Expressivity of Bodies: The Synesthetic Affinity Between Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty. Thought of the Day 54.0


It is in the description of the synesthetic experience that Deleuze finds resources for his own theory of sensation. And it is in this context that Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty are closest. For Deleuze sees each sensation as a dynamic evolution, sensation is that which passes from one ‘order’ to another, from one ‘level’ to another. This means that each sensation is at diverse levels, of different orders, or in several domains….it is characteristic of sensation to encompass a constitutive difference of level and a plurality of constituting domains. What this means for Deleuze is that sensations cannot be isolated in a particular field of sense; these fields interpenetrate, so that sensation jumps from one domain to another, becoming-color in the visual field or becoming-music on the auditory level. For Deleuze (and this goes beyond what Merleau-Ponty explicitly says), sensation can flow from one field to another, because it belongs to a vital rhythm which subtends these fields, or more precisely, which gives rise to the different fields of sense as it contracts and expands, as it moves between different levels of tension and dilation.

If, as Merleau-Ponty says (and Deleuze concurs), synesthetic perception is the rule, then the act of recognition that identifies each sensation with a determinate quality or sense and operates their synthesis within the unity of an object, hides from us the complexity of perception, and the heterogeneity of the perceiving body. Synesthesia shows that the unity of the body is constituted in the transversal communication of the senses. But these senses are not pre given in the body; they correspond to sensations that move between levels of bodily energy – finding different expression in each other. To each of these levels corresponds a particular way of living space and time; hence the simultaneity in depth that is experienced in vision is not the lateral coexistence of touch, and the continuous, sensuous and overlapping extension of touch is lost in the expansion of vision. This heterogenous multiplicity of levels, or senses, is open to communication; each expresses its embodiment in its own way, and each expresses differently the contents of the other senses.

Thus sensation is not the causal process, but the communication and synchronization of senses within my body, and of my body with the sensible world; it is, as Merleau-Ponty says, a communion. And despite frequent appeal in the Phenomenology of Perception to the sameness of the body and to the common world to ground the diversity of experience, the appeal here goes in a different direction. It is the differences of rhythm and of becoming, which characterize the sensible world, that open it up to my experience. For the expressive body is itself such a rhythm, capable of synchronizing and coexisting with the others. And Merleau-Ponty refers to this relationship between the body and the world as one of sympathy. He is close here to identifying the lived body with the temporization of existence, with a particular rhythm of duration; and he is close to perceiving the world as the coexistence of such temporalizations, such rhythms. The expressivity of the lived body implies a singular relation to others, and a different kind of intercorporeity than would be the case for two merely physical bodies. This intercorporeity should be understood as inter-temporality. Merleau-Ponty proposes this at the end of the chapter on perception in his Phenomenology of Perception, when he says,

But two temporalities are not mutually exclusive as are two consciousnesses, because each one knows itself only by projecting itself into the present where they can interweave.

Thus our bodies as different rhythms of duration can coexist and communicate, can synchronize to each other – in the same way that my body vibrated to the colors of the sensible world. But, in the case of two lived bodies, the synchronization occurs on both sides – with the result that I can experience an internal resonance with the other when the experiences harmonize, or the shattering disappointment of a  miscommunication when the attempt fails. The experience of coexistence is hence not a guarantee of communication or understanding, for this communication must ultimately be based on our differences as expressive bodies and singular durations. Our coexistence calls forth an attempt, which is the intuition.

Biogrammatic Vir(Ac)tuality. Note Quote.

In Foucault’s most famous example, the prison acts as the confluence of content (prisoners) and expression (law, penal code) (Gilles Deleuze, Sean Hand-Foucault). Informal Diagrams are proliferate. As abstract machines they contain the transversal vectors that cut across a panoply of features (such as institutions, classes, persons, economic formation, etc), mapping from point to relational point, the generalized features of power economies. The disciplinary diagram explored by Foucault, imposes “a particular conduct upon a particular human multiplicity”. The imposition of force upon force affects and effectuates the felt experience of a life, a living. Deleuze has called the abstract machine “pure matter/function” in which relations between forces are nonetheless very real.

[…] the diagram acts as a non-unifying immanent cause that is co-extensive with the whole social field: the abstract machine is like the cause of the concrete assemblages that execute its relations; and these relations between forces take place ‘not above’ but within the very tissue of the assemblages they produce.

The processual conjunction of content and expression; the cutting edge of deterritorialization:

The relations of power and resistance between theory and practice resonate – becoming-form; diagrammatics as praxis, integrates and differentiates the immanent cause and quasi-cause of the actualized occasions of research/creation. What do we mean by immanent cause? It is a cause which is realized, integrated and distinguished in its effect. Or rather, the immanent cause is realized, integrated and distinguished by its effect. In this way there is a correlation or mutual presupposition between cause and effect, between abstract machine and concrete assemblages

Memory is the real name of the relation to oneself, or the affect of self by self […] Time becomes a subject because it is the folding of the outside…forces every present into forgetting but preserves the whole of the past within memory: forgetting is the impossibiltiy of return and memory is the necessity of renewal.


The figure on the left is Henri Bergson’s diagram of an infinitely contracted past that directly intersects with the body at point S – a mobile, sensorimotor present where memory is closest to action. Plane P represents the actual present; plane of contact with objects. The AB segments represent repetitive compressions of memory. As memory contracts it gets closer to action. In it’s more expanded forms it is closer to dreams. The figure on the right extrapolates from Bergson’s memory model to describe the Biogrammatic ontological vector of the Diagram as it moves from abstract (informal) machine in the most expanded form “A” through the cone “tissue” to the phase-shifting (formal), arriving at the Strata of the P plane to become artefact. The ontological vector passes through the stratified, through the interval of difference created in the phase shift (the same phase shift that separates and folds content and expression to move vertically, transversally, back through to the abstract diagram.)

A spatio-temporal-material contracting-expanding of the abstract machine is the processual thinking-feeling-articulating of the diagram becoming-cartographic; synaesthetic conceptual mapping. A play of forces, a series of relays, affecting a tendency toward an inflection of the informal diagram becoming-form. The inflected diagram/biogram folds and unfolds perception, appearances; rides in the gap of becoming between content and expression; intuitively transduces the actualizing (thinking, drawing, marking, erasing) of matter-movement, of expressivity-movement. “To follow the flow of matter… is intuition in action.” A processual stage that prehends the process of the virtual actualizing;

the creative construction of a new reality. The biogrammatic stage of the diagrammatic is paradoxically double in that it is both the actualizing of the abstract machine (contraction) and the recursive counter-actualization of the formal diagram (détournement); virtual and actual.

It is the event-dimension of potential – that is the effective dimension of the interrelating of elements, of their belonging to each other. That belonging is a dynamic corporeal “abstraction” – the “drawing off” (transductive conversion) of the corporeal into its dynamism (yielding the event) […] In direct channeling. That is, in a directional channeling: ontological vector. The transductive conversion is an ontological vector that in-gathers a heterogeneity of substantial elements along with the already-constituted abstractions of language (“meaning”) and delivers them together to change. (Brian Massumi Parables for the Virtual Movement, Affect, Sensation)

Skin is the space of the body the BwO that is interior and exterior. Interstitial matter of the space of the body.


The material markings and traces of a diagrammatic process, a ‘capturing’ becoming-form. A diagrammatic capturing involves a transductive process between a biogrammatic form of content and a form of expression. The formal diagram is thus an individuating phase-shift as Simondon would have it, always out-of-phase with itself. A becoming-form that inhabits the gap, the difference, between the wave phase of the biogrammatic that synaesthetically draws off the intermix of substance and language in the event-dimension and the drawing of wave phase in which partial capture is formalized. The phase shift difference never acquires a vectorial intention. A pre-decisive, pre-emptive drawing of phase-shifting with a “drawing off” the biogram.


If effects realize something this is because the relations between forces or power relations, are merely virtual, potential, unstable vanishing and molecular, and define only possibilities of interaction so long as they do not enter a macroscopic whole capable of giving form to their fluid manner and diffuse function. But realization is equally an integration, a collection of progressive integrations that are initially local and then become or tend to become global, aligning, homogenizing and summarizing relations between forces: here law is the integration of illegalisms.


Speech. Thought of the Day 17.0


Speech, is a gesture, an indication, or a pointing toward, a certain intended signification. Speech, if it is understood, brings a certain something before us, but what is the status of that something? Firstly, given that language is equivocal, the signified necessarily goes beyond any attempt to signify it. As such, language never affords total expression, but rather, is merely the linguistic embodiment of an attempt to signify. It is therefore the case that these significations have the status of “Ideas,” which target, or aim at total expression but are constantly outstripped by the “things themselves” which they signify. The signified is never present before the act of expression; rather, it is this act of expression which realizes it as an intention. It is, furthermore, appropriate to say that we have, or possess, a language as the sum total of available significations. Language is intrinsically historical, in the sense that any synchronic moment possesses all previous synchronic moments within it. Any particular present carries with it all presents occurring prior to it. The distinction between the synchronic and the diachronic, therefore, cannot be maintained in a language as it is lived. It is the case, therefore, that any particular signification becomes available as a kind of ‘sedimentation’ within the ‘tradition’ of a language. The significative intention, therefore, must draw from available meanings but is also limited by the ‘world’ as the limit of possible meanings. The speaking subject, therefore, through the power of expression, is able to draw from available meaning and in turn, through them, constitute a new meaning. Understanding the meaning, therefore, is a process of taking up the signification of others, or having them “dwell within me,” such that a new ‘style’ of thought has been awakened. What has, thereby, been ‘acquired’ will remain available, without the need to reactivate the original process of constitution. A new ‘sedimentation’ has been constituted, which does not erase, or eliminate, the ‘sedimentations’ previously available. Rather the new ‘acquisition’ is incorporated into the cultural tradition that is language and is added as a new possibility for an expressive intention. The speech of others comes to “dwell” within me in a movement of transcendence, beyond the merely available meanings of the language, and is understood the moment I am able to take it within myself and express it anew. It seems to be the case, therefore, that what is available to me is not solely my ‘own,’ but ‘ours’ in the sense that what is available to me is available to everyone and only becomes mine specifically when, through my mute intention, I take it up into myself and express it anew. The ‘tradition,’ or language, is that which gives us the means of realizing our significative, or mute, intentions, however, at the same time it is constituted as the result of our expressivity.