Spurious has written a nice response to my post on selection, situating it in terms of questions of taste and artistic interaction.

A selection has already taken place such that those oeuvres can come into appearance as what they are. The reader, the viewer, the listener makes what Sinthome calls, ‘a slice within chaos’, and adds ‘it must be chaos as it is bubbling with an infinite number of potential qualities’.

Those qualities – to adapt and extend his argument – are themselves constituted by the reader, the listener as she has emerged, to the extent that artworks, oeuvres are never there, present to hand and available, all at once. Her taste has already been formed; artworks and oeuvres have already been organised; a selection has occurred within the chaos.

Does this imply a simple relativism, taste reflecting merely an individual propensity? But the individual is co-formed with what she constitutes; she becomes with what draws her to some qualities and not others. She is constituted as listener, viewer or reader along with those works and oeuvres to which she is drawn; what she listens to, views or reads also determines what she can listen to, view, or read. (Insert here accounts of the cultures and subcultures to which she might belong, of distinction (Bourdieu) and cultural literacy.)

Then taste emerges out of her becoming, the way she is drawn through art, through music, through literature, and draws them together in her passage. And this, in turn, will depend upon those around her – her friends, teachers and those she teaches, that milieu in which influence is bound up with a sense of what is worthwhile, what should be listened to, read, etc.

Refracting on Spurious’ brief remark about “co-formation”, I would like to send the trajectory of this thought along yet another vector. It seems to me that what Lars is essentially pointing to is “the between”. To speak of “the between” is already to speak poorly, for the definite article substantializes what is instead a process and an emergence, like the serpent devouring its own tail that graces N.Pepperell’s Rough Theory: Neither agent nor world, but the dynamic interaction of the two. When I hear the word “co-formation” coupled with my previous post on salience and selectivity, I am immediately led to think of information. There is no information-in-itself, laying in wait so that it might be discovered. Rather, information emerges from chaos, as the result of a selection. Information is something produced. As such, information must be thought as in-form-ation, where the hyphenation of the term simultaneously plays on the register of the product (information, signaling), form, and the verb denoting the process. Information is always in-form-ation; or more simply, it is in formation. It is something perpetually coming-to-be.

As such, the in-form-ation of information marks the site wherein a receptivity of receptivity is primordially constituted in an ongoing process that evades any distinction between the active and the passive as it might appear in the Kantian distinction between the spontaneity of the understanding and the passive receptivity of the aesthetic of intuition. This, then, would account for the strange refraction of how Lars received my original remarks on selectivity in the register of aesthetics and art; for the field of intuition, of sensibility– as Kant and the empiricists would call it –is already aesthetic in both the Greek and contemporary sense of the term: It is both an aesthesis or “sensing”, a receiving and an aesthetic production or invention by dint of being in formation or undergoing the genesis of form (like the artist giving form to the medium and the medium giving form to the artist). Deleuze referred to this as a new aesthetic that unites the two senses of the aesthetic (as what can be sensed and the theory of art). It is for this reason that Deleuze’s empiricism is not simply a classical empiricism vis a vis Hume and Locke, but a transcendental empiricism. Where the classical empiricist assumes receptivity and the givens it renders possible, transcendental empiricism seeks the very genesis of receptivity and the given itself… A thesis intolerable to the classical empiricist, who treats the sensible as a domain of sensible atoms that are irreducible or based on no prior syntheses.

However, we must take great care not to think of the receptive one as she who molds receptivity. She is both given form to the same degree that she gives form, such that we cannot think this relation as one of a sovereign and active agent molding the world as she sees fit. Rather, world and agent are both precipitated out of this process like by-products, introducing a bit of order into the infinitely complex bramble of chaos, or effecting a slice within chaos that marks the space of an engagement. This, perhaps, is the most significant feature of Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of desiring-machines. Deleuze and Guattari write,

[The schizophrenic] does not live nature as nature, but as a process of production. There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing-machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species life: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer having any meaning whatsoever. (Anti-Oedipus, 2)

Desiring-machines are always binary machines, which is to say they are machines that function by effecting a cut, break, or interruption in a material flow. In this regard, bodies are always attached to the world in such a way that we cannot think of self-enclosed minds or cultural spaces that do not already open on to the whole of nature. One need only think of the opening pages of Blanchot’s Thomas the Obscure to see this point:

As he swam, he pursued a sort of revery in which he confused himself with the sea. The intoxication of leaving himself, of slipping into the void, of dispersing himself in the thought of water, made him forget every discomfort. And even when this ideal sea which he was becoming ever more intimately had in turn become the real sea, in which he was virtually drowned, he was not moved as he should have been: of course there was something intolerable about swimming this way, aimlessly, with a body which was of no use to him beyond thinking that he was swimming, but he also experienced a sense of relief, as if he had finally discovered the key to the situation, and, as far as he was concerned, it all came down to continuing his endless journey, with an absence of organism in an absence of sea. (The Station Hill Blanchot Reader, 56)

Or one might think of the early pages of Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room:

The rock was one of those tremendously solid brown, or rather black, rocks which emerge from the sand like something primitive. Rough with crinclied limpet shells and sparsely strewn with locks of dry seaweek, a small boy has to stretch his legs far apart, and indeed to feel rather heroic, before he gets to the top.

But there, on the very top, is a hollow full of water, with a sandy bottom; with a blob of jelly stuck to the side, and some mussels. A fish darts across. The fring of yellow-brown seaweed flutters, and out pushes an opal-shelled crab–

‘Oh, a huge crab,’ Jacob murmers–

and begins his journey on weakly legs on the sady bottom. Now! Jacob plunged his hand. The crab was cool and very light. But the water was thick with sand, and so, scrambling down, Jacob was about to jump, holding his bucket in front of him, when he saw, stretched entirely rigid, side by side, their faces very red, an enormous man and woman. (9)

Thomas undergoes a progressive experience of depersonalization or impersonalization as he and the sea become the same. The sea within which he swims shifts from being the “ideal sea” to the “real-sea”. He fades as a distinct subject, carried along as he is by the tide. Jacob, on the other hand, emerges from a prepersonal field, alongside it, as if precipitated by all sorts of prior events: the primordial rock emerging out of the ground, the jelly-fish stuck to the side of the rock, the darting fish, and then the crab that evokes him out of his anonymity, effecting a separation between the field and his status as a subject. The regarding subject– “Oh, a huge crab!” –is an agent come second, that does not initially inhabit the field.

The in-form-ation of information is not simply a curiosity pertaining to the nature of perception and cognition. Rather, one of the predominant strains in contemporary social thought has been the implicit assumption that the agent is simply a passive clay or material to which social structures and systems give form like a cookie cutter shapes dough. The exemplar of this sort of theorizing would be Louis Althusser, who saw persons as nothing more than supports of the ideological state apparatus, but this thesis is more or less shared by Lacan, Zizek, Badiou, and Ranciere. It is for this reason that they must seek out some empty place or void within social structure or the signifying chain– not unlike Levi-Strauss’ “mana-signifier” –to account for how some minimal agency contrary to structure might be possible. After all, even the neo-structuralists must acknowledge that change does take place and subjects never quite seem to fit structure. Yet what this entire line of thought assumes– without ever explicitly stating it –is that agents are receptive to social structure without remainder. How else could we account for Zizek’s claims about the ideology of toilets? Analysis of the in-form-ation of information might yield a very different line of thought and open a very different set of possibilities where agency is concerned.

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