Digestion and Regurgitation: Methods of Contestation in Artistic Research

Spencer Roberts

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


The question of eating ourselves (and of eating others) seems particularly pertinent in the context of artistic research, where, in its focus upon subjectivity and affirmation, the issue of framing an opposition can all too easily become moot. Orthorexia refers to an obsession with only ingesting food that is ‘pure’. What is considered to be ‘pure’ or ‘impure’ varies from person to person, but an individual’s belief about what constitutes healthy food may lead them to exclude certain nutrients or entire food groups from their diet, resulting in a cannibalisation of their internal resources. Conditions such as orthorexia, anorexia and bulimia reflect a set of broadly immanent, and affective concerns, whilst nevertheless embodying somewhat tensile attitudes towards relation. As such, they provide an interesting perspective from which we might address notions of affirmation, argumentation and opposition in a creative-research context.

Arguably, anorexia is an auto-cannibalistic, overtly non-relational activity. That is to say, in avoiding consumption, the anorexic tends towards the imperceptible, whilst ultimately consuming themselves from within. In contrast to this, the bulimic appears to gorge on relations – tasting, affirming, and ingesting everything – whilst subsequently purging it from the body in a partially digested fashion. Interestingly, both conditions are accompanied by symptoms of body dysmorphia, a mode of self-caricature that also functions as a regulatory motif. Nevertheless, the bulimic remains close to average bodyweight whilst the anorexic withers away.

With these observations in mind, this paper explores strategies of contestation and negation as they occur in Deleuzian philosophy – a philosophy highly influential in the formation of practices of artistic research, which is likewise associated with the affirmation of relations and with becoming imperceptible. It is claimed here, firstly that Deleuze’s mode of criticism is bulimic in character - that his directive that we should strive to become imperceptible can proceed only after he has first ‘virtualised’ his opponents – reducing their difference to self-identity, and secondly, that it is through consideration of Deleuze’s virtualisation of others, that we might develop strategies of argumentation and creative contestation that are still noticeably lacking in the context of artistic research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 9th SAR - International Conference on Artistic Research
EditorsGeoff Cox, Hannah Drayson, Azadeh Fatehrad, Allister Gall, Laura Hopes, Anya Lewin, Andrew Prior
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2018
EventInternational Conference on Artistic Research: Artistic Research Will Eat Itself - University of Plymouth, Plymouth, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Apr 201813 Apr 2018
Conference number: 9
http://sarconference2018.org (Link to Conference Website)


ConferenceInternational Conference on Artistic Research
Abbreviated titleARWEI
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
OtherThe provocation Artistic Research Will Eat Itself can be understood as a warning against the dangers of methodological introspection, or as a playful invitation to explore the possibilities of a field in a constant state of becoming. In this context, the ‘cannibalism’ of artistic research ‘eating itself’ embodies a dynamic tension between self-destruction and regeneration.
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