Vectorized & Stationary Movement: Smoothing the Striated

In one of my favorite passages from A Thousand Plateaus in the chapter “1440: The Smooth and Striated,” Deleuze and Guattari discuss the ability for striated space to become smooth and vice versa. While this not only implies for me a kind of liberation of space, in that D&G believe that no space is fixed as it can become either smooth or striated, it seems to also imply that finding the smooth in the striated (or vice versa, though I will focus on striated space becoming smooth) requires an exploration and rethinking of space, what D&G call “voyages.”

To voyage is to be nomadic, to move from one space to another. This line of movement is a “vector, a direction and not a dimension … It is a space constructed by local operations involving changes in direction” (ATP 478). In cinema, the first example that came to mind of this movement from striated to smooth space was in Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979). In the very beautiful sequence where the Stalker takes the Writer and Professor into “the Zone” by ways of a train car – a place that seems to connect to Bergson’s idea of the Zone of Indetermination, as “the Zone” is a place where all laws of physics and reality come into question and where memory/ desire of the characters comes into play –the characters move from a drab, striated world of sepia tone into a smooth space of color and light. This voyage into this smooth, other-worldly space – a space “occupied by intensities, wind and noise, forces, and sonorous and tactile qualities” (ATP 479) – is a voyage into a landscape much like the smooth space of the sea or desert in D&G: an environment that (can be) uncharted and navigated by affects, a space open to possibilities and becoming. (Interestingly, in the end the characters are unable to accomplish their respective goals within this smooth space, perhaps showing how smooth space can become striated).

Yet, while Stalker presents a vectorized movement from the striated to the smooth and shows how a literal voyage can engender smooth space, I believe the most liberating and truly inspirational aspect of D&G’s discussion of smooth space occurs when they discuss the “urban nomad” in the section on The Maritime Model. D&G state, “nothing completely coincides, and everything intermingles, or crosses over. This is because the differences [between the smooth and striated] are not objective:  it is possible to live striated on the deserts, steppes, or seas; it is possible to live smooth even in the cities … There are not only strange voyages in the city but voyages in place … To think is to voyage” (ATP 482).

What D&G seem to propose here, for us as individuals, is a philosophy of liberation or perhaps even revolution – a call to question the striation imposed by the State, the city, and society. I see this stationary smoothing of space everywhere: the rethinking of city space and how it can be used (the High Line or DIY art spaces in old factory buildings); the questioning of gender in the gender-queer/ queer communities, who refuse the striation of gendered language by replacing she/him with “ze” or “they” or aims to rethink heteronormative (striated) conceptions of interpersonal relationships and the family; the recent political upheaval in Egypt, etc. One needs not move to voyage, one needs to think about how to reconceptualize and move beyond the given. Ultimately, D&G’s interest in art as it relates to their philosophy of immanence seems more to serve as a tool for each of us to learn how to rethink our perceptions of the world and the spaces we inhabit, to learn how to question the striation imposed on our bodies and imaginations, and to lead us towards a true becoming.

Obviously there’s a lot I’m leaving out here, but I wanted to show how both movement in space (cinema/ art) and being stationary (our own lives) can represent the smoothing of striated space.

— Chris P.

One Response to “Vectorized & Stationary Movement: Smoothing the Striated”

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