Abstract art and immanence – on Deleuze and Kandinsky

(this is an old text of mine, found in the archives. It is strange to read it again, as it shows to me how desperately I tried to get out of the trap of representation and the urge to embrace a philosophy of immanence. I went through so many ideas, looked at so many artists – I never did anything with the text, as my self-critical voice didn’t consider it to be any good. I have to say I like it better now. It is a bit convoluted, sometime there are some jumps, but it gave me a platform to leave the western canon and to finally go to India. I was writing on that text while I was teaching in the USA, and before I went to India for the first time in 2016. I now realize why a part of me stayed in India and never came back, calling me for years, until I moved here. )


“This is the dark thought I have had about representation for so long: we are immersed in it and it has become inseparable from our condition. It has created a world, a cosmos even, of false problems such that we have lost our true freedom: that of invention.”—Dorothea Olkowski, Gilles Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation


Two positions on Deleuze aesthetics

If we compare two prominent approaches to a Deleuzian aesthetics – one by Daniel W. Smith, the translator of Deleuze’s Francis Bacon book and the other by Jacques Rancière – we gain insight into one of the central problems of aesthetics in a Deleuze’s philosophy. Daniel W. Smith in his introduction to the Deleuze’s Francis Bacon book said that Deleuze “suggests that there are two general routes through which modern painting escaped the clichés of representation and attempted to attain a “sensation” directly: either by moving toward abstraction, or by moving toward what Lyotard has termed the figural. An abstract art like that of Mondrian or Kandinsky, though it rejected classical figuration, in effect reduced sensation to a purely optical code that addressed itself primarily to the eye “[1] Jacques Rancière in contrast discusses a Deleuzian Aesthetics starting with two Deleuzian ‘formulations’: ““The first statement is found in What is Philosophy?: „The work of art is a being of sensation and nothing else: it exists in itself. . . . The artist creates blocks of percepts and affects, but the only law of creation is that the compound must stand up on its own.“ The second appears in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation: „With painting, hysteria becomes art. Or rather, with the painter, hysteria becomes painting.“”[2] It seems as if we have four proposals for an aesthetic theory on hands:

  • modern painting escaped the clichés of representation and attempted to attain a “sensation” directly by moving toward abstraction
  • modern painting escaped the clichés of representation and attempted to attain a “sensation” directly by moving toward what Lyotard has termed the figural
  • The work of art is a being of sensation and nothing else: it exists in itself
  • With painting, hysteria becomes art. Or rather, with the painter, hysteria becomes painting

Although Smith talks about modern art while Rancière quotes Deleuze on art in general, they both state a dichotomy: art is either self-sufficient and abstract, or move toward something that Lyotard calls figural: a nonrepresentational figure which through its power of recognition without representation gives us access to sensation. To unpack that riddle, it is helpful to look at how Deleuze can be understood as a philosopher of immanence who rejects transcendental concepts of subjectivity.

Deleuze in context

One of the many distinctions in the history of thought opposition between a subject-object dualism operating ultimately on a concept of transcendence, on the one hand, and thought of immanence on the other hand. This opposition itself is, off course, a dualism. The dilemmas for both sides are equally unsatisfactory. While dualism has to explain how two essentially different forms of existence can interact within a consistent system of non-contradictory forces, immanence has to explain how self-awareness is possible. It is Alfred N. Whitehead who identified within this puzzle the notion of process as one that covers the scientific as well as the spiritual aspect of reality. He stands of course in a long tradition of thought that spans diverse school of thoughts from Buddhism, to Heraklit, through Nietzsche and Bergson to post-human thought.[3]

William James for instance, made a distinction between though minded and soft minded philosophers. He rejects vehemently the soft-minded, the rationalist, idealistic religious thinkers of the absolute. He rather favours the empiricist sensualistic, fact orientated philosophers who can stand the contradiction, the multitude. It is no surprise that he influences Deleuze, and that Whitehead identifies him as one of the four influential philosophers of the western tradition: Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz and James. James pragmatism, which bases truth within the methodology of questioning everything in regards of how useful it is to us. He is in close aliens with Henri Bergson, who anchors consciousness and memory in usefulness. While pragmatism similar to vitalism overcomes idealism and rationalism, it is still human centered. Deleuze pushes these boundaries beyond the human. What does something mean for something else? What is a stone for the tree? How can we think being a tree? In the West there is a tendency to describe our body as equipped with fife senses: seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting, in the Buddhist tradition there are six sense organs: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. For the West, the mind synthesizes fife senses through abstraction[4], for the Far East the mind is just another sense as well as the body is. This difference should be an invitation to revisit what we call sensation. Sensation is sometimes perceived as deceptive (i.e. scepticism) or as sinful (i.e. purism), mostly input for a brain, following a mechanical machine metaphor. During the interview with Claire Parnet “Gilles Deleuze’s ABC Primer” (1996), which was posthumous released, at the very end Deleuze talks about the wisdom of Zen.

Immanence, life and art

Gilles Deleuze is the latest great thinker of immanence. His ideas of the fold and the rhizome are aiming to address the very fundamental problems of philosophy. The fold is designed to explain self-awareness[5]; the rhizome guarantees the consistency of reality through endless connectivity. Deleuze’s philosophy develops an alternative to a subject-object dualism. This alternative needs to understand the idea of a subject in a radically different way. A subject is no longer an irreducible kernel of human existence, but a configuration of connected machines. The body-machine is connected with the subject-machine, and let’s say a painting machine – where “machine” does not necessarily mean robotic constructions. Rather, „A machine may be defined as a system of interruptions or breaks.“[6] Furthermore every machine has a code built in[7]. This understanding of world as connected machines with build in codes which control interruptions offers one possible departing point to engage immanence. The continuous folding of time (memory) and space (Escher) in mathematics and in physics, in computation and biology (DNA) is an act of creativity within the plane of immanence.

It is not very difficult to find evidence of immanence within experience. We only need to state the obvious, for example: we live. Life is the most fundamental of our experiences, it is also the most evident fact; we can very easily make a distinction between life and death. We feel it, and we fight for it. We protect life and sometimes even insure it; we share it, prolong it, and take it away. The only thing we don’t do with it is to include it within science. We analyze instead the dead, solid object. Henri Bergson moved life, i.e. Élan vital, in his 1907 book Creative Evolution, into the center of his philosophy. Gilles Deleuze calls pure immanence “A life”. Artists like Kandinsky searched for life within art. Art history at the beginning of the 20th century focused on formalistic analysis and the subordination of art under scientific theory. Art historians looked at art as a solid object although many avant-garde movements tried to achieve the opposite – capturing movement, time, change, chance, sub consciousness etc. But we should remember that looking at art is foremost ‘looking’, that is, connecting the eye with i.e. a painting. The connection is in the center of Deleuze analysis of the painting of Francis Bacon[8]. How does the subject-machine connect with the painting-machine? Which parts of the body are affected when we look at a painting? How is the response of the nervous system related to our thinking? How do we get from percept to concept to affect and vice versa?

Becoming machine: In Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Samsa becomes an insect, in Maschine-Mensch, (2006) Christopher Rhomberg and Tobias Zucali transform the human into an extension of a machine, the human “becomes” a machine, in the Telegarden, Ken Goldberg extends our gardening into tele-gardening, he investigates a tele-epistemology and we become an exo-brain, Stelarc becomes a cyborg and merges with exoskeletons, LSD test-persons in the 60’s became open interactive systems. (“From endosensation to exosensation.”[9]) When the subject-machine connects with other machines, they form a rhizome. Yoshimasa Kato & Yuichi Ito’s, White Lives on Speakers, Brain-driven Aesthetic Environment 2007, let the human’s thoughts physically manifest. Orlan physically becomes the incarnation of beauty. Time-based media are always in the process of becoming. On the other hand, in the paintings of Francis Bacon, Deleuze describes the becoming of animal and woman. But we must not understand the “becoming” of an animal in Bacon’s work as a representation of becoming animal, rather, the becoming is taking place within sensation. The logic of sensation follows the structure of becoming, rhizome, deterritorialization, and reterritorialization[10]. The elements in the canvas unfold their logic and invite the viewer, who sees and doesn’t gaze, to become different strata of his/her becoming. S/he can become mineral or animal, zoon politicon or homo faber.

The logic of sensation” was a “Commissioned text based on a year’s seminar (1979-80)”[11] It was written in the spirit of the 70’s in France: writing with and against Marxism, the figurative gained a new significance. Overcoming abstract expressionism, American pop culture, and the LSD impregnated, cybernetic 60’s, the figure re-emerged in painting.[12] But instead of following the kitschy propaganda of leftist painting, Deleuze was interested in the plane of consistency. He rejected Althusser’s materialistic notion of encounter as aleatory and contingent and offered the notion of immanence, opposing transcendence, but not in a reductionist materialistic manner. The canvas is not a sheet for signs, but a plane of events. As an anti-narrative it contains encounters, which are based in process philosophy, a la Whitehead, and the perception of change, a la Bergson[13].

The ‘medium’ becomes a plane of thought, not as a McLuhan-esque extension, but as an ‘autonomous’ container of thought. Following the image of thought of a rhizome, connections develop, encounters happen, and events lead to new events. The connections are not necessarily causal. Schopenhauer pointed out the fourfold root of the principle of causality[14]; Bergson goes deeper into the “process” characteristics of reality, and divides “becoming” into qualitative, evolutionary and extensive movement. If we leave transcendence behind and anchor thought on the plane of immanence, it is here where it rhizomatic connects, and it can be best described as becoming, change, and an event. It is also here where complex fields are constituted, and where intensity and disruption characterize the visual elements of art. “This means that there are no sensations of different orders, but different orders of one and the same sensation.”[15] How then is the sensation structured? How does sensation operate on a non-signifying stratum? Deleuze rejects three traditional attempts to explain the phenomenon of sensation[16]: first, he rejects the unity of the represented object; second, he identifies the confusion between sensation with feeling; and third, he recognizes the misunderstanding is in the perception of movement – movement comes from sensation and is not prior to it.

“Painting gives us eyes all over: in the ear, in the stomach, in the lungs (the painting breathes…). This is the double definition of painting: subjectively, it invests the eye, which ceases to be organic in order to become a polyvalent and transitory organ; objectively it brings before us the reality of a body, of lines and colors freed from organic representation. And each is produced by the other: the pure presence of the body becomes visible at the same time that the eye becomes the destined organ of this presence.” (p.45)

Deleuze understands painting primarily as being purely visual, and how could it not be visual?[17] He thus reanimates painting from death, through theory. Painting is not a sign that needs to be understood intertextually. That is what text is for.[18] Deleuze focuses on the affect which painting has on the bwo, i.e. the virtual body with all its potentials. The eye is sliding over the surface, it becomes the color and light, the form and texture, the shape and figure, it brings before us the reality of painting, not as representation, but as an object that affects the bwo. The affect follows the logic of sensation; the constitution of ‘meaning’ is immanent in the subject-machine and painting-machine. Deleuze reminds us that we need to SEE when we encounter painting, seeing in the form of a connection, where the nerve systems is affected; the “seeing” of seeing. “Avoid the figurative, illustrative, and narrative,” (p.6) Deleuze serves as a model for radical immanent thinking about art. The radicalism does not lie in the superimposed ideology of certain art works, but in an immanent understanding of its rhizomatic process.

This matter is the unformed, unorganized, nonstratified or destratified body of the earth with all its follows of subatomic and submolecular particles. Deleuze and Guattari call it the plane of consistency, the body without organs – that is, the body of the earth, of protoplasm, even of human life that is not subject to an organizing principle, to a sign, to a force that orders it.[19]

The traditional understanding of painting is that of a medium of communication, i.e. the artist communicates something through the painting, to the viewer, who needs to decode it. Art history helps that process of decoding by revealing additional information. The mechanism of painting is one, which uses a multitude of tools to achieve this communication: representation, resemblance, perspective, narrative, abstraction, etc.[20] Deleuze in contrast, has an understanding of painting that radically rejects these notions. The painting is something the eye connects with. The eye can become ears, and stomach a.o. The nervous system, which is affected by the painting, connects the painter with the painting and the viewer. (I will later explain the underlining ontology of images a la Bergson.) Although the viewer is not a person, painting does not allow for the presence of the viewer, but for the connection with a bwo. What constitutes a painting then is: rhythm, coupling, forces, color, hysteria, and becoming. The logic of sensation explores these mechanics, the rhizome connections. The logic of sensation is prior to philosophy and anchored in the plane of immanence.

Music is a prime example for pure sensation: an acoustic event, i.e. a performance of music using different kinds of instruments played by one or more musicians, is sensed by the audience as well as the musicians. The musicians produce a complex sound pattern, tin which sound waves superpose. The active participation of the music performance as a musician is the constant transformation of the complex sound pattern. It involves memory and potentials. The remembrance of the heard and the expectation of the to come from the present experience. Based on the memory and the potential, the performance is an actualization of a sensational event. But how is the brain affected? The complex sound pattern reaches the listener’s ears. That pattern is deconstructed into a rhizomatic organization of waves. The identification of different instruments, of melodies and rhythm is based on the succession of one complex frequency, which lets the eardrum resonate. Only through the awareness of the past and the future sound becomes music, as pure presence sound is nothing but noise. Similarly, we compose complex visual sensations, smells and haptic experiences. Looking at a painting is a process. The viewer starts somewhere, directs the eyes somewhere else, remembers the just seen and actualizes the potential of the present sensation. The time span of the present (Husserl called said that retention and protention always accompany the present) allows for affection and seld-affection. Unconsciously, a present sensation triggers past sensations and reflex action as potentials. On a conscious level we are aware of the past (memory) and the future (potential). In a self-conscious state we are aware of the present being intrinsically interwoven with past and future.

Within the plane of immanence, the notion of aesthetic experience vanishes. It is not a subject that has aesthetic experiences of, let’s say, beauty and ugliness, or harmony. And is certainly not representation that gives a subject an aesthetic experience. That was three transcendental concepts in one sentence. The plane of immanence, or ‘A life’ as Deleuze calls it, produces ‘a subject’[21]. Of course, there are subjects who look at representational art and have aesthetic experiences, but this description of reality is a highly constructed one, it is embedded in sociopolitical and cultural, as well as religious constructs. It reinforces existing structures or clichés. For art to have the disruptive force which is not only claimed by Deleuze, but a very common request throughout modernity, it needs to descend onto the plane of immanence, and extend the rhizome. Immanence is ant-dialectical and does not refer to a false consciousness.

Deleuze is using Bacon’s paintings to show that painting was always abstract. How Bacon treats force, shape, color, material, rhythm, coupling etc. exemplifies how the painterly elements were at work at all times. We need to look beyond the narrative of figurative painting to understand painting.


Kandinsky and cosmic laws

When Kandinsky turned his back on representation, two ontological realms became accessible—the inner (spiritual, emotional, psychological, and sensual) and the abstract (formal, mathematical, and physical). For both realms we claim laws. A vast variety of modern aesthetic theories stem from here in such fields as empirical psychology, information aesthetics, gestalt theory and phenomenology. These laws seem to be complex and we are far from a proper understanding of them as of yet. What our attempts of uncovering the underlying laws have in common is a focus on processes, rather than objects.

At the beginning of the 20th century, both tendencies were strongly developed. Within the European Avant-garde movements, a vitalist philosophy competed against a materialistic machine aesthetic. In 1936—the year Konrad Zuse built the first computer named the Z1—Alfred Barr published his famous diagram Cubism and Abstract Art. For the year 1909 Barr had identified “machine esthetic” as a central notion, which influenced everything but (abstract) expressionism. It took nearly 30 years (mid-60s) before computer artists finally emerged. Although they were  usually trained as engineers rather than artists, they represented a new breed of experimentalists boarder-crossing between art and science—much like the Renaissance men who fixed the problem of C.P. Snow’s “two cultures”. But until today it seemed that these two cultures were not bridged[22].

It is with 1960s computer art that the materialistic side of that cultural division tried to bridge the gap through artificial intelligence. The approaches taken in the aftermath of WWII differed significantly around the world. In the USA, we find an empirical approach that is praxis-oriented and stemming from industrial laboratories. On the other side (in Europe), their approaches were inspired by philosophy and psychology, born in university computer labs and theoretical, mathematical and political in nature. In 1965 at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey, Michael Noll exposed Piet Mondrian’s work to a “Turing-Art test”. The question was straightforward: Can a computer generate art that would be considered equal to man-made (by Mondrian) art? At the same time in Tokyo, the Computer Technique Group (CTG) explored early concepts of robotic art production. And in Stuttgart (Germany), Max Bense inspired his students to apply his Information Aesthetic to the computer. In Bense’s “manifesto” of computer art he declares:

Generative aesthetics therefore implies a combination of all operations, rules and theorems, which can be used deliberately to produce aesthetic states (both distributions and configurations) when applied to a set of material elements. Hence generative aesthetics is analogous to generative grammar, in so far as it helps to formulate the principles of a grammatical schema-realizations of an aesthetic structure.[23]


This quote poses several questions, which include: How does an artist interact with a plane? How do marks form symbols? When is the certain distribution of visual elements considered to be aesthetic or art? Can we investigate this process to the extent that we can formalize it? And if formalized, would it be possible to transfer it to machines?[24]

In 1954, Max Bense was invited to teach “information” at the Ulm School of Design by his friend and concrete artist Max Bill. Bill was also one of Kandinsky’s students at the Bauhaus and during that time he worked on the introduction for the third German edition of Kandinsky’s Punkt und Linie zu Fläche, or Point and Line to Plane.  In Point and Line to Plane (first published in German in 1926 during Kandinsky’s Bauhaus period from 1922 to 1933), Kandinsky speaks of grammatical structures, numerical terms and a future science for aesthetics:

The multiplicity and complexity in expression of the „smallest“ form attained, after all, by slight changes in its size, serve to the receptive mind as a plausible example of the power and depth of expression of abstract forms. Upon further development of this means of expression in the future, and further development of the receptivity of the observer, more precise concepts will be necessary, and these will surely, in time, be attained through measurement. Expression in numerical terms will here be indispensible.[25]

The relationship between Kandinsky’s call for measurement and early computer art has been addressed numerous times by art historians. Max Imdahl[26] contrasted Bense’s aesthetic with Kandinsky. Cumhur Erkut pointed out the parallels between computer art and Kandinsky[27]. Computer artist Joseph H. Stiegler[28] sees Kandinsky as a forerunner of computer art. And Frieder Nake refers to Kandinsky’s notion of an inner necessity[29]. But being interviewed by Nierendorf in 1937, Kandinsky answered his question whether abstract art has no longer a connection to nature:

No! And no again! Abstract painting leaves behind the „skin“ of nature, but not its laws. Let me use the „big words“ cosmic laws. Art can only be great if it relates directly to cosmic laws and is subordinated to them. One senses these laws unconsciously if one approaches nature not outwardly, but-inwardly. One must be able not merely to see nature, but to experience it. As you see, this has nothing to do with using „objects.“ Absolutely nothing![30]

Here Kandinsky vehemently opposed a naïve form of materialism. While Kandinsky searched in Munich for a connection with the inner nature in The Spiritual in Art (1911), Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure held his Third Course of Lectures in General Linguistics (1910–1911) in Geneva, and French philosopher of vitalism and immanence Henri Bergson said in his lecture The Perception of Change given at Oxford (1911):

My present, at this moment, is the sentence I am pronouncing. But it is so because I want to limit the field of my attention to my sentence. This attention is something that can be made longer or shorter, like the interval between the two points of a compass. For the moment, the points are just far enough apart to reach from the beginning to the end of my sentence; but if the fancy took me to spread them further my present would embrace, in addition to my last sentence, the one that preceded it: all I should have had to do is to adopt another punctuation.[31]

At this point, it is interesting how Bergson treats the punctuation as a means to extend attention. Roman and medieval Latin, for instance, do not know the punctuation as a closure for sentences. The sentence full stop is a rather modern invention. How was it to read and write without full stops and punctuation?

I do not want to suggest that Kandinsky is directly responding to the quoted paragraph by Bergson, but Kandinsky (1866-1944) was a contemporary to Henri Bergson (1859-1941). In 1913, Max Scheler announced the Bergson reception in Germany—which had elements of hype—must be overcome.[32] Hilary Fink (1999) gives an overview of the relationship between the two in Bergson and Russian Modernism (1900-1930).[33] She claims that during the 20s and 30s of the 20th century almost all intellectuals in Russia were acquainted with the basic ideas of Bergson’s books Introduction to Metaphysics (1903) and Creative Evolution (1907).

Through Bergson, we can get a better understanding of Kandinsky’s remarkable extraction of the point from the sentence „Today I am going to the movies“ at the beginning of Point and Line to Plane. He continues with:

Today I am going to the cinema.

Today I am going. To the cinema

Today I. am going to the cinema

.  Today I am going to the cinema


Kandinsky leaves us with the form of a written sentence of pre-modern times without a full stop and an isolated graphical element—or a point—that is now freed to gain other meanings. In Little Articles on Big Questions (1919), Kandinsky describes how our “accustomed eye responds dispassionately to punctuation marks,”[34] that “outer expediency and practical significance of the entire world around us have concealed the essence of what we see and hear behind a thick veil,” and that “This thick veil hides the inexhaustible material of art.”[35] Kandinsky goes on by saying “In these few lines I shall dwell only upon one of these beings, which in its tiny dimensions approaches ‘nothing,’ but has a powerful living force—the point.”[36] Kandinsky’s description of the geometrical point as “union of silence and speech” identifies punctuation as a zero gravity center from which meaning is constructed. The pauses between words are as important as the chain of words itself. The point “belongs to language and signifies silence.” Furthermore:

In doing so, I abstract the point from its usual conditions of life. It has become not only not expedient, but also unpractical, nonsensical. It has begun to break through the conventions of its existence; it is on the threshold of an independent life, an independent destiny. The thick veil has been rent from top to bottom. The astounded ear perceives an unfamiliar sound, the new utterance of what once seemed a speechless being.[37]

And finally Kandinsky says, “farewell to the now insane punctuation mark and sees before him a graphic and painterly sign. The point, liberated from its coercive destiny, has become the citizen of a new world of art.”[38] Kandinsky extracts what is called in science a “primitive notion point” from architecture, dance, music, woodcut, etc. The point is an element that appears in all kinds of artistic media. It is remarkable that Kandinsky extracts the point only from artistic media and not from everyday objects or phenomena. The point is thus derived from art—not from nature or science—and it is an element of the human spirit.

Interpreting Kandinsky:

Bergson speaks of a contraction as one of the five senses of subjectivity.[39] “As we shall endeavor to show, even the subjectivity of sensible qualities consists above all else in a kind of contraction of the real, effected by our memory.”[40] That contraction—where the distance between perceived object and brain is zero—is the point where affection arises, subjectivity and personality is established, and perception and memory are connected. Very much like Kandinsky, the point is thus a key element that needs to be exposed to a force. When a point is moved it leaves a trace in memory. When it is drawn or danced, sound and molded it becomes a line.

To extract the point from written language, and to introduce it into painting as a formal element, is radical in its intermedia approach—a term coined in the 60s by Dick Higgins in relation to poetry (1966). During the 60s, Gene Youngblood developed the concept of expanded cinema (1970) and Bense postulated generative aesthetics (1965). The 60s were dominated by a strong tension—on one hand there was the scientific, cybernetic, sociological and system-based theory, and on the other hand there was the expanded-consciousness, hippy culture and flower power, radical exploration of processes in art and intermedia. Like no other period, the 60s also stood for conceptualism. Computer art was born from mathematics and pure concepts. As a poet, Kandinsky anticipated central ideas of the 60s, when he extracted the point from a sentence about the cinema to find a precise numerical law for art. Kandinsky’s compositions follow an inner logic. This logic unfolds on the canvas, follows color theory and geometry, and is born in the painter’s mind. The canvas, the theory and the mind are interwoven. This web inspired early computer graphic artists. It—at least in theory—translated easily into the cybernetic circles and flow chart architecture of the mainframe computing age.

But it is Gilles Deleuze in his Logic of Sensation, who anchors this web deeper within sensation.[41] He redefines notions like machinic, virtual and digital and explores the triad of concept, affect and percept as constitutive for an extended notion of subjectivity. This subjectivity stands in opposition to a metaphysical cogito. It rather engages in forms of deterritorialization and connects with or becomes a body without organs (or a stratified world). Art for him is an encounter, or a connection between art-machines and subject machines.[42] The connection is rhizomatic. Art begets the viewer to become its matter. In relation to Kandinsky’s treatment of the point, the subject-machine explores the transition of becoming. In the shift of events, the point comes into existence on the picture plane and is set in motion. The moment of coming into existence on a picture plane resembles the formation of subjectivity, or “A life”, in the plane of immanence.[43]

Kandinsky’s extraction of the point at the beginning of his central Bauhaus publication stands in stark contrast to Paul Klee’s deduction of the point at the beginning of his Form-und Gestaltungslehre during his Bauhaus period 1920-31.[44] For Klee, the point is gray because it is neither black nor white, and yet black and white at the same time. It is neither at the top nor at the bottom, and yet both at the same time. It is un-dimensional. For Klee, the elevation of the point to a central “Gestaltung” (shaping) is a cosmos-genetic. And thus, the point resembles the egg.[45] While for Klee the analogy to life—in particular the cell structure of eggs—is very explicit on the following pages in his book and the connection to life in Kandinsky’s book is less literal. Michel Henry describes that process as follows:

Yet, if the point is situated in its place in a written text and plays its normal role, it is accompanied by a resonance that one might call its resonance in writing. Its displacement within the sentence and then outside of the sentence in an empty space produces a double effect: the writing-resonance of the point diminishes, while the resonance of its pure form increases. At any rate, these two tonalities have appeared now where there was only one, two modalities of invisible life within us when there was one single objective form in the world and there still only is one point before us. The radical and now undeniable dissociation of the external and internal elements of painting occurs through the invincible force of essential analysis, if, as in the course of the experiment that we just carried out, it is the case that the external remains numerically one while the internal is duplicated and has become a “double sound”.[46]

Michel Henry’s interpretation of Kandinsky focuses on the notion of life. As a philosopher of radical phenomenology, he aims to overcome the epoché of the world by reaching into its internal force, or life. In the tradition of philosophers who search for inner forces such as will (Schopenhauer), power (Nietzsche) and spirit (Hegel), Henry has the closest resemblance to Bergson (élan vital) and Deleuze (Plane of Immanence / A life). While Henry shares a strong grounding in Christianity with Kandinsky, this common root is not essential for the current analysis of Kandinsky.[47] For Henry, Kandinsky’s search for interiority can be described in the following equation: “Interior = interiority = invisible = life = pathos = abstract.”[48] When an artist, or art for that matter, looks inward it creates an inner space in which that which is invisible is about to be made visible. At the same time, that which is invisible is governed by forces of life. In an auto-affection (pathos) it becomes consciousness and can be express abstractly. Henry has two seemingly mad ideas:

  1. The content of painting, of all paintings, is the Internal, the invisible life that does not cease to be invisible and remains forever in the Dark, and 2. The means by which it expresses this invisible content-forms and colours are themselves invisible, in their original reality and true sense, at any rate. [49]

Thus, the invisible life as auto-affect pathos, that as underlying forces is prior to subjectivation, establishes the resonance and rhythm between the picture plane and the interior of the world. It is through the notion of life that Henry sees the connection between the seen and the seeing, between the internal and external. It is his answer to the question of how the pre-established harmony between mind and world can be explained.

Double sound

What is interesting in the above mentioned quote by Henry is the ‘double sound’. According to Deleuze, Foucault was always “haunted” by the double, for him “the double is never a projection of the interior,” but “an interiorization of the outside.” We can see that in Rene Magritte’s painting “The Treachery of Images” from 1928. An image of a pipe and a sentence “C’est ci n’est pas une pipe” are set next to each other on a canvas. How do they relate? What do we learn from a sentence that truthfully claims that the representation is not the represented? According to Deleuze, we learn from Foucault’s analysis of that riddle, about the shift from phenomenology to epistemology. Neither the statement “C’est ci n’est pas une pipe”, nor the visual representation, actually refers to an outside. They stay within the realm of knowledge. Deleuze goes further by saying that “when we see a pipe we shall always say (in one way or another): “this is not a pipe” as though intentionality denied itself.”[50] But if we lose the connection to the outside world because of the rejection of intentionality, how can we re-establish it? Foucault says, “Kandinsky delivered painting from this equivalence: not that he dissociated its terms, but because he simultaneously got rid of resemblance and representative functioning.”[51]

And how can that delivery be achieved? Lyotard identifies rhythm as a central joint:

“This is how what is given one by one, blow by blow, or, as Bergson puts it, ’shock‘ [ébranlement] by shock, in the amnesiac material point, is retracted‘, condensed as though into a single high-frequency vibration, in perception aided by memory. The relevant difference between mind and matter is one of rhythm.”[52]

For Deleuze, the shock of film and the replacement of the figural through the figure (Bacon), or the code through the diagram marks the transition from representational (perspective) thinking, to a structuralist – process based thinking. While the mechanics of that transition have to be spelled out, the results are sensible in a rapidly expanding virtuality beyond the individual experience. “Seeing, and more generally sensation, then becomes „experimental“ just when it thus, encounters or presents something „unrepresentable,“ even „inhuman,“ prior to code or discourse” [53]

We need to learn to “see” events in art, and not just in process art. When Whitehead introduced his process philosophy the same year Heidegger published Time and Being, we had an alternative as to how we proceed in the 20th century[54]. Until Deleuze reintroduced the philosophy of Whitehead and Bergson,[55] and its application to painting (Bacon) and film (movement-image), Whitehead’s heritage had been neglected. The radical shift toward processes (Whitehead) and becoming (Bergson), as operating ontologically, primarily to substances and the subject-object dualism, offers a deeper understanding of the potential of encounters through art. Through the technological treatment of time: recording, projecting, feedback, computation, simulation, and animation, we are able to reflect on the special and timely conditions of art. Here the machine enters the ‘plane of immanence,’ that layer of reality that exists prior to subjectivity, which structure intertwined with perception images, representations of world, and the non-human eye. Dziga Vertov’s non-human eye – introduced by Henri Bergson’s cinematograph –and the central metaphor for Deleuze’s, cinema 1 book, has an equivalent in the computer. Its laws are non-optical, but operate with internal images, their description are mathematical, precise, and machine driven. The camera eye and the computer, as well as the plane of immanence, collide in Deleuze’s notion of the machine and the rhizome. We now have the tools to understand the full impact of the marginal mentioning of Kandinsky in Deleuze’s Logic of Sensation:

“Abstract optical space has no need of the tactile connections that classical representation was still organizing. But it follows that what abstract painting elaborates is less a diagram than a symbolic code, on the basis of great formal oppositions. It replaced the diagram with a code. This code is „digital,“ not in the sense of the manual, but in the sense of a finger that counts. „Digits“ are the units that group together visually the terms in opposition. Thus, according to Kandinsky, vertical- white-activity, horizontal-black-inertia, and so on. From this is derived a conception of binary choice that is opposed to random choice. Abstract painting took the elaboration of such a properly pictorial code very far (as in Auguste Herbin’s „plastic alphabet,“ in which the distribution of forms and colors can be done according to the letters of a word). It is the code, that is responsible for answering the question of painting today: what can save man from „the abyss,“ from external tumult and manual chaos?”[56]

Art by no means can be reduced to the pure object. The surface is a screen on which events of encounters are invited. The logic of perception is not an interpretation, nor a historical contextualization; it is not a reconstructive analysis of intentions or external conditions. The legacy of Kandinsky is the search for laws of perception – its logic. There is a long tradition, which merges the cerebral cortex with the surface in a plane of immanence. Media allows for the amplification of this deep connection; they can make the processes experienced.

Among the many provoking thoughts of D+G, there is a particular provoking thought in What is Philosophy? that addresses abstract art. D+G say “there is only a single plane in the sense that art includes no other plane that that of aesthetic composition”[57]. Three pages later they say:

“Abstract art seeks only to refine sensation, to dematerialize it by setting out an architectonic plane of composition in which it would become a purely spiritual being, a radiant thinking and thought matter, no longer a sensation of sea or tree, but a sensation of the concept of sea or concept of tree.”[58]

The reference to Mondrian (sea and tree) and Kandinsky (spiritual) cannot be overlooked, especially after they addressed both artists by name, shortly before the quoted passages. They write:

“Is this not the definition of the percept itself – to make perceptible the imperceptible forces that populate the world, affect us, and make us become? Mondrian achieves this by simple differences between the sides of a square, Kandinsky by linear ‘tensions’, and Kupka by planes curved around the point.” [59]

The reference to Kandinsky is part of a tour de force through the realm of art. Working with the triad of percept, affect and concept, art is anchored in the ‘plane of composition’ in contrast to the ‘plane of immanence’ in philosophy, and the ‘plane of simply undefined coordinates’[60]. D+G have been attacked for their unscientific attitude. The characterization of science as a ‘plane of simply undefined coordinates’ is indeed less charming, as it is an attempt to repel science back a method of knowledge production, which is less capable of explaining existence. Consequently, D+G differentiate between the composition of science and the aesthetic composition. D+G want to reserve the notion of composition for the aesthetic, and discredit the scientific composition (p.192). This distinction addresses of course the emergence of abstract art. The scientific attitude of Mondrian, Kandinsky, and Kupka (among many others) is pushed back, and the role of art as the restoration of infinity is emphasized. It is always a bit confusing to see with which heavy concepts D+G operate within in order to establish a materialistic philosophy. The aim of the chapter on percept, affect and concept is to ground art within matter. The relation of matter and sensation for instance, is deeply inspired by Bergson. Bergson thought that matter extended into sensation, otherwise it would be difficult to explain how we can sense something that is not touching our senses. This move is necessary after the notion of representation is rejected. We don’t collect representational copies of what we perceive, we rather perceive directly. The subject-object dualism is a construct, everything is already connected with everything; it is only the relations between all things, which have to be understood (Leibniz). By reestablishing the connectivity of reality, the problem becomes the establishment of centers, perspectives, and thought. D+G offer the notion of territories. Animals define territories; there are different strata of territories synchronously present in a given space. Ant territories collide with dog territories and bird territories. Animals mark their territories with scents, sounds or colors. Birds attract their mates through patterns, and if their feather pattern is not sufficient to attract mates they create color patterns like the bower birds. Birds, for D+G, are artists. Art is not exclusively human. Through art we can become animal (as Deleuze showed with Bacon, or think of Beuys “I like America, and America likes me” 1974). We can even become mineral, like in Stan Brakhage prelude to “Dog, Star, Man” 1961-64). The plane of composition thus extends beyond human. It is not hard to see that; we see patterns, symmetries, and attractors throughout nature. In an analogy to the animal, which defines a territory, artists create houses in their art. D+G are talking quiet literary about walls and windows in paintings, but later extend it microscopic and macroscopic metaphorical houses. Essential is the creation of territory in which the figure is placed. The territory defines the subject. If art is constrained to the plane of composition, how then do, on the one hand, birds enter the plane of composition and on the other hand, is complex art refused entry to the plane of immanence? D+G say:

“Everything (including technique) takes place between compounds of sensation and the aesthetic plane of composition. (…) The composite sensation, made up of percepts and affects, deterritorializes the system of opinion that brought together dominant perceptions and affections within a natural, historical, and social milieu. But the composite sensation is reterritorialized on the plane of composition, because it erects its houses there, because it appears there within interlocked frames or joined sections that surround its components; landscapes that have become pure percepts, and characters that become pure affects. At the same time the plane of composition involves sensation in a higher deterritorialization, making it pass through a sort of deframing which opens it up and breaks it open onto an infinite cosmos. (…) Perhaps the peculiarity of art is to pass through the finite in order to rediscover, to restore the infinite.” [61]


Let me try it one more time. Henri Bergson describes the intersection of the present consciousness with the memory, and the (unspecified) plane:

“… our body is nothing but that part of our representation which is ever being born again, the part always present, or rather that which, at each moment, is just past. Itself an image, the body cannot store up images, since it forms a part of the images, and this is why it is a chimerical enterprise to seek to localize past or even present perceptions in the brain: they are not in it; it is the brain that is in them. But this special image which persists in the midst of the others, and which I call my body, constitutes at every moment, as we have said, a section of the universal becoming. It is then the place of passage of the movements received and thrown back, a hyphen, a connecting link between the things which act upon me and the things upon which I act – the seat, in a word, of the sensorimotor phenomena.

If I represent by a cone SAB, the totality of the recollections accumulated in my memory, the base AB, situated in the past, remains motionless, while the summit S, which indicates at all times my present, moves forward unceasingly, and unceasingly also touches the moving plane P of my actual representation of the universe. At S, the image of the body is concentrated, and, since it belongs to the plane P, this image does but receive and restore actions emanating from all the images of which the plane is composed.”[62]

The body-memory that is described here is structurally similar to the point extracted from the sentence, ‘Today I am going to the movies.” The point from the end of the sentence that describes an intention to go to the moving image, a recorded thought, a series of time-images, an externalized stream of consciousness, is freed from its syntactic function and set in motion on the plane. The image of the body and the point on the plane resonate, and a rhythm is established. In What is Philosophy?” Deleuze says:

“The grandiose Leibnizian or Bergsonian perspective that every Philosophy depends upon an intuition that its concepts constantly develop through slight differences of intensity is justified if intuition is thought of as the envelopment of infinite movements of thought that constantly pass through a plane of immanence.”[63]

The plane of immanence is one of the richest and most fundamental ideas in Deleuze’s philosophy. It is at the center of A Life, and it’s his answer to the problem of subject-object dualism. The plane of immanence is essentially related to all forms of existence. It is maybe there where meaning is constituted. Kandinsky’s extraction of the point from syntax, performance, or architecture, and the process of setting into motion is maybe one of the most fundamental achievements of 20th century art. The point is immanently intermedia. As a rigorous zero extension in a mathematical sense, it is a prime candidate for a connecting force.

John Rajchman contributed a chapter in “Constructions”1995 to the notion of abstract in Deleuze. He focuses on Deleuze treatment of the line in Pollock’s painting and points out that Deleuze sees in Pollock the line as a catastrophe, as an intersection of lines, which create a reversed Platonism. Not the form is at the beginning, which we see only as shade on the wall, but the abstract chaotic space. The line in Pollock is a gothic line, i.e. a line that is not determining a form, that is not concave or convex, that doesn’t separate or include, but just a line as one that passes points. We can look at line as being connections between 2 points, or as line that pass through infinit points. Defining the line starting from the point, would mean to define the line from the abstract point. That is what Kandinsky did, and that is where Rajchman states that Kandinsky’s abstraction is traditional (Greenbergian, self-reflexive modernistic), that does not capture the Deleuzian reversed Platonism. Pollock, according to Deleuze understands the line proper as abstract, as part of that abstract space and is before any form. While Rajchman has a good point to critique Kandinsky’s concept of a line, he give himself the hint to a proper understanding of the point as Deleuzian abstract:

“To explain by abstraction is to start with abstract Forms and ask how they are realized in the world or extracted from it. But to explain these abstractions themselves is to reinsert them in a larger (and smaller) “pluratistic” world that includes multiplicities that subsist in Forms and induce variations in them, alerting their connections with other things.”[64]

That is what Kandinsky does when he extracts the point from different media. Art is placed in the abstract space and starts already with the pre-historic. Abstraction in form of generalization or reduction is only a western specific modern phaenomenon. But is exactly this search for the abstract space that drove Kandinsky and Klee in contrast to Mondrian or Malevich.

Two exemplary positions in regards to Kandinsky’s work should be mentioned. 1957 Peter Selz draw a direct connection between Bergson and Kandinsky. Selz states: “His philosophy finds perhaps the closest parallel in the thinking of Henri Bergson.”[65] And he supports his comparison with the following quote: “art, whether it be painting or sculpture, poetry or music, has no other object than to brush aside the utilitarian symbols, the conventional and socially accepted generalities, in short, everything that veils reality from us, in order to bring us face to face with reality itself.”[66] Selz points out that for Kandinsky Realism = Abstraction and Abstraction = Realism. He describes how Kandinsky derives the line from the de-contextualized hyphen and the inter-linkage of pure painting, pure music and pure poetry. Selz roots this connection in the 19th century theory of Gesamtkunstwerk and give Kandinsky’s “Der gelbe Klang” (1909) as example. (Selz misunderstands the transmedia aspect of Kandinsky’s extraction of the point from different art forms, which than create a link that goes deeper that the construction of an external Gesamtkunstwerk) In the conclusion he quotes Diego Rivera’s admiration for Kandinsky from 1931:

“I know of nothing more real than the painting of Kandinsky – nor anything more true and nothing more beautiful. A painting by Kandinsky gives no image of earthly life – it is life itself. … He organizes matter as matter was organized, otherwise the Universe would not exist. He opened a window to look inside the All.”[67]

Selz contextualization of Kandinsky falls short. Reading Kandinsky through Bergson, Henry and Deleuze it will become evident that Kandinsky’s reference to an inner necessity is deeply in what Deleuze calls a plane of immanence.

Jürgen Claus in contrast gives in 1991 a placement of Kandinsky within the noosphere:

“About 100 years ago, the cosmic code entered the paintings of Cezanne and van Gogh in the form of a ‚painted code‘. These paintings embody an awareness of the philosophical, religious and existential ‚anchorage‘ of the cosmic code. Cosmic data have been dissolved into a field of painted energies, no longer seen as earthly things, no longer perceived as mere objects or events. The cosmic data have been melted down together by a transfer of energies. (…) Kandinsky’s (…) search for a new science, ‚the science of art‘ as he called it, started with the „proto-element of painting: the point“, reducing the element of time to the point as its briefest form. When preparing his manuscript Point and Line to Plane at the beginning of World War I (it was not published until 10 years later), Kandinsky came astonishingly close to defining points (picture elements) as the equivalents of pixels, as close as one could have come to reaching this definition at that time.”[68]

Jürgen Claus’ interpretation of Kandinsky is a consequent extension of his embracement by the computer artist in 1960s. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), coined in 1922 inspired by partly Henri Bergson’s Creative Evolution the notion of the noosphere. The idea of a sphere consiting of human thought has multiple forms during the 20th century: from esoteric Gaia mysticism to expanded consciousness and system theory.

Michel Henry’s affinity with Deleuze has been pointed out recently by James William[69]. He credits John Mullarkey for identifying two similarities: the usage of affect and their dedication to immanence. But he only briefly scratches Kandinsky.


“The plane of immanence is itself actualized in an object and a subject to which it attributes itself.”[70]


Thinking about images

Henri Bergson delivered the foundation for a philosophy based on body memory. He argues in 1896 against the idea that our mind represents reality:

“The idea that we have disengaged from the facts and confirmed by reasoning is that our body is an instrument of action, and of action only. In no degree, in no sense, under no aspect, does it serve to prepare, far less to explain, a representation. (…) that which the brain explains in our perception is action begun, prepared or suggested, it is not perception itself.”[71]

Bergson’s philosophy is centered on the notion of image. But what is an image if not representation? A first rough sketch of the image of Bergsonian thought would be: The world consists out of images, which extend into the nervous system (brain image) where they become memory (virtual). The brain image itself doesn’t change, it rather an apparatus that makes connections, and thus constitutes a personality/subjectivity, while the world images in relation to the body constantly change. The (free) will determines what is consciously perceived as well what is remembered. It is evident that this images of thought is the background for Deleuze philosophy of rhizomatic connectivity. His philosophy together with Felix Guattari is a plaidoyer for complexity. Rather than following a certain school of thought, and thus imposing a conceptual apparatus, they argue for an analysis of the given multitude, decentered, anti-hierarchical, including post/non human thought, questioning the dominance of the cogito.

When it comes to art, Bergson is rather traditional at first sight: “If we reflect deeply upon what we feel as we look at a Turner or a Corot, we shall find that, if we accept them and admire them, it is because we had already perceived something of what they show us. But we had perceived without seeing.”[72] But it is through Deleuze that we can understand the complexity of a Deleuzian/Bergsonian aesthetics. While Deleuze works with Bergsonian terms in relation to art in his Bacon and Cinema books, at the end of Qu’est-ce que la philosophie? (What is Philosophy?) (1991) Deleuze and Guattari prominently reference Kandinsky, who appears only briefly in the Bacon book. As Kandinsky (1866-1944) was a contemporary to Bergson (1859-1941), I want to investigate his theoretical writings in relation to Bergson/Deleuze. As a bridge serves Michel Henry, who in 1988 published Voir l’invisible, sur Kandinsky (Seeing the Invisible: On Kandinsky). Through the notion of life Henry offers a connection between Kandinsky, Bergson and Deleuze.

If A is presented/presents itself to B, B has an image of A: a virus has an image of a cell, a frog of a fly, a camera of a building, a human being of a face. The virus identifies a cell, the frog perceives a fly, the camera records a building, the human consciously perceives a face. With or without consciousness the world consists out of images. The material world is connected through light and reciprocal forces. These connections are connections between images. Images thus are real (and not ideas or representations); they constitute reality. A tree presents itself as an image to a rock or the sun. Bergson and Deleuze go so far to say that reality consists out of images. (Leibniz thought of it in terms of monads), and that molecules perceive each other. This thought appears also in Kant’s concept of reciprocal action or Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. “All seams to take place as if, in this aggregate of images which I call the universe, nothing really new could happen except through the medium of certain particular images, the type of which is furnished me by my body”[73]

A special image is for Bergson and Deleuze the body and the brain. We can say that everything presents itself to everything as image (monad), but if we select images through perception we are dealing with organic matter i.e. life. The way certain images are connected constitutes subjectivity. Subjectivity in form of a brain within a body is a special image. Bergson says it is like a “central telephone exchange” [74]. Nothing is added to the perceptions, only selection and connection of “a great multitude” [75] These “central telephone exchange(s)” are centers which give birth to consciousness:

“In other words, let us posit that system of closely-linked images which we call the material world, and imagine here and there, within the system, centers of real action, represented by living matter: what we mean to prove is that there must be, ranged round each one of these centers, images that are subordinated to its position and variable with it; that conscious perception is bound to occur” [76]

But how do these conscious perceptions occur? Within the “zones of indetermination” certain elements have to become “actual”, to be forces to become pictures:

“Representation is there, but always virtual being neutralized, at the very moment when it might become actual, by the obligation to continue itself and to lose itself in something else. To obtain this conversion from the virtual to the actual it would be necessary, not to throw more light on the object, but on the contrary to obscure some of its aspects, to diminish it by the greater part of itself, so that the remainder, instead of being encased in its surroundings as a thing, should detach itself from them as a picture. Now if living beings are, within the universe, just centers of indetermination, and if the degree of this indetermination is measured by the number and rank of their functions, we can conceive that their mere presence is equivalent to the suppression of all those parts of objects in which their functions find no interest.” [77]

This image is auto-affective. Perception is accompanied by affection and might extend to conception. So if we think about images through concepts, we must decent to the connectivity of reality. To create connections is an act of creativity and sometime it is organized rhizomatically. A focus on the activity within these centers is an activity of a “body without organs”, a self-reflexive awareness of central nerves activity. Within this reality of images we can identify a specific kind of images: art. Art for the clarity of the argument reduced here to painting, is a special image, created by an image (brain and body/artist) to be perceived by an image (brain and body/viewer). The auto-affection on both ends invites special sensations.

“The whole difficulty of the problem that occupies us comes from the fact that we imagine perception to be a kind of photographic view of things, taken from a fixed point by that special apparatus which is called an organ of perception a photograph which would then be developed in the brain-matter by some unknown chemical and psychical process of elaboration. But is it not obvious that the photograph, if photograph there be, is already taken, already developed in the very heart of things and at all the points of space? No metaphysics, no physics even, can escape this conclusion. Build up the universe with atoms: each of them is subject to the action, variable in quantity and quality according to the distance, exerted on it by all material atoms. Bring in Faraday’s centers of force: the lines of force emitted in every direction from every centre bring to bear upon each the influences of the whole material world. Call up the Leibnizian monads: each is the mirror of the universe. All philosophers, then, agree on this point. Only if when we consider any other given place in the universe we can regard the action of all matter as passing through it without resistance and without loss, and the photograph of the whole as translucent: here there is wanting behind the plate the black screen on which the image could be shown. Our “zones of indetermination” play in some sort the part of the screen. They add nothing to what is there; they effect merely this: that the real action passes through, the virtual action remains.” [78]

“What you have to explain, then, is not how perception arises, but how it is limited, since it should be the image of the whole, and is in fact reduced to the image of that which interests you.”[79]

“Take, for example, a luminous point P. of which the rays impinge of the different parts a, b, c, of the retina. At this point P, science localizes vibration of a certain amplitude and duration. At the same point P, consciousness perceives light. We propose to show in this study, that both are right; and that there is no essential difference between the light and the movements, provided we restore to movement the unity, indivisibility, and qualitative heterogeneity denied to it by abstract mechanics; provided also that we see in sensible qualities contractions effected by our memory. Science and consciousness would then coincide in the instantaneous.” [80]



Perception always has (sometimes a very short) duration. With duration comes memory. If a perception endures within time, there is a past and a present. But Bergson reverses past and present. If I remember the past it becomes present, and the present becomes past.

[1] Daniel W. Smith Deleuze on Bacon: Three Conceptual Trajectories in The Logic of Sensation


[2] Rancière, Jacques, and Djordjevic, Radmila. “Is There a Deleuzian Aesthetics?” Qui Parle 14, no. 2 (2004): 1-14. The two Deleuze quotes are from “What is philosophy?” p.164 and Francis Bacon. The Logic of Sensation. P. 164, quoted after Rancière

[3] A communality of that track of thinkers (which could be easily expanded by a few dozens light towers like Spinoza, Leibniz and Schopenhauer) is to distrust the function of language as primary access to reality.

[4] This structure doesn’t change even if we expand the number of senses in the western tradition through: heat, cold, pressure, pain, motion and balance.

[5] The project of modernity has as central notion self-reflexivity. Self-reflexivity is understood as constituting subjectivity and self-consciousness i.e. a cogito. Deleuze philosophy has as one of the major goals to overcome the misleading notion of a cogito, a speculative transcendent thought of ‘I’. Thus it would be possible to relate central self-reflexive artistic movements in the 20th century (ready-made, conceptualism, concrete art, appropriation, system art etc) to the project of modernity, while other movements of expansion have a closer affinity of Deleuze philosophy (abstract art, Dada, informel, expanded consciousness, art+science, digital art, new media art etc.)

[6] Deleuze, Gilles. Anti-Oedipus. Continuum, 2004. P.38

[7] Deleuze, Gilles. Anti-Oedipus. Continuum, 2004. P.41

[8] Is there a relation between Deleuze in Bacon’s Velsquez reference, and Foucault’s analysis of “Las Meninas” by Foucault? (in: Bryson, Norman. Calligram: Essays in New Art History from France. Ed. Norman Bryson. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988.)

[9] Deleuze, Gilles, and Guattari, Felix. What Is Philosophy?. Trans. Janis Tomlinson, and Graham Burchell III. Columbia University Press, 1996. P. 185

[10] Deleuze has a great resemblance with Buddhist thought. Compare i.e. the concepts of becoming, penetration, emptiness and inter-being in: Hanh, Thich Nhat. The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra. 2nd ed. Berkeley, Calif: Parallax Press, 2009.

[11] Wilson, Sarah. The Visual World of French Theory: Figurations. New Haven, Conn. [u.a.]: Yale University Press, 2010. P. 128

[12] In Germany later the “Neue Wilde”. What is the relation between Baselitz and Bacon, aren’t they very similar?

[13] Gerbson uses the cinematograph as a model for externalized thought: Bergson, Henri. Creative Evolution. Trans. Arthur Mitchell. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 1911. P. 304 ff.

[14] Schopenhauer distinguishes between the Principle of Sufficient Reason of: 1.) Becoming (empirical truth), 2.) Knowing (transcendental truth), 3.) Being (logical truth), 4.) Acting (meta logical truth). Schopenhauer argues that these principles are irreducible to each other.

[15] Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2005. P.33

[16] Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2005. P.33ff.

[17] Evan radical approaches like the auto-destructive art by Gustav Metzger, Robert Rauschenberg’s collages or Anish Kapoor’s paint train have a visual component

[18] Unless we paint signs like Cy Twombly or trace them through the history of technology like DeMarinis. Mark Tansey, for example, is painting nothing but postmodern, French philosophy – it’s heavily intertextual.

[19] Olkowski, Dorothea. Gilles Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. P.101

[20] For instance, the renaissance developed the perspective which does not correspond to our perception because we see stereoscopic (N. Goodmann), the camera obscura delivered an apparatus to create detached images, similar to mirror images, Descartes with his diagram of the eye offered a metaphor to think about images as being representational. It is important to remember that images, in their origin are mystical, religious, sensational, and connect with the body to deterritorialize.

[21] Deleuze, Gilles. Pure Immanence: Essays on A Life. 2nd ed. New York: Zone Books, 2001. P.27

[22] Even though Brockman, John. The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. Tried to bridge that gap. Brockman was the organizer of the Expanded Cinema festival in New York and as publisher connected many great thinkers of both discipline.

[23] M. Bense and G. Nees, Computer-Grafik (Stuttgart: Walther, 1965) English translation in J. Reichardt, Cybernetics, Art and Ideas (London: Studio Vista 1971) p.57f.

[24] The philosophical aspects of information aesthetics and its application to art production can be found here: Klütsch, Christoph. Computer Graphic—Aesthetic Experiments between Two Cultures. Leonardo October 2007, Vol. 40, No. 5: 421–425. The article is an English summary of the German book publication: Klütsch, Christoph. Computergrafik: Ästhetische Experimente zwischen zwei Kulturen. Die Anfänge der Computerkunst in den 1960er Jahren. Vienna: Springer, 2007.

[25] Kandinsky, Wassily. Point and Line to Plane. New York: Dover Publications, 1979. P. 30

[26] See: Imdahl, Max (1968): Modi im Verhältnis zwischen ästhetischer und semantischer Information. Anmerkungen zu Max Benses Aesthetica (1965). In: Simon Moser (Hrsg.): Information und Kommunikation. Referate und Berichte der 23. Internationalen Hochschulwochen Alpbach 1967: 145–149. München: Oldenbourg.: 281]

[27] Erkut, Cumhur (2000): Abstraction Mechanisms in Computer Art. Helsinki: Art@Science.

[28]Setzen wir anstelle des Begriffes ‘Elementarwörterbuch’ das Wort ‘Zeichenrepertoire’ und anstelle des Begriffes ‘Kompositionslehre’ das Wort ‘Manipulationsrepertoire’, so erkennt man in der Formulierung Kandinskys nichts weniger als die seherische Vorwegnahme informationstheoretischer Programmkunst.“ In: Stiegler, J. H. (1970): Transmutation. In: Alte und Moderne Kunst. Heft 109, 1970: 39–41.

[29] Nake, Frieder (1974): Ästhetik als Informationsverarbeitung. Grundlagen und Anwendungen der Informatik im Bereich ästhetischer Produktion und Kritik. Wien, New York: Springer. P.48f.

[30] Lindsay, Kenneth C., and Peter Vergo. Kandinsky: Complete Writings On Art. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994. P.807

[31] Bergson, Henri. The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics. Citadel, 1997. P.151

[32] Pflug, Günther. “Die Bergson-Rezeption in Deutschland.” Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung 45, no. 2 (1991): 257-66.

[33] Fink, Hilary L. Bergson and Russian Modernism: 1900-1930. Northwestern University Press, 1998.

[34] Lindsay (1994). P.423

[35] ibd.

[36] Kandinsky “On point” 1919 in: Lindsay, Kenneth C., and Peter Vergo. Kandinsky: Complete Writings On Art. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994. P. 423f.

[37] ibd.

[38] ibd.

[39] see: Deleuze, Gilles. Bergsonism. Trans. Barbara Habberjam. New York: Zone Books, 1990. P. 53

[40] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1990. P.34

[41] The logic of sensation is not a sensation of logic. Deleuze’s exciting analysis of sensation reveals its logic as being autonomous from the subject, but not disconnected from it, as part of a body without organs, but not disembodied. Sensation correlates to a haptic space constructed through the eye. Artist, painting, viewer; sensation, color, contour; rhythm, diagram, and catastrophe built the machine. The machine cannot replace the subject. This would be a category mistake, i.e. they can only coexist. Or, in other words, it will be promising to look into a process aesthetics that rejects a naïve subjectivism as well as a naïve objectivism, in the tradition of radical empiricism.

[42] O’Sullivan, Simon. Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought beyond Representation. Basingstoke; New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

[43] Gilles Deleuze talks about a transcendental empiricism, which is a rather paradox thought in: Pure Immanence: Essays on A Life. 2nd ed. New York: Zone Books, 2001. Kandinsky’s point can serve as a boundary value case study for the thought of pure immanence in art.

[44] Klee, Paul. Form- und Gestaltungslehre. 3rd ed. Basel [u.a.]: Schwabe, 1971. P. 3f.

[45] The resemblance of that image of thought is striking to D+G, the BwO and form of an egg. “That is why we treat the BwO as the full egg before the extension of the organism and the organization of the organs, before the formation of the strata; as the intense egg defined by axes and vectors, gradients and thresholds, by dynamic tendencies involving energy transformation and kinematic movements involving group displacement, by migrations: all independent of accessory forms because the organs appear and function here only as pure intensities.” Deleuze, Gilles, and Guattari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 12th ed. Minneapolis, Minn. [u.a.]: University of Minnesota Press, 1987. P. 153

[46] Henry, Michel, and Scott Davidson. Seeing the Invisible: On Kandinsky. London: Continuum, 2009. P.48

[47] Williams points out that the earlier work by Henry can be understood independently of his thought on Christianity in: James Williams, Gilles Deleuze and Michel Henry: Critical Contrasts in the Deduction of Life as Transcendental, in: SOPHIA (2008) 47:265–279 DOI 10.1007/s11841-008-0073-4: “John Mullarkey, kindly commenting on an earlier version of this paper, has pointed that this Christian reference is neither ubiquitous nor perhaps necessary in Henry’s work.” (p.267)

[48] Henry (2009) P. 11

[49] ibd. P. 10

[50] Deleuze “Foldings, or the Inside of thought (Subjectivation) in: Kelly, Michael. Critique and Power: Recasting the Foucault / Habermas Debate. 3rd ed. Ed. Michael Kelly. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1994. P.315-346, p.328

[51] Foucault, Michel. Ceci n’est pas une pipe. October, Vol. 1 (Spring, 1976), pp. 6-21

[52] Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The inhuman: reflections on time. Trans. Rachel Bowlby. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1991, p. 42

[53] Rajchman, John “Jean-François Lyotard’s Underground Aesthetics”, October, Vol. 86 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 3-18

[54] see: Shaviro, Steven. Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2009.

[55] Deleuze, Gilles. Bergsonism. Trans. Barbara Habberjam. New York: Zone Books, 1990. The French publication was in 1966.

[56] Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2005. p. 84f.

[57] Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. What Is Philosophy?. Trans. Janis Tomlinson, and Graham Burchell III. Columbia University Press, 1996. P. 195

[58] Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. What Is Philosophy?. Trans. Janis Tomlinson, and Graham Burchell III. Columbia University Press, 1996. P. 198

[59] Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. What Is Philosophy?. Trans. Janis Tomlinson, and Graham Burchell III. Columbia University Press, 1996. P. 182

[60] Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. What Is Philosophy?. Trans. Janis Tomlinson, and Graham Burchell III. Columbia University Press, 1996. P. 197

[61] Deleuze, Gilles, and Guattari, Felix. What Is Philosophy?. Trans. Janis Tomlinson, and Graham Burchell III. Columbia University Press, 1996. P. 196

[62] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1990. P151f.

[63] Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. What Is Philosophy?. Trans. Janis Tomlinson, and Graham Burchell III. Columbia University Press, 1996. P.40

[64] Rajchman, John. Constructions. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.]: The MIT Press, 1998. P. 64

[65] Selz, Peter. “The Aesthetic Theories of Wassily Kandinsky and Their Relationship to the Origin of Non-Objective Painting.” The Art Bulletin 39, no. 2 (1957): 127-36. P.128

[66] Bergson, Henri. “Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic.” 1911. P.157 (quoted after Selz, Peter. “The Aesthetic Theories of Wassily Kandinsky and Their Relationship to the Origin of Non-Objective Painting.” The Art Bulletin 39, no. 2 (1957): 127-36. P.128)

[67] Quoeted after Selz, Peter. “The Aesthetic Theories of Wassily Kandinsky and Their Relationship to the Origin of Non-Objective Painting.” The Art Bulletin 39, no. 2 (1957): 127-36. P.135

[68] Claus, Jürgen. “The Cosmic and the Digital Code.” Leonardo 24, no. 2 (1991): 119-21. P.121

[69] Williams, James. 2008. Gilles Deleuze and Michel Henry: Critical Contrasts in the Deduction of Life as Transcendental. Sophia 47 (3): 265-279. Williams and Mullarky attempt to push aside the Christian implications in Henri’s writing to focus on the ontological similarities. William characterizes Henri’s understanding of life as auto-affection (pathos). Life as a universal force is not self-hood, I, cogito or self-reflexivity, but auto-affection. For Deleuze in contrast he postulates: “Affects are only fully registered when affirmed in a creative response to them, which Deleuze often calls counteractualization.”  (p.266). The characterization of Deleuze is problematic, and when it comes to immanence it becomes even contradictory: Henri is characterized as “In contrast, immanence is deduced by Henry as a necessary transcendental condition following a phenomenological reduction that is the same for any form of life.” (p.267)

[70] Deleuze, Gilles. Pure Immanence: Essays on A Life. 2nd ed. New York: Zone Books, 2001. P. 31

[71] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1990. Summary

[72] Bergson, Henri. Perception of Change. In: Bergson, Henri. The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics. Citadel, 1997. P. 136

[73] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1990. P. 18

[74] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1990. P. 30

[75] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1990. P. 30

[76] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1990. P. 31

[77] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1990. P. 36

[78] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1990. P. 38

[79] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1990. P. 40

[80] Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Trans. W. S. Palmer. New York: Zone Books, 1990. P. 41

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