A footnote from work in progress:

There is a hidden affinity between the aesthetics of Deleuze and of Adorno. For both thinkers, the authentic work of art resists an otherwise ubiquitous culture of commodification, by virtue of its force of negativity (Adorno) or of counter-actualization (Deleuze). Deleuze’s account of how modernist art works to “prevent the full actualization” of the event to which it responds, and to reverse “the techniques of social alienation” into “revolutionary means of exploration,” echoes Adorno’s insistence that it is “only by virtue of the absolute negativity of collapse” that art can “enunciate the unspeakable: utopia.” For both thinkers, and despite their radical differences in vocabulary, art restores potentiality by derealizing the actual. The question that haunts aesthetics today is whether such strategies of derealization are still practicable, in a time when negation and counter-actualization have themselves become resources for the extraction of surplus value.

8 thoughts on “Fragment”

  1. You wrote:

    >The question that haunts aesthetics today is whether such
    >strategies of derealization are still practicable, in a time when
    >negation and counter-actualization have themselves become
    >resources for the extraction of surplus value.

    Art has become the intellectual wing of the Entertainment Industry. Much of it operates through the Gallery Museum Industrial Complex.

    In my opinion the only way to counter it is to not participate in it by the standards it sets. Which is why I give my work away for free. I have a day job as a professor. It pays OK. Submitting my art to monetisation is unnecessary and destructive. One of my undergrad professors back in the 70s/80s asked the class “What is Art?” Everyone had a variety of answers. He said “You are all wrong. Art is whatever the marketplace says it is.”

    This implies that Art is whatever anyone is willing to pay for as art, and by extension what societies views and values as art as expressed in money and resources. So, if one does not sell one’s work, one is no longer an Artist.

    I see this “non-Artist”ness as a good thing.

    Robert Fripp said “The business of the amateur musician is to do music, the business of the professional musician is to do business.” I believe he said that with some pain, as he seems to loathe the music business, but is trapped given his status as a professional musician of some 40+ years.

    My old prof and Fripp both point at the same thing: money.

    Therefore, from my view the only way to be an Artist is to completely reject the structure of the market. Dessanayake (in Homo Aestheticus, 1992) describes art as innate, and a way that humans “make things special”. This is something below economy. It’s simply something we do, and has turned into this cultural clusterfuck from thousands of years of indoor living.

    The most radical gesture, at present, is to work outside the system.

    Gift Economy.

    If you don’t sell, you can’t sell out.

    It might be said that such work simply gives all the power to the oppressor: giving it away allows them to use it for economic purposes or “extract surplus value”. while this is true, it is also irrelevant. Walk down the street, and sing a new song to yourself in your head. Make it up. Keep it simple. Teach it to someone else. It may eventually find its way into a dogfood commercial. But you get to keep the value of having taught someone a really nice song.

    Art hasn’t been of any consequence in a very long time. What matters now is communication, relationships, community, shared values, etc. Insofar as official “ART” culture is of use in this regard, it is of use. Otherwise, it can be ignored.

    “Who’s the Art Star this month?”

    “Who still cares? Why?” It’s like getting all excited over the Oscars…

  2. I like Henry’s comments very much, particularly at the moment where he says that to make art would mean to reject the market. As you are citing Deleuze, the comment about surplus value makes me think of Deleuze’s discussion of Bartleby in -Essays Critical and Clinical- where it is the configuration of the statement of preferring to not, an essential knotting up of surplus value, where Bartleby doesn’t only “prefer not to” but he prefers not to not, not to negate, and yet also not to affirm, effectively resisting commodification and Oedipalizaton, much like an object that might be produced by a schizo artist. Yet your question is rather intriguing as it reveals (to me) an indication that capital has moved into the code switching mechanisms of the schizo or into the nonplace of Bartleby.

    And still, I must say that I have a difficult time in the homology between Deleuze and Adorno. For Deleuze, the issue is pre-individuation (or actualization or whatever); for Adorno, the issue (for me) is post-individuation ….., so the approaches to the problem make a big difference to me, and perhaps in the main body of the text these issues are discussed, seeing as this is just a note.

    And so from this position, I would split Deleuze and Adorno around this point of capital’s commodification of the virtual/negation. But that’s just me without seeing the argument that you are crafting. . . .

    There’s currently a CFP from -Deleuze Studies- on Marx and Deleuze, and what you’re working with here seems to be a fit.

  3. “The question that haunts aesthetics today is whether such strategies of derealization are still practicable, in a time when negation and counter-actualization have themselves become resources for the extraction of surplus value.”

    Steve, This is essentially what Deleuze points to in “Postscript,” without putting it in explicitly aesthetic terms. I wonder what his book on Marx would have been.

    In response to the other comments here, “outside the market” doesn’t really exist except as determined by the market, to be a little reductionistic about it.: If we take Deleuze and Guattari’s critiques of capitalism seriously, there is therefore no “real” “outside the market.” That’s why Deleuze writes about the idea of “counter-actualization,” as Steve puts it. But since he wrote about this, things have also changed, such that “strategies of derealization are (no longer) practicable, in a time when negation and counter-actualization have themselves become resources for the extraction of surplus value.”

    Anyway, I know this is just a footnote, and I’m not all that familiar with what you are working on, but from what I have read so far, it’s very exciting.

  4. Therese wrote:

    In response to the other comments here, “outside the market” doesn’t really exist except as determined by the market, to be a little reductionistic about it.: If we take Deleuze and Guattari’s critiques of capitalism seriously, there is therefore no “real” “outside the market.”

    But what if we don’t take their critiques of Capitalism seriously? Or, even more to the point: what if they’re wrong?

    Capitalism continues, the machine still works. The planet is still being looted, paved over, and burnt out by the human infestation…

    It boils down (to be a little reductionistic about it)


    to what one does and how one arrives at ethical decisions and how it informs one’s choices and behaviour.

    Re: steve’s ideas – I agree. I think that Steve is going somewhere very interesting.

  5. Allow me to paraphrase:

    Steve’s question, regarding the present practicality of strategies of derealization, given that both negation and counter-actualization have themselves become commodified for the subsequent extraction of surplus value, presupposes the necessity of capital to continually find new areas to invade so that the rate of surplus profit can continually rise. In my view this can be experienced by the commodification of more and more of everyday life.
    I agree with Warwick, that present “art” has been commodified and that a noble jester is to give one’s art away. I also agree with Cutter that capital has moved into the code of switching mechanizisms of the schizo and into the non place of Bartleby.
    Grisham then brings up the interesting point of whether an “outside the market” still exists in today’s postmodern form of capitalism.
    This brings us to the question, asked by Steve – can anything any longer derealize the actual without itself becoming actualized by commodification?
    An extremely important question. And I think the search is to find these
    presently impossible areas of critique that can escape this insentient invasion of capital through the process of commodification.

  6. I’m curious to know if with Adorno or Deleuze there can ever be a pure affirmation, as if to say, I endorse — not an endorsement of negativity mind you, but an endorsement of something positive (a nice morning, a pretty horse, an apple pie, a BMW that hasn’t got a single rust mark, a great blue heron landing in the river basin, etc.).

  7. Let me be the lone philistine.

    What if the real problem isn’t the market, but rather esoteric intellectual repudiations of the market, which under the guise of critique actually reinforce the status quo by sequestering critical voices? For better or worse, we live in a mass society. For better or worse, the market is the most successful mass distributive institution in the history of the human race. Seems to me, especially given the anti-intellectualism you find prevalent in mass culture, that the real way to effect positive change would be to pack Adorno and Deleuze away (and I say this as a theoretical fan of both) and meet the poor, benighted hoi polloi halfway.

    Another way to phrase the question is: what do you guys really do other than talk amongst yourselves? I used to think that teaching let me off the hook, but now I think all I really did was instill the same anti-pop aesthetic values (anti-conventional, anti-spectacular) in a fraction (allowing them to feel superior, and granting them the authority to judge what was ‘serious’ and what was not – so reinforcing the cycle of insularity), while boring or alienating the rest.

    The market ain’t going away anytime soon. Meanwhile, the world is, well, ending. At this juncture, it seems to me the question should be markets can be instrumentalized, not side-stepped or overthrown.

  8. In S/Z, Barthes writes that the novel (any novel) is strictly “inoperable;” you cannot put it to work in the actual world. He’s commenting on a passage in which someone (Sarrazin?) says “goodnight, goodnight,” in a lovely voice–an extreme insistence the non-actuality of the artwork, since one might think it’s entirely possible to put that one moment of Sarrazin into operation.

    (Barthes doesn’t use the terms actuality and non-actuality, though A Lover’s Discourse, in a section on affirmation, acknowledges the influence of Deleuze.)

    I’m thinking (ie, trying to write) about how de-realization makes available a certain political tone in an artwork–oh, impassioned, say, radical even–that is nonetheless not propaganda nor any other sort of operable code. D&G’s Kafka book is itself very revved-up in tone, but it’s making this same austere point Deleuze makes in Logic of Sense–critique would be operable in actuality. They write that Kafka’s writing struggles against fascism but it’s not critique: “Critique is useless; it is more important to join the virtual movement that is already real even though it is not yet in existence.”

    (or is that the opposite point? reality of the non-actual is what’s emphasized in their Kafka book; you’re writing about de-realization of actuality. I haven’t read Logic of Sense.)

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