To examine how Deleuze and Guattari draw emphasis to the constructed and contingent nature of social reality
1. To contrast their model of creative 'rhizomatic' thought with traditional 'tree-like' models of thought based in sequential argumentation
2. To examine Deleuze and Guatarri's interpretations of processes of social change and development
3. To consider how they propose individual people might transform themselves
4. To contexualise these theories of change and development in relation to the concepts “the virtual” and “the actual”.
May 1968 Paris protest - challenge French state led to a widespread reassessment of Activism
A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze & Guattari - Change can be incremental does not have to come in one go.
Project revolted against traditional lines of thought. Alternative creativity and rhizomatic though than traditional Tree like thinkers.
Each plateau or chapters does not build towards a conclusion but instead dip in and out of each chapter.
The Rhizome is an underground stem which grows horizontally then pushes up shoots eg ginger. Meaning No longer linked vertically but instead links of association. A principle of inter-relationship.
Suassure - The sign - The mental Concept -(The signified) v Sound/image (The signifer)
The English word 'Dog' v image of a dog
Isa Genzken - sculpturist - Rhizomatic worker. Hospital (ground Zero) Take on form of an assemblage
'Assemblage' processes of arranging and organising eg a dinner party, a school
− An example of an assemblage with which we are all familiar is the place we make our home. A home is a way in which we make a space express comfort to us. Deleuze and Guattari describe a child, alone and afraid in the dark. The child hums or sings a tune as a way of bringing familiarity to the place.
− J. Macgregor Wise notes “...one need not be fixed in one's dwelling to create a home: a home might be an airline seat, a stroll in the neighbourhood, a car for daily commuting, or a space on the lawn for a picnic. Home is thus not a pre-existing space; it is not [necessarily] in the house”.
− Beyond our personal habituation of our environment, Deleuze and Guattari also consider how language orders corporeal situations. (Social situations)
− They directly link contexts and language. How places become meaningful. On their understanding, the literal meanings of words are always accompanied by assumptions of value, power and authority.
Slide Eight – High School Diploma
− For example, the principal of a school says “here is your diploma”. Pre-supposed in this statement is a relation of power between the principal and student, as the bestower and the receiver of knowledge. This also implies a debt to be repaid by the student – eg society has devoted a lot of time and resources to you: now go get a job.
− The principal's speech at the same event will undoubtedly hammer home the presuppositions of duty, and the right to enter the world of work. Achievemnet brings responsibilities. Brian Massumi considers the ramifications such presuppositions. “Every word is laden with the implicit presupposition of what one says-thinks-does in such a circumstance”.
− Oswald Ducrot examined this dimension of power within social agreements. He emphasised the role of words like “I” and “you”, which shift back and forth between people in conversation. They also serve as a form of identification in performative utterances; statements that enact their meaning, such as when a speaker announces “I do” at the moment of marriage. Both an utterance and an action
− Consider this work Good Boy, Bad Boy by the artist Bruce Nauman.
− YOUTUBE video
Play Good Boy, Bad Boy
− The work features a man and a woman who face you, the viewer. They repeat statements that continually change through the substitution of individual words. These statements begin with variations between “I”, “you”, “we”, “they”, placing the viewer in a disorienting set of changing roles between individual accuser, and accused, and member or condemner of a particular social grouping.
Place the speaker and the audience in a role
− With reference to terms, such as 'you' and 'I' Ducrot argued that language is not just about the transmission of messages; it also places the interlocutor under an obligation to reply. Thus simple language use imposes a role upon the language user, and forces them to accept the presuppositions of value, power, and even prejudice within the language system.
Slide Nine – Hoodies
− Consider how the term “hoodie” has come in modern British society to signify both a person wearing a hooded sweater with the hood up, and also a particular criminal identity. Now consider how you or, perhaps a policeman, or another authority figure might judge a person wearing their hood up to be “up to no good”. Here they are employing the pre-suppositions of the language system. A history of assumptions and debates
− So, assemblages of all kinds operate, and they operate within a territory. And territory is not simply a place, it's also a process.
− A congregation of kids in hooded sweaters might occupy the trolley park outside a supermarket. They form an assemblage of bodies that is coded in relation to a series of judgements by passers-by. The may be read as a gang, just a bunch of kids entertaining themselves however they can. One might assume they are waiting for a friend, or plotting how to buy alcohol, or perhaps they are planning criminal activity. They make the security guard nervous, a passing family keeps its distance, the police, in the hope of controlling them, engage them in dialogue. They are physical. They emit a force. They de-territorialise the trolley park. It is no longer a banal storage area, it is re-territorialised as a space of social interaction, banter, potential danger. The kids have appropriated this space, subtracting it from the supermarket territory, which remains an assemblage of products, displays, checkouts, parking space, special offers, sedentary consumption and surveillance.
− This process of de-territorialisation and re-territorialisation might continue nightly. Its status in the eyes of those who pass the trolley park might also change in relation to de-territorialisations within more collective assemblages: media reporting, community policing, propaganda and rioting might all cause a change in how these people are judged. The judgements are constructed in relation to other assemblages such as the media
− De-territorialisations and re-territorialisations occur within assemblages in accordance with the flows in which their component parts move at different speeds. Different social constructions change at different rates. The status of teenagers in society, for instance, can change very quickly, while the status of the military is very embedded and static and slow to change. This effects how assemblages form and shift.
Slide Ten – Zaha Hadid
− The architect Zaha Hadid is interested in expressing such assemblages through archtiectural form. The National Museum of XXI Century Arts, in Rome was designed by Zaha Hadid as an assemblage. The structure of the building is conceived in relation to the spatial flows that structure the district of Rome, which the architect deterritorialises into architectural forms. The building flowing and mutates.
− People are caught up in these developments. They are brought into the fray through Ducrot's shifters, I and you. “Hey you, what are you doing there?”
− Deleuze and Guattari go further, though. As individual bodies are buffeted around these social assemblages - from school, to home life, to church, and to work, and in a continual immersion in social activity - reading other people's approval or disapproval, being gendered, by selecting interests and passions or having them prescribed by others - a subject is produced.
− This is the process of subjectivation. This is how Deleuze and Guattari consider that you and I were constructed. Constantin V. Boundas notes “The Deleuzian subject is an assemblage of heterogeneous elements […] Deleuze insists that subjectivity is not given; it is always under construction.” Our sense of identity is not a given.
− The subject's recognition of itself is an after-effect. Society produces subjects. As we have already seen the word “I” is empty, and can only be appropriated, yet is used by each individual as a means of self-reference – “I suffer, I walk, I breathe, I feel”
− Deleuze and Gauttari also draw upon Louis Althusser's notion of ideological state apparatuses to develop their analysis of subjectivation. T.J. Clark defines ideology as “those systems of beliefs, images, values and techniques of representation by which particular social classes, in conflict with one another, attempt to ‘naturalise’ their own special place in history.
− Ideology shapes how we view ourselves and our place in the world. Eg Counter cultures Multiple ideologies circulate within any given society at any given time, yet some are able to dominate as they reflect dominant class interests. In effect the people who own he means of production get to shout loudest.
− For Althusser, social institutions such as the church, schools, the family, the legal system, the political system, the trade unions, the media and the arts reproduce a plethora of ideological formations, which serve to maintain the state in its existing form, by reflecting the ideology of the ruling class. ‘We are all in it together – Post banking society –created conflicts this is Ideology.
− Althusser identifies such institutions as ideological state apparatuses, which serve to re-produce and re-enforce dominant ideologies. 'All ideology represents in its necessarily imaginary distortion not the existing relations of production [...] but above all the (imaginary) relationship of individuals to their relations of production”. Such apparatuses form the material contexts, such as schools or churches, that integrate individuals into a range of social practices that are conducive to maintaining existing class relations. One might consider how the protestant church might teach virtue of work to a proletarian worker. How we understand our relationship to the world
− In Deleuze and Guattari's reading, these ideological state apparatuses serve to reproduce the presuppositions of language that code material contexts and the roles of individuals within them.
− As people navigate these different contexts they are led to take on different identities that are deemed appropriate to them, and they adjust themselves to what is deemed acceptable to their roles within these places.
Slide Eleven – Commuter
− Consider the working day. One is shocked out of dream fantasies by the alarm clock, jostled into the role of commuter, thrust into the tasks of wage labour, and then, back at home, required to perform as a parent, and finally show the sensitivity of a lover. All this in one day. Each different situation makes a series of unique demands upon the individual, to which they must conform, at the risk of castigation.
The idea that each individual is buffeted around different contexts which expect us to behave in a certain role. How we are made by society
− Whilst Deleuze and Guattari set out this model for the social construction of identity, they also try to create a practical means by which individuals might reconfigure their own subjectivities.
− In their collaboration the authors were able to draw upon Guattari's psychiatric practice at the radical clinic La Borde.
Slide Twelve – La Borde
− The objective of the clinic was not to cure the mentally sick, but to encourage the individual to participate in their own self-creation.
− Schizo-analysis questioned the dominant modes of interpretation that shaped Freudian psychoanalysis, emphasising the relations of power between analyst and analysand. (patient)
− For Freud, parental relationships shape an infant's emerging psyche, and the dominant role of the father serves as an external prohibition (curtailing the child's desire to possess their mother) under which the infantile libido is definitively shaped. Our Psyche is shaped by our relationship to our parents
− This narrative functions as a core conceptual construct within Freudian psychoanalysis, explaining the mediation of unconscious desire by the super-ego. This theory forms a tree-like model that guides the analyst's interpretation and treatment of patients. Freud is a treelike thinker
− Deleuze and Guattari note “[psychoanalysis] is not only a theory but [is] also [a] practice of calculation and treatment. Psychoanalysis cannot change its method in this regard: it bases its own dictatorial power upon a dictatorial conception of the unconscious. Psychoanalysis 's margin of manoeuvrability is therefore very limited. In both psychoanalysis and its object there is always a general, always a leader (General Freud). ”
− Here is a set of pre-determined conceptions of the unconscious, desire and power that restrict the process of analysis and shape conclusions. The particularities of each patient's life is subsumed under the generalities of psychoanalytic theory, which is mediated by the authority figure of Freud.
− Schizo-analysis and Guattari's work at La Borde aimed to remove such models and to re-negotiate the role of the analyst. The functional, productive space of the kitchen replaced the analyst's couch, and, in collaboration, patient and analyst would create roles throughout the day. This process would generate a number of situations that implicate “the care-givers as much as the patients. They [would] concern a whole gamut of activities through which the patients express themselves, which we as care givers make possible […] and which contribute to a diverse nuclei of subjectification” .
− Schizophrenia came to exemplify a willingness to embrace alternatives that drove this process. In traditional psychology schizophrenia is framed in entirely negative terms as a form of fragmentation within the ego that generates a sense of disassociation, and detachment from reality.
− For Deleuze and Guattari, the debilitating fragmentation of the schizophrenic's connection with the world is a quelled attempt to engage it in new ways.
− They attempted to draw a distinction between schizophrenia as a clinical entity (breakdown), and schizophrenia as a process, that is, as a breach or an opening that breaks the continuity of the ego, carrying it off on an intense and terrifying voyage.
− The instability wrought by this illness indicated to these thinkers the possibility that thought and action could simultaneously accommodate multiple standpoints, leading to the development of a methodology that they termed schizo-analysis.
− Against the psycho-analytic model, schizo-analysis “treats the unconscious as an acentred [productive] system […] The issue is never to reduce the unconscious or to interpret it or to make it signify according to a tree model. The issue is to produce the unconscious, and with it, new statements and different desires.”
− Schizo-analysis repudiates the notion of self as a fixed entity. It emphasises instead the social construction of identity, and seeks to generate activities in which set patterns of self identification can be de-stabilised, thus creating the possibility for their re-construction.
Body without organs – linked to Schizo-analysis
Slide Thirteen – Antonin Artaud
− The concept of the body without organs describes a radical reduction of the bodily awareness down to an unordered state. Eg In a mosh pit a sense of a loss of self in the action.
− The term was initially developed by the playwright Antonin Artaud in the 1920s, whose “Theatre of Cruelty” was designed not to represent man, but to create a movement within the being of the participants and audience. Part of the Surrealists group.
− This movement depended upon a breakdown of identity. The body is here experienced as a field of sensation. No longer engaged with what you are supposed to be. Deleuze notes “It is an intense and intensive body. It is traversed by a wave that traces levels or thresholds in the body according to the variations in its amplitude. […] Sensation exceeds the bounds of the organic”. Sensation takes over the linguistic and thinking and awareness of identity.Slide Fourteen – Francis Bacon
− In a book devoted to the Irish painter Francis Bacon Deleuze describes the painter's attempt to capture the fact of the sitter before him. Deleuze describes this as a recourse to ‘flesh and nerve; a wave flows through it and traces levels [of sensation] upon it’. This wave is captured by the flow of oil paint across the canvas that renders the sitter as a continuum of mobilised flesh, tensing and flexing against pressures within its environment.
− How does one attain this state? A whole chapter of A Thousand Plateaus is devoted to making yourself a body without organs. Possibilities range from sado-masochism, meditation, and Taoist sex. The authors note, “Is it really so sad and dangerous to be fed up with seeing with your eyes, breathing with your lungs, swallowing with your mouth, talking with your tongue, and [and] thinking with your brain. Why not walk on your head […] see through your skin, breathe through your belly. […] When psychoanalysis says “stop, find yourself again”, we should say instead, “Let's go still further, we haven't found our body without organs yet”.
− The point here is to create a process that allows one to break away or de-territorialise from fixed identities, unmasking their arbitrary and culturally determined natures, and to then re-territorialise within new forms of identity.
Virtual / Actual
− Construction and contingency are key themes in the thoughts of Deleuze and Guattari. In their eyes, what a gang of children signifies, how the principal of your school shaped your attitude to work, and whatever comfort means to you, could all have been different.
− This is because all these examples depend upon a shifting array of social formations caught in a perpetual process of mutual development. Nothing is inevitable. Everything changes.
− Think, for example, of how the signification of the term 'banker' has changed in recent years in relation to press revelations about reckless lending and enormous bonuses.
− The only certainty for Deleuze and Guattari is difference, and they consider the western tradition of thought to be falsely pre-occupied with identity. The forms of identity to which they refer might be what we understand to be the real world, “the realm of things that exist independently of our ways of thinking about them”, or the way we prioritise our subjectivity and see this as the basis of our experience.
− Here we can see the recurrence of the idea of 'reality' that Baudrillard felt was corroded by the simulacrum. Difference for Deleuze and Guattari precedes identity, and they consider that what we think are 'real' solid objects, and unchanging identities, are mutable and transitory.Slide Fifteen – Mont Sant Victoire
− Within Deleuze and Guattari's project, everything, even a mountain, must be considered a construction, and every component of that construction is made up of other smaller components.
− What they term the molar form (the protrusion of the singular rock formation against the landscape), is also comprised of molecular constituents (the layers of particles within the stone, the tectonic forces that slowly drive through each fibre of the mountain). A brain Is an object but they are made up of individual atoms.
− We should also consider the manner in which the presence of such a real object is ascertained. James Williams notes “a mountain exists as real with all the ways it has been painted, sensed, written about and walked over.” This traditional notion of 'the real', where something is real as opposed to something imaginary, or copied, no longer holds. Every object we understand in relation to its brute materiality is only ever known from a given perspective.’Slide Sixteen - Cezanne's late paintings of Mont Sainte-victoire
− This point is exemplified in Cezanne's late paintings of Mont Sainte-victoire, which seek to capture, in Gottfried-Boehm's analysis a “synthesis of change and permanence.” This thousand metre limestone ridge was rendered in Cezanne's paintings in relation to the dynamics of his own act of perception.
− The paintings not only captured the monumental structure of the mountain, but also brought attention to how the artist's own perception of it was ordered, i.e. how he perceived depth, how he located objects in visual sensations, and how he related a central visual focus to objects in the periphery of his visual field.
− Thus, as any object is a contingent construction, an assemblage of molecular units and forces that can only be experienced or shown from a given perspective, if we are to retain the notion of real it must be radically re-conceptualised.
− Deleuze and Guattari afford us this opportunity with their contrast of the virtual and actual. Constantin V. Boundas notes “the virtual and the actual are two mutually exclusive, yet jointly sufficient, characterisations of the real.” The actual refers to states of affairs, bodies, and individuals, whilst the virtual refers to what these entities imply, and what in fact brings them into existence. Brian Massumi explains “For a statement or thought to appear in all its apparent clarity, its complicated genesis must recede into the shadows from whence it came. The virtual is the unsaid of the statement, the unthought of the thought.”
Slide Seventeen – Francis Bacon's Studio
− Let us return to the studio of the artist Francis Bacon. The floor of this work space was awash with photographs, of celebrities, wild animals, military leaders, images of diseased bodies, old master paintings, press photographs, and stills from films. Along with the photographs he worked from of the people featured in the paintings, these images served mental triggers that suggested characteristics that might emerge within the painting process.
− Like all the implied meanings that accompany the literal meanings of order words, lending them the capacity to re-establish relations of power between people, these images are the subtext of Bacon's apprehension of the sitter. They are all the layers of visual association that shaped Bacon's perception of the person before him. Thus the photographs exist as virtual layers of significance that shape the actual recognition of the person before the artist.
− Between creative rhizomatic constructions, social assemblages, individual re-programming, and questioning accepted notions of thought, Deleuze and Guattari developed a series of tools for strategic thought and action. These provide a set of tools for those who wish to challenge order that exists for its own sake, and a way of understanding how we today exist in relation to an ever changing, and ever more complicated modern world.