thank you Te Ipu Pakore]

Three Studies for Self Portrait 1976

[nytimes.com. Thank you Carol Vogel]

Portrait of a Man with Glasses III 1963

[blogg.org. Thank you MMaxi Madeiraman]

Three Studies for Self Portrait 1975

[artdaily.org. Thank you artdaily.org]

Self Portrait

[gallagherseniorhonors.blogspot.com. Thank you R. Gallagher.]

So the time we speak-of is like an audio tape that has been stretched in various ways at random places. It plays-back as though the music is passing in front of an audio ‘carnival mirror.’ The temporal flow would not have a regular beat. Boulez would induce non-pulsed time in his performers by having them try to play metric divisions that are so complex that it forced them to play in heterogeneously-extending time.

“I had piled up ratios of 24:25, or 27:28, in other words, values so close together that it would be impossible to play them accurately” (Boulez & Deliège 68d). Likewise, Olivier Messiaen did not believe that true rhythms have regular beats. He explains, “rhythmic music is music that scorns repetition, straightforwardness and equal divisions. In short, it’s music inspired by the movements of nature, movements of free and unequal durations” (Messiaen & Samuel 33d). The military march, then, would be non-rhythmic: “The march, with its cadential gait and uninterrupted succession of absolutely equal note-values, is anti-natural. True marching is accompanied by an extremely irregular swaying; it’s a series of falls, more or less avoided, placed at different intervals” (34).

So let’s first consider time that is striated more like a ticking clock, and time that is striated in more irregular ways. The first example comes from Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, and it is displayed with a piano-roll visualization, on Stephen Malinowski’s amazing Music Animation Machine. The lines mark when notes begin.


Compare that now with a part from from Boulez’ Troisième Sonate.


We see that the striations are more random. So we considered time as a sort of material with a surface that can express itself either homogeneously or heterogeneously. We might as well consider the pitches that fill that space (and the silence too) as also being a material with a surface. What Boulez calls smooth and striated space refers more to surfaces like these. Consider first how a sound frequency will contribute to another one – harmonize with it – if their waves superpose and add to each other. [See this entry on Pythagoras for a more thorough explanation.] So perhaps a wave of one frequency will add to a wave that is double it, in a harmonic way. The harmony is so great with these doublings, that the notes are given the same name, even they are considered to be different ‘octaves.’ Boulez writes that the octave is based on the proportion 2:1, so “in other words the octave is the archetypal definition of space, reinforced by the principle of identity which totality is perpetuated” (Boulez 86b). By creating these octave striations, we obtain reference places to organize all other intervals: “the choice of a standard measure ... will be an invaluable aid in estimating an interval; in short, it will ‘striate’ the surface, the musical space, and will provide our perception – even if it is far from totally conscious – with useful points of reference” (Boulez 85bc). So that means, a composer might organize her pitches around a common root note, no matter its octave. We might find evidence of this when we use a different way to visualize the music, again using the wondrous Music Animation Machine. Each stripe represents a different pitch [along the circle of fifths.]

[musanim.com. Thank you Stephen Malinowski.]

In this particular visualization, the innermost ring displays the pitches that are now sounding, the next ring shows what played moments ago, and so on to the outmost edge.

[Music Animation Users Guide. Thank you Stephen Malinowski.]

So we will see that in this part of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, that even as octaves change, there are very determinate ‘groves’ that the pitches follow.


Boulez’ serial music de-hierarchizes the musical space so that there are no privileged intervals. Hence in these “opposite cases, where partition can be effected at will, the ear will lose all landmarks and all absolute cognizance of intervals; this is comparable to the eye’s inability to estimate the distances on a perfectly smooth surface” (Boulez 85c). So in smooth space, the intervals are “very dissimilar in proportion” (85d). Let’s look then at the animation. What we will see is that there does not seem to be any definite groves or patterns. All tones seem to be equally important.


Smooth space is heterogeneous. Chance decides the fate of the battling intense forces that continually distort and variate its internal multiplicity. In this wilderness, sensations are composed.] Ambrose writes,

So, rather than sensation being projected upon the readily striated material surface, the material rises up into a metamorphic plane of forces and discloses what they call “smooth space”. For them matter is never simply an homogenous substance that passively receives forms but is itself composed of intensive and energetic traits. [Ambrose 7]

And these same implicit traits that individuate matter into its formations are also what allows its forms to be altered continuously: “It is then a principle of energetic matter in continuous immanent development and variation” (Ambrose 7b). The paint-material itself expresses the artwork’s forces. [Consider if we force two powerful magnets together, north-to-north end. Their oppositional powers will make each other quake. And imagine that their forces are so great that they cause one another to shatter and fly-off in random directions. Let’s concentrate on that instant lying at the limit of the magnets still being whole. Their forces have contracted together into a singularity. But because there is no extent of time before they splinter, they are virtually multiplicities. And in one sense, the contracted magnets are a formation. But in another sense, they are blocks of chaotic forces on the verge of creating some new circumstance.] The artist, then, ‘negotiates’ with matter’s inherent transformative movement, which “carries with it ‘singularities’ as implicit or virtual forms” (Ambrose 7c). [Francis Bacon, for example, begins with the cliché figurations that he inevitably envisions and depicts on the blank canvass. But before rendering them fully, he in some random way scrambles the formations, for example by throwing or smearing the paint. This installs wildlife into the painting’s development. The encounter of chance and formation is like that instant at the limit before the magnets shatter. There are forces tending in all directions, wanting so badly to flee their divergent ways.] So when we look at the Bacon painting, the self-dis/organizational dynamics of the chaotically-incorporated paint-matter are what suggest to us the implicit virtual figurations that evolve, devolve, and involve in the wilderness of paint. Hence the painter does not preconceive the emergent formations, and then impress them upon a passive material. Rather,

The artist on the aesthetic plane of composition in some sense surrenders to matter so the artist must follow matter’s singularities by attending to its traits, and then devise strategies to bring out these virtualities, to actualise them as sensible individuated possibilities. [Ambrose 7d]

So we see that the technical plane and the aesthetic plane of composition are both involved in giving life to the artwork. What they express together is a dimension of the artwork where the wildness of the material itself creates the work’s percepts and affects by means of its own powers. Deleuze & Guattari call this the ‘plane of aesthetic composition’ (phrased differently than the ‘aesthetic plane of composition’) (Ambrose 8a).

This aesthetic plane of composition is configured as an infinite field of forces and intensities, an infinite play and transmutation of forces. The artwork engages with these forces as they operate within a process of becoming. The aesthetic plane of composition can be thought of as a type of embodied becoming. [Ambrose 8b]

We saw that prehistoric art integrates chaos to produce new formations. Even as viewers, the scrambled zones will make us think it is like one sort of thing for one moment, but then in the next instant, we will see it as something else. Their creative dynamic is unlimited. In a sense, the prehistoric artists were striving to erect finite ‘monuments’ that “in some way restore a sense of the infinite” (Ambrose 8bc). In this way, Ambrose explains, prehistoric art attempts to “commune with infinite chaos” so that we experience pure instants when we and other things change unforeseeably. Ambrose writes:

According to Deleuze all art fundamentally struggles with primal chaos in order to bring forth a vision that illuminates that chaos for an instant, that instantiates it as a sensation. Prehistoric art should, I suggest, be reconceived as a cohesive composition of chaos that attempts to yield the vision or sensation of chaos. It constitutes a type of sophisticated composed chaos that is neither foreseen nor preconceived. [Ambrose 8c]

But do we not see this process going on in life all around us? Are we not bound-up in a complex network of relations with things around us, whose interactions and chance events produce new arrangements and formations? Consider the madness of a gnat’s erratic flight pattern. But a swarm of gnats moves smoothly and deliberately. In one sense, the swarm and the gnats are different beings altogether, but in another sense they are precisely the same. Such events are happening all the time in nature, so Deleuze & Guattari call it ‘the natural plane of composition’ and ‘the plane of immanence.’ “This natural plane of composition is simply that of every living form in its ongoing process of concrete embodiment and individuation” (Ambrose 8d). Art engages with this natural plane that is always composing our world to bring out its forces and express them in sensations. We are naturally involved in emergent becomings. Art elevates the forces inherent in matter that are responsible for these becomings, and it makes them sensible to us. In that way, we have sensations that enhance our own integrations, disintegrations, and reintegrations with the natural world around us. [No consider how in our own body, there are many levels of self-dis/organization. Our body as a whole moves from place-to-place within its range of pace. The blood has its own speeds as well. Within the blood cells are organelles, with their own speeds. Within them are sub-microscopic particles flung about in velocities all their own. But consider also a family on a long-distance car trip; they are an aggregate of bodies moving along the highway-veins that circulate the country. Or a mass migration of families from one region to another. And are not humans just one organ of the whole body of nature? The wild is in us, and we are in the wild. We are a parted part of one great Animal body.] Deleuze & Guattari write:

There is a pure plane of immanence, univocality, composition, upon which everything is given, upon which unformed elements and materials dance that are distinguished from one another only by their speed and that enter into this or that individuated assemblages depending on their connections, heir relations of movement. A fixed plane of life upon which everything stirs, slows down or accelerates. A single abstract Animal for all the assemblages that effectuate it. [Deleuze & Guattari 1987:281]

[For Deleuze, thought is neurological anarchy. When our nervous system is merely recognizing, nerve signals transmit as they normally do, reflexively. The brain probably will not form new connections, or make modifications to its structure or behavior. However, when we are perplexed by something, our normal means of processing signals is thrown into disorder. Then, we create new connections and patterns of signal-processing. This is thought, for Deleuze: chaos in the nervous system when encountering something unrecognizable. (See this entry on Deleuze's & Guattari's theory of neurocomputation for more description). Now, if we had no input into our minds, we would not encounter very much information that is foreign and unprocessable. Hence sensation is fundamental to thought. Our nerves themselves change their arrangements, structure, and behavior. After being shocked and perplexed by something unrecognizable, we will sense and think differently. Hence] Deleuze calls this the “becoming other of the senses” (Ambrose 9a). [Now imaging that we have been walking days through a desert, and we are desperate for water. Everything has constantly looked the same to us. We get to the point when we no longer notice anything around us. It is so constantly recognizable, that our senses go into ‘auto pilot.’ But then in the distance we see a pool of water shimmering in the sun. Our whole bodies react. But we are perplexed, there is not supposed to be water anywhere near our location. And there is something strange about its appearance; it is not like pools we normally see. There was nothing phenomenal that happened up to that moment. But now we are excited, shocked, and bewildered. Our thirsty bodies are strongly attracted to the water, but at the same time our bodies hesitate in confusion. As we draw near, we see it was a mirage. Nonetheless, it leaves a strong imprint in our minds. It was so phenomenal when it happened. It marks that instant in an otherwise unmemorable day. Different parts of our nervous system were trying to process signals that just did not go together. They could only communicate to one another their differences between each other. And it made our body shake, twist, tear-forward and pull-back, all while trying to determine if there was really water or not. These shocks or ‘flashes’ between different parts of our nervous system are what Deleuze calls ‘phenomena,’ and because they transform our nervous system’s operations and structure, he also calls them ‘signs.’ Real phenomena mark us. And when we have phenomenal experiences, our nervous systems are pushed-and-pulled to compute and transmit signals in many directions and ways all at once. In one instant of their activity, they are tending in so many divergent ways. These divergent pressures are all fully there, even though our nerves in the next instant end-up following only one or some of them. What they do is decided much by chance (again see the neurocomputation entry). And our nerves are matter just like everything else in the world around us. So there are these competitions of implicit forces where virtual tendencies become actualized. This creates the new things and situations that continually appear and surprise us. Hence] Ambrose writes: “this becoming-other of the senses is a ‘sign’ of the passage of the ‘virtual’ into the ‘actual’” (Ambrose 9ab). New organic individuals emerge because the virtual forces are continuously actualized in nature. [Now, implicit virtual intensities are like Russian dolls. An intensity actualizes in the extending world around us, like the next smaller doll appearing when we first expose it. But it too has a doll inside it. In the toy Russian dolls we know there is a smallest doll with no more dolls in it. This smallest doll was there from the very beginning, implicitly there, but not explicitly expressed. Now let’s consider Deleuze’s example of Federation day. It commemorates the storming of the Bastille. But according to Deleuze, Péguy claims that the holiday does not commemorate and represent the storming. Rather, it is “the fall of the Bastille which celebrates and repeats in advance all the Federation Days” (Deleuze Difference & Repetition 1d). For, the event is infinitely rich with virtual forces. Every year they actualize as a completely different celebration. Every new festival is an original singularity. They are not additions to the first. Rather, the event continues to express itself on higher and higher levels. Within the storming was its eternal and infinite expression to the nth power. In other words, the Russian dolls of Deleuze’s actualization have no smallest doll. Chance is always at work, preventing the forces from exhausting themselves, of reaching a state of entropy. As] Ambrose explains, the virtual forces of nature are “in some sense held back in reserve in absolute immanence” (9). The virtual is the “self-forming form” whose forces are actualized. There are two ways that the virtual actualizes. On the one hand, virtual forces become actual individual bodies and forces acting on matter. [Consider the virtual as memory. The past is always being actualized in the present. So, there can never be a present without there already having been a past. The virtual is responsible for their being a reservoir for the present to pass into. So in a sense, the virtual creates the space for change and becoming to occur. There is a synthesis (contraction) of instants that we retain in our memory. This contraction happens automatically (passively), hence,] on the other hand, the virtual actualizes as the passive synthesis of retentive connections which allow for there to be actualization in the first place (9bc).

[Recall again the rhythm of sensation (See this entry and this one): we have sensations not because our bodies are operating as they normally would. Rather, different parts of our bodies are sensing things in different ways. Our faculties do not sense a common object. Our senses are in a state of non-sensing, and because we cannot recognize what we non-sense, it is nonsense to us. But we do sense the differences within our nervous system and faculties. We sense that we are affected by difference. This is a transcendental sort of sensation. But it is empirical, because the differences are given directly to our senses, and we experience them immanently as the differences bouncing and leaping through our affected bodies.] In the instant of becoming, different forces and tendencies are contracted (passively synthesized) into an instantaneous change. When we sense things, we feel their unpredictable changes. But the forces are invisible to us; we normally do not notice them. [But consider an artwork. A group of sensations and perceptions go along with it, but they have taken-on a life all their own. So when we refer to the artwork, we are really referring to the group of independent affects and percepts that make-up the experience of the art. These are the products of the implicit forces at work in the art piece. So] the artwork, however, allows us to feel the power of the forces involved when things deform into other things. Ambrose writes:

These intensive accumulated forces synthesised within the sensation cannot be grasped by the empirical senses. It is only upon the aesthetic plane of composition and within the artwork that these invisible forces, which are now captured, configured or rendered sensible as blocs of sensation, confront us. [9c]

The actualization of forces is automatic, passive. We see this in how we have shocking phenomenal sensations. They emerge on their own, force themselves upon us, and disrupt the organic order of our bodies. Deleuze distinguishes the form from the force of the virtual. Recall that the Bacon painting changes what it is on account of how its deformations force us to continually see it differently. When the virtual forces are being actualized, there are self-formed formations, and there are the forces responsible for the changes. But as we noted, we need the virtual past as a reservoir for the present instant to pass into and contract with, otherwise there cannot be change. This requires a ‘contemplating soul’, a mind of some sort, that performs the contraction. Hence,

For Deleuze every self-forming form is conceived as a fundamentally sensing form that is able to become through a creative retentive contraction of the past into the present – this creative retentive contraction is experienced as sensation. [9-10]

[Ambrose's text continues and we will return to it in the future.]

Ambrose, Darren. "30,000 BC: Painting Animality Deleuze and Prehistoric Painting." Angelaki: Journal of Theoretical Humanities 11.2 (2006). 12 Oct. 2009.

Boulez, Pierre. Boulez on Music Today. Susan Bradshaw and Richard Rodney Bennett, transls. London: Faber and Faber, 1971.

Boulez, Pierre, & Célestin Deliège. Pierre Boulez: Conversations with Célestin Deliège. Translator(s) unlisted. London: Eulenburg Books, 1976.

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

Deleuze & Guattari. What is Philosophy? Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, transls. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

Messiaen, Olivier & Claude Samuel. Conversations with Olivier Messiaen. Felix Aprahamian, transl. London: Stainer & Bell, 1976.

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