Film-Philosophy

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Deleuze Special Issue

Vol. 5 No. 41, November 2001

 

 

Barbara M. Kennedy

Fugitive Spaces -- Between the Critical and the Creative

A Reply to Amy Herzog

 

 

 

Amy Herzog

'Reassessing the Aesthetic: Cinema, Deleuze, and the Art of Thinking'

_Film-Philosophy_, Deleuze Special Issue

vol. 5 no. 40, November 2001

http://www.film-philosophy.com/vol5-2001/n40herzog

 

In response to Amy Herzog's recent critique of _Deleuze and Cinema: The Aesthetics of Sensation_ [1] I firstly want to acknowledge her valid concerns in relation to those elements of Deleuze that have not been taken up in the book, but also to defend the very experimental nature of the project, written, as I highlighted very clearly, from artistic and creative zones of indetermination. Herzog herself indicates that Deleuze's interest in film and the arts generally lies in their contribution to the 'art of living'. [2] My point exactly. This was the perspective from which the book was written, or shall I say *painted*!

 

My intentions were never to take up a philosophical project, specifically one so contradictory and contentious as that of Deleuze (I leave that to the ontological pursuits of the *philosophers*), but to re-think through those a-signifying spaces, the experiential of the cinematic through *collision* with Deleuze. Whilst I acknowledge that for Deleuze creative possibilities lie within the affective temporalities and the 'self', which are modalities of durational and existential 'potentia' performing as they do through the qualitative multiplicities, it was never my intention to explore this within the book. As Dorothea Olkowski has stated, 'each and every affection is situated at the *interval* between a multiplicity of excitations received from *without* and the movements about to be executed'. [3] So, affectivity occurs or is effectuated within the intersticial spaces between excitation and action. _Deleuze and Cinema_ performs as excitation. Such Bergsonian influence is nonetheless part of a wider trajectory which is processually emanating from the book into my current project -- both filmic and choreographical (using my *body* to think with) -- on Choreographies of the Screen, work which manifests a post-feminist collusion of the creative and transformational possibilities of duration and temporality. _Deleuze and Cinema_ was but a stepping stone towards opening up possibilities for practice and theory across film/art/feminisms, possibilities which, certainly in my own work, now closely align themselves with Deleuze-Bergsonism. The book begins by acknowledging this distance from both the _Cinema_ books, its project one of creative assemblage, not explication or philosophical expediency.

 

Taking those debates forward, _Deleuze and Cinema_ has initiated more contemporary work in filmic practice and choreography which will imbricate with the book (and beyond), through feminisms which embrace duration and change -- a feminism which is an ethics of becoming and not a politics. Neo-aesthetics is thus re-considered beyond any representational medium, through the transitional space *between* the perception and the action. _Deleuze and Cinema_ provided that plateau for experimental work to develop, which is exactly what is happening within post-feminist and film theory, not to mention film practice. Herzog's understanding of *sensation* shows a limited acknowledgement of the ways in which the concept is explored in _Deleuze and Cinema_. Rather than the films *engendering sensations* (Herzog), _Deleuze and Cinema_ attempts to collide and transpose by an architectonic and technologised manifestation of the film experience. Such an experience is articulated beyond the visual and thus there is no prioritisation of the *films* per se in terms of images, sounds, colours, rhythms -- these are concepts which are transported through material and assemblaged constructs. Her criticism of the *shot-by-shot* explication of particular sequences, specifically that of the film _Orlando_, fails to acknowledge that it is *precisely* the temporality of those shots which effectuates the haeccetas. Shot-by-shot explication in itself is a technologised understanding of the temporal, and of course it is unacceptable to suggest that any film can be explained by such shot-reverse-shot mechanisms. Herzog is critical of the 'microscopic' detail, but this is vital for an understanding of how the film *works* ontologically as film, and not what it means. It is clearly the duration and temporality of these shots which technologise the processual and experiential notion of film as body and film as observer: but most of all film as assemblage. Whilst Herzog is right to suggest that _Deleuze and Cinema_ does not bear out the full capacity of the questions it poses, nonetheless is performs as a durational space within a becoming of film theory/philosophy/feminisms. It moves, it performs -- it *acts* and thus mobilizes future possibilities.

 

Giving the book a triptychal structure was a creative *mobilizing* of Deleuzian philosophy -- by colliding such sections the aim was one of creativity and possibility -- not linear or logical rhetoric, nor rational argument per se. If any objectives were highlighted, as Herzog indicates, 'to forge a new aesthetics', this was only part of a much wider artistic project -- an avant-garde project in itself. Within the tripartite structure the further differentiation and splitting of the Deleuze section was but a series of brush strokes, fibrillations, and nuances of the canvas itself, and as such an expression of *temporality* in a pure form. I acknowledge that the pathway from desire and pleasure, through becoming-woman and affect to sensation, provide a *limited* account of Deleuze's exponential work in the _Cinema_ books, but the creative movement through sensation in relation to duration/temporality is currently being choreographed in my more recent work. The methodology of Part Two of the book endeavoured to provide a non-locatable space for the reader. Herzog's restricted understanding of Part Three explains its emphasis upon the aesthetic, material qualities of the films. It does not of course do this, but acknowledges the in-between spaces of the molar, the *image* of the screen, with those molecularities inherent within the qualitative multiplicities of affectivity. To discuss the *qualities* of the films is a restrictive conceptualisation of the nature of the project. The concepts were not so much *utilised*, but rather *technologised*. Herzog is critical of the multiple references 'to liquidity and the fluid', which produce 'emotional' responses; critical of their manifestation through shot explication. But the very nature of film and its production is totally dependent upon *shots* and their articulation. They are fundamentally the means through which temporality is manifest. This concentration on *shot* explication then is an implicit understanding of temporality and duration, something which the opening sequence of _Orlando_ evocatively exemplifies. What Herzog means by the film's 'larger unfoldings' is problematic in this regard. Does she mean narrative/ideology or cultural significance -- concepts of a redundant film theory? The concentration on shot analysis deterritorialises the exploration of film from its narrativity to its performative strategies, simultaneously acknowledging temporality and duration.

 

As resonance, vibration, and forced movement, the book's own *duration* participates as affective temporality, through the durational spaces of its language, patterns, spaces, and non-spaces. What is *not* said becomes part of its complex choreography. The book is a dance, a painting, and also a poem and homage to *love*. It is not an academic, linear text with a clearly framed argument -- the intentions set out specific questions and in a Chekhovian way it is the proposition of those questions, in assemblage with the creativity of its haecceties, which enable the book to perform its aparalletic evolution through academic discourse, practice, and experience (subjectivity even!). As an artist and dancer and not as an academic, this is where I place my spaces, this is where I dance my steps, contractions beyond the confines of conspiratorial discourse and academic sterility. _Deleuze and Cinema_ was never intended to be an explication of Deleuzian philosophy, and that it chose to engage with *him* and his works is in itself an affirmation of life and art, not negation. Indeed, by choosing *not* to concentrate on the problematics of existing theoretical paradigms in film theory, specifically psychoanalysis (there is a plethora of texts which do this), the book articulates an aleatory performance of Deleuzian *spirit*, which of course Herzog does at least acknowledge. My *dance with a stranger* was clearly an unprecedented (and obviously contentious) move in transdisciplinarity, crossing the borderlands and mestiza of critical theory and creative writing -- such a monstrous and anomolous coupling of which Deleuze, I am sure, would have approved.

 

Herzog's criticism of the omission of any discussion of the distinction between movement-image and time-image, of course I respect, but such a criticism fails to acknowledge the implicit understanding of this throughout, in terms of the technologies of film-making. Deleuze's own criticism of 'Classical Hollywood' would then render it impossible for us to take a Deleuzian understanding to those movies? I think not. Indeed some writers are already working with Deleuze to reconsider some favourites from the classical period: Ian Buchanan recently looking at Hitchcock is a case in point, whilst my own work reconsiders the jouissance of the musical in a new light.

 

Herzog's criticism of the book's discussion of becoming-woman again falls into the age old trap of thinking through language in sterile and linear or structural ways. If Herzog had read my text more closely she would understand that I explain carefully that the concept *woman* needs to be technologised, and that thinking through language involves a technologised and machinic understanding of linguistic prevalence. Indeed, those 'order-words' which both Bergson and Deleuze were critical of are destabilized through a technologised understanding. Re-thinking *language* then allows us to consider *woman* as the order and processes into which she is installed, not what she *is*, and thus changes the *politics* which worries Herzog. Such concepts as *woman* are part of contingent assemblages, not singular concepts with an *identity*. A post-feminist framework is an ethical framework -- thinking outside the boundaries of epistemological, Cartesian, and modernist thinking. Finally, Herzog makes no mention of my aim of imbricating the scientific with the artistic, by rethinking a bio-aesthetics in its consilience with neuroscience. Again, with resonances of Bergson, but also contemporary neuroscience, such discussions open up new possibilities for film theory.

 

In conclusion I want to remind the reader of some of the claims of _Deleuze and Cinema_. It states that it is providing a 'move towards a post-semiotic, post-linguistic exploration of desire and moves beyond a contemporary politics of difference towards an experimental 'pragmatics of becoming''. [4] In this it succeeds. It claims to offer new directions in film theory. In this, as Herzog acknowledges, it succeeds. It 'aims to bring together the two disciplines of philosophy and film in an experimental way, which might offer up innovative questions for engagement in both fields of pursuit'. [5] In this it succeeds. At the end of the day, the significance of _Deleuze and Cinema_ as a Spinozist legacy, lies in what it *does* and not in what it might *mean*.

 

Staffordshire University, England

 

 

Footnotes

 

1. Barbara M. Kennedy, _Deleuze and Cinema: The Aesthetics of Sensation_ (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000).

 

2. Henri Bergson, _The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics_, trans. Mabelle L. Andison (New York: Citadel Press, 1992) p. 106.

 

3. Dorothea Olkowski, _Gilles Deleuze and the Ruin of Representation_ (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), p. 93.

 

4. Kennedy, _Deleuze and Cinema_, p. 5.

 

5. Ibid., p. 15.

 

 

Copyright © _Film-Philosophy_ 2001

 

Barbara M. Kennedy, 'Fugitive Spaces -- Between the Critical and the Creative: A Reply to Amy Herzog', _Film-Philosophy_, Deleuze Special Issue, vol. 5 no. 41, November 2001 <http://www.film-philosophy.com/vol5-2001/n41kennedy>.

 

  

 

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