Gilles Deleuze: Image and Text

Chapter 5 – Sensation: The Earth, a People, Art
Elizabeth Grosz

Grosz begins with some brilliance from Friedrich Nietzsche (Will to Power)
“Art reminds us of states of animal vigor; it is on the one hand a excess and overflow of blooming physicality into the world of images and desires; on the other, an excitation of the animal functions through the images and desires of an intensified life – an enhancement of the feeling of life, a stimulant to it.”

Grosz agrees art is a compulsion of the human animal, a sensation wild and dangerous. “Art is a consequence of that force that puts life at risk for the sake of intensification, for what can be magnified in the body’s interaction with the earth…for the sake of sensation itself.” Sensation sought outside the control of reason. Powerful sensation that consumes reason and regurgitates a stratum of understanding known as superstition. As intensification, sensation is equivalent to magical power so profound is the perception of it and its affect.

Does sensation differ in intensity with an increase in mystery? When the art object reverberating sensation is apprehended in sacred circumstances compared with an encounter with art taken out of context either through time or cultural displacement, or when the process of making is difficult to deduce, the materiality confounding. The “percepts and affects” formed can create a sensation of the supernatural of “inhuman forces from which the human borrows and which may serve in the transformation and overcoming of the human…by his conversion into a being of sensation.” As a connective, radiating and transformational force, sensation generates a relational interpretation of perception often possessing its own form of logic.

“Affects are man’s becoming-other, the creation of passages between the human and animal, cosmic becomings the human can pass through …percepts…are the transformations of the evolutionary relations of perception that have finely attuned the living creature to its material world through natural selection into the resources for something else, something more, for invention, experimentation or art.” The concepts of affects and percepts find parallels with the formation of what the Berndt’s describe in their Anthropological study of Kunwinjku speakers as “the man-myth dimension, which is inseparable from the [man-man or man-land dimension]…It is as if the first two dimensions were combined and resorted, and provided with a series of explanations and relevances.”

Art as sensation can, as intent, be “a premonition of what might be directly inscribed on the body.” Art is then an act of sorcery that conjures and sustains sensation in an art object for the duration of its material existence. “They aim to capture the force of time, opening up sensation to the future, making time able to be sensed, even if that means becoming-other.”

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