Truths of Times to come: On Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy, Part Two

Posted: January 7, 2010 in Deleuze, Ecology of Sensation, Method, Perception
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The will to power: will does not want power. Power is “the one that wills in the will. Power is the genetic and differential element in the will. This is why the will is essentially creative” (85). Power is the elemental condition of mutation. So let’s say that power is a characteristic of a will, a set of affectivities, sensations (nonanthropomorphic concept of bodily events), or capacities of that will. In this sense creativity constitutes a kind of giving up of or on human will, and to enter hapharzardly upon a process of selecting connectivity and thus affirming the dice throw as chance, a will that has no space, only topology, that has no time, only becoming. Now what we know (that is, experimentally and experientially engage in a process of becoming), and can feel–but never with total coincidence–is that these capacities are themselves involved in a set of divergent and at times resonant processes, or multiplicities. The causal and differentiated patterns that form at various scales of these multiplicities will bring a quantum of chance. Now chance has no determinate quanta, it is the measure of fluctuating unpredictability in a given system. This intimation of chaos—entropy—has always been defined against equilibrium in an ideology which Deleuze calls the dialectic of ressentiment (even, or perhaps especially in the form of negentropy), that is an ideology whose will moves with a certain bitter heaviness—which is not at all a very enabling way to understand the power of affect. This is why will does not want power, power wills, power affects, its creativity is something genetic, in the sense of the why and wherefores of phase transitions. You see then that to grasp this notion of becoming through a will to power the concept of non-coinciding but resonant time scales is also necessary. What happens in the time-scale of bacterial strains, and the time scale of river erosion does not coincide totally, and yet they can embed themselves one in the other. What sense does movement make? What patterns is a given movement involved in? Determined and determining, the will to power has a multiplicious malleability to it.

Grant Road Station, Mumbai

There is something immeasurably sad in all this, but then sadness is no longer heavy (Philosophy should sadden, and trouble stupidity, says Deleuze). Here we escape the heaviness of movement in the dialectic or ressentiment, here thought and life dance with risk (chance as distributive difference). Woody Allen in Stardust Memories talks about the authenticity of death through all these forces of life that stream memories through what remains a monologue, especially for the women in his films. But why is it that we give finality, or a certain end, a type of ending the aura of the authentic? There are many kinds of endings? Death is a phase transition, that is all. The aura attaches through a hatred of life. Deleuze has some wonderful passages on the quality of hatred that burns in ressentiment, isn’t that too in Allen? And yet one cannot deny the wildly funny nature of Allen’s films. But these things are not incompatible, in Allen a style has fused them.

Returning: I am struck again and again at how central the notion of creativity is to Deleuze’s thought. Creativity is an affirmation of life, it is to take life and thought to the limit of what it is capable of doing.

The will to power is determined and determining, it is both cause and effect, it is quasi-causal. “The genetic element (power) determines the relation of force with force and qualifies related forces. As plastic element it simultaneously determines and is determined, simultaneously qualifies and is qualified. What the will to power wills is a particular relation of forces, a particular quality of forces. And also a particular quality of power: affirming or denying” (85).

Here we come back to the theme of the virtual as determined and determining that I marked earlier. It suggests that there is no virtual (will to power) without being actualized in particular relations of forces, particular emergent capacities (qualities that arise from the interactions of a multiplicity); but also that there is no actual without the genetic and differential element of the virtual.

It suggests that there is no virtual (will to power) without being actualized in particular relations of forces, particular emergent capacities (qualities that arise from the interactions of a finite multiplicity); but also that there is no actual without the genetic and differential element of the virtual.

But potential is modulated for the production of value. When something is separated from what it can do, it becomes involved in forms of ressentiment (mutually struggling forces of ressentiment, trying to understand connectivity and becoming at only one scale, with only one time: Avatar). This is Deleuze’s early statement concerning a concept that would be one of his most lasting contributions to contemporary thought, a concept which has been explored with startling results in Spinoza’s and Brian Massumi’s work, affect. “All phenomena express relations of forces, qualities of force and power, nuances of these qualities, in short, a type of force and will. In Nietzsche’s terms, we must say that every phenomenon not only reflects a type which constitutes its sense and value, but also the will to power as the element from which the signification of its sense and the value of its value derive. In this way the will to power is essentially creative and giving: it does not aspire, it does not seek, it does not desire, above all it does not desire power” (85). This typology is merely a kind of precis of affective states and their functions in a given field. Qualitatively and quantitatively changing. “The will to power is not force but the differential element which simultaneously determines the relation of forces (quantity) and the respective qualities of related forces. It is in this element of difference that affirmation manifests itself and develops itself as creative. The will to power is the principle of multiple affirmation…” (197) So the will to power is the differential element in a field of forces (relational capacities, embedded in and yet whose histories exceed a given actual); it is itself not a force, nor an affect strictly speaking, it both determines forces and affects, and in turn is determined by their variable distribution and their interactive emergence. The will to power is quasi-causal, and answers not to the question “what is…?” (the dialectical query), but rather “which one…?”

We must put these famous statements in relation to that other influential thesis on power: power does not repress, it produces various, distributed effects (Foucault). It seems that in Deleuze the fact of connectivity (relations of forces), the fact of capacities (qualities of force and power, or more simply understood as what a thing can do in what ecologies), is understood as a symptom of a pervasive and yet particular (plastic) will to power (the virtual). This process is called counter-actualizations, which in no way confuses affect for the virtual. Foucault over anthropomorphizes the will to power, in some sense reducing the virtual to the possible, and this is evident in many “post-Foucauldian” works that fixate on problems of agency—a problem that traverses many forms of contemporary cultural criticism. From queer theory to South Asian cultural history, the structured play between resistance and what is understood The question should rather shift to the relation between the virtual and the actual, and unity and multiplicity.

“We should not ask whether, in the final analysis, the will to power is unitary or multiple—this would show a general misunderstanding of Nietzsche’s philosophy. The will to power is plastic, inseparable from each case in which it is determined; just as the eternal return is being, but being which is affirmed of becoming, the will to power is unitary, but unity which is affirmed of multiplicity. The monism of the will to power is inseparable from a pluralist typology” (86).

Here we see stated in as clear a fashion as one could want the principle of unity-in-multiplicity of the virtual (will to power). That in a phenomenon what is demanded by the rigors of thinking is a pragmatology of that thing’s relation to itself intensively, and a clear diagram of its capture in language, discourse, representation, farce, cliché, and habit. These relations form capacities (single and aggregate powers of action) giving animate and non-animate matter, energy, memory (is there such a thing as a dead memory?) a certain sensation and a certain life.

This pragmatology of becoming draws many of its conceptual resources from what Isabelle Stengers calls a physics of processes. Displacing classical physics’ obsession with equilibrium, “kinetic” models insists always that the law of averages applies, “that what is called the law of large numbers establishes a strict distinction between individual behaviors and their statistical resultant.” Boltzmann’s statistical interpretation of evolution toward equilibrium presupposes that the problem of processes is explicitly not dealt with. Thus: “One considers the different instantaneous molecular configurations that are possible within a system without asking how they are going to be produced. And it is not necessary to ask this question, because one attributes to each configuration an a priori equal probability, and contents oneself with counting, that is, with evaluating the probability of different macroscopic states in terms of the number of different molecular configurations that each one of them realizes. In this interpretation, the state of equilibrium is the privileged state exactly insofar as it is the state in which processes…are henceforth of no consequence…” (Isabelle Stengers, Power and Invention 68-9).
Stengers work, that draws so many of its own resources for creativity from the work of Gilles Deleuze, links dissipative structures to events of sensation. The dissipative structure of sensation means that even in the most habitual of moments, autonomic moments, a will to power is operative in the statistical resultant of millions of perceptual processes. There are moments when this process resonates across a feedbacked entity, a body, human and non-human. This is why the distinction between carbon- and silicon-based life, animate and inanimate matter becomes non-pertinent: no thing, no phenomenon can be extracted absolutely from irreversible processes of duration, speed, quality. This embeddedness in time, in non-linear time-scales correlated through forms of resonance, this primordial connectivity locates kinetic theory in multiplicious processes. And we mean this not in the sense of a maternal oneness, but rather in the sense of swerving patterns of information trading: the idea of a thing as a diagram of what it can do: affective ontology.
…the distinctive feature of kinetic models, to which theories like that of dissipative structures are directly related, is to attribute importance to processes as such. The problem posed by Boltzmann is thus reversed. It is no longer a question of calculating the probability of an instantaneous global state from the calculation of the number of configurations, as if the probability of these different instantaneous configurations were independent of the processes that produced them. …[K]inetic models calculate the speeds of different processes as a function of the probabilities of the events that are capable of occurring in a system, and make these probabilities themselves the product of the evolution of system. Thus, in the case of the phase transitions of equilibrium, it is necessary to take into account the fact that, if a droplet is formed in a gas, the chances that new molecules aggregate and that the drop develops rather than evaporates depends on the size that has already been attained, because the intensity of the forces of attraction increases with the size of the drop. As long as the molecules were separated, these forces were negligible, and one could characterize the different arrangements as if they were formed from essentially independent elements. But they play a decisive role when surrounding a droplet and determine the transitory character or the amplification of the process of aggregation. What could, in a gas as equilibrium, be omitted in the a priori calculation of probabilities becomes of decisive importance at the moment of phase transitions. (Stengers 69)

Stengers develops the thesis that kinetic models calculate the probability of a history (69). This history charts the becoming sensation of a non-coinciding resonant unity. We are therefore back in our initial problematic: how to define a body? And we return to our initial intuition: the body is a non-coinciding resonant unity. It is not always resonating, and unity should be understood as a gradient of intensity rather than a state. But at no time does it coincide with itself, even when we can generalize at a particular scale a functional unity (organizing its temporal processes around a basin of attraction, an attractor that can become strange, through shock, through stochastic noise, through molecular and molar shifts in the ecology).

Stengers writes:
“at the critical point of phase transition a gas is no longer strictly speaking, a gas, but neither is it a liquid; droplets of water of all sizes develop, they can go from a few molecules up to a macroscopic number, on the same scale as the system, and they are intimately mixed with gas bubbles, also of all sizes; the fluctuations density that express the formation of the droplets can take on macroscopic dimensions, reverberating their effects throughout the system; the correlation length—that is, the scope of the repercussions of a local event—thus tends toward infinity, all parts of the gas now being in contact, mutually “sensing” each other. The system thus reacts as a whole to what is happening in each of its regions…the coupling between the separated points of the system has the same intensity as the coupling between its neighboring points….[F]ar from equilibrium, the situation can become quite different, since the transition will no longer necessarily result in a state dominated by Boltzmann’s order principle, but in what is called a “dissipative structure.” Far from being a transitory process during which, momentarily, the system acquires a collective activity, the transition undergone by far-from-equilibrium systems is only the first instant, the appearance of that which will stabilize as a supermolecular dissipative regime. (Stengers 70)

This helps us to understand something crucial about the dissipative structure of sensation. Sensation is also embedded in the production of a dissipative regime. Sensation emerges in dissipative regime, a process that re-potentializes the loose unity of a multiplicity. In phase transition the unity-in-multiplicity takes on a new resonance, an acceleration and amplification of its durations, and a new capacity emerges (and is actualized or not).

Unity thus becomes a concept proximate to the nonlinear dynamics of a system far from equilibrium. The unity of regulation (another type of unity) is a form of modulating resonance, but we mean unity as durational excess, not a time of excess, but temporal relations becoming unstable and potential, where the history, genealogy, sensations of its virtual plane becomes decisive. Stengers: “The kinetic approach … distinguishes quite strictly between the feedback properties that characterize certain stages of transformations of which a system is the site and the global functional properties of the system, such as stability or eventually regulation. The only grammatical subject for these properties is the system itself” (Stengers 73-74).

It is as I have suggested impossible for contemporary poststructuralist criticism to stomach this principle. The dialectic has an inveterate allergy to the virtual. The plasticity of the virtual is both unitary and an affirmation of non-dialectical, mutational difference (qualitative, intensive multiplicity). Affirmation comes for the first time as multiplicity, becoming and chance. “For multiplicity is the difference of one thing from another, becoming is difference from self and chance is difference ‘between all’ or distributive difference. But then to affirm is to take this first coming of affirmation as an object, affirmation affirmed. “But in this way affirmation is redoubled: as object of the second affirmation it is affirmation itself affirmed, redoubled affirmation, difference raised to its highest power. Becoming is being, multiplicity is unity, chance is necessity. The affirmation of becoming is the affirmation of being etc.—but only insofar as it is the object of the second affirmation which raises it to this new power. Being ought to belong to becoming, unity to multiplicity, necessity to chance, but only insofar as becoming, multiplicity and chance are reflected in the second affirmation which takes them as its object” (189). Difference reproduces itself, and affirmation returns; return is the being of difference. In this we must see the will to power as the differential element that produces and develops difference in affirmation, that “reflects difference in the affirmation of affirmation and makes it return in the affirmation which is itself affirmed” (189).

What is the point here? First, affirmation is a strategy of thinking, an event of thought that takes life to its n-th degree. But it is not only or even primarily that: affirmation is an ontology of becoming. In affirmation difference makes connectivity through specific sets of force: the force of multiplicity, becoming, and chance. This set of differential forces produces and develops difference-in-itself through a non-anthropomorphic will to power, when the first affirmation is taken as an object of affirmation itself. This notion resonates strongly with the concept of a self-differentiating becoming that we have written about in prior postings. But again to what end? To create a new sense, new values: evaluate to transvaluate. An example: “…dance, laughter and play are affirmative powers of reflection and development. Dance affirms becoming and the being of becoming; laughter, roars of laughter, affirm multiplicity and the unity of multiplicity; play affirms chance and the necessity of chance” (194). Here’s another example: Ranjit Kandalgaonkar’s “CityinFlux” (http://cityinflux.com/). This is what I recently wrote of Ranjit’s work: The city unfolds nonlinearly in his photography and painting. The artist’s perspective brings out the contortions in everyday life, from the mundane rituals of bodies boarding and leaving a local train, to the meticulous fractures of peeling cement on a forgotten wall. These contortions in everyday life unfold stochastically because the work shows the different time-scales in which these processes are embedded: the rush of that one crucial hour heading home forming unseen, unthought patterns in a human multiplicity, to the geological rifts in the cityscape (the ground seeming to claim an abandoned rickshaw): such processes are hidden from view because time moves so fast that the city’s kinesis is a blur or slows to an imperceptible crawl. The aesthetic aims to grasp the city’s kinesis in moments of subtle transmutation, types of movement, patterns of interaction, forms of nonlinear life. As a whole “Cityinflux” wagers that one can creatively become through these patterned but unpredictable movements, that a new habit of perception is necessitated once the imperceptible flows of the urban take on a certain urgency.

This helps us to develop a non-dialectical notion of difference. It is basic to an understanding of any body whatsoever as a non-coinciding resonant unity. The body is less represented in “Rush Hour” as the body stretched into various flows, internal, external, the boundaries break down, and the crush of movement on a Mumbai local at 8 am on a Tuesday is grasped through another kind of perception, biopolitical—bodily and populational at once. To affirm this body is to affirm an adventure of difference as transmutation and transvaluation. Deleuze dilates on this later in N+P, writing,

One dialectician cannot accuse another of standing on his head—it is the fundamental character of the dialectic itself. How could it still maintain a critical view point in this position? Nietzsche’s work is directed against the dialectic for three reasons: it misinterprets sense because it does not know the nature of the forces which concretely appropriate phenomena; it misinterprets essence because it does not know the real element from which forces, their qualities and their relations derive; it misinterprets change and transformation because it is content to work with permutations of abstract and unreal terms. All these deficiencies have a single origin: ignorance of the question “which one?”…It is suffiecient to ask “Which will is it?” in order to sense the essence of the dialectic. The discovery dear to the dialectic is the unhappy consciousness, the deepening, the re-solution and glorification of the unhappy consciousness and its resources. It is reactive forces that express themselves in opposition, the will to nothingness that expresses itself in the labour of the negative. The dialectic is the natural ideology of ressentiment and bad conscience. It is thought from the perspective of nihilism and from the standpoint of reactive forces. It is a fundamentally Christian way of thinking…(158-59)

The dialectic misinterprets force (that which appropriates phenomena), affect (relational capacities, emergent properties), and becoming (phase transitions of nonlinear systems far from equilibrium). What would be the correct interpretation of force, affect and becoming? A diagram that would itself take thinking to its n-th power, reconnect and push thought to the fullest of what its affect can do, and thereby engage in unpredictable processes of becoming. In short, this leads to a new way of feeling or sensing through an intensive imbrication in ecologies of sensation; a new way of thinking, with “predicates other than divine ones; for the divine is still a way of preserving man and of preserving the essential characteristic of God, God as attribute” (163); and a new way of evaluating, “not an abstract transposition nor a dialectical reversal, but a change and reversal in the element from which the value of values derives, a ‘transvaluation’” (163).

Knowledge, all human knowledge, is a reactive force. The instinct for knowledge is thought, but thought in its relation to the reactive forces which seize and conquer it (101). But how empty and futile is that? Does this mean there can be nothing more for criticism?

But does not critique, understood as critique of knowledge itself, express new forces capable of giving thought another sense? A thought that would go to the limit of what life can do, a thought that would lead life to the limit of what it can do? A thought that would affirm life instead of a knowledge that is opposed to life. Life would be the active force of thought, but thought would be the affirmative power of life. Both would go in the same direction, carrying each other along, smashing restrictions, matching each other step for step, in a burst of unparalleled creativity. Thinking would then mean discovering, inventing, new possibilities of life. (101)

In a burst of unparalleled creativity! There is something more than hope here, literally a program for nonlinear becoming. Thought for knowledge, life for ressentiment. Both moving in a resonant dance of creation and affirmation! This is the new sense of thought—thinking as an event which aspires to a type of critical threshold. This is why thinking can only ever be untimely, as it does not value the parade of ideology that is History. That it takes the falseness of this negativity and raises it to its highest power, but even then an entire ethical and critical project of counter-actualization must be undertaken for this event to take on the power of affirmation. For what is it we affirm in affirmation: simply this the life, dynamism, energy, mutation of difference.

This is brought out further in the section on “Art.” Deleuze begins by declaring that N has a tragic conception of art which rests on two principles, both ancient and future-oriented. First, passé Kant, art is never disinterested, it does not heal, calm, sublimate or pay off. Rather, it is a stimulant “of the will to power,” something that “excites willing.” In this mode, art is an affirmation of the powers of life, “affirmative in relation to active forces, to an active life” (102).

According to Nietzsche we have not yet understood what the life of an artist means: the activity of this life serves as a stimulant to the affirmation contained in the work of art itself, to the will to power of the artist as artist.” 102

Artistic life stimulates affirmation in art itself, it affirms the active force of artistry as such. The second principle is that art is the highest power of falsehood (the powers of the false, which would be a constant theme in Deleuze’s thought throughout his life).

The activity of life is like a power of falsehood, of duping, dissimulating, dazzling and seducing. But, in order to be brought to effect, this power of falsehood must be selected, redoubled or repeated and thus elevated to a higher power. The power of falsehood must be taken as far as a will to deceive, an artistic will which alone is capable of competing with the ascetic ideal and successfully opposing it. It is art which invents the lies that raise falsehood to this highest affirmative power, that turns the will to deceive into something which is affirmed in the power of falsehood. For the artist, appearance no longer means the negation of the real in this world but this kind of selection, correction, redoubling and affirmation. Then truth perhaps takes a new sense. Truth is appearance. Truth means bringing of power into effect, raising to the highest power. In Nietzsche, “we the artists” = “we the seekers after knowledge or truth” = “we the inventors of new possibilities of life.” 102-3

What does this suggest to us about the nature of art? I take Deleuze to mean that truth is what is functionally active, what appears is what can return in life. Thus, if art is an affirmation of the will to power, a stimulant to it, if art is the highest power of the false (the limit of a will to deceive), truth becomes the raising of power to the nth degree, to infinity. A new value emerges in a paroxysm of creativity and thought, and this new value has a truth-effect.

Deleuze’s Nietzschean definition of art allows us to think many different forms of creativity. Consider, for instance, this definition of Artificial Life art from Mitchell Whitelaw’s Metacreation: Art and Artificial Life (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004): “A-life…deals with behaviour that emerges from the bottom up. Langton describes a-life as remaining ‘true to natural life,’ following the ‘key insight’ that ‘nature is fundamentally parallel’—that is, natural systems tend to be complex aggregate of parts, each of which has its own ‘behavioral repertoire’; behavior arises out of the parallel operation of these parts” (8). Whitelaw marks four basic formal structures and techniques that operationalize this notion of life as an emergent property of parallel operations within a qualitative multiplicity: 1. Genetic algorithms which simulate biological genetics in digital computation through a genotype (string of code) specifying a phenotype (any digital artifact); 2. Agent-based systems that model individuals interacting in an artificial world, and in which population dynamics may emerge, and agents’ attributes may evolve (speciation, interbreeding, flocking, symbiosis, and coevolution); 3. Bottom-up robotics involves multiple sensorimotor processes operating in parallel, without a controlling “brain” or an internal representation of the sensed world; and 4. Cellular automata systematizes arrays of logical units or cells programmed with a set of simple rules for how each cell’s future is affected the current states of its neighbors, yielding the emergence of complexity from simplicity (8-10). Now the connection between A-life and evolution is of interest from the perspective of Deleuze’s Nietzsche for a number of reasons. Deleuze notes that Nietzsche takes issue with Darwin and Darwinism for its tendency to interpret “evolution and chance within evolution in an entirely reactive way. He admires Lamarck because Lamarck foretold the existence of a truly active plastic force, primary in relation to adaptations: a force of metamorphosis. For Nietzsche, as for energetics, energy which is capable of transforming itself is called ‘noble’. The power of transformation, the Dionysian power, is the primary definition of activity” (42): the virtual as an energy (the element of force) capable of transforming itself. So A-life art (“breeders”) has a double tendency. Stochastic algorithms could very well be deployed to tame chance, to master its probabilities, to take metamophosis as reactive to parameters that determine its play, to conceptualize difference as opposition, and so dialecticize A-life. This tendency takes indetermination as its other, but as soon as one does that one reduces the very functionality of a given “technical object” (phenotype). Gilbert SImondon put it in this way:

the functioning of the machine conceals a certain margin of indetermination. It is such a margin that allows for the machine’s sensitivity to outside information. It is this sensitivity to information on the part of machines, much more than any increase in automatism that makes possible a technical ensemble. A purely automatic machine completely closed in on itself in a predetermined operation could only give summary results. (Simondon, Gilbert, trans. Ninian Mellamphy, On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects. London: University of Western Ontario, 1980 [1958]. 4. )

But I also want to mark another tendency: this emergence of complexity from distributed symbiotic digital artifacts manifests a will to falsehood, an affirming and a setting free of what lives. Artificial life art can be a “kind of selection, correction, redoubling and affirmation,” and what appears (emergent complexity) is the true transvaluated, and in so doing it could affirm an ontology of becoming through intensive, self-differentiating mutation. For example:

In [Nik Gaffney’s] Mutagen the genome is a string of hexadecimal numbers, where values in different ranges code for different genotypic properties; some values specify coordinate points, others specify structural relationships, still others influence methods of reproduction. This generates a structure where some genetic elements depend on others for their effects, so that the influence of a particular numerical value on the phenotype will depend on its context within the genone string; codependent genes are grouped together into “chromosomes.”…Mutagen inserts a third formal laywer between the genotype and phenotypic form: the genotype is interpreted to produce a “structure record,” a means of encoding a three dimensional form ina data structure called a directed graph. This data structure draws on the coordinate information specified genome but also specifies a hierarchical relationship of those points. What’s more, the location of each point is determined not in relation to an absolute grid but in relation to its “parent” in the hierarchy, so each coordinate is in fact a three-dimensional offset, or interval. In a final twist—one that adds significantly to the richness of the forms—this hierarchy can be recursive, such that a point may have one of the “ancestor” nodes above it as a “child.” This creates a recursive loop in the structure record, resulting in a portion of the phenotypic form’s being duplicated and offset…open-ended coevolution can occur as attractiveness criteria and phenotypic forms mutate. (41-43)

Sakshi Gupta’s recent exhibition of mixed media (mostly rusted metal) sculptures and installations at GallerySke in Bangalore in another kind of example. In her introduction to the work, Gupta writes,

It is never easy to put words to what is essentially a subterranean process, or to speak about my work as though I am separate form it. To me the act of creating these works is a process of evolution, a process that I go through along with the materials I use. And I use the word evolution, not in a linear sense of development, or progress, but as a tangled process that involves chaos, contradictions, emotional fluctuations, transformations and tangential leaps. Is shape defined by the material, or the space between it? Is deterioration as beautiful a process as creation? Is reality less real than artifice? Is chaos the perfect symmetry? Does death point a knowing finger at life? What does a malignant bloom look like? (Galleryske handout, 2009)

What I sensed in Gupta’s finely crafted and conceptual work is an affirmation of life as in a dream arising from the detritus of a dilapidated, self-effacing modernity, in the scraps of kipple (Phillip K. Dick’s famous thesis concerning disorder, junk, and noise) something is rising up, something is communicating with subterraneous forces, and a genetic and differential element (the virtual, will to power, quasi-cause) is active. This something is the specific will to power that Gupta has affirmed through her monstrous falsehoods, her art “invents the lies that raise falsehood to this highest affirmative power.”

Toward the end of N+P, Deleuze further clarifies these connections:

The world is neither true nor real but living. And the living world is the will to power, will to falsehood, which is actualized in many different powers. To actualize the will to falsehood under any power whatever, to actualize the will to power under any quality whatever is always to evaluate. To live is to evaluate. There is no truth of the world as it is thought, no reality of the sensible world, all is evaluation, even and above all the sensible and the real. …Being, truth and reality are themselves only valid as evaluations, that is to say as lies, But in this capacity as means of actualizing the will through one of its power, they have up to now served the power or quality of the negative….To affirm is not to take responsibility for, or take on the burden of what is, but to release, to set free what lives. The sense of affirmation can only emerge if these three fundamental points in Nietzsche’s philosophy are borne in mind: not the true nor the real but evaluation; not affirmation as acceptance but as creation; not man but the Overman as a new form of life. Nietzsche attaches so much importance to art because art realizes the whole of this programme: the highest power of the false, Dionysian affirmation or the genius of the superhuman…To affirm is to create, not to bear, put up with or accept. (184-86)

But then, and therefore, the aim of philosophy swerves from the dogmatic image of thought (truthfulness of the thinker; innateness of the idea, a priori nature of concepts; sincere nature of the truth, universally shared good sense—in which truth is conceived as an abstract universal [103]) and finds its nth power. Here the element of thought is sense and value. As Deleuze, following N, reminds us, “The state of mind dominated by reactive forces, by right, expresses stupidity and, more profoundly, that which it is a symptom of: a base way of thinking” (105).

But as we know there’s a lot of stupidity in the world, to which through reactive thought we often contribute—thus the philosopher turns into “the philosopher of religion, the philosopher of the State, the collector of current values and the functionary of history” (107). But then when some snide idiot asks “What’s the use of philosophy?” the answer should given forcefully:

Philosophy does not serve the State or the Church, who have other concerns. It serves no established power. The use of philosophy is to sadden. A philosophy that saddens no one, that annoys no one, is not a philosophy. It is useful for harming stupidity, for turning stupidity into something shameful. Its only use is the exposure of all forms of baseness of thought. Is there any discipline apart from philosophy that sets out to criticize all mystifications, whatever their source and aim, to expose all the fictions without which reactive forces would not prevail. Exposing as a mystification the mixture of baseness and stupidity that creates the astonishing complicity of both victims and perpetrators. (106)

Deleuze says that such a saddening philosophy turns thought into something aggressive, active, affirmative. This is compelling, but we cannot but pause over the masculinism of this image of thought. Is there something irreducibly misogynist about Deleuze’s N? In N himself? This is a huge question, one which has exercised minds for quite some time in and outside of feminist philosophy. I think a certain wariness is warranted here, and that a too quick celebration of this aggressive thought might very well get us lost again in a chain of complicities that it is imperative we break. As in liberate ourselves from. Regardless, it is necessary to mark the danger here.

This liberation takes the form of the Untimely.

Unlike the atemporal concept of error, baseness is inseparable from time, that is from the rapture of the present, from this present condition in which it is incarnated and in which it moves. This is why philosophy has an essential relation to time: it is always against its time, critique of the present world. The philosopher creates concepts that are neither eternal nor historical but untimely and not of the present. The opposition in terms of which philosophy is realized is that of present and non-present, of our time and the untimely. And in the untimely there are truths that are more durable than all historical and eternal truths put together: truths of times to come….Eternity, like the historicity of philosophy amounts to this: philosophy always untimely, untimely at every epoch. (107)

I think of this less as a philosophical opposition than a call to an experimental, creative becoming of thought that takes established powers and values as that which must be overcome, gone through, displaced. We should fear not attempting, taking the chance to its fullest is the immediate, constant aim. An event of thought. Thinking, “like activity, is always a second power of thought, not the natural exercise of a faculty, but an extraordinary event in thought itself, for thought itself. Thinking is the n-th power of thought. It is still necessary for it to become ‘light,’ ‘affirmative,’ ‘dancing.’ But it will never attain this power if forces do not do violence to it. Violence must be done to it as thought, a power, the force of thinking, must throw it into a becoming-active” (108).

In the next posting, I turn to a practical experiment in this eventilization of thought. How can we think mobile phone cultures in India in light of these principles or methods? What is the nature of this field’s element of force, its condition of effectivity and mutation. I will argue that habituations are taking shape today in India that allow for a return to thinking the radicality of the virtual, as a politics, as a scriptless program for becoming, as a “pedagogy of the self.” Habits are taking shape. In India today everyone I speak with tells me of a mobile revolution.

There is no question that mobile connectivity is having an impact on Indian social and economic life. But what impact? How “large” is this impact? Who exactly is affected, and more to the point who is benefitted the most from mobile connectivity? Now bazaar economies continue to mutate both through and despite the profit motive, through capital accumulation because money/commodity/exploitation generates its own kinesis. One that has profound transformative effects on society and thought. And despite because capitalism is also primarily an organization of reactive forces through different types of ressentiment (nihilist ideologies). There is something to the mutations of exchange and the changing functionality of modular technology that taps directly into the machinic phylum, giving media assemblages their plasticity of form and effect. The following account of mobile phone cultures in parts of North India (culled from ethnography, interviews with industry workers and mobile users, newspaper sources, government reports, participant observation, and scholarly analyses, and focused largely on Mumbai, South Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Bhopal, Bangalore, and Seore) attempts to address these questions.

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