Hélène Frichot on Deleuze’s Baroque House

For anyone interested in Deleuze’s conception of the event, Hélène Frichot’s essay, “Stealing into Deleuze’s Baroque House” in the edited collection, Deleuze and Space, is a must read. If I ever get to teach this stuff, then this essay will be a set reading where I introduce Deleuze’s conception of the event.

Frichot is in the Architecture dept at RMIT in Melbourne and one of the reasons why her essay is so brilliant is that it doesn’t explore Deleuze’s concept within the terrain of the concept itself (so as to produce a mere ‘understanding’). Rather, she takes the concept (in the Deleuzian sense of a conceptual event) of the baroque house, developed in The Fold as a representation of the architecture of the event, and produces another event wihtin discourse that demonstratively repeates the event through three examples with correspondence to the event within the discipline of architecture. Her reading of Deleuze, Deleuze and Guattari, and select secondary commentary is very sophisticated and refreshingly does not dwell on reified Deleuzianisms that are sometimes clumsily deployed by others.

I am glad to finally be coming across some work in the secondary literature that engages with Deleuze’s notion of the event in a sophisticated and intelligent manner. It seems remarkable that the concept of the event is not central to most works of Deleuzian schoalrship when Deleuze described himself as a ‘thinker of the event’.

The essay is a good eexample of a more balanced approach to Deleuze’s philosphy than, for example, Peter Hallward’s book. As greg Seigworth notes in his review of Hallward’s book, it only focuses on the virtual or incorporeal dimension of Deleuze’s philosophy. The material and affective conditions of events are just as necessary, and Frichot’s essay is an excellent example of the dual dynamic nature of events.

My entire dissertation is an exploration of the ‘events’ in modified-car culture. Each chapter deals with a particular event and is actualisation within the culture.

The first chapter is on enthusiasm. I describe it as an affective complex. I document the complex movements of affect within events and argue that enthusiasm as an event is not simply a positive affective relation of, for example, charisma, between an enthusiast and a charismatic socio-technology, but is a comple of positive and negative affects that circulate across singular events. there is a disjuncture between the two dimensions of events puncturated by the mobile contingencies of the passage from the virtual to the actual.

The second chapter is on ‘know how’ which discuss as the in-action (a neologism I coin for the diss) of a practical knowledge arrayed by the contingencies of experience. ‘Know how’ is crucial for understanding how enthusiasts translate the contingencies of ‘problems’ into the contingencies of ‘challenges’. The practical act of translating contingency is an affirmation of enthusiasm. ‘Know how’ is dynamic as it is always ‘in-acted’ and is thus transformed by the problematic material conditions of the action.

The third chapter is on the ‘scene’. The scene is an event assembled from the bodies and passions of enthusiasts and their cars, the practices they perform, and the social institutions and discourses that act as the infrastructure of the scene. The duration of the scene exceeds the duration of smaller scale events (such as cruising, racing or modifying). In my diss I map the transformation of the scene from the 1970s through to the late-1980s to discuss how particular dispositifs and discursive articulations array the scene in particular ways.

The fourth chapter is on performance. I am currently finishing this off. I originally started writing about the media, but quickly realised that ‘performance’ is worthy of being a stand alone chapter in the context of my dissertation’s topic. I rearticulate a concept of valorisation away from being determined by the symbolic dimension of objects or commodities as reflecting certain asymmetrical power relations and towards a notion of valoristion as a discursive act whereby value is determined by the affects of enthusiasm. Different forms of technological performance are valorised by different enthusiasms within the scene of modified-car culture. I use the emergence of so-called ‘import’ culture to examine the shift from and cultural politics between a masculine and reactionary nationalist valoristion of particular forms of technological performance and a more class-based, trans-cultural valorisation of technological performance.

The last chapter, which I started writing and then realised that my one massive finalchapter was actually two chapters, is on media events. I have discussed this on my blog many times. Instead of the neo-Durkheimian notion of a media event defined in terms of the mediated extension of social rituals into the proximity of the common viewer’s everyday life, mine is from below and assembled from the ‘becoming-together’ (Massumi) facilitated by the distribution of contingencies and capacities of events through the media. It is essentially a distinction between the role of the media in two conceptions of belonging. One conception of belonging is determined by the performance and participation of certain identities that resonate with symbolic totalities (nation, class, subculture, etc). The other conception of belong is determined by the exposure to collective contingency distirbuted through the media and the collective becoming of populations.

My dissertation will still be too long as I have done far too much work, or just enough, depending on one’s perspective. My supers reckon an extension to a november deadline is needed. This is depressing. I was feeling good with my progress. I am still working to the deadline of the current extension of July 31 in case the university decides that I have had long enough. A version produced by July 31 will not be of a submittable standard, in the sense of being passable, rather I am simply aiming (and hoping) for unfailable. The epic amount of work that has gone into the diss, and which is clearly evident to any reader, should surely convince someone that I should be given the opportunity to make ‘major corrections’. Sigh…

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