Roberts, Spencer (2015) For (and Against) Biggs and Büchler. In: The Dark Precursor: International Conference on Deleuze and Artistic Research, 9th - 11th November 2015, Ghent, Belgium.

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' images of thought. Early critics of practice-led research 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 an attempt was made to see them through the conceptual lens of 'research'. In contrast to this, advocates of artistic research, such as Haseman, Bolt, Sullivan, Borgdorff and Slager have proposed that research arising out of artistic practice possesses distinctive qualities - conjoining interests in the experimental, the experiential, and the non-representational, with a set of predominantly transformative aims.

For Deleuze (2001), any act of thinking is guided by a pre-conceptual, aesthetic/stylistic ‘image’ that in some sense precedes it. Deleuze suggests that a particularly ‘dogmatic’ image of thought pervasively permeates the history of philosophy, and likewise serves to structure received notions of ‘common’ and ‘good’ sense. As such, it conditions the conceptual distribution into which things may fall, as well as the processes of practical reasoning which are typically employed in the judgment or disciplining of phenomena (resemblance, opposition, analogy and identity). Significantly, Deleuze positions taxomomic construction, scientific method, and legal adjudicative procedures as products of this image (Lefebvre, 2008) - all of which have figured prominently in the broadly positivistic criticism/contestation of artistic research.

Perhaps because of the refractive, asymmetrical relationship between representational and performative images of thought, 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. In an attempt to address the lack of sustained critical confrontation between oppositional voices, this paper seeks to engage closely with a prominent sceptical 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. The critique of Biggs and Büchler’s project is presented here in the spirit of Masummi’s (2002) conception of the example as an ‘odd beast’ – as that which enables an incisive and direct confrontation with a singular position, whilst functioning emblematically to address a much wider terrain. Thus Biggs and Büchler are positioned as avatars of a more generalised sceptical position, and their project as a prominent expression of the dogmatic image of thought. It is argued here that Biggs and Büchler’s resistance to the affective and the performative is pervasive, colouring their approach to philosophy, art and aesthetics and placing them at odds with the largely material-experiential, and transdisciplinary interests of many artistic researchers. With Deleuze’s (1995) stylistic and operatic conception of philosophy in mind a series of performative, aesthetico-conceptual strategies are developed in order to problematise Biggs and Büchler’s project - confronting a linguistic-pragmatism of the right with a Deleuzian process-pragmatism of the left.

Keywords: Biggs and Büchler, Wittgenstein, Representation, Performativity, Image of Thought

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