An Empire of Noise: (re)thinking the aleatory with Gilles Deleuze and David Lynch
Tim Deane-Freeman

April 16, 2019, 4:00pm - 5:30pm
Department of Philosophy, PHI research group, Deakin University

C2.05 Burwood Campus. Ic1.108 Waurn Ponds. *VMP 522 39354
221 Burwood Highway
Burwood 3125
Australia

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Deakin University

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In a 1987 lecture entitled “What is the Creative Act?,” delivered to the FEMIS film and television production school in Paris, Gilles Deleuze makes the following enigmatic claim: “A work of art does not contain the least bit of information. In contrast, there is a fundamental affinity between a work of art and an act of resistance.” In this short phrase Deleuze crystallises two major themes at work in his later philosophy –but which, we may well argue- spread out across his oeuvre more generally. On the one hand, there is his profound antipathy to the concept of “information,” which, in his terms, functions by way of an apparent “neutrality” in order to impose highly interested imperatives, fundamentally imbricated with capitalistic and neo-liberal operations of control. On the other, there is his valorisation of the work of art, as an intensive event which might open up new “lines of flight” for thought and sensibility, eschewing the habitual and the authoritarian in favour of experimentation, creativity and the invention of new modes of life.

But it appears that the so-called “digital age” within which we now find ourselves problematizes this Deleuzian formulation. Today, our experience of art is invariably “informational,” be it in the form of the digitally produced films we stream to watch on our laptops, the digitally recorded music we listen to on telecommunications devices, or the “new media” installations we might view in a contemporary art gallery. All of these forms and practices, insomuch as they take digital encoding as their materiality, are in a sense “informational” –using “information technologies” as their substrate or interface. Does this therefore mean, if we follow to the letter Deleuze’s claim, that “art,” having become “informational,” is no longer art at all?

In this paper, I hope to suggest a contrary position, identifying functions within the very concept of “information” –which, as we shall see, is no simple designation- that might continue to afford potentialities for “art” in the Deleuzian sense. In pursuing this contention, I will elaborate two distinct senses of the concept of “noise,” which, I argue, are brought into unique resonance by digital technologies. Firstly, in terms not dissimilar to those of Deleuze, there is the 20th century avant-garde’s conception of “noise,” as a chaotic, aleatory “outside” to human semantic structures, an externality which nevertheless serves to creatively open these structures to radical new potentialities. Secondly, there is “noise” as conceived by “information theory” -that is, as a statistically determinable, aleatory presence within transmission channels, which telecommunications technologies and engineering endeavour to ameliorate.

But what happens when art comes to populate these channels? When art becomes “informational” and, in so doing, valorises the “noisy,” aleatory presences which information technologies strive to exclude? In order to tease out the implications of such an encounter, in the latter part of this paper I will turn to a work of “digital cinema” -David Lynch’s 2006 film Inland Empire- identifying the ways in which this film serves to entwine these two distinct senses of noise, in such a way as might problematise Deleuze’s own thinking on information, and advance his broader conception of art into the 21st century.

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