‘Notes Towards a Minor Art Practice’, Simon O’Sullivan


O’Sullivan’s work takes many of the ideas of the ‘minor’ derived from Deleuze and Guattari and applies them to art practice: a kind of ‘becoming a stranger’ in ones own tongue”. And he reminds us of several important features of Deleuze and Guattari’s work: “Deleuze and Guattari point out that a minor literature does not occur ‘elsewhere’ or ‘apart from’ a major literature (this is not a dialectic) but on the contrary operates from within, using the same elements as it were, but in a different manner.”

A minor art pushes up against the edges of representation; it bends it, forcing it to the limits and often to a certain kind of absurdity. This is not to say that a minor art cannot itself work through representation (or at least through fragments of representation). Indeed affective ruptures—which themselves utilize existing materials—are the fertile ground for new forms of representation, new signifying regimes. Deterritorialization is always accompanied by reterritorialization in this sense. A minor practice must then be understood as always in process, as always becoming—as generating new forms through a manipulation of those already in place. Here the question of the spectator’s investment in, and participation with, a particular practice becomes crucial, which is to say, his or her specific production of subjectivity and propensity for deterritorialization.” 

As you can see, the essay requires a full reading.  It is clear and powerfully argued and shows how ideas emanating in one place can be rhizomatically employed elsewhere to milluminate other forms.


 The whole essay is available on Simon O’Sullivan’s website: http://www.simonosullivan.net/articles.html


Thinking Minor


Neil Campbell: Fragments: Beginning to ‘think minor’ might be useful to critical regionalism.

Clare Colebrook explains Deleuze’s notion of “minor literature” alongside his sense that all art “has the power, not to represent the world or located subjects, but to imagine, create and vary affects that are not already given” (Colebrook 2002:103 – emphasis added).  Thus Franz Kafka was writing minor literature because “he wrote without a standard notion of ‘the people’” as already defined and established by State and nation, myth and representation, and instead, through his language, voiced the potential of a “people to come” (Colebrook, 104). The radical potential here is evident and suggestive of an ever-productive and multiple vision of identity and community rather than one fixed and static. Thus art is always productive, creative, “becoming” (to use Deleuze’s concept) refusing simply to re-present established and accepted models or to add to the tradition; rather it “produces what is not already recognisable … disrupts and dislocates the tradition” (Colebrook, 103). The ‘tradition’ might be exactly what Frampton, Lefaivre & Tzonis et al. were interested in examining in architectural terms – a tradition that universalized style rather than engaged with the local and the immediate OR regional as well. 

The MAJOR / MINOR dicotomy seeps through this thinking.

“To be a foreigner, but in one’s own tongue … To be bilingual, multilingual, but in one and the same language … To be a bastard, a half-breed …” (Thousand Plateaus,98).  A consequence of this process is “uprooting [of correct forms] from their state of constants”, a “cutting edge of deterritorialization of language” (99).

Critical regionalism can be this ‘deterritorialization of language’ — being critical, disruptive of traditions that become fixed and dominant; ‘majoritarian’ perhaps …

Deleuze and Guattari were interested in the relations between languages and expression, positing a concept of the “minor” and “major” whereby to make a major language speak in a minor way would be to make it stutter, stammer or wail and in so doing to “draw from it cries, shouts, pitches, durations, timbres, accents, intensities”. (Thousand Plateaus, 104)  Because the “unity of language is fundamentally political” (TP, 101) according to Deleuze and Guattari it is important to acknowledge and explore those languages that seek to intervene in the smooth-running of the dominant forms and, therefore, to take note of the “power of … variation” (101).  In truth, the more dominant the language the more likely it is to be “worked upon” diversely (102). 

Applied to film language or genre definition, one might, therefore, see this in relation to the dominance of the generic makeup of the Western and how this has been “varied” and worked upon for the outside, for there is “no language that does not have intralinguistic, endogenous, internal minorities” (103).Ultimately, the goal is “Use the minor language to send the major language racing …as bastards … by stretching tensors through it” (105).  The idea of the “tensor” being that which causes language to be pushed to the limits of its “elements, forms, or notions” and toward a “beyond of language”(99).

The major language in this case might be the dominant forms and cultural politics of the Western [for my current work], with its “movement-action-image” and hero-based situations and resolutions, within which Deleuze would argue can coexist, in tension, and in dialogue, another language – a “creative stammering … whispering …[of] ascending and descending variations” (D&G, TP, 98).

‘The people are never one but several or multiple, not molar but molecular. Rather than being based on a united or unifying discourse, minor cinema must produce collective utterances (énoncés collectifs) whose paradoxical property is to address a people who do not yet exist and, in so doing, urge them toward becoming’. (Rodowick, 1997: 154)

Enclosed by “regionalism” and a local perspective, the American West so often seems to speak only of itself and to itself in the “constants” of mythic discourse or what Deleuze and Guattari call “standard measure” – “the average adult-white-heterosexual-European-male-speaking”, the “subject of enunciation” (105, 292). What is called for is a “becoming” defined by “the extent that one deviated from the model” (105),so that such minor languages (in the widest sense remember) “must also be thought of as seeds, crystals of becoming whose value is to trigger uncontrollable movements and deterritorializations of the mean or majority” (106).

Simon O’Sullivan states minor literature foregrounds asignification, dislodging the simple connection between text and world, between text and representation, with “affective stammering … that in itself counteracts existing affective/signifying regimes, whilst at the same time opening up a gap into which creativity, understood as the pure past and future anticipations, can occur” (O’S, 154).  This affective stammering challenges the taken-for-granted and the established patterns of what we think we know, shifting us away from the clichés and the habitual.

Deleuze and Guattari write of “a dissolution of constant form in favor of differences in dynamic” as part of this process wherein the major and dominant language is “transformed” by the minor, which, after all, does not exist except in its relationship to the other. (ibid.:104-5)  Significantly, this dynamic aims for “a state of continuous variation”, of “subtraction and variation”, of “stretching” which is, they assert in parenthesis “(the opposite of regionalism)”. (105) Clearly in their minds regionalism suggests standardisation, constancy, and closedness, a type of inward, territorialized notion that has to be “varied” by the “potential becoming” inherent in the minor with its deviation from the model or “standard measure”. (ibid.) As they continue to argue, “It is certainly not by … regionalizing or ghettoizing, that one becomes revolutionary; rather by using a number of minority elements, by connecting, conjugating them, one invents specific, unforeseen, autonomous becoming.” (106) My point is that critical regionalizing presents a different and better approach through which the variation of the minor is more prominent because it insists on an opening-out process of connection and transformation.