Aesthetics of Noise: Philosophy, Digital Culture and Artistic Experimentation

Monthly seminar, October 2020 to June 2021.

This semester the Collège International de Philosophie & King’s College London will continue the seminar on the aesthetics of noise with talks and conversations between philosophers, theoreticians and noisers. Re-evaluating the boundaries of aesthetics at the intersection of philosophy, digital culture and artistic practices, the seminar series explores how noise partakes in sense data (aísthēsis) and how it impacts on our understanding of the subject of experience, in its technologically expanded dimension. As Fischer Black remarked in the context of finance: noise is what makes it difficult to test theories, it clouds our vision and forces us ‘to act largely in the dark’. (Black, 1986) Far from indexing a mere margin of error or simple disturbance, the notion of noise has become a rallying point for contemporary reflection, stretching and renewing the aesthetic dimension of philosophy. 

A collaboration of the College International de Philosophie, Paris and King’s College London: Department of Digital Humanities, Department of French and the Centre for Philosophy and the Visual Arts. Organisers: Cécile Malaspina, directeur de programme, Collège International de College International de Philosophie, Paris; Mark Coté, Senior Lecturer in Digital Cultures, Director MA Big Data, Culture and Society; Patrick ffrench, Professor of French and Vice Dean (Research) at King’s College; Sacha Golob, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Director of the Centre for Philosophy and the Visual Arts.


Speakers and respondents: AN AESTHETICS OF NOISE 2020-2021


Thursday 26 Nov 2020

Patrick ffrench: Informe / Information: The Noise of Georges Bataille

Respondent: Giovanni Menegalle

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Georges Bataille’s notion of the informe, usually translated as ‘formlessness’, proposes a principle of absolute improbability which radically ungrounds and destabilises normative conceptions of development and evolution, particularly as concerns the form of the human body. In his brief entry under the title ‘informe’ in the ‘Critical Dictionary’ of the heterodox periodical Documents, Bataille writes that ‘for academics to be happy, the universe has to take shape’ and that ‘all of philosophy has no other purpose; it is a matter of giving a frock-coat to what is, a mathematical frock-coat’. If one might conceive of the post-war elaboration of ‘information theory’, and its pervasive influence on French structuralism, as just such a frock-coat, then Bataille’s hypothesis that ‘the universe is only formless and resembles nothing’ appears as a performative noise, which nevertheless generates its own aesthetics.

Patrick ffrench is Professor of French and Vice Dean (Research) at King’s College.

Giovanni Menegalle is British Academy Research Fellow, King’s College London.

Background Reading

Wednesday 24 Feb 2021

Salome Voegelin

Respondent Hugo Esquinca 

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Thursday 25 March 2021

Iain Hamilton Grant

Respondent Cécile Malaspina

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Thursday 29 April 2021

David Wallraf: A Concept of Impurity: Noise and the Acoustics of the Political

Respondent Miguel Prado

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Thursday 27 May 2021

Sacha Golob

Respondent Cécile Malaspina

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Thursday 24 June 2021

Michael Goddard: The So-Called Groups of Militant Insanity Against the Video Police: Anti-Psychiatry and Noise in 1970s Italian Audiovisual Media

Respondent Laurence Kent

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Thursday 29 Oct 2020

Mark Coté: Calculating Infinitesimals: Machine Learning from Lucretius to Deleuze and Simondon

Respondent Cécile Malaspina

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