Peter Stamer

I would like to reflect and keep track on the concept of MILIEU throughout the following weeks. Being interested in taking seriously three dimensions Deleuze refers to in A Thousand Plateaus (due to Massumi) and engage in a little meditation on them: 1. middle 2. environment 3. medium. I think the hardest one to grasp is Deleuze’ take on medium (‘as in chemistry‘ as Massumi states). As far as my understanding of medium ‚as in chemistry‘ can reach out, milieu as medium is a force that both carries and absorbs other elements. I may be wrong here but medium due to this understanding goes beyond simple media theory of a carrier that functions as a vessel. Definitely something to look into. The other two meanings (environment and space) do entail a certain notion of space both in a hierarchical and atmospheric sense. The ‘middle’ immediately asks for margins (inside-outside; centre-periphery) whereas the concept of environment is, at least in my thinking, linked to a Deleuzian ‚agencement‘, an assemblage within which e.g. desire takes place. This goes beyond a thinking of a mix of different substances as in a bacteriological understanding of germs or fluids which make other germs flourish (or not). Despite the fact that we know that some milieus do favour certain acts of procreation than others (sperms on their way to mother’s egg). Here, medium equals a specific channel (in the sense of the word), a specific channel of transportation. I think all three dimensions are covered by our ideas of ‚milieus’, and it would be interesting to engage in some reflective practices on it. So (another) reading of Deleuze could become handy at a certain point.

In addition to that there is some thoughts that keep me busy since quite a while; I haven’t been able to pin them down, to nail them down in a text so far (despite the need to do so as I was assigned a text quite a while ago). I am still busy on an essay on collaboration, and yet I cannot wrap my mind around it in such a way to distance my own experience from my body, to turn, excuse my Deleuzian attempt here, to create a percept rather than indulging in a repetition of my perceptions. Percepts survive the experience of the one how has lived them through, and yet again they are not independent from the source of perceptions: they are not n’importe quoi. I am dealing, on and on, with a notion I borrow from Derrida (from a totally different context) who himself is deconstructing Kant’s aesthetic take on the beautiful. What seems to be overly complexe and also pompous, overheated in these circumstances could be boiled down to the notion of ‚without‘, a more than phenomenological account of both perceiving and acting. Applying ‚withoutness‘ (which is exactly the opposite of the void) to collaboration, I would like to let some thoughts meander around something that could be called ‚collaboration without collaboration‘. ‚Without’ here is NOT a lack, a minus, something that’s missing but rather a condition which is enriched by a (well…) surplus, a too much, something that exceeds in a given without. It’s that what, in aesthetic discourse, exceeds its verbality, its own possibilty to be put in discourse (‚discoursifyability‘), its ground why art is arty, to paraphrase Kant’s definition of the beautiful. Derrida writes a wonderful text, analysing a footnote (!) of Kant’s writing; a footnote being a parergon, an aside, something that adds both context and explanation but is not conceived of belonging to the main text. A footnote being an annotation and by being thus most often de-explains, makes things more complicated rather than sheding light on them. Footnotes, btw, are maybe the most interesting texts in (academic) writings, since they allow for following a thought that is not worth being followed and is yet seemingly important: footnotes reveal the flaws, paradoxes, the unsolved thinking process of a text, and it doesn’t come by suprise that Derrida (The truth in painting) falls on that, falls for it. (On another note, coming back to the concept of milieu by Deleuze, what is supposed to be left behind on the margins here becomes the centre of attention, both by the medium of the footnote as sheer gesture of transportation of a thought rather than working it through to become an argument, and the notion of centre-periphery, again: the parergon, the framing of where it is undecided what belongs to, here, a thought or a painting: is the frame still part of it? Is a footnote still part of the text or does it reside outside of it?)

‘Collaboration without collaboration’ is far away from being irresponsible. It’s exactly the opposite of, say, Melville’s Bartleby, of him stating and paralysing affairs of communality by ‚I would prefer not to‘. I would prefer not to hinders withoutness since it fills it up with a vacuum, a void in this understanding. Without is not nothing. It’s a quality that adheres to the process, which is not being about invisibilty (I don’t know), and not even a spirituality. Withoutness in this understanding could be equalled to letting go without (sic) letting down. A certain detachment without (!) giving up. Detached from what? Detached maybe from the constraints of coordination and cooperation which are often confused with collaboration (I am going a bit far here).
I tend to distinguish at first three different layers of ‚doing things together‘: 1) coordination: a process of working together that depends on making a common schedule, on agreeing on a time structure, synchonizing one’s schedule with another one’s as in agreeing on deadlines etc.  2) cooperation: a process of working together that takes both time (schedule) and space (sharing of space) into account. Throwing what one is already working on into a larger pot by also giving away a certain authorship. Allied armies cooperate one with another when attacking the enemy. They keep their given structure intact, hence their force. I would say that cooperation is most of the times confused with collaboration. Collaboration starts (again, due to my little attempt here that goes over the top) when the entities (subjects, objects, processes etc.) start to merge and dissolve, when we give up on the constraints of coordination and cooperation, of time and difference and become a part of the problem (not of the solution). ‘Thanks for your cooperation’ as one can here the line in American culture once a case of emergency, a rupture of social flow took place means to subject one’s system for a certain amount of time to another one’s, here superior one with suspending one’s souvereignty for a short amount of time. This is what the addressed is thanked for. Being detached from the limits of coordination and cooperation (which, sure, give at first access to another system), without synchronizing and subjecting seems to be the challenge of collaboration. Collaboration without cooperation and coordination!

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