For a Baroque Aesthetic, A study of the Films of David Lynch
par Michael Cutaya
National College of Arts and Design, Dublin - Master of Arts in the History of Arts and Design 2004
In 1988, the philosopher Gilles Deleuze investigated the concept of the baroque in The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque. He proposed the seventeenth century philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) as the philosopher the baroque was lacking. In 1980 Deleuze was describing Leibniz to his students:
Imagine Leibniz, there is something frightening there. He is the philosopher of order, even more, of order and policing, in every sense of the word "policing." In the first sense of the word especially, that is, regulated organization of the city. He only thinks in terms of order. But very oddly in this taste for order and to establish this order, he yields to the most insane concept creation that we have ever witnessed in philosophy. Dishevelled concepts, the most exuberant concepts, the most disordered, the most complex in order to justify what is. Each thing must have a reason.8(*)
This paradox is somehow reflected in the occurrence of the baroque as historical phenomenon. When Leibniz is the philosopher of order, the baroque is the art of the Counter-Reformation and as such is deeply embedded into the agenda of the Catholic Church to reassert itself in face of the growing reformist churches. As such it is the art of authority, but at the same time it has overgrown any attempt to contain it consequently the 17th century was a period of intense creativity.
Deleuze developed his approach to the baroque from the concept of the fold; he undertook to establish that the baroque fold is different from others folds in the history of art:
Should we wish to maintain the working relation of the Baroque and the fold, we shall therefore have to show that the fold remains limited in the other cases, and that in the Baroque it knows an unlimited freedom whose conditions can be determined.9(*)
From this premise he then posits the six traits of the baroque, which:
Taken in their rigor, have to account for the extreme specificity of the Baroque, and the possibility of stretching it outside of its historical limits, without any arbitrary extension: the contribution of the Baroque to art in general, and the contribution of Leibnizianism to philosophy.10(*)
The first of these traits is the fold, which the baroque develops as an infinite process. The fold is the expression of matter and produces form. The second trait concerns the relationship between the inside and the outside: `The infinite fold separates or moves between matter and soul, the façade and the closed room, the outside and the inside.'11(*) To the infinite receptivity of the façade responds the infinite spontaneity of the inner rooms of action. The third trait concerns the resolution of this tension across a divide in two levels: the high and the low. The façade-matter goes below and the soul-room above. The fold, moving between, differentiates into pleats of matter on the outside and folds in the soul inside: matter and manners. The fourth trait is the unfold, which is not the contrary of the fold, but the continuation of its act. The unfold is the manifestation of the action of the fold. The unfolding does not reveal a void but more folds: folds are always full. Textures constitute the fifth trait of the baroque: texture is constituted by the manner into which the matter is folded; it is the forces of resistance of the material. The sixth and last trait concerns the paradigm of the fold: the search for a model through the choice of material but also through its formal expression. The baroque fold can only appear `with infinity, in what is incommensurable and in excess, when the variable curve supersedes the circle.'12(*)
From these specific traits a number of terms emerge which are associated with the baroque taken in larger perspective: the notion of the fold is related to material and texture but also to manners and forces.
* 8 Gilles Deleuze, seminar on Leibniz 15th April 1980, http://www.webdeleuze [01.02.2003], my translation: `Imaginez Leibniz : il y a quelque chose d'effarant. C'est le philosophe de l'ordre ; bien plus, de l'ordre et de la police, dans tous les sens du mot police. Au premier sens du mot police surtout, à savoir l'organisation ordonnée de la cité. Il ne pense qu'en termes d'ordre. En ce sens il est extrêmement réactionnaire, c'est l'ami de l'ordre. Mais très étrangement dans ce goût de l'ordre et pour fonder cet ordre, il se livre à la plus démente création de concept à laquelle on ait pu assister en philosophie. Des concepts échevelés, les concepts les plus exubérants, les plus désordonnés, les plus complexes pour justifier ce qui est. Il faut que chaque chose ait une raison.'
* 9 Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley, London: The Athlone Press, 1993, p. 34. `Si nous voulons maintenir l'identité opératoire du Baroque et du pli, il faut donc montrer que le pli reste limite dans les autres cas, et qu'il connaît dans le Baroque un affranchissement sans limites dont les conditions sont déterminables.' Le Pli, Leibniz et le Baroque, Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1988, p. 48.
* 10 Ibid., p. 34. `Ce sont les mêmes traits pris dans leur rigueur qui doivent rendre compte de l'extrême spécificité du Baroque, et de la possibilité de l'étendre hors de ses limites historiques, sans extension arbitraire : l'apport du Baroque à l'art en général, l'apport du Leibnizianisme à la philosophie.' p. 48.
* 11 Ibid., p. 35. `Le pli infini sépare, ou passe entre la matière et l'âme, la façade et la pièce close, l'extérieur et l'intérieur.' p. 49.
* 12 Ibid., p. 38. `Celui-ci ne peut apparaître qu'avec l'infini, dans l'incommensurable et la démesure, quand la courbure variable a détrôné le cercle.' p. 53.