Deleuze, Judgment and Artistic Research
The debate concerning the legitimacy of artistic research that has taken place over the last two decades is notable for the way in which it has drawn attention to rival 'representational' and 'performative' conceptions of thought. In the early stages of the debate, critics such as Durling, Friedman, Elkins and Biggs employed broadly representational arguments in a quasi-legal context of judgment to suggest that processes of artistic research were in some sense unrecognisable when attempts were made to see them through the conceptual lens of 'research'. In contrast to this, advocates of artistic research, such as Haseman, Bolt, Sullivan and Slager proposed that research arising out of artistic practice possessed distinctive qualities - conjoining interests in the experimental, the experiential, and the non-representational, with a set of predominantly transformative aims. Haseman et al have likewise suggested that the concerns of the practitioner-researcher, at least in the context of the arts, are mainly ontological as opposed to epistemological in character - seeking to explore, reframe, or contest existing states of affairs in a broadly performative fashion. Whilst supporters of artistic research often stress the requirement for new ways of thinking to accommodate the specificities of practice-led research, many of the concepts that are employed in an attempt to understand the aims and concerns of artistic research have a long ‘process-philosophical’ lineage. Process philosophy has been present as a minor current in Western philosophy since as early as 540 BC and through the influence of luminaries such as Dewey and Langer, it has long been associated with education in the arts. Process philosophers typically emphasise both the ontological priority of change and the relational constitution of entities. From the perspective of process philosophy, the world of stable and enduring things arises out of a differential play of interacting forces that admit of multiple and contingent patterns of relation. With this in mind, the contemporary anti-essentialist arguments that are often utilised in the defense of artistic research are positioned in this thesis as examples of process-philosophical thinking, paving the way for an application of the post-structuralist, process-philosophical thought of Gilles Deleuze to the debate concerning the legitimacy of practice-led research. An interesting and long running feature of the legitimacy debate has been the failing of participants on both sides of the discussion to critically engage with their opposition - preferring instead to construct rather idealised, ghostly positions, which ultimately sidestep the specificities of the situation. In an attempt to address the lack of sustained critical confrontation between oppositional voices in the discussion, this thesis attempts a close qualitative engagement with a prominent skeptical position. To this end, the work of Michael Biggs and Daniela Büchler is interrogated from a conceptual, aesthetic and relational perspective, revealing its Wittgensteinian and Kantian roots, and subjecting them to critical scrutiny from the perspective of Deleuzian thought. Biggs and Büchler, have developed a markedly critical voice in the legitimacy debate, importing the early hostility towards practice-led research that arose out of a predominantly North American design community into the context of UK, Dutch and Australian discussion. Biggs and Büchler are much cited within the literature on artistic and practice-led modes of research and they have been influential in the framing of policy. The critique of Biggs and Büchler that is developed in this thesis begins from the observation that their work embodies a broadly conservative emphasis upon representation and recognition, and that it is expressive of what Deleuze describes as the ‘dogmatic image of thought’. It is argued here that Biggs and Büchler’s resistance to the affective and the performative is pervasive, serving to colour their approach to philosophy, art and aesthetics and to place them at odds with the largely material-experiential, and transdisciplinary interests of many artistic researchers. With this in mind, a series of aesthetico-conceptual strategies are employed in order to problematise Biggs and Büchler’s position and to stage an encounter between a process-pragmatism of the left (as typified by the philosophy of Deleuze), and a linguistic-pragmatism of the right (as typified by the philosophy of Wittgenstein). This thesis makes a number of claims to knowledge. Primarily it aims to demonstrate that the justification of artistic research need not be separatist or isolationist in character, but that in demonstrating the overlap between traditional and non-traditional forms of research we need not dispense with artistry or neglect the artefact’s performative work. In this sense it aims to show how characteristics sometimes considered specific to practice-led research have a more generalised, if somewhat understated presence in the context of more traditional modes of enquiry. In a similar vein, it aims to demonstrate how a broadly traditional, written thesis might be explored in the spirit of practice-led enquiry - drawing attention to a range of textual, imaginative, conceptual and speculative devices that might enable us to explore the intensities of a problem space, and to investigate the ways in which aesthetic devices might also perform active work in the context of an argument. Ultimately this results in a questioning of the separation of artefact and argument that is characteristic of much discussion of practice-led research. Methodologically the thesis is distinctive in its sustained critical engagement with a single oppositional voice, which is also intended, through a process of extrapolation, to problematise a more generalised positivistic current of thought emanating primarily from the discipline of design. Lastly, the philosophical critique of the Wittgensteinian underpinnings of Biggs and Büchler’s position also facilitates a contribution to Deleuze studies – addressing the breadth of Deleuze’s concept of relation and critically interrogating the thought of Ludwig Wittgenstein - the philosopher for whom Deleuze seemed to harbour the strongest antipathy, but of whom he was also the most reticent to speak. Whilst it is clear that there has been much interest in the potential application of Deleuze since the inception of the legitimacy debate, and whilst it is clear that the employment of Deleuze as primary theorist in practice-based-research projects is in the ascent, to date there has been little work that is explicitly focused upon the resonance of Deleuzian thought with respect to the productive context, or the legitimacy of the practice-based PhD.