Art With a Capital F (Affects and Percepts)

Affects and percepts are two different concepts in psychology.

Affects refer to the emotional experiences or feelings that people have in response to various stimuli or events. Affects can be positive or negative, and they can range in intensity from mild to intense. Examples of affects include happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust.

Percepts, on the other hand, refer to the mental representations of the sensory information that people perceive from the environment. Percepts are the internal representations of the external stimuli that we perceive through our senses. Examples of percepts include the mental image of a red apple, the sound of a bird chirping, and the taste of a sweet dessert.

In summary, affects are related to emotions, while percepts are related to sensory perceptions.

In the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, affects and percepts have a slightly different meaning than in traditional psychology.

Deleuze defines affects as pre-individual intensities that exist in the world prior to individual experiences and emotions. Affects are not subjective experiences or feelings, but rather objective and impersonal forces that shape our experiences and perceptions. They are not limited to human beings, but exist in all things and can be experienced by anyone or anything that encounters them.

Percepts, on the other hand, are the way in which the human mind organizes and interprets sensory information to create meaningful experiences. They are not objective representations of the external world, but rather subjective constructions that are shaped by the individual’s experiences and perspectives. Percepts are not limited to sensory experiences, but can also include thoughts, concepts, and other mental constructs.

In Deleuze’s philosophy, affects and percepts are intimately connected. Affects provide the raw material for the creation of percepts, and percepts shape the way that affects are experienced and interpreted. By exploring the relationship between affects and percepts, Deleuze seeks to understand how individuals experience and interact with the world around them.

Art’s power is its ability to distinguish affect from affection. Where we might sometimes suggest that the power of an art work lies in what it’ means’-what it reflects. Deleuze will insist that its power lies in its development of affect singularities. Instead of asking what a piece of music means, Deleuze would insist that we should ask:

what does it do? What new effects does it create, what new connections does it make possible?


As such, by virtue of this principle, the work resembles nothing, mimics nothing. It must ‘subsist by itself’, on its own, without pointing or referring back to a world outside it, which it would reflect, or to a subject which it would express. The literary work is worth on its own, it is by essence that which stands right, that which stands: it is a ‘monument’ ”

Deleuze and Guattari also indicate this self-preservation of the sensation in art as an autonomous block of sensations. The work of art is a being of sensation.

From its beginning, the created thing is independent from its model, as well as from the spectator and the artist who created it. The sensations, percepts and affects do not need man as a subject that would grant them a consistency or a justification. They exist besides and before man.

“it is the painter that becomes blue”

The goal of art is to reach pure sensation. The main question of a theory of the aesthetic experience becomes then that of the nature of this “wresting” an affect or a percept, this “extracting” a block of sensations.

“Art undoes the triple organization of perceptions, affections, and opinions in order to substitute a monument composed of percepts, affects and blocs of sensations that take the place of language. The writer uses words, but by creating a syntax that makes them pass into sensation that makes the standard language stammer, tremble, cry, or even sing: this is the style, the `tone’, the language of sensations”

Art is the elimination from the entire subjective domain of the mere effect and interpretation. It’s a sensation distillation process. There are specific procedures for each creator to succeed in this process. But they all focus on the same point: the extension of the definition of human, of self the becoming-colour, the becoming-cry, or man’s pure sound.

“Affects are precisely these nonhuman becomings of man, just as percepts — including the town — are nonhuman landscapes of nature

The centripetal effect of the art-monument, which wrests the affects from the perceptions, wrests the artist from himself. The artist is the one that mixes himself with nature, and enters a zone of indiscernibility with the universe. Van Gogh becomes sunflower, Kafka becomes animal, Messiaen becomes rhythm and melody.

“It should be said of all art that, in relation to the percepts or visions they give us, artists are presenters of affects, the inventors and creators of affects. They not only create them in their work, they give them to us and make us become with them, they draw us into the compound (…). The flower sees (…). Whether through words, colors, sounds or stone, art is the 11

The artist is the one who lives the affect, the one who works with the affect and lives in the affect, the point of indifference between man and the animal or the entire world, the area of indiscernibility between words and things. The artist is the one who becomes, for example, ocean (Moby Dick) or mineral (Bartleby), as in Melville.


It is in this sense that Deleuze and Guattari insist that the primordial gesture of art is to cut out, to carve, either chaos or a territory, always to make sensations occur there.

“Perhaps art begins with the animal, at least with the animal that carves out a territory and constructs a house”.

To carve a territory or to cut our chaos: these are the very first moments of artistic creation.

“All that is needed to produce art is here: a house, some postures, colors and songs — on condition that it all opens onto and launches itself on a mad vector as on a witch’s broom, a line of the universe or of deterritorialisation”.

By this line, one returns to the field of indiscernibility between man and animal, words and objects, in short, art and nature. So art becomes the link between what Deleuze and Guattari call the

“determined melodic compounds” and “infinite plan of symphonic composition”.


There’s a second definition of art by Deleuze and Guattari: art as thought. Art is thought, art thinks just as much as science or philosophy. The purpose of art is to sensitize the chaos, because according to Deleuze and Guattari,

“art is not chaos but a composition of chaos that yields the vision or sensation, so that it constitutes, as Joyce says, a chaosmos, a composed chaos — neither foreseen nor preconceived. Art transforms chaotic variability into chaoid variety”

Not a relation of exclusion, but on the contrary, of inclusion. The thought is the result of an operation done to chaos, it is the very composition of chaos. To think is to give consistency to chaos. Making chaos consistent is cutting it out, giving it a reality of its own. Chaos becomes Thought, it acquires a reality as Thought or mental chaosmos. Art is one of the three forms of cutting out chaos. Art, science and philosophy are the three Chaoïdes, the three forms of thought and the three forms of creating chaos.


Thus, according to Deleuze and Guattari, within immanence occurs philosophy, within consistency occurs science and within composition occurs art. The junction of these three plans is called “brain”. “A concept is a set of inseparable variations that is produced or constructed on a plane of immanence insofar as the latter crosscuts the chaotic variability and gives it consistency (reality).

“It is the brain that thinks and not man — the latter being only a cerebral crystallization.

We will speak of the brain as Cézanne of the landscape: man absent from, but completely within the brain. Philosophy, art, and science are not the mental objects of an objectified brain but the three aspects under which the brain becomes subject, Thought-brain”.

Brain becomes a Subject when it becomes Thought.

Deleuze draws attention to a resonance between making a territorial form of art — house, postures, colors, songs — and the

“ the Thought-brain can be known as one “I”. The brain is an I, a philosophical “I conceive”, a scientific “I refer”, or an artistic “I feel”

“Contemplating is creating, the mystery of passive creation, sensation. Sensation fills out the plane of composition and is filled with itself by filling itself with what contemplates: it is ‘enjoyment’ and ‘self-enjoyment’. It is a subject, or rather an inject»

Art is the capturing of life’s energy and also the development of a life that stands alone and absorbs the force of the immanence of life for itself. And Deleuze proposes a philosophy of the spirit by explaining this way of capturing life. The spirit, in what theory is defined? As “soul,” “energy,” “shape in itself,” it is what, in the mind, tends to fly over chaos, to make it alert, to slice it out so that it becomes a chaoid or a compound of affects and experiences.

Art is then a real transcendental practice, because at the same time it is both a brain-like activity (instead of faculties, Deleuze now suggests the brain, the micro-brain) and an artistic creation of a soul, a life as the absolute immanence of the sensation. So art is a transcendental empiric experience.


“So, my good Teutons, you are proud of your good poets and artists? You point to them and brag about them to foreign nations? And since it cost you no effort to have them here among you, you spin the delightful theory that there is no reason to take any trouble about them in the future, either? They come all by themselves, isn’t that right, my innocent children? They stork brings them! Let’s not even talk about midwives!”

 F Nietzsche 

Art is not a thing; it is a way. “Art does not reproduce what is visible; it makes things visible” “Entertainment gives you a predictable pleasure. Art… leads to transformation. It awakens you, rather than just satisfying a craving.

 Entertainment just requires passive receivers, whereas art demands purposeful action that awakens your soul. Certain genres of music have become almost formulaic because writers are forced to follow stock templates of what’s expected to happen where (i.e., the first chorus coming in 20 seconds in).


An artist creates Art on their own initiative. An artist “labors” in service of their Muse, their Muse. The Muse alone is the Artist’s employer. “Do this,” she says, “and you will Live. Turn away, and at best you will only survive.” You do have a choice: You can make the Art, or not. I accept the Muse’s terms. I perform the labor, and receive my “payment”: Life.

I’d much rather serve the Muse than an employer, but although the Muse doesn’t negotiate a moneyed wage. The Muse turns out to always have the artist’s best interests at heart.

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