In 2015 I started a project with two non-digital devices — a vinyl-record turntable and Theremin — in a performance lecture. One of the first presentations took place at the Deleuze and Artistic Research (DARE) conference held at the Orpheus Institute in Ghent, November 2015. Since then I have experimented with these devices in both academic conferences, such as TAPRA in Bristol and the Performance Philosophy conference at Surrey, but also in performance venues such as theatre.now in Kiasma, Helsinki and New Performance in Tehdasteatteri, Turku.
In these presentations I play and mix vinyl records, which I have recorded and pressed from a lecture read by myself, and experiment on them with a Theremin, which is an early electronic instrument developed by Léon Theremin in 1920 — and supposedly the only instrument played without touching. The pitch of the eerie sound, similar to an ondes Martenot, is controlled by the proximity of a body – or any conducting matter. I am not a musician, even less a skilled turntablist or Thereminist. My interest is in the relationship between the matter, text, voice and so called intra-action in the event of performance. I enjoy the non-intentional humour, or irony, that my performance often evokes. With turntables I can make my voice stutter, repeat, get jammed or skip words. Similarly, I use Theremin to create grunts, whines, one-syllable words and ridiculous intonations, often to mock the academic seriousness of the recorded voice, or my own presentation. Yet, the performance does take its content seriously, but it clones the content instead of mimicking or repeating it with sarcasm.
As artistic practice, the activity does more than just think with philosophy, since it performs cloning these gestures of thought. The artist is not an outsider nor ‘almost-a-philosopher’, and the cloning as performative practice modulates the apparatus of these gestures of thought and the philosophical apparatus into something else, i.e., performance.
My artistic research is located somewhere in the field of performance philosophy. I ask, how does performance think?, or what is the difference between the discursive thinking of philosophy and performance? It is performative research on the limits of thought, but it is not a dialectical or discursive research based on philosophical gestures of thought, where performance would remain either a negative shadow of thought or a diluted resemblance of thought proper. I connect my research with the recent development of performance philosophy, where philosophy is not regarded as the determinant for thinking about performance, or that performance would apply philosophy in practice. This would mean a simple project of ‘philosophizability’ or artistic practice.1 Laura Cull writes that: “one of the major stakes in the deliberate absence of the ‘&’ in the emerging field named Performance Philosophy is the proposal that performance can do philosophy – not merely as example or illustration for an existing philosophical framework, but as its own distinctive philosophical practice. This statement, this claim that performance is capable of philosophical work can seem both banal and profoundly radical.”2 However, John Ó Maoilearca argues on the task of performance philosophy that “the practice, or performance, of the non-philosopher is the constant reminder to philosophy that not everything is philosophizable and that there are other ways to think, or ‘philosophize,’ than that of philosophy.”3 This, however, does not mean that other academic practices of thought, such as sociology, anthropology or even psychoanalysis would be any different than that, but are rather offspring of philosophical thought. Still, performance may be a ‘clone’ of philosophy, in the way that the “Non-philosophy is produced by the effect of the presupposed Real within philosophy,”4 that clones are not philosophical statements, doubles or replicas, and that cloning is not cloning for resemblance. It does not mimic philosophy, which would be simply philosophizing in performance. The performance clones the thought in much the same way that the needle that touches the acetate vinyl of the record, where the mountain range of the recorded voice is touched. It is not explicitly a copy of the recorded voice, but equally from the Real.
Artistic practice may be regarded as a fiction of reality, i.e., a resemblance that comments and reflects on reality and converges with it. In these terms, I regard practice not as fiction, but as a performative fictioning. Fiction and reality have the same relation as the fictioning and the Real, and fictioning is not meant as a narrative method of reduction or reflection. François Laruelle has coined a term fictionale, or philofiction, where “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."5
Performative fictioning does not mix facts and truth, but superposes them. It is not a collection of things. Fictioning is from the real, not about the real — enacting the between. Fictioning is a thought on the delivery, or an advent of thought. Fictioning is indeterminate but not uncertain. Here, fictioning is the superposition of the gestures of thought as ‘measurements’ and matter from the real. Fictioning belongs to performance and like the concept of trouble in the choreography of Bojana Cvejic, performance should not be seen through resemblance or correspondence with the real or with gestures of thought.6 Both trouble and fictioning resist the reduction of philosophical thought, in that they are both clones but not replicas of the reality.
Fictioning may be put in relation with the concepts of quantum theory by Niels Bohr and recently presented in the theory of intra-action by Karen Barad, namely in superposition and indeterminacy. Barad writes that: “upon measurement, the superposition appears to ‘collapse’ into a mixture.”7 However, the classical mixture as fiction never entangles, superpositions are indeterminate. Following this, artistic practice gains function through measurement as mixture, fiction and resemblance, where fictioning is not an event of rupture or insurrection, but indeterminate, where cloning is the device. The performance is not contemplations of the world or being, but indeterminate entanglements from the real, effects of the presupposed Real. The fictioning is not a negation nor a negative identity of the real, and the difference is ‘differing’ in the same sense as fictioning is not fiction as a representation or convergence, but both difference and fictioning are devoid of representations.8
Cloning is a device for fictioning in artistic research, but not through resemblance. Performance clones itself as position from reality, where philosophical thought does not ape or resemble philosophy, and through cloning the subject is not ‘being cloned’. Cloning is a flattening of thought—instead of transcending thought, it is a ‘flat hallucination of thought’ from the real.9 In cloning nothing is destroyed of negated, but postured, where the posture is divergent affirmation.10 Cull defines cloning as a kind of ‘failure in register’.11 In cloning artistic practice is closer to the performative tools of rendering and posture, which do not cut off thought from matter. In other words, gestures of thought do not mix with the rendering, posture and cloning, but are in superposition, where ‘waves’ do not mix with ‘particles’. The mixture and superposition leave different traces.12 The clone does not resemble the real, but it is a function of the real.13
When considering performance practice in this way we might ask, what, then, is the Real14 for artistic practice? It may resemble the possible, but only in conceptual or sufficient terms. The possible in the world resembles the real, like an image of the real, and the real takes form in the resemblance of the possible. This would make the real a ‘ready-made’ and already given. The possible is the abstraction of the real, “like a sterile double”, writes Deleuze.15 Deleuze differentiates possible from the actualization of the virtual, which does not function in terms of resemblance, double or shadow, but actualization is creation, differentiation in the process of actualization. The differentiation is creation, but in this movement: “the living being turns on itself and closes itself.”16 The givenness of the world relates with the possible which is always limited and negated. The given is always abstracted and composite relation, which has only possible solutions and options. The world is a given possibility: the world is real, but the real is not the world. If beings such as human and animals are closed in themselves, they are not closed possibilities in the world, but they are differentiating in themselves in the process of their actualization, becoming in the movement where they receive material forms. The virtual is not found in the actualized forms of resemblance and the beings or things don’t resemble virtuality they embody. The intelligence captures these movements of other lines of divergence through fictioning, or for Deleuze in fabulation.17
Cloning and fictioning are not practices of reason, i.e., practices of cuts and scissions which create distance and allocate matter and ideas into discernible rations.18 These practices do not aim to penetrate appearances, but in the flattening out, the practice may clone ‘philosophizing’, in ironic or ‘buffoon’ versions of it.19 The differentials are necessary, but not only as divisions in two, since cuts may be indeterminate or complementary, as Niels Bohr has described the two-slit experiment,20 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.”21 The scission is a moment of decision and measurement simultaneously.22 The operations of scission are a priori with analysis, reduction and withdrawal, where the cloning as a device of fictioning resist this possibility.
On the one hand the artistic practice is a reflection of the world, which generate representations and concepts, and which in most cases follows a philosophical procedure. The modes of investigation for these processes are reflection, withdrawal, analysis and reduction. On the other hand, the artistic practice and contemporary thought presented by Barad or Laruelle is not material or intellectual reflection on the world, but a superposition and cloning — flat, opaque and indeterminate, a superposition with experiment and measurement resembling a fabulated or differing version of the real. In the end, there is no say what fictioning would eventually be, but only that it leaves different traces than reflection and other gestures of philosophical thought.
Tero Nauha is a performance artist, the professor in Performance Art and Theory (LAPS) at the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki, and a postdoctoral fellow at the Academy of Finland funded postdoctoral research project ‘How To Do Things With Performance?’. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in 2017. He defended his doctoral research at the Theatre Academy of the University of the Arts in Helsinki in January 2016. He is the member of Performance Philosophy, Performance Studies International and the International Federation for Theatre Research. In 2015, he published his first fiction novel Heresy & Provocation for a Swedish publishing house Förlaget. His performance art projects have been presented at the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Theatrediscounter in Berlin, CSW Kronika in Bytom, Poland, Performance Matters in London, and at the New Performance Festival in Turku, among other venues.
- 1. Laruelle 2015, 43-44.
- 2. Cull 2015, 5.
- 3. Ó Maoilearca 2015, 253.
- 4. Laruelle 2015, 52.
- 5. Laruelle 2013a, 232.
- 6. Cvejic 2017.
- 7. Barad 2007, 280.
- 8. Deleuze 2004, 68.
- 9. Ó Maoilearca, 2015, 140.
- 10. Ibid., 175.
- 11. Cull 2012, 122-26.
- 12. Barad 2007, 265.
- 13. Laruelle 2013b, 30.
- 14. Here, it is necessary to see that, even though Laruelle may refer here in Lacan or deconstruction, but implies a more radical place for it, in that “I distinguish the Real from existence, from essence or from Being. If we assume that the Real exists, then it is no longer the real, it is reality,” and that “the Real […] instead of being still transcendent to knowledge like Lacan’s real, is radically immanent ‘to itself’.” (Laruelle 2015 37-45).
- 15. Deleuze 1991, 99.
- 16. Deleuze 1991, 104.
- 17. Deleuze 1991, 110.
- 18. A philosophical thought is reflective, where “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 (2012, 46).
- 19. Cull 2012, 122.
- 20. Double-slit experiment defines how light can display characteristics of wave and particle at the same time, or where electron seem to have appeared at two separate positions at the same time.
- 21. Bohr 2010, 51.
- 22. Laruelle 2013b, 37.