For Deleuze, Figures capable of conveying the sensational (the sensation itself, sensation minus the object or representation assumed to induce it) tarry in the curious no-man’s land between figurative representation and formal abstraction. While both the figurative and abstract ultimately stage an alienation from (some might say sublimation from?) the body, Bacon’s Figures do not circumvent the body, but render it sensible.
The experience of feeling oneself feel invokes, perhaps, the second of Bergson’s two regimes of images: the “living image,” apprehended by itself as an irruption or curvature in the fabric of universal variation. If I wrote in a previous entry that the move into the time image (breakdown of sensory-motor schema and thus the decoupling of perception from action) changes the relation between Bergson’s two systems of images, such that the sensing subjectivity is “no longer capable of distending the fabric of universal variation or leaving its previous material mark,” I think now that this sensing subjectivity does continue leave its own “mark”: a temporal rather than spatial disturbance. To the extent that the body becomes a site of inertia and lag, a site of resistance to pliability that renders forces sensible, the living image is made to feel, to bear out the process of becoming one image among others.
This sense that the body in this iteration, as living image rather than one image among others, might not be able to keep up with the vicissitudes of universal variation (and thus cannot be entirely absorbed into its fabric), stems in part from the recurrence of the word “hysteresis” in Logic of Sense. Here, I found Deleuze’s notion of the body without organs most helpful in signaling transformation that does not take for granted seamless transition, even in the ongoingness of becoming. Though the BwO always hovers on the verge of its own supersession, finding new actualizations of the virtual to overtake the current instantiation, Deleuze does not take for granted the body’s general indeterminacy (or endless availability to reconfiguration). Rather, the body without organs, defined neither by the absence of organs nor the “existence of an indeterminate organ,” emerges in the “temporary and provisional presence of determinate organs.” That a composite of determinancies, the plurality transient determinacy gives rise to, marks BwO’s potentiality, points to a distended time of becoming: time refers not merely to the reach, but the minute transition between moments associated with each determinacy. This “temporary and provisional presence,” the force of the body in its endless reconfigurations, thus injects time into the Figure, a formulation that resurfaces later, perhaps, in Deleuze’s description of the body as “revelateur” of time in the introduction of Cinema 2. It is not just that body reveals time by bearing it, through exhaustion and waiting, but that it is never a single (the same) body that waits.
Another way of saying this might be that for Deleuze, deformation rather than transformation becomes the operative term for change, for the collision of time and body. If transformation could align itself with the “abstract or dynamic,” deformation is always corporeal and static—obtained in the “form at rest.” (59) Insofar as “what fascinates Bacon is not movement, but its effect on an immobile body,” movement here might be juxtaposed with the movement of action in the sensory-motor schema from Cinema 1: the uncooperative body here falls out of sync with the kinetics of the situation—force comes to be exerted on, rather than by, it.
“Becoming” as the endless cycle of erasure and emergence, the transition between states that is part and parcel of reconfiguration, is thus felt in Bacon. Even the disappearance of body—its apparent dematerialization, absorption into field of color—is rendered visceral, such that the body’s erasure is not an instance of disembodiment, but a resurgence of uncomfortable, even painful, materiality— vanishing rendered durational. “The face is dismantled in favor of this smile, as if there were an acid eating away at the body.” (28) Even the hysterical smile that remains, however, captures the “abjection of a smile” (28) Such insistence of the smile seems to leave an afterimage of the disintegrating head, encompasses abjection’s central and animating contradiction: both that which is cast off from the body (shit, fingernails) as other to, exterior to oneself and the autonomy that seems to come with one’s (ostensible) bodily coherence, and that which remains inalienable from oneself, the abject frustrates notions of fluid/seamless transition by naming the insistence of the body, its tendency to accrete former states and unwanted residues.
Whereas Deleuze uses “hysteresis” to refer specifically to act of painting, “an apres coup” that continues to reverberate as the “afterwards” of the painting, I wonder if the term might be extended to the body’s encounter with sensation, and the transmission of force that occurs there. As a description of the lag in a system’s output after input has already changed—the inability of the system to keep up with modulations that will, nonetheless, eventually pass through it—hysteresis in this bodily sense might name the way in which transformation incited by force is not so much delayed as protracted, and thus rendered sensible. Sensibility presupposes an uncooperative body: for all this talk of sensation as vibration that extends into self-propagating rhythm, the body continues to resurface as “inert matter.” This is the intensive fact of the body (45): a resistance that cannot be separated from susceptibility to change, the inertia that interrupts when one configuration of organs gives way to another. Insofar as the body without organs invokes the nonorganic, the body without organts (without, that is to say, a single configuration of organs and the relation between them) is really, as Deleuze notes, a body minus the notion of an organism. (Assemblage without blueprint.) But I wonder if the organismal doesn’t resurface, if only as the infinitesimal hesitation between configurations that renders metamorphosis apprehensible as such, brief hiccups in a series of self-differentiation. That parts of the organism must be “neutralized” (46), “restored to their state of zones or levels” (46), testifies to the organism’s survival as artifact, as lagging and slightly uncooperative kernel that remains.
A reverse sense of lag can also be true: not body lagging after sensation, but sensation outlasting the particular body that gave rise to it. “The insistence of a scream that survives the mouth.” This, of course, is painting’s preserve—the possibility of preserving and thus transmitting sensation (“parcels of affect”), so that the violence is not just transmissible in an individual encounter, from the sensorial to the imagination to the understanding, but between bodies and across encounters—from the painter’s hand to, perhaps, the viewer’s nonorganic eyes. (The painter’s possible hysteria, as Deleuze describes it, becomes possibly another interesting departure from the sensory-motor schema—interesting because it intensifies rather than arrests the schema, becoming on some level a hyperbolic version of the circuit. No longer confronted with arrested movement or action, the body suddenly becomes a channel for energy, but not necessarily of one’s own volition or consideration—there is a sense in which many of the painter’s gestures in the course of painting seem unmotivated or nonsensical, unnarrativizable in the usual ways.
The incommensurability between Bergson’s two regimes of images, whose incompatibility he returns to again and again in Matter and Memory, places the body in a curious position: it becomes simultaneously the image that does not change, the sensorial “constant” through which all other sensorial data is received (this is, Bergson writes, how we come to infer the body in the first place) and the image that registers merely as one image among others. Deleuze’s account of sensation makes it important to keep both in play: each becomes a way to get to the other—the body’s inertia that makes encounter with force sensible, the system of universal variation that keep the body without organs in its perpetual state of transformation (or deformation, as Deleuze might prefer).
To use Taylor’s language in his last discussion post, I wonder if the body isn’t a particular “frame” that cannot be as easily discarded or exchanged for another. That the body serves as an interface means that it can never entirely dissolve into the fabric of universal variation—but its capacity for sensation is always already subtended by rhythm, through which “sensation of a particular domain (here, the visual sensation) remains in direct contact with a vital power that exceeds every domain and traverses them all.” Rhythm as resonance, the “confronting and uniting of diverse levels of different sensations” keeps sensation as registered on a particular body tethered to the luminous regime of universal variation, the “nonhuman world where movement equals matter.” The “diastole-systole” rhythm of painting, which Deleuze describes as the simultaneity of “the world that seizes me by closing in around me” and “the self that opens to the world and opens the world itself,” might point, for a diehard Bergsonian, to the convergence of these two image systems, even as each is described from the perspective of the other.