Roberts, Spencer (2012) Deleuze and the Aesthetics of Relation. In: Deleuze, Philosophy, Transdisciplinarity, 105h-12th February 2012, Goldsmiths College, University of London. (Submitted)

Deleuze' philosophy is strongly oriented by process philosophical themes. That is to say, it expresses a concern with process, relation and the absolute ontological priority of the new. The neutrality of the concepts of process and relation confer upon Deleuzean philosophy an at once inter and trans-disciplinary character. More specifically, Deleuze' contingent, processual characterisation of relation encompasses both cross-disciplinary contact, and individual disciplinary transformation. He famously stresses the empiricist notion that “relations are external to their terms” (Dialogues, 55).

Whilst the concept of process has remained relatively stable throughout the Deleuzian corpus, this is arguably not the case with respect to the still somewhat under explored concept of relation. I argue here that despite Deleuze’ insistence on the extrinsic character of relations, there are a number of seemingly incompatible senses of this concept that can be located within his work. There is, for example, a syncretist and eternalist conception of relation that conditions The Logic of Sense, a genetic, differential and productive conception of relation at work in Difference and Repetition and a more pragmatic, overtly political sense of relation or relationship that is developed in his collaboration with Guattari.

Despite the tensions between these various characterisations, they nevertheless share an instrumental unity in so far as they each express, in their own distinctive fashion, the primacy of becoming and the production of the new. In this sense, and in accordance with the Deleuzo-Guattarian conception of philosophy as the art of forming, inventing, and fabricating concepts (What is Philosophy?, 2), these diverse and seemingly incompatible conceptions of relation can be considered elements in a series of carefully constructed dramatisations that have different audiences in mind.

Accordingly, divergent readings or actualisations of Deleuze' philosophy prioritise one sense of relation whilst occluding or dismissing others. Whilst this is a necessary requirement for establishing logical coherence and determining sense, it obscures the fact that Deleuze' philosophy has a primarily aesthetic, as opposed to alethic orientation, and that for Deleuze, it is the signs of art that are closest to the workings of matter (Proust and Signs, 39).

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