For an ontogenesis of the refrain

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Becoming, biopower, Deleuze, Diagramming Affective Ethics, Ecology of Sensation, Freedom

What happens when the monster becomes simply a sign-post, but a remarkable one of immanent processes of becoming? Recall what Michael Hardt says of the remarkable in Spinoza,

Here we are confronted with the Spinozian principle of the singularity of being. As a first approximation, we could say that singularity is the union of monism with the absolute positivity of pantheism: The unique substance directly infuses and animates the entire world. The problem with this definition is that it leaves open an idealistic interpretation of substance, and allows for a confusion between the infinite and the indefinite. In other words, from an idealist perspective, absolute substance might be read as an indetermination, and pantheism might be read as acosmism. Deleuze’s reading, however, closes off this possibility. Being is singular not only in that it is unique and absolutely infinite, but, more important, in that it is remarkable. This is the impossible opening of the Ethics. Singular being as substance is not “distinct from” or “different from” any thing outside itself; if it were, we would have to conceive it partly through another thing, and thus it would not be substance. … The distinction of being rises from within. Causa sui means that being is both infinite and definite: Being is remarkable. The first task of the real distinction, then, is to define being as singular, to recognize its difference without reference to, or dependence on, any other thing. The real nonnumerical distinction defines the singularity of being, in that being is absolutely infinite and indivisible at the same time that it is distinct and determinate. Singularity, in Deleuze, has nothing to do with individuality or particularity. It is, rather, the correlate of efficient causality and internal difference: The singular is remarkable because it is different in itself. (Hardt, Gilles Deleuze 62-3)

Let us consider carefully this passage from Hardt.


A monistic pantheism: If being is singular, and yet its immanent, nonnumerical difference refers to no other, nor is dependent on any other thing, being is purely potential (absolutely infinite and indivisible) at the same time that it is fully actualized (distinct and determinate). If we can link the Deleuzian concept of singularity to monstrosity through the “anomalous individuation” of the remarkable (Toscano and Hardt), we could begin to consider the emergence of the monster in terms of its capacity or power to potentialized duration, force, and the event across the timespaces of communication, biology, perception, technology, and thought itself. The monster then would be a kind of probe head for morphogenesis, for the emergence of new forms, for a new theory and practice of multiplicities.

Perhaps the greatest example of this in the realm of music is the experimentations in form that emerge in the performances of Steve Reich’s compositions. Take for instance what happens to trains, to samples, to rhythms, to refrains, through the mutations of the resonances, movements, punctuations, pauses, the coupling and de-coupling, the immaterial conjunctions in Three Movements, Electric Counterpoint, and Different Trains. A pure spiritualism of becoming-refrain, in Reich’s works: a virtuosity of the superabstract refrain, pure repetition, a little bit of time in its pure state (G. Deleuze, Cinema Two: The Time-Image).

Franco Berardi writes beautifully of Guattari’s method of sidestepping, or transversalizing the refrains of everyday life.

The weightless singularity does not presuppose any sense, nor does it discover any sense through its experience in the world. Sense unfolds as creation, as a connecting desire, as the delirium that illuminates the event. Schizoanalysis wants to make lightness possible, dissolving obsessions and rigid refrains through techniques aimed at displacing the focus of attention, through the proliferation of points from which semiotic flows, flows of worlds, can emanate. 114

The process of the cure cannot be understood (as familializing psychoanalysis or normalizing psychiatry does) as a reduction of the deviant psyche to behavioural, linguistic and psychic norms recognized by society. It must be understood, on the contrary, as the creation of psychic nuclei able to make habitable a certain psychic cartography, as a singularization that can be happy (felice) in itself. This is the task of schizoanalysis: to follow delirium in order to render it coherent and sharable, to open it to friendship in oneself and to friendship with the other. To dissolve the identitarian nuclei that petrify the refrain, to assemble the refrain with other refrains. To reopen the channel of communication between the individual drift and the cosmic game. (126)

What would a virtuosity of the refrain do? It would produce events as monstrosities, a radically democratic and multiplicious event-as-critical threshold. Paolo Virno notes of virtuosity

It is obvious that these two characteristics are inter-related: virtuosos need the presence of an audience precisely because they are not producing an end product, an object which will circulate through the world once the activity has ceased. Lacking a specific extrinsic product, the virtuoso has to rely on witnesses…Implicitly resuming Aristotle’s idea, Hannah Arendt compares the performing artists, the virtuosos, to those who are engaged in political action. She writes: “The performing arts […] have indeed a strong affinity with politics. Performing artists-dancers, play-actors, musicians, and the like — need an audience to show their virtuosity, just as acting men need the presence of others before whom they can appear; both need a publicly organized space for their `work,’ and both depend upon others for the performance itself” (Arendt, Between Past and Future: 154). One could say that every political action is virtuosic. Every political action, in fact, shares with virtuosity a sense of contingency, the absence of a “finished product,” the immediate and unavoidable presence of others. On the one hand, all virtuosity is intrinsically political. (Virno, A Grammar of the Multitude 53-54).

But then Virno also adds:

There is more to the story. The speaker alone — unlike the pianist, the dancer or the actor— can do without a script or a score. The speaker’s virtuosity is twofold: not only does it not produce an end product which is distinguishable from performance, but it does not even leave behind an end product which could be actualized by means of performance. In fact, the act of parole makes use only of the potentiality of language, or better yet, of the generic faculty of language: not of a pre-established text in detail. The virtuosity of the speaker is the prototype and apex of all other forms of virtuosity, precisely because it includes within itself the potential/act relationship, whereas ordinary or derivative virtuosity, instead, presupposes a determined act (as in Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations, let us say), which can be relived over and over again. (56)

One wonders what such phonocentrism adds to the creations of the multitudes? In other words, Virno’s multitude departs from the realm of multiplicities, as Deleuze once put it. “It happens the moment the one and the multiple cease to be adjectives and give way to the substantive: there are only multiplicities.… There are multiplicities, which obviously implies a theory and practice of multiplicities. Wherever we leave the domain of multiplicities, we once again fall into dualisms, ie., into the domain of non-thought, we leave the domain of thought as process” (Gilles Deleuze, “Dualism, Monism and Multiplicities (Desire-Pleasure-Jouissance): Seminar of 26 March, 1973,” Contretemps 2, May 2001 95).

Does the classic binary that Virno invokes allow us to understand the multitude as a practice of a multiplicious monstrosity, thought as process? What Virno does clearly grasp is the idea that the monster potentializes the culture/nature binary.


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