In their essay "Of the Refrain" (A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Minnesota Press, 1987), Deleuze and Guatari propose a novel way of looking at the phenomenon of art. It has to do with the idea of territory.
The critical distance between two beings of the same species: Mark your distance. (ATP, 319).
The fight above has milieu and rhythm. Its function (the mapping of its constituent parts) presupposes the expressiveness of its territory. Milieu brings forth the very phenomenon of how life expresses itself. Surely, the event is not self-conscious. A Deleuzian question: Can this emergence be called art? As we know, art is connected to representation, but not necessarily the idea of "presenting again."
Rhizomatics! An a-centered, nonhierarchical, nonsignifying system without a general and without an organizing memory or central automaton, defined solely by a circulation of states.
the rhizome is a relation to sexuality —but also to the animal, the vegetal, the world, politics, the book, things natural and artificial—that is totally different from the arborescent relation: all manner of "becomings." (ATP, 21). That is why,
The artist is the first person to set out a boundary stone, or to make a mark. (ATP, 314).
Artist? Animal? How?
Not in the sense that these qualities belong to a subject, but in the case that they delineate a territory that will belong to the subject that carries or produces them. These qualities are signatures, but the signature, the proper name is not the mark of the subject but the constituting mark of the domain. (ATP, 311).
What's art anyway?
Art is a false concept ... solely nominal. (ATP, 301)
"False" is the fallacy of defining something for which we already have an example to begin with. That's the problem of defining art a priori.1 Deleuze favors the empirical approach of the anthropologist to that of the essentialist philosopher. We can know of art-objects because of the organization, difference and internal coherence of purpose they exhibit. Instead of "defining" let's talk about how art is exemplified:2
Deleuze is explicit about not falling for the essentialist trap. Art shows itself in its expressive qualities, not by "belonging to the subject," but because it brings forth a territory. The mark in the cave-wall above is not that of a subject, but the abode itself. "The signature is not the indication of a person, but the chancy formation of a domain."
As it's to be expected, art [as territory] presupposes de-territorialisation, which is why the latter becomes essential to the stratification of human life: From undifferentiated magic, to tradition, to religious symbol, to l'art pour l'art institution, to post-Capitalist art as spectacle. Meanwhile, artists "produce fragments without totality, cut-up particles." Deleuzian art presupposes a constant fragmentary interaction between particular instances (say, Duchamp's "ready mades") and fields (the Avant-garde).4
What defines a territory is the emergence of different matters of expression. (ATP, 315)
Of course, art's "territories" have multiplied. Art [styles] grow out of particular social and aesthetic contexts. As they mutate, they grow in complexity. At times, it becomes difficult to read these stylistic differences, because they are context-bound.
What holds the totality? Rhythm: The possibility of transforming/perverting life.5
"Rhythm enables one to set general level, pleasure, pain, recognition and misrecognition ... as cycles in the nervous system and the psyche, cycles which must form and dissolve territories in response to other territorial actions." 6
Deleuzian art is a becoming of life in response to the world. (To be continued)
1Perception itself is not representation, it's more a form of interactive production between an object and subject. 2 As much as Deleuze disliked Wittgenstein, there is a similarity between his rhizomatic approach and Wittgenstein's "open ended" idea of Familienähnlichkeit (family resemblances). Reading Deleuze with Wittgenstein's glasses: Instead of defining art from the outset let's keep expanding the understanding of these resemblances between "milieus" and "territories." Deleuze opts for an empirical approach beyond the subjective/objective opposition which is justified by his Spinozist view of immanence. For Spinoza, there is no transcendent principle or external cause to things. The process of life production is contained in life itself. Thus, Deleuzian "immanence" does not apply to any specific lives to a life, conceived as the "immanence of immanence." See Giovanna Borradori (The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 56, 2003). Deleuze once said: "Spinoza is for me the 'prince' of philosophers." (Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza, New York, Zone, 1990).
4 Duchamp's mark: Between "original" and "ready made."
5 This is not the place to address Rhythmanalysis, an idea elaborated by Henri Lefebvre, from Brazilian philosopher Lucio Alberto Pinheiro. According to Kurt Meyer, there are five elements worth considering in Lefebvre's rhythm theory: 1- Contemporary life ruled by abstract time (the hands of the clock), 2- Isorhythm and the importance of the eurhythmic, 3- Chronobiology as catalyst leisure and work, 4-Music and dance and, 5- the post-Capitalist manipulation of time. See Space, Difference, Everyday Life: Reading Henri Lefebvre (Routledge, New York, 2008). 6Gay Genosko, Deleuze and Guatari: Critical Assessment of Leading Philosophers (p. 256, Routledge, 2001).