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.

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