Thoughts on “The Smooth and The Striated”

After reading Latour’s article (Some experiments in Art and Politics), I was motivated to examine more about the chapter, The Smooth and The Striated. Before going further, I just want to be clear that I don’t fully understand all concepts, terms and examples in this chapter such as the war machine, and instead of extending arguments, I will address some questions or general thoughts and personal responses for now.

Addressed in original posting, what makes Saraceno’s work important is its structures: “there is no overall container – but still it has a sense of order, legibility, precision, and elegant engineering and yet has no hierarchical structure”. Examining this point socially and politically, we can make connections between Deleuze arguments and Latour’s interpretations. Through several chapters, Deleuze constantly mentions the nomads. What is being the nomad for us? Simply speaking, it means that people constantly move to find different thoughts, values, and life. Here physical movement is not the point, and rather, it is more about the process (or becoming). It is ongoing process of deterritorialization, which is roughly same as perpetual mode of creating the smooth space. As Deleuze mentioned, even if we are living in the city, it is even possible to live smooth (an urban nomad): “Voyage in place…the mode of spatialization, the manner of being in space, of being for space”.

The striated space: roughly I want to represent it as the State for this posting. All actions or concepts for explaining the striated space looks like regulations, designations, or functions, and we can easily make a connection between these characteristics and the state. (Also, it becomes more interesting to interpret the flow of capital as the striated space). Personally, the main point is the thin line between two different spaces. As Deleuze points out, they are intersected and intertwined like the maritime model: “For the sea is a smooth space par excellence, and yet was the first to encounter the demands of increasingly strict striation.” On the other hands, like above example, we can create the smooth space (the city) in the striated space. We need to pay attention this interchangeable status.

The reason is simple. Even if we understand and pursue the life of creating the smooth space, it is so easy to turn into the striated space – the mainstream, capital, and regime. Deleuze also mentions in the end of chapter: “Never believe that a smooth space will suffice to save us”. But clearly we cannot stop construct and reconstruct the smooth space because at the moment when we stop, we will be assimilated into the hierarchical structure. Namely, being the nomad and creating the smooth space are essential as a starting point. Then, how do we approach this issue here practically? As an example, considering Saraceno’s work, we can imagine a possible model or structure of community in the smooth space. No hierarchical structure: we all know that it is hard to achieve because in communities with diverse members, organization or system for efficiency is crucial. In Saraceno’s work, there is local nesting, which have hierarchies. But those hierarchies are linked together not as another hierarchy but as a heterarchy. Can we construct livable communities like this? It is important to think about this possibility in individual level or practice.

Closed or limited situations or structures easily create the order, the hierarchy. Therefore, the debate example in Latour’s article becomes important for creating communities. We can also consider about Deleuze other concepts such as multiplicity and minority for the same reason.

I think that we cannot live on or maintain the smooth space only. Instead, it is right to say that we are standing between two spaces, the smooth and the striated, and there, we keep examining our ability to construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct our boundaries or limitations.



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