Architectures of Life and Death

Conference Theme

Humanity is that form of psycho-social life which, by means of the non-living artefacts that support it and found its historicity, extends bio-psychic animal life of which the non-living condition is not yet the artefact but simple apoptosis (‘cellular suicide’), and whose origin is a third form of ‘non-life’: the chemical non-living. (Barthélémy, “Du mort qui saisit le vif”, 2007).

Throughout his working life Deleuze devoted a great deal of time to rethinking ‘ways to die’ and the focus intensified in the period leading to his death. It was explicitly addressed in his final text, which is key to understanding that Deleuze’s affirmative vitalism, or his emphasis on life and joy, should not be confused with the so-called search for happiness. Enduring the pain, or living the wound, means, especially in our times, that we must thoroughly rethink death, pain and madness. These issues are especially relevant for posthuman subjects situated between the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Sixth Extinction, in the context of the Anthropocene and climate change, rising populism, growing poverty and inequality. How does Deleuze’s ethics help us organise rather than agonise in the face of these challenges?

The participants of the Architectures of Life and Death conference will examine both the structures and operations of what is alive in matter and ‘non-living’ in life. We start from the assertion that life extends beyond its merely biological aspects through the non-living artefacts that support it and, at times, oppose it. If an artefact, and its capacity for creating a life, is conceptualised on the basis of its interventionist and manipulative agency, then the very concept of technology – the production and control of artefacts – can surpass the binaries of social and material, human and non-human, living and non-living. The animate has always been utterly dependent on the inanimate. Driven by the Foucauldian attitude of subsuming architectural history into a general history of techne, the conference will examine how the built environment and its technicities produce a style for living and dying that may take place simultaneously. In doing so, we embrace Guattari’s claim from his “Architectural Enunciation”

Once it is no longer the goal of the architect to be the artist of built forms but to offer his services in revealing the virtual desires of spaces, places, trajectories and territories, he will have to (…) become an artist and an artisan of sensible and relational lived experience. (Guattari, Schizoanalytic Cartographies, 1989).

Guattari urges us to understand architecture as a practice devoted to the processes of subjectification. If architecture does not produce spaces but subjects, then it is no longer a discourse on design styles. Rather, it becomes the producer of styles to live and styles to die, beyond good and evil or any such Manichean binaries. The only viable distinction is the one between active and reactive subjects. Namely, those who follow a becoming that connects them to the becoming of a world, and those who constantly retreat to segmentarity, to the reassurance of established givens and limits. Consequently, there are two types of subjects precisely because there are two types of deaths. A subject can nest into its idiocy and make itself more and more rigid and progressively smaller, or it can let itself dissipate until its disappearance. The way that one styles one’s dissolution is not merely determined by the inevitability of entropy but by the expressionism of becoming. It is possible that by examining the ways architecture plunges into the infinity of experience – how it confronts chaos – will teach us how to die without dying. 

Annual Deleuze Scholarship

The Annual National Deleuze Scholarship Conference is a working symposium intended to bring together scholars, students, researchers, activists, artists, and others whose work revolves around the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. Each year the conference is hosted by a different university in the Netherlands. Previous editions addressed the following central themes:

#1 Deleuze and Cultural Studies, University of Utrecht, 2012;

#2 Affect, Delft University of Technology, 2013;

#3 Passions, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 2014;

#4 Aesthetics, Radboud University Nijmegen, 2015;

#5 Machinic Ecologies, University of Amsterdam, 2016;

#6 Pedagogies, AKI Academy (ArtEZ University of the Arts), Enschede, 2017;

#7 Politics of Sustainability, University of Utrecht, 2018.

Conference Schedule

Berlagezaal I

09:45 – 10:00 Welcome and intro by A. Radman and S. Kousoulas

10:00 – 10:45 Opening Keynote Lecture by A. Ballantyne

10:45 – 11:00 Coffee Break

Berlagezaal II

11:00 – 13:00 First Roundtable Discussion

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch Break

Berlagezaal II

14:00 – 16:00 Roundtable Discussion

16:00 – 16:15 Coffee Break

Berlagezaal I

16:15 – 17:00 Closing Keynote Lecture by R. Braidotti