Unconscious style: on the expressive mode of aesthetics

Dr Nina Williams1

1UNSW, Canberra, Australia


Artistic practices are often understood as a form of communication, an act of denoting or connoting a message. Yet we often find that precisely what is felt in an aesthetic moment is irreducible to any intended meaning of the artist and exceeds the representational senses through which we interpret an artistic object. To speculate on the excessive properties of aesthetics, I consider the ways in which artistic style is expressive at an unconscious level, prior and parallel to the ways in which we pinpoint meaning onto the experience. In doing so, I turn to the reading of style proposed by Gilles Deleuze in Proust and Signs, which directs our attention to an “unconscious theme” of art detached from observation and description (2008: 31). The pertinence of this theorisation of style, I suggest, is that it articulates the process through which a creative force in art assumes meaning, without reducing the singularity of the encounter to an intelligence that reflects on the experience.


Deleuze, G. (2008) Proust and Signs. Continuum


Nina Williams is a cultural geographer influenced by non-representational theory, post-humanist thought, and process ontologies. She teaches social and cultural geography at UNSW, Canberra. Her work engages with theorisations of ethico-aesthetics, minor creativity and the processes of subjectification, particularly as they are understood in the philosophies of Felix Guattari, Gilles Deleuze and Henri Bergson. She draws upon these conceptual starting points to develop experimental and collaborative techniques of research in the contexts of art and curation; walking and mapmaking; audio technologies; and fashion and style.

The Internal Drivers of a Fashionable Collective: Simondon, individuation and the amplifying nature of aesthetics

Miss Breeze Mojel1

1UNSW Canberra, Campbell, Australia,

2The Difference Lab


For over a century, thinkers of fashion have theorised the collective as being bound together by forces and ideas external to their members with the role of ideology seen to drive the behaviours of those sharing a group style (Simmel [1904] Entwistle [2015]). Within this framing of the collective, the wearing and bearing of fashion appears as merely a tool for promoting individuals’ inter-identification and strengthening of relations between them. French philosopher Gilbert Simondon challenges this notion of the collective and aesthetics’ participation in its creation. Here, Simondon reconceptualises the concept of the collective as originating from an associated pre-individual reality in intimate common zones of subjects. Its actualisation arises from a solitary process such that any relations created are resultant expressions of the collective’s individuation into actuality. These relations created are now far from simply markers of inter-identification but rather dictate fields of resonance whose intersubjective interactions provide the potential for further individuations. Utilizing Simondon’s understanding of the amplifying nature of aesthetics, I will outline how fashion’s engagement is more than a tool for reproducing and solidifying concurrent collective thought but a productive medium for more novel individuations and therefore, a more inventive collective.


Breeze Mojel is a PhD student studying Cultural Geography at UNSW Canberra with a BDes (Hons) in Fashion Design from Massey University in New Zealand. As a member of the Difference Laboratory she utilizes both Deleuzian and Simondonian thought to explore topics surrounding fashion, individuation, anti-hylomorphism and ethics.

Raymond Ruyer & The Autosubjective Domain of Absolute Survey

Dr Thomas Keating1

1UNSW Canberra


In his book Neo-finalism, the French philosopher Raymond Ruyer (1952 [2016]) describes a crisis of contemporary thought – a moment brought about by a false analogy between the ‘thinking’ computer and the ‘thinking’ human brain, as well as the subordination of all behavioural processes to the finalist activity of the organismic subject. Today, against a backdrop of nootropic modifications to human life and industrial-scale integration of artificial intelligence, elements of this same crisis gain expression through the reductionism of the conscious humanist subject – a subject that would need ‘saving’ from the onslaught of this technological change. By way of response, in this paper I explore how Ruyer’s concept of “absolute survey” provides avenues for thinking about a specific kind of autosubjectivity – one that positions the human as an outcome of a range of different processes of transpatial ‘thought’ that need not be reduced to the unconscious frames of the humanist subject.


Thomas P Keating is a lecturer in human geography at UNSW Canberra. His research interests include the philosophy of technology, ‘new’ technological interfaces with the body, and non-representational geographies.

An individual experience in a collective forum: the sounds of epigenetic landscapes

A/Prof. Michelle Duffy1

1University Of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia


The Encounter (2011) is a solo theatre performance based on Petru Popescu’s book Amazon Beaming (1993), which in turn is an account of Loren McIntyre, a National Geographic photographer who found himself lost amongst the remote people of the Javari Valley in the western Amazon Basin in 1969.

Described as an ‘hallucinatory, tech-augmented tour de force’ (The Age), the audience is brought into the bodily space of the photographer via the connections between headphones we wear and a binaural microphone that is shaped like a head located at the centre of the stage. The entire performance is heard through these headphones.

In this paper, I want to explore the significance of affective relations between the unconscious, aesthetics and place, by drawing on Conrad Waddington’s (1940) concept of epigenetic landscapes and its focus on (cellular) differentiation. While originally used as a visualisation of interactions between genes and the environment, I would like to discover what happens when we use the concept of epigenetic landscape to map a sonic world where an individual experience occurs within a collective forum.


Michelle’s research explores how interactions between people and place contribute to notions of community and identity, and hence the processes of belonging and alienation. Her work includes a critical examination of community resilience, wellbeing, and sustainability; the significance of emotion and affect in creating notions of belonging and exclusion; the role of art practice – specifically that of sound, music and performance – in creating and/or challenging notions of identity and belonging in public spaces and public events; and an exploration of the body as a means of embodied, emotional and affective communication

Your Desires are Not Your Own!: Desire, the Unconscious and the Production of Subjectivity

Prof. J-D Dewsbury1, Dr Scott Sharpe1

1UNSW Canberra, Canberra, Australia


This paper theorises the relationship between desire and the unconscious by recasting a major theme of this session; namely behaviour. At least in some versions of social theory, behaviour is denigrated when compared with action. Hannah Arendt, for example, suggests that behaviour is held, by definition, to the determination of statistical predictability, and she thus firmly places behaviour in the realm of non-freedom, in contrast to the ‘initiative’ characterised by human action. What this distinction betrays, alongside a commitment to human exceptionalism, is the rigidity characteristically attributed to instinct and habit. Challenging this humanist relegation of behaviour to the sphere of non-freedom, we turn: first, after Massumi, to the problem of animal instincts, including our own, arguing that were the laws of nature to hold their recipients with any kind of rigidity, it would be fatal to both the animal and nature; and second, after Lazzarato, to habit as the institutionalization of desire, arguing that desire is that which is produced in assemblages of matter and ideal. Using Deleuze’s differentiating relationship between the unconscious and desire, we re-interpret the drivers of behaviour, displacing the interiority of the subject, to argue for subjectivity as the non-individual, singular capture of external forces.


JD Dewsbury and Scott Sharpe are cultural geographers working at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia. They have established a research network The Difference Lab between UNSW Canberra, ANU and Bristol University. This research is based upon post-continental philosophy looking at understandings of habit, materiality and politics, the relationship between ontology and events, and the impact of assemblage theory and affect in research practice.

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