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Simon O’Sullivan 

talking on his new book: On the production of subjectivity.  Five diagrams of the Finite Infinite relation.


18th July 2012


"How might we produce our subjectivity differently? Indeed, what are we capable of becoming? This book addresses these questions with a particular eye to ethics, understood as a practice of living, and aesthetics, understood as creative experimentation and the cultivation of a certain style of life. Central to the enquiry are the writings of Felix Guattari and Giles Deleuze separately and in collaboration, as well as their philosophical precursors, Spinoza, Nietzsche and Henri Bergson. Each of these, it is argued, offer powerful resources for thinking subjectivity beyond its habitual and typical instantiations specifically in relation to opening up a different temporality of and for the subject today. Alongside this Deleuze-Guattarian trajectory the book also brings in to encounter the writings on aesthetics and ethics of Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan, and pitches Deleuze against Alain Badiou's own theory of the subject. At stake in this philosophical and psychoanalytical exploration is the drawing of a series of diagrams of the finite/infinite relation, and a further development of Guattari's ethico-aesthetic paradigm for thinking the production of subjectivity as a speculative, but also pragmatic and creative practice."






John Cussans and Dean Kenning

with a screening of Dean Kenning’s animation: ‘Metallurgy of the Subject’. 


April 30th 2011


Beginning with Dean Kenning's Metallurgy of the Subject (2010), a diagrammatic allegory of sacrifice based on philosophical re-conceptions of 'community' and ‘communism’, and John Cussans' representation of The Inverted Pyramid (according to Georges Bataille) the artists will engage in a diagrammatic dialogue about the Paradoxical Paereidolic Neoteny of Lacan's Final Schema of Desire.


By way of an introduction to some of these ideas, via the dialogue that has already begun:


Dean Kenning: Metallurgy of the Subject is an allegorical attempt to understand recent philosophical conceptions of 'community' and ‘communism’ by writers such as Jean-Luc Nancy, Alain Bodiou, Maurice Blanchot, Paulo Virno and Giorgio Agamben. It is a didactic tool, which I have used to demonstrate political positions in the world today, and it is an impetus for discussion. I also see it as a contribution to ideas around communism, the individual, the collective and notions of sacrifice. This particular allegory takes the form of a diagram. A diagram as I understand it is not simply illustrative, but is a machine for producing thought by making connections and organising concepts. 


John Cussans: For me this has to do with the function of diagrams and visualizations in artistic and pedagogical contexts which have distinct but inter-penetrated raisons d'etre. There is something like an aesthetic surplus operating in the gallery context, which can, and does mitigate against the diagram’s positive pedagogical instrumentality. In a way this dumb/clever excess is at work in the 'Paradoxical Pareidolic Neoteny of Lacan's Final Schema of Desire', which we will explain, all being well.


(JC) What I really enjoy about this work [Metallurgy of the Subject] is that it manages to do what I am speaking about above but in an explicit fine art/gallery context. It manages to do that very rare thing of being both a pedagogical and aesthetic work simultaneously (in one). It visually represents your understanding of difficult philosophical texts and concepts, making them comprehensible in pictorial terms, while at the same time maintaining an aesthetic quality that exceeds (or is perhaps superfluous to or in excess of) their pedagogical function.


So in terms of this idea of ‘Illustrating Theory’ you have managed to do this without, I assume, the response of “Oh, it’s just illustrative”.






John Cussans

'There is no the diagram. A Polemical Demonstration of Korzybski’s Structural Differential'


6th July 2012

Man is not an animal…Man is a time-binder…a different category” Alfred Korzybski.
Alfred Korzybski devised the Anthropometer (or Structural Differential) in 1923 at the New School for Social Research in New York in response to the ‘emotional stress’ he experienced trying to convey to the pragmatist philosopher John Dewey and the behaviourist psychologist John B Watson his theory that humans do things differently from animals. Initially a blackboard diagram, this ‘epistemologic model’, which came to him in a ‘flash’, was re-designed by Korzybski in 3 dimensions in the hope it could be used in high-schools throughout the US.
Cussans has been using a ‘home-made’ structural differential as a teaching tool in art schools for several years where it has proven valuable for certain aspects of critical and theoretical learning. In particular it helps students differentiate between maps, territories, words, things and experiences; helps them to practically differentiate between descriptive, evaluative and conceptual language; helps fine-tune critical thought and precise definitional language-use; and enables ‘hands-on’ diagrammatic access to high-order philosophical concepts and ideas. Unlike conventional, two-dimensional diagrams, three-dimensional ‘haptic diagrams’ facilitate demonstrable access to non-verbal, phenomenal and temporal dimensions of living experience and cognitive processes. This is particularly important in art schools where students’ work usually combines physical materials, visual imagery, writing and critical-philosophical thought and speech.







Robert Garnett

Discussing how humorous abstraction constitutes an abstract machine that functions diagrammatically in a number of different ways.


3rd April 2011


A key dimension of humorous abstraction, that will be pertinent to the work currently on show at BR, is that it is a rendering palpable of a certain attitude, a kind of posture or existential comportment, in opposition to the all-too-common modes of art-world positionality and referentiality that proliferate within today's predominant post-post-post conceptualisms and art-about-art-about-art.” 


Robert Garnett is a writer and critic. Since the mid-90s he has written regularly for a variety of art magazines and journals, including Art Monthly, dotdotdot and metropolism.


He recently published the essay 'Abstract Humour, Humorous Abstraction', in Deleuze and Contemporary Art (Edinburgh University Press, 2010) that he will discuss in his talk. He is Senior lecturer in the Theory and History of Contemporary Art at Kingston University.







John Mullarkey

'Where, or When, is the Diagrammatic?'



John Mullarkey Professor of Film and Television Studies, Kingston University, will start the first of the series of talks on the diagram.


The diagram has a special place in philosophical method, for it involves the use of the pictorial, drawings, in an otherwise textual medium. But what is a diagram? The main principle guiding my work, both in Post-Continental Philosophy: An Outline (2006) and Philosophy and the Moving Image: Refractions of Reality (2009/10) is that the diagram is best understood a quasi-concept, between saying and showing. As such, it has neither a conceptual essence, or definition, or even pictorial immediacy (it is indefinite in this sense too). Rather, it is the merest outline linking the various processes of conceptual and pictorial definition. Hence, I would prefer to use the adjective 'diagrammatic' over any noun in order to give a sense of the open nature of the diagram, given that it can wander between mathematics and painting, between abstract concept and embodied affect.


The diagrammatic is, in fact another name for the 'in between', but, instead of using it as another name (which only leads us back into the problems of representation, especially for contemporary philosophies of immanence such as Badiou's and Deleuze's), we can use it as an action, a draw-ing, that performs what it means rather than states it. In this respect, the diagram is only a performative place-holder, having no essence other than to undo other essences at any one moment.

But before thinking that this now makes the diagram both everything and so nothing, I would add that the indefinite nature of the diagram is only true in principle: in each, varying (context-dependent) actuality, what is called a diagram is very specific; a place held for an indefinite time, but definitely a place (of between-ness) for a certain frame of reference. Written words were once diagrams. Now they are not. Some films now are also diagrammatic. So the question is: what can play the role of the diagrammatic (for 'us') now, in our moment?





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