AN OEUVRE IN CONSTRUCTION, HERE-AND-NOW
And Polo said: "The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities.
I. Preface or Diagonal Events
Jan De Cock is an inveterate avant-gardist. As such he is untimely, a singular universal replete with his own conceits, openness, radicality, elusiveness, and decreative power. To encounter him is an event as Gilles Deleuze defines it:
Making an event - however small - is the most delicate thing in the world: the opposite of making a drama or making a story. Loving those who are like this: when they enter a room they are not persons, characters or subjects, but an atmospheric variation, a change of hue, an imperceptible molecule, a discrete population, a fog or a cloud of droplets. Everything has really changed.
Everything has really changed for me. De Cock's work and his desires for it have forced me to think beyond assumed and inherited art historical tropes and frameworks. And now I desire an experimental art historical writing that gets us beyond "the sight of death" to the immanence of life as such. But how to write alongside and perhaps against De Cock's "aristocratic-mass art"? How and why must an art historian maintain a fidelity to an aesthetic event? Is it possible to face the challenges this work presents us? How are we to trace its differentiations and singular points of inflection of the history of modernity and the nearly ossified discourse of contemporary art without collapsing into clichéd statements and patterns of thought? Is it possible to embody that elusive enunciative position wherein criticality is indiscernible from affirmation and creativity?
A starting point is never a point, but only a passage between fixed states, a passage between things as they are imagined and things as they are. Pierre Boulez,
admiring Webern, wrote that "he created a new dimension, which we might call a diagonal dimension, a sort of distribution of points, groups, or figures that no longer act simply as an abstract framework but actually exist in space." So a little phrase from Boulez, a small passage that resonates with my thoughts about Jan and us, one that forces us to face a diagonal event.
II. Facing Jan/us
Perhaps there is no better vantage point to assess an artist's work than mid career. Not a mid-career retrospective (a backward survey of work done to date), but rather an intensive encounter within that threshold between past and future wherein the problematics, creative solutions, poetic desires, and polemics become sharper because of the short shadows of midday. Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/mì ritrovai…chè la diritta via era smaritta. So it is less about looking backward than it is about starting with a very simple yet not straightforward state of things: how has Jan De Cock harnessed forms to render aesthetic and socio-political forces visible in his present work? For it is only within an actual state of things-his current work-that we can discern the coexistence of a longstanding set of conceptual frameworks, artistic mediators, and an agonistic will to transmit the future potentiality of avant-garde art. De Cock is a belated auteur, an artist who embodies the future anterior tense: he will have been a singular artist of his generation.
He will have been. If only his audience materializes. If only a community (a group of people and a commonplace, a lieu commun) inheres around this work. Whenever and wherever we encounter De Cock's aesthetic labor-whether at the Tate Modern, the Museum of Modern Art, the Stedelijk Museum, the streets of Havana or Tokyo, wherever-we face individual actualizations of a set of virtual possibilities. De Cock insists that each iteration of his work is irreducible to a specific genre of contemporary art practice. Thus, while each project engages aspects of site-specificity, conceptual photography, institutional critique, or post-Minimalist practice, it does so only as an aesthetic mode (a repertoire of strategies and tactics) to address a very specific formal and conceptual context. This specificity becomes evident through his insistence that he creates not "specific objects" (pace Donald Judd), but a practice that articulates itself through "specific reasons." "Specific reasons" are evident for each of De Cock's aesthetic and conceptual decisions. His aesthetic labor enfolds, unfolds, and refolds a consistent set of virtual concerns through quite specific yet diverse modes of working (blue-red, positive-negative, misdirection) and concepts (gifts, the out-of-frame or "collateral damage" in his terms, encounters, passages).
Modes and concepts, strategies and tactics, re-search and consignment-De Cock gives us diagonal events that force us to rethink, reimagine, and insist on the social and aesthetic legitimation of art in the twenty-first century. His work is always in medias res because it is threshold-work-it is passagen-werk, a studio-arcades project rendered as a sense-event: "abstract, singular, and creative, here and now, real yet nonconcrete, actual yet noneffectuated." Aesthetic labor in this manner is nothing other than work, the specific art-work, required to transform motifs into motives, to transmit artistic events, to graphically heighten the presumed contemporary indistinction between art and non-art, and to haunt us with that belated yet future anterior equation Jean-Luc Godard had printed on a blackboard in Bande à part: Classique = Moderne. So simple in its equation, yet so dizzying in its comprehension. Neither an equation of substitution nor transposition; rather, it is an equation of duration and becoming, individuations and reiterations. If we see the equal sign as a parallel becoming, as a threshold or arcade, then De Cock's studio is a classical-modern passage that opens us to the history of modern art because it repeats and reframes those histories, rendering visible not a coherent narrative, but rather a field of chaotic, aleatory encounters that he works with and against in order to present us with sense-events that frame and compose that chaos as sensible and thinkable. In other words, as an untimely artwork.
Art-work does not simply mean reconciling, domesticating, or repudiating the relation between art and life. Nor does it allow the defeatist position of accepting the indifference between art and everyday life (non-art). Instead, art is a vital materialism that renders sensible and intelligible life as such (not human life because it partakes of something more general). As Deleuze reminds us, "It is not one term [art or life, subject or object, art or non-art] which becomes the other, but each encounters the other, a single becoming which is not common to the two, since they have nothing to do with one another, but which is between the two, which has its own direction." The becoming he refers to is "time as primary matter, immense and terrifying, like universal becoming." This ontological becoming has no other mode of being than to actualize itself, that is, to become embodied, sensible, and thus historical, time and again, anew. Art-work, including our responses to it, is not an ontological transcendence of the world; instead, it positions us in a passage between becoming and history: it neither flees nor transcends the world because it immerses you more deeply into its very fabric, into the funk, viscera, and sinew of another world's ontological and historical becoming. An artwork is thus "becoming caught in a matter of expression." This, Deleuze adds, is an "art-monument" wherein the virtual-the coexistence of lines of time (temporalities), distinct yet indiscernible forces (imagination, will , memory, desire)-is not actualized (made present in its entirety) but rather is embodied: an art-monument constructs a passage (a material and temporal body or framework) wherein we can sense and discern a "life higher than the 'lived'" that is "neither virtual nor actual" but "possible: the possible as aesthetic category" becomes imaginable and thinkable through art.
This passagen-werk-meaning De Cock's studio-atelier, his outmoded idiolect, and artistic desires (to be a collector and a destructive character at once)-are all required components for these sense-events to take on a consistency, to become aesthetic and epistemic, virtual and actual, im/material encounters. He forces us-the multitude-to recollect the potency of art-work: its very power as Kunstgriff: that is, the unexpected turn, trick, or reversal that art creates when imagination becomes action, when what is given or "natural" suddenly becomes deconstructed, contingent, and open to reimagining right before our eyes. The concept of a Kunstgriff, the "turn" or "reversal" art enacts comes from Walter Benjamin. For me, it is an aesthetic concept linked to his famous concept of "the turn of recollection" (die Wendung des Eingendenkens), which is an inversion, an immanent about-face. It is defined as a point at which there is an unexpected yet in retrospect not unmotivated turn of events, a reorientation which one can now see is neither wholly consistent nor inevitable. It is this power or force that we must recollect and fight for in real terms whenever we consider art in the twenty-first century.
De Cock's Kunstgriff is the decisive movement wherein what has been becomes fortuitously what will have been. As such he presents us with a Classique = Moderne oeuvre and an atlas, a "compound of chaos" and a passe-partout: a decreative "beauty that falls."
It is here that we see the absolute importance of the diagonal line. A line/cut. A motivation that deframes and composes at once, an aesthetic "hinge" (brisure) drawing seemingly opposed, fixed states (past and future, solid and void, recto and verso) into more complex states of relational becoming. A diagonal runs across and joins together, obliquely tracing a line between Jan and us. The Jan/us face that De Cock's work comprises relates to both his avant-garde desires and his deep respect for certain past artists. The diagonal line is thus technics and aisthesis. It is a motif that first appears in his 2009 exhibition Repromotion via the amphora shapes: diagonal as a line-form. But the diagonal is a motif that becomes a motivation, a "specific reason" for how he orients and forms the focal depth by which we observe and become observed in his work. The diagonal is motivation to create by following a line that subtends the montage of forms and images, that questions the problematics of functionality, and that extends the logic of modular components so that motifs and sculptural pieces move between exhibitions and projects as a means to suggest the indeterminate nature of artifice. The diagonal is a multiplicity: sculptural component, wall, line, edge, viewpoint, gesture, fiber, color, emblem, slant of light, mood. It includes the smallest sections of the elaborate net that De Cock casts over chaos in order to give us new ways of seeing, feeling, and thinking about the world.
It is this precisely reticulated net gives us montages of space-time, finite modes that complicate our habitual experience and challenge how we explicate it. Language is interrupted. Aesthetic expression = becoming, knowing, and acting in the world. Aesthetic expression = a radical empiricism, that is, constructing and expressing thresholds of immanence, places of passage. Places of passage are domains and diagrams. Infinitives: To diagram Jan/us as an encounter, an ensemble. To test the limits of our affective capacity. To endure his disquieting muses. To face a modal event in medias res.
De Cock's oeuvre is intensive open work, a field of singularities, resolutely capable of illuminating our way through the eclipse of culture, the inferno, in the present. These are true gifts and we should make them endure, give them space.
III. Everything For You, or Sculpture Communism
From 2013 - 2017 De Cock created his Everything For You project throughout a series of cities throughout the world-Mexico City, Kiev, Havana, Tokyo, Belfast, Casablanca, Carrara, Liverpool, etc. In each he conceived, built, staged and photographed Denkmalen (art-monuments) that he literally "gifted" to the people who live and visit these locations. The sculptures themselves return to a concept, namely the Denkmal, which De Cock worked through in an earlier series from 2003-2008. This series produced two stellar articulations of the concept: Denkmal 53 in 2005 at the Tate Modern in London and Denkmal 11 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2008. While earlier iterations deployed a range of aesthetic strategies that traverse sculptural practice, site-specificity, institutional critique art, and modern architecture itself, the works at the center of the Everything For You project are more provisional, aloof, ad hoc, and colorful. Each responding to specific logistical, environmental, political, and/or historical limitations. For De Cock, these "sculpture communistic events" are irreducible to the sculptural works themselves. Instead, the event is the site-specific encounter that occurs between an impersonal, unknown audience in the world and a remnant or untimely trace of avant-garde art, dislocated in time and place. It is this encounter that De Cock documents through his photographs and subsequently transforms into images of an elusive and allusive sense-event.
Thus De Cock's sculptural works, at once baroque and minimal, are consigned to a particular area of a given city. But there is no one place. It is rather a series of places. A series of cities. Hence it is a series of works. A series of photographic images given back to the public. De Cock leaves the works in certain locales instigating encounters with people. Encounters that interrupt their everyday routines and habitual perceptual activity. As such the sculpture is a flashpoint, a magnetizer that attracts content.
Furthermore, De Cock deploys abstraction and agitprop staging in order to deframe his chosen sites. His abstract sculptures are created through experimentation with what a material body can do and become. For him, the work of the work of art is abstraction, that is, creativity, re-search, and re-composing (opening "a world that is permanent yet eternally open" he argues). This is the starting point of his practice, which repeats at the conclusion when he placards the sites with agitprop memory-traces (photographs) of the starting point. The endgame repeats the starting point differently. The endgame is the future re-searching the past for different possibilities, transmitting an unrepresentable event to another historical context. All of the aspects of De Cock's deframing practice-abstraction, installation, photography, memory-work-are inseparable from these compositional abilities. Meaning that he works to deframe the present as a means to transmit a temporal passage, which composes new compounds, configurations, and meanings. This is the "gift as content" De Cock writes about in his manifesto.
The "gift" here is neither the sculpture nor the front flash-lit color photograph he takes of various individuals and/or groups interacting, observing, posing with, and touching the sculpture. The "gift" is the encounter created. An encounter runs diagonally between object and an image, between sculpture and photography, between past and future. Within this staged encounter "everything" is offered. Instead of a mode of reflection or meditation, least of all commodity production, De Cock's aesthetic labor, his mode of production, is to stage encounters. Encounters open a world. This is the giftig promise of Everything For You. A promise that is always so tempting, so satanic. As Jacques Derrida has shown, the German root of the English word "gift" is das Gift, which means "poison". Giftig, in German, means "poisonous" or "dangerous". For Derrida, gift-giving is indissolubly linked to something "poisonous" because it demands reciprocity. Any act of gift-giving partakes of a complex temporality in which reciprocity entails a future action that not merely completes but repeats the initial offering differently.
This begs the question of what De Cock expects from his audience. Must his audience reciprocate? What is being asked of them within this aesthetic encounter? Especially if we know that from within an aesthetic encounter an ethical and political one opens. But is it not also true that any ethical and political claim made on an individual entails an ontological claim as well? The very conception and perception of one's being is challenged when confronted with ethical and political demands. For this reason De Cock presents us with artworks, comprised of singularities, that embody an event to come. He presents singularities-ontological-aesthetic points of connection, shared impersonal traits-that force us to think and to become, the infinitives that best define an event.
For Deleuze and Félix Guattari a singularity is distinct from both "universal" and "individual". Deleuze defines it as such: "Singularity should not be understood as something opposing the universal but any element that can be extended to the proximity of another such that it may obtain a connection." For Deleuze and Guattari singularities take the place of the subject (the humanist individual). Instead of focusing on an autonomous subject, Deleuze and Guattari focus on pre-individual singularities and that which occurs when connections are made between them. For them, an individual is nothing other than "the actualization of preindividual singularities and implies no previous determination." A subject is thus redefined as a multiplicity (flux, becoming) rather than a pre-determined or fixed unity (being). Pre-individual traits (singularities such as a smile, an intensity of color, a degree of heat, a vibration) are shared but not universal. Nonetheless, perceiving and sensing singularities opens one to an immanent field (a shared terrain, a commonplace) without a subject. Subjectivity as multiplicity means that there is no simple unity or totality. Subjectivity is comprised of lines, dimensions, and durations that are irreducible to one another. These lines often intersect and connect via singularities. It is between and along the lines running between these points of intersection that subjectivity coheres. Subjectivity is thus a process that is produced and that appears within multiplicities because "multiplicities are reality itself." Subjectivity as multiplicity means that encountering singularities is an ontological event, a becoming. Within and between each entity or state of things there is movement (becoming). Amidst and between seemingly fixed entitities becomings are contantly taking place via singularities, which open us to new ontological and ethical realities that transform subjectivity.
It is important to understand how Deleuze and Guattari fold their ontological consideration of singularities into their aesthetic theory. An ontological event (a becoming) is a movement within and between multiplicities. In other words, it is a movement between points of connection, between states of things; one that renders creation and destruction indiscernible. If everything is comprised of multiplicities, then there is movement from "singularity to singularity, under the law of convergence or of prolongation that ties the individual to one world or another." Individuation and thought occur within multiplicities, whatever results from this movement also occurs within the creation of an artwork. The ontological power of art is expressed through the articulation of materiality, through a process of "condensing and prolonging singularities." For Deleuze and Guattari, an aesthetic encounter is a passage between organic and inorganic, between viewer and artwork, that sets each in motion, instigating individuations and thought, leading to an asymmetrical becoming between the two. Asymmetrical because the viewer does not become the artwork or vice versa. There is no synthesis, no presupposed unity of any kind. Instead an asubjective, non-personal life (a vitalism, movement as such, becoming) passes between singularities thereby drawing each multiplicity (viewer and artwork) into intensive, mutant compounds.
Put another way, singularities are the material components of artworks; they shine forth and compel us when we are in the midst of an artwork. Singularities are the material beings of an artwork, which are not solely contingent upon the perceptual experience of artist or the viewer. They are at once ontological and historical. Deleuze and Guattari rightly contend that artists create with singularities (affects, percepts, sensations) in order to construct linkages: to allow lines of becoming to run between beings. Singularities are points of connection; shared impersonal traits that link animate and inanimate, sensible and intelligible, past and future. Their light and resonance are irreducible to the present.
De Cock forces us to rethink aesthetic labor as an excessive power, an unwanted, desirous power that presents singularities. His mode of aesthetic labor is not sublimation; rather, it is subterranean, clandestine, always slowly at work reassembling and transfiguring the present with a past that remains immanent within it. As he insists, the future and art are "an oeuvre in construction, here-and-now." In other words, De Cock's work transmits such material encounters, so many ontological, aesthetic, and political possibilities. Hence his practice involves re-search, that is, returning and surveying the cultural past for strategies and new modes of production and exchange. Thus he creates his precursors (Lissitzsky, Brancusi, Judd, Kabakov, and others). Or, as he writes of himself in full manifesto mode: he is "a small radical visionary whose works fit neatly into tradition." "Fitting neatly" is not a matter of pastiche or even of influence. Rather, as a "small radical visionary" De Cock becomes a futural force, a means of "forced communication," experimenting with how to transmit certain specific singularities-tactics, modes of address, visibilities-that complicate and (re)explicate the entirety of tradition. For him, aesthetic labor opens a shared cultural and political space-time.
De Cock's hopeful goal is to open a shared political space within our contemporary culture industry. Emphasis must be placed on his desire for the artworks to be "within" and yet still capable of troubling the logic of commodity capitalism. Note his remarkable phrase: "Everything for You is a gift to capitalism and a gift to spare artworks from capitalism." De Cock desires, agonistically perhaps, that the work as an ensemble creates within and beyond the strictures of a capitalist economy. The entirety of Everything For You or Sculpture Communism rides on this wager. Art generates "social value", as he says, and not merely market value. What De Cock wagers is that the potentialities of art have not been exhausted or nullified by the neoliberal financialization of culture. The potentialities of art that De Cock believes in resonate with Antonio Negri's position that "art is anti-market inasmuch as it counterposes the multitude of singularities to unicity reduced to a price. The revolutionary critique of the political economy of the market constructs a terrain of art's enjoyability for the multitude of singularities."
Every instance of Everything For You condenses and prolongs singularities in order for us to become with those singularities because an immanent cultural space-time runs between and betwixt subjects, objects, and temporalities. It is culture lived otherwise. One wherein states of things become beautiful singularities that offer only the giftig promise of an event to come.
This becoming is the diagonal line, the Janus-face of sculpture communism/abstract capitalism for De Cock. With these two overdetermined sets of terms De Cock presents us with an aesthetic and political wager: to encounter his artworks as a virus or a Trojan Horse, as a manner of immanent becoming. The singularities that comprise the artwork become visible in the photographs, which exhibit curious framing and unexpected focal points. This is done to foreground what is coming into view, what is coming into existence. Between object, encounter, and image there is such subtle yet transformative movement, a flimmering of singularities that signal an immanent opening of a world.
But opening a world is a call for a people to come. As Deleuze often reminds us, by quoting Paul Klee: "the people are missing." In De Cock's work we see that there is no predetermined audience. Only within the encounter are a people called forth to become otherwise, to step beyond subjectivity toward an event. But this calling forth has a complicated logic. "The people are missing and at the same time, they are not missing," Deleuze explains. "The people are missing means that the fundamental affinity between a work of art and a people that does not yet exist will never be clear. There is no work of art that does not call on a people who does not yet exist." Even if Deleuze asserts that all works of art call on a people to come, it must be noted that De Cock passionately labors to articulate this call. Thus we should add another element to De Cock's insistence that the future and art are "an oeuvre in construction, here-and-now." We must add that "a people to come" are also "an oeuvre in construction, here-and-now."
Insisting that art and politics are "an oeuvre in construction, here-and-now" also marks a clear distinction between De Cock's practice and many of the works that have fallen under the label of 'relational aesthetics'. He is not providing an artistic service. It is not his skills which he offers to an audience in order to create a community. It is not a personal or "useful" connection. De Cock offers only the artwork. Only what he has made. His artworks are left here, abandoned there, without home or audience. In his practice the work is paramount. He gives only the works' potentiality to construct, frame, install, attract, interrupt, and compose. De Cock is not making us a meal or offering us a parodic docent spiel. On the contrary, he forces us to encounter a work of art in all its demanding brilliance. In other words, in its excessive uselessness it begins to function anew. De Cock offers us neither community engagement, social work, nor relational aesthetics. He offers only a challenge: to encounter a work of art in the world and to allow it to function, to do its work, to place ethical and political demands on us.
In this manner the full battery of tactics and strategies De Cock deploys constitute an "art-monument". But a monument, as it is redefined by Deleuze and Guattari, has nothing to do with "commemorating a past" or representation. Instead, a monument is "a bloc of present sensations [singularities] that owe their preservation only to themselves and that provide the event with the compound that celebrates it." As a monument De Cock's work gifts us the very materiality of an event, that is, singularities as "droplets of an event," a becoming within time. Rather than "commemorating" a given occurrence, De Cock's monuments are gifts because they "confide to the ear of the future the persistent sensations that embody the event." This is the complicated temporality of an event, which "constantly both awaits us and precedes us."
It is with such a style and vitalism that De Cock gives us this work. And we must take up this work. De Cock's mode of encounter demands so much and yet so little. It demands an ontological and ethical openness to another world here-and-now; it demands we recollect the full powers of aesthetic creation.
IV. Contents of volume I
The essays and images collected in this volume represent the full complexity of De Cock's Everything for You project. The conceptual and aesthetic labor of this project instigated the two phrases that De Cock has utilized to address its varied strategies and desires: sculpture communism and abstract capitalism. Gathered here are images of the sculpture communism events as they unfolded in cities and locales throughout the world. The concept of "sculpture communism" avoids postmodern irony as much as it abhors a lack of theorization. Toward this end, presented in this volume is De Cock's "Manifest for Sculpture Communism," which best embodies the initial, hopeful, and agonistic ethos of the entire project. Furthermore, some of the most insightful art historians, theorists, and thinkers have written about De Cock's project. Essays by Angela Dimitraki, Bruno Bosteels, Nina Schallenberg, Stefaan Vervoort, Steven ten Thije, Jon Wood, Jo Applin, and Philip Ursprung all present and explicate various aspects of De Cock's project, ranging from political theory to participatory art to the economic and professional paradoxes of the figure of the artist in neoliberal culture.
Collectively these essays represent the most sustained encounter with De Cock's work. By addressing the aesthetic (modularity as sculptural practice in Schallenberg or the ontological status of the photographic image in Thije), political (issues of labor and collective practices as in Dimitraki, Bosteels, and Ursprung), and ethical (Marcel Mauss' theory of the gift in Applin or the nexus of sculpture-photograph as portraiture in Wood) these essays comprise a sustained attempt to frame De Cock's artistic persona as something "extimate" (an intimate exteriority) to his aesthetic labor. The work De Cock presents stands up on its own, while his artistic persona supplements and confounds any simple reception of that work's aesthetic and epistemic achievements. De Cock's creation of artistic persona is fully addressed by Vervoort in ways that foreground how and why art and life are never simply opposed as much as they are an economy of intensities and degree-resonances of an aesthetic event that implicates the one (life) within the other (art). Perhaps in terms that De Cock (via Antoine Bourdelle) understands implicitly: it is a becoming-bowstring of the hunter, sinew-string, with its own potentialities, with its own targets.
- Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues II, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, London and New York: Continuum, 2006, 49.
- Here I am extending and playing with T. J. Clark's thesis in The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. I have already begun this work in several essays; see especially Emerling, "An Art Historical Return to Bergson," Bergson and the Art of Immanence, eds. John Mullarkey and Charlotte de Mille, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013, 260-271.
- I am drawing on the concept of art for the masses that remains "aristocratic" not in terms of capital or class, but in terms of knowledge and education required to fully engage with contemporary "mass art" that Alain Badiou develops in "On Cinema as a Democratic Emblem." He writes that "the other half of the phrase 'mass art', namely 'art', is, and can only be, an aristocratic category. To say that 'art' is an aristocratic category is not a case of being judgmental. You are simply noting that 'art' includes the idea of formal creation, of visible novelty in the history of forms, and therefore requires the means for understanding creation as such, necessitates a differential education, a minimal proximity to the history of the art concerned and to the vicissitudes of its grammar. A long and often thankless apprenticeship. A technological broadening of the mind. Pleasures, of course, but sophisticated, developed, acquired pleasures. In 'mass art' there is a paradoxical relationship between a pure democratic element (in terms of eruption and eventual energy) and an aristocratic element (in terms of individual education and differential registers of taste)," Cinema, ed. Antoine de Baecque, trans. Susan Spitzer, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013, 235.
- Cited in Gilles Deleuze, Foucault, trans. Seán Hand, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988, 22. See also Pierre Boulez, Relevés d'apprenti, Paris: Seuil, 1966, 372.
- On the diagonal line, see Deleuze, Foucault, 22. Note also John Marks' explanation of the diagonal line as a "transversal" in Deleuze's "portrait" of Foucault, The Deleuze Dictionary, ed. Adrian Parr, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2019, 113. This pressing question regarding the cultural and political legitimation of art in the twenty-first century is the subject of Peter Osborne's remarkable Anywhere or Not at All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art, London: Verso, 2013.
- Deleuze and Félix Guattari define an event as such; see A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1987, 511.
- The "untimely" is a concept Deleuze and Guattari develop from Nietzsche via Foucault; see What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, 112-13; and Deleuze, Negotiations 1972-1990, trans. Martin Joughin, New York: Columbia University Press, 1995, 170-1. See also Deleuze, Foucault, 107-111, 119-123, and Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, ed. Daniel Breazeale, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997, 57-125.
- Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues II, 7.
- Deleuze, Cinema II: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001, 115.
- Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 177. Deleuze clarifies his meaning of the "virtual" by writing: "A life contains only virtuals. It is made up of virtualities, events, singularities. What we call virtual is not something that lacks reality but something that is engaged in a process of actualization following the place that gives it its particular reality," Pure Immanence: Essays on A Life, trans. Anne Boyman, New York: Zone Books, 2001, 31.
- In addition, Brian Massumi adds that the "virtual, as such, is inaccessible to the senses. This
- does not, however, preclude figuring it, in the sense of constructing images of it. To the contrary, it requires a multiplication of images…Images of the virtual make the virtual appear not in their content or form, but in fleeting…the appearance of the virtual is in the twists and folds of formed content," Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002, 133.
- On this paradox of the "destructive character" and the "collector" in Benjamin's work, see Emerling, "An Art History of Means: Arendt-Benjamin," Journal of Art Historiography, Volume 1, December 2009, 1-20: http://arthistoriography.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/media_139138_en.pdf
- See also Emerling, The Gesture of Collecting: Walter Benjamin and Contemporary Aesthetics, UCLA Dissertation, 2007.
- See Emerling "An Art History of Means: Arendt-Benjamin," 17-19.
- The phrase a "compound of chaos" to define an artwork is from Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 206. The brilliant phrase "a beauty that falls" was the subject of several conversations I had with Giorgio Agamben in Los Angeles in 2002-4. It is the title of his poetic short piece on Cy Twombly. See Agamben, "Beauty that falls," Writings on Cy Twombly, ed. Nicola del Roscio, Munich: Schirmer/Mosel, 2002, 283. I am appropriating and redefining the concept of 'decreation' that I first encountered in Simone Weil's Gravity and Grace (1947). It is a concept at once theological, aesthetic, and historiographic. See Weil, Gravity and Grace, trans. Emma Crawford and Mario von der Ruhr, London and New York: Routledge, 1997, especially 32-9. Decreation is also quite insightful for understanding the discourse of modern art (Klee, Kandinsky, Mondrian) and literature including Wallace Stevens. I have been working on Stevens' 1951 lecture entitled "The Relations Between Poetry and Painting" in which he takes Weil's decreation as a starting point. Moreover, it has become evident to me through both conversations with him and through close readings of his texts that Agamben's writings on art, which include essays on Twombly, Melville, Kafka, Walser, and others, stem from Weil's concept of decreation. Weil is certainly a "hidden figure" in Agamben's entire philosophy, which posits decreation as "the paradigm of a politics to come." See Agamben, "In this Exile (Italian Diary, 1992-94)," Means Without End: Notes on Politics, translated by Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000, 121-142.
- The notion of a "hinge" (brisure) is borrowed from Derrida's Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976, 65-73. Derrida discusses the "hinge of language as writing" to foreground his famous concepts of the trace and spacing. All three of these interrelated concepts disrupt both the "modern concept of the sign" and its attendant "linearist concept of time."
- Jan de Cock, Everything For You: Manifest for Sculpture Communism, 2014. All quotes to follow by De Cock, unless otherwise stated, are borrowed from this manifest.
- My discussion of an "encounter" is indelibly colored by the work of Deleuze and Guattari. The entirety of their work, both together and independently, returns time and again to the concept of an encounter with a work of art. The best explanation of this concept in their philosophy undoubtedly remains Simon O'Sullivan's Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought Beyond Representation, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
- All contemporary discussions of the "gift" are indebted to Derrida's meditations on the ethical complications, if not fundamental aporia, of giving. He draws our attention to this complexity in many ways, initially focusing on etymology and translation. Ultimately Derrida is thinking through absolute (ethical) indebtedness and alterity. See Derrida, Given Time: 1. Counterfeit Money, trans. Peggy Kamuf, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1992. Perhaps in this light De Cock's "sculpture communism" also becomes visible as a "specter of Marx." See Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, & the New International, trans. Peggy Kamuf, London and New York, Routledge, 1994.
- Thinking ontology (being as becoming), ethics, and politics together in this manner results from my understanding of Deleuze and Guattari's philosophy. The "political" in art is less about subject matter or exposing ideological aporias than it is about forcing viewers to confront the ontological movements of life as such. These "encounters" with life as such (the ontological real) force one to experiment with ethical (one's relation to oneself and to others) and political becomings. I believe this is made clear in Deleuze's short text "Many Politics." See Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues II, 93-111. The inseparability of ontology, ethics, and politics is the motivating force for the work of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, two of the most brilliant readers of Deleuze and Guattari. Note how they frame their latest collaboration Commonwealth as an "ethical and political project" beginning with the "production of subjectivity itself." They add that "with each increase of our power we become different, adding to what we are, expanding social being. Being [ontology] is not fixed once and for all in some otherworldly realm but constantly subject to a process of becoming." See Hardt and Negri, Commonwealth, Cambridge, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009, x, 378.
- Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews 1975-1995, ed. David Lapoujade, trans. Ames Hodges and Mike Taormina, New York, Semiotext(e), 2007, 354.
- Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and The Baroque, trans. Tom Conley, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1993, 64.
- Deleuze explains his work with Guattari on multiplicities here: "It is a theory of multiplicities for themselves, wherever the multiple reaches the state of a substantive…[We try] to show how multiplicities cannot be reduced to the distinction between the conscious and the unconscious, nature and history, body and soul. Multiplicities are reality itself. They do not presuppose unity of any kind, do not add up to a totality, and do not refer to a subject. Subjectivations, totalizations, and unifications are in fact processes which are produced and appear in multiplicities." See Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness, 315. "Thus each individual is an infinite multiplicity, and the whole of Nature is a multiplicity of perfectly individuated multiplicities," they write in A Thousand Plateaus, 254.
- Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness, 315.
- Deleuze, The Fold, 64.
- Deleuze and Guattari are consistent in their definition of a singularity. See Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, 232-309. In addition, see What Is Philosophy?, 163-199.
- As Marquard Smith writes: "to research, which by definition is 'to look for with care', is an act not only of interpreting the world but changing it." He rightly demands that we recognize how and why "each historical moment has its own épistéme of re-search." He also hyphenates re-search to emphasize its complicated structure of repetition and difference, of always being in the middle between past and future. See Smith, "Theses on the Philosophy of History: The Work of Research in the Age of Digital Searchability and Distributability," Journal of Visual Culture: The Archives Issue 12 (3), December 2013, 375-403. This remarkable essay was preceded by an edited volume: What Is Research in the Visual Arts?: Obsession, Archive, Encounter, eds. Michael Ann Holly and Marquard Smith, New Haven, Yale University Press, 2009.
- Here I mean that he "creates his precursors" in the way Borges explains in his essay "Kafka and His Precursors": "The fact is that every writer 'creates' his own precursors. His work modifies on conception of the past, as it will modify the future." See Borges, Other Inquisitions, 1937-1952, trans. Ruth L. C. Simms, Austin, University of Texas Press, 1975. I elaborate this notion of creating one's precursors or mediators in the second volume.
- Antonio Negri, Art & Multitude, trans. Ed Emery, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2011, 32.
- Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness, 329.
- See Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, Dijon, Les Presses du réel, 2002. Also note Andrea Fraser, "How to Provide an Artistic Service: An Introduction (1994)" in Zoya Kocur and Simon Leung, Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985, Malden, Wiley & Sons, 2013, 146-152.
- Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, 167-8.
- Ibid., 176.
- Deleuze and Parnet, Dialogues II, 48.
- The essays collected in this volume originally appeared as "Memorial Papers" for the event at each location. A "Memorial Paper" being literally a single edition newspaper for each site. They were the only given away at each of the "openings." Each "Memorial Paper" included one or two essays. All of these essays were solicited and edited by Merel van Tillberg and Angela Bartholomew. De Cock has proposed publishing a complete volume of the images and essays as presented in the "Memorial Papers," which would be edited by van Tillberg and Bartholomew. Their tremendous labor, time and sustained effort played a significant part in making this volume possible.