Tero Nauha A Performance Entangled with Philosophy

Philosophy is a science that investigates being as it is being, or beings, in so far as they are beings, regarding that philosophy is metaphysics. However, the framework for philosophical practice for many contemporary thinkers does not fit in this paradigm. For instance, distinction or difference has been in dispute for contemporary philosophy from Friedrich Nietzsche and Henri Bergson to Jacques Derrida and Gilles Deleuze or Donna Haraway and Karen Barad. Barad has argued, in relation with the thought of Niels Bohr on complementarity and indeterminacy, that beings are not in oppositional positions, but complement each other in intra-action. (Barad 2007, 119.) In consequent, the difference is being distinguished from otherness, and destabilizes the ‘Newtonian’ identity of beings.

Another regard on this issue has been recently presented by French philosopher François Laruelle, who does not focus on the difference or the relation between being and non-being, but rather, he proposes a radical gesture of thought as non-philosophy. This is not to rebuke philosophy or metaphysics, but non-philosophy is a way of equalizing performance with other forms of thought. Non-philosophy is not anti-philosophy or interested in non-being, but it proposes a turn away from the questions of difference. To my understanding, non-philosophy and the forms of thought articulated by Barad have similarities; albeit there are also several differences that I will not aim to present in this article. Nor is my intention to create a transition of non-philosophical thought into the field of arts, but to start my inquiry with a simple statement that “I am not a philosopher”, and articulate some points that will follow it.

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I do not practice philosophy, in the sense that I do not regard that artistic practice should be based on such questions as being or relation—at least not in classical terms. The question is whether artistic practice is a practice of ‘reason’ at all. If reason, nous, is what cuts and dissects, or aims to penetrate behind the appearances in the philosophical terms, i.e., (Aristotle 1009a35—1009b10) then how does this play out in artistic practice as ‘philosophizing’? Moreover, I do not regard that artistic practice is philosophical in the sense that it would search for truth of being as far it is being. A philosophical thought is reflective: “the role of reason in this process is that of a scalpel: it dissects phenomena into discernible rations. This rationalizing allows us to look through phenomena, to look through the gaps between the rations: this is ‘theory.’ And it also allows us to manipulate these rations: this is ‘praxis’”, writes Vilém Flusser. (Flusser 2012, 46.)

This kind of thought, which is a philosophical form of thought, Laruelle calls ‘decisional’, where reason cuts and dissects the material and phenomenal word in order to look for truth of being—or difference. Simultaneously, such a form of thought creates distance with the world, or what Laruelle calls the real,(4) because it is, in fact, the world that a thought generates. A decisional thought cuts and dissects, creates distance, and simultaneously creates the world that it is reflecting on. Therefore, the world also has functions where we take positions, or where we exchange thoughts, affects, materials, and ideas. The world is reasonable in this sense—which does not refer to ‘common sense’, where we need demonstrations or proofs that it exists—in that reasonable thought generates a sufficient world. Moreover, decisional thought is not a cognitive act, but rather like the background of thought. Alexander Galloway writes on Laruelle: “The decision is never between looking and seeing or between listening and hearing. […] The true decision, the decision already made implicitly by philosophy, is to see and hear in the first place. We decide each time we open our eyes.” (Galloway 2014, 147.)

The scission that is necessary for the decision cuts, but it is not only a division in two, because a cut may be indeterminate or complementary, as Niels Bohr has described the two-slit experiment (5), where: “in any attempt of a pictorial representation of the behaviour of the photon we would, thus, meet with the difficulty: to be obliged to say, on the one hand, that the photon always chooses one, of the two ways and, on the other hand, it behaves as if it had passed both ways.” (Bohr 2010, 51.) The scission is a moment of decision and measurement simultaneously. (Laruelle 2013, 37.) The operations of a scission are preliminary operations of analysis, reduction, and withdrawal.

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The decision, like reflection, is a paradoxical event, since it both cuts off and generates. The artistic practice is without a doubt a reflection of the world, which generates representations and concepts. It may not be philosophy, but it is a philosophical procedure. It is part of the process to withdraw, analyse, and reduce, which are philosophical modes of investigation. However, the world as being generated with artistic practice does not necessarily deal with the question of being, presence, or possibilities; rather, matter or concepts are complementary and indeterminate. The artistic practice, like contemporary thought presented by Barad or Laruelle, is not reflective on the world, but often diffractive: there is nothing indivisible, but neither is there a mixture of things, such as a blending between a body and a concept. Diffraction leaves only different traces than reflection. (Barad 2007, 265.) From this perspective, there is no sense in searching for the ‘world-in-itself’, or to conflate it with the real. The world is generated with the gestures of thought in art and philosophy, and at the same time the real—or matter in the quantum sense—is indifferent to these forms and concepts. Depending on the measurements, gestures of thought are both concept and matter.

To argue for the unilateral position of the real with the world, Laruelle introduces the term determination-in-the-last-instance. In Marxist philosophy this term had been worked by Louis Althusser, to whom the determination-in-the-last-instance is economy. Althusser’s argument is based on Friedrich Engels, for whom the economy is the ‘determination in the last instance’, but only concerning the other determinations by superstructures, such as tradition. Following this, the “lonely hour of the ‘last instance’ never comes,”(6) but it effects all actions in the world determined by the economy. However, for Laruelle, the determination-in-the-last-instance is the real, and “everything philosophy claims to master is in-the-last-instance thinkable from the One-Real,” (Laruelle 2010, xvi.) where forms of thought, both in philosophy and art, are being determined in the last instance from the real, where the event of the real never comes, nor will it be positioned in any relation, as it is in Lacan.(7) The real is the determination in the last instance and not the economy. There are some similarities with the Laruellean real and the virtual in the philosophical apparatus of Deleuze, where the division between possible and virtual is that the real is always actual or actualized, but the possible is never real. For instance, a particle may be reconstituted as wave in the present moment of an experiment, but in terms of virtually it is both, that is, it has the ontology of them both. (Deleuze 1991, 56.) However, in Laruelle’s regard the apparatus of Deleuze is still a philosophical one in that it aims to capture the real, in his ‘black box’ of philosophy. John Ó Maoilearca writes that “anything can be in the box […] it is the opacity or promise of the Real that they convey, which is coopted by philosophical authority,” and the philosopher has his own “black box wherein the means for capturing reality are stored.” (Maoilearca 2015, 73, 92.)

One way to comprehend this is to consider the unilateral relation between the universe and the human. The universe is not only dark, but opaque, and it is without a vision. However, through an apparatus we can detect that there is a residual temperature of 3°K of the big bang in the universe, but then again, the universe is turned into a compound of an apparatus-universe. (Hacking 2010, 159.) Similar with this ‘actualization’ of the universe, the world may be cut in digital processes, starting from digits: fingers and toes. The world, and the so-called ‘virtual world’ is riven and perpetuating the differential—Being/being, essence/substance, one/the Other, as Alexander R. Galloway writes. (Galloway 2014, 54.) However, the rivenness of the world is a sufficient one, where “there is always one concept per particular thing […] there is one and only one thing per concept. Together, these principles expound a theory of difference as conceptual difference, or develop the account of representation as mediation.” (Deleuze 2004, 12) The difference in the world is mediated through metaphysical concepts of identity, opposition, analogy, and resemblance. (Deleuze 2004, 29) The virtual world is not the brave new one, but sculpted by the scalpel of sufficient and rather classical reason. In the world produced by sufficient reason and decisional forms of thought, the world is the discursivity itself, writes Katerina Kolozova. (Kolozova 2014, 29) The discursive is what constrains and enables, (Barad 2003, 819–22) and it is the condition of the world as politics, the world as philosophy, and the world as art. Contrary to this, the real or the universe is opaque and indeterminate.

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An advent is not an arrival or an event, but it is an advent of the opaque real: a heretical event without any faith or trust. An advent is not a void that needs to be actualized by discursive or conceptual means, nor does advent have any economic relation with exchange, value, profit, production or expenditure. An advent is a non-economic gesture of thought. There is no sufficient reason for a heretical advent to exist—or to have relation with reality. We know in many instances what an event signifies in artistic practice, but what could be a ‘heretical advent’?

Laruelle writes that a decisional form of thought is like a photographic flash in the opaque universe. (Laruelle 2012, 38–39) We may think of the performance “Stealth” (1996) by Hayley Newman, where she remarks that:

“over 3 hours I jumped up and down on a trampoline in complete darkness. A small flashing red light attached to my body and the sound of my movements were the only two things indicative of any activity. Prior to the event I had instructed its organizer to enter at any point during the three hour-long performance and take a single photograph with a flash to document the work. This is the only image of the work as no other photography was allowed.” (Jalving 2005, 158–159)

We recognize the event of the flash, a rational light that produces the iconic image of the naked body of Newman flying up in the air, but we can also imagine the red light bobbing in the air with the sound of the trampoline and noises of the body in the dark. Barad writes on the two-slit or double-slit experiment—the ‘wave-particle duality paradox’ of quantum theory and diffraction—that, “the photon emitted from the flash of a camera is part of the measuring device rather than the object […] the experimental arrangement embodies the mutual exclusivity of the conditions for definability.” (Barad 2007, 326.) The flash cuts through the real and through matter where photons reflect on the surface of a body, and the camera apparatus captures an image: movements, concepts, and reflection.

I do not aim to present the old paradox of whether the body exists in the dark, if we don’t see it or hear it, but rather I question the place of a heretical advent in performance, which is not an image, or any actualization. An advent is not potential for something that becomes real. If an event is an actualization in the void, transformation of reality, or a rupture in the state of business as usual, cutting through the world like a flash in the night, then an advent is not a ‘dark precursor’ of that event.(8) The event as such in artistic practice is a difference with relational process, which actualizes in the world of sufficient reason through reflection or reduction.

Galloway calls forth another term, prevent, which is both before the event as pre-event and what may hinder the event in prevention, also. (Galloway 2014, 16.) It is similar to the dark precursor, but still a prevent is something, which will not actualize in the world, but remain only as concept. Artistic practice as prevent would be both precursor to the event and also pre-emptive of the event, but still something virtual that we would recognize only through absence of representation. Also, it would not a priori a rupture. In relation to the advent, prevent is a kind of withdrawal from withdrawing—a resistance to cut with decision.

However, advent is something different from that, since it is not explicitly a withdrawal nor resistance towards something taking place. The advent is taking place on the two-slit experiment, where the measurement of decision is not differential from the matter. Depending on the apparatus of measurement, say, a gesture of thought, it may perceive what is taking place in two things at the same time. The event is presupposed by the advent and this makes the entanglement or superposition of advent and event. In superposition, the particles of decision and the immanent matter do not mix, but they overlap. A gesture of thought as decision proposes instantly a predicate of the thing, but simultaneously an event takes place from the Real. The advent is a particular kind of entanglement. (Barad 2007, 128.) It does not withdraw from the event, i.e., the gestures of thought transcending the immanence. The advent is not, and it is not a reflection on the real. It does not prevent the event from taking place, neither. We could call it indifferent or heretical advent.(9) For Laruelle, the advent does not lie “at the other side of the horizon”, and it “is impossible to manipulate, to dominate, to reduce […] Advent is not more absolute than the philosophy-Event, which is already absolute, but it is radical. [It] is not an ‘event of thought’ but the Advent of thought [la pensée] in its identity.” (Laruelle 2000, 186–87.)

The advent is opaque entanglement between the real and the gestures of thought. However, the advent is not an enigmatic thing. We can refer to process of editing of a film where, according to John Ó Maoilearca, the gesturing of thought in “film is materialised and made to think in one and the same gesture. The speed of thought becomes the speed of cutting, but not as an input for human inferences, but as its nonhuman form of thought.” (Maoilearca 2015, 166.) The advent is in particular sense a ‘gesture of thought’, but a material form of thought, which equalizes the decisional thought with other possible forms of thought. The advent does not reduce a thought of the body of a performance artist, actor or dancer into a decisional, and in the end philosophical, form of thought. The advent is an inseparable part of film, photography or performance; however, it is radically non-recognizable for the decisional forms of thought. It is a thought that belongs to performance. Bojana Cvejic argues that in choreographic practices such a thought should not be regarded through resemblance or correspondence. The practice is not conceptual or representative, but it is a problem. Regarding a particular dance choreography, Nvsbl (2006) by Eszter Salamon, Cvejic argues how the slow movement of the dancers is perceived as hallucinatory and almost inaccessible to vision. Therefore, such a thought resists the reduction of philosophical thought of deciding on it. (Cvejic 2017) To my reading, such works are radically advent. The advent can be regarded only in the superposition of traces in diffraction with the decisional forms of thought.

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In producing hallucinatory perceptions for the gestures of thought, artistic practice is not fiction, but rather an indefinite fictioning, i.e., it is not a narrative way of telling the same thing differently. The idea of fictioning was evoked from the term fictionale, or philo-fiction, coined by Laruelle. Laruelle writes: “the fictionale ‘presupposes’ the real in a non-thetic way and conditions it without ever positing it or inscribing it in Being or the World. The Universe is on the hither side of the World or totally exceeds it.” (Laruelle 2013, 232.) In fictioning the facts and stories do not mix, but it is a practice involving a superposition of an advent. Fictioning is not a collection of things, administered by sufficient reason, but fictioning is from the Real and not about the real. The performance as fictioning is not a liminal state, but enacting the between. It is kind of thought on the delivery, in advent of thought.

Fictioning is indeterminate, where it differs from uncertainty.(10) It does not function through resemblance, analogue or similarity. Fictioning is superposition with the gestures of thought, which function as ‘measurements’, and which in turn function as dispositions for the particular questions.(11) Fictioning is a superposition of ontologically indeterminate states. (Barad 2007, 265.) Fictioning in performance does not mix concepts and movements, or thoughts and bodies, but in advent leaves them indeterminate, notwithstanding the gestures of thought that measure these events ethically, aesthetically or philosophically. However, in regards to Barad and her development of theory of indeterminacy and superpositions, mixtures of fact and fiction are not entanglements, whereas superpositions are always that. However, “upon measurement, the superposition appears to ‘collapse’ into a mixture,” (Barad 2007, 280) where the philosophical gestures of thought always claim the property of artistic practice being ‘collapsed’.

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An advent is a superposition, whereas an event is the measurement of entanglements. An advent collapses through decisional mixtures into an event of change or transformation. The measurement of thought resolves the indeterminacy of the fictioning of performance into uncertain mixture or hallucinatory confusion.(12) The fictioning is enacting the between, and not in the liminal or a priori of rupture. There is no definite cut, but there may be several cuts at once in performance as fictioning. Because of the superposition, we never cease to decide, because “we decide each time we open our eyes”, (Galloway 2014, 147) as Galloway writes. We never cease to be philosophical or stop being ruled by “the cardinals of the Sorbonne,” as Laruelle says in an interview. (Mullarkey 2012, 244.) For him, non-philosophy is a performance, or a style of thought. An artist will always regard herself as uncertain in regards to these cardinals of thought, the philosophers, but the trick will not be to generate an event of rupture or insurrection, but a certain posture of indeterminacy; diffraction aside from reflection, where artistic practices would not be contemplations of the world, but entanglements from the real.

Notes

  1. The Real for Laruelle is not a position, e.g. as it is for Lacan in the Real-Symbolic-Imaginary type. Often, he uses the term ‘One’ or ‘Vision-in-one’ on equal terms with the Real, but still the Real or One do not signify something indivisible, or ‘ground’ for being and beings. Laruelle also calls the Real ‘radical immanence’, which signifies the Real as being something that is radically indifferent to thought, including the philosophical thought that aims to distinguish something substantial from things. Therefore, the Real is opaque and foreclosed from thought or perceptions. At the same time, it is not void or pure nothingness, but an opaque indeterminacy which does not fit into concept of the Real, either.
  2. The double-slit or two-slit experiment was originally performed by Thomas Young in 1801, but it has become one of the key experiments illustrating the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, which do not follow Newtonian physics. It defines how light can display characteristics of waves and particles at the same time, or where electrons seem to have appeared at two separate positions at the same time. In relation to momentum and position in this experiment, Richard Feynman has written that in relation to the uncertainty principle of Werner Heisenberg, he “recognized that if it were possible to measure the momentum and the position simultaneously with a greater accuracy, the quantum mechanics would collapse” (Feynman 2011).
  3. Althusser writes on this concept, which is based on the Engels's letter to Bloch in 21 September, 1890 that: “it is clear that we have now found a basis and an origin for this force that triumphs in the last instance: determination by the economy is no longer external to the accidents amid which it asserts itself, it is the internal essence of these accidents” (Althusser 2005, 112–113; 121).
  4. However, Katerina Kolozova writes more in relation with Lacan that: “the Real is not an abstraction, an idea that stands independently, an ‘out-there’ in itself. It is not a substance, but a ‘status,’ as Laruelle would call it, a notion analogous to that of the ‘function’ in Lacan. Similarly, Badiou insists on the role of the ‘event’ (a concept analogous to that of the Lacanian Real) as that instance of the ‘void’ (a singularity without linguistic content) in relation to which new discursive possibilities are created” (Kolozova 2014, 2–3).
  5. Deleuze writes that: “Thunderbolts explode between different intensities, but they are preceded by an invisible, imperceptible dark precursor, which determines their path in advance but in reverse, as though intagliated. Likewise, every system contains its dark precursor which ensures the communication of peripheral series. As we shall see, given the variety among systems, this role is fulfilled by quite diverse determinations. The question is to know in any given case how the precursor fulfils this role” (Deleuze 2004, 145–46)
  6. See more on heretical thought in Heresy & Provocation (Nauha 2015).
  7. Barad (2007, 295) writes that “Bohr’s disagreement with Heisenberg's interpretation of the mathematical expression that is known as the uncertainty principle and proposes that Bohr’s alternative interpretation be understood as a principle in its own right, which I label the ‘indeterminacy principle’. The uncertainty principle and the indeterminacy principle are competing claims.”
  8. Niels Bohr writes on indeterminacy that: “the point is not that measurements disturb preexisting values of inherent properties but that properties are only determinate given the existence of particular material arrangements that give definition to the corresponding concept in question” (Barad 2007, 261).
  9. “Unfortunately, in some discussions of quantum theory, the terms ‘uncertainty’ and ‘indeterminacy’ are used interchangeably, despite their different meanings. Throughout this book, I use these terms with distinctive meanings: while ‘uncertainty’ refers to a lack of knowledge, ‘indeterminacy’ refers to the state of being indeterminate (lacking definiteness). That is, uncertainty is an epistemic issue, while indeterminacy is an issue of ontology” (Barad 2007, 424–25).