8 Jun 2011

Motionless Duration in Deleuze's Bergson

by Corry Shores
[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

[Central Entry Directory]
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[May I thank the sources of the images:
Credits given below the image and at the end.]

The following is from my presentation at Leuven's Husserl Archive's Graduate Workshop in Phenomenology. May I thank Roland Breeur, Ullrich Melle, and Carlo Ierna for including me at the last minute, and may I also thank the other presenters, Akos Krossoy, Özlem Gürbüz, and Allen Jones, for their excellent presentations and their kind tolerance for my presentation's media needs. As well, I am grateful to Rudolf Bernet for his insightful question. This presentation is an expansion of the one I gave at the London Bergson conference [the new material begins with Bergson's double jets].

Motionless Duration in Deleuze's Bergson

Deleuze is often considered an anti-phenomenologist. Yet perhaps his critique of phenomenology is more of a constructive critique. Deleuze is not against the project of studying phenomenal appearances; he merely does so on the basis of different principles and methods. Namely, Deleuze seems interested mostly in the intensity of phenomena. Phenomenologists, however, often turn their attention to how phenomenal appearances become constituted throughout the flow of our internal time consciousness. But for Deleuze, a phenomenon is a flash. It could appear instantaneously. What we will explore is the possibility that a Deleuzean phenomenology need not appeal to a flow of time consciousness.

This endeavor is inspired by an article that phenomenologist Michael Kelly wrote, where he defends Husserl’s time consciousness against Deleuzean-Bergsonists. These critics charge that Husserl’s theory of internal time cannot “accommodate time’s fundamental characteristic, namely its passage.” This is supposedly because Husserl’s time consciousness struggles to explain how the present undergoes its radical conversion to the past. In Bergson, however, present perceptions are immediately shadowed as virtual memories in the past in general. So, he avoids the problem of a transition from present to past. Yet, Kelly shows that Husserl’s later writings on temporality are immune to this critique.

We might note how Deleuze famously said of his
Bergsonism book that it is a classic instance of his buggering technique. He writes, “I imagined myself getting onto the back of an author, and giving him a child, which would be his and which would at the same time be a monster. It is very important that it should be his child, because the author actually had to say everything that I made him say. But it also had to be a monster because it was necessary to go through all kinds of decenterings, slips, break ins, secret emissions, which I really enjoyed.”

So what we will explore is the possibility that one such conceptual offspring is a surprising interpretation of Bergson’s duration: for Deleuze, duration’s fundamental characteristic is not its flowing passage. Perhaps we might characterize duration by employing terms with more of an a-temporal connotation, like instantaneous, simultaneous, and eternal. But these provisional characterizations should really only serve to avert our attention away from time’s flow in order to focus more on time in its absolute immediacy. Hence, I will not respond to Kelly’s specific defenses of Husserl’s temporality, because I do not adopt the opposing position that he disputes. I am not a Deleuzean Bergsonist. No. I am a Bergsonist Deleuzean. So I do not maintain Bergson’s model of time, but instead, I take-up Deleuze’s variation on it, which was fathered through his close reading of Bergson and articulated by means of cinematic illustrations.

So let’s first examine
Bergson’s expanding circuit diagram.

Bergson uses it to illustrate the way that the past is always contemporaneous with the present. He first has us consider what he calls an ‘after image’. They are always a part of our perception.

We look at some object, then abruptly avert our gaze to another place. For a split-second, the image of the initial object will carry-into and overlay-upon the new scene we see. The prior object remains in our field of perception, even though it is actually no longer there. Instead, it is virtually there.

The virtual past image inserts itself so thoroughly into the new actual image that “we are no longer able to discern what is perception and what is memory.” Perhaps this is why fast moving objects leave a blurry trail behind them.

According to Bergson, just while the perceived image is sent to our brain, the most recent image in our memory has already arrived-upon and overlaid our current perception, with both moving lightning fast in a continuous circuit.

But just as soon as we see something, it will already begin to appear differently to us, because we move our eyes or notice something new in what we see. Like before, the new image and its predecessor circulate immediately. Yet the even older image has not gone away; it too re-imposes itself on the present perception, but in a somewhat less vivid way. Nonetheless, this enriches the object with another layer in its appearance.

With each additional moment, another new inner circuit pushes-out the former ones.
So we see, then, that the past and present are perpetually crystallized together. “In truth,” writes Bergson, “every perception is already memory. Practically we perceive only the past, the pure present being the invisible progress of the past gnawing into the future.”

Yet even though all of our past is always interposed in the present in an implicit way, sometimes what we see causes one recollection to stand-out more explicitly among the rest. Often we observe something in our daily life that causes certain prior memories to flare-out before our “mind’s eye.”

And sometimes our flashbacks can be so vivid that they drown-out the actual things we see. We then begin to feel as though we are reliving that past experience.

Deleuze illustrates these recollection-circuits with
the cinematic flashbacks in Carné’s movie
The Daybreak (Le jour se lève). The film follows events happening from sundown to dawn. During this short period, a murderer flashes back into his past. Whenever we return to the present, we hear a heavy doom-filled bass and drum beat. It gives us the feeling we are moving inevitably toward a fatal end. So during the flashbacks, the past is so vibrant that it completely covers-over the actual present things standing before him in his room. As viewers, we only see what he is remembering, and not the events still carrying-on in the present while he dreams. But because upon returning we hear that fatal march toward the end, we are reminded that even while reminiscing, we never escaped the current doomed situation.

Now consider if we were to memorize a series of spoken lines for a play. Each time we practice it, we create a new individual memory. When it comes time to perform, we just start with the first word, and the rest seems to follow automatically, without our needing to recall any single rehearsal. All the previous times were contracted into that present moment of automatic habitual bodily performance. But after the show, someone might ask us about how we memorized the lines. Then we could relax and daydream about those moments, seeing them in their vivid detail.

Bergson illustrates this with his famous cone diagram. As new things enter our memory, they add to a cone.

If we are acting automatically, like when performing something we rehearsed, then we are down closer to the S point.

Being near this tip does not mean our memories have gone away. Rather, they are all contracted into our physical actions, like how a performance expresses physically all our memories of past recitals. When instead we daydream about the past, the images expand-out in our minds, as during a flashback. In these moments, we reside at a higher layer of the cone. Always we are varying somewhere between automatic action and dreamful reflection, so we might be at any of the many possible layers of expansion or contraction of our memory.


So during flashback scenes, the character’s memory leaps-up to a higher level. But during an action scene where he acts automatically, his memory is contracted into the present moment, down at the cone’s tip. We are always changing level, varying ‘melodically’ between our intense physical engagement in the present moment and our drifting somewhere in dream-land.

So the larger circuits are more distant memories, and the higher cone levels are increased degrees of expansion on one part of those memories.

The cone levels and the circuits are not equivalent, but we might place them in correspondence by noting that when moving to a distant circuit, we are also expanding our memories. In these slides we might correlate the movement-into-flashback with the expansions in the diagrams.

What we notice are the simultaneity of the layers. At any one moment, our consciousness is expressing, implicitly or explicitly, all our past actions and memories. We do not need time to flow in order for it to fully present itself in its immediacy. When the hero sees a memento and flashes back to an event taking place a couple months prior, he does not feel two months of time in their continuous passage. Instead, he experiences two months time in a sudden flash. So the simultaneity of the distant past with the active present becomes immediately evident to him. It is not an extent of time that he undergoes in this flash, but rather time in the form of an intensity.

To further illustrate, Deleuze discusses flashback movies made by Joseph Mankiewicz. In these films, flashbacks are the product of bifurcations. There are two dimensions to these bifurcations or forkings.

The first sort we will consider is the forking as a break in a linear progress,
as described by Prigogine and Stengers.


They describe how for certain chemical reactions, changes in one variable can be correlated to the variations of others, but then one variable will reach a point when its path is indeterminable. It could increase or decrease, but this outcome is always left to chance.

The other sort of bifurcation we find in Borges’ story ‘The Garden of Forking Paths.’ It describes a Chinese monk’s unfinished manuscripts for a novel with this same title. It went unpublished because it was incomprehensible. The chapters did not proceed just sequentially. A following chapter would be like an alternate version of the same prior one.

The Garden, then, forks-not through space but rather through time. Characters in stories normally must choose between diverging paths. In the Garden, however, the character, “chooses— simultaneously—all of them. He creates, in this way, diverse futures, diverse times which themselves also proliferate and fork.”

There is one remarkable scene in
Barefoot Contessa, which showcases both senses of bifurcation. The soon-to-be Contessa quite abruptly switches companions, taking her down a drastically different path. But this scene was remembered by two different people, each in their own way and with their own slight variations. We will place both scenes side-by-side, listening just to the audio from one.

We notice that sudden instant of the slap, that crack in the flow of time, when the next moment is completely undetermined, entirely discontinuous with the present, that moment which is truly phenomenal, that pure, intense, dramatic moment outside the flow of time.

Now, the Contessa’s forking is the reason each of these people recalled the event. We see the relation between bifurcation and flashback shown even more vividly in
A Letter to Three Wives. In this story, a woman writes a letter to three wives saying she ran off with one of their husbands, but she does not specify which one. This is a forking in their lives, and it causes them to recall prior forkings in the past that foreshadowed the current situation. In one wife’s recollection, we see her discover a possible reason her husband might have left with the other woman. Her face makes a certain expression that is almost identical with her current one, as if in her past she was already flashing forward to the future. And likewise, events in the present unfold where she gets news that seems to confirm her suspicions, and she makes that same facial expression again, linking all three moments together.

So when something happens in our lives that takes us down a diverging unexpected path, we on the one hand might flash back to another forking in the past that only implicitly hinted at the current bifurcation; yet on the other hand, we are already living the present moment as a memory given in advance of its future recollection, only we don’t know yet what future forkings will bring out the present moment’s implicit significance. In the instant of the flashback, past, present, and future are all simultaneous and immediate to our consciousness, as if we are always in a way standing outside of time’s flow and experiencing events from the perspective of eternity.

The flashbacks in Carné and Mankiewicz give us recollections from certain parts of the past, but they do not give us impressions of the so-called past in general. Bergson writes that “The formation of memory is never posterior to the formation of perception; it is contemporaneous with it. Step by step, as perception is created, the memory of it is projected beside it.” And memory is “twofold at every moment, its very up-rush being in two jets exactly symmetrical, one of which falls back towards the past whilst the other springs forward towards the future.” And we also might wonder how to conceive the way differences arise and fill duration with new content. For these matters, Deleuze turns our attention to Jerry Lewis and filmed musicals.

American musicals might annoy us when the flow of normal theatrical action is interrupted by silly song and dance scenes. Deleuze references a number of musicals where such scenes resemble dream-like recollections. Yet these memories do not recall real events in the past, but rather they merely have the feeling of the past as given in dream. This unspecified past is Bergson’s past in general.

Here are some memorial dream scenes from
Singing in the Rain, An American in Paris, and The Bandwagon.

But if duration involves injections of radical difference and newness, how might we conceptualize this? Deleuze refers us to the chaotic forces of variation that reverberate through Jerry Lewis’ body and the world around him. These forceful energies produce new phenomenal data that pushes duration forward by infusing it with waves of original content. Here are scenes from Jerry Lewis’
The Patsy, Who’s Minding the Store, and Hollywood or Bust.

Recall Bergson’s circuits. They layer into the past, yet they all remain virtualities that are contemporaneous with the actual present.

Certain Orson Welles scenes make this visible. Special lenses allowed him to keep many spatial layers all in focus simultaneously, even though they extend very far back into the movie set.

In The Magnificent Ambersons, an impression of time is conveyed by placing two generations at different simultaneous layers of depth.

In Citizen Kane, there is a scene with Kane walking toward the office of an old friend.

They have not spoken for years, so Kane’s journey expresses a movement backward through simultaneous layers of time, presented visually as spatial depth.

We noted at the beginning how phenomenology requires time to pass in order for phenomena to appear. This in a way gives the present moment a sort of thickness. It swells out from the present, fading into the past like a comet tail, as Husserl puts it.

And we are only able to constitute a phenomenal object by means of associative similarities that present themselves and synthesize across a span of flowing time. But for Deleuze, we need not think that appearances show themselves through time in its flowing.

Bergsonist Deleuzean Depth of Time

(Thanks eyefetch)

(Thanks diagonalthoughts.com)

(Thanks marinagraham)

The phenomenon of motion, for example, might just be the diminishing vibrancy of layers of after images all showing in one instant of perception.

If ever we feel time, we feel it as a difference or a gap, like when peering in the mirror and seeing someone who looks older than we thought we were. Abruptly-noticed signs of age make us feel the depth of many years all in that sudden instant when they flash before us. Instead of an extensive thickness of time, we might think of an intensive depth of time. Each moment in our lives has the depth of all time, here and now immediately. A Deleuzean phenomenological time need not flow, and perhaps should not flow. If the flow is based on associating similarities bridging one moment to the next, then more flow would mean less difference from moment to moment, and thus less standing out, less appearing, less phenomenality.

Image credits:



7 Jun 2011

Cézanne and the Phenomenon: Painting Divergences in Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze

by Corry Shores
[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

[Central Entry Directory]
[Corry Shores, Entry Directory]

[The following is my presentation that I gave at the Dutch Association of Aesthetics conference
in Ghent, Belgium, May 2011.]

[May I sincerely thank the sources of the images
Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines
Joy A's flickr / Joy A
all about Weybridge. / Rachael Talibart
theatreorgans.com / synthtech.com
G. Fernández - theartwolf.com
travel.webshots.com and rajbaut
Credits are given below the image and at the end.]

Cézanne and the Phenomenon:
Painting Divergences in Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze

[Thanks Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines]

Deleuze is often considered an anti-phenomenologist. He even writes disparagingly of phenomenology’s lived-body that we find in Merleau-Ponty’s thinking. Nonetheless, Deleuze still generated an original theory of phenomena. So rather than determining whether Deleuze was a phenomenologist or an anti-phenomenologist, we might instead attempt to formulate what a Deleuzean phenomenology would be like. For Merleau-Ponty, phenomena are possible on account of three levels of harmonic integration: among the parts of the phenomenal world, among our bodily parts functioning in sensation, and between our body and the world enveloping us. All these overlappings bind us into the flesh of the world. Yet, a Deleuzean phenomenology would be based on precisely the opposite principles: the phenomenal world consists of incompatible differences shockingly forced upon us, all while our body functions disjunctively within itself and with our surroundings. Both Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze express their different views through their seemingly convergent readings of quotations attributed to Cézanne. But as we will see, there is one line in Deleuze’s commentary that indicates his different fundamental principles.

Both Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze turn their focus to painters when at times describing sensation and perception. Painters exercise a certain phenomenal sensitivity. They do not just see, they also become aware of how we see. Merleau-Ponty thinks painters have a ‘secret science,’ because they live purely in our emersion in the world, which they visually express in their art. Cézanne aimed to paint not the immediate impressions, like the impressionists, nor did he paint the finished perception as a photo-realistic rendition. Instead, he wanted to paint the way our eyes and minds deal with our impressions. We see in his earlier attempts that objects are often misshapen.

Cézanne. Still Life, Fruit and Pitcher on Table

Cups and saucers, for example, should normally appear elliptical, but Cézanne paints them with swollen ends. Fruit that should appear more spherical are also deformed.

Cézanne: Still Life with Apples (1890-94)
Cézanne: Still Life with Apples (1890-94)
(Thanks dl.ket.org)

These still lifes depict not a photographic representation of reality, but rather allow us to enter into the process of objects coming into formation in our perception. What interests us is how Merleau-Ponty accounts for the ways and reasons that our perceptions come about through integrations.

For Merleau-Ponty, our phenomenal parts integrate by means of our horizonal awareness. Consider if we view a red carpet. Each part of our perception looks its particular way on account of the other qualities and objects expressing themselves in that appearance, for example, the overlaying shadow that tinges the color or the illuminated portions that lighten its tone.
We are not surprised when looking up to see the source of light and the objects that block it. The red’s particular shaded or lighted look refers our mind to things not explicit in what we directly perceive.

Or consider how a stream’s surface might reflect the brownish hue of an overlying bridge. When looking at the water, we are not directly aware of the bridge, but it is being implicitly spoken or announced by the stream’s color. The stream would appear differently to us were it not for its integrated relation with the bridge above it. And likewise, when looking up at the bridge, we see in its appearance the motion of the water, reflecting up upon it. Our minds have an awareness of these related phenomena, but they are not in the forefront of our attention. As implicit phenomena, they hover at the edges of our awareness.

This horizonal integration of phenomenal objects is so involved that to see one object from a given perspective is also to have on the horizon of our awareness the way that object looks from the perspectives of every other object facing it. Merleau-Ponty illustrates this effectively with the arm-shadow in Rembrandt’s
The Night Watch.

Rembrandt. De Nachtwacht (The Night Watch) 1642
Rembrandt Nightwatch

(Thanks www.students.sbc.edu)

Notice how the man in the foreground holds-out his arm, which casts a shadow on the man standing next to him.

Rembrandt. De Nachtwacht (The Night Watch), detail

We do not merely see his arm from just our perspective; we also see it as if we were looking from his right side at the angle of the light source, because the shadow we see from our perspective presents to us the appearance of his arm from the sun’s perspective.

Rembrandt. De Nachtwacht (The Night Watch), detail
Rembrandt Nightwatch detail hand shadow
(Again, thanks russianpaintings.net)

The parts of our body also have horizons that integrate, with each sense giving us phenomenal data that is on the margins of the other senses as well.“ Synaesthetic perception is the rule,” Merleau-Ponty writes, continuing, “The senses intercommunicate by opening-on to the structure of the thing. One sees the hardness and brittleness of glass, and when, with a tinkling sound, it breaks, this sound is conveyed by the visible glass."

And when we are given an impression of the world around us, we enter into communion with the world by means of the sympathetic relation of that sensation. When our hands are about to feel something smooth, they take-up a certain ‘degree,’ ‘rate’ and ‘direction of movement’ appropriate for feeling that kind of surface, instead of the sorts of motion and readiness needed to feel something rough. The smooth thing called-out to our hands to tell them how it needed to be felt; so even before making physical contact, the smooth thing placed itself upon our hands. So we cannot say that we are the toucher performing the action, and the smooth thing is something passively receiving our action. The smooth object acts on us just as much as we act on it. The thing we sense begins as a ‘vague beckoning’ whose call to us allows us to ‘synchronize’ with it. In this way, there is a ‘crisscrossing’ of the touching and the tangible. By opening themselves up in this way, our hands incorporate themselves into the world they feel-out. So we might think of ourselves together with the world we perceive as being of one flesh. There is an intimacy between us “as close as between the sea and the strand.”

Merleau-Ponty flesh diagram animation
So here we may display the three sorts of integrations at work in phenomenal appearances. The parts of the world integrate, because each part of our perception of the world has the other parts on the horizon of our awareness. Such perceptions are possible because the parts of our body, including our sense organs, themselves have the other senses on their horizon, and in that way integrate synaesthetically. And it is on account of our sympathetic interaction with the world that we may come into phenomenal contact with it.

Before turning to the Cézanne material, let’s note Merleau-Ponty's account of the way the child perceives colors before learning the names for them.

Children first are only able to distinguish colored things from non-colored ones. Next they differentiate warm and cool shades of colored regions. Finally, they can discern different distinct colors. And then gradually, they can distinguish further variations of each color. Merleau-Ponty says that this is not because the child originally perceived the different specific colors in their determinacy, being only unaware of the colors’ identities. Merleau-Ponty instead says that the colors were originally seen in an | indeterminate form, and only gradually does the child come to constitute them distinctly. In other words, the child sees different colors but not so much the distinctions between them, although these differences hang implicitly on the horizon of their awareness. There are relations, then, between the colors that are seen, but only implicit ones. As Cézanne writes, these are “the confused sensations which we bring with us when we are born.”
Cézanne describes his initial experience when painting his landscape or motif as involving this raw encounter with the visual givenness of the world.

I breathe the virginity of the world [...]. A sharp sense of nuances works on me. I feel myself colored by all the nuances of infinity. At that moment, I am as one with my painting. We are an iridescent chaos. I come before my motif and I lose myself in it.

Deleuze speaks of filmmaker Stan Brakhage as having explored a “Cézannian world before man, a dawn of ourselves, by filming all the shades of green seen by a baby in the prairie,” and he refers us to a text quoting Brakhage describing this world. Yet, we have Brakhage himself reciting that passage in this interview.


[Alternate version: "Imagine an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything, but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception. How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of “green?” How many rainbows can light create for the untutored eye? Imagine a world alive with incomprehensible objects and shimmering with an endless variety of movement and innumerable gradations of color. Imagine a world before the “beginning was the word."]

So Cézanne begins by taking up such a stance where he views his landscape with an untutored eye. Yet what he sees is not merely an iridescent chaos, because from the beginning, the geometry of the geological structures has already begun taking formation in his perception. In both Deleuze’s and Merleau-Ponty’s commentaries, we see they take note of this emergence of phenomena, although Deleuze accents the chaotic origins a little bit more.

Cézanne continues,
slowly geographical foundations appear, the layers, the major planes form themselves on my canvas. Mentally I compose the rocky skeleton. […] A pale palpitation envelops the linear elements. The red earths rise from an abyss. […] Geometry measures the earth.

So he begins with a primordial chaos of visual perception. In this beginning stage the general geometrical forms are given as emergences of geological structures. But he does not continue by painting these formations as they find more determinate boundaries, but rather makes them collapse by submitting them to a catastrophe: he converts them into something completely unlike how they began. He turns geometry into color. Again, we see by comparing Deleuze's and Merleau-Ponty's commentaries that they say essentially the same thing, but with a little more emphasis on the chaotic in Deleuze's case.

Cézanne first sketched the linear features of the structures roughly in charcoal. But instead of working on making those lines clearer and more definite, he instead worked to use color patches to create volumes encompassing the figure. When arriving at this state of harmony and equilibrium in the color tone and saturation, Cézanne declares:
I have my motif. . (He clasps his hands together [..] intertwining his fingers) […] I join [nature’s] wandering hands . . . I pick her tonalities, her colors, her nuances […]. I fix them; I bring them together . . . They form lines. They become objects, rocks, trees, without my thinking about it. They take on volume. They have color values. If these volumes and values correspond on my canvas and in my senses, to my planes and patches, that you also see before you, well, my painting joins its hands together.

We can see in their commentaries that both Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty stress this idea of the intertwining of phenomenal parts.

So far, both Deleuze’s and Merleau-Ponty's commentaries seem to fall in line. However, Deleuze introduces a new concept when he writes: “The diagram is exactly what Cézanne called the motif.” Deleuze gives the most detailed explanation of painted diagrams in his analysis of Francis Bacon’s artwork. Here we see Bacon explaining his aim of rendering reality in the alternate medium of painted imagery.


Bacon gives us the experience of immediate reality not by painting photo-realistically, but rather by forcing our bodies to contend with incompatible differences. Reality in its immediate givenness is a paradox to our senses. Objects of our experience are recognizable only secondarily after we had a moment to process the information we see. But the absolutely immediate impact of reality is un-processed newness.

Photo of an eagle landing
(Thanks wikipedia)

The problem Bacon faces is that if he painted recognizable and comprehendible imagery, the viewer would process the visual data and convert it into a summarized narrative, for example, ‘this is a bird landing on a field.’ After recognizing what we see, we can then walk away and forget the image.

Bacon would begin with such a proto-formation, then make random markings like splatters or smears.

Francis Bacon's Diagram: Detail From Painting, 1946
Francis Bacon's Diagram: Detail From Painting 1946

Bacon reads these new lines as if they were a diagram pointing out new directions to develop the imagery.

Francis Bacon animation of Painting 1946 with bird, Deleuze's analysis
(Animation is my own,
made with
Open Office Draw and Unfreeze,
with images thanks to
www.sai.msu.su and wikipedia)

In this way, the diagram causes a catastrophic chain reaction to spread over the painting. What results is a conglomerate of images that we feel inclined to put together, and yet find it impossible to do so entirely.

Francis Bacon and Diagram in Painting 1946

This holds us in the paradoxical givenness of immediate reality. The diagram here is a mechanism that forces variations into what we see. It ensures that the painting maintains its phenomenal intensity, even after a prolonged view.
In a similar way, Cézanne’s color patches also do not always resemble the original thing’s colors.

Rochers à l'Estaque
cézanne Rochers à l'Estaquecézanne Rochers à l'Estaque
(Thanks Machotka)

Le Lac d'Annecy
cézanne Le Lac d'Annecycézanne Le Lac d'Annecy
(Thanks Machotka)

Cézanne once confused a visitor who saw him paint a gray wall green. He chose his colors on the basis of how those selections would act on our minds, and in this way he was able to give us a sense of the volumes and depths of a scene without depending on outlines and shading. His color modulations turned geometry into color, intertwining our sense impressions with the structural forms around us.

But what is important is not how the color patches integrate, but rather how they differ. We feel his depth in the way that one color patch changes to another. The color-change does not tell our senses that this other part of the object has another color, but rather that it faces toward another angle, and thus is more apt to reflect flashes of color from an alternate light source.

Analog Modular Synthesizer
modular analog synthesizer
(Thanks analog-synth.de)

Analog Modular Synthesizer
Frank Vanaman's MOTM Modular Synthesizer
(Thanks theatreorgans.com, citing as source: synthtech.com)

We move from color-patch to color-patch much the same way that a sound-signal moves from module to module in an analog synthesizer, with each transition modifying the sound’s appearance.

So let’s consider a Deleuzean interpretation of Cézanne’s words. The color modulation in Cézanne's paintings would be a series of differential perceptions. The fingers of Cézanne's folded hands are intertwined not in integration, but as incompatible differences that are mashed together. And this does not integrate us with the world, because the world as it is given and rendered is not the same world that we sense. Regarding the integration of our body-parts, it is not evident that in Cézanne it is based on differential relations rather than integrations. Perhaps this is one reason Deleuze turns to Bacon, whose shocking artworks throw the parts of our body into disarray.

So what would it be like to do phenomenology in a Deleuzean way? I think it would be based on phenomenal differences and incompatibilities. I would like to end with Stan Brakhage’s spontaneous and eloquent account of how things phenomenally stand-out and appear to him. It seems in part to be based on phenomenal differences and incompatibilities.


Image Credits:

First Cézanne fruit painting:
Thanks Concrete Rules and Abstract Machines

Cézanne. Still Life, Fruit and Pitcher on Table
(Thanks awesome-art.com)

Cézanne: Still Life with Apples (1890-94)

Red Carpet:
(Joy A's flickr. Thanks Joy A)

(Thanks all about Weybridge. Thanks Rachael Talibart.)

Eagle picture:
(Thanks wikipedia)

Bacon. Francis Painting 1946
(c) 2009 The Estate of Francis Bacon/ARS, New York/DACS, London

Cezanne comparison images:

Machotka Pavel. Cézanne: Landscape into Art.

Analog Modular Synthesizer, vertical image
(Thanks analog-synth.de)

Analog Modular Synthesizer, square image

Cézanne. Mont Sainte Victoire.
(Thanks G. Fernández - theartwolf.com)

Mont St Victoire. la montagne Sainte-Victoire vue des Lauves, photo
(Thanks travel.webshots.com and rajbaut)