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D & G 4: Existential Refrain


Approaching D&G's version of the Sensible Idea whose prototype is the little phrase of the sonata articulated with Swann's love for Odette, it is useful to note the relevance of D&G's theory for Sen's association with Justice defined as a universal or inalienable right to capability --the right of conatus (striving to persevere in one's own Being). 

The machine is always synonymous with a nucleus constitutive of an existential Territory against a background of a constellation of incorporeal Universes of reference (or values). The "mechanism" of this turning around of being consists in the fact that some of the machine's discursive segments do not only play a functional or signifying role, but assume the existentializing function of pure intensive repetition that I have called the refrain function. . . . The manifestations -- not of Being, but of multitudes of ontological components--are of the order of the machine.  And this, without semiological mediation, without transcendent coding, directly as "being's giving of itself," as giving.  Acceding to such a "giving" is already to participate ontologically in it as a full right.  The term right does not occur here by chance, since at this proto-ontological level it is already necessary to affirm a proto-ethical dimension.  The play of intensity of the ontological constellation is, in a way, a choice of being not only for self, but for the whole alterity of the cosmos and for the infinity of times.  Guattari, Chaosmosis, 53.

An assumption of apparatus metaphysics is that Being must be appropriated (Ereignis):  Being is a potentiality that may be actualized (or not), but this realization happens through collective decision in an historical ecology.  Hence the point of departure for Appiphany, and EmerAgency consulting in general, to frame well-being as the virtue (power) of Justice.

            The program for a coming philosophy established the passion of love as the most direct access we have in experience of our Unconscious potentiality (that we are enveloped in an outside of alterity beyond our control).  We are apprenticed to Proust's account of Swann falling in love with Odette, to learn an imaging of Sensible Ideas.  Proust is described as an anthropologist or even ethologist of French society.  The Verdurin salon where the founding event of catalysis occurs is a collective assemblage, with two passages or routes.  The spatial passage is faciality:  although Odette is not Swann's "type," he relates to her aesthetically by an analogy with a Botticelli fresco representing Zipporah (wife of Moses).  This strategy is a defense that keeps passion at a distance.  The temporal dimension of passage is the refrain, materialized in this encounter in the little phrase of Vinteuil's sonata, the re-hearing of which, in the context of Odette, triggers actual passion that crystallizes a new assemblage.  D&G's analysis adds to the other accounts an emphasis on the machinic unconscious, that is, on the collective holistic historical quality of the encounter.  Guattari, for example, reminds us that the little phrase is one measure (and this is the "secret word" for us, seeking a metaphysical unit of limit), carried along in a series within the history of music. 

Consider the example of the pentatonic musical refrain which, with only a few notes, catalyses the Debussyst constellation of multiple Universes:  --the Wagnerian Universe surrounding Parsifal, which attaches itself to the existential Territory constituted by Bayreuth; --the Universe of Gregorian chant; --that of French music, with the return to favor of Rameau and Couperin; --that of Chopin, due to a nationalist transposition; --the  Javanese music Debussy discovered at the Universal Exposition of 1889; --the world of Manet and Mallarmé, which is associated with Debussy's stay at the Villa Médicis.  It would be appropriate to add to these past and present influences the prospective resonances which constituted the reinvention of polyphony from the time of the Ars Nova, its repercussions on the French musical phylum of Ravel, Duparc, Messiaen, etc., and on the sonorous mutation triggered by Stravinsky, his presence in the work of Proust... (Guattari, Chaosmosis, 50).

            The fictional Vinteuil is a composite figure drawn from several of Proust's favorite composers, including Debussy and César Franck among others.  The machinic or multiple frame locates the shifter of subjectivation as a potential moving site, a threshold catastrophe, poised for triggering a convergence of diverse historical series of becoming.  The Unconscious is the milieu constituted by the history of music and the social formation of the salon (among other things).  The measure or little phrase is choral in catalyzing a virtual object:  x object inside, x object outside, and the refrain bringing them into rhythm or pattern.  Guattari generalizes the event. 

To illustrate this mode of production of polyphonic subjectivity, where a complex refrain plays a dominant role, consider the example of televisual consumption.  When I watch television, I exist at the intersection: 1. of a perceptual fascination provoked by the screen's luminous animation which borders on the hypnotical 2. of a captive relation with  the narrative content of the program, associated with a lateral awareness of surrounding events (water boiling on the stove, a child's cry, the telephone...). 3. of a world of fantasms occupying my daydreams. My feeling of personal identity is thus pulled in different directions.  How can I maintain a relative sense of unicity, despite the diversity of components of subjectivation that pass through me? It's a question of the refrain that fixes me in front of the screen, henceforth constituted as a projective existential node.  My identity has become that of the speaker, the person who speaks form the television.  Like Bakhtin, I would say that the refrain is not based on elements of form, material or ordinary signification, but of the detachment of an existential "motif" (or leitmotiv) which installs itself like an "attractor" within a sensible and significational chaos. The different components conserve their heterogeneity, but are nevertheless captured by a refrain which couples them to the existential Territory of my self.  Chaosmosis, 16-17.

            In metaphysical terms, the existential refrain is chora, functioning as transversal logos, gathering and holding together a dynamic collective assemblage, managing one's positioning within the various institutions of the popcycle.  The task for Appiphany is to devise a practice of choragraphy to map this Unconscious virtual region of potentiality, the flow of multiple divergent series through an environment.  The mobility to be coordinated through ubiquitous computing uses the separability, the detachability of virtual objects correlated with refrains and faciality, recording with the autonomy of cinematic camera and related post-production devices, registering a multiplicity point(s) of view.  The machinic unconscious names a circulation of flow/interruption, subject to all the dynamics of complexity (turbulence) that previously was described by tropology, the cardinal figures, with "metaphor" naming the practice to be updated in electracy:  the word means "transport" or "vehicle," literally a "bus" in Greek.  Appiphany puts us in this auto-bus, with off-route capability.  Mobile computing represents the technics diemsion of the apparatus, supporting mapping, touring, and even creating of the routes of condensation and displacement traveled by caravans of signifiers. The appropriations of tropology in contemporary theory may be recovered in our context, in relation with chaosmosis and schizoanalysis, to help design and test the authoring of facialities and refrains. 

            Meanwhile it is important in our context of consulting on well-being to remember that when Marcel apprenticed himself to Swann's legend he was attempting to understand the experience of  intense happiness that accompanied his own epiphanies.  "Epiphany" is a keyword.  Deleuze concludes his study of Proust with a footnote contextualizing Proust's image in modernist poetics.

We should have to compare the Proustian conception of the image with other post-Symbolist conceptions:  for example, Joyce's epiphany or Pound's imagism and vorticism.  The following features seem to be shared:  image as autonomous link between two concrete objects insofar as they are different (image, concrete equation); style, as multiplicity of viewpoints toward the same object and exchange of viewpoints toward several objects; language, as integrating and comprehending its own variations constitutive of a universal history and making each fragment speak according to its own voice; literature as production, as operation of effect-producing machines; explication, not as didactic intention but as technique of envelopment and development, writing as ideogrammatic method (with which  Proust allies himself on several occations).  Deleuze, Proust and Signs, 188).

 Vinteuil's Sonata

Gilles Deleuze, Proust and Signs, Trans. Richard Howard, Athlone Press, 2000 (French publication 1964).

Félix Guattari, The Machinic Unconscious:  Essays in Schizoanalysis, Trans Taylor Adkins, Semiotext(e), 2011 (French publication 1979).

Image:  Boticelli.  "The Trials of Moses" (1481-82) Sistine Chapel, Rome

"Her loosened hair flowing down her cheeks, bending one knee in a slightly balletic pose . . . her head on one side, with those great eyes of hers which seemed so tired and sullen when there was nothing to animate her, she struck Swann by her resemblance to the figure of Zipporah, Jethro's daughter." — Swann's Way