Archive for the Deleuze and Guattari Category

Frieze Weekend 2012

Posted in Art, Art Exhibits, Deleuze and Guattari with tags on May 17, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Last weekend, I took a ferry out to Randall’s Island to visit the Frieze Art Fair, the inaugural New York iteration of the London fair. It’s hard not to have a love/hate relationship with art fairs. On the one hand, they offer the opportunity to view an incredible amount of art from galleries all over the world in one location. On the other, the sheer volume of work makes them an exhausting experience that is not conducive to a truly rewarding experience of art – not to mention the fact that there’s no hiding the intention to move large quantities of product.

The tent, three football fields long and pristinely white, was as beautiful as it was imposing. Holding over 180 galleries from 30 countries, Frieze estimates that visitors numbered in the region of 45,000 (1).

Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

There’s really no comparing the experience of the tent’s interior to other New York art fairs, even the Armory Show, Frieze’s closest competitor. With a high, vaulted ceiling and natural lighting only supplemented by fluorescence, the tent provides gallery conditions not far shy of the country’s best contemporary art institutions.

It is both an insult to museums and a compliment to the fair that the two forms have come to resemble one another to this degree. The fair provides these beautiful open spaces, charges you an exorbitant admission fee ($40/ $25 for students), includes panel discussions and lectures by people like curator and art historian Robert Storr and MoMA Director Glen D. Lowry, produces a “Frame” section of curated galleries displaying solo exhibitions of artists who have yet to display internationally, has multiple restaurants, and a non-profit arm called Frieze Projects that commissioned outdoor work by ten artists displayed surrounding the tent. Frieze even came with a major corporate sponsor, Deutsche Bank, who also sponsors exhibitions at the Guggenheim.

Team Gallery’s booth at the Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

Salon 94’s booth at the Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

So yes, the tent was beautiful, but in the end it still had the feeling of a corporate trade show or market, specifically designed to keep you moving and weed out the buyers from the gawkers.  Without a map, the uniform spaces became a blur. I found myself thinking about smooth and striated spaces while traversing the many halls.  Art Fairs are incredibly nomadic as they take place all over the world in pieces of pop up architecture or temporary exhibition halls. One could reach the Frieze Fair by complimentary ferry, shuttle, or car, with connections to the other fairs around the city capitalizing on the influx of art buyers and professionals. This kind of nomadism is not what Deleuze and Guattari are referring to in reference to smooth spaces in A Thousand Plateaus. This kind of travel and movement is about the destination and is incredibly organized. The experience of Frieze was utterly striated and controlled. There is a hierarchy of access including two levels of VIPs as well as the high-ticket price that deters another level of audience. Galleries purchase territories within the tent with slight differences in placement and size, but for the most part, they are all little white boxes in a line. They are homogeneous, distinct, and ordered.

As I was walked the halls, becoming numb to the quantity of art and lacking a sense of direction, I spotted the art collector and philanthropist Eli Broad (  I decided that following his path would be as good as any other direction. It was a completely strange experience because it made me realize that while I was conscious of the fact that everything displayed was for sale, the prices were so wildly out of my price range that this fact became almost completely irrelevant. How different it must be to visit an art fair for shopping and not spectacle.

Eli Broad in front of the Metro Pictures booth at the Frieze Art Fair New York 2012

For all the doom and gloom about it being a celebration of conspicuous consumption and art market value over artistic value, art fairs and galleries are still some of the best opportunities to see work directly out of artists’ studios and even better, works by artists who have yet to be included in museum shows. There wasn’t much of this at Frieze, the expensive gallery fee no doubt motivating the safer display of established artists (riskier choices at NADA or smaller fairs like seven @ SEVEN the same weekend). I will say, though, that I discovered the work of Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff there, when I almost kicked a piece of their installation:


Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff, “New Media (Cocktails),” 2012 at T293 Naples and Rome, Italy. Photo:

And gained a new appreciation for Roger Hiorns, whose sculpture that continuously produced foam, inspired some of the most sustained looking I observed at the fair.

Roger Hiorns at Marc Foxx Gallery’s booth, Frieze Art Fair New York 2012




New Ways of Seeing

Posted in Art and Philosophy, Deleuze, Deleuze and Guattari, Film, Immanence with tags on April 29, 2012 by immanentterrain2

The first time I saw the end of Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Eclisse I felt I had been caught off guard, disoriented.  The film ends with a string of desolate shots without any narrative progression, shown one after another.    For most of the film we had been following the drama of the central characters.  Suddenly, for the last seven minutes, the characters we have come to know have disappeared — and yet the film continues.  We see deserted streets, shadows, anonymous strangers.  Without the characters to ground us in story, the presence of the camera itself seems stronger.  We become aware of it as an apparatus, a seeing-device that acts as its own separate entity.  There is camera movement (panning, following a figure walking on a street) which suggests that something is about to be revealed; it seems Antonioni is trying to tell us something.  There are some wide, long takes from above that slowly pan around as if surveying the streets. Trees rustle in the wind.  A man in a suit rounds a corner.  A toddler looks up at his mother.  A close up of a man’s earlobe.  A stream of water flows into the gutter.   “Yes, what is it Antonioni?” I remember thinking, “What are you trying to show us?”  I was searching for meaning, for story.  A streetlamp burns brightly.  The music crescendos.  The film is over.  There is an elegance to this sequence that I cannot quite explain.

(a clip from the last seven minutes of L’Eclisse)

This Italian neo-realist film is a break from “classical” filmmaking, in which the director shapes chunks of reality into comprehensible segments.  Through continuous editing, the film takes on a coherent perspective that places it in relation to a world that is otherwise chaotic and absurd.  The perception of one’s life as a linear progression with a chain of cause and effect is reinforced through continuous editing.  People’s lives are invented as stories with a beginning, middle, and end.  A film that shows a continuity of action reaffirms our belief that there is a logical order to things in this world, that we are in control of our actions and can predict their outcomes.

Film theorists of the mid 20th century, such as Siegfried Kracauer, speak to the issues of living in a modern society where, as we’ve heard before, the question shifts from “how should one live?” to the more daunting and open-ended question of “how might one live?”  Kracauer says in a period when religion or ideology are not imposed upon the individual, people become fragmented beings, living in a weird abstractness.   Cinema can be a way to ground oneself, to make sense of things, in this new and orderless world.  In Siegfried Kracauer’s Theory of Film,  he suggests to get rid of this uncomfortable state, we turn to cinema, as it is a way to reach the full potential of the immediacy of physical reality.  It’s about showing us what’s real, what’s tangible. He applauds film for its ability to reveal truths that go unseen in daily life.   Kracauer is not necessarily saying that cinema is life-affirming because it feeds us a logical order around which operate; rather, he values the way the camera can isolate objects and show them in ways previously unimaginable, bringing back life into them.

Deleuze speaks of smooth and striated spaces.  Smooth spaces allow for happenings that are more intuitive or spontaneous.  In contrast, striated spaces are those that limit, confine, and schematized.  Classical cinema can be described as striated because it is mapped, defined, coded — it uses a system of symbols that with pre-determined meanings.   The shots “speak” to one another, meaning they connect or associate with each other in a predictable way.  Cinema becomes smooth when meaning becomes unpredictable, when images take on associations that could not have been conceived of prior to their creation.  Deleuze does not say that modern cinema is necessarily defined by a lack of narrative.  Of modern cinema he writes “suppose a character finds himself in a situation, however ordinary or extraordinary, that’s beyond any possible action, or to which he can’t react […] when we find ourselves in those purely optical and aural situations, not only does action and thus narrative break down, but the nature of perceptions and affections changes, because they enter a completely different system from the sensory-motor system of “classical” cinema” (On The Movement-Image, 51).  

It is in this way that we come to appreciate existence in a new way that functions differently from the automatic responses embedded within the codes of society.  Deleuze espouses this type of “cinema of immanence” in which there are no preconceived notions or givens — everything happens as it unfolds. For me, this is embodied in L’Eclisse.  






Kracauer, Siegfried.  Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality.  Princeton: Oxford University Press, 1960

Deleuze, Gille. On The Movement-Image,”  in Negotiation 1972-1990, trans. Martin Joughin and Barbara Habberjam. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. 2000.

Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press. 1987


Impersonal Narcissism and Relational Aesthetics

Posted in Art, Deleuze and Guattari, Relational Aesthetics, Subjectivity with tags on April 23, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Lynda Benglis. Blatt, 1969.

How would our lives be better if human relations were something other than the collusion of ego-identities, if the shared project was not the consolidation of selfhood, but its dissolution?

   – Leo Bersani & Adam Philips in Intimacies

In Gilles Deleuze: An Introduction, Todd May starts by asking the question of “how might one live?”A sub-question of  May’s question could be “how might we relate to each other?” or “what might we love others for?” and these would be valid ones, since our relationalities with each other and with the world we inhabit are important aspects of our being, which could lead to new possibilities. It involves a discussion of subjectification and ethics, since they define how we choose to relate or not to relate, with whom or what. The relational aesthetics artists and their pieces, which Nicolas Bourriaud discusses in Relational Aesthetics, are seeking these new modes of relationality, at least, they are assumed to be experimenting with. However, the dynamics behind subjectification and our habitual modes of relationality among ourselves and with the world might need to be reconsidered if we want to assess the success of these pieces in terms of their ability to create new relational modes.

Deleuze and Guattari discuss how our being gets striated and territorialized through various devices such as the family, the church and the State, leading to a modernist notion of individualism. The modern subject forms a sense of self through these devices available to her/him, and it proceeds by differentiating between the self and the Other. According to the psychoanalytic theory, the individual sees the outer world as a threat to her/his own existence, therefore, something to be mastered. The individual gets a pleasure through the satisfaction of her/his aggression toward this outer world to the extent she/he masters it. This requires a solid formation of a sense of self and an ego, which immediately creates a strong sense of the Other, in the case of the other humans, animals or the world. To give an example, the current schema of masculinity needs a differentiation from the feminine or from ambiguous sexualities – queer identities. To the extent he differentiates himself from a woman, he becomes more Man. The biological differences may not be enough for him; further differentiation becomes necessary, which results in the distinct binary codes of femininity and masculinity in terms of cosmetics, fashion or gestures, to name a few. Moreover, queer subjectivities become a threat to the masculine subject, because they are the embodiment of the other possibilities the male body is capable of, signaling a dismantling of the hard-won, hard-formed masculine identity, a reminder of the fictitiousness of their particular sense of self, causing the formation of homophobia. This rigid formation of a self-identity has two options when it faces an encounter, unless it remains indifferent. It is either “I love you, I am taking you in”, or “I hate you, you are an Other which is a threat to my identity”. The dual extremities of the possible reactions become a habit, a reaffirmed truth as one has more idea about who one is, narrowing down the range of the possibilities that have not yet been. The encounter results with a choice of binarities that lacks the possible transformation of the self in the equation.  Sometimes these relations are regulated through the State’s rules, and the Church’s values or by the family’s customs and traditions. But most of the time, the paradigm according to which the actions of the subjects are judged or valued is that of an ethics which requires a strong formulation of the individual subject, which, then proceeds by identifying the allies and the enemies, the sameness and the difference, a differentiation between the Self and the Other. However, this is in contrast with what Deleuze understands of ethics, an ethics of immanence, which considers the affective nature of an encounter, following a Spinozist approach. An encounter, a relationality would be good for Deleuze if it increases the capacity to affect and to get affected; new relational modes that foster becomings that require a change in the current notions of subjectification and ethics, since their current states do not leave room for becomings.

The modern subjects have a problematic relationship with each other when they live in a civilized society. The reaffirmed sense of self, which proceeds by differentiating between the self and the Other, thus, seeing the other as something to be mastered, faces a major contradiction when s/he lives in a civilized society, which operate within the ethics of “Love thy neighbor”.  In their collaborative book, Intimacies (2008), in which they discuss the possibilities of new ways of relationality, Leo Bersani and Adam Philips argue, “Nothing is more absurd, Freud asserts in Civilization and Its Discontents, that what is perhaps the most cherished biblical commandment: ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ This commandment, revered as one of the ideal demand of civilized society, is really justified by the fact that nothing else runs so strongly counter to the original nature of man which Freud claims dictates not that we love our neighbors, but rather that we exploit them, rob them, rape them, murder them”. (Bersani, Philips 60) It is easy to love your neighbors in Rirkrit Tiravanija’s dinners, but that does not mean we have experimented with our ways of relating; as Bishop shows, the antagonism is not sustained but erased, and “without antagonism there is only the imposed consensus of authoritarian order – a total suppression of debate and discussion which is inimical to democracy”. (Bishop 2004 66) Without the friction created by antagonism, it is hardly a new mode of relationality, but something that falls back into our comfortable and habitual ways of relating to each other.

To find other modes of relationality, loss of the modern sense of self or a “shattering of ego” might be necessary, leading to becomings and new subjectivities. It is possible to draw a parallelism between deterritorializations of this kind and “impersonal narcissism”, a notion Leo Bersani offers. In Intimacies, Bersani elaborates on how a loss of self, through a shattering of the ego, opens new territories for an intimacy of a different nature; a new way of relating to others. For him, intimacy is in trouble if it is not rethought as a mode of being with, rather than a mode of knowing about. He considers the love between the mother and the baby of this kind of intimacy. It is narcissistic, because it assumes a self-love, which is also the case for the current relationalities that sees the Other as a threat. However it doesn’t proceed by differentiating between the self-love and the hate for others. It is “impersonal”, because it proceeds by seeing the self in the Other, seeing the other not as a threat to oneself, but as a new channel through which the self can transgress itself, forming new subjectivities or singularities. In every relationship, what the individual looks for is not a reaffirmation of her/his sense of self, but new formations each and every time.

It is the modes of relationality among subjects the artists who are engaged with relational aesthetics are experimenting with or at least they are assumed to be. Claire Bishop, in her “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics” article, argues that it is naïve for artists to think they succeed in fostering new relationalities among the viewers, by bringing them together. Some of the artists she discusses are Rirkrit Tiravanija and Liam Gillick, who are often promoted by the curator and art critic Nicolas Bourriaud. When read together with her other article “Social Turn and its Discontents”, it can be said that she identifies three problematic notions about these artists’ pieces. First, she criticizes the pieces which are based on an artistic renunciation and an embracing of “a Christian good soul”, particularly when she talks about Oda Projesi’s –a Turkish art collective- workshops, which the artists organized in order to bring art to people who live in their neighborhood by providing them with art supplies and space and by facilitating the production of art for them. (Bishop 2006 5) This can also be argued for Rirkrit Tiravanija’s dinner gatherings. In these cases, the pieces lack the artists’ arguments, by relying too heavily on the participants’ contributions. Moreover, Bishop argues, there are two other problems with these art pieces, the first stems from a misreading of post-structuralist theory. She claims these artists misinterpreted the openness of a work of art, “a work that is open-ended, interactive, and resistant to closure, often appearing to be work-in-progress rather than a completed object”, therefore, “rather than the interpretation of a work of art being open to continual reassessment, the work of art itself is argued to be in perpetual flux” (Bishop 2004 52) The third problem rises from the appropriation of these experience-based happenings by capitalism as an experience economy.

In the case of Santiago Sierra’s works, which are also discussed by Bishop, we have an encounter that results in a different kind of reaction, however, not one that favors a becoming of the viewers, but a reaffirmation; “This is not me!” When the viewers of Sierra’s works face the paid prostitutes or the street vendors of Venice, what they see is the Other on display, not necessarily a relationship between the viewers and Sierra’s paid workers, even though it generates an unease or discomfort; a becoming, a formation of a new mode of relationality remains missing. It is the encounter or the collusion of two different classes or groups, but not necessarily a new mode of relationality among them.

This brings us to the question of what would be a relational aesthetics piece that would foster a becoming that would result from a partial loss of the sense of the modern self or a reconfiguration of subjectivity, leading to impersonal narcissism through some sort of sustained antagonism, perhaps in the areas which Guattari identifies, for inventing new relations “to the body, to fantasy, to time passing, to the mysteries of life and death”. (Guattari cited in Bourriaud 92) A piece that would make us interrogate things that we take for granted, on the borders where everyone has something to negotiate through, “an intimacy that explores the regions of impersonal co-existence where loss of self expands the capacity to love,” to cite from Judith Butler’s review of the book Intimacies.

 Piril Gunduz


Bersani, Leo and Philips, Adam. Intimacies. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Bishop, Claire. “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics.” October, 2004: 51-79.

Bishop, Claire. “The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents.” Artforum, February, 2006.

Bourriaud, Nicolas. Relational Aesthetics. Paris: Les Presses du Reel, 2002.

May, Todd. Gilles Deleuze: An Introduction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Sexuality as a line of flight, becoming-animal and masochism

Posted in Deleuze, Deleuze and Guattari, Subjectivity with tags , , on March 8, 2012 by immanentterrain2

Kutlug Ataman. Stefan’s Room, 2004.

In “Percept, Affect and Concept”, Deleuze and Guattari argue, “It should be said of all art that, in relation to the percepts or visions they give us, artists are presenters of affects, the inventors and creators of affects. They not only create them in their work, they give them to us and make us become with them, they draw us into the compound.” (WiP 175) Whether it is Van Gogh’s depiction of sunflowers or Durer’s thistles, art increases one’s capacity to affect and get affected. Whether it is increasing the range of one’s sensibilities, or adding more to them, art can be one’s ‘facilitator’ to becomings.

Because sexuality has been one of the most heavily regulated zones of human existence, perhaps the most, as Foucault shows in The History of Sexuality, it carries the possibility of being the most promising line of flight for humankind that would lead to deterritorializations and becomings. Not only sexuality has been heavily regulated, but also, the forces targeting human sexuality begin their projects on the child very early in the course of the child’s lifetime. Deleuze and Guattari write, “The question is fundamentally that of the body – the body they steal from us in order to fabricate opposable organisms. The body is stolen first from the girl: Stop behaving like that, you’re not a little girl anymore, you’re not a tomboy etc. The girl’s becoming is stolen first, in order to impose a history or a prehistory, upon her.” (ATP 276) Once the girl is interpellated as being-not-a-tomboy, there follows the boy’s affirmation as the Other of the girl. These chain reactions and affirmations keep on looping, becoming truths, as metaphors turning into truths after endless repetitions. “The great dualism machines” fixate the child’s hi/story’s beginning on a map, pinning it down by sewing through the tissue of her/his genitals, leading to a static cartography. Then, after pinning down an origin point (and defining it as a point A instead of a [0,0] or better, [X,Y,Z,.,.,.] ), it is really easy to turn the map into a line that needs to be followed, where point A needs to lead to point B, by manipulating one’ drives and motives, which are not necessarily one’s own, but which emerge once one enters into “the symbolic order”, in today’s case, “the capitalist machine”.

In “Literature and Life”, Deleuze argues “to write is not to recount one’s memories and travels, one’s loves and griefs, one’s dreams and fantasies. [… ] In this infantile conception of literature, what we seek at the end of the voyage, or at the heart of a dream, is a father.” (Deleuze 2) If this infantile conception of the literature leads to ‘bad novels’, does the infantile conception of subjectivity or sexuality or identity lead to ‘bad lives’? The continuous affirmation of our subjectivities and the non-stop workings of the great dualism machines seal the pin on the point A, not giving the slightest chance to the emergence of dynamics cartographies of one’s subjectivity, hence, existence. I would argue, whether it is the family-ethics or the capitalist machine, we have an infantile conception of human existence and sexuality, or the psychoanalyzation of them, even manifesting itself in the choice of our slang words, for example, in the use of “fuck” as a slang word for the hateful utterances and in regarding sex as being to the detriment of the female.

The non-stop workings of the forces regulating our sexualities are complemented by the “psychoanalization” of our subjectivities, perhaps, the former authenticating the latter. Perhaps this explains why Freud and his theory of Oedipus complex, ingeniously referred to as “mommy-daddy and their lovemaking” by Deleuze and Guattari are so popular now, being a part of everyday language. It is everywhere, in advertisements, in films, in our everyday conversations with our friends. Deleuze and Guattari write “ … fewer stupidities would be uttered on the topic of pain, humiliation, and anxiety in masochism if it were understood that it is the becoming-animal that lead the masochism, not the other way around.” (ATP 260) Masochism is defined as a personality disorder in the family-favoring-heteronormative system. This is such a paradox, since our existence is mediated through systems, whether they are economical or religious, which favor the logic of transcendence, meaning an acceptance of the Other that judges us, awards us or punishes us, making us “desire our own repression, a separation from our own capacities and powers” (Smith 68) Then, how is masochism a personality disorder or a perverted sexual practice, in a world of ethics of transcendence, whether it is manifested as God or as capitalism? However, this is not a valid question for Deleuze and Guattari, since they break the equation. For them, sexuality is not a game of seduction and conquest or “battle of sexes”, but “is the production of a thousand sexes, which are so many uncontrollable becomings. Sexuality proceeds by way of becoming-woman of the man and the becoming-animal of the human: an emission of particles.” (ATP 278) For them, “Masochistic characters enter zones of indetermination or proximity in which woman and animal, animal and man, have become indiscernible” marking Masoch’s work as “a literature of minorities, haunting the glacial zones of the Universe and the feminine zones of History.” (Deleuze 55)

                                                                                                              Piril Gunduz


Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. “1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible” in A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism And Schizophrenia. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. “Percept, Affect and Concept” in What is Philosophy?. Columbia University Press, 1994.

Deleuze, Gilles. “Literature and Life”, “Re-presentation of Masoch” in Essays Critical and Clinical. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Smith, Daniel W. “Deleuze and the Question of Desire: Toward an Immanent Theory of Ethics” in Parrhesia 2 (2007): 66-78.

Theoriography – On the writing of concepts

Posted in Deleuze, Deleuze and Guattari, Immanence, Process Ontology, Rhizome with tags , on March 5, 2012 by immanentterrain2

… in which a new student of Deleuze attempts a commentary on/using his methodology.

“There is no sharper point than that of Infinity. What bliss to plunge the eyes into the immensity of sky and sea! Solitude, silence, incomparable chastity of the blue! … monotonous melody of the waves, all these things think through me or I through them … I say they think, but musically and picturesquely, without quibblings, without syllogisms, without deductions.” — Baudelaire, “The Artist’s Confiteor,” Paris Spleen.

– to begin in the middle, experiencing the sea not as one does from the shore – the water first touching a toe, then a knee, then perhaps the shoulders, and after a while wading back out; tension rising and falling as a narrative arch, rising and falling as the waves, which, by keeping one’s head out of the water are always clearly visible from above. No. Instead, plunging into the water. Perhaps at night, perhaps upside down. Trying at first to orient oneself, to find the surface, but then, acclimating, acquiescing. The waves are not now visible as distant, discreet entities with beginnings and endings, but rather are felt, as flux and flow that pass over and affect.

This is to read Kafka. And to read Deleuze. I was impressed to learn Kafka’s method of writing “The Judgement”: in one sitting, overnight, flowing, writing almost continuously, “thinking through things,” or at least, thinking through writing, “without syllogisms, without deductions.” When Deleuze writes about Kafka, he writes about blocks and lines of flight. As someone currently working on a thesis project, I know about blocks – which is why I was so intrigued by Kafka’s methods and Deleuze’s reflections on them: they gave me a new inspiration to just write. Having already done much research and already constructed many thoughts on my topic, reflecting on this method of writing initially made me feel that all I needed to do was write and transfer those internal concept structures into a written form.

But this is where my initial understanding was slightly off. Deleuze would not be interested in this idea of some internal structure that writing simply transfers to the page, nor do I think this would be his interpretation of Kafka’s method. This is what Deleuze would call a tracing rather than a mapping. The tracing attempts to copy the internal to external; “to explore an unconscious that is already there from the start, lurking in the dark recesses of memory and language.” (TP, p. 12) This is the thought that seems perfect at 4am but then melts at the first light of day. The Baudelaire passage poignantly illustrates this: his beauty is always lost and distant. Baudelaire’s “incomparable chastity of the blue” connects with what Rebecca Solnit calls “the blue of distance”: “the light that does not touch us … that gets lost [and] gives us the beauty of the world.” Baudelaire watches the waves from the shore. This is the desire always out of reach that Walter Benjamin describes as the “Blue Flower” in his essay on Surrealism “Dream Kitsch.” When thinking about Kafka writing “The Judgement”, I initially thought of the automatic writing of the Surrealists, but now I realize that this too is more of a tracing than a mapping. About the Surrealists, Benjamin writes: “They seek the totemic tree of objects within the thicket of primal history” (TWoA, p. 238) clearly not a rhizomatic pursuit.

Deleuze contrasts the map to the tracing: “The map does not represent an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious.” (TP, p. 12) In his introductory notes to A Thousand Plateaus, Brian Massumi clarifies his translation of “lines of flight”: the original French term fuite conveys “not only the act of fleeing or eluding but also flowing, leaking and disappearing into the distance.” (TP, p. xvi) Indeed Kafka (and Deleuze) is not content to contemplate infinity from afar in quiet reverie, but instead is always moving towards it. So my task then is not to write some predefined internal structure but instead to create the structure through the act of writing it.

[Added paragraph, 5/17/2012. -rory] The distinction here is the difference between the map and the tracing. Mapping involves a transfer from one domain into another — which requires the collapsing or consolidating of certain dimensions (as in from 3D to 2D), and/or the selective filtering, ignoring or abstracting of certain details. Each of these operations require some kind of subjective decisions at each step (the introduction of perspective, for example). That means that maps are productive, create power, can be expressive of ideology and so on — and as such, mapping can be an operation that consciously challenges all those things. On the other hand, tracing is intended to be value neutral and thus can only pass those things through, not challenge or recast them. My impression is that “automatic writing” is intended to be this kind of “pass through”: a tracing of the unconscious onto the page. By contrast, in “The Judgement”, K was flowing but not ignoring reflection or critical judgements; or rather, he was trying to cultivate a process that did all these things through the process of flowing.

But all this brings me to my one confusion / critique of Deleuze so far, and that is: how does one sustain the time or duration that is essential to his process ontology? How does a becoming not simply reduce into a new fixed category? [This example updated, 5/17/2012. -rory] For example, a droplet of water. As a fixed identity it is just a molecule. But it always exists in motion, as a part of some flow or process of becoming — for example, falling as rain. Is this then a fixed category “rain”? No because that too is in motion: into a stream, into a river, into the sea — in process and becoming. And yet, this entire process of becoming could be defined as another fixed thing, for example, the water cycle (precipitation, percolation, evaporation, etc). How does process resist always falling into a fixed static identity or concept? Even the wave can exist as a standing wave — a flowing that becomes a fixed thing. Perhaps I am misunderstanding something. Though really it probably doesn’t matter. As Brian Massumi advises in his introduction: “The question is not: is it true? But: does it work? What new thoughts does it make possible to think? … What new sesnsations and perceptions does it open in the body?” (TP, p. xv) Perhaps, at least in my case, it may at least help make possible the thinking (and writing) of my thesis first draft.

– Rory Solomon

Baudelaire, Charles. Paris Spleen. New York: New Directions Pub. Co., 1988.

Benjamin, Walter et al. The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus : Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis, Minn.; London: University of Minnesota Press, 1998.

Solnit, Rebecca. A Field Guide to Getting Lost. New York: Viking, 2005.

Year Zero: Faciality

Posted in Deleuze and Guattari with tags , on May 19, 2011 by immanentterrain2

In the chapter Year Zero: Faciality in A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari address on the face. Before read this chapter, I read first two chapters of Cinema 1 where Deleuze talks about the close-up, affection and any-space-whatever. In contrary to those chapters, both authors critically approach the face as subject and mainly emphasize its historical notion. What is the face? Simple stated, through signifiance (white wall) and subjectification (black hole), an abstract machine of faciality produces face, and this machine is performed by certain assemblage of power. Namely, very specific social formations (power and organizations) “impose significance and subjectification as their determinate form of expression. Therefore, the face is political.

Through abstract machine system, the standard of face have been constructed, which is starting from Jesus Christ and now existing as White Man (typical European). This face facializes not only the face but also the entire body and spread everywhere. In this sense, the face is not a universal: “It is not even that of the white man; it is White Man himself”. This is the first function of system, which is to produce concrete individualized faces such as father and son or worker and boss. The second function of it is to judge or make a choice whether produced faces are good or not, and on the basis of choice, binary relations between first, second, third choices, etc. are established. Shortly, the face itself has a history.

The question is how to dismantle this faciality produced by abstract system. Here, deterritorialization is necessary: how to break the white wall of signifier and get out of the black hole of subjectivity. Both authors clearly claim that this deterritorialization of faciality only will happen in white wall and black whole system. In other words, knowing my face becomes the highest priority, which is actually the only way. More practically, dismantling face needs to happen in real life. According to Deleuze, it does not happen in art because art is only tool for “all of positive deterritorializations…toward to the realms of the asignifying, asubjective, and faceless”.

In the end of this chapter, both authors curiously mention about a probe-head that is another type of face born from abstract machine. This probe-head is “a living block” that dismantles faciality and opens “a rhizomatic realm of possibility effecting the potentialization of possible”. Personally, I cannot understand exactly this probe-head. Is this a kind of few possibilities that can be generated from abstract system by coincidence (in terms of historical sense)? Considering conventional ways of filmmaking, we can make some connections between abstract machine and the close-up/face in cinema. Through habitual editing techniques, the close-up/face only serves for the arc of narrative. But in cinema, there are some great filmmakers who critically examine what the close-up and face are such as Dreyer, Bresson and Costa. And also, I can add Weerasethakul’s Blissfully Yours. In fact, it is not difficult to find current filmmakers who explore different possibilities…(images at the bottom is from In Vanda’s Room).


Final Thoughts on “A Thousand Plateaus”

Posted in Art, Art and Philosophy, Deleuze, Deleuze and Guattari, Philosophy and Science with tags on May 18, 2011 by immanentterrain2

Out of all the readings – many of which were quite challenging – A Thousand Plateaus was by far the most difficult for me to read and comprehend. It’s not that I don’t understand the concepts of Rhizome, Bodies WIthout Organs, Striated/Smooth Space, et al, but rather the difficulty I encountered lay in the style of writing. When first reading the book, I was taken back by the almost poetic stream of consciousness that showers from each paragraph, and it was only when I realized that this was indeed the point of much of the writing that I began to engage in a fruitful relationship with the text.

The text made me recall Nietzsche’s style of writing, which in itself confronts the supposedly sedentary status of language while at the same time putting forth new concepts. Indeed it would seem highly reductive to speak of Nietzsche’s concepts without addressing the means by which he explicates and expands on these concepts. In the work of Deleuze and Guattari, making this productive link between form and content made all the difference for me in understanding the works. It would be wrong to say that there aren’t serious concepts being explored in this tome, but in order for me to grasp them it was necessary to adopt a kind of intuition and reflection after the fact – much like Bazin insists on the meaning being produced a posterioriin neorealist cinema.

Though I couldn’t make the event at the Whitney, I was pleased to watch the video of the event. Apart from the fascinating nature of the combined and shared trades, I couldn’t help but feel that the reading of A Thousand Plateaus was entirely appropriate-achieving the poetic stream of consciousness I mentioned above. Though certainly useful to study in an academic context, I believe the value of the text is in its freedom of expression and form. Though sometimes I feel like it gets bogged down in digression and red herrings, there is a totally unique quality to the book because of this. It raises interesting questions concerning the written word and language in relation to philosophy. This of course seems entirely consistant with Deleuze’s project of linking art with philosophy and creating productive conduits between each field.

Forgive the brevity of my final post.
I have some Rhizomes to attend to.