In What is Philosophy?, Deleuze and Guattari define the practice of philosophy as the creation of concepts and that of art as the composition of percepts and affects — blocs of sensation. “Abstract art and conceptual art are two recent attempts to bring art and philosophy together,” they write, “but they do not substitute the concept for the sensation; rather, they create sensations and not concepts.” Abstract art refines sensation, while conceptual art generalizes it — and this latter practice, according to Deleuze and Guattari, tends toward an engagement with “information” rather than concepts. Conceptual art, one might claim, was never properly an art of the concept insofar as it was preoccupied with the art-concept itself, its distinction from information and its reflexive constitution via the judgment of a perceiver. From this perspective, one could say that conceptual art does not create concepts but rather interrogates the concept which already grounds it (“art”). In this respect conceptual art might be taken as akin to certain traditions of analytic philosophy with which it often aligns itself.
On the other hand, we might consider aesthetics as an effort to draw together art and philosophy. As “the science of the sensible,” aesthetics draws art into philosophy by attempting to construct and determine those concepts fundamental to understanding the experience of art. In aesthetics, then, the construction of concepts proceeds in relation to the composition of percepts. But if we consider art as a practice which produces concepts, then aesthetics, qua science of the sensible, finds its object of study evading its purview. The study of art, in this case, would come to require not a science of the sensible but a science of the concept — just as would a meta-philosophical study of philosophy.
And indeed, it is Hegel who attempts something like the construction of such a science, not only in the Logic, but also in his Lectures on Fine Art. In the Introduction to the first volume of those lectures, we find the following remarks:
Now art and works of art, by springing from and being created by the spirit, are themselves of a spiritual kind, even if their presentation assumes an appearance of sensuousness and pervades the sensuous with the spirit. In this respect art already lies nearer to the spirit and its thinking than purely external spiritless nature does. In the products of art, the spirit has to do solely with its own. And even if works of art are not thought or the Concept, but a development of the Concept out of itself, a shift of the Concept from its own ground to that of sense, still the power of the thinking spirit lies in being able not only to grasp itself in its proper form as thinking, but to know itself again just as much when it has surrendered its proper form to feeling and sense, to comprehend itself in its opposite, because it changes into thoughts what has been estranged and so reverts to itself. And in this preoccupation with its opposite the thinking spirit is not false to itself at all as if it were forgetting and abandoning itself thereby, nor is it so powerless as to be unable to grasp what is different from itself; on the contrary, it comprehends both itself and its opposite. For the Concept is the universal which maintains itself in its particularizations, overreaches itself and its opposite, and so it is also the power and activity of cancelling again the estrangement in which it gets involved. Thus the work of art too, in which thought expresses itself, belongs to the sphere of conceptual thinking, and the spirit, by subjecting it to philosophic treatment, is thereby merely satisfying the need of the spirit’s inmost nature.
For Hegel, then, aesthetics is not so much the science of the sensible as a study of the art of the concept. In this case, however, it is not art which produces concepts; it is the Concept which produces art (and philosophy). In Hegel’s account, it is the Concept that draws together art and philosophy as the differential grounds of its development, a development through which it is precisely the contradiction between thought and sensation that negates their estrangement.
The problem of the relation between philosophy and art is thus the problem of the relation between thought and sensation — as these are involved in the articulation of the concept. And to investigate “the art of the concept” is thus to study the practice of this articulation, the way it works, and thereby to study the conceptual coarticulation of art and philosophy.
That will be the goal of our symposium, bringing together philosophers, artists, media theorists, and writers whose thought engages literature, film, music, and visual art.