“1440: The Smooth and the Striated”

Heather Strycharz

The reading from A Thousand Plateaus that piqued my interest the most was “1440: The Smooth and the Striated.” The imagery used in this plateau – maps, quilts, deserts, oceans – sparked a lot of ideas. Most of these ideas were just meditations on the imagery and led me to the smooth space of nowhere in particular. As an on and off-again seamstress I’ve always been fascinated by quilts. Quilts can be these maps of memories we wrap ourselves in. When I look at a quilt I think of all the time and effort that went into making each square. Each square is a record of time; a hand-stitched quilt shows a longer duration of time vs. a machine quilt. Sewn together the squares compliment and contrast each other visually while simultaneously merging different periods of time.

At the last FridayNightThing (re: earlier post), artist Fritz Horstman showed us examples of Marshall Island Stick Charts:

Stick charts were made and used by the Marshallese to navigate the Pacific Ocean by canoe off the coast of the Marshall Islands. The charts represented major ocean swell patterns and the ways the islands disrupted those patterns, typically determined by sensing disruptions in ocean swells by islands during sea navigation. Stick charts were typically made from the midribs of coconut fronds tied together to form an open framework. Island locations were represented by shells tied to the framework, or by the lashed junction of two or more sticks. The threads represented prevailing ocean surface wave-crests and directions they took as they approached islands and met other similar wave-crests formed by the ebb and flow of breakers. Individual charts varied so much in form and interpretation that the individual navigator who made the chart was the only person who could fully interpret and use it. (Wikipedia)

as well as Ammassalik wooden maps.

Three-dimensional maps of coastlines were carved of wood as long as three hundred years ago. These Inuit charts were usually carved from driftwood and are made to be felt rather than looked at.

The land is very abstract. It is limited to “edges” that can be felt on a dark night in a kayak. Since they are made of wood they are impervious to the weather, and will float if they are dropped overboard accidentally

Of course I immediately thought of  “The Maritime Model”.

For before longitude lines had been plotted, a very late development, there existed a complex and empirical nomadic system of navigation based on the wind and noise, the colors and sounds of the seas (Plateaus 479).

I found these to be intriguing examples of “nomadic” map making, though personally I think any nomadic system, one that does not depend on mathematical coordinates but instead on personal and haptic means is fascinating. I came across the Hand Drawn Map Association the other day. The website is “an ongoing archive of user submitted maps and other interesting diagrams created by hand.” Some maps are more striated than others – most map actual places, some (though I think too few) map smooth spaces such as the example below, a documentation of someone’s “mental journey during a day in September.” Personally, I find the real benefit of Deleuze’s terms “smooth” and “striated” is finally being able to give a classification to the different kinds of spaces around us. It has given me a lot to think about in terms of web space and the infinite and varying spaces between head/mind space and physical space: the space of the quilt, the space of my apartment, the physical vs. emotional space between lovers… Anyway as I stated before, I’ve been thinking a lot about the smooth and striated but I still haven’t gotten anywhere in particular. I think I will continue to wander around these ideas for quite some time.

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