The Translocal Event and the Affective Interval: Diagrammatic Interplay
Draft 2.0 : 28 June 2017
Sher Doruff – UAL/Central Saint Martins/SmartLab and Waag Society
The Translocal Event and the Affective Interval:
University of the Arts London/Central Saint Martins/SmartLab
Table of Contents
Part One – The Emergence Paradigm
Chapter One: The Primacy of Process: Emergent Systems and Multiplicities
Complicating the Complex
The New Media Playing Field of Potential
Complexity and the Ontology of the in-between
Quantifying the Qualitative
Bifurcations are differentiations and differenciations
Feedback and Contingency
Science, Philosophy and Henri Bergson’s Multiplicities
Chapter Two: The HUH? Factor - Humans-Understanding-Humans: strucural coupling and autopoiesis
The Question of Subjective Closure
I Heard It through the Grapevine
Interplay and Powerplay
Subjective Pluralities and Autopoiesis
Social Autopoiesic Networks and the Blind Spot
Part One: Conclusions
Hinge I: What is KeyWorx
Collaboration and Control in Collaborative Composition
What was keyWorx in 1999?
The KeyStroke Project
What is KeyWorx in 2005?
Collaborative Praxis: The making of the KeyWorx Platform
Additional KeyWorx Functions 2003-2005
Part Two - Creative Processes: Mind the Gap
Chapter Three: The Philosophical Concept: Intuition is not Intellect
What is Intuition?
Passage precedes position
Intuition as Method
Transduction and the Event
Chapter Four: The Scientific Function:
Libet’s Liminal Latency
Part Two: Conclusions
Hinge II: Interfacing Realities / Artist Documentation
Part Three - Creative Processes: Catalytic Interplay and Composition
Chapter Five: The Artistic Percept/Affect: Sensational Spontaneity
Play Theory - from Boyd to Agamben
Improvising with the Avant-garde
1. Free Jazz/Free Improvisation: the obfuscated binary
2. Chance /Indeterminacy: the obfuscated binary
3. Chance/choice = contingency
4. Improvisation = Contingent Composition
Cutlural Jamming with Networks
1. the HUB
3. decentered/ distributed
Composition as a Translocal Affective Interval
Chapter Six: How to Diagram a Biogram
The Diagram, Code and the Abstract Machine
KeyWorx - An Abstract Machine
The Diagram and Rhythm
The Diagram and Intuition
The Diagram and the Catastophe
The Diagram, the Biogram and KeyWorx
Parting Shot: Don’t Shoot the Syllogism
Postscript – The Explosive Event
Interviews with KeyWorx artists
KeyWorx Architecture White Paper by Just van den Broecke
Supporting paper by S. Doruff
Collaborative Culture essay
Working Alone Together paper
Authors and Emergence paper
“A concept is by nature connectable to other concepts. A concept is defined less by semantic content than by the regularities of connection that have been established between it and other concepts: its rhythm of arrival and departure in the flow of thought and language; when and how it tends to relay another concept. When you uproot a concept from its network of systemic connections with other concepts you still have connectibility. You have a systemic connectability without the system”
(Massumi, 2002a, 20)
This research project explores processes. Process theories and processual practices within what can be called an emergence paradigm generated from networks of systemic elements and concepts that, simply, change. Ontogenetic processes facilitate the unstable; are predisposed to tango with the indeterminate from a decentered in-between; are on the move. This research, itself a long-term process, shares many of the characteristics and properties it examines. Concepts develop; concepts connect, couple and hinge; concepts unhinge; reconnect, dissolve. This systemic connectability is a feedback loop, a strange-loop, a möbius strip whose beginning and end disappear into it’s own blurred distinction between inside and outside, virtual and actual, theory and practice, beginning and end. A contiguous enfolding/unfolding of problematising differentiating and temporalising in a manner and method adopted from Henri Bergson’s recipe for intuition. It focuses on the dynamic interrelation of relations, on in-betweenness, on contingency. It opens conditions of possibility that further the questioning of contemporary of practice-based theory in new media arts as it unpacks the performative experience of collaborative composition.
The issues presented here probe the ontogenesis of creative involution and the nature of the embodied experience of that process. They encompass the malleability of the digital artefact and its transductive code, but more consequently, in this research, they focus on the incipient, affective experience engendered through the multi-maker composition; of the temporal processes and reflexive situatedness of dynamic (ex)change; of the relationality of the event and the movement of continuous-making. The creative production investigated here, pushes beyond the thorny scaffolding of the subjective to embrace the production of a subjectivity that is aesthetic (Guattari, 1991), autopoietic (Varela, Deleuze and Guattari; Massumi) transindividual (Simondon) and intersensory (Massumi). It emerges in the incorporeal dimension of the body outlined by Deleuze and Guattari and re-imagined by Massumi (2002) as the biogram.
Processual subjectivity in the situatedness of the collaborative composition is the timeless, saturated potential of the bifurcating event that is emergence, that is phase shift, that is the creative. It estimates its relationality through its own “zone of indetermination which Bergson claims “allows, then, of an a priori estimate of the number and the distance of the things with which it is in relation” (Bergson, 1990, 32). This is key. “Call the openness of an interaction to being affected by something new in a way that qualitatively changes its dynamic relationality” (Massumi, 2002a, 224). Our vantage point is the relationality and contingency of the “event” in the co-operative, aesthetic production of a performance. According to Massumi the event can be described as:
[…] the interval of change, the in-itself of transformation […] a time-form from which the passing present is excluded and which, for that very reason, is as future as it is past, looping directly from one to the other. It is the immediate proximity of before and after. (2002, 58)
The event is a non-present ‘now’, a paradoxically empty interval, overfull with potential, of past becoming future becoming past. Its simultaneous bi-directionality is isomorphic to intuitive movement between the thought passages of instinct and intellect, each traversing their opposite directions (Bergson, 1911, 176). The asymmetrical differentiating of time and space, of virtual and actual are fundamental concepts explicitly explored in relation to the KeyWorx technological platform central to this research. As a technology designed to enable translocal composition between participating artists, an understanding of the broader context and what is meant by relationality, event, affect, diagram, intuition and real time.1 is essential, Other terms and neologisms will surface in this project: transduction, transversality, biogram, indeterminacy, synesthesia, individuation, haecceity, improvisation - some important, others passing linguistic gestures in the arrivals and departures of multifarious, variegated concepts.
This project is structured in three Parts that swing as passageways between Hinge documents. The Hinges describe the KeyWorx technology, the model for research which is/was my practice as media artist/software developer. They are called Hinges rather than chapters for two significant reasons:
they are relational to the theory that swirls within the chapters they
they are the intuiting, the virtual potential, by which the theory in the chapters was actualised. Without KeyWorx as artistic practice, there would be no intuition of relationality, of the diagram, of the primacy of process, of affective ‘space’, of synesthesia.
Practice-based Research and the Translocal Event
I have been a practicing artist since 1972 - my entire adult life. In the passage of those decades my work has shifted, transformed and multi-tasked with sculpture, conceptual art, rock and roll, electronic composition, scenography, graphic design, interactive performance, software development and, most currently, the written word in the context of conceptual processes. Effective unilateral focus (otherwise known as mastery) is not my inclination. I tend toward nomadic conceptualising in sensible footwear. I like stringing concepts together and erasing them.
This research reflects my becoming-other as it leaves traces of emerging lines of thoughtful flight. It modulates through various domains, arriving and departing dense, complex territories with the jerky rhythm of a part-time activity. In many respects, this research process is performative. The paradox is of course that just as process is nonrepresentational, this process is a mess of alphabetic symbols, of linguistic representation. In doxa the paradox is immanent. In this practice, theory is intuitive. Plainly, simply that. This research is the articulation of intuition.
I began this study in search of a scaffolding. Complexity theory and network theory were appropriate to the technology we were developing at Waag Society in the late ‘90’s. Distributed, multi-player interaction was the domain. Parallel to network theory, I was reading Hayles’s history of cybernetics, which thematically lead to a deeper research in autopoietic processes and Varela’s later neurophenomenological investigations. From my daily observations of KeyWorx interplay I was intrigued by the persistent issues of control, co-operation and shared sensation through what I intuited (in the common sense understanding of the term) to be socially situated synesthetic affect. Hardware, software and wetware in transductive resonance. My thought inched from structurally coupled ‘closed’ autopoietic living systems to Deleuze and Guattari’s open-ended, virtual Body without Organs (BwO)2. The conditions of experience in distributed, mediated, KeyWorx nterplay were sympathetic to both points of view.
I returned to the source, as it were, to properly digest this intuition that the experience of collaborative creation I have witnessed and participated in, is an example of the affective experience of virtual dimensionality, not solely because of its access to the creative event but because that creativity is contiguous with a social function, with a transductive3 processual production of subjectivity and collectivity. This is a potent composite. Or more accurately – composition. Its elements are disjunctive yet inseparable. Intuition, as a Bergsonian/Deleuzian methodology posits a framework from which I have pursued this project. As a mode of thought, differentiated from intellect, it is extended to portray the engagement of performers in translocal event dimensions.
The systemic organisation of KeyWorx facilitated translocal performance involves a distributed multimedia, multi-channel, multi-player “field of potential.” KeyWorx interplay paradoxically locates (packets blitzing thru Internet protocols) as it simultaneously collapses position to a shared surface, at once “real but abstract,” a recursive, autopoietic actual-becoming-virtual-becoming-actual. That shared space of the monitor surface, the interface to the field of play or “plane of composition” to use the jargon of Deleuze&Guattari, also sustains a resemblance to Raymond Ruyer’s notion of absolute survey, a dimensionless (one-dimensional) percept of the visual field that is always spatially embodied.4 The problem of incorporeal materialism, situated in digitally realised performance practice, is taken up at length in these pages.
In 1998, when I began working on KeyWorx with my colleagues at Waag Society, I was curious about synesthetic experience and wondered if it was applicable to “clinical” synesthetes alone. Working for years as an artist with real time processing of sound and image, I began to feel that my sensation of discreet modalities was changing. Perhaps it was the conscious recognition of modalities (particularly sight and sound) through control of the variability of their parameters, their component parts, and the transformative qualities of their combinations that stimulated this reflection. For several months I lurked on a synesthesia mailing list and observed how “pathological” synesthetes described their experiences. At that time I could find little scientific validation that synesthesia could be “acquired” (through, for example, daily digital arts processing) or “latent” (an unrecognized physiological ability). I have, in the past few years, noted the frequency with which synesthesia is alluded to as a bona fide and popularized research area, having lost its aura of mystical nonsense. Recent theories from scientists such as V. S. Ramachandran that synesthesia is indeed normatively genetic and in his view, responsible for the evolution of spoken language in humans, have given the subject a certain credibility beyond the bizarre. Books by Cytowski and Harrison add weight to the synesthetic debate. Massumi’s synergetic mix of the visual and the proprioceptive caught my attention because it resonates with my experience of both KeyWorx practice and embodied affect in dance and new media performance practice. This biogrammatic concept is an embodied, synesthetic extension of a diagram in the Foucaultian sense, setting up relational points between the form of content and the form of expression. This diagrammatic-biogrammatic hybrid is the experience of a fully actualised KeyWorx session between two or more distant participants.
The embodied enaction enabled by the software interface between the virtual-actual of the composition, the presence-absence of the artists and cooperation-control issues is immanent to the interplay. I looked for concepts that resonate with this practice. I found them, predominantly, in Bergson. I followed their dissemination and transformation in Deleuze, Guattari, Delanda, Massumi, Hansen, Mackenzie, Simondon, Wolfe, Murphie and Grosz in the discourse of virtuality, affect, sensation, intuition, transduction and individuation. Massumi has had the deepest influence. Aligning with a Deleuzian positive ontology, there are no proofs posited, only a system of connected concepts to which I add and subtract my own. As Gertrude Stein famously declared: “There is no there there”. There are many there’s there, just as intuition as a method creates meaning as plurality.
Multi-maker, polyrhythmic composition in the event-space of a KeyWorx translocal performance jam produces, through a diagrammatic process of collective composing, the lived experience of a “biogram”, a transsensory hinge-dimension of synesthetic perception.
The Structure and Organization
Part One: The Emergence Paradigm - presents an overview of systems theories and conditions of emergence. It introduces the Bergsonian legacy extant today in Deleuzian and post-Deleuzian discourse and lays the systemic groundwork for the concepts to follow. Bergson and Deleuze have been influenced by variants of 20th century systems science. This section establishes relationships between science and an empirical, material ‘metaphysics’ threaded throughout this research.
Hinge I – What is KeyWorx? Outlines the conceptual precedents of the R&D project from 1998 to the present. Additional historical descriptions of concepts, functionality and collaborative working methods are established.
Part Two: Modes of Creative Thought: Mind the Gap explores intuition as a process and a methodology in detail and makes a distinction between philosophical and scientific approaches to the “interval” (cognitive, affective). This is not an arbitrary distinction as Deleuze and Guattari have staked a significant claim in differentiating philosophical, scientific and artistic processes. Chapter Three outlines the Bergson/Deleuze approach to creative thought. Chapter Four looks at neurophysiological research exploring the half second cognitive interval. Both approaches to the cognitive interval deal with issues of free will and the being of consciousness.
Hinge II: Interfacing Realities/Artist Documentation is a record by participating artists Michelle Teran and Isabelle Jenniches of a three week process of making. It is a description of a formative process of control in aesthetic choice-making. As a documentation of a creative process it demonstrates the structure and contingencies of multi-maker, interauthored work. There are full-color images in the section from preparatory rehearsal sessions and a sequences screen shots from the actual performance at DEAF03.
Part Three: Modes of Creative Thought: Catalytic Interplay and Composition is the unfolding of creative process in performance practice. It looks at play, interplay, improvisation, aléatoric and indeterminate composition in performing arts practice. This investigation intersects with processes of intuition, transduction and individuation examined earlier. It undertakes an analysis of KeyWorx performativity as diagrammatic. It furthers that argument by concluding that KeyWorx composing is biogrammatic, after Massumi’s formulation.
Conclusions attempts to wrap coherence into the systemic connectivity of the concepts.
Postscript is a personal account of an event; a means of re-articulating the abstract jargon of the thesis in a real time, real world experience.
Appendix – edited transcripts from six interviews with KeyWorx artist; technical schematics of the software and early papers by the author on the subject.
Part One – The Emergence Paradigm
“In the posthuman view…conscious agency has never been “in control”. In fact the very illusion of control bespeaks a fundamental ignorance about the nature of the emergent processes through which consciousness, the organism, and the environment are constituted. “Mastery through the exercise of autonomous will is merely the story consciousness tells itself to explain results that actually come about through chaotic dynamics and emergent structures…. emergence replaces teleology; reflexivity replaces objectivism; distributed cognition replaces autonomous will; embodiment replaces a body seen as a support system for the mind; and a dynamic partnership between humans and intelligent machines replaces the liberal humanist subject’s manifest destiny to dominate and control nature….the distributed cognition of the emergent human subject correlates with -in Bateson’s phrase, becomes a metaphor for,- the distributed cognitive system as a whole, in which “thinking” is done by both human and nonhuman actors.” - N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman 5
In How We Became Posthuman, N. Katherine Hayles embarks on a comprehensive interpretation of the history of cybernetics, transiting from the first Macy Conference in 1943 towards a contemporary appraisal of embodied “emergence” in a posthuman ecology. She identifies three successive waves in the historical march to the posthuman: the initial informationally structured (homeostatic) era with its productive run from 1945 to 1960; the recursive, self-organisational wave that fomented and peaked between 1960–1985; and the virtually open-ended third wave which is very present in contemporary theory and practice (1999, 16). If as Hayles tells it, that in a posthuman paradigm what we know and how we know it is a fluid, distributed, indeterminate interaction between human and nonhuman actors in a dynamic, emerging ecology, then a topological map of intersecting complexities and distinguishable multiplicities can be imagined. Proximally situated to the epistemological precedents of constructivism and radical empiricism, the ontological mapping of this posthuman premise is a variegated skein of relationality; a cartography of the conditions of emerging emergence, it is movement through its own indeterminacy. “Indeterminacy and determination, change and freeze-framing, go together. They are inseparable and always actually coincide while remaining disjunctive in their modes of reality” (Massumi, 2002a, 8).
More precisely, it doesn’t constitute an ontology so much as an ontogenetic domain consistent with its thesis. A process of becoming-other. Early proponents of what we might call a real empirical, material, processual philosophy were Bergson, James and Whitehead, followed most visibly (in this study) by Simondon, Deleuze and Guattari, Massumi, Mackenzie, Hansen and Grosz. The recipe that purées the thought presented here is based on two ingredients, two dynamic terms that propagate a rhizomatic propensity, multiple lines of flight: contingency and relationality. Blend the movement of these terms with ontologies that envelop corporeality, virtuality, creativity and technicity and we underscore all that follows.
The Primacy of Process
Complicating the Complex
The transdisciplinary current of complex system theory has been running through and between all fields of research practice in the past few decades. The disciplines of physics, biology, economics, chemistry, neurology, the social, computer, political and cognitive sciences, philosophy and art have all felt the drift and surge of its pull. Though interpretations and qualifications vary between fields, there is an appetite for models and methodologies that reveal elements and conditions of non-linear dynamic relations in systems; in cells, in brains, in social networks and human-computer-human interaction. As a research perspective it studies the organisation and relational interaction between systems, their environment, and the processes and practice that emerge from these shared conditions. For some it represents the grand quest for the connective tissue to bind a holistic theory of everything; for others, it is complexity itself that circumvents any reductive understanding of its processes, yet offers a scientific and philosophical basis for an indeterminate, unpredictable world. It manifests methodologies that invert a positivist, reductionist approach of science by opening outwards towards the multiplying relationality of things in co-operative ecological systems. Not a reductionism but an emergentism. Complexity favors the unpredictable quantum to the deterministic relative. It is the ontogenetic dynamics, the enigmatic inter-ness of the nonspace between ‘things’ - call it flow, movement, process, synapse, affect, individuation, meaning, blind spot, rhythm, interval, phase-shift, bifurcation, rhizome, event-dimension, image6, fractal, skin, haecceity,7 intuition, entre-temps. It is the in-between of organisms, nodes, virtual and actual, individual and society - the “stuff” of creative life. The nature and “substance” or lack thereof of that “stuff” has excited the schism between solipsists and positivists, idealists and realists, since the early Greeks. Metaphysical and scientific empiricism have addressed, mystically, pragmatically and pan-culturally, the ethereal intervallic hinge that straddles the inside/outside binary for centuries, each from their own methodological routines.
One bridging concept that resonates between the three sectors of philosophy, science and art, is that of