Both a Cyborg and a Goddess

R. Joshua Scannell, ‘Both a Cyborg and a Goddess: Deep Managerial Time and Informatic Governance’, pp.247-273, in:

Behar, K. (Ed.), 2016. Object-oriented feminism. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.


[Referencing Jasbir Puar (2012)]

Affective intensities, distributed bodily information, data trails, teletechnology, all commingle in a constantly productive distribution of posthumanist political modulations that are the target of what Gilles Deleuze identified as “the society of control.”

Puar metonymizes these analytics as goddesses and cyborgs. On the one hand, the reified humanist categories of goddess identity and personhood render a political imagination that exotifies both the sub- jects it seeks to represent and the political systems that oppress them. On the other, the teleological technical determinism of the cyborg easily slips into a sort of pseudo-intellectual “disruptive” solipsism. Surely, she claims, there must be cyborg goddesses in our midst.

It is my contention that a figure with the attributes of the cyborg goddess has emerged, but that it is not human.

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On the Verge of Photography

Daniel Rubinstein & Andy Fisher, ‘Introduction: On the Verge of Photography’, pp.7-14, in: 
Rubenstein, D., Golding, J., Fisher, A., 2013. On the verge of photography: imaging beyond representation. ARTicle Press.

If this multi-layered reality comprising of bits of matter and bits of information appears homey and familiar it is in part due to the ease with which digital images are so readily translatable between different layers of data, code and matter.

However, it now seems that it is the humble photographic image, in all its hybridized digital forms, that encapsulates the interlacing of physical and algorithmic attributes, aesthetic and political forms, which characterise the age of information capitalism.


Gilles Deleuze, ‘Athleticism’, pp.12-19, in:

Deleuze, G. 2003. Francis Bacon: the logic of sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith (London; New York: Continuum


Let us return to Bacon’s three pictorial elements: the large fields as a spatializing material structure; the Figure, the Figures and their fact; and the place – that is, the round area, the ring, or the contour, which is the common limit of the Figure and the field.

The contour, as a “place,” is in fact the place of an exchange in two directions: between the material structure and the Figure, and between the Figure and the field.

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Note on Figuration in Past Painting

Gilles Deleuze, ‘Note on Figuration in Past Painting’, pp.8-11, in:

Deleuze, G. 2003. Francis Bacon: the logic of sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith (London; New York: Continuum)


Painting has to extract the Figure from the figurative. But Bacon invokes two developments which seem to indicate that modern painting has a different relation to figuration or illustration than the painting of the past has.

First, photography has taken over the illustrative and documentary role, so that modern painting no longer needs to fulfill this function, which still burdened earlier painters. Second, painting used to be conditioned by certain “religious possibilities” that still gave a pictorial meaning to figuration, whereas modern painting is an atheistic game.

Yet it is by no means certain that these two ideas, taken from Malraux, are adequate. On the one hand, such activities are in competition with each other, and one art would never be content to assume a role abandoned by another.


The photograph, though instantaneous, has a completely different ambition than representing, illustrating, or narrating.


On the other hand, the link between the pictorial element and religious sentiment, in past painting, in turn seems poorly defined by the hypothesis of a figurative function that was simply sanctified by faith.

Consider an extreme example: El Greco’s The Burial of the Count ofOrgaz (1586-8). A horizontal divides the painting into two parts: upper and lower, celestial and terrestrial. In the lower half, there is indeed a figuration or narration that represents the burial of the count, although all the coefficients of bodily deformation, and notably elongation, are already at work. But in the upper half, where the count is received by Christ, there is a wild liberation, a total emancipation: the Figures are lifted up and elongated, refined without measure, outside all constraint.

Despite appearances, there is no longer a story to tell; the Figures are relieved of their representative role, and enter directly into relation with an order of celestial sensations.


Thus we cannot say that it was religious sentiment that sustained figuration in the painting of the past; on the contrary, it made possible a liberation of Figures, the emergence of Figures freed from all figuration.

Nor can we say that the renunciation of figuration was easier for modern painting as a game.


On the contrary, modern painting is invaded and besieged by photographs and cliches that are already lodged on the canvas before the painter even begins to work.


In fact, it would be a mistake to think that the painter works on a white and virgin surface. The entire surface is already invested virtually with all kinds of cliches, which the painter will have to break with.

This is exactly what Bacon says when he speaks of the photograph: it is not a figuration of what one sees, it is what modern man sees. It is dangerous not simply because it is figurative, but because it claims to reign over vision, and thus to reign over painting.

Having renounced the religious sentiment, but besieged by the photograph, modern painting finds itself in a situation which, despite appearances, makes it much more difficult to break with the figuration that would seem to be its miserable reserved domain. Abstract painting attests to this difficulty: the extraordinary work of abstract painting was necessary in order to tear modern art away from figuration. But is there not another path, more direct and more sensible?

The Round Area, the Ring

Gilles Deleuze, ‘The Round Area, the Ring’, pp.1-7, in:

Deleuze, G. 2003. Francis Bacon: the logic of sensation. Translated by Daniel W. Smith (London; New York: Continuum)


A round area often delimits the place where the person – that is to say, the Figure is seated, lying down, doubled over, or in some other position.

In short, the painting is composed like a circus ring, a kind of amphitheater as “place.” It is a very simple technique that consists in isolating the Figure.


The important point is that they do not consign the Figure to immobility but, on the contrary, render sensible a kind of progression, an exploration of the Figure within the place, or upon itself. It is an operative field.

Not only is the painting an isolated reality, and not only does the triptych have three isolated panels (which above all must not be united in a single frame), but the Figure itself is isolated in the painting by the round area or the parallelepiped.

Why? Bacon often explains that it is to avoid the figurative, illustrative, and narrative character the Figure would necessarily have if it were not isolated.

Painting has neither a model to represent nor a story to narrate. It thus has two possible ways of escaping the figurative: toward pure form, through abstraction; or toward the purely figural, through extraction or isolation


Isolation is thus the simplest means, necessary though not sufficient, to break with representation, to disrupt narration, to escape illustration, to liberate the Figure: to stick to the fact.

Clearly the problem is more complicated than this. Is there not another type of relationship between Figures, one that would not be narrative, and from which no figuration would follow?


What is this other type of relationship, a relationship between coupled or distinct Figures? Let us call these new relationships matters of fact, as opposed to intelligible relations (of objects or ideas).

What fills the rest of the painting will be neither a landscape as the correlate of the Figure, nor a ground from which the form will emerge, nor a formless chiaroscuro, a thickness of color on which shadows would play, a texture on which variation would play.


In fact, the rest of the painting is systematically occupied by large fields [aplats] of bright, uniform, and motionless color. Thin and hard, these fields have a structuring and spatializing function. They are not beneath, behind, or beyond the Figure, but are strictly to the side of it, or rather, all around it, and are thus grasped in a close view, a tactile or “haptic” view, just as the Figure itself is.

If the fields function as a background, they do so by virtue of their strict correlation with the Figures. It is the correlation of two sectors on a single plane, equally close.


[Bacon] distinguishes three fundamental elements in his painting, which are the material structure, the round contour, and the raised image.

We will see later what the various elements of this system have to do with Egyptian art, Byzantine art, and so forth. But what concerns us here is this absolute proximity, this co-precision, of the field that functions as a ground, and the Figure that functions as a form, on a single plane that is viewed at close range.

It is this system, this coexistence of two immediately adjacent sectors, which encloses space, which constitutes an absolutely closed and revolving space, much more so than if one had proceeded with the somber, the dark, or the indistinct.

This is why there is indeed a certain blurriness in Bacon; there are even two kinds of blurriness, but they both belong to this highly precise system.

The Camera That Ate Itself

Matthew Fuller, ‘The Camera That Ate Itself’, 55-85 in:

Fuller, M., 2007. Media ecologies: materialist energies in art and technoculture, 1st MIT Press paperback edition. ed, Leonardo. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England.


This persistent whimsy that labor-saving technology will of itself release people into a helter-skelter world of self-determined fun is less a theory than a suburban myth.

Nevertheless, Flusser’s Towards a Philosophy of Photography insists we play along. Having been liberated from the necessity, if not from the compulsion, to work, people are available for play.

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I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess

Jasbir Puar, ‘‘I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess’: Intersectionality, Assemblage, and Affective Politics’, 2001. []

Intersectionality and assemblage are not analogous in terms of content, intent, nor utility, but they have at times been produced as somehow incompatible or even oppositional. While, as analytics, they may not be reconcilable they need not be oppositional, but rather frictional.

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In a Minor Key

Erin Manning, ‘In a Minor Key’, pp.1-25, in:
Manning, E., 2016. The Minor Gesture: thought in the act. Duke University Press, Durham.

The minor gesture, allied to Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of the minor, is the gestural force that opens experience to its potential variation.

A minor key is always interlaced with major keys—the minor works the major from within.

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Like a Thought

‘Introduction: Like a Thought’, p.xiii-xxxix, in:
Massumi, Brian. (Ed.), 2002. A shock to thought: expression after Deleuze and Guattari. Routledge, London ; New York.
Expression conjures up the image of a self-governing, reflective individual whose inner life can be conveyed at will to a public composed of similarly sovereign individuals – rational atoms of human experience in voluntary segregation, usefully sharing thoughts and experiences. In a word: ‘communication’.
Communicational models of expression share many assumptions.
All of these assumptions have been severely tested by structuralist, poststructuralist, postmodern, postpostmodern thought. Communication has long since fallen on hard times and with it, expression.

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Introduction: Repetition and Difference

‘Introduction: Repetition and Difference’ 1-35 in:
Deleuze, G., Patton, P., 2014. Difference and repetition. Bloomsbury Academic, London ; New York.
Repetition and resemblance are different in kind – extremely so.
Generality presents two major orders: the qualitative order of resemblances and the quantitative order of equivalences. Cycles and equalities are their respective symbols.
Repetition as a conduct and as a point of view concerns non-exchangeable and non-substitutable singularities.
Reflections, echoes, doubles and souls do not belong to the domain of resemblance or equivalence; and it is no more possible to exchange one’s soul than it is to substitute real twins for one another.
If exchange is the criterion  of the generality, theft and gift are those of repetition. There is, therefore, an economic difference between the two.
To repeat is to behave in a certain manner, but in relation to something unique or singular which has no equal or equivalent. And perhaps this repetition at the level of external conduct echoes, for its own part, a more secret vibration which animates i, a more profound, internal repetition within the singular.
This is the apparent paradox of festivals: they repeat an “unrepeatable”. They do not add a second or a third time to the first, but carry the first time to the “nth” power.
With respect to this power, repetition interiorizes and thereby reverses itself: as Péguy says, it is not Federation Day which commemorates or represents the fall of the Bastille, but the fall of the Bastille which celebrates and repeats in advance all the Federation Days; or Monet’s first water lili which repeats all the others.
Generality, as generality of the particular, thus stands opposed to repetition as universality of the singular.
The repetition of a work of art is like a singularity without concept, and it is not by chance that a poem must be learned by heart.
The head is the organ of exchange, but the heart is the amorous organ of repetition.
Pius Servien rightly distinguished two languages: the language of science, dominated by the symbol of equality, in which each term may be replaced by others; and lyrical language, in which every term in irreplaceable and can only be repeated.
Far from grounding repetition, law shows, rather, how repetition would remain impossible for pure subjects of law – particulars. It condemns them to change.
As an empty form of difference, an invariable form of variation, a law compels its subjects to illustrate  it only at the cost of their own change. No doubt there are as many constants as variables among the terms designated by laws, and as many permanences and perseverations as there are fluxes and variations in nature. However, a perseveration is still not a repetition.
So at each level, it is in relation to large, permanent natural objects that the subject of a law experiences its own powerlessness to repeat and discovers that this powerlessness is already contained in the object, reflected in the permanent object wherein it sees itself condemned. Law unites the change of the water and the permanence of the river.
If repetition exists, it expresses at once a singularity opposed to the general, a universality opposed to the particular, a distinctive opposed to the ordinary, an instantaneity opposed to variation and an eternity opposed to permanence. In every respect, repetition is a transgression. It puts law into question, it denounces its nominal or general character in favour of a more profound and more artistic reality.
From the point of view of scientific experiment, it seems difficult to deny a relationship between repetition and law. However we must ask under what conditions experimentation ensures repetition.
Natural phenomena are produced in a free state, where any inference is possible among the vast cycles of resemblance: in this sense, everything reacts on everything else, and everything resembles everything else (resemblance of the diverse with itself).
Expecting repetition from the law of nature is the “Stoic” error. The wise must be converted into the virtuous; the dream of finding a law which would make repetition possible passes over to the moral sphere.
Moralists sometimes present the categories of Good and Evil in the following manner: every time we try to repeat according to natures or as natural beings (repetition of a pleasure, of a past, of a passion) we throw ourselves into a demonic and already damned exercise which can end only in boredom or despair. The Good, by contrast, holds out the possibility of repetition, of successful repetition and of the spirituality of repetition, because it depends not upon a law of nature but on a law of duty, of which, as moral beings, we cannot be subjects without also being legislators.
It is useless to point to the existence of immoral or bad habits: it is the form of habit – or, as Bergson used to say, the habit of acquiring habits (the whole of obligation) – which is essentially moral or has the form of the good.
[…] habit never gives rise to true repetition: sometimes the action changes and is perfected while the intention remains constant; sometimes the action remains the same in different contexts or with different intentions.
There again, if repetition is possible, it would appear only between or beneath the two generalities of perfection and integration, testifying to the presence of a quite different power, at the risk of overturning these two generalities.
If repetition is possible, it is as much opposed to moral law as it is to natural law. There are two known ways to overturn moral law.