The Life of a Mountain

As I mentioned in an earlier essay, I opted to attend aesthetics lectures at the university. It may seem a bit odd, yet for me it makes perfect sense. The primary of reason for attending those lectures is to understand more about the aesthetics, with particular relevance to landscapes. It took quite many lectures before we got to that point. After covering Kantian philosophy in brief, the lecturer shifted from Kant’s aesthetics to German Romantic landscape painters, namely Caspar David Friedrich. He’s one of the heavyweights, if not the heavyweight, in landscape painting, so finally moving on to him was more than welcome. It also proved quite thought provoking.

I’ll try to keep this short, so no page after page after page close reading of something is in store here. I won’t even go citing anything, just what it was that was covered during the lecture. It might be a bit off here and there as I’m working on memory alone, except for a few notes I made at times. Anyway, it was established that Kant doesn’t really do metaphysics, or, to be more precise, it’s not that he doesn’t ask such questions, but sets limits to what can be known. This is the phenomena and noumena split. Kant has these three questions he wants to ask: what can I know, what must I do and what can I hope for? These have to do know with knowledge (epistemology), morality (ethics) and art (aesthetics). These investigated in ‘Critique of Pure Reason’, ‘Critique of Practical Reason’ and ‘Critique of Judgment’ accordingly. In summary of what was covered during two lectures, with regards to aesthetics, when we engage with it, epistemology and ethics are of no concern. At least according to Kant that is. You may wish to object here, but I’m going simply by what was presented at the lecture and working on a premise that Kant based his philosophy, not of someone else. Whenever I can, I try to understand someone on their premise, not mine, taking into account also the time and place. For example, as much as you might not like, say, Kant, I think it’s in bad faith not to try to put yourself in his shoes. Perhaps it’s better to put it this way, it’s not that he isn’t concerned with the other two, but that they are of limited concern, they just don’t apply as such. Anyway, back to the topic, the lecturer also pointed out that aesthetics is the culmination point for Kant. He has these limits, but it is possible to overcome them through aesthetics. When we engage in aesthetic judgment, there’s nothing to relate it to. What is the concept of beauty anyway? As there is none, we just take pleasure in our experience of whatever it is, say, a sunset or a vast ocean. It seems as if things have a purpose, that is that they have purposiveness. It’s not that we know that what we look at has a purpose, considering our limits, yet it somehow seems to be the case.

The focus of the lecture was, more or less, on Caspar David Friedrich, except for a minor excursion into explaining society and state as defined by Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau because they provided points of contrast to views on society and state as defined by Romantic philosophers, namely Herder and Hegel. Other tangents worth mentioning included a short introduction to pronouncing German names, such as Friedrich, and a language deprivation experiment conducted by Frederick II, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Another more lengthy excursion was provided on paper but not really covered in detail. It pertained to Wilhelm von Humboldt’s linguistics and philosophy of language. As things were being set up and people were taking their sweet time babbling, I was able to have a quick look. It seemed interesting. Definitely something that probably never gets covered or even mentioned on linguistics courses, well, that I can remember of anyway. The lecturer is in the continental tradition and a proper old school erudite, so it’s very him to provide such reading to the students. That’s the hallmark of his lectures, there’s all kinds of stuff that gets weaved into this and that topic, including various hilarious anecdotes that amuse the audience quite a bit. For example, he quickly covered a poem by Friedrich Hölderlin. I didn’t really get it. Anyway, the humorous bit was that knowing Hölderlin can come handy in social situations. If someone raves about, I think it was Goethe (and someone else, but I just can’t remember), object to it and argue that others are nothing compared to Hölderlin. Anyway, the actual reason why someone like Humboldt probably doesn’t get covered anywhere is because anything German is considered as having bad rep, basically because of the events of 1930s and 1940s.

The first Caspar David Friedrich painting covered on this lecture was ‘The Watzmann’ (1824-1825). Just by looking at it (do look it up yourself), you see a mountainous landscape with tall snow capped peaks in the distance while other less tall peaks can be seen in the foreground. The gist of this is that the mountains are gradually taller as the distance from the supposed observer of this landscape. To be honest, it wouldn’t make much sense to do it the other way around as a foregrounded tall mountain would block the view to the other peaks. If we look as this on an as is basis. You see forms, triangles, that are the mountains placed in certain order. You can also see how the colors are used, the tall mountains being snow capped, whereas the others are grassy and mossy. Now, in an earlier lecture the lecturer objected to this kind of view of things, as this ooh, look at the form, ooh, look at the colors, reduction of it. He wasn’t happy that art is seen as lacking content, being relegated to mere form and color. He anecdotally pointed to some, possibly made up, example, of how someone was staring at a painting, attentively, only to wonder out loud if this small non-glossy part of the painting signifies something. He stated that it signifies nothing, it’s just how the paint on the canvas has deteriorated, having lost its glossy quality, becoming spotty on the surface when viewed under bright lights. With regards to the ‘The Watzmann’, the lecturer told us that this is ‘sisäisten aaltoilevien voimien ulkoinen ilmaus’, translating to English as the exterior expression of inner wavy forces. The more apt translation would be speaking of apparition instead of exterior expression. The lecturer spent some time explaining that ‘ilmaus’ which, if my memory serves me correctly, he attributed it to Elias Lönnrot (after having some punsch). He explained in reference to art that it is not about how an artist sees something and/or knows something and then renders it appearance for us to see, but how the artist renders something sensible while at it, not knowing what will come of it. That’s why I used the word apparition in my own research, which has to do with an instance of something appearing, not what something looks like, as in appearance. You might be wondering what’s the deal then? ‘The Watzmann’ is just some mountains, color and shape, if you will. Well, upon a closer inspection you’ll not only notice the difference in size and distance between the mountains and the differences in vegetation, but also how the mountains closer to the observer are more eroded. So, what’s actually presented by the author is not a mere pretty view, but rendering visible the formation and erosion of mountains. In other words, ‘The Watzmann’ depicts the stages in the life of a mountain, its life cycle, in a single scene. Simply put, the lecturer thus pointed out that as Kant wasn’t into metaphysics, during this period in history, landscape painting is the engagement in metaphysics. So, you could say that aesthetics is profoundly metaphysical.

Another landscape painting that has more than meets the eye examined by the lecturer was ‘Chalk Cliffs on Rügen’ (c. 1818). As the name of the painting suggests, the observer is presented with a view, but not of, but from the chalk cliffs. The observer is positioned behind three people looking the same way, downward the cliffs towards the sea. In the foreground, the three people wear clothing of different color. On the right, there is a young man in a green jacket. Next to him, in the middle, is an elderly man in blue clothing. On the left, is a woman in a red dress. The lecturer commented that like in religious paintings of the previous centuries, as covered during the lectures, it’s no accident that the young man wears green (hope), the old man wears blue (faith) and the woman wears red (love). Also, their postures, the young man looking at the sea, right at the edge of the cliff, the old man crouched in order not to fall and the woman pointing at red nearby flowers. In this painting the young man is future, the old man the past, the woman the present. The selection of woman as present the lecturer explained as having to do with how women were back then seen as tending to present matters, such as looking after children or cooking, neither things that make little sense catering to as something in the distant future or in retrospect. There’s also yet another thing going on here. As the scene is set, the cliffs mark the border of the canvas, gradually giving way to the sea and the sky towards to top part of the painting. Therefore there is a triangle. However, there is also another smaller triangle, at the bottom of the first triangle. There is a ship or a boat in each triangle. If you look closely, not just make notice of some boat, the boat closer to the observer is smaller than the one further in the distance. Okay, they could be of different size. However, the lecturer pointed out that this is intentional. Having only one boat wouldn’t do the trick. The juxtaposition of these boats, the one further away appearing larger than the one closer to the observer, results in a sensation of a vertigo when one views downwards at the closer boat. The same kind of vertigo you get when you actually gaze down from a cliff. Now, the issue is, of course, that if you look it at a computer screen or some picture on paper, it doesn’t really work. A downsized version of a nearly meter by meter painting doesn’t really do justice to the original. What else? The lecturer humorously commented on how the future oriented young man looks forward with great expectations, as young people generally do, often seeing things closer to them than they actually are, just like the second sailing boat in the painting. In contrast, the elderly have little to look forward to, always telling you stories of how things used to be. In summary, here you once again have something that has to do with the passing of time, albeit presented differently here. It has little to do with colors and shapes by themselves.

What else was there? A couple of other paintings were also covered, but not in such detail as these two. ‘Cromlech in Autumn’ (1820) was an interesting one. The lecturer explained that with fascination to chemistry to physics, the rock in the middle, as well as anything else tangible, is presented as such for the tangible things that we perceive. The less tangible, yet tangible, objects are tilted, swept by wind. In the background, there is this green and blueish swirl of light and darkness. It looks either like a sky in turmoil or, oddly enough, like mountains on both sides, with a valley in the middle, with clouds, the white parts, covering the sides of the mountains. The gist of this is that the solids are the parts that pertaining to physics. The wind and the swirl, the fluidity, pertains to chemistry. To make sense of this, beyond that, the solids are dead, whereas the fluidity, the movement, is life. So, as in life, you keep going, whereas in death everything becomes fixed, no longer moving.

I may have forgot something and/or remembered something incorrectly, but such can happen when working on memory and notes alone. I wanted to write this just to point out that landscapes are not necessarily empty of content. At least Caspar David Friedrich didn’t paint the ones covered here as hollow representations of the world, in order to invoke appraisal of what we see as simply beautiful or ugly. There’s more than meets the eye in these. You could say that they are supposed to be rather profound, metaphysical. I also wanted to bring this up because landscape painting, linked to the 1800s, tends to be flatly associated with the birth of nation states. Now, that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if this grandeur, this greatness, as rendered by, for example, Friedrich, was used for other purposes, not intended by the painters. Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised if others went on to do more of the same, but in the service of those who saw potential in using art for certain desirable outcomes. It’s also worth noting that the lecturer only covered early 1800s with emphasis on one painter. Turner was also mentioned in earlier lecture, but we didn’t venture there. So, don’t take this as some apologetic view on landscapes, but as an examination of them as depicted in the early 1800s.

Upon further reflection, after a bit more reading, I just keep wondering. It’s not that I fail to grasp Kant’s definition of beauty as something without a concept. I get it that it’s unlike with, say, that I like this beer (that I’m having) because I consider it as beer, not to mention a type of a beer, to be judged accordingly. I’m having this beer because I desire it, knowing what it is, and judging it accordingly I find it agreeable, whereas others might not. If I were to just have it, not even knowing what it is, that is to say put a label (the concept) on it, I’d be finding beauty in it in Kant’s terms. I know it’s a trivial example, but I kept wondering how it is with landscapes and landscape art. I’m fully aware what, for example, Friedrich does on those paintings as I’ve explained in detail. That said, does he manage to pull it off and depict beauty? So, when it comes to me, wondering about this, is it me who is ruining it by putting labels on it by analyzing it? Am I imposing concepts on it, turning beauty into agreeableness? Something tells me that’s the case. So, I guess, upon further reflection, maybe Friedrich isn’t putting labels on his work, that is to say working on a template, making things work according to a concept. Also, regardless of Friedrich, in Kant’s terms, is the issue with the aesthetics of landscape in imposing concepts upon it, not taking it as it is? To put it simply, am I, for example, judging a landscape according to certain criteria that I’ve imposed upon it, say, that the landscape depicts Finnishness, ruralness etc., or am I taking as it is, not judging it based on concepts that I and/or others have established. It’s quite mind-boggling really. So, in summary, something tells me that in Kant’s terms, the issue with landscape, as discussed by various landscape researchers, is that it’s a matter of agreeableness, not of beauty, considering landscape as a way of seeing is, in fact, a concept. We make that judgement according to what we consider agreeable. Now, by no means, does this mean that it’s merely subjective, I like this landscape over that, considering how antithetical that would be, having read plenty of literature on landscapes that tell me otherwise. In other words, what we consider subjective, that is to say merely agreeable, is, in fact, linked to collective identities. I covered this in another in which James Duncan explores people’s tastes on landscapes in Bedford, New York, so have a look at that until I manage to find the time expand on this.

Say Swiss Cheese!

I’ve been a bit busy lately, now working as a researcher in a project. It’s not exactly what I do in my own research, but when it comes theory, it’s still within my reach and pushes me to use it in different context, as well as to expand my reading into areas where others tend to make use of the same authors I happen to read, namely Foucault. I ended up reading Lilie Chouliaraki’s 2006 book ‘Spectatorship of Suffering’, which led me to Bent Flyvbjerg’s 2001 book ‘Making Social Science Matter’. That led me to read a bit by Foucault. I also ended up reading Gerard Delanty’s 2000 book ‘Modernity and Postmodernity’ as some of the terms used by Chouliaraki reminded me of Immanuel Kant’s work when it comes to aesthetics. Anyway, I intentionally used the word theory there in the second sentence, because I wanted to write about theory. When I was writing an essay on ocularcentrism, privileging vision over other senses, I remember reading Derrida mentioning the origin of the word theory, which, to be honest, I had never even thought of before that, not in English, not in Finnish, not in any language. I’m unsure if this is it, but I was able to trace this to the notes section of the English translation of ‘L’écriture et la différence’, Writing and Difference (translation by Alan Bass), where it is noted (398) that Derrida points to the origin of the word, “from theorein: to look at, behold”. This was not of particular interest at the point, beyond the marvel that what is known as theory, this abstract cut from the world in your head contemplation, has to do with seeing, as it is indicated in a dictionary (OED, s.v. “Theory”, n.):

“[A]ncient Greek θεωρία action of viewing, contemplation, sight, spectacle, in Hellenistic Greek also speculation, theory”

It’s fascinating how what tends to be considered as abstract thinking actually has to do with something as mundane and practical as seeing. Anyway, that’s actually just a side note to theory as this probably matters not to most people. Instead, as I was reading Flyvbjerg’s book, more specifically the chapter on discussing Aristotle and Foucault aptly titled ‘Empowering Aristotle’, I started thinking something I came across a while ago, something I had read already in the past. That happened to be an interview that took place in 1972, translated into English as a transcript under the title ‘Intellectuals and power: A conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze’. It can be found, for example, in the 1977 edited volume titled ‘Language, Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews’ edited by Donald Bouchard (translation by Donald Bouchard and Sherry Simon). In that interview Foucault and Deleuze discuss the role of an intellectual, as the title already suggests. Here I’m not as interested in the role of the intellectual, but what they mean by theory. It’s of course tied to the role of the intellectual, but that’s not the main point here. I covered that aspect more in my previous essay, so I won’t be addressing it much here. Anyway, early in the interview Deleuze (205) states:

“At one time, practice was considered an application of theory, a consequence; at other times, it had an opposite sense and it was thought to inspire theory, to be indispensable for the creation of future theoretical forms.”

So, in other words, separate yet linked. There’s nothing particularly controversial here. Anyway, Deleuze (205) continues:

“In any event, their relationship was understood in terms of a process of totalization.”

Again, in other words, there was always this grand scheme of things, coming up with a better, clearer or accurate understanding of something. One would either apply theory and attempt to make it better, if not both. Deleuze (205), who also seems to be speaking on behalf of Foucault, counters this:

“For us, however, the question is seen in a different light. The relationship between theory and practice are far more partial and fragmentary.”

In other words, Deleuze does not hold theory to be a totality, as he already mentioned. He (205-206) continues:

“On one side, a theory is always local and related to a limited field, and it is applied in another sphere, more or less distant from it. The relationship which holds in the application of a theory is never one of resemblance.”

Moving on to practice then, he (206) comments:

“Practice is a set of relays from one theoretical point to another, and theory is a relay from one practice to another. No theory can develop without eventually encountering a wall, and practice is necessary for piercing this wall.”

Together then, he (206) argues while commenting the role of the intellectual in society:

“Who speaks and acts? It is always a multiplicity, even within the person who speaks and acts. All of us are ‘groupuscules’. Representation no longer exists; there’s only action – theoretical action and practical action which serve as relays and form networks.”

Okay, that might not work for you. Deleuze is not exactly easy to come to terms with unless you are familiar with his parlance. Foucault (208) is far more clear on this:

“[T]heory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice. … [I]t is local and regional, as you said, and not totalizing.”

To which Deleuze (208) responds:

“Precisely. A theory is exactly like a box of tools. It has nothing to do with the signifier. It must be useful. It must function. And not for itself.”

In other words, theory is practical and in reverse, practice is theoretical. To clarify one bit here, it’s unlike signifier because, as Deleuze holds it, signifier never actually refers to any signified but another signifier in a never ending chain of signification. I actually think it’s highly comical to think otherwise. You can’t have one without the other. It makes me wonder if there is a reason to ever consider something as either theoretical or practical. Say, if I theoretize something and make up an example for it, is that not practical? Am I not doing it right now? I reckon I am, theoritizing, thinking out loud, except on paper, or so to speak, not that this involves speaking or paper, but I take it you know what I mean. Is it only practical when it is manifested in the real world, or, well, supposed real world. What is real? Isn’t this part of what is real? How would this be unreal? Here I am, writing, pondering, contemplating, whatever you want to call it, but is this not me pressing buttons on a keyboard? Am I not doing something which is actually meshed in practice? Conversely, if I do something, something that is typically deemed practical, very hands on if you will, say, shoot a puck at a local rink, is it only practical? I’ve never been super good at it and as a kid I’d always wrist it instead, not that I was that good at that either. I actually was more of a playmaker, setting others for the shots. Anyway, as an adult I can do it alright, having practiced it enough. Fair enough, you could just point out that it’s all about the physics involved. Indeed it is, but I never took up a physics textbook or watched a related documentary and then went to apply the theory at the rink. I tried different things, different swings, stepped in differently, leaned on to it differently, had my hands positioned differently etc. You name it, I did it. By doing that, all that in practice, did I not engage in theoretizing? Did I not gradually get the gist of it, how to use my body in it effectively? For me, learning to do it was not some mental armchair exercise, pondering how it should work, then simply applying that to great satisfaction and achievement. I came up with a theory by doing something, constructing on the basis of various experiences. I didn’t have a flawed understanding of physics that simply needed application and certain fine tuning according to its application. I figured out how to make use of my body, on the spot. Of course, it’s not that I don’t know how to make use of my body and all things involved, namely the ice, a stick and a puck. You could say that I already had theoritized something, but that’s sort of the point. It’s all very localized, knowing something, at least sort of, and making use of it and extending it elsewhere. It’s also the other way around, doing something practical, which pushes your theory of this or that into certain directions. It’s the same with walking. I don’t need a grand theory of walking, explaining all the bits that go into it in order to walk and have an understanding how that is. It’s the same the other way around, I don’t need to do all kinds of set up experiments related to everything that bears relevance to walking in order to come up with a grand theory explaining it, as well as other things. So, as Deleuze (205-206) points out, theory is always local, applicable in a limited sense, not something grand, all encompassing and universally applicable. So, right, reiterating what Foucault (208) states, theory is practice. This is also the point Deleuze (208) makes in reference to Proust who he characterizes as known as a “pure intellectual”:

“[I]t was Proust … who said it so clearly: treat my book as a pair of glasses directed to the outside; if they don’t suit you, find another pair[.]”

Deleuze (208) is very adamant on this, noting that theory is worthless if it isn’t functional, if it doesn’t bear relevance outside itself. So, returning to the earlier point made by Foucault (208), theory “does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice” because it is practice. In other words, it’s instrumental, as explained by Deleuze (208):

“A theory does not totalize; it is an instrument for multiplication and it also multiplies itself.”

What it is opposed to then, Deleuze (208) adds, in reference to Foucault:

“It is in the nature of power to totalize and it is your position, and one I fully agree with, that theory is by nature opposed to power. As soon as a theory is enmeshed in a particular point, we realize that it will never possess the slightest practical importance unless it can erupt in a totally different area.”

Of course, it’s worth noting that Foucault and Deleuze are discussing much more pressing matters than I am, explaining this with my silly examples. I acknowledge that it’s a bit silly to explain shooting a puck, something I do for leisure, when they are discussing how state institutions apply totalized theories on individuals. The point on totalizing applies nonetheless. As their discussion on prison reform bleeds into other institutions, namely those of the education system, something that I also research, it’s worth letting them further explain. The crux in this discussion is that theory is generally seen as totalized and applied top-down. Reforming it is seen as besides the point, tinkering with something, not really addressing the issue, experts talking on behalf of others, regardless of whether the people wish to be represented by experts. Deleuze (209) states:

“If the protests of children were heard in kindergarten, if their questions were attended to, it would be enough to explode the entire educational system.”

Now, it’s worth noting that this is from the early 1970s and in reference to French educational system. So there’s that and you have to take it into account. I really can’t comment on how it was back then, nor how it is these days. That said, the discussion is still relevant as it deals with the role of intellectuals, or experts, and whether the people that go through the system should or shouldn’t have a say in how it functions. This then bears relevance to theory. There is a theory of education, how people ought to be educated. This is then applied in the educational system. When it comes to reform, it’s a mere revision of an existing theory, as indicated by Deleuze (208). It ignores those involved and bears little relevance to practice. Those who know better know better because they know better.

Foucault’s and Deleuze’s views on theory should now be quite evident. In summary, they oppose totalized and universalized theory that exists by itself, not to mention for itself, to be subsequently applied in practice. Moreover, they oppose such view on theory not only because theory is seen as distinct from practice, but because it elevates the intellectual, the expert, the one who theoretizes, above others, telling how it is on their behalf. Foucault (207-208) actually points out that the intellectuals should be aware of their position, how they can be made use of by others. This is something that I came across in Flyvbjerg’s (128) ‘Making Social Science Matter’ and led me to read ‘Politics and Ethics: An Interview’ (translated by Catherine Porter) contained in a 1984 compilation work edited by Paul Rabinow, titled ‘The Foucault Reader’. In this interview, itself actually a compilation of question posed by a number of other authors, Foucault (373-374) points out that anything can be used for whatever purposes, including purposes that are in contradiction of the original purposes:

“[T]he ‘best’ theories do not constitute a very effective protection against disastrous political choices; certain great themes such as ‘humanism’ can be used to any end whatever[.]”

Now, Foucault is not saying that just because anything can be spun into something, even to its polar opposite, that theory doesn’t matter, whatever, chuck it, can’t be bothered or the like. He (374) is actually very clear on that. He (374) is hardly against theory. He’s (374) rather concerned about coming up with great theories that do seem to work on paper but then fail in practice. He (374) points out that theory requires “a demanding, prudent, ‘experimental’ attitude” and being aware of how thinking and saying are linked to doing. He (374) clarifies his view:

“If I have insisted on all this ‘practice,’ it has not been in order to ‘apply’ ideas, but in order to put them to the test and modify them.”

So, as Deleuze (206) puts it in the interview with Foucault, “[p]ractice is a set of relays from one theoretical point to another, and theory is a relay from one practice to another” and theory can’t develop without having practice poke holes in it. I have experienced this for sure in my own research. For example, I had certain preconceptions in the initial stages of data gathering, but as I working in the field, practice poked so many holes into my theory that it ended up being Swiss cheese. That meant I had to go back to the drawing board, adjust accordingly and come up with something new instead. To use a more concrete example, I just wasn’t happy with annotating my data as authored by this or that participant. It just made little sense when it was evident that, for example, a poster on a wall was designed by some external entity, such as a company that is in the business of making teaching materials, yet that entity is not responsible for it being issued on that wall. They don’t have that kind of control. Now, someone could point out that the designer is irrelevant, only the issuer matters. Fair enough, it sort of makes sense, yet, it seems obvious to me that if you let others create content for you, that you just make use of, then you are yielding control of its contents to someone else. Of course, you are still in control of what gets issued, but by not doing the materials yourself you are forced to select from a finite number of options. Plus one way or another you grant influence to others. As a result, I had to modify the agency category in my own research, splitting it to designer and issuer. I also included an audience category in order to address the intended audience. Of course, of course that did not go well down in review, because I did something that was unorthodox in theory, despite being blatantly obvious in practice. Fair enough, some of it needed some rewording, there’s that, as well as exemplifying it. Then again, did I really need photographic evidence to support my claim? Absolutely not. For me, this strikes at the core of this theory vs. practice hubbub. If I can explain here, for example, that, as in the poster example that I just provided, whoever designed or created something is not necessarily the same person or entity responsible for its placement somewhere, why is it that I need to provide further evidence of it? This thought process, as actualized by me by poking at pieces of plastic on a plastic board, how is it not sufficient? How is it outside practice? I reckon it’s very much of this world, as I pointed out earlier on. There’s nothing unreal to it. If I can pose this as a practical problem, without any evidence beyond what is posed, in writing, how is it not valid? Is the parallel that I then drew between Derrida’s example of postcard, as discussed in ‘The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond’ and ‘Limited Inc.’, necessary? No, it is not, no offense to Derrida. I just happened to stumble across the same issue as he did when he pointed out that anyone can write anything and have someone else put their signature on it as if they had written it. The same with the audience. A postcard is addressed to someone, but it can be potentially read by anyone. These features are hardly limited to postcards though, not that Derrida stated that these are exclusively related to them. That’d be hilarious if he did. This applies also here. These essays could nominally be under my name, yet created by someone else. There’s no way to actually prove that it’s me who wrote these, no matter that the system requires a personal login. Someone could be using my credentials. How would you know? You wouldn’t, simple as that. This could be extended to the teleportation issue. If someone is teleported from one place to another, hypothetically that is, is that person still the same person or a copy of the person who no longer exists, a simulacrum? I reckon it makes no difference really, even if it sort of does. The clone or supposed clone doesn’t know that he or she is a simulacrum, in this case an exact copy of something without an origin to point to. That’s probably too hypothetical, but really, it’s the same question you could ask yourself when you wake up in the morning. You wouldn’t know the difference, clone or no clone, so you don’t ask such questions. Okay, fair enough, getting back on track here, I have no intent to deceive, nor that I would want others meddling with what I do for that matter, so you have my word that it’s me, unless stated otherwise. When it comes to audience then, well, I reckon this is intended for people interested in, erm, in landscapes and discourse, yet as far as I know it can be read by anyone and that’s how I like it. No closed doors, no excuses for as to why it should be accessible only to supposed intellectuals or experts, as regulated by them in conformity to some established standardized practices that are held as valid despite their arbitrariness. If someone finds what I write useful, well, like with Proust as explained by Deleuze (208), good, if not, too bad, find something else to read then. Maybe no one reads this. It doesn’t matter to me really, one way or another. This is all very practical to me, despite seeming all super theoretical and esoteric to others.

I’ve been called ‘the theory guy’ and the like because I keep engaging with it, writing about it and spending time explaining it in presentations, probably to an extent people are overwhelmed by it. Now, for me, on the contrary, I often find presentations and papers by others underwhelming in this regard. I keep thinking to myself, what’s the premise to this, where’s the theory? Why is it that we are skipping the bits that explain why this is relevant? Why is it that we are jumping to explaining the applied methods without first explaining what it is that this is grounded upon? Am I just supposed to know what the theoretical foundation is without any explanation? In the terms used by Deleuze and Guattari (7) in ‘What is Philosophy’ (translation by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell), what is the field or the plane that all this is based on? I guess this sets me apart from others or I guess I should say many others as it’s unlikely that I’m the only one thinking this way, even if that’s only a handful of other people. I don’t work with a given or axiomatic premise, assuming that there are universals. That’s not to say that I think that there aren’t any historical givens, certain premises that are held as true, but that’s not the same thing, at all. Universals and givens are handy in the sense that you can always refer back to them for support, to state that you are right about this or that because … you are, but I just find that a cop out. It may well be that there are universals, that some things are as they are, constant, forever and always and not just approximately so, fair enough, but at least I can’t verify them as such and I reckon others can’t either. Okay, maybe the premise is not as important when one is dealing with something that isn’t fixed in place, that is to say it having less to do with whatever is examined, so the examination holds well if it’s this or that premise. However, as my own research has everything to do with space and more broadly speaking reality, it’s kind of hard to ignore the issue as some theoretical trifle. It seems a bit dishonest not to address how everything fits in place to begin with when that’s central in what you engage with. Of course, if you are a universalist or an objectivist (feel free to come up with other monikers) then you obviously don’t even feel like addressing this as stating that there is a premise to be stated already puts that premise into question, considering that it’s you who is positing it. At least I think it would make sense to simply ignore it, not that it works for me though. I can only state that something appears to be the case, which may well be the case, but I cannot know for sure as that’s beyond me.

When it comes to theory, I keep getting asked why you bring this or that up? For example, I’ve been asked why I bring up the importance of calculus for Deleuze. Now, I’m not blaming anyone. It must seem a bit of a stretch to bring it up. However, if you’ve read Deleuze, it’s more or less the example of examples for him when it comes to explaining how reality functions. I usually start with explaining the noumena/phenomena as explained by Kant, then shift from that to the virtual/actual as explained by Deleuze because while the two are not the same, I think understanding how Deleuze defines real as virtual/actual is easier to comprehend if you can comprehend how Kant works with the noumena/phenomena as that’s still very thingified, considering that he speaks of the thing-in-itself. Deleuze goes one step further, so what he would speak of as the noumena, the virtual is not how something is beyond our observation and understanding of it. That’s already assuming that the phenomenal, how we observe whatever it is as something is actually a distinct entity, this or that. For example, as we observe the phenomenon of a rock, the noumenon, the thing-in-itself, whatever it is, with or without a label, is unknowable. It may well be that it is what it is, say a rock, but we can’t be sure. Now, regardless of whether we are sure or not, we are speaking of what we don’t know as some distinct entity. When it comes to Deleuze then, this is not at all clear. He is keen on addressing how what comes to appear to us as a distinct entity comes to appear as such. In other words, he’s interested in how something is actualized as this or that, not whether it is this or that. Perhaps I’m being unkind to Kant. It’s hard to say whether he is stating that whatever we perceive as something is actually a distinct entity or not, because we can’t know for sure just based on the appearance of it.

Speaking of things, it’s probably because I’ve read Kenneth Olwig’s work on landscapes where this is brought up, albeit in a different context, but the word itself warrants further attention. In contemporary parlance it generally has to with what a dictionary (OED, s.v. “Thing”, n.) refers to as “[a]n entity of any kind”, existing individually. However, the word (OED, s.v. “Thing”, n.) is also indicated as meaning “[a] meeting, or the matter or business considered by it, and derived by senses.” A meeting then (OED, s.v. “Meeting”, n.) is defined as “relating to the gathering together of people”. For me, this already undercuts thing as something (haha, it’s so hard not to use that word) objectively so. Instead, to me, it appears that what we call a thing, typically with some label, for example a rock, a chair or a table (feel free to add your thing of preference), is because we’ve agreed to do so, not because it objectively is so. This then reminds me of Foucault’s (49) definition of discourse in ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ (translation by Alan Sheridan) as “practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak.” It’s actually a bit ironic that we don’t think of things as having been agreed upon, for example in some meeting, despite it being indicated as such in its etymology.

Anyway, to wrap things up, this essay is just on something that I came across doing other things. It might explain to people why I focus so much on theory and not on practice. It’s because for me they are not at all neat and discrete entities to be held apart from one another. They typically are considered separate from one another, but that’s not how I roll and I fear you are missing the point if you cannot connect the dots, see how theory is necessary in practice and how practice is necessary in theory. For me, it’s all very real and whatever I can put into words are of this world, including made up mock examples. I’m very amused when people go for arguments such as pics or it didn’t happen and/or please cite some titan of science to back this up, otherwise this is merely abstract and theoretical. Moreover, it’s worth emphasizing that I don’t want to hold theory in some grand position, stating that this is how it is, for sure, and this is how it must be. I cringe when people make universalist or humanist appeals, even when it’s in (supposedly) good purpose. Why? Well, as discussed by Foucault (373-374) in ‘Politics and Ethics: An Interview’, it doesn’t take much ingenuity to hijack such appeals and use them against people.

On Jesus Program

Finally! Finally! Finally! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! Why all the excitement? Well, that should be obvious, but to answer that question that I made you pose, I’m pumped because this essay is on the real deal, a plateau pertaining to faciality, as well as landscapity. You could say that I’ve endured digging well deep, doing close readings of other plateaus that bear relevance to the plateau I’m about to examine in detail. It’s been a bit of a chore at times, yet it’s all good. I had read them already, but as intended by the authors of the book, things open up gradually, so returning to the plateaus proved to be very fruitful to my own research, but more importantly it’s been very rewarding to myself on a personal level (albeit I think those are one and the same thing, but I retained the distinction in case it fits your worldview better). As I pointed in the end of the previous essay, or near the end anyway, I enjoy this, to the extent that I push out page after page, meaning that my productive has gone through the roof (this took less than two days, so some hours), largely thanks to the authors of the book, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, as well as others, including, but not limited to Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Henri Lefebvre, Pierre Bourdieu, Jean Baudrillard and Bruno Latour. Oh, I almost forgot, but we just Kant do without him. I could name others, to engage in orgiastic name dropping, but I don’t think others have had as profound impact on me as these gentlemen have had, going way beyond applicability and usefulness in research. Of course that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate others that engage in more specific matters. I take a bit of this, a bit of that from many people, especially from landscape scholars, James Duncan and Nancy Duncan, Denis Cosgrove, Peirce Lewis, Yi-Fu Tuan, Richard Schein and Maurice Ronai, to name a few, in no particular order. At times I even dabble in phenomenology, so why not give a shout out to, for example, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Then there is John Berger, Erwin Panofsky, Ernst Cassirer… where do I stop? I haven’t even included writers, musicians and painters here.

Why do I do it? Why do I engage in scholarship beyond my own field? Well, to begin with, I’m not particularly fond of fields or disciplines. I don’t fit neatly into any field or discipline. Instead I keep finding myself outside the neatly defined disciplinary boundaries, always too far from this or that field, so I keep being pushed from one field to another, only to be pushed from that field to another field, never really fitting in, always marked by something from somewhere else, something that is from the outside. I keep stepping on people’s toes no matter where I roam. There is plenty of talk about being interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, crossdisciplinary and multidisciplinary, but I’m not convinced. They are buzzwords. It seems to me that people piously guard their own discipline and its orthodoxy. Priests have done an excellent job at this. This applies even within one’s own (supposed) field, hence I tend to find myself on the move, only to be pushed back to my own discipline for having transgressed disciplinary boundaries, for attempting to reterritorialize outside my (supposedly) natural territory. As you can see, the list of people who I consider particularly influential to my own thought are nearly all philosophers, people who didn’t or don’t give a hoot about disciplinary boundaries. They are bold, brave and all over the place. No apologies. It’s all very gay. They even dare to use examples from arts to prove a point. Fine by me, but I dare you try that yourself, explain something, say, perception, in reference to ‘Las Meninas’ by Diego Velázquez, or representation, in reference to ‘The Treachery of Images’ by René Magritte. I love it how Claude Raffestin (122) dares to bring this up in one of his articles, the boldly titled ‘Space, territory, and territoriality’ published in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space in 2012, first illustrating a problem in reference to ‘Book of Sand’ by Jorge Luis Borges, only to retract from that statement by substituting it with a reference to a geographer, Gunnar Olsson, and then with something (supposedly) properly scientific, none other than Albert Einstein because, well, Einstein is a Bible. This is one of those things, drop a name important enough in the right circles and you get mad props. For me, I couldn’t care less if it was Einstein who once said or wrote something worth citing, good on him if he did, or if it was some random chap, say, a janitor. I could also just make the point myself, but no, no, no, it must be from a Bible. Right, so, to actually answer my own question, although I realize that I sort of did, to make it clear then, I engage in anything that I find interesting, not only something that I should according to the priests in what is supposed to be my own field. I’d happily abolish disciplinary borders, but it’s not like it’s up to me. People are so very keen on holding on to what they’ve achieved and guard it accordingly. In the meanwhile, I wonder where I end up next.

Anyway, after that tangent, without further ado, this essay is dedicated to the examination of ‘Year Zero: Faciality’, the seventh plateau of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ by Deleuze and Guattari, as published in English in 1987 (translation by Brian Massumi). As a word of warning, if you are keen on Bibles, that is other than the Bible, then this plateau might not be your thing. It’s going to get a bit … theological. That said, as the lecturer pointed out on the aesthetics lectures that I attend, for the fun of it, it’s a fairly recent thing, from the 1800s or so onward, that one speaks of science. Back in the day things were happily conflated and, well, nearly everything had something to do with God. Then God just died, sort of, only to be reincarnated in a belief in science and progress. Well, that said, Man also died some decades ago, no matter how those craving for an objective truth object to such statements. Oh, and boy do they object, loudly. Old school hardcore empiricists are the loudest, as I have myself experienced. I’d recommend this book to them but something tells me that they won’t be reading it anytime soon. It’s just way too … well … written … haha … now that was just conveniently there and I couldn’t help myself, but what I mean is that it doesn’t give you any easy answers to anything, as intended by Deleuze and Guattari. It’s meant to make you think yourself, to figure out what is that we are after here. That said, I think thinking for yourself, by yourself, has never been in fashion, so perhaps I’m expecting too much from people.

Kicking things off abruptly, as one should by now be accustomed to it, Deleuze and Guattari (167) bring up signifiance and subjectification, not explaining them, as expected. In the previous essay, the one on the plateau on regimes of signs, I made note of two things that now crop up here in the first paragraph of the plateau on faciality:

“Since all semiotics are mixed and strata come at least in twos, it should come as no surprise that a very special mechanism is situated at their intersection.”

I must point out how it was for sure worth it to read not only the plateau on regimes of signs, but also the plateau on strata. This makes little sense if you haven’t, so I recommend going back and reading them before this one. Of course, feel free to do the exact opposite. It’s not like I can stop you. Anyway, to get to the point, they (167) characterize this special mechanism:

“Oddly enough, it is a face: the white wall/black hole system.”

If you did read the plateau on regimes of signs, you’ll remember them (133) stating something about “a kind of ‘wall’ on which signs are inscribed” and “a black hole attracting consciousness and passion and in which they resonate.” Eugene Holland (85) comments in ‘Deleuze and Guattari’s A ‘Thousand Plateaus’: A Reader’s Guide’, published in 2013, that, to be specific, the black hole, is from Sartre, and the white wall from Lacan. The two get mentioned later on on this plateau (171), but Sartre’s gaze and Lacan’s mirror are only seen as secondary to the black hole and white wall, which meet in a face, as Deleuze and Guattari (167) clarify:

“A broad face with white cheeks, a chalk face with eyes cut in for a black hole. Clown head, white clown, moon-white mime, angel of death, Holy Shroud.”

See, I told you, it got religious in a heartbeat. They (168) address the white wall bit first:

“Faces are not basically individual; they define zones of frequency or probability, delimit a field that neutralizes in advance any expressions or connections unamenable to the appropriate significations.”

Then they (168) define the black hole part:

“Similarly, the form of subjectivity, whether consciousness or passion, would remain absolutely empty if faces did not form loci of resonance that select the sensed or mental reality and make it conform in advance to a dominant reality.”

As a result then, they (168) explain:

“The face itself is redundancy. It is itself in redundancy with the redundancies of signifiance or frequency, and those of resonance or subjectivity.”

Only to return to the white wall bit (168):

“The face constructs the wall that the signifier needs in order to bounce off of; it constitutes the wall of the signifier, the frame or screen.”

And the black hole bit (168):

“The face digs the hole that subjectification needs in order to break through; it constitutes the black hole of subjectivity as consciousness or passion, the camera, the third eye.”

If you are not convinced, it’s probably because they could do better, and they do. They (168) go on to reverse this, pointing out that it is the face that “begins to take shape on the white wall” and “begins to appear in the black hole.” Anyway, one way or another, it seems that they are not really too fussed about whether it’s this or that way. What’s important, as they (168) point out, that both are needed:

“It is certain that the signifier does not construct the wall that it needs all by itself; it is certain that subjectivity does not dig its hole all alone.”

Therefore, they (168) argue:

“Concrete faces cannot be assumed to come ready-made. They are engendered by an abstract machine of faciality (visageite), which produces them at the same time as it gives the signifier its white wall and subjectivity its black hole.”

Special mechanism indeed, here we have the abstract machine of faciality. You are … out of luck if you this is the first plateau you read as they bring up the concept rather abruptly, just like they did with the white wall and black hole. If you hesitate, if it doesn’t work for you, just read the other plateaus and this will make plenty of sense all the sudden when you return to this. When it comes to not explaining things, not holding your hand, to mess with the reader a bit further, they (169) point out that the color is not that important, you might as well call them black wall and white hole. They (169) also characterize how the abstract machine operates, using an example of white balls, how they move around and bounce, but, well, let’s not go there, it’s probably too acidic to explain in full detail and hard for me to do justice to it anyway. I won’t explain the next example either, but rather summarize it (169) as having to do with the black hole being the eyes in the face. To be more specific, it’s more apt to call the eyes the black holes, in plural, unless you are a cyclops that is. They (170) move on to propose that:

“[T]he face is part of a surface-hole, holey surface, system. … The head is included in the body, but the face is not. The face is a surface: facial traits, lines, wrinkles; long face, square face, triangular face; the face is a map, even when it is applied to and wraps a volume, even when it surrounds and borders cavities that are now no more than holes.”

Okay, in other words then (170):

“The face is produced only when the head ceases to be a part of the body, when it ceases to be coded by the body, when it ceases to have a multidimensional, polyvocal corporeal code – when the body, head included, has been decoded and has to be overcoded by something we shall call the Face.”

In both cases it is noted that head comes first, it comes with the territory that is the body. The face comes later, when head is no longer part of the body, as coded by the body, and overcoded by the face. In other words, as they (170) explain, the head becomes facialized, as produced by the abstract machine of faciality. Now, particularly relevant to my own research and interest in landscapes, they (170) add that the abstract machine of faciality is not content on overcoding the head, but it ends up doing the same for the whole body, as also mentioned in the cited part above. This is where things get interesting: body parts become fetishized. They (170) note that this has nothing to do with some body part, let’s say a hand, resembling a face. That’s hardly the case. That’d be absurd. They (170) elaborate the process:

“Facialization operates not by resemblance but by an order of reasons. It is a much more unconscious and machinic operation that draws the entire body across the holey surface, and in which the role of the face is not as a model or image, but as an overcoding of all of the decoded parts.”

You might not care that much how it happens, but the point is that it happens. Here, there, everywhere, faces. As pointed out already, the head comes before the face, entailing that face is not something inherent to humans. They (170-171) clarify that it’s not general or universal and even state that there is something “absolutely inhuman about the face” and it’s like that from the get go. That may seem odd for them to state, but the point is, as they (171) explain, it has to do with how close-up it is and it appears even in anything non-human, that is to say inanimate things. I’ll expand on this, soon, but first things first. They (171) argue against the abstract machine of faciality:

“[I]f human beings have a destiny, it is rather to escape the face, to dismantle the face and facializations, to become imperceptible, to become clandestine[.]”

That should be quite telling of how they feel about face and faciality. Simply put, not great. For them, the answer is the body without organs, but that’s another story, something for another essay. Skipping those bits here, they (172) state that even the head is a deterritorialization, that of the animal body, but it’s no match to the faciality:

“But the face represents a far more intense, if slower, deterritorialization. We could say that it is an absolute deterritorialization: it is no longer relative because it removes the head from the stratum of the organism, human or animal, and connects it to other strata, such as signifiance and subjectification.”

This the stage where things get interesting on broader scale. They (172) extend the deterritorialization of the head to the deterritorialization of, well, broadly speaking everything:

“The human head … has as its correlate the organization of a world, in other words, a milieu that has itself been deterritorialized.”

Moving to the face again, they (172 then add:

“Now the face has a correlate of great importance: the landscape, which is not just a milieu but a deterritorialized world.”

Here we have it, finally, landscape as defined by Deleuze and Guattari. To track its origin, going back a bit, they (172) state that milieu is deterritorialized into the organization of the world, or just world for short, and world is deterritorialized into landscape. In other words, landscape is a deterritorialized world, which is a deterritorialized milieu. That’s plenty of redundancy for you alright. Deleuze and Guattari (172) go on to explain the face-landscape correlations, speaking of faciality and landscapity. I’m not exactly sure if one should call landscape it’s own abstract machine or just part of faciality, or is it a tandem. Anyway, they (172) elaborate it:

“Architecture positions its ensembles – houses, towns or cities, monuments or factories – to function like faces in the landscape they transform.”

So from face to landscape, yet, only to quickly reversing this (172):

“Painting takes up the same movement but also reverses it, positioning a landscape as a face, treating one like the other: ‘treatise on the face and the landscape.’”

Now, portraiture is not something that I’m particularly familiar with, so I cannot pinpoint what the relevant treatise for it would be, but I know for sure that there is one for the linear perspective, which is highly relevant to landscapes. That treatise, ‘De pictura’ (On Painting), is by Leon Battista Alberti. If you didn’t know that already, you can now consider yourself educated. Anyway, back to the topic, Deleuze and Guattari (172) add that it’s hard to say where face and landscape begin and end:

“So, is your mother a landscape or a face? … All faces envelop an unknown, unexplored landscape; all landscapes are populated by a loved or dreamed-of face, develop a face to come or already past. What face has not called upon the landscapes it amalgamated, sea and hill; what landscape has not evoked the face that would have completed it, providing an unexpected complement for its lines and traits?”

So, in case you’ve been wondering why I find landscape pivotal in my own research and emphasize that it’s more or less everywhere, except, perhaps in a dense forest and if that doesn’t cut it to escape it, in darkness. I’m well aware that people may find it bizarre, absurd, preposterous or outlandish (feel free to add another similar word of your choice here) to speak of it and emphasize how it should not be disregarded, especially in any research that dubs itself as landscape research. If you don’t get it, then, well, you are part of the problem, on team faciality-landscapity, complacent and complicit in letting the abstract machine extend itself to everywhere. Now, the hard core empiricists, the ones seeking for objectivity might be up in arms about this, stating that there is no such thing out there. That is, in a sense, correct. I’ll grant them that. That said, the trick is that it’s not just out there. You see it everywhere, no matter where you go. It pervades everything. There is no escape from it. To be more specific, what I mean by stating that you see it everywhere is that you see nothing but it, yet there is nothing to see. It’s the sensible insensible. It’s not necessary. It’s, as Deleuze and Guattari point out, clearly redundant, yet it’s there, having overcoded everything. It’s very unreal in the sense that it’s imperceptible, yet it’s very real, as real as real gets. There’s nothing actually unreal about it. It’s there to be seen, but also in your head. Deleuze and Guattari (173) are particularly pessimistic about this:

“Even when painting becomes abstract, all it does is rediscover the black hole and white wall, the great composition of the white canvas and black slash. Tearing, but also stretching of the canvas along an axis of escape (fuite), at a vanishing point (point defuite), along a diagonal, by a knife slice, slash, or hole: the machine is already in place that always functions to produce faces and landscapes, however abstract.”

I think it’s worth emphasizing that it’s not pervasive because it’s either out there, outside us, or in ours heads, but because it relies on both. The machine is always operating. The white wall is always somewhere, so are the black holes, no matter the colors. Going back is not an option either as everything has been so thoroughly overcoded, absolutely deterritorializing what once was. Taking things to the next level in terms of fetishism, explaining how the abstract machine operates, they (175) state that even objects can become facialized:

“Even a use-object may come to be facialized: you might say that a house, utensil, or object, an article of clothing, etc., is watching me[.]”

There’s, of course, no reason that a building or some household object, say a table or a chair, the examples I like to use, would be watching you, but that’s beyond the point. I guess we could say this about clouds, to use a better example. At least I remember staring at clouds as a kid, how at times some of them looked like faces. It was there, but not there. I reckon this extends to those stories about how people see the face of Jesus in toast and what not. Speaking of Jesus, Jesus Christ what a coincidence, they (176) originate the face in Jesus: “The face is Christ.” If you didnd’t get it, that’s why the plateau is titled ‘Year Zero’. They (176) explain this:

“It is not even that of the white man; it is White Man himself, with his broad white cheeks and the black hole of his eyes. … The face is the typical European, what Ezra Pound called the average sensual man, in short, the ordinary everyday Erotomaniac[.]”

I think it’s worth reiterating, as they (176) do, that the face is not universal, yet it extends to everything, universally if you will, having become a face of the whole universe, “fades totius universi.” Sexing things up, our Lord Savior to be more specific, they (176) state that:

“Jesus Christ superstar: he invented the facialization of the entire body and spread it everywhere[.]”

Moving on, Deleuze and Guattari (176-179) indicate that the abstract machine of faciality has two aspects or functions. The first aspect they explain as having to do with how the black hole functions “as a central computer, Christ, the third eye” moving on the white wall, “serving as general surface of reference.” Moreover, they add that whatever is thrown at it, the machine churns out “an elementary face in biunivocal relation another” face, for example man/woman, rich/poor, adult/child, leader/subject, teacher/student, police/citizen, boss/worker or judge/accused. These then function as templates for the production and transformation of individualized faces. In this sense then, they emphasize, that “[y]ou don’t so much have a face as slide into one.” The second aspect they explain as having to do with the selection or rejection of faces, for example, those of the condemned or judged. These are the rejected faces of the ones who “do not conform, or seem suspicious.” That said, they add that this then results in the production what they call “successive divergence-types of deviance[.]” Therefore, the abstract machine of faciality also functions as a deviance detector, computing what counts as normality, the Pantocrator functioning as the point of calibration. This rather obviously excludes nearly everyone who doesn’t match the complexion of the depictions of the Savior. That said, they point out that people have been clever with this, expanding the portrays of Christ from the usual iconic depictions to all kinds of eccentric depictions, such as “Christ-Mannerist queer” and “Christ-Negro”, thus effectively manipulating the point of reference, meaning that it is possible to influence how the machine functions. Moreover, to clarify things a bit, it’s worth noting that it doesn’t have to be Jesus, all it takes is a bit of divinity. That means that a “Black Virgin” will do just fine as well, as they point out (178).

Deleuze and Guattari (179) jump to clarify their views on the informativeness of language, that is to say its neutrality, which they reject, as established on the plateau on the postulates of linguistics (75-76). Here they (179) elaborate the issue:

“Information theory takes as its point of departure a homogeneous set of ready-made signifying messages that are already functioning as elements in biunivocal relationships, or the elements of which are biunivocally organized between messages. Second, the picking of a combination depends on a certain number of subjective binary choices that increase proportionally to the number of elements.”

Make note of the italicized bits, as contained in the original (not my doing): signifying and subjective. As pointed out already, they (179) are not content with such a view on things:

“But the problem is that all of this biunivocalization and binarization … assumes the deployment of a wall or screen, the installation of a central computing hole without which no message would be discernible and no choice could be implemented.”

Now, it’s worth noting that the book was first published in 1980 (the English translation 1987), so the terms used for … computing are, perhaps, a bit, well, not exactly archaic, but not necessarily how we’d speak of … computing. Anyway, it matters not whether things may have changed, as they (179) point out by stating that the problem of biunivocalization and binarization “is not just the result of increase in calculating skills, as some say[.]” It matters not whether we talk of the computers of the 1970s when the book was most likely written or the ones people now stare each and every day, me included, just as I am staring at a screen right now, as I press the keys on a keyboard. Of course, they are not saying it’s worth ignoring it. It’s probably the opposite, considering that all we do is speak of digitalization. They (179) then further clarify why it is that faciality-landscapity is everywhere:

“The black hole/white wall system must already have gridded all of space and outlined its arborescences or dichotomies for those of signifier and subjectification even to be conceivable.”

Moreover, they (179) argue that:

“The mixed semiotic of signifiance and subjectification has an exceptional need to be protected from any intrusion from the outside. In fact, there must not be any exterior: no nomad machine[.]”

How is this done then? They (179) cleverly use the white wall, explaining that it also functions, literally, like a wall, hence, I guess, their use of the word rather than, say, screen or canvas, which would be more apt in the artistic sense. In other words, it is necessary to protect the mixed semiotic because, as they (179) clarify:

“One can make subjective choices between two [signifying] chains or at each point in a chain only if no outside tempest sweeps away the chains and subjects.”

In other words, it needs that wall in order to keep the deferral of meaning going. The same applies to subjectivity, as they (179) elaborate:

“One can form a web of subjectivities only if one possesses a central eye, a black hole capturing everything that would exceed or transform either the assigned affects or the dominant significations.”

I think it’s only apt to say here: Oh, eye see! Who sees? The eye, the ‘I’. Anyway, they (179) then jump to state that language is not the only thing conveying a message. Instead, they (179) argue that:

“A language is always embedded in the faces that announce its statements and ballast them in relation to the signifiers in progress and subjects concerned. Choices are guided by faces, elements are organized around faces: a common grammar is never separable from a facial education.”

They (179) summarize this by calling the face an amplifier, a veritable megaphone. This probably makes little sense if you haven’t read the plateau on regimes of signs where the postsignifying regime and its passionality is examined in great detail. I reckon that if it’s ignored, then we’d only be talking about language as the only thing that conveys messages. Moreover, as we’re dealing the face here, it’s, of course, worth emphasizing that it’s not one or the other regime, but the mixed regime of the two that has resulted in faciality, which, according to the two (179) provide language the arborescenses and dichotomies that would function in its absence. They (179) wish to emphasize that faciality is not the same as language, just as a regime of signs or a semiotic is not a language, nor do they resemble one another. More importantly, however, they (179-180) attribute faciality as subtending language:

“When the faciality machine translates formed contents of whatever kind into a single substance of expression, it already subjugates them to the exclusive form of signifying and subjective expression.”

They (180) explain this as happening through a gridding “that makes it possible the signifying elements to become discernible, and for the subjective choices to be implemented. In other words, they (180) clarify, the abstract machine of faciality is subjacent to signifiance and subjectivity, their condition. Moreover, as they (180) emphasize, as the face depends on the abstract machine, not the other way around, there is no assumption of “a preexistent subject or signifier”, only subjacency and provision of substance. So, simply put, as they point out earlier on already, the subject does not choose the face, the face chooses the subject, programming the signifiers.

Moving on, back to an earlier point, to reiterate that the abstract machine of faciality is not universal, it’s not operating everywhere at all times. Here they (180) make note of this by stating that face, as well as landscape, are needed by certain social formations. This is the point where they refer to Maurice Ronai’s first landscape article, literally titled just ‘Paysages’, that appeared in Hérodote in 1976. I have covered that article, for a very good reason mind you, earlier on but I won’t get tangled up in it again. Anyway, it is clarified in the notes (533) that:

“Maurice Ronai demonstrates that the landscape, the reality as well as the notion, is tied to a very particular semiotic system and very particular apparatuses of power: this is one of the sources of geography, as well as a principle behind its political subordination (the landscape as ‘the face of the fatherland or nation’).”

The final bit here is particularly telling. It’s noted that landscape is, indeed, the face of the nation. This is something that you’ll find discussed in detail in the 1998 book titled ‘Landscape and Englishness’ by David Matless, an exploration into how landscape has to do with codes of conduct. As I’ve explained before, landscape is not only a matter of property, at least not to the extent it once was, but also a matter of propriety. John Wylie (117) explains this point about Matless particularly well in his 2007 book ‘Landscape’:

“[T]he intellectual centre of gravity of landscape studies moves from property to propriety, that is from landscape understood as an artistic form in the service of an elite, country-estate vision of land, culture and society to landscape thought of as a matter of conduct and forms of ‘proper’ bodily display and performance.”

I’m really fond of the selection of words here, from property to propriety, from something that you own outside of you to something that you own inside you, if you will. I guess you could say, from without to within, unless you happen to own land. To exemplify this, Wylie (117) provides an apt summary of ‘Landscape and Englishness’:

“[I]n Landscape and Englishness Matless demonstrates at length how notions of landscape, the body and identity have, in fact, been consistently enrolled in the service of competing visions of English modernity.”

Here it’s worth noting that there are, indeed, competing interests at play. Therefore, as argued by W.J.T. Mitchell (5) in ‘Landscape and Power’, published in 1994, landscape is a medium, “good for nothing in itself, but expressive of a potentially limitless reserve value.” So, as explained by Deleuze and Guattari, it’s highly redundant, yet there, at least inasmuch we desire it to be there and, oh boy, do we desire it to be there. Now that I’m on a tangent, Matless (62) also makes note of how selective landscapity is, not unlike as explained by Deleuze and Guattari when it comes to faciality:

“While a landscaped citizenship is set up as potentially open to all and nationally inclusive, it depends for its self-definition on a vulgar other, anti-citizen whose conduct, if not open to re-education, makes exclusion necessary. If landscape was to be a public space, what kind of public should it permit and cultivate?”

So, in other words, how should the abstract machine operate? Just as it is the case with the Christo Negro de Portobelo and Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno, life-size depictions of Black Jesus, it’s possible to tinker with the operation of the machine by reworking the statements on landscape, as explained by Matless (62):

“Statements on landscape are … bound up with claims to cultural authority over its value and purpose.”

Therefore the question now is, who gets to set the standard, who gets to depict Jesus. It’s not even a question of who knows what Jesus looked like. You’d think that would be sort of important, but that’s not at all important. No one knows, but who cares. What is important is to ask who has the authority to depict Jesus. The very same thing applies to landscape, which, according to Matless (62), works through “a mutual constitution of the aesthetic and the social, the eye and the body”, the goal being to “extend[] visual pleasure to the people” only to be “tempered by a desire to control potentially disruptive body effects.”

This is what interests in me particular in my own research, how is it used to instill certain proprieties, say, Finnishness, or that writing is a sign of being adult whereas drawing (the use of images) is seen as childish, a sign of being a child. I’m in particular interested in examining how certain discourses are materialized, manifested, formed or formalized in the landscape. In other words, in Foucauldian parlance, I’m interested in the discursive formations and, in Deleuzo-Guattarian parlance, in the forms of expression, yet, without ignoring the non-discursive formations, the forms of content, as they are both in mutual presupposition. Moreover, as it’s not just a mere matter of this or that, one or the other, but simultaneity, it’s pivotal for me to address the abstract of faciality/landscapity that operates in the background, or so to speak, as the interplay of the formations or forms should not be ignored, otherwise it all collapses to a static, either materialist or idealist, understanding of landscape as this or that. I think this is something that my (supposed) peers typically fail to grasp. The abstract machine won’t cease to operate if you ignore it by collapsing landscape to materiality, conflating it with area, region, territory or space as something waiting out there to be uncovered, or by confining it to ideal depictions of the world, relegating it to framed canvases hung up on walls of museums and private residences. You are, in fact, doing the abstract machine a favor, albeit it’s not like it cares as it only does what it does, so no big deal in that sense. However, as landscape is a medium it can be tampered with in order to achieve whatever it is that one wishes to achieve, property and/or propriety. This is what Ronai (153) argues about. It only works in favor of landscapity, reinforcing representation and rendering landscape impervious to change. So, when you engage in whatever is dubbed as landscape research, do not ignore the warnings Ronai (153) expressed over forty years ago, otherwise you risk becoming complicit and complacent in (re)producing representations. This is something that has been addressed in landscape research already at the time Ronai wrote his landscape articles, that is the late 1970s. Foucault (207-208) also warns us of this in ‘Intellectuals and Power’ in conversation with Deleuze, which can be found as translated into English in ‘Language, Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews’ edited by Donald Bouchard and published in 1977 (translation by Bouchard and Sherry Simon):

“The intellectual’s role is no longer to place himself ‘somewhat ahead and to the side’ in order to express the stifled truth of collectivity; rather, it is to struggle against the forms of power that transform him into its object and instrument in the sphere of ‘knowledge,’ ‘truth,’ consciousness,’ and ‘discourse.’”

So, as both Ronai and Foucault warn us not to become pawns, complicit and complacent, I’m puzzled how people manage to not see why one ought to address how reality functions before they engage with it. I’d at least try. My money is on axiomatics, taking the empiricist route, what I like to call the impiricist route. It’s less resource intensive than first tackling pertinent questions, such as, what is reality and what is space, before moving to explore it, albeit not that they are mutually exclusive. Where does theory end and where does practice begin anyway? I like how Deleuze (206) puts it in ‘Intellectuals and Power’ in conversation with Foucault:

“Practice is set of relays from theoretical point to another, and theory is relay from one practice to another. No theory can develop without eventually encountering a wall, and practice is necessary for piercing this wall.”

To which Foucault (208) replies:

“[T]heory does not express, translate, or serve to apply practice: it is practice.”

For what ends then, that is the question. For Foucault (208), as indicated above, some paragraphs back, that is not to become an instrument in totalizing, but instead resisting it, undermining the exercises of power where they are “most invisible and insidious.” Now I acknowledge I might be seeing things, or so to speak, albeit that expression will prove to hilarious, but what might be then classified as invisible and insidious? Well, how about landscape? It’s invisible and insidious in the sense that it’s this redundant overcoding. All the bits and bobs are there even without it, it adds nothing material to it, hence the invisibility of it. You can’t see landscape because of it. I think Mitchell (viii) puts it very aptly in the preface to the 2002 second edition of ‘Landscape and Power’:

“[Landscape invites us] to look at nothing – or more precisely, to look at looking itself.”

That also explains how insidious it is. Okay you might not be convinced, so I’ll let him go on. He (vii) states that “[l]andscape exerts a subtle power over people”; landscape is subtle, but relatively weak in its exercise of power when “compared to that of armies, police forces, governments, and corporations.” This should come as a no surprise to anyone. When your face hits the concrete and you are pinned down, boot on the neck, you know what’s what. That said, such exercises of power are rather obvious, it’s not like you can miss it. Resistance to such is bound to crop up, unless it’s curbed to a North Korean standard. It’s the subtlety of it, its invisibility, that makes it so insidious. How do you resist something that you can’t see itself? That’s the irony of it, looking at looking itself, as Mitchell (viii) puts it. Therefore it’s only fitting that James Duncan (19) calls landscape “an objectifier par excellence” in his 1990 book ‘The City as Text: The Politics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom’. It has that je ne sais quoi, that visual aesthetic pleasure, the allure of it, as mentioned, among others, by Matless (62). In short, it becomes even harder to resist it exercise of power when, in fact, you take pleasure in it, desire it.

Now, back to theory and practice. Deleuze (208) replies back to Foucault:

“A theory is like a box of tools. It has nothing to do with the signifier. It must be useful. It must function. And not for itself. If no one uses it, beginning with the theoretician himself … then the theory is worthless or the moment is inappropriate.”

Indeed, theory is no good if it is not put to use, if it’s not practical. Citing Marcel Proust, Deleuze (208) adds:

“Treat my book as a pair of glasses directed to the outside; if they don’t suit you, find another pair[.]”

This is exactly my approach, both how I draw on others and how others can draw from me. In my case, if you find it useful, then you do, if you don’t, then you don’t. If you don’t, then, well, I’d say that you might not be understanding my theory, which, according to Deleuze (208) is not merely a revision, despite drawing from others, but a new one. For me theory is highly practical. Sheesh, I don’t include a so called theory section for … and giggles or to just mess with the reader. It’s not there for highfalutin, to one up y’all.

Now where was I? Right, so, why not opt for theory? Well, I reckon it’s less of an effort to just not care about such. It’s a bit ironic though, considering that those who skip theory in favor of practice, say, what is known as methodology, fail to recognize that theory itself is practice. Anyway, you get the same or more rewards as you would if you dedicate your resources, namely time, to engaging with such questions, so there’s little incentive to go the extra mile, but that’s only making things worse if you ask me. It is only bound to result in imperviety (imperviousness, but I prefer mine better) of thought, happily taking things as they are, in a curious academic circle jerk fueled by the desire for rationality and measurbation.

When I write articles people keep complaining that they don’t understand why the parts on landscape and space are there, how they connect to anything what I do, why I keep talking of apparition, not of appearance. Why indeed? I reckon there’s just something intellectually dishonest, albeit likely unintentionally so (it’s hard to blame anyone for something that just isn’t apparent to them, willful ignorance is another thing), about not stopping for a moment, to wonder, why someone, someone keen on examining certain spatially context dependent phenomena, i.e. not examined in isolation, especially when their apparition is tied to the abstract machine of faciliaty/landscapity, i.e. how we do not pay attention to anything besides the totality, engaging in what Mitchell (viii) calls “conscious apperception of space as it unfolds in a particular place”, would ever do such a thing. Why indeed? There’s just something very topsy-turvy about ignoring this, just putting on your plaid shirt (feel free to choose another fabric and/or piece of clothing), gearing up and going in the field to take some notes, photos or videos, and/or to interview some people about some phenomena, as if people apprehended the world that way. The power of unmediated observation must be strong in my colleagues, yet not in me, because God chose to pick on me. Sure, fair enough, seems reasonable. As Catherine Belsey (3) puts it in her 1980 publication ‘Critical Practice’ (2002 second edition here):

“[E]mpiricism evades confrontation with its own propositions, protects whatever values and methods currently dominant, and so guarantees the very opposite of objectivity, the perpetuation of unquestioned assumptions.”

Following Deleuze and Guattari, this is actually a very good characterization of axiomatics. This leads me to my earlier point about where theory ends and practice begins, what does methodology cover anyway? Belsey (3) addressed this:

“But there is no practice without theory, however much that theory is suppressed, unformulated or perceived as ‘obvious’.”

In other words, it’s actually rather hard to distinguishes the two. There is no practice without theory. Ignoring this doesn’t make it go away. We can’t even begin to examine anything without first having, to borrow from Foucault, as presented in the 1972 book ‘The Archaeology of Knowledge’ (translation by Alan Sheridan), practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak.” Simply put, there is no unmediated observation as the objects which we perceive are only conditionally rendered apparent to us. This is exactly where the examination of the abstract machine of faciality/landscapity is crucial as it, like other abstract machines, “does not function to represent, even something real, but rather constructs a real that is yet to come, a new type of reality”, as explained by Deleuze and Guattari (142). The reality as it is constructed by the abstract machine of faciality/landscapity pushes us not to pay attention to anything specific, so examining items in landscape without acknowledging this seems poorly argued for, unjustified. That’s not to say that examining objects in landscape is futile, far from it, but rather that one should tread carefully, not to become complicit and complacent in (re)producing representations, becoming pawns, useful idiots to those with ulterior motives, as Foucault (207-208) and Ronai (153) warn us.

By no means is it futile to address the material side of things. The same applies to the ideal side of things. That said, one should not ignore how it all comes together. That’s why, perhaps particularly problematically, I fail to grasp why one would involve landscape dwellers, those inhabiting it, to engage with landscape when, in fact, it goes against what they normally do. Something tells me that one only seems oneself in them then. In other words, when, not only if, people “engage in a kind of conscious apperception of space as it unfolds itself in a particular place”, as Mitchell (viii) puts it, what’s the point of pushing locals to do otherwise? I see great value in making people more aware how it all works, fair enough, but that’s a different thing. Like Deleuze and Guattari, I’m not fond of how the abstract machine operates as it not only can be used as a medium for various purposes, but it, for sure, is used for various purposes, ones that are not exactly in interest of people, but that’s exactly why I emphasize it’s importance, instead of, simply ignoring it like many others, that is to say most people, scholars and scientists included. How to put it in other words? I don’t think I should be speaking on behalf others, only myself. In that sense one would think it’d be a great thing to include the locals. Fair enough. Seems to make sense. Yet, then again, there is a subtle difference between pushing to engage with the landscape and letting them engage with the landscape. In the former case one directs them to do so whereas in the latter case they do so on their own terms. What I’m getting at here is that while it may seem productive and inclusive to let people speak for themselves, as advocated by Deleuze and Foucault in ‘Intellectuals and Power’, if one directs them to do, prompting the unprompted, one ends up speaking on their behalf in the guise of them speaking for themselves. This ought to explain why, despite agreeing with Deleuze and Foucault, I do what I do, by myself, and why I’m critical of researchers involving the locals in research. In a sense, oddly enough, it’s an ethical question. Do I speak for myself, by myself, acknowledging that I’m an expert, of sorts, or do I make use of others, the local non-experts, to bolster my own claims? As I can’t speak on the behalf of others, I opt for the former option, no question about it. I’m well aware that it’s not an everyday perspective, but I’m very open about that. I fail to comprehend how I could work around this. It might be that I’m just not thinking hard enough, there’s that, fair enough, yet something tells me that it’s not possible to work around it, at least in an experimental setup.

As I’ve explained in the past, I have witnessed engagement with landscape unfold in the company of friends and family, but it’s not like I (secretly) make recordings of the time spent with them. Even if I did that, for which I’d be for sure anathematized, it wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the priests. It’d be classified as random, anecdotal, beyond reason, irrational, not grounded in science, lacking objectivity and replicability. With regards to the former, I’d love if someone could manage that, I’d be all ears, and no, stating that this or that is not objective is no objective proof of objectivity. That’d be, well, not to sound like I’m belittling anyone, but like elevating yourself to God, which is fine by me, as long as you objectively prove that you are God. Then again, if you are God, why would you be spending your time doing such, unless that’s your thing of course. If you can prove that this is it, the absolute truth about this or that, then well, good on you, you just revealed yourself to be God. Now, I warned you that this was going to get all theological, but if you, whoever you may be, actually read what I write, not to mention keep doing so, I reckon you can handle it. Of course, this may seem like drivel, fair enough, all this talk of God. Then again, if you deny, no, not deny, that’s still fair game, but can actually prove that God doesn’t exist, doesn’t that make you God? This should explain why I focus on the apparition of phenomena, not the appearance of noumena. Hubris is only bound to lead to nemesis.

Okay, enough, enough with the tangents (for now) and back to the plateau. How is it all supported, how does the abstract machine of faciality/landscapity manage it all? Well, simply put, it’s all very complex. If only it was simple, but it isn’t, so here we go again. So, Deleuze and Guattari (181) note that it’s not just different semiotics or semiotic systems that wage war against one another:

“Very specific assemblages of power impose signifiance and subjectification as their determinate form of expression, in reciprocal presupposition with new contents: there is no signifiance without a despotic assemblage, no subjectification without an authoritarian assemblage, and no mixture between the two without assemblages of power that act through signifiers and act upon souls and subjects.”

Once again, you are … out of luck if you haven’t read the other plateaus I have covered. Anyway, in summary, assemblages are these intermediaries that have two sides and two aspects. They are both enunciative and machinic, facing both the plane of consistency and the strata, if that helps at all. Now that that got sorted out, it’s time for Deleuze and Guattari (180-181) to continue:

“It is these assemblages, these despotic or authoritarian formations, that give the new semiotic system the means of its imperialism, in other words, the means both to crush the other semiotics and protect itself against any threat from outside.”

Indeed, combining the Emperor with the Prophet, oh boy, oh boy, that is one helluva combo. The paranoia of the Emperor meets the passion of Christ! What an unholy alliance! How to put it in pop culture terms? Think of Joffrey but grant him invulnerability. Okay, to be serious, the Emperor doesn’t survive this and neither do the Prophets, as explained on the plateau on regimes of signs. They are replaced by rationality, except the priests. There’s always a niche for priests. Anyway, they (181) add that this results in relegating bodies, dismantling corporeality, reducing everything to mere language. In summary, they (181) state:

“The white wall/black hole system is constructed, or rather the abstract machine is triggered that must allow and ensure the almightiness of the signifier as well as the autonomy of the subject.”

So, as pointed out already, as elaborated on the plateau on the regimes of signs, if you thought that the despotic Emperor and the priests that come with the territory aren’t exactly the ideal or that the authoritative Prophet might not be much better alternative than the Emperor and his henchmen, well, just image mixing the two. As I pointed out already, the priests remain; bureaucrats are alive and well. The irony of it is that they no longer serve an Emperor. They get to define what’s what, what is the correct interpretation of this and that, the right think, but it’s now all in the name of pure reason, mann gegen mann. If that’s not passional, nothing is. They (181) put this in other words:

“You will be pinned to the white wall and stuffed in the black hole.”

Now, if only it would stop with you, as they (181) continue:

“This machine is called the faciality machine because it is the social production of face, because it performs the facialization of the entire body and all its surroundings and objects, and the landscapification of all worlds and milieus.”

Paraphrasing this, the face is everywhere as the abstract machine of faciality keeps on going, the proper machine it is. Relevant to own research, that is to say not ignoring the importance of faciality, this also means that there is no escaping landscape, that is to say inasmuch one does not escape the mixed semiotic. Who do? Only a handful of people do, me included, well, sort of, I guess. I acknowledge that it may come across as bragging that I manage to escape it, albeit in a rather curious way considering the seemingly esoteric nature of all this, but what can you do? There is a price pay for it, that’s for sure. As all landscape is rendered obsolete, that is to say you no longer engage in conscious apperception of space, you can no longer take pleasure in the view. Explain that to your friend next to you admiring the view in all its glory. Explain it that it no longer does anything to you and that you many, in fact, loathe the view, not for being ugly, but for what it stands for. To be honest, I’m not at all fussed personally and I know how to engage in lip service when needed. On the plus side, it also opens up a world of opportunities not previously relevant to you. You find yourself immersed in the world, focusing on what you can become, looking forward to things, rather that clinging on to what was, or, rather, what you think was. As Walter Benjamin (694) puts it in ‘Über den Begriff der Geschichte’ (see, for example ‘Gesammelte Schriften I’ pages 691-704):

“Vergangenes historisch zu artikulieren heißt nicht, es erkennen ‚wie es denn eigentlich gewesen ist.”

This translates along the lines that I just pointed out; what we say just was doesn’t mean that it just was what we say it was. Anyway, as a result, not that it has to do with Benjamin, back to Deleuze and Guattari that is, your body, as well as the world, become something to experiment, to enjoy. It’s not all there just for your inconvenience, even if can be such at times. So, as Deleuze and Guattari (181) put it:

“[T]he collapse of corporeal coordinates or milieus implies the constitution of a landscape.”

Indeed, landscape involves a curious detachment from oneself, being positioned as if outside yourself, although you hardly notice it unless you manage to escape it. Linking it back to face and faciality, in summary of what they (181) state, landscape is the inhumanity of world. To be more specific, in parallel to the face, as they (181) characterize it, landscape does not mask the world, hide it behind a mask, it is the world itself. Why that is? Well, to reiterate and summarize a previous point, as they do (181):

“[W]e have been addressing … two problems …: the relation of the face to the abstract machine that produces it, and the relation of the face to the assemblages of power that require that social production. The face is a politics.”

So is landscape then. How did it happen then? Well, the face of Jesus already got covered, so you should be able to figure this out already. That said, Deleuze and Guattari (181-182) wish to emphasize that it has to do with the de facto mixture, the combination of the signifying and the postsignifying regimes that result in this boosted imperialism, imperialism on steroids, if you will. Moreover, they (182) note that the two regimes are, as if, made for one another, containing traces of one another even in isolation, thus likely to draw towards one another. They (182) call the mixing of the two an interpenetration in which “each element suffuses the other like drops of red-black wine in white water.”

I acknowledge and so do they (181-182) that while signifiance and subjectification are two different things and the corresponding regimes of signs, the signifying regime and the postsignifying regime, are distinct, even in a mixture. That said, as they (182) point out, calling it a mixed semiotic and leaving it at that glosses over plenty of detail. What they (182) are after is that the mixture can have more signifiance than subjectification and the other way around. It’s not a neat 50/50 mixture. Not that it cannot be 50/50, but that should not be assumed. They (182-185) go on to explain how one can be dominant over the other. In summary, in the first case whatever is depicted is populated by the black hole. In the latter the white wall is dominant, crested by the black hole. Among their examples of the first case, they point to Ethiopian scrolls featuring demons and to what I think is the default template, the icon(ic) Byzantine depictions of Christ facing the observer dead on. Both cases are easy to look up, so go ahead and do yourself a favor. For an icon, look for Christ Pantocrator. It should suffice. See also the notes at the end of the book (533-534). This they (184-185) call the despotic Christ, facing the observer, lacking depth, everything on a single plane, projected towards the outside, eyes locked on you. The latter case they characterize by the turning away and the double turning away, just as it was characterized by Deleuze and Guattari on the plateau on regimes of signs. Therefore, in contrast to the Byzantine icons in which the Divine faces you, staring at you, when the white wall is dominant people avert their face. It’s now in profile. The eyes are not necessarily averted, as such, but the people are not directly facing you like in a mugshot. In their (184) words:

“This authoritarian face is in profile and spins toward the black hole. Or else there are two faces facing each other, but in profile to the observer, and their union is already marked by a limitless separation.”

They (184) go on to add that the faces can also be turned away from each other as well, pointing towards the betrayal that marks the passion in the postsignifying regime of signs, as elaborated by Deleuze and Guattari on the plateau on regimes of signs. They (184, 534) also refer to the close-ups used by Sergei Eisenstein and D.W. Griffith to exemplify. I’m not familiar enough with their films to properly comment on this. At a quick glance, for example, in Eisenstein’s ‘Potemkin’, there are a lot of intense averted faces, proper close-ups, whereas this seems to be less pronounced in Griffith’s work. Okay, I spent like three and half minutes on that, so take it as you will. Now, after explaining how face can be despotic or passional, they (185) return to the mix, pointing out that, of course, it’s possible to combine these. They (185) use Duccio’s ‘Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew’ as an example of this. It’s the image the greets you on the first page of this plateau. It’s probably better to look it up online though, to look at it in high resolution to follow their (185) line of argument: Christ and the fisherman closest to him look at each other, their faces averted from the observer, you, while has his face oriented towards you. I’d note, however, that this is tricky. The second fisherman is not exactly looking at you, so does it count? Anyway, I guess the point is that this is a mixture of both the despotic and the passional, which I take to be more passional than despotic. Perhaps my benchmark, the depthless Byzantine icon, sets the standard too high for me to see the despotism in the second fisherman. For me it has lot to do with the gaze, but perhaps I’m overemphasizing it. Now that I’m on a bit of a tangent, once more, as I pointed out in the previous essay, as the lecturer stated on the aesthetics lectures, there is something, something very intense in the stare, the gaze. Try this out, for the fun of it, look someone in the eye. It can be your significant other or a stranger, say, a cashier at a store. It might not work as well with your lover, albeit in that case you do get the intensity of it. You can get the same thing with a stranger, but there’s just something that just doesn’t feel quite right, perhaps as if you are violating them and they are doing the same unwillingly or unwittingly in response (as you pan to lock up on the person) and you suddenly feel an urge to look elsewhere, turn away. Now, that said, now that I think of it again, Deleuze and Guattari do put the face first, as they note with regards to Sartre and Lacan, so perhaps it is about the face, facing the person that does it. That would explain the second fisherman. Anyway, fascinating, one way or another.

I’m not going to attempt to explain their (185) example on how the face works in Tristan and Isolde. Opera is a bit too out of my comfort zone to say anything really. The face set up in art, be it portraiture or landscape, and in real life (not that paintings aren’t real though) I can still handle, but in music, well, maybe one day, but that day isn’t today. Same applies to their (186) commentary on how it works Proust’s ‘Swann’s Way’. I’m just not familiar (enough) with it.

The final four to five pages of the plateau (186-191) discuss how one can escape the abstract machine of faciality. It’s for sure worth reading, but I’m opting for not covering it in full detail. Do I manage to escape it. As I’ve said, I think I do. Then again, after reading this plateau in full, I wonder if I do or don’t. Maybe I do, but slip back in at times. The thing with the abstract machine is that it is not up to you to render it inoperational. In a way if you manage to escape the mixed semiotic, then yes, it indeed does cease to operate, but that only changes people and the world appears to you, not to others. Relevant to my own research then, I’m quite confident that I’m far too aware of how landscape functions, how the abstract machine operates on a world scale, how it renders everything, regardless of where you are, outdoors or indoors, makes no difference, into landscape, and how it can be used for various purposes, be it for property and/or propriety, but that does not mean that just because the world now appears no longer landscaped to me that it does not appear so to more or less everyone else, except for a handful of landscape scholars and philosophers. This is, as I argued already, exactly why I see it pointless to push others to engage with the world. Of course that does not mean, as I also pointed out, that people should not be pushed to engage with what lies in front of their eyes. It’s not only me who thinks that way. On the plateau on regimes of signs, Deleuze and Guattari (138) address the underlying issue which is located way below the surface:

“Signifiance and interpretation are so thick-skinned, they form such a sticky mixture with subjectification, that it is easy to believe that you are outside them when you are in fact still secreting them.”

Moreover, as they (188) state:

“The organization of the face is a strong one.”

So, while I acknowledge that is merely anecdotal, albeit that hits at the core of the issue if you ask me, I have experienced people comment on landscape, engaging with it by appraising its aesthetic qualities along the lines of calling it either beautiful or ugly. Okay, now that does not correspond to what I just cited above. However, this has happened, despite me explaining the issue, the pervasiveness of it, in great detail to people, yet, skip ahead some hours, and here we go again, out of the blue, this or that doesn’t fit the landscape for it ruins the beauty of landscape with its ugliness. It’s a moment of bewilderment for me. Didn’t I just explain this to you, how it works, as well as how it can be used for various purposes, purposes that may well not serve your interests. If someone can explain how I can device an experiment in which this step is skipped, do let me know. I’d honestly be grateful. I think it would be quite dishonest of me to push others to tell me of what it is that pay attention in the world. That completely ignores landscapity. The issue is, to get back to topic, outside me and I cannot wish it away on the behalf of others. People come and go, they die and new people are born, only to come to see the world in the light of the mixed semiotic. In other words, the abstract machine of faciality persists because it relies on the mixed semiotic which is reinforced by the abstract machine. It’s a sticky mixture indeed. One also has into take account the use value of it, as Deleuze and Guattari (181) make note of it by first pointing out that:

“The face is a politics.”

And then addressing it again, when pondering how to counter it (188):

“[D]ismantling the face is a major affair[.] … If the face is a politics, dismantling the face is also a politics involving real becomings, an entire becoming-clandestine.”

Their (188) solution to this is, in short,:

“Find your black holes and white walls, know them, know your faces; it is the only way you will be able to dismantle them and draw your lines of flight.”

Okay, but that’s easier said that done, as I keep experiencing with people, no matter how I explain these things. It just doesn’t compute for them. To be more specific, it’s worth mentioning that Deleuze and Guattari (188) are not advocating for a return to what was, to the presignifying semiotic. By no means do they consider it somehow not worthy, as primitive. It’s rather, as they (188) point out, that it’s not a matter of wanting to be something, as then we are just playing “African or Indian, even Chinese”, only to fail at it. Traveling somewhere exotic and supposedly primitive won’t deterritorialize you, make you one of them, reach a true connection to the world or result in finding yourself, no matter how much you try. You are already you. Trying to find yourself is stepping outside of yourself, looking into a past that never was anyway. So, as Deleuze and Guattari (189) put it, “[w]e can’t turn back” and attempting to do so is just regression, deceiving ourselves. You are not to blame for it though, as they (189) point out:

“The white wall of the signifier, the black hole of subjectivity, and the facial machine are impasses, the measure of our submissions and subjections; but we are born into them, and it is there we must stand battle.”

So, as I pointed out, you don’t get to choose where and when you are born. If that’s the mixed semiotic then it is. You can, however, pick your battles, as they point out here. So, on the positive side, they note that it is possible to, excuse the pun, face forward, work things from the inside. They (189) revert back to the point they made about the depictions of Christ, that you can make Christ into anything, taking it to any direction you wish. No one really knows what Christ looks like anyway, so it’s not like you can fail at it. Of course that opens up potential to manipulate it for other purposes as well, as it is the case with landscape, but but that’s how open ended system work. It’s not a good/bad binary. It becomes productive instead of destructive or repressive, alas, of course, you can always produce destruction or repression, wittingly or unwittingly, albeit, I guess the point is, that there’d be no distinction. Simply put, you can’t go back, you can only go forward, not to long for a past before faciality/landscapity, but to move forward to the future, deterritorialize the face and landscape, making them something else. This is sort of the point of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, not being stuck, but moving on, becoming something else, opening up yourself and the world to potential, embracing potency, not impotency.

So, to wrap things up, for now, this was quite the ordeal to get done. You have to do quite a bit (re)reading and (re)thinking to appreciate this plateau. It draws on so many things, on so many levels that it can be daunting task to go head to head with. That said, it is very rewarding. It makes you think, go the extra mile, something that I find particularly lacking these days. Part of this essay veered into criticism of how academics function not unlike other groups of people operating under the mixed semiotic. I addressed it in part in the previous essay as well, but it became relevant here again. Plus, I don’t mind it. If someone wants to criticize me, for whatever reason, fair game, go ahead, I’m open to it. I don’t hide behind anonymity or veil my criticism as if conducted at an equal footing. The politics is there. Anyway, back to commenting the plateau, I think it only scratches the surface when it comes to addressing the origins of faciality and landscapity, as well as how they are connected. The landscape part in particular could be elaborated more. It’s sort of weaved in there, which is fine when you get it, but, still, it falls bit short on explaining how landscapes came to be, how it was invented and how it was necessary to make room for the aversion of faces. I’m well aware of how it came to be and I have already addressed in part in my other essays, but I hope to elaborate it more in the future.

All Hail the Emperor! All Hail the Impiripriests!

As I covered, or, well, rather attempted to cover the plateau on the strata, titled ‘10,000 B.C: The Geology of Morals (Who Does the Earth Think It Is?)’, I kept running into what Deleuze and Guattari call a regime of signs in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ by Deleuze and Guattari (translation by Brian Massumi). They (65) point out, for example that:

“Under these conditions, there is a semiotic system on the corresponding stratum because the abstract machine has precisely that fully erect posture that permits it to ‘write,’ in other words, to treat language and extract a regime of signs from it.”

Note that they are not concerned about how language is arbitrary, which it is, in a way, in the sense that we call a table a table, not a chair (and would be the same thing the other way around if that was the case), as they (62-63) point out, agreeing that “[l]anguage is the interpreter of all other systems, linguistic and nonlinguistic.” It’s worth emphasizing that this is, as they (63) point out, the abstract character of language and rather obviously so. At the same time, they (62-63) state that it is the interpreter, resulting in translations. Instead, what they (63-66) are concerned about is what they call the imperialism of language, or more specifically the imperialism of the signifier over language, and how it permits it to have illusory reach, yet actual consequences. It is in this context that they (63) state:

“A formation of power is much more than a tool; a regime of signs is much more than a language.”

A few pages later, they (66) define it as not “reducible to words but to a set of statements arising in the social field considered as a stratum[.]” They (66) actually speak of the form of expression in this context, but noting that “[it] is what a regime of signs is”, in reference to the previous sentence I formulated a bit differently from the original. The example they (66) are following is Foucault’s analysis of delinquency as a form of expression and prison as a form of content. In Foucault’s parlance these are discursive and non-discursive formations. It is worth emphasizing that as they (66) note, and as does Foucault, that the form of expression, the regime of signs, discursive formation or discourse is not just about words, not just about language, but more-than-language. To be more specific, Foucault (49) states in the ‘Archaeology of Knowledge and The Discourse on Language’ published in 1972 (translated by Alan Sheridan):

“Of course, discourses are composed of signs; but what they do is more than use these signs to designate things. It is this more that renders them irreducible to the language (langue) and to speech. It is this ‘more’ that we must reveal and describe.”

This is why I coined the hyphenated more-than-language. Language is arguably particularly important to it, but discourse is not limited to it, standing in some sort of isolation from what else is there. The plateau consists of a number of examples that Deleuze and Guattari object to, but as I’ve covered them in an earlier essay, it’s not worth reiterating everything, otherwise I end up rewriting it. Elsewhere, before I move on to the plateau concerning this essay, it’s worth stopping at a prior plateau where Deleuze and Guattari (83) state:

“[T]he assemblages combine in a regime of signs or a semiotic machine.”

Indeed, as they (83-84) continue, there are multiple regimes of signs, not just a or the regime of signs:

“It is obvious that a society is plied by several semiotics, that its regimes are in fact mixed.”

Aside making note of its plurality and calling it a semiotic machine, they (88) also call it the regime of enunciation. Conversely, they (108) also speak of the form of content as the regime of bodies. Anyway, after shortly addressing one of the concepts on certain other plateaus, it is time to move on to plateau number five, titled ‘B.C.-A.D. 70: On Several Regimes of Signs’ in the same book. Yes, yes, a whole plateau, some whopping 38 pages dedicated to this concept alone. Deleuze and Guattari (111) open up by defining the concept, once more, but this time there is no mucking about, you having to figure it out all by yourself in relation to other concepts:

“We call any specific formalization of expression a regime of signs, at least when the expression is linguistic. A regime of signs constitutes a semiotic system.”

Now, of course, this is, at least for me, a very neatly defined concept, but it might not open up as easily had I not dedicated my time on at a glance seemingly unrelated plateau on different strata. As I pointed out in an essay on that plateau, I didn’t do it for no apparent reason, but rather to make more sense of this plateau. They (111) sort of prove my point almost immediately:

“But it appears difficult to analyze semiotic systems in themselves: there is always a form of content that is simultaneously inseparable from and independent of the form of expression, and the two forms pertain to assemblages that are not principally linguistic.”

Ah, yes, it’s all so, so very messy as language does not exist in neat isolation from everything. For the sake of argument, however, they (111) are willing to play ball with such:

“However, one can proceed as though the formalization of expression were autonomous and self-sufficient.”

Only to point out that it makes little difference (111):

“Even if that is done, there is such diversity in the forms of expression, such a mixture of these forms, that it is impossible to attach any particular privilege to the form or regime of the ‘signifier.’”

Remember here, from the previous essays, Deleuze and Guattari are not exactly keen on the signifier-signified pair. But that’s just as a reminder if you managed to forget that or just didn’t read the other essays or the plateaus (which you should anyway). Anyway, they (111) continue and clarify their position on this:

“If we call the signifying semiotic system semiology, then semiology is only one regime of signs among others, and not the most important one.”

Note here that they refer to semiology, not semiotics. The former has to do with the signifier-signified couplet, the latter with Peircean semiotics that the two ascribe to with certain adaptations and modifications, as pointed out in an earlier essay. Their (65) take is on the plateau on strata. Instead they (111-112) advocate in favor of something else (which is covered on the plateau dealing with linguistics):

“Hence the necessity of a return to pragmatics, in which language never has universality in itself, self-sufficient formalization, a general semiology, or a metalanguage.”

After pointing out what they’d prefer, they (112) move on to address what they call “the signifying regime of the sign” or shortly “the signifying sign.” Here they (112) provide a lengthier discussion of the arbitrariness of language, how signs are not merely arbitrary in the sense that the signifier is whatever it is called, say table, but what we call a table has nothing inherently table to it, but also how signs refer to other signs in infinite deferral. Hence they (112) state:

“That is why, at the limit, one can forgo the notion of the sign, for what is retained is not principally the sign’s relation to a state of things it designates, or to an entity it signifies, but only the formal relation of sign to sign insofar as it defines a so-called signifying chain. The limitlessness of signifiance replaces the sign.”

Now, it’s worth noting that Deleuze and Guattari are not exactly saying anything that others, their contemporaries hadn’t also said. What I find more interesting is their (112) comparison of signification, that of semiology, to their adapted Peircean semiotics:

“Not much attention is paid to indexes, in other words, the territorial states of things constituting the designatable. Not much attention is paid to icons, that is, operations of reterritorialization constituting the signifiable. Thus the sign has already attained a high degree of relative deterritorialization; it is thought of as a symbol in a constant movement of referral from sign to sign.”

Now, it’s worth going back a bit, to point out that Deleuze and Guattari (65) take index, symbol and icon from Peirce but adapt them to work with the concepts of territorialization. Here, as pointed out, they see sign as highly relatively deterritorialized. It’s not absolutely deterritorialized as otherwise it would be obliterated out of existence, or so to speak. Anyway, they (112) continue, reiterating that “[t]he signifier is the sign in redundancy with the sign”, meaning that “[a]ll signs are signs of signs”, hence the infinite deferral, the chain of signification. So, they (112) state that signs don’t signify something signifiable but refers to other signs in a network of signs “without beginning or end” that project themselves “onto an amorphous atmospheric continuum” that plays the role of the signified. They (112) provide a host of random examples, including stepping into dog shit, pointing out that “[i]t doesn’t matter what it means, it’s still signifying.” While using the example of stepping into dog shit might just come across as an intentional transgression of academic norms regarding writing, me included as I just reiterated it, not only one but twice, it serves to prove a point. What does it mean to step into a pile of dog shit? Nothing, absolutely nothing … yet, it signifies something, something not shitty (assuming there ever was this signified, marking the essence of shit), but something, say, unclean. That of course more or less proves the point. What is unclean? And so forth, ad infinitum. That’s why they (112) state that:

“The sign that refers to other signs is struck with a strange impotence and uncertainty, but mighty is the signifier that constitutes the chain.”

They (112) further elaborate this is impotence of actually meaning anything as characteristic of paranoiacs, people who always think someone or something is out to get them, pushing them to think ahead in order to stay ahead of the game. They (113) characterize it as being in debt infinitely, tragically simultaneously existing as the debtor and the creditor. Therefore it’s always about staying ahead of the game, but never actually managing that, always in a loop, in infinite return, always eventually ending where you were, as they (113) characterize it. When it comes to the marked paranoia and hysteria of it, who’d be the one to have the most to fear? Well, following their (113-114) rather lengthy elaboration of it as a hallmark of an imperial system, it is, of course, the Emperor! They (114) call it the Despot, but that’s another word for the Byzantine Emperor, the viceroy of God. Emperors, be they Roman or Byzantine (feel free to extend the list), or anyone in essentially the same position, say, the General Secretary, the Führer, the Duce, the Doge or the Pharaoh (once again feel free to continue the list), are the sole top dogs, so they only stand to lose. No matter how great they are, how great the Empire is, you might always fall down a flight of stairs, drown in a bucket or the like. There are whispers everywhere. Pretenders are out to get you. The peasants might rebel at any time.

Summarizing Deleuze and Guattari (113-114), there are regulated, as well as prohibited or exclusive, concentric circles of signs with centers of signifiance with different thresholds for crossing one circle to another. In the center of it all is the Emperor. Deleuze and Guattari (114) state that as the chain of signification is a constant flux, it faces constant entropy that must be countered with not only expanding the circles but also by replenishing them, providing something new to replace the old, whatever succumbs to entropy. They (114) note that this necessitates interpretation and results in fixing portions of the instability, making what really just is unknowable, as it always was, to knowable. They (114) call this the formalization of the sign which is really only a mere deception. I have elaborated this a couple of times already in different contexts and I keep mentioning priests in my essays, but here we have them (114) explain what they mean by priests. Deleuze and Guattari (114) define priests as the bureaucrats of the Emperor, the ones in charge of interpreting how it is, whatever it is that happens to be, pertinent in the Empire. They (114) characterize priests as deceivers:

“[I]nterpretation is carried to infinity and never encounters anything to interpret that is not already itself an interpretation. The signified constantly reimparts signifier, recharges it or produces more of it. The form always comes from the signifier. The ultimate signified is therefore the signifier itself, in its redundancy or ‘excess.’”

This is, or should be, sort of obvious. When there truly isn’t anything truly signified, it’s just an endless loop of signifier after signifier, no matter how the priests claim otherwise. The priests will, obviously tell you otherwise and try to persuade you to abandon such worrisome thoughts. If you remain unconvinced, you may find yourself anathematized. They may also whisper loudly enough to trigger the paranoia in the Emperor. They (114) move the discussion from the Emperor’s faithful bureaucrats to a more contemporary thema, to psychoanalysis in which interpretation culminates in interpretosis, subjecting oneself to oneself in an infinite loop, never reaching anything but signifiers behind signifiers behind signifiers, ad infinitum, as one would expect really. If you push hard enough, you’ll end up facing, no kidding, you’ll see, the master signifier, the supreme leader, the center of the universe, the Emperor, the viceroy of God, the finite embodiment of the infinite. Deleuze and Guattari (115) call this the face and the redundancy it bears faciality. More specifically, they (115) define it as:

“The face is the Icon proper to the signifying regime, the reterritorialization internal to the system. The signifier reterritorializes on the face. The face is what gives the signifier substance; it is what fuels interpretation, and it is what changes, changes traits, when interpretation reimparts signifier to its substance. Look, his expression changed. The signifier is always facialized. Faciality reigns materially over that whole constellation of signifiances and interpretations[.]”

Now you might be wondering how this connected to the Emperor. Well, it’s rather obvious that just like it is the case with the priests, the Emperor is, just like those who seek to sit on the throne, a mere pretender, but the Emperor considers it the divine right to sit on the throne. I guess one could also state that the Emperor is also the embodiment of the Empire, but we’ll eventually get to how faciliaty is not just about the face. Maybe that won’t be in this essay or in this plateau, but it’s not off to point that out here. Anyway, they (115) elaborate:

“The despot-god has never hidden his face, far from it: he makes himself one, or even several. The mask does not hide the face, it is the face. The priest administers the face of the god. With the despot, everything is public, and everything that is public is so by virtue of the face. Lies and deception may be a fundamental part of the signifying regime, but secrecy is not.”

They (115) make another observation, pointing out how the face works not only as presence:

“He looked at me queerly, he knitted his brow, what did I do to make him change expression? I have her picture in front of me, it’s as if she were watching me … Surveillance by the face, as Strindberg said. Overcoding by the signifier, irradiation in all directions, unlocalized omnipresence.”

If we go back a bit, back to icons, what do they portray? Well, they typically contain the face and the upper body of Christ or a Saint, with emphasis on the face, as well as the hands, even when covered by a riza. They are not just depictions of people, regardless of their level of divinity. They are not only looked at, but they also look back. That is, I believe, the point made by Deleuze and Guattari (115) here. I think it’s worth adding that, to my knowledge, it’s uncommon for anyone else, that is to say those non-divine, to face the observer of a painting. Only God, in any of the manifestations, does that. Others avert their face. It’s fascinating to look at old paintings and photos. People actually do avert their face. It’s rarely someone dead on facing you, not to mention staring right at you. Anyway, I think we’ll get to this eventually as well, even if in other words.

I’m going to skip the scapegoating business they (116) elaborate as I’ve covered that before. In summary though, the point is that the antibody of the Emperor is someone who is made faceless. This sort of connects to losing one’s face. I’ve mentioned it and argued it before already, but it’s worth emphasizing that this god-despot and bureaucrats arrangement is by no means archaic or if it is, it’s rather neoarchaic. In their (116-117) words:

“The dreary world of the signifier; its archaism with an always contemporary function; its essential deception, connoting all of its aspects; its profound antics. The signifier reigns over every domestic squabble, and in every State apparatus.”

In practice then, they (116) state that it’s:

“[A]pplicable not only to the imperial despotic regime but to all subjected, arborescent, hierarchical, centered groups: political parties, literary movements, psychoanalytic associations, families, conjugal units, etc.”

In other words, the imperial despotic regime of signs is alive and well, even if the Emperor is not. In fact the Emperor was never actually necessary. The face is all that is required. Of course, having a living breathing face, one that is the embodiment of it all, does actually help a ton, but, as they say, it’s the thought that counts. Anyway, moving from the signifying regime of signs to something prior to it. Deleuze and Guattari (117) introduce the presignifying regime which they characterize as lacking the “reduction to faciliaty as the sole substance of expression” and “the elimination of forms of content through abstraction of the signified.” They (117) add that it’s also marked by:

“[P]luralism or polyvocality of forms of expression that prevents any power takeover by the signifier and preserves expressive forms particular to content; thus forms of corporeality, gesturality, rhythm, dance, and rite coexist heterogeneously with the vocal form.”

In other words, it’s far from being restricted to one voice as other forms of expression are not rendered irrelevant. They (117) further characterize it as marked by semiotic segmentarity, plurilinearity and multidimensionality which is not reduced to “any kind of signifying circularity.” Most importantly, however, they (117) note that, unlike in the signifying regime, the sign is not in infinite deferral of signs as the relative deterritorialization of signs is marked by “a confrontation between the territorialities and compared segments from which each sign is extracted[.]” As a result, they (117-118) add, the sign is not put into a reserve if it goes out of use or become transformed into something else, for some other use, but just abolished or cannibalized. They (118) note that this practice of abandoning a sign, rather than recycling it, should not be seen as “function[ing] by ignorance, repression, or foreclosure of the signifier.” Simply put, as they (118) note, there is no “universalizing abstraction, erection of the signifier [and] circularity of statements” which result in putting into place various state apparatus, installing a despot and the accompanying henchmen. The type of people they (118) associate with this regime of signs, the presignifying regime of signs, are hunter nomads.

I pondered earlier on whether to include the previous regime of signs and what comes after it, the countersignifying regime of signs, but in the past I haven’t really addressed them, so why not. Anyway, so, in contrast to the presignifying semiotic, the countersignifying semiotic is represented by what they (118) characterize as “the fearsome, warlike, and animal-raising nomads[.]” So, if the first one is the imperial (despotic) one, the one with the Emperor (Despot) and the clergy, like in, say, the Byzantine Empire and the second one is more along the lines of hunter gatherers, people who live off the land, like the Apsáalooke (Crow), as mentioned by Deleuze and Guattari (113) as an example in contrast to the imperial Hopi, the third are exemplified by the steppe nomads, such as the Avars, Cumans, Magyars, Khazars and Mongols to name some. They (118) state that unlike the second semiotic, this third semiotic is marked “less by segmentarity than by arithmetic and numeration.” After pointing out that numbers are, of course, part of segmentarity, how would you segment otherwise, and also present in the imperial bureaucracy, they (118) characterize the use numbers in the countersignifying semiotic:

“[M]arks a mobile and plural distribution, which itself determines functions and relations, which arrives at arrangements rather than totals, distributions rather than collections, which operates more by breaks, transitions, migration, and accumulation than by combining units[.]”

What is meant by this more specifically, bearing particular relevance to arrangements and distributions, is the way things are organized “into tens, fifties, hundreds, thousands, etc.” like in, erm., an army, as they (118) point out. Now, they (118) are quick to emphasize that armies belong to state, not to the steppe nomads. The steppe nomads didn’t have armies, as such, as they function in these large stacks, counted accordingly, as they (118) point out. Using the word horde is only accurate, but only in the sense that it indicates the sheer numbers involved. It is, in fact, worth noting that Deleuze and Guattari (117-118) do not label the pre- and countersignifying semiotics as primitive, hence using the wording “the so-called primitive[.]” Their (118) preferred characterization is the “nomad war machine” which functions as directed against the state apparatus, hence the moniker countersignifying. More specifically, they (118) state that the war machine:

“[T]urns back against the great empires, cuts across them and destroys them, or else conquers them and integrates them to form a mixed semiotic.”

It’s worth noting here that not only are there regimes of signs, but they also mix, as pointed out above. But before getting into that, it’s also worth pointing out that the war machine is not seen as some primitive, uncivilized horde of simpletons on horses out to wage war abroad. Deleuze and Guattari address these things in more detail in a separate plateau, but I’m not going to involve a plateau sized detour just to prove a point. I haven’t delved that much into the nomad segments of the book, but I remember Deleuze stating in the L’Abécédaire series of interviews with Claire Parnet that nomads differ from the sedentary by never actually traveling, never having a trajectory, from A to B and so on. In other words, you can never be abroad if you have no home. There is no being on the road. It’s similar to seafaring but instead on land. Landfaring? I guess the same applies to war as well, so there’s no war/peace binary. The way I think it is is that those on the receiving end perceive it as war, whereas for the nomads it’s more like someone has put stuff on their way, occupied the space they traverse. Among other things, Deleuze (37-38) states in ‘On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature’, included in ‘Dialogues II’ with Claire Parnet, first published in English in 1987 (translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, the one I’m looking at is the 2009 edition), one of the fascinating things with nomads is that they have “neither past nor future”, something which, according to him, is hardly ever understood or appreciated.

After mentioning the mixing and coexisting of the semiotics, that there is a multitude of regimes of signs, the listing provided by the two being arbitrary limited, Deleuze and Guattari (119) turn their attention to the fourth regime, the postsignifying regime which is not marked by signifiance unlike the signifying regime but by subjectification. Juxtaposing the regimes once more, they (119-120) posit the signifying regime as “a paranoid-interpretive ideal regime” and the postsignifying regime as a passional subjective regime. Moreover, they (120) characterize the postsignifying regime as:

“[D]efined by a decisive external occurrence, by a relation with the outside that is expressed more as an emotion than an idea, and more as effort or action than imagination … by a limited constellation operating in a single sector; by a “postulate” or “concise formula” serving as the point of departure for a linear series or proceeding that runs its course, at which point a new proceeding begins. In short, it operates by the linear and temporal succession of finite proceedings, rather than by the simultaneity of circles in unlimited expansion.”

They (119-120) exemplify this and the contrasting with the signifying regime with delusions, the signifying being marked by delusional interpretive paranoia and the postsignifying being marked by delusional grievances or passions. They (120) note that “people in the first group seem to be completely mad, but aren’t” as they remain quite capable of running things, even if they hear whispers everywhere and talk to God. In contrast, they (120) characterize the latter group of people as “those who do not seem mad in any way, but are, as borne out by their sudden actions” including but not limited to “quarrels, arsons [and] murders[.]” Simply put, the first set of people seem mad, but aren’t, whereas the second set of people seem just fine but are mad. This is why the two (120-121) state that “the psychiatrist was born cornered, caught between legal, police, humanitarian demands, accused of not being a true doctor, suspected of mistaking the sane for mad and the made for sane,” which results in, on one hand, pleading for understanding and better treatment for those who seem mad and, on the other hand, tighter scrutiny, surveillance, keeping tabs on those who do not seem mad as they are the ones actually mad but in hiding until they burst into action. Oddly enough, they (121) note that the paranoiacs tend to be well off people, bourgeoisie, not only Emperors, and the passionals tend to be less well off, working class and rural people. They (121) add that while it is by no means always the case, it happens to be, rather conveniently so:

“But God and his psychiatrists are charged with recognizing, among these de facto mixes, those who preserve, even in delusion, the class-based social order, and those who sow disorder, even strictly localized, such as haystack fires, parental murders, declasse love and aggression.”

So what they are saying is that the labels tend to apply to certain classes not because they necessarily do, but because the people in position to do so assign them to people by class. They (121) then move on to discuss how signs operate in the postsignifying regime, stating that they are no longer positioned on an “irradiating circular network” but instead “start[] running a straight line, as though swept into a narrow, open passage.” Now, I skipped a bit in characterizing the signifying regime as I had covered it before, but I have to point it out shortly here. They (121) characterize this straight line as a line of flight (escape, not literally flying, unless it is the case), but unlike in the signifying regime in which a line is indeed possible but it is marked as negative, the line in the postsignifying regime is positive. The negative line they (121) speak of is that of the scapegoat, the outcast, who is, as the label tells us, scapegoated, essentially for the common good, or so we are told anyway, and cast off to die somewhere else, as discussed by the two (116). The scapegoat does actually get to leave the circles of society, to go his or her own way, but it is hardly by choice and the person in question is doomed to fail and therefore it’s a negative line of flight. In stark contrast then, they (121) state that the positive line is “occupied and followed by a people who find in it their reason for being or destiny.” So, not only is the line then opted through volition, it is considered a path worthy of taking, one to be taken. While they (121-122) hesitant to attribute these regimes to certain peoples and eras, in order not to indicate them as invented by this or that people in this or that era, they exemplify this with “[t]he paranoid Pharaoh and the passional Hebrew”, how the Jewish people detached themselves from “the Egyptian imperial network” and “set[] off down a line of flight into the desert.” In other words, they (122) add that it “pitt[ed] the most authoritarian of subjectivities against despotic signifiance, the most passional and least interpretive of delusions against interpretational paranoid delusion[.]” In summary, they (122) note that in the Jewish context turning the negative line of flight into a positive one is that of becoming your own scapegoat, taking the hit, bearing the brunt, voluntarily.

Turning to the mixing aspect that I skipped for a bit, Deleuze and Guattari (119) note that there is more than meets the eye, something bubbling under the surface:

“Perhaps all semiotics are mixed and not only combine with various forms of content but also combine different regimes of signs. Presignifying elements are always active in the signifying regime; countersignifying elements are always present and at work within it; and postsignifying elements are already there.”

After stating that, they (119) warn not to take that too essentially, that the mixtures function in certain order and in certain ways once mixed. They (119) further note that they “are not suggesting an evolutionism … not even doing history.” Instead they (119) argue that:

“Semiotic systems depend on assemblages, and it is the assemblages that determine that a given people, period, or language, and even a given style, fashion, pathology, or minuscule event in a limited situation, can assure the predominance of one semiotic or another.”

So, when they pit the Pharaoh against the Hebrews led by Moses, it’s a bit overly convenient to label as simply this vs. that as the regimes in both cases are probably mixed and/or affected by certain active elements from the other regimes. They (122) make note of this after pitting them against one another:

“There is a Jewish specificity, immediately affirmed in a semiotic system. This semiotic, however, is no less mixed than any other.”

To be more specific, they (122) characterize it as:

“On the one hand, it is intimately related to the countersignifying regime of the nomads[.]”

And (122-123):

“On the other hand, it has an essential relation to the signifying semiotic itself, for which the Hebrews and their God would always be nostalgic: reestablish an imperial society and integrate with it, enthrone a king like everybody else (Samuel), rebuild a temple that would finally be solid (David and Solomon, Zachariah), erect the spiral of the Tower of Babel and find the face of God again; not just bring the wandering to a halt, but overcome the diaspora, which itself exists only as a function of an ideal regathering.”

So, indeed, it’s all messier than simply pitting Moses against the Pharaoh, people against an Emperor. It’s just easier to provide examples when they aren’t very convoluted. It’s how reduction works anyway. It’s actually surprising that they go down this road on this plateau, offering simple examples first and then point out to the complexity, rather than the other way around. Then again, the book is not exactly consistent in its presentation, so what can I say. It is what it is. After discussing the mixing of semiotics, they turn to discussing what this means in terms of faciliaty and we get to examine how it relates to turning one’s head. Deleuze and Guattari (123) state that “[f]aciality undergoes a profound transformation” which results in the aversion of God’s face. More importantly, however, they (123) note that this aversion of face extends from God to people who also end up averting their face “gripped by a veritable fear of the [G]od.” So, to put it simply, the signifying regime is marked by “the frontal view of the radiant face” whereas the postsignifying regime is marked by the face in profile, as characterized by the two (123).

When it comes to characterizing the postsignifying regime further, the two (123) define it as “the regime of betrayal, universal betrayal” of God, turning one’s face away from the face. This is for the two (123) the hallmark of prophetism, not doing the same old, same old, whatever is expected of a person, but turning away, fleeing from the face of God. It’s not as simple as that as that’s actually not necessarily what God is after, blind loyalty to clergy, as they (123) explain. If this seems a bit off, going against God in order to do what God wants, it’s probably better let the two (123) explain it, using their Jonah example, in which Jonah does not do what he is told to do, go and put certain betrayers in order, but rather just sets sail elsewhere, incurring the wrath of God himself and taking it upon himself, thus actually doing what he was set to accomplish (not to do, but to accomplish). As they (123-124) put it in other words, Jonah anticipated God. By doing so Jonah betrays God, who then betrays Jonah, hence there is not only one face but two faces that are averted, hence, I believe, what they (125) call the double turning away. Their (124) Jesus example is probably a bit easier to follow:

“[Jesus] betrays the God of the Jews, he betrays the Jews, he is betrayed by God (‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’), he is betrayed by Judas, the true man. He took evil upon himself, but the Jews who kill him also take it upon themselves.”

They (123-124) also use Cain and Abel as an example, but it’s not worth going through all of them, especially when Deleuze and Guattari themselves point out that there are many others besides “Cain, Jonah, and Jesus [who] constitute three great linear proceedings along which signs rush and form relays. … Everywhere a double turning a way on a line of flight.” Anyway, the point about Jesus is that, in their (124) words, he “universalizes the system of betrayal.” They (124) then reiterate the point made about how prophets actually do exactly what they are to accomplish but by disobeying God. They (124) add, however, that it’s not that the prophet, or that is to say the to-be-prophet, finds the task or mission too much of a burden to bear, unlike an oracle, a seer or a priest who refuses such out of fear of danger. They (124) also characterize the prophet as fueled by the passion of God that gives the prophet authority. In contrast to the priest then, they (124) add, the prophet does not interpret, nor does the prophet have any capability or competence to do so as “God puts the words in his mouth” instead. It’s this anticipation, doing what is to be accomplished rather than what one is told to do, that makes the prophet a future oriented figure in their (124) books whereas the priests rely on applying the past and the present, doing what one is expected to do on the basis of what one knows.

If the Biblical examples are too much to handle, too theological or something, they (124-125)also use Oedipus as an example, similar to that of Cain. Now, that’s also, perhaps, a bit too mythical and dusty to the taste of some people, so how about something more contemporary instead. Well, their (125) last example is psychoanalysis, which they summarize as:

“Psychoanalysis is a definite case of a mixed semiotic: a despotic regime of signifiance and interpretation, with irradiation of the face, but also an authoritarian regime of subjectification and prophetism, with a turning away of the face[.]”

You might now be wondering how the first part seems about right, it being an analysis of sorts after all, but what about the second part? Well, the silly billy that I am, I cut the final segment from the cited passage. That’s actually just to provide emphasis on it. Anyway, they (125) continue:

“[T]he positioning of the psychoanalyst behind the patient suddenly assumes its full significance[.]”

Ah, see, you can’t see, hence the averted faces. I’ll let them (125) finish, to point out that they are not exactly keen on psychoanalysis, at all:

“Two absolutely different regimes of signs in a mix. But the worst, most underhanded of powers are founded on it.”

How so? Well, they (125) characterize the mixture as involving “a linear proceeding of subjectivity along with a circular development of the signifier and interpretation.” They (131-132) return to address psychoanalysis again later on, this time emphasizing how in it the patient becomes the subject of statement, essentially just speaking to him- or herself, perpetually in a loop, from one linear proceeding to the next one, from one segment to another, never actually reaching anything, except “growing submissive to the normalization of a dominant reality.” While it’s not directly linked in their discussion of this, they (125) also classify Christianity as a mixed semiotic, making use of Roman imperialism and Jewish subjectivity, involving certain orthodoxy of thought and the pesky heresies that crop up here and there, every now and then. Something tells me that Foucault would see a connection here, that of pastoral power, of confession, that is also present in psychoanalysis which takes it to a next level. That’s why I thought it’s convenient that they follow psychoanalysis with a short discussion of Christianity. Of course, I might be seeing into things too much here. Anyway, you could throw in a number of heresies of, for example, Catholicism and Orthodoxy, say, Bogomilism, Catharism, Fraticellianism, Hussitism, Iconoclasm, Lollardism, Messalianism, Nestorianism, Paulicianism, Waldensianism, on top of the ones you’ve probably actually heard of, the ones nested in protestantism. The reason for listing some here and indicating that people probably haven’t heard of them is to point out how effectively they were stamped out, with appropriately heavy hand, of course. Getting back on track, shifting to the one that people might actually know of, protestantism, Deleuze and Guattari (126) state that:

“Luther …. [the] traitor to all things and all people; his personal relation with the Devil resulting in betrayal, through good deeds as well as bad.”

Now, of course, Martin Luther is not the only traitor, even if he is the best known traitor, but, as I pointed out, it has to do with how well heresies were put to an end before his time. I can’t remember for sure, but I think this is something that got and probably still gets glossed over in school. You learn about Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism, at least in the form of Lutheranism, as well as, I guess, Calvinism, but that’s about it. It tends to come across as if everything was uniform all the way to Luther, but that’s hardly the case. There were plenty of traitors warranting murder way before him. It’s not like there’s ever been a shortage of wrong thinkers. Deleuze and Guattari (126) clarify that in Christianity it’s no longer about betraying God, accomplishing the will of God by disobeying, but instead about betraying the followers of God, so now it’s a human matter. For example, Luther hardly qualifies as a prophet. He gets denounced and excommunicated as a deceiver, while, as Deleuze and Guattari (126) put it, he is actually a traitor among deceivers working against the deceivers and the imperial deception. Deleuze (44-45) aptly summarizes this in ‘On the Superiority of Anglo-American Literature’:

“Many people dream of being traitors. They believe in it, they believe they are. But they are petty tricksters. … For it is difficult to be a traitor, it is to create. One has to lose one’s identity, one’s face, in it. One has to disappear, to become unknown.”

I think one could use other terms as well, posit sorcerers against priests, heretics against the orthodoxy, etc. So, as they point out, it’s far easier to do more of the same, do what you are told, play by the rules, not rock the boat (feel free to come up with more of these) than it is to challenge the orthodoxy of the priests who’ll never do anything of the sort because it’s a rocky road and they like the comfort they already enjoy. Now, if only it was that simple, there’s that, hence issue taken with heretics. Deleuze and Guattari (126) ponder the underlying problem with heretics, noting that “every deceiver is mixed”, that is to say not only of the signifying kind but also that the postsignifying kind, which makes it possible for any deceiver to consider him- or herself to be a betrayer, after all, it’s entirely possible. They (126) then reverse this, pointing out that as every betrayer is mixed, which results in self-doubt whether one is actually a betrayer or a mere deceiver. In other words, how do we know which supposed prophet or reformer is the real deal and not a mere fraud? That’s probably besides the point already, but surely something worth returning at another time.

So far, I, and they, have ignored how God remains important if the faces are averted. They (127) state that in the postsignifying or passional regime the face, God, becomes verbalized and inscribed into writing. They (127) note that in this regime books are understood as recited literally, without any interpretation or commentary, not to mention changes. I’d add possibly even forbidding translation, considering that it results in change by necessity. They (127) add that this is the hard line of passionalism, the one that they attribute to Islam. If you think of it, that might sort of explain the Islamic aniconism, sorry for the pun, the aversion to depicting faces. Albeit it’s not exactly the same thing, but you sort of get this with Iconoclasm as well, albeit in a more strikingly violent way of condemning idolatry. Anyway, they (127) state that alternatively, I guess in the less strict end of passionalism but not in the signifying regime, there is interpretation but it is confined to the book itself. In addition, they (127) add, the interpretation may become unmediated, that is to say not the task of experts who base it on the book itself, but directly open to anyone who has the heart for it, or so to speak. For Deleuze and Guattari (127) the last one is even worse than it would be if only read by self-interested clergymen or pious scholars who attempt to grasp its meaning as self-contained because it’s then the beginning and the end of everything, all there for you to access without any connection to anything outside side it, well, besides the reader that is. That’s why for them (127) this results in books of canonized authors such as Marx and Freud, among others, becoming Bibles. I think that’s well put, how something not the Bible, and in this case someone, can be the Bible of something. It’s worth realizing that this applies to Deleuze and Guattari as well, just as it does to Foucault who I am in the habit of citing every now and then. However, I’d say that I’m under no illusion that they know it all or that they are infallible. It’s much better to learn from them, and others, not to simply take their word for it. That’s sort of the point of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ anyway.

How does one become a here… manages to take a passional line? Deleuze and Guattari (128-129) explain that the necessary point of subjectification needed to draw a line of flight or deterritorialize, say, like Moses or Descartes, “can be anything.” They (129) clarify that all that is needed is certain characteristics:

“[T]he double turning away, betrayal, and existence under reprieve.”

The last one I did not explain, yet, but this they (123), following Franz Kafka in ‘The Trial’, also refer to as indefinite postponement, as in the story of Cain who becomes marked by God, severely punishment but not killed. So, in other words, the betrayer remains alive and, actually, must remain so. In the other example, Jonah must survive in order to achieve what God wanted, otherwise it’s not accomplished. To use a contemporary example of a point of subjectification, they (129) speak of anorexics, to whom food becomes the point of subjectification and pushing them to indefinite postponement as they do not end up starving to death, yet at the same time are pushed to betraying food, which, incidentally, betrays the anorexic by being a suspect, possibly intending to harm the body by “containing larvae, worms, and microbes.” They (129) go on to provide a host of alternatives, hence the point made about the potential of the point being anything. I’m not exactly sure about this, well, to be honest, I rarely am but I keep going regardless, but among the examples they (129) make a point about how the face can crop up again, as in the case of lovers, but not in the sense used before. Anyway, the point they (129) make, I think, I mean the wording is a bit hard to follow, which sentence is part of the same example, but they go on to indicate that “[t]here are cogitos on everything”, just having a face or something seems like a face, anything that has a pair of eyes. This is a bit off topic now, but this links to an earlier essay I wrote where the status of animals and plants was discussed. It’s easy to consider animals, namely the fuzzy ones with a pair of eyes, as worthy of life due to this, but leave out the ones that don’t have a face or don’t match the criteria set for the face. So, for example, creepy crawlers don’t count, too many eyes, not a pretty face, or the like. Moreover, the completely, or, well, at least seemingly completely, unindividual forms of life, namely trees and fungi just simply do not count. They don’t have face, hence they are not subjects, thinking or not, so they are fair game. Timber!

I went on a tangent there, so, getting back on track, Deleuze and Guattari (129) argue that not only can the point of subjectification be almost anything, there are multiple points that operate simultaneously:

“[S]everal points coexist in a given individual or group, which are always engaged in several distinct and not always compatible linear proceedings. The various forms of education or ‘normalization’ imposed upon an individual consist in making him or her change points of subjectification, always moving toward a higher, nobler one in closer conformity with the supposed ideal.”

So, as I’ve argued in previous essays, individuality tends to get mixed with dividuality. Here Deleuze and Guattari are, to my understanding, explaining dividuality. We are pushed to think we are this or that, sometimes in competition, in mutual exclusion, in attempt to match an ideal. It’s sort of obvious that if you cleave, you end up with a division, this vs. that, if you are this, then you are not that and the other way around. If you manage to shake the ideals, say, with regards to sexuality, to follow Foucault, you only manage to create more division, end one proceeding, only to end up on another, creating another point of subjectification with its own ideal, one that you or someone else is bound to fail to meet. Deleuze and Guattari (129) further elaborate this process:

“Then from the point of subjectification issues a subject of enunciation, as a function of a mental reality determined by that point. Then from the subject of enunciation issues a subject of the statement, in other words, a subject bound to statements in conformity with a dominant reality (of which the mental reality just mentioned is a part, even when it seems to oppose it).”

So, from the point, whatever that happens to be, to subject, the one that speaks, from that subject to another subject, the one that is spoken to, resulting in bounding the subject in statements. In other words, you end up defining reality through yourself, which ends up bounding you to the confines of that reality, well, assuming I got this right. I think I did, as they (129) further open this up:

“What is important, what makes the postsignifying passional line a line of subjectification or subjection, is the constitution, the doubling of the two subjects, and the recoiling of one into the other, of the subject of enunciation into the subject of the statement[.]”

Now, I think it’s worth mentioning, while it is rather obvious, we aren’t who we are in the absence of others. I don’t mean that we are only who we are in the presence of others, but we’ve become who we’ve become, in any given moment in time, regardless where we are, in relation to others. There’s always that social aspect to it. They (129) continue on this:

“The subject of the statement has become the “respondent” or guarantor of the subject of enunciation, through a kind of reductive echolalia, in a biunivocal relation.”

They (129) condense this to:

“There is always an appeal to a dominant reality that functions from within[.]”

In other words, what they (130) characterize as “[a] strange invention” involves a doubling of the subject which in one form seems to function as “the causeof the statements of which, in its other form, it itself is a part.”

It’s worth emphasizing that this, as they (129-130) explain, is highly important as it renders God and/or the Emperor unnecessary. You no longer require some external majestic entity to tell who you are or aren’t and where you are to be situated in the realm, hence they (130) define it as an immanent cause. I’ve discussed this before, but it’s worth reiterating, so, as they (130) exemplify this:

“This is the paradox of the legislator-subject replacing the signifying despot: the more you obey the statements of the dominant reality, the more in command you are as subject of enunciation in mental reality, for in the end you are only obeying yourself! You are the one in command, in your capacity as a rational being. A new form of slavery is invented, namely, being slave to oneself, or to pure ‘reason,’ the Cogito. Is there anything more passional than pure reason? Is there a colder, more extreme, more self-interested passion than the Cogito?”

It’s a strange invention indeed. You are your own worst enemy, evidently so, that is if you engage in dividuality, defining yourself as this and that, and you probably do, because you inherited this semiotic from others (hence the social aspect of it). Anyway, one way or another, it’s only highly ironic, to engage in obeying yourself, as if you are external to yourself, as if someone else, say the oppressive Emperor, was putting you down, persecuting you for failing to adhere to the ideals, the norms. The somber note is that it’s just unnecessary and arguably particularly harmful to individual, likely going against his or her own interests, hence my earlier point about addressing dividuality with further division.

I’m not going to elaborate much further on the doubling of the subject, as I remember doing that once already. I might have done a poor job at that, so I’ll cover this shortly anyway. I reckon people can look this up themselves if they want this in greater detail. Anyway, Deleuze and Guattari (130) make note of a linguistic phenomenon in which the subject of enunciation, the one speaking refers to him- or herself, arguably in a rather redundant manner, doubling oneself by using the ‘I’, for example when stating something like “’I believe, I assume, I think…’” This might be going a bit off topic, but why is it that I have to state ‘I’ when, well, it’s sort of obvious that it’s you who is stating something. When I talk to someone, why do I refer to myself, as if it wasn’t me otherwise? Why say something, such as, ‘I think that’s silly’ when you could just say ‘That’s silly’. Okay, someone might then object that it’s then clearer that it’s you who considers something silly, not just anyone or everyone. Then again, it’s possible to counter that with pointing out that why would you think that I speak for others? Perhaps this is more absurd in the verbal context than it is in writing in which it’s handy to differentiate or emphasize who’s who, to avoid putting words in to the mouths of others. In reverse then, I actually find not referring to oneself by using ‘I’ or otherwise indicating it also problematic. In academic writing, say, when it comes to articles, you are supposed to avoid it. It’s curious why that is, considering that it’s arguably deceptive to phrase something as objective or objectively stated as that potentially lends it credibility beyond you. Anyway, back to them as they (130) object to considering a mere linguistic matter:

“This is not, however, a question of a linguistic operation, for a subject is never the condition of possibility of language or the cause of the statement: there is no subject, only collective assemblages of enunciation. Subjectification is simply one such assemblage and designates a formalization of expression or a regime of signs rather than a condition internal to language.”

I opted to skip, well, not skip, but to relocate the bit the two provide on psychoanalysis next to an earlier point about it, so I’ll jump to the following bit, commenting on consciousness or the cogito. Relevant, if not summarizing nearly everything that has to do with the passional or postsignifying regime, they (131) emphasize that “cogito is a passion for the self alone.” They are, sort of, stating that the cogito is about loving yourself, in the sense that one is passionate about oneself, perhaps even obsessed about it, doomed to perpetually betraying oneself. That may seem like going a bit too far with the obsessiveness of it, but it has to do with their (131) characterization of love between two people as the cogito for two, the doubled consciousness, a perpetual switcheroo of the subjects, the subject of enunciation and the subject of statement, going back and forth, back and forth, eventually resulting in betrayal. I can hardly do justice by not being elaborate with this, but in short they (132) exemplify the betrayal of cogito for two with domestic or conjugal squabbles and the betrayal of the cogito with an office squabbles, in which one legislates oneself like a bureaucrat.

The next bit I probably wouldn’t cover unless it was relevant to another plateau I wish to have a look at. Anyway, they make note of redundancies, both in the signifying and the postsignifying regimes. It was already established that the signifying regime involves redundancy that has to do with signs. The important bit here is to point out how they (133) refer to this regime developing “a kind of ‘wall’ on which signs are inscribed, in relation to one another and in relation to the signifier.” They (133) then characterize the redundancy of the postsignifying regime as having to do with “shifters, personal pronouns and proper names” and refer to it as “a black hole attracting consciousness and passion and in which they resonate.” They (133) state that what these entail then is deterritorialization, but that’s only relative even if highly so in the signifying regime as signs only refer to others signs, “and the set of all signs to the signifier itself[.]” They (133) remind us that in this regime the line of flight is negative, as in the case of the scapegoat, whereas in the postsignifying regime it’s positive, making it possible to “attain[] an absolute deterritorialization expressed in the black hole of consciousness and passion.” Now, this made me wonder for a moment, considering that absolute deterritorialization means the dissolution or combustion of something. How does that work, at all? They (133) argue that it wouldn’t, unless it wouldn’t manage to repudiate, to relativize the absoluteness by going from one finite proceeding to another, bit by bit that is, never really leading anywhere, thus always recapitulating the passions and grievances, giving them new forms. They (134) summarize this quite neatly:

“Thus subjectification imposes on the line of flight a segmentarity that is forever repudiating that line, and upon absolute deterritorialization a point of abolition that is forever blocking that deterritorialization or diverting it.”

They (134) provide a reason for this, why this happens, by pointing out that “forms of expression and regimes of signs are still strata … subjectification is no less a stratum than signifiance.” Now, unless you haven’t read the plateau addressing strata, this probably won’t convince you. They just leave you hanging if you haven’t read that part of the book. If you have read it, what they (134) specify, that “[t]he principal strata binding human beings are the organism, signifiance and interpretation, and subjectification and subjection” will make a lot more sense, not that you need to get too tangled up on this. Anyway, the point is that the line ends up segmented before it would actually reach the plane of consistency, or as they (134) put it:

“Subjectification carries desire to such a point of excess and unloosening that it must either annihilate itself in a black hole or change planes.”

Something tells me that while evidently critical of the postsignifying regime, they are not exactly advocating for the annihilation of oneself in a black hole. The discussion veers into a talk on the body without organs, but that will be a topic for another essay or other essays, so I won’t venture further up that alley here. In summary though, that’s their solution, if you can call it that, to the issues caused by the cogito and the cogito for two.

It’s worth it to point out that while the two go on and on about the different semiotics or regimes, they are not saying that they exists by themselves, in some pure form. They (135) specifically state this, indicating that what they’ve done is to isolate them artificially, to explain them better. Moreover, as they point out already, and reiterate the point (136), none of them are totally unique in their characteristics as they are mixed to some degree. What they (136) wish to emphasize is that none of the four are privileged, considered better than the others, nor more general than the others. How one becomes another they (136) call transformations: analogical (into presignifying), symbolic (into signifying), polemical or strategic (into countersignifying), conscious-related or mimetic (into postsignifying) and diagrammatic (when absolute deterritorialization is reached). They (136) add that this list of transformations is not complete as transformations may turn them into something completely new. For them (136), transformations are not the same as translations but rather involve them. It’s worth remembering here that translation is not understood simply as from one language to another, but more broadly, in this case from semiotic to another. It’s also worth remembering that as explained by the translator Brian Massumi (16) in his 1992 publication ‘A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia’: “Translation is repetition with a difference.” They (137) go on to provide examples which are too numerous to cover here, but I assume people can look them up themselves.

What I find particularly important about this plateau is their (138) reminder that it is particularly hard to shake off the semiotics, especially the signifying and postsignifying ones, and it’s also hard to judge whether you’ve managed it or not. Earlier on I found their elaboration of the ‘I’ particularly interesting and here they (138) return to it, pointing out:

“[I]t is relatively easy to stop saying “I,” but that does not mean that you have gotten away from the regime of subjectification[.]”

I thought of this myself. What if I just start avoiding it, but that makes little sense as the issue is not actually the use of it, but rather how it is used,as they (138) also point this out:

“[C]onversely, you can keep on saying ‘I,’ just for kicks, and already be in another regime in which personal pronouns function only as fictions.”

I reckon I’m doing exactly that. I don’t mind using I, accompanied by various verbs, including the ones they used in their discussion of this. I know it’s a bold, if not outlandish claim to make, to have managed to slip outside subjectification, but I reckon I’m outside of it. At least I keep repeating how my views on how an individual is exactly that, an individual, not a dividual, which I find particularly important in this discussion. I think I’m future oriented, always in the process of becoming. It doesn’t obliterate who I am, as I constantly am and cannot be nothing but what I am, at all times, but what that is is subject to change, regardless of my own volition to change. I can claim all I want that I’m this or that, say physically fit, but that’s just an observation of what actually just was, not what is. That’s further apparent when I write about it in a linear fashion. It’s not like I’m describing myself in real time here and even if I am, I actually change while I am explaining it. Obviously what I am, regardless of what I am, will have certain impact on what I can become, there’s that, granted. You have to work with what you got. That’s just baked in. I can imagine that I have wings or that I can somehow grow them but that’s not going to lead to me taking aerial shortcuts to places all the sudden. Becoming, the way I understand it, is about working on yourself, in the positive sense. In the negative sense, if you want to dread on that for some reason, it’s about not staying the same. Unless I’m getting it wrong, if you opt not to improve yourself, say by working out, your fitness will take a hit. You’ll have to work on things just to maintain certain fitness. Imagine if that was not the case. You could skip all training and return to it some weeks later, or, well, whenever really, as if nothing happened. Same with injuries. This example might be trivial to people, but it’s worth noting that, again, unless I get things wrong, we all age and that itself leads to various changes in us. I find it kind of pointless to fuss about who I am, when it’s clearly not up to me to decide. I understand that people may find it demoralizing that they cannot cling to a fixed identity, one that anchors them, but I think it’s simply better not be stuck in what was rather than to think what can be. Things don’t stay the same, why should you? The world, that is to say the society, other people in general, doesn’t actually help with this though. Going your own way is hardly rewarded, rather the opposite, so you’ll find yourself tempted to do as others do, play by the rules, stick with the program, not question the priests as it involves the least resistance. This is actually already veering to getting outside the signifying regime though, which is up next.

Deleuze and Guattari (139-140) elaborate how it is that one could escape the signifying regime. As I pointed out, it’s not something that can be achieved easily as most people don’t see any issue with it. That’s why they (139) indicate that “the most profound transformations and translations of our time are not occurring in Europe.” The context closest to them, France, is as good an example you can find in this regard. This issue is better addressed on the plateau on the postulates of linguistics, one before this plateau, but, in summary, the point is that there is very little opportunity to change anything when language is seen as fixed, i.e. standardized and everything that deviates from it is, well, just substandard. I’d say there is more plurality these days, but even the variants end up being fixed. So, for example, as I believe I explained in the postulates essay, when I’m told that people around where I live speak in a certain way, that is in a certain dialect, I find it hard to buy into it. It’s sounds like someone gathered some data on how people speak, or used to speak, in a certain geographical area, as if there were sharp boundaries marking that area, and then synthesized it, arguing that this is it, this is how people here speak. Well, maybe they did, but my experience, using language and being surrounded by people who do the same, they do not. So, it’s as if even the variants end up standardized. As Deleuze and Guattari (139-140) explain this:

“Pragmatics should reject the idea of an invariant immune from transformation, even if it is the in-variant of a dominant ‘grammaticality.’ For language is a political affair before it is an affair for linguistics; even the evaluation of degrees of grammaticality is a political matter.”

In other words, they are arguing in favor of understanding language as dynamic, constantly negotiated and evolving, not centered around a constant, according to which everything judged upon. In fact, they find it problematic that grammaticality is set as a standard as one should pay attention to who gets to set the standards and what they are based on. Go somewhere else, outside Europe in the words, and you’ll find all kinds of naughtiness, people abusing your dear, dear language, not adhering to the rules and what not. I’m particularly amused when I read that something must be written in this or that standard. Says who? I reckon no one. Feel free to point me to the Emperor though. I’d love an audience. This is why you should leave a couple of typos in a text, (supposedly) mispronounce a word or, even better, go off-key abruptly, just to see if and how people are slaves to their own rationality. It’s particularly amusing when an academic snaps at you for such. The elitism of it is palpable. Anyway, do I manage to escape the signifying regime? I think I do, at least I find myself in agreement with Deleuze and Guattari on this. Is it easy living with that, like that? Well, no, regardless of the hilarity that ensues when, for example, you explain how discipline functions, only to be disciplined for it. It’s very tempting to just get with the program, slip back in, become just another deceiver. The priests don’t have to worry about such as deception is their trade anyway. Of course there’s always doing lip service, but I think I’ve grown weary of that.

After explaining each semiotic or regime of signs and pointing out that they’ve artificially purified them to what one could label as existing only in laboratory conditions, doing that for the sake of the clarity, they (140) return to what they started with, going full circle to define the concept once more, first by asking a question:

“What is a semiotic, in other words, a regime of signs or a formalization of expression?”

So, as you can see for yourself, a regime of signs is a semiotic or a formalization of expression. So if you struggle reading this plateau and/or elsewhere, you can clearly see that they speak of them interchangeably. Anyway, they (140) answer their own question:

“They are simultaneously more and less than language. Language as a whole is defined by ‘superlinearity,’ its condition of possibility[.]”

Okay, this is well in line with their previous statements and reminds me of how Foucault defines discourse. Anyway, what might surprise you, they (140):

“[I]ndividual languages are defined by constants, elements, and relations of a phonological, syntactical, and semantic nature.”

Right, so, this may come as a bit surprise for them to state, but then again, if one pays attention to the first two words, they actually point out how what we consider this or that language, as a distinct entity, is defined by the invariants. They (140) do not disagree with this, indicating that:

“Doubtless, every regime of signs effectuates the condition of possibility of language and utilizes language elements, but that is all.”

In other words, just as with the arbitrariness of language, they point out that this is, actually, obvious. So, it’s not like language doesn’t have the elements it makes use of. Anyway, they (140) continue:

“No regime can be identical to that condition of possibility, and no regime has the property of constants. As Foucault clearly shows, regimes of signs are only functions of existence of language that sometimes span a number of languages and are sometimes distributed within a single language; they coincide neither with a structure nor with units of a given order, but rather intersect them and cause them to appear in space and time.”

It’s worth remembering that a regime of signs, semiotic or a formalization of signs is not the same as language, instead of effectuating them. So, just as it with discourse, as defined by Foucault, it has a lot to do with language but it is not synonymous with language or reducible to it. Further defining the concept, Deleuze and Guattari (140) add:

“This is the sense in which regimes of signs are assemblages of enunciation[.]”

This, assemblages of enunciation, is something that crops up quite a bit in the book, so it’s definitely something worth keeping in mind. I have discussed it before in previous essays, here and there, so I won’t go elaborating it more than what is presented by the two here. In other words, I won’t search for it elsewhere in the book. Anyway, they (140) clarify the concept:

“[It] cannot be adequately accounted for by any linguistic category: what makes a proposition or even a single word a ‘statement’ pertains to implicit presuppositions that cannot be made explicit, that mobilize pragmatic variables proper to enunciation (incorporeal transformations).”

From here, it’s worth paying attention to the last bit, incorporeal transformations. It’s something that I’ve covered in the past, but anyway, I’ll let them (140) continue:

“This precludes explaining an assemblage in terms of the signifier or the subject, because both pertain to variables of enunciation within the assemblage. It is signifiance and subjectification that presuppose the assemblage, not the reverse.”

So, as they (22) point out in the introduction, all they know are assemblages, the assemblages come first. Having read, that is if you have read, the plateau on strata will help you to understand why that is, but let’s not get stuck with that. While they have already argued that there is something artificial in examining the regimes as distinct from one another, as completely unique (with no overlap), and they note that the regimes are capable of being transformed into other regimes or totally new regimes, they (140) do note that the regimes are, nevertheless, distinct in the sense that they are not simply evolutionary as they vary quite considerably, namely in terms of their “functions or varieties of assemblages” that “correspond to them (segmentarization, signifiance and interpretation, numeration, subjectification).” It would be rather counterproductive of the two to explain page after page about certain regimes of signs and their features, only to collapse them into an unformed continuum. Of course that doesn’t, in my view, eliminate how they contain certain features from one another and how they can be mixed or coexist, which, is evidently the case. So, in summary of how regimes of signs are to be understood, they (140) state:

“Regimes of signs are … defined by variables that are internal to enunciation but remain external to the constants of language and irreducible to linguistic categories.”

In other words, language does not define the regimes of signs but the other way around, as they are more-than-language. They are not ignoring language, but saying that there is more to all of this. However, that said, going back a bit, to an earlier statement, they (140) counter their own statement, pointing out that a regime of signs is not only more-than-language but also less-than-language, which, for them, explains why it is also more-than-language:

“Only one side of the assemblage has to do with enunciation or formalizes expression; on its other side, inseparable from the first, it formalizes contents, it is a machinic assemblage or an assemblage of bodies.”

Now, highly importantly, we get another crucial concept that is worth keeping in mind: machinic assemblage. They (140) go on defining the concept, but they warn the reader first not to confuse or conflate contents for signifieds in any shape or form, the same with objects having to do with bearing causality in relation to the subject. If you’ve read the plateaus on strata and/or linguistics, this shouldn’t seem at all odd. That said, it’s not a given that you have, maybe you opted to read this plateau first, so this warning is necessary. Anyway, they (140) further explain this:

“[Contents] have their own formalization and have no relation of symbolic correspondence or linear causality with the form of expression[.]”

Instead, they (140) argue:

“[T]he two forms are in reciprocal presupposition, and they can be abstracted from each other only in a very relative way because they are two sides of a single assemblage.”

If something is worth keeping in mind, to be taken from this in particular, it’s the bit on reciprocal presupposition, not relegating one as subordinate to the other. To clarify “the forms in presupposition”, if you are not familiar with the terms from other parts of the book, they (141) state that they are “forms of expression or regimes of signs (semiotic systems) and forms of content or regimes of bodies (physical systems).” On a following page, they (143) clarify that “[e]xpression then constitutes indexes, icons, or symbols that enter regimes or semiotic systems” and that “[c]ontent … constitutes bodies, things, or objects that enter physical systems, organisms, and organizations.” If you don’t want to dig deeper, read the other related plateaus like I did, there you have them, probably in as plain form as you can find them explained in the book. However, linked to the assemblages or assemblage that has two sides, to be more specific, is something what they (140-141) call “still more profound” than the assemblage:

“This is what we call the abstract machine, which constitutes and conjugates all of the assemblage’s cutting edges of deterritorialization.”

Again, if something is to be taken from this, in case you haven’t read the stuff I keep recommending, it’s the concept of the abstract machine. What follows, their (141) critique of Chomskyan linguistics, should not come as a surprise, considering that Deleuze and Guattari reject relegating the abstract machine to be based only on language. To be more specific, they (141) see such as ignoring the form of contents, the regimes of bodies, the physical systems, which results in a crippled abstract machine, an abstract machine that “is not abstract enough because it is limited to the form of expression and to alleged universals that presuppose language.” Therefore, as explained in greater detail on other plateaus, they (141) argue that:

“A true abstract machine has no way of making a distinction within itself between a plane of expression and a plane of content because it draws a single plane of consistency, which in turn formalizes contents and expressions according to strata and reterritorializations.”

Here it’s worth noting that, as explained elsewhere in much greater detail, on the plane of consistency the content and expression are not formalized, whereas outside it they are once they are stratified. In other words, pay attention to distinction made here, content and expression are not the same as form of content and form of expression. Anyway, back to the abstract machine, which they (141) further elaborate:

“The abstract machine in itself is destratified, deterritorialized; it has no form of its own (much less substance) and makes no distinction within itself between content and expression, even though outside itself it presides over that distinction and distributes it in strata, domains, and territories.”

Moreover, they (141) add that unlike what it formalizes, contents and expressions, it “is not physical or corporeal, any more than it is semiotic[.]” Instead, they (141) define it as diagrammatic, “know[ing] nothing of the distinction between artificial and the natural either”, “operat[ing] by matter, not substance; by function, not by form.” They (141) are keen to clarify that:

“Substances and forms are of expression ‘or’ of content. But functions are not yet ‘semiotically’ formed, and matters are not yet ‘physically’ formed.”

Therefore, for them (141):

“The abstract machine is pure Matter-Function – a diagram independent of the forms and substances, expressions and contents it will distribute.”

In other words, it’s worth emphasizing that the abstract machine is highly functional, highly operational. If you are confused by what they mean by substance and matter, which aren’t covered in much detail on this plateau, they (141) provide a clarification:

“Substance is a formed matter, and matter is a substance that is unformed either physically or semiotically.”

I know it’s redundant to state this, but for laughs you could say that matter is unformed matter, whereas substance is formed matter. They (141) add that a matter-content has to do with intensities, such as “intensity, resistance, conductivity, heating, stretching, speed, or tardiness.” They (141) further define function, as distinct from content and expression:

“[F]unction has only ‘traits,’ of content and of expression, between which it establishes a connection[.]”

In other words, they (141) add that a function-expression has to do with tensors, “as in a system of mathematical, or musical, writing.” They (142) further elaborate this on the following, reiterating that there is no distinction of content and expression on the plane of consistency, so:“The diagram knows only traits and cutting edges that are still elements of content insofar as they are material and of expression insofar as they are functional[.]”

More on the diagram then, to provide a better definition, they (141) state:

“The diagram retains the most deterritorialized content and the most deterritorialized expression, in order to conjugate them.”

How this occurs, they (141-142) explain, is by one trait or element being maximally deterritorialized or deterritorializing, “caus[ing] the other element to cross a threshold enabling a conjunction of their respective deterritorializations, a shared acceleration.” Therefore, for them (142), the abstract machine involves an absolute, positive deterritorialization. Bearing relevance to the discussion on the plateau on the strata, contra Peirce (as explained in the notes, see page 531), they (142) then back up the separation of diagrams from icons:

“That is why diagrams must be distinguished from indexes, which are territorial signs, but also from icons, which pertain to reterritorialization, and from symbols, which pertain to relative or negative deterritorialization.”

After distinguishing the abstract machine, or rather the diagram as the abstract machine is rather diagrammatic, from indexes, symbols and icons, they (142) clarify the function, the role of the abstract machine:

“[A]n abstract machine is neither an infrastructure that is determining in the last instance nor a transcendental Idea that is determining in the supreme instance. Rather, it plays a piloting role.”

They (142) quickly reiterate this in other words, arguably proving much needed clarity:

“The diagrammatic or abstract machine does not function to represent, even something real, but rather constructs a real that is yet to come, a new type of reality.”

So, to put it bluntly, it’s not a structure or a representation of reality. Instead, as the name indicates, it’s a machine, it constructs it. They (142) further emphasize that it is not something fixed, standing outside history, but always prior to it. Returning to the conjugation, they (143) elaborate that the further it goes, “the deeper the movement”, an absolute deterritorialization, which “appears only in the form of respective territorialities, negative or relative deterritorializations, and complementary reterritorializations.” Moreover, they (143) add that:

“All of this culminates in a language stratum that installs an abstract machine on the level of expression and takes the abstraction of content even further, tending to strip it of any form of its own.”

If this seems a bit hazy, they are putting their criticism of understanding the abstract machine as limited only to the form of expression, ignoring the form of content. This, also discussed on the other plateaus I’ve covered so far, they (143) speak of as “the imperialism of language, the pretensions to a general semiology”, how language has this (im)posture, extending from the alloplastic strata to the other strata. They (143) go on to explain this conversely, what happens to content and expression on the strata, using the same concepts as explained in borderline excruciating detail on the plateau on strata. The problem here is that the summary they provide is very loaded with concepts that you might be unfamiliar with, so I recommend reading the plateau on strata, even if it may be tedious to read about geology and biology. I won’t go citing it, because it is so jam-packed that explaining it would require delving back to the plateau on strata, going on and on, and on and on. Just gloss over it, get what you get out of it, but return to it once you’ve read the relevant plateau.

Deleuze and Guattari (143) move to juxtapose a diagram or diagrammaticism, with an axiom or axiomatization, pointing out that an axiom is the opposite of a diagram. Relevant to the concepts, they (143) bring up mathematics, indicating that it become axiomatized. This is, I believe, assuming that I remember correctly, something that Deleuze also brings up in ‘Difference and Repetition’, how, for example, differential calculus is open ended whereas what follows, set theory, is a closed system, the bastardized version of it, if you will. They (144) go on to elaborate how science is not unlike anything else, in the sense that it has its own internal politics, its own polemics, no matter how people keep telling you otherwise. I reckon it’s worth emphasizing that these are internal not external, as they (144) do:

“The phrase ‘the politics of science’ is a good designation for these currents, which are internal to science and not simply circumstances and State factors that act upon it from the outside[.]”

So, as I’ve pointed out a number of times in the past, yes, there are external actors that influence science, “leading it to make a[n] atomic bomb here and embark upon a space program there”, as they (144) put it. That said, it can’t all be explained by external meddling, be it by private or public. There are different interests, schools of thought and the like within science or academics. It also has “its own internal war machine” that Deleuze and Guattari (144) attribute as “thwart[ing], persecut[ing], or hinder[ing] scientists[.]” Making their way to axiomatics, they (144) add that it not only ignores invention and creation but “it [also] possesses a deliberate will to halt or stabilize the diagram, to take its place by lodging itself on a level of coagulate abstraction too large for the concrete but too small for the real.” Simply put, as I pointed out, and have pointed out in the past, closed ended systems are handy as they are self-contained, explained by their own internal logic. That said, as Deleuze and Guattari (144) state, such systems are fixed, having no room for novelty.

Moving on, skipping bits they (144-145) provide on how diagrammatics and stratification are linked (good summary, but I would need to explain the strata again…), I’ll jump to another point they make about assemblages. They point out that there are two assemblages or rather two sides of assemblages, the collective assemblages of enunciation and the machinic assemblages. Here they (145) add that they have two poles or vectors:

“[O]ne vector is oriented toward the strata, upon which it distributes territorialities, relative deterritorializations, and reterritorializations; the other is oriented toward the plane of consistency or destratification, upon which it conjugates processes of deterritorialization, carrying them to the absolute of the earth.”

It is pointed out on the plateau on strata (71) that assemblages are intermediaries and that is also implied here, orienting towards the strata as well as the plane of consistency. In more simple terms, they (145) clarify:

“It is along its stratic vector that the assemblage differentiates a form of expression (from the standpoint of which it appears as a collective assemblage of enunciation) from a form of content (from the standpoint of which it appears as a machinic assemblage of bodies); it fits one form to the other, one manifestation to the other, placing them in reciprocal presupposition.”

However, this is only half of the story, so they (145) add:

“But along its diagrammatic or destratified vector, it no longer has two sides; all it retains are traits of expression and content from which it extracts degrees of deterritorialization that add together and cutting edges that conjugate.”

After further clarifying assemblages, not only having two sides and two vectors, functioning on the plane of consistency, as well as the strata, Deleuze and Guattari (145-146) move back to the core concept of the plateau, regime of signs, summarizing that a regime of signs has four components: generative, transformational, diagrammatic and machinic. The first component, generative, has to do with how a form of expression, located on the alloplastic stratum (interestingly they speak of the language stratum here), appealing not only a to specific regime of signs but “to several combined regimes.” Simply put, this means that a regime of signs is mixed, being linked through language. They warn that this does not mean that one is above others or that one “constitutes a general semiology and unifying forms.” The second component, transformational, has to do with translations and transformations, how a regime “can be translated, transformed into another” or in its own right created from other regimes. The third component, diagrammatic, has to do with particles-signs are extracted from regimes of signs or forms of expression, a process of deformalization, resulting in unformed traits that are “capable of combining with one another.” They emphasize that not only is “[t]his … the height of abstraction, but also the moment at which abstraction becomes real.” In other words, it operates in both directions, it’s at that cusp. This is where the abstract machine comes in and operates, abstracting not not only forms of expression but also forms of content, unlike in language only abstract machines what they refer to as an absurdity. The fourth component, machinic, has to do with how the abstract machine effectuates, yields concrete assemblages, giving form to the unformed traits of expression and traits of content. They emphasize that, once again, unlike in the case of an abstract machine that is limited to language, that is to say the form of expression, it is necessary that both content and expression are taken into account as they are in reciprocal presupposition. In other words, you can’t one without the other. This is because at this stage the are, as they clearly point out, unformed, which prevents the form of expression functioning all by itself as self-sufficiently. Once again, it’s worth noting that reading the plateau on strata is particularly helpful in this regard as it provides a closer look at this process. That said, they way it’s explained here is more lucid though.

After summarizing their views on regimes of signs, they (146) turn to pragmatics, that is to say how they consider pragmatics. They (146) also use schizoanalysis as another label for pragmatics, but I won’t get caught in that. Perhaps I’ll address that at another date. Anyway, they (146) connect pragmatics to regimes of signs, indicating that the components just elaborated represent its four components. To add something, rather than just rewording things around, they (146) state that the purpose of pragmatics is to make tracings “of the mixed semiotics”, to make “transformational map[s] of the regimes, with their possibilities for translation and creation, for budding along the lines of tracings”, to make “the diagram[s] of abstract machines … either as potentialities or as effective emergences” and to outline “the program[s] of the assemblages that distribute everything and bring a circulation of movement with alternatives, jumps and mutations.” It’s worth noting that in each case what is introduced is linked to the aforementioned components, pairing tracing with the generative component, map with the transformational component, diagram with the diagrammatic component and program with the machinic component.

As the elaboration of the regimes of signs and pragmatics (or schizoanalysis) in the final pages of the plateau is rather condensed, albeit markedly easy to follow (unlike the book in general), it may seem rather … abstract. The final two pages (147-148) is dedicated to exemplifying this. Instead of reiterating their examples, I’m going to leave it at that. I trust people can read the examples themselves, to make more sense out of this. The crux of their (147) examples is first coming up with a proposition and then questioning it, to which regime of signs it belongs to based on its “syntactical, semantic and logical elements”, conditions that must be met for it to escape being empty. So, not what does this mean, but what does this mean under certain conditions. The examples they provide revolve around showing how they are understood differently under different regimes of signs. They (147) move on to point out that in the next component the purpose is to look for translations and transformations, followed by trying to come up with “new, as yet unknown statements for that proposition”, that is to say improvise, transgress the rules or, rather, bend them (as you would a diagram). The final part on assemblages they are a bit vague, but I reckon the point is to examine what assemblages emerge. They are rather elaborate on the first and second component, but the third and fourth component could use more explanation here.

Oh boy, this ended up being one long essay, the longest one so far. I considered writing about this plateau in parts, but that just didn’t work out. I intended to move on to this plateau after covering the one on the postulates of linguistics, but then I realized that I risked glossing over the non-linguistic or non-semiotic side of things. That’s why I felt it was necessary to cover the plateau on strata first, regardless of how it delves into topics that are clearly out of my comfort zone. Now, oddly enough, I’m actually doing the same here, examining this plateau, going from one concept to another, just so that the plateau I wish to address, ‘Year Zero: Faciality’, would make more sense. That plateau addresses landscape, so it’s highly important to my own research. The irony is that I make use of it and refer to those bits on that plateau in my own research, but it takes, what, about three plateaus, if not more, not to mention the other related texts, the various tangents that I have ended up on, for those bits to actually make sense to most readers. Okay, fair enough, if you are familiar with landscape research and work around the core concept, landscape, perhaps their discussion of it is not as obscure as I think it is. That said, it’s still damn obscure even with plenty of background knowledge. In my own research, article format is particularly problematic in this regard as you have to condense all that goes into it into one or two sentences. It will very likely come across as esoteric, but what can you do? It’s not like I can explain it properly, nor can I include ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ as an appendix. To be honest, I’m not particularly fond of the article format, nor the way it is conducted. It’s so archaic and takes forever for what it is, just some words on a paper or a screen mimicking paper. It’s not that I don’t see merit in it, so that people don’t blatantly falsify things or just make them up. I just find it highly impractical as it results in piecemeal knowledge, often containing plenty of redundancy which, while in a way necessary, takes away from the novelty. In other words, it just doesn’t scale well. A book can be almost anything beyond a booklet, so you can happily include everything you consider necessary to it, or not, if that’s how you want to operate, the point being that it’s not detrimental to the other parts. Now, if you scale it down to an article, at best a booklet, everything is condensed to a point that most things make little sense by themselves. What do you do? Axe the theory? Axe the materials and methods? Axe the analysis? No matter what you choose to do, someone will always find it lacking, no matter what you do.

Now, that was just the practical objection to articles. I don’t really get it why two or more unknown people, supposedly one’s peers (oddly implying that there is no hierarchy within academics, no politics internal to it) need to assess it. For what, typos, style, format? Those can be fixed in heartbeat. I could do the same thing here and I could let anyone have a go at it, even people outside the academic circles. Sounds only fair to me. I guess the problem really is what to do with the priests then? I mean surely someone has got to know it all better than others, so it only makes sense make seemingly random people (you don’t know who the priests are, unless the editors are included) tell others what’s right and what’s wrong. Can’t argue with that logic, can we now? This is even more of an issue when you operate like I do, when you can write page after page after page in a matter hours, not even days mind you, requiring supposed peers to assess your work makes little sense as it’s a matter of days or weeks for them to read it, not to mention comment on whatever you came up way back at some point in the past. I’m fast, they are slow. Okay, that’s cocky, acknowledged, but just look at this blog, this collection of essays. There’s so many pages, pushed out so rapidly that I’ve lost track of the total page count. So, to put it more mildly, it’s not only waste of my time, but it’s also waste of time for others who could be doing other things, say, writing their own texts or if that’s what they already do (supposedly), then, well, whatever people find worth doing, say, playing tennis (whatever they desire). I’m always on, there’s no this is work, now I’m at work, this is not work, I’m not at work binary for me. Sunday, Monday, makes little difference to me. I do what I desire, always in the process of becoming, not content on just being whatever it is that I’m supposed to be. Putting labels and time slots on it, how drab. I reckon I operate on a dizzying level of productivity that is hard to contain in an article. I tend to be way past what was once I wrote something, so just getting comments from others becomes useless. I tend to have fixed or changed things around at the time people point out something or suggest this or that. People just can’t keep up with me. Is it my fault? I think not. I’m sure some people will want to point out something along the lines of credibility and prestige, but I wonder, who’s credibility, who’s prestige, mine or the author’s? I think what I want to do, whatever it is in this regard, is to make things apparent to others to whom they are not apparent. I don’t need trophies or praise for that. I couldn’t care less for such. I have no intention to become a Bible, nor a priest whose interpretation of this or that is superior to those who of lesser prestige, credibility or status as a dead person, as an author. All that is highly irrelevant to me, yet I have to deal with it. Luckily that’s not on a daily basis though.

To be topical, and I kid you not, as I was writing these final bits, I get hit by an editorial response, notifying that a manuscript of mine was rejected. To be fair they were at least swift about it, taking less than two weeks to interpret it, to decide yea or nay. I’m well aware that people have other stuff to do, fair game, not read what I write. I don’t even mind being bluntly refused for that matter as that’s how the world works. Journals are owned by private entities and they are entitled to do what they will, publish this, but not that, just as some store can opt to only sell dark roast coffee even if people don’t like it. Fair game, whatever works for you, it’s not up to me to decide what you do with your property. The problem with publishing is, the economy side of it aside, that academics have set it up, surely for noble purposes, of course, but, as Deleuze and Guattari point out on this plateau, academics is not free of politics. For example, I don’t agree with this particular editorial decision, but it makes no difference if I do or don’t. I could argue against the decision, point out this or that, how the reader has glossed over this and/or that bit, how they are missing the point, not to mention how word limits pose limitations that have to do with the economy side of publishing, or well did when things were only on paper, which is only likely to result in certain omissions. I keep reading that there are concerns over rehashing one’s work, but the way things are done only lends support if not necessitates such practices. Anyway, I could do that, write polite yet critical emails to editors, but that would only be counterproductive. The thing is, the crux of it, that, for example, in this instance, I’m in a disadvantaged position in this power relation. I’m disciplined. I’m more or less told that I need to get with the program. It’s quite ironic to call other academics your peers, when, in fact, publishing is hardly marked by equal opportunity. Actually, now that I think of it, calling it peerage review would be more fitting that peer review, considering the elitism of what it entails. Therefore I don’t engage, go for counterarguments. It’s pointless and simply a waste of my own time to even consider such. I could be using that time to read, write or anything that I find desirable, so why even go there? The way it works has plenty to do with negative lines of flight. It has its own war machine, as Deleuze and Guattari (144) put it. I’m hardly axiomatic in my thought and in my practices and arguably pay a hefty price for it. I wish I could go against it all, it’s not that don’t fit the criteria, but I hardly have the resources to do. I’d just find myself strung up somewhere all the sudden. Okay, that’s hyperbolic, but I’d be at least anathematized. Sometimes you can’t do what’s right, only what’s left, which in this case does not mean abandoning wrong think though. This is why I write here, these long essays that go on and on, as long as I feel like it, containing all kinds of taint, profanity and plain wrong think. It may be that no one reads these, but I don’t mind, at least I don’t have to deal with any right think from the clergy.

Right, I went on quite a tangent there, but to wrap things up, all this, including this essay, as well as the other essays on the select plateaus, is only in preparation of another essay on another plateau pertaining to faciality, which also pertains to landscapity. This has been my grand plan all along, after deciding that my earlier essays didn’t really delve deep enough into ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. It may seem like an overkill, but that’s how I recommend spending one’s time, digging deep, doing a close reading of things that you are passionate about, unlike many (albeit not all) of my peers who are happy to rely on axiomatics, take things as they are and for sure not do anything outlandish. Anyway, to end on a positive note, to go forward rather than lean backward, next time I hope to actually get somewhere that is relevant to landscape, as well as discourse (how can you even separate these two?). There’s some good stuff in the horizon.

Would you love a lobsterman?

I was going to write it all as a single essay on the plateau titled ‘10,000 B.C: The Geology of Morals (Who Does the Earth Think It Is?)’, as contained in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ by Deleuze and Guattari (translation by Brian Massumi). However, this proved to be a gargantuan task despite the previous familiarity with the plateau and relevant prior knowledge on, for example, geological processes. It’s not that it takes that much time really, but rather that some of the plateaus are just less self-explanatory than others, requiring the reader to weave in all kinds of concepts from elsewhere in the book and at times from other sources. Of course, some of the examples are a bit, well, out of my comfort zone. It’s not like I skipped biology in school, but let’s say it’s not my forte, especially when compared to geology, not to mention linguistics. Anyway, despite my prior plans, I opted to cut the essay, so this is the follow up to that essay on that plateau. As what I write is on landscape and discourse, it may seem that addressing this plateau is going off topic quite a bit, but I believe it helps to understand the plateau on the postulates of linguistics and the final parts of this plateau move to that territory more clearly. As much as I love geology and biology, I wouldn’t spend my time on explaining them unless it had some relevance to what I do.

As a refresher, it was established that reality, or the real, is both virtual and actual, intensive and extensive, all the time, not just at some point and then it’s all fixed. I recommend looking up ‘Difference and Repetition’ by Deleuze (translation by Paul Patton) and having a closer look at pages 208 to 209 and 222, to get a rough idea of the real, virtual and actual, as well as intensities and extensities. I know that’s outside the book I’m examining, but I find those bits immensely helpful in understanding what’s on this plateau. We can also talk of the Ecumenon and the Planomenon , the formed and the unformed sides of matter, the stratified and the unstratified or destratified if something stratified becomes unstratified once more. It was also established that the strata, which you could also call layers, have layers. This is the point where double articulation comes into play, first choosing or deducting, from the unstable flow of particles or substances and imposes an order on it with connections and successions, giving the substance form. It then, in the second part, gives them structure by making them functional and compact, fitting for the purpose if you will. So, from substance to form, then from from to substance. If you struggle with this, think of how sedimentation works, materials are swept away by a current, moving them downstream and eventually depositing them beyond the stream. They then solidify, becoming stone as time passes, only to be eroded and possible carried away by some stream in the distant future beyond your lifetime. It’s worth noting that it was also established that it’s not a simple molecular vs. molar categorization. It tends to be case, but it’s not strictly speaking so. In terms of content and expression, that they generously borrow from Hjelmslev, an expression can be content for another expression, so Deleuze and Guattari aren’t simply talking of signifier and signified, masking them in other words. They are also not limiting this to linguistics or semiotics, but applying it beyond it, as evident from their use of it when discussing geology and biology.

Other concepts that were discussed last time are, notably, territory, deterritorialization and reterritorialization, code, decoding and (re)encoding. Lines of flight and milieus were also discussed, albeit none of these concepts are as central to the plateau as the strata, stratification and destrastification (or combustion). I’m going to list all the terms included in the plateau here, otherwise I’m going to just reiterate my previous essay in its full extent.

I wrapped things up after explaining most of the plateau, at least how Deleuze and Guattari present it, in general. They actually do go into specifics at times before the final parts that I’m going to cover here, but that’s probably because, well, the book is not exactly your ordinary textbook with a linear arrangement, but typically all over the place and thus inconsistent in its presentation throughout the book. It’s provides quite the challenging reading to be honest, but you just have to keep going. If you don’t get everything, don’t worry, just keep reading. I think it’s supposed to open up that way, not by getting stuck in concepts at all times and starting to draft figures and graphs. Believe me, you’ll find that attempting such will just feel highly unsatisfactory. You’ll probably even feel an urge to ditch the book, throw it around in anger (assuming you have a hard copy), but you are probably approaching it in an unsatisfactory way if that happens. I’d say you are supposed to read the book sideways and let your thinking move in different ways, not attempting to contain it or push it to a certain direction.

Anyway, rehashing a sentence here, Deleuze and Guattari go on to elaborate three different strata: the geological stratum (57), the organic stratum (58) and the alloplastic or linguistic stratum (60). I think this is a good point to wrap up things, leaving the elaboration of strata for a following essay.

The first, the geological strata they (57) characterize as:

“[O]n these strata, content (form and substance) is molecular, and expression (form and substance) is molar.”

They (57) add that these strata are somewhat simplistic:

“The difference between the two is primarily one of order of magnitude or scale. Resonance, or the communication occurring between the two independent orders, is what institutes the stratified system.”

They (57) elaborate this:

“The molecular content of that system has its own form corresponding to the distribution of elemental masses and the action of one molecule upon another; similarly, expression has a form manifesting the statistical aggregate and state of equilibrium existing on the macroscopic level. Expression is like an ‘operation of amplifying structuration carrying the active properties of the originally microphysical discontinuity to the macrophysical level.’”

Only to then exemplify this, followed by (57-58) pointing out that the expression may be impacted by other factors, various external forces, and there are various possible intermediary states between the molecular and the molar. On the geological stratum, they (57) exemplify it:

“[T]he crystalline stratum, and physicochemical strata, wherever the molar can be said to express microscopic molecular interactions (‘the crystal is the macroscopic expression of a microscopic structure’; the ‘crystalline form expresses certain atomic or molecular characteristics of theconstituent chemical categories’).

Now, this is, they (57-58) note, a simplistic example:

“Of course, this still leaves numerous possibilities, depending on the number and nature of the intermediate states, and also on the impact of exterior forces on the formation of expression. There may be a greater or lesser number of intermediate states between the molecular and the molar; there may be a greater or lesser number of exterior forces or organizing centers participating in the molar form.”

Commenting this further, they (58) add:

“Doubtless, these two factors are in an inverse relation to each other and indicate limit-cases. For example, the molar form of expression may be of the ‘mold’ type, mobilizing a maximum of exterior forces; or it may be of the ‘modulation’ type, bringing into play only a minimum number of them. Even in the case of the mold, however, there are nearly instantaneous, interior intermediate states between the molecular content that assumes its own specific forms and the determinate molar expression of the outside by the form of the mold. Conversely, even when the multiplication and temporalization of the intermediate states testify to the endogenous character of the molar form (as with crystals), a minimum of exterior forces still intervene in each of the stages.”

So, in summary, they (57-58) point out that one should not be looking at things as self-contained blobs. There’s just more than meets the eye, regardless of how much something comes across as self-contained. They (58) therefore argue that:

“We must therefore say that the relative independence of content and expression, the real distinction between molecular content and molar expression with their respective forms, has a special status enjoying a certain amount of latitude between the limit-cases.”

Now, you might still be scratching your head on this. I think it’s worth reminding how there are intensities and extensities. Limiting our senses only to vision, for the sake of argument here, we see extensities, this and that, and come to think them as such, like this keyboard and this table that the keyboard rests on. Here I’m ignoring various intensities that may or may not have effect on these items, say, for example humidity and temperature. The table is mainly made out of wood, so pending how the finish on its done, it may be prone to absorbing humidity, which could eventually result in warping it, a highly undesirable outcome for a table mind you, at least in terms of its functionality as a table that is. The keyboard is mainly plastic, so it doesn’t have much effect on it, unless the internal components get severely affected by it. After all, electronics and water aren’t known to be the best of pals. We could also discuss how something, some blob, has an impact outside itself upon contact. Some would have more impact or potential impact, others less so. Highly relevant here, Deleuze and Guattari (58) warn that the distinction between content and expression is very real indeed, not just something we perceive to be there. In other words, the distinction is not merely phenomenal but in fact noumenal, as evident from their wording of it:

“There is a real distinction between content and expression because the corresponding forms are effectively distinct in the ‘thing’ itself, and not only in the mind of the observer.”

If you are unfamiliar with the terms, for your own benefit, do consult Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ and/or Deleuze’s ‘Kant’s Critical Philosophy: The Doctrine of the Faculties’. For a brief, less formal look at this, look up Deleuze’s lectures on Kant under the title ‘Synthesis and Time’, as translated by Melissa McMahon (feel free to look it up, good stuff). The point is that the blobs are self-contained in the sense that they are separate from you and other entities, inasmuch as they are, of course, but not in the sense that they exist separate from everything else, including you, inasmuch you have an impact on them, direct or indirect. It’s worth emphasizing that it’s all very real indeed, objectively so, if you want to use that word, not just merely up to you and your faculties, subjectively so. How we come to perceive things is, of course, still relevant, but Deleuze and Guattari (58) warn while phenomenal, it’s not just phenomenal, but also nounemal, regardless of how things appear to us phenomenally.

Right, now, they (58) characterize the organic stratum as particularly complex, having a ton of intermediary states, yet it retains the formal distinctions, as well as amplifies “the relation between the molecular and the molar[.]” This should be somewhat unsurprising, considering the code side to this. They (59) use the example of nucleic acids:

“The real distinction between content and expression, therefore, is not simply formal. It is strictly speaking real, and passes into the molecular, without regard to order of magnitude. It is between two classes of molecules, nucleic acids of expression and proteins of content, nucleic elements or nucleotides and protein elements or amino acids.”

As a result the, they (59) state:

“Both expression and content are now molecular and molar.”

So, unlike in the sedimentation example, it’s not as simple as pointing out to this as having to do with scale in some order of magnitude. So, in other words, they (59) continue:

“Expression involves nucleotides and nucleic acids as well as molecules that, in their substance and form, are entirely independent not only of molecules of content but of any directed action in the exterior milieu. Thus invariance is a characteristic of certain molecules and is not found exclusively on the molar scale. Conversely, proteins, in their substance and form of content, are equally independent of nucleotides: the only thing univocally determined is that one amino acid rather than another corresponds to a sequence of three nucleotides.”

The problem for me is that, as I’ve pointed out before, I’m not exactly a biologist, not to mention geneticist. It’s not that I don’t grasp the complexity of an organism, how it functions simultaneously on multiple levels or scales, some out of control, some in control of the organism, but I admit I’m simply too ignorant in understanding the details, at least for now. I keep thinking it has to do with the code. Right, if you get it, good, if not, it might be that I’m just no good at this. Anyway, they (59) summarize the organic stratum:

“In short, what is specific to [it] is this alignment of expression, this exhaustion or detachment of a line of expression, this reduction of form and substance of expression to a unidimensional line, guaranteeing their reciprocal independence from content without having to account for orders of magnitude.”

I think they manage to get the message across better when they (59-60) point out the key difference between the geological and organic strata:

“The new configuration of expression and content conditions not only the organism’s power to reproduce but also its power to deterritorialize or accelerate deterritorialization. The alignment of the code or linearity of the nucleic sequence in fact marks a threshold of deterritorialization of the ‘sign’ that gives it a new ability to be copied and makes the organism more deterritorialized than a crystal: only something deterritorialized is capable of reproducing itself.”

Indeed, when you think of it, rocks are not capable of deterritorializing and reterritorializing. Sure, they, for example granules of sand, get swept away by a stream of water and then end up elsewhere, going from one point in space to another point, and become part of something else, say, in the form of sandstone, but it’s not exactly up to the rocks to do that. If that happens, it happens. There is no code to the rocks that would enable them to do so, or rather, as Deleuze and Guattari aptly specify, accelerate it. Moreover, as they (60) point out, the geological strata are rather limited in this respect, considering that it is “only the accessible surface can reproduce itself, since it is the only deterritorializable part.” So, if you take the sand bank example, the only surface to become deterritorialized is the exposed side. It’s not like the granules of sand beyond the reach of the point of contact get swept away. On the organic stratum, an organism is much more exposed and detached, enabling it a greater capacity for deterritorialization. I probably did a bad job at explaining the organic stratum and I apologize for that. Maybe in the future I can devote more to understanding biology better or get someone else to open it up for me better. Anyway, I think I get it on a level that is helpful in general, so on to the third stratum.

Deleuze and Guattari (60) refer to the third stratum as the alloplastic stratum. They (60) note that while it is very much a human stratum, they don’t call it ‘homoplastic’ as its effects are not limited to humans. In other words, it’s not just about humans, but about humans in relation to the external world. With regards to content and expression, they (60) state:

“Form of expression becomes linguistic rather than genetic; in other words, it operates with symbols that are comprehensible, transmittable, and modifiable from outside.”

So, on this stratum, expression has, in a way, even more potential than on the organic stratum, not to mention on the geological stratum. Coding moves from a genetic code to linguistic coding. Starting from content, Deleuze and Guattari (60) state:

“What some call the properties of human beings – technology and language, tool and symbol, free hand and supple larynx, ‘gesture and speech’ – are in fact properties of this new distribution.”

Deleuze and Guattari (60-61) refer again to Leroi-Gourhan, as introduced in the previous essay, and point out that, for example, the human hand is not a mere organ, just there, swinging about, but also a coding, “a dynamic structuration, a dynamic formation (the manual form, or manual formal traits).” They (61) note that once extended to tools, the hand is not merely general form of content anymore and neither are the tools, for that matter. They go (61) go even further back with this:

“Not only is the hand a deterritorialized front paw; the hand thus freed is itself deterritorialized in relation to the grasping and locomotive hand of the monkey.”

They (61) add that the deterritorialization of front paws results in their reterritorialization as hands, as with monkeys, but it also result in the deterritorialization of rear paws into feet, another reterritorialization. In other words, as the front paws are freed to do other things, as hands as we know them, the rear paws must be adjusted accordingly to compensate for this change. They (61) then move on to discuss the speech related organs, stating that:

“The substance involved is fundamentally vocal substance, which brings into play various organic elements: not only the larynx, but the mouth and lips, and the overall motricity of the face.”

They (61) exemplify this by pointing out that mouth becomes deterritorialized and then reterritorialized to produce speech. It’s not just pie holes anymore. Moreover, they (61) add that part of the mouth becomes deterritorialized and reterritorialized as lips. They (62) provide an amusing characterization of this:

“What a curious deterritorialization, filling one’s mouth with words instead of food and noises.”

As a side note, they (61-62) also make note of how mammary glands, that’s the female mammary glands, become deterritorialized as breasts. I believe they only point this out due to the linkage to lips, the connection being the nursing period, but I’d say the reterritorialization plays an extended role, hence the supposed obsession in breasts rather than mammary glands. Anyway, getting back on track, they (62) connect two reterritorializations, that of the hand and that of the mouth, arguing that the free hand freed the vocal system to do more than to express one’s territory. They (62) provide another humorous statement:

“To articulate, to speak, is to speak softly. Everyone knows that lumberjacks rarely talk.”

This is probably overly humorous, yet they make a good point. Yelling does make speaking a bit tricky. They (62) then move on to language in general, stating that:

“Physiological, acoustic, and vocal substance are not the only things that undergo all these deterritorializations. The form of expression, as language, also crosses a threshold.”

As this is on the third stratum, they (62) compare it to the second stratum, the organic stratum:

“Vocal signs have temporal linearity, and it is this superlinearity that constitutes their specific deterritorialization and differentiates them from genetic linearity. Genetic linearity is above all spatial, even though its segments are constructed and reproduced in succession; thus at this level it does not require effective overcoding of any kind, only phenomena of end-to-end connection, local regulations, and partial interactions (overcoding takes place only at the level of integrations implying different orders of magnitude).”

Moreover, in reference to François Jacob, a biologist and geneticist, only indicated here as Jacob, probably because you, the reader, should know, obviously, they (62) contrast the linguistic code with genetic code:

“That is why Jacob is reluctant to compare the genetic code to a language; in fact, the genetic code has neither emitter, receiver, comprehension, nor translation, only redundancies and surplus values.”

After differentiating the codes, noting that, to me somewhat unsurprisingly that language requires an emitter and a receiver, how would you otherwise even have language, as well as comprehension, which sort of comes with it, Deleuze and Guattari (62) emphasize that what makes the alloplastic stratum different from the other strata is translation. In their words (62):

“The temporal linearity of language expression relates not only to a succession but to a formal synthesis of succession in which time constitutes a process of linear overcoding and engenders a phenomenon unknown on the other strata: translation, translatability, as opposed to the previous inductions and transductions.”

It may seem somewhat redundant to even state, but I think the linearity of language is worth emphasizing. You can try to express, narrate something, but even if you are doing it while it’s happening, for example doing a running commentary during a hockey game, you are, in their words, translating it. It’s worth noting that in their parlance (62) translation is not just as from one language to another but more broadly speaking, is the ability of the language to represent not only its own stratum but also the other strata. The players belong to the organic stratum as organisms and function in relation to other organisms. They also wear and use all kinds of gear made out of various materials in a stage made out of similar and/or dissimilar materials. They can be of organic or inorganic origin, the point being that just playing the game with all the gear requires more than what belongs to the organic stratum. Moreover, the game wouldn’t even be that game if it wasn’t for language, for the alloplastic stratum, which not only is necessary for there to be that game, but also for all the technology required to play that game. Me narrating what unfolds in front of my eyes is a shallow linear attempt to replicate it. Anyway, they (62) also differentiate how humans animals understand the external world, stating that for humans we speak of the Welt, whereas for animals its the Umwelt. The difference between humans and animals is further addressed on the plateau on the postulates of linguistics, so you better look there for further clarification. In short, as noted in the earlier essays, it was established that human language is more-than-communicative, i.e. humans can tell other humans not only of their first hand experiences but also of second hand experiences, what someone else told them. Anyway, back to this plateau, they (62) characterize the scientific world of humans as:

“[T]he translation of all of the flows, particles, codes, and territorialities of the other strata into a sufficiently deterritorialized system of signs, in other words, into an overcoding specific to language.”

This overcoding, which they also call superlinearity, for them (62) explains why in language the expression is independent of the content, as well why the form of expression is independent of the content, something which is not possible in the genetic code, for example “between RNA and DNA chains.” This bears relevance to a larger discussion whether language represents the world objectively. Well, it’s obvious that it doesn’t, at least not according to Deleuze and Guattari. It always necessitates translations and, as previously noted a number of times, following Brian Massumi in his 1992 publication ‘A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia’, “Translation is repetition with difference.” Deleuze and Guattari (62-63) make note of an opposite understanding of language:

“’Every semiology of a nonlinguistic system must use the medium of language… Language is the interpreter of all the other systems, linguistic and nonlinguistic.’”

Deleuze and Guattari (62-63) mark this as stated by someone else, yet there is no reference to anyone specific. Anyway, this is arguably a structuralist or a universalist account of language, language above all, as the centrally human and always getting in the way. They (63) further comment on this:

“This amounts to defining an abstract character of language and then saying that the other strata can share in that character only by being spoken in language. That is stating the obvious.”

After explaining the alloplastic stratum in contrast to the other strata, Deleuze and Guattari (63) make note of how it is particular to the stratum to extend from that stratum to the other strata:

“The third stratum sees the emergence of Machines that are fully a part of that stratum but at the same time rear up and stretch their pincers out in all directions at all the other strata.”

They (63) then wonder what it entails:

“Is this not like an intermediate state between the two states of the abstract Machine? – the state in which it remains enveloped in a corresponding stratum (ecumenon), and the state in which it develops in its own right on the destratified plane of consistency (planomenon).”

They (63) as this only to provide an answer themselves, pointing out that it only seems to be the case as it produces “an illusion exceeding all strata, even though the machine itself still belongs to a determinate stratum.” Hinting towards the plateau title then, but subtly reversed, they (63) argue that it is obviously an illusion, “the illusion constitutive of man (who does man think he is?)”, which derives “from the overcoding immanent to language itself.” That said, they (63) quickly add that:

“But what is not illusory are the new distributions between content and expression: technological content characterized by the hand-tool relation and, at a deeper level, tied to a social Machine and formations of power; symbolic expression characterized by face-language relations and, at a deeper level, tied to a semiotic Machine and regimes of signs.”

So, in other words, language is illusory in its reach, but its effects are nonetheless very real indeed. The alloplastic stratum is its own stratum, one among the others. It seems to stretch far beyond the reach of its pincers, but it doesn’t make the other strata go away, not at all, even if it seems to be the case. You can tell granules of sand that they are not eroded and then deposited somewhere else all you like, that it’s just a narrative, but that still occurs, regardless of whether that phenomenon is apparent to you or not. Conversely, there may well be certain things that happen, all the time, but we are simply not aware of them as those phenomena do not appear to us. This also applies to the organic stratum. What they are saying is that language seems to reach far and wide without causing them to be so and so. That doesn’t mean that language isn’t important, nor that it is then just simply contained in and among humans, hence calling it the alloplastic stratum rather than homoplastic stratum. If you think of it, stepping back a bit here, it would be quite antithetical of them, not to mention hilarious, to first explain all these things about geology and biology, only to state it’s all in your head, all subjective.

Moving on, to the relation and distinction between content and expression, one that was noted as not so complex on the geological stratum and complex on the organic stratum. They (64) start with a rather subjectivist concession:

“It’s all in the head.”

Haha, tricked you! Okay, no I didn’t, it’s a bit more complex than that, as they (64) continue:

“Yet never was a distinction more real.”

In other words, they (64) clarify:

“What we are trying to say is that there is indeed one exterior milieu for the entire stratum, permeating the entire stratum: the cerebral-nervous milieu.”

So, it’s in all in the head after all? Well, they (64) then further clarify this:

“It comes from the organic substratum, but of course that substratum does not merely play the role of a substratum or passive support. It is no less complex in organization. Rather, it constitutes the prehuman soup immersing us. Our hands and faces are immersed in it.”

It was noted earlier on in this essay that the hand-face pair comes from Leroi-Gourhan, also was briefly discussed in the previous essay on this plateau. Deleuze and Guattari (64) are still following him on this, stating that:

“In Leroi-Gourhan’s analyses of the constitution of these two poles in the soup – one of which depends on the actions of the face, the other on the hand – their correlation or relativity does not preclude a real distinction between them; quite the contrary, it entails one, as the reciprocal presupposition of two articulations, the manual articulation of content and the facial articulation of expression.”

Deleuze and Guattari (64) argue that “[t]he brain is a population, a set of tribes” that pushes us towards these two poles, the hand and the face. The former is related to content and the latter is related to expression, as noted above. Moreover, they (64) argue that this is not only merely a real distinction, “between molecules, things, or subjects” but also an essential distinction, “between attributes, genres of being, or irreducible categories: things and words”. Here I cannot help but to think of Foucault, probably because of the wording, things and words. That said, they (64) then note that the articulations are, in fact, double articulations:

“Yet we find that the most general of movements, the one by which each of the distinct articulations is already double in its own right, carries over onto this level; certain formal elements of content play the role of expression in relation to content proper, and certain formal elements of expression play the role of content in relation to expression proper.”

Relying on Leroi-Gourhan, they (64) exemplify this by noting that:

“In the first case, Leroi-Gourhan shows how the hand creates a whole world of symbols, a whole pluridimensional language, not to be confused with unilinear verbal language, which constitutes a radiating expression specific to content (he sees this as the origin of writing).”

I was going to note earlier on how there’s something missing, how hands can be used as language. That said, I wonder if Deleuze and Guattari are actually going beyond what is sign language. I think they are, or at least in the sense that using hands to language, in the verb sense of it, is not derived from verbal language, but rather originating from the hands, not the mouth. To be honest, I am not familiar or familiar enough with sign language, used in the singular to mark the language vs. languages debate (that tends to be ignored for reasons that have to do with regimes of truth, I assume), so I can’t comment whether that’s the case or not, nor what the situation is at the moment. I reckon the point here is that the hands have more potential in terms of language than we tend to think there is. If sign language is considered only as derivative of verbal language, then doesn’t escape the linearity issue. Anyway, in ‘Gesture and Speech’, the English 1993 translation of ‘Le Geste et la parole’ originally published in 1964 (translation by Anna Bostock Berger), Leroi-Gourhan (192-195) argues that oral and visual language come from the same source, both having to do with expression, but writing, as we know it, is a reduction of the visual language or rather more specifically a substitute to it. In other words, visual language is not the same as writing, which is, in fact a derivative of verbal language. Leroi-Gourhan (195) argues that “[a]n image possesses a dimensional freedom which writing must always lack” whereas “[t]he invention of writing, through the device of linearity, completely subordinated graphic to phonetic expression[.]” Now, I think it’s worth pointing out that this should not be simply seen as opposition to writing, on anyone’s behalf. It would be a bit ironic if the authors were in staunch opposition of writing, having just written hundreds of pages on this and that. This applies to me as well. I reckon it’s more that if all language gets collapsed to speech and writing, it’s quite the reduction, frankly an unnecessary one.

Deleuze and Guattari (64) continue:

“The second case is clearly displayed in the double articulation specific to language itself, since phonemes form a radiating content specific to the expression of monemes as linear significant segments (it is only under these conditions that double articulation as a general characteristic of strata has the linguistic meaning Martinet attributes to it).”

The point here is that double articulation, as first introduced (or attributed) in linguistics as such by André Martinet, who Deleuze and Guattari simply assume the reader is familiar with (I sure was not) as there is no reference beyond his surname, is exactly what they state in this passage. Those who are interested and are not familiar with Martinet, this appears in ‘La double articulation linguistique’ dated 1949, but also appearing in 1965 in ‘La linguistique synchronique’. In the Anglosphere, parallel to Martinet, Charles Hockett introduced something similar in his 1958 publication ‘A Course in Modern Linguistics. In his formulation, it is known as the duality of patterning. I reckon I was aware that on their on phonemes are just meaningless but once you throw them in to something, something more but could be rather simple like the word cat, a moneme, those phonemes in combination with one another suddenly become meaningful. Now, it’s worth noting that Deleuze and Guattari extend the double articulation outside language, beyond the alloplastic stratum, but this just so that you know, in case you were wondering where this lobster business originates from.

Deleuze and Guattari (64) move on to discuss three issues, of which the first is that of the sign, “[u]nder what circumstances may we speak of signs?” They (65) distinguish three kinds of signs in what seems to be a rather Peircean classification: “indexes (territorial signs), symbols (deterritorialized signs), and icons (signs of reterritorialization).” There is no direct reference here, nor elsewhere for that matter, but it is pointed out in the notes (531) that this is indeed from Peirce. However, it is emphasized in the notes (531) that they borrow from him, adapting his semiotics to their purposes, replacing the signifier-signified pairing with their concepts of territorialization, as indicated on the plateau that I’m investigating. It is also noted (531) that ‘diagram’ is seen as having a special role, one that is irreducible to the icon or the symbol. Deleuze and Guattari (65) ponder the role of signs, whether they expand beyond the alloplastic stratum:

“Should we say that there are signs on all the strata, under the pretext that every stratum includes territorialities and movements of deterritorialization and reterritorialization?”

The answer to this is somewhat obvious, considering their prior statements regarding the status of language. Therefore their (65) answer is no:

“This kind of expansive method is very dangerous, because it lays the groundwork for or reinforces the imperialism of language, if only by relying on its function as universal translator or interpreter.”

They (65) emphasize this by stating that:

“It is obvious that there is no system of signs common to all strata[.]”

As also pointed out earlier, they (65) clarify that:

“Under these conditions, there is a semiotic system on the corresponding stratum because the abstract machine has precisely that fully erect posture that permits it to ‘write,’ in other words, to treat language and extract a regime of signs from it.”

What can be picked from here is the italicized part in particular. There’s whole another plateau on regimes of signs, but that’s a topic for other essays. Anyway, they (65) add that prior to this point, this development, the abstract machine does not write anything or recognize anything as a sign, beyond territorial animal signs, you know, those territorial pissings, posturings and noise, as discussed in the previous essay. Having established that language is confined to the alloplastic stratum, they (65) seem somewhat disinterested in language, but choose to tackle it because it for another reason, not because of “imperialism of language affecting all of the strata” but because the signifier is doing the same thing inside language, on that very stratum, “affecting all regimes of signs and the entire expanse of the strata upon which they are located.” Therefore, they (65) posit the issue in different words:

“The question here is not whether there are signs on every stratum but whether all signs are signifiers, whether all signs are endowed with signifiance, whether the semiotic of signs is necessarily linked to a semiology of the signifier.”

So, in other words, while they’d rather confine language to the third stratum, where it belongs, they do leave some wiggle room for animal signs. In that sense, yes, there are signs on other strata as well, so they opt to approach this from a different angle. They continue (65):

“Those who take this route may even be led to forgo the notion of the sign, for the primacy of the signifier over language guarantees the primacy of language over all of the strata even more effectively than the simple expansion of the sign in all directions.”

In this sense then, it’s not really whether territorial pissings and the like count or not. They (65) are more concerned with how the signifier-signified couple is even more formidable than the sign in expanding language into the other strata. They (65) add that this is, of course, a mere illusion, a posture, or should I say imposture, that makes it seem that language grips everything in its pincers. They (65) note that the issue is really with the signifier, not the sign, but that this word or that word, they are still talking about the same issue.

In order to address the issue better, they (66) elaborate the signifier-signified couple:

“It has been said that they are arbitrary; that they are as necessary to each other as the two sides of the same leaf; that they correspond term by term, or else globally; and that they are so ambivalent as to be indistinguishable.”

They (66) more or less point out that it’s understood in different ways, yet there is something common nonetheless:

“In any event, the signified is thought not to exist outside of its relationship with signifier, and the ultimate signified is the very existence of the signifier, extrapolated beyond the sign.”

Only to provide their (66) own view of the pair:

“There is only one thing that can be said about the signifier: it is Redundancy, it is the Redundant.”

Okay, do elaborate. And they do (66):

“Hence its incredible despotism, and its success. Theories of arbitrariness, necessity, term-by-term or global correspondence, and ambivalence serve the same cause: the reduction of expression to the signifier.”

Their (66) own view builds on Hjelmslev, on forms of content and forms expression that relative, yet independent and distinct, as well as in reciprocal presupposition, as discussed in more detail in my previous essays. They (66) distinguish their own formulation from the signifier-signified couple:

“None of these characteristics applies to the signifier-signified relation, even though some seem to coincide with it partially and accidentally. Overall, these characteristics stand in radical opposition to the scenario of the signifier. A form of content is not a signified, any more than a form of expression is a signifier. This is true for all the strata, including those on which language plays a role.”

I think it’s worth emphasizing that they formulate this completely differently following Hjelmslev, not because it works well for their linguistics, but because it extends to all strata, as discussed at times in tiresome detail on geology and biology. In other words, what they do on this plateau is to show that everything, everything out there, everything more-than-human or other-than-human, is not simply bubbled in language. For them that would be quite the oversimplification, one that they (66) argue tends to be the case in linguistics. They (66) elaborate this:

“Signifier enthusiasts take an oversimplified situation as their implicit model: word and thing.”

Here have that pair again, as I noted earlier and pointed out that is makes me think of Foucault. Deleuze and Guattari (66) are actually well aware of this, hence the choice of words (and things). Anyway, they (66) continue:

“From the word they extract the signifier, and from the thing a signified in conformity with the word, and therefore subjugated to the signifier. They operate in a sphere interior to and homogeneous with language.”

They (66) choose to exemplify this via Foucault, who they note was not exactly concerned with this himself, so this is their lens on Foucault and their terminology. They (66) provide a rather lengthy example:

“Take a thing like the prison: the prison is a form, the ‘prison-form’; it is a form of content on a stratum and is related to other forms of content (school, barracks, hospital, factory).”

Now here we have the form of content locked. They (66) continue:

“This thing or form does not refer back to the word ‘prison’ but to entirely different words and concepts, such as ‘delinquent’ and ‘delinquency,’ which express a new way of classifying, stating, translating, and even committing criminal acts. ‘Delinquency’ is the form of expression in reciprocal presupposition with the form of content ‘prison.’”

Pay attention to the final bit, how delinquency, the form of expression, is in reciprocal presupposition with the form of content, that is the prison. It’s not one after the other, or the other way around, hence the reciprocal presupposition. In other words, as they (66) point out:

“Delinquency is in no way a signifier, even a juridical signifier, the signified of which would be the prison. That would flatten the entire analysis.”

Instead, they (66) argue:

“[T]he form of expression is reducible not to words but to a set of statements arising in the social field considered as a stratum (that is what a regime of signs is).”

Simply put, delinquency doesn’t signify prison, but rather consists of what I think Foucault would call a discursive formation. What comes to the form of content then, they (66-67) add:

“The form of content is reducible not to a thing but to a complex state of things as a formation of power (architecture, regimentation, etc.).”

Now, if my memory serves me, this is what Foucault would understand as a non-discursive formation, albeit, as I’ve discussed in some earlier essay, he never really addressed such in particular. It was only implied, something which Deleuze and Guattari make use of later on. Putting words to his mouth, or so to speak, they (67) characterize the two formations:

“We could say that there are two constantly intersecting multiplicities, ‘discursive multiplicities’ of expression and ‘nondiscursive multiplicities’ of content.”

I reckon they opt to use multiplicities instead of formation as formation probably comes across something solid and homogeneous, one thing, rather than a set of something heterogeneous. That said, if you think about it, formation is, in its own right, still quite apt, if it is thought like in the military when a group of soldiers form a formation. Now you might object to that, pointing out that it’s still a unit, which it is, even as a group of soldiers, but it’s worth noting that it’s unlikely that the soldiers are carbon copies of one another, despite the uniform appearance. If you’ve served, you’ll know for sure that people do not actually look alike in rank and file, which causes all kinds of issues unrelated to this essay. The rare exception might be some parade formations where they pick people of certain height to make the formation as uniform as possible. Anyway, getting back on track, they (67) make note of the complexity of it all, that both the form of expression, delinquency, and the form of content, prison, have their own content and expression. Hardly flat, eh? They (67) summarize:

“At most, along with other contents and expressions, they imply a shared state of the abstract Machine acting not at all as a signifier but as a kind of diagram (a single abstract machine for the prison and the school and the barracks and the hospital and the factory…). Fitting the two types of forms together, segments of content and segments of expression, requires a whole double-pincered, or rather double-headed, concrete assemblage taking their real distinction into account.”

Now, I’m not going to get stuck on abstract machines and diagrams. I’ve covered those a number of times already. Anyway, they (67) reiterate, for the umpteenth time now, that the distinction is not between signifiers or signifieds or words and things. Foucault (48) puts it nicely in the ‘Archaeology of Knowledge and The Discourse on Language’ published in 1972 (translated by Alan Sheridan):

“I would like to show that ‘discourses’, in the form in which they can be heard or read, are not, as one might expect, a mere intersection of things and words: an obscure web of things, and a manifest, visible, coloured chain of words; I would like to show that discourse is not a slender surface of contact, or confrontation, between a reality and a language (langue), the intrication of a lexicon and an experience[.]”

Instead, Foucault (49) argues that it is a matter of discursive practice that define the order of things, as in reference to a previous publication of his:

“’Words and things’ is the entirely serious title of a problem … that … reveals … [a] task that consists of not – of no longer – treating discourses as groups of signs (signifying elements referring to contents or representations) but as practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak.”

That bit is actually one of my favorite bits by him, hence I keep citing it in order to point out that while discourse has to do with language, obviously, there is more to it than just language. Anyway, he (49) adds that:

“Of course, discourses are composed of signs; but what they do is more than use these signs to designate things. It is this more that renders them irreducible to the language (langue) and to speech. It is this ‘more’ that we must reveal and describe.”

Hence Deleuze and Guattari (67) state that:

“What should be opposed are distinct formalizations, in a state of unstable equilibrium or reciprocal presupposition.”

In other words, words have to do with things, but it’s not a simple this to that type of an arrangement, nor that it’s all just about words as words also have to do with words, just as things have to do with things. There is also a specific bit from Foucault included by Deleuze and Guattari (67), a bit that surely deserves more attention. In ‘The Order of Things’, as published in 1971 (translated by someone left unknown by the publisher), while examining ‘Las Meninas’, an intriguing oil painting by Diego Velázquez, Foucault (9) states:

“[T]he relation of language to painting is an infinite relation. It is not that words imperfect, or that, when confronted by the visible, they prove insuperably inadequate. Neither can be reduced to the other’s terms: it is in vain that we say what we see; what we see never resides in what we say. And it is in vain that we attempt to show, by the use of images, metaphors, or similes, what we are saying; the space where they achieve their splendour is not that deployed by our eyes but that defined by the sequential elements of syntax.”

I’d point out here that it’s not that saying what we see is pointless. It’s actually highly useful. That’s basically how writing works. It’s rather that it’s pointless to tell someone what I see in the company of that person, unless what I see, that is to say what appears to me does not appear to the other person. Why would I narrate what we both see? Anyway, the point is, of course, that what we say we see is not what we see. Conversely then, appealing to vision when speaking is strictly speaking not speaking anymore. I guess a blind person would be able to elaborate that bit more. Back to Deleuze and Guattari after this minor tangent, they (67) summarize this by asserting that:

“We are never signifier or signified. We are stratified.”

What is left of signs, after axing signifiers and signifieds, Deleuze and Guattari (67-68) posit:

“Signs are not signs of a thing; they are signs of deterritorialization and reterritorialization, they mark a certain threshold crossed in the course of these movements, and it is for this reason that the word should be retained[.]”

They (68) then point out that while they restrict the definition as done above, there is a regime of signs that is characterized by signifiance. They (68) clarify:

“[That regime] is not even the most interesting or modern or contemporary one, but [it] is perhaps only more pernicious, cancerous, and despotic than the others, and more steeped in illusion than they.”

Okay, do elaborate (68):

[In] a pyramidal image … content … becomes an economic base of production displaying all of the characteristics of the Abstract; the assemblages become the first story of a superstructure that, as such, is necessarily situated within a State apparatus; the regimes of signs and forms of expression become the second story of the superstructure, defined by ideology.”

What they are saying here is that there is no base-superstructure, but this is how it looks like if it is said that there is such. So, in other words, form of content and form of expression, in mutual presupposition, linked together by an abstract machine and regulated by assemblages, are flattened into base-superstructure. What about language then? They (68) go on to elaborate its position when flattened:

“[T]he great Despot decided that it should be reserved a special place, as the common good of the nation and the vehicle for information. Thus one misconstrues the nature of language, which exists only in heterogeneous regimes of signs, and rather than circulating information[, it] distributes contradictory orders. It misconstrues the nature of regimes of signs, which express organizations of power or assemblages and have nothing to do with ideology as the supposed expression of a content[.]”

Before I let them continue, I think it’s worth adding a bit I just left out, separated here for the sake of emphasis (68):

“[I]deology is a most execrable concept obscuring all of the effectively operating social machines.”

This is why I tend to cringe when I see something explained as having to do with ideology. It’s one of those concepts, like culture, or nature, that just gets thrown around. I know it’s hard to avoid and I’m sure I use it or have used it, mea culpa, despite my best efforts not to. Anyway, as Deleuze and Guattari (68) point out, all it does is obscure things. It’s really convenient, that’s for sure, but it’s just counterproductive as it flattens everything to a point of tautology. Right, so, as I interrupted the argument, I’ll let them (68-69) continue:

“It misconstrues the nature of organizations of power, which are in no way located within a State apparatus but rather are everywhere, effecting formalizations of content and expression, the segments of which they intertwine.”

Okay, I just have to interrupt this again, to point out that Foucault could have written that bit. Anyway, moving on, they (69) continue:

“[I]t misconstrues the nature of content, which is in no way economic ‘in the last instance,’ since there are as many directly economic signs or expressions as there are noneconomic contents. Nor can the status of social formations be analyzed by throwing some signifier into the base, or vice versa, or a bit of phallus or castration into political economy, or a bit of economics or politics into psychoanalysis.”

If you didn’t notice, not only did they have a go at Marxism, but also psychoanalysis, and neither redeems the other. That’s that for the second issue. Now on to the third issue which deals with how it all works. Deleuze and Guattari (69) are adamant to point out that the strata are not stages in which one is more primitive or developed, more or less organized than another, so that there’d be a shift from the geological stratum to the organic stratum and to the alloplastic stratum. In fact, they (69) point out that it can work in reverse, with, for example, human developments resulting in developments in the biological strata. Also, if you are thinking that they mean spheres, as in geosphere, biosphere or noosphere, like I did for a moment, they (69) add that’s also not the case as for them it’s all on the same sphere, the mechanosphere. What’s really relevant for them is the virtual and actual, both real, only the latter stratified, so, everything is in some way capable of having an effect on something else, even outside its strata, as they (69) point out. Think also of intensities and extensities again.

Making things even more complex, they (70) that the strata are complimentary to the plane of consistency, its “spin-offs”, defined in relation to it “by relative speeds of deterritorialization[.]” Conversely, they (70) state that the plane of consistency extracts from the strata variables that operate on the plane as its functions. So, they (70) are careful to point out that the plane of consistency, also known as the planomenon as mentioned earlier on already, “is in no way an undifferentiated aggregate of unformed matters, but neither is it a chaos of formed matters of every kind.” Moreover, to throw in another concept, they (70) note that abstract machine occupies the plane of consistency, yet also enveloped on the strata “whose unity of composition it defines[.]” They (70) elaborate the plane of consistency:

“Continuum of intensities, combined emission of particles or signs-particles, conjunction of deterritorialized flows: these are the three factors proper to the plane of consistency; they are brought about by the abstract machine and are constitutive of destratification.”

They (70-71) wish to point out that this is not simply something random. Instead they (70-71) state:

“The abstract machine is not random; the continuities, emissions and combinations, and conjunctions do not occur in just any fashion.”

So, as they (70-71) point out, it’s not without rules, “rules of ‘plan(n)ing,’ of diagramming[.]” In a way, you could say that they are speaking of structuralism, but that’s not it. Then again, they are not saying that there is no structure either. It’s rather that the are structures or rules, but they are not rigid, hence the diagramming, and by not rigid I mean something that isn’t so permanently. In other words, you have those rules, which makes things work or end up in a certain way, more or less, but even those rules are subject to change, or at least they are not out of bounds for such to occur, even if such doesn’t occur that much, or that we’d know of anyway.

At this stage, Deleuze and Guattari are about done with the plateau, but go on for a bit, to make a fine distinction that I’ll include because at this point I was scratching my head about this. Anyway, they (71) warn not to confuse the abstract machine with a machinic assemblage. They (71) particularly adamant about this, clearly stating that the machinic assemblage is “something entirely different”, albeit “it is very closely connected with it.” After comparing it, they (71) elaborate it on its own terms:

“First, on a stratum, it performs the coadaptations of content and expression, ensures biunivocal relationships between segments of content and segments of expression, and guides the division of the stratum into epistrata and parastrata. Next, between strata, it ensures the relation to whatever serves as a substratum and brings about the corresponding changes in organization. Finally, it is in touch with the plane of consistency because it necessarily effectuates the abstract machine on a particular stratum, between strata, and in the relation between the strata and the plane.”

If this is confusing, it is because it is. The definition packs almost every concept they elaborated on this plateau to this point. Anyway it makes things happen, as you can see yourself. They (71) emphasize its functionality, pointing out that machinic assemblages are needed for something to come about on a stratum. It’s sort of an intermediary. I’d say a container, a carrier or a vessel, but that seems too specific. Would messenger be better? No, that’s too message specific. In itself, I think assemblage is an apt word for it as they (73) state it can pick a bit of this and that from the different strata. I guess link or relay might be fitting as well. Anyway, they (71) add that it is also needed for there to be a relation between the strata. In their (71) words, “machinic assemblages effectuate the abstract machine[.]” They (71) ponder this, only to answer themselves, not leaving you hanging:

“How does it effectuate it, with what adequation? Classify assemblages. What we call the mechanosphere is the set of all abstract machines and machinic assemblages outside the strata, on the strata, or between strata.”

After clarifying the machinic assemblages in contrast to abstract machines, to a certain extent that is as more definitions are bound to crop up on other plateaus, they (71-72) reiterate one the central arguments they make on this plateau, warning not to flatten everything they explained on this plateau to a single stratum or reducing it to a closed system or a binary, such as the “signifier and signified, base and superstructure, mind and matter.” The following two or so pages, which are also the final pages of the plateau, provide a recap of the plateau. I’d say it’s somewhat unlike them to do such, to provide a final bit to wrap things up instead of just abruptly ending just like they do with beginning, but hey, it’s not like they are trying to be consistent in the book, so whatever. I don’t think it’s worth summarizing their summary, which is actually fairly lucid by their standards. It is, however, packed with concepts, so actually reading through the plateau is more or less necessary. It might be rather perplexing otherwise.

To wrap things up myself, I think it’s worth saying that while I tried my best to open up the concepts, including some hopefully useful detours to some of the materials Deleuze and Guattari make use of, it’s hard to wrap your head around all the stuff they elaborate. That said, I wouldn’t get too hung up on not getting everything they explain as I pointed out in the beginning. In my own experience getting a bit of this and a bit of that from the plateaus is itself worth the read. Sometimes you need to return to the plateau at another time, perhaps after reading one of the other plateaus, and things sort of fall into place better. Other times you’ve read something else by someone else somewhere else and suddenly it occurs to you, some concept just opens up. I have to say that this is not exactly my personal favorite among the plateaus, but it does contain plenty of concepts. For a linguist it also helps to understand how for Deleuze and Guattari we are not just stuck in language. Referring to the human specific stratum as the alloplastic stratum instead of homoplastic or linguistic stratum is particularly telling of this. It’s a tough reading alright and I’m not exactly confident that at the moment I could explain it all to someone else in all its glory, but I think I took this as an exercise in coming to terms with their understanding of reality better, how all things linguistic are connected to the biological as well as the geological. I appreciate their boldness and bravery to cross disciplinary borders, not giving a damn about what others think of mixing geology, biology and linguistics. This is actually what bothers me at times, reading texts that are neatly confined to a certain discipline, functioning in isolation, you know, like a closed system, one that conveniently explains itself, often according to certain principles, say signifier-signified, upheld by the clergy who are in position to judge others who don’t play by the(ir) rules and bow down to their authority to the correct interpretation. Then again, what do sorcerers know of anything?

Layer upon (no) Layer

A while ago I pointed out that I didn’t seem to be doing much, that’s because I got stuck on a plateau. Right, I keep returning to Deleuze and Guattari and this time I’m on a plateau titled ‘10,000 B.C: The Geology of Morals (Who Does the Earth Think It Is?)’, as contained in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ (translation by Brian Massumi). It is written in part through the lens of a Professor Challenger, a character from stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, just in case you wonder what’s the deal with that, as a future reference. In short, the plateau functions in part through that character, as if it was a lecture that professor was giving. As a word of warning, this essay will be jam-packed with concepts that bounce around, but I’ll try to do my best to provide other relevant information where necessary.

Kicking things off, Deleuze and Guattari (40) state that:

“[Professor Challenger] explained that the Earth – the Deterritorialized, the Glacial, the giant Molecule – is a body without organs. This body without organs is permeated by unformed, unstable matters, by flows in all directions, by free intensities or nomadic singularities, by mad or transitory particles.”

Only to point out (40):

“That, however, was not the question at hand.”

Instead they (40) go for other things:

“For there simultaneously occurs upon the earth a very important, inevitable phenomenon that is beneficial in many respects and unfortunate in many others: stratification.”

They then (40) immediately clarify:

“Strata are Layers, Belts. They consist of giving form to matters, of imprisoning intensities or locking singularities into systems of resonance and redundancy, of producing upon the body of the earth molecules large and small and organizing them into molar aggregates. Strata are acts of capture, they are like ‘black holes’ or occlusions striving to seize whatever comes within their reach.”

They (40) include a reference here. It is included in the notes, clarifying what a black hole is, but I take it that these days this is more clear to most people, so let’s not go there. Anyway, they (40) then clarify how it all functions:

“[Strata] operate by coding and territorialization upon the earth; they proceed simultaneously by code and by territoriality. The strata are judgments of God; stratification in general is the entire system of the judgment of God (but the earth, or the body without organs, constantly eludes that judgment, flees and becomes destratified, decoded, deterritorialized).”

They (40) then work through Challenger, explaining him as having said:

“A surface of stratification is a more compact plane of consistency lying between two layers.”

It is emphasized by the two (40) that this pivotal in understanding stratification. They (40) then reiterate that “[t]he layers are the strata” followed by adding that they come in pairs, one as the stratum and the other as the substratum. In other words, they (40) explain:

“The surface of stratification is a machinic assemblage distinct from the strata. The assemblage is between two layers, between two strata; on one side it faces the strata (in this direction, the assemblage is an interstratum), but the other side faces something else, the body without organs or plane of consistency (here, it is a metastratum).”

Then adding that (40):

“In effect, the body without organs is itself the plane of consistency, which becomes compact or thickens at the level of the strata.”

Now, already from the beginning of this plateau the reader is bombarded with these concepts that crop up here and there in their book. As I’ve pointed out a number of times in my previous essays, this is on purpose and you just have to deal with it. Moving on, Deleuze and Guattari (40) complicate things further, first stating one of the most memorable bits of the book and then explaining it in other words:

“God is a Lobster, or a double pincer, a double bind. Not only do strata come at least in pairs, but in a different way each stratum is double (it itself has several layers).”

So, indeed not only are there strata, that come in pairs, but also each stratum has several layers. It’s a bit silly to express it that way, layers having layers, but I did not come up with that, so don’t blame me for that expression. Anyway, to the important bit, they (40) add:

“Each stratum exhibits phenomena constitutive of double articulation. Articulate twice, B-A, BA.”

This is, more or less, the whole point of this plateau, so keep that in mind. They (40) clarify:

“This is not at all to say that the strata speak or are language based. Double articulation is so extremely variable that we cannot begin with a general model, only a relatively simple case.”

They (40) then elaborate the first part of that case:

“The first articulation chooses or deducts, from unstable particle-flows, metastable molecular or quasi-molecular units (substances) upon which it imposes a statistical order of connections and successions (forms).”

They (41) use the example of the process of sedimentation, in which suspended or saltated materials are cyclically deposited in certain places. If you are familiar with geology, geomorphology, hydrogeography or the like, anything that has to do with fluvial processes really, then this should be fairly easy to grasp. So, from substances to forms it is. The first part is followed by a second part (41):

“The second articulation establishes functional, compact, stable structures (forms), and constructs the molar compounds in which these structures are simultaneously actualized (substances).”

They (41) exemplify the second part by the process of folding, in which the deposited materials, the sediment is transformed or cemented into sedimentary rock. Once again, if you are familiar with how it works, how, for example, streams and rivers erode the banks and the bottom of the river and then carry the eroded materials (which also function to erode on the way), such as sand, downstream where they end up deposited turn into, for example, sandstone, then this should not be hard to grasp. Once cemented, they become layers or strata, which you can observe in cross-sections, for example on the side of mountains or canyons. So, from forms to substances this time around.

Clarifying the concepts, Deleuze and Guattari (41) state that:

“[T]he distinction between the two articulations is not between substances and forms.”

To be more specific, they (41) further clarify that:

“Substances are nothing other than formed matters. Forms imply a code, modes of coding and decoding. Substances as formed matters refer to territorialities and degrees of territorialization and deterritorialization. But each articulation has a code and a territoriality; therefore each possesses both form and substance.”

They (41) rephrase this:

“[E]ach articulation has a corresponding type of segmentarity or multiplicity: one type is supple, more molecular, and merely ordered; the other is more rigid, molar, and organized.”

Here we have concepts molecular and molar that crop up elsewhere as well. Now, to further distinguish the two articulations, the first and the second, they (41) state that:

“[T]he first articulation is not lacking in systematic interactions, it is in the second articulation in particular that phenomena constituting an overcoding are produced, phenomena of centering, unification, totalization, integration, hierarchization, and finalization.”

This is one of the rare occasions that Deleuze and Guattari are actually rather straight forward with what they state. That said, they (41) problematize what they just asserted:

“Both articulations establish binary relations between their respective segments. But between the segments of one articulation and the segments of the other there are biunivocal relationships obeying far more complex laws.”

They (41) add that they could use the word structure here to “designate the sum of these relations and relationships”, as it’s sort of fitting really, but they are not happy with it as it comes across as overly static, or as they put it: “it is an illusion to believe that structure is the earth’s last word.” They (41) also note that it would also be overly simplistic to associate the first articulation with the molecular and the second with the molar. It’s not that it isn’t or cannot be the case, but rather that it isn’t always the case. They (41-42) go on to explains different types of stratification and double articulation on the following pages of the plateau, including organic and chemical stratification. It’s not all exactly the same, the terms differ a bit, but overall it’s not worth adding here, not that’s it’s not worth reading, of course.

As this is related, and arguably helps to understand the plateau on the postulates of linguistics, I’ll jump ahead to a related bit here. Working through Challanger, the two (43) make note of Hjelmslev, who addressed the stratification of language, “weav[ing] a net out of the notions of matter, content and expression, form and substance.” They (43) note that this bypasses the issue with the duality of form-content, “since there was a form of content no less than a form of expression.” I think it’s worth expressing this further in their own words (43):

“Hjelmslev’s enemies saw this merely as a way of rebaptizing the discredited notions of the signified and signifier, but something quite different was actually going on. Despite what Hjelmslev himself may have said, the net is not linguistic in scope or origin[.]”

So, as they pointed out earlier on, this is not as simple as they initially led on. It’s worth clarifying the terms again, so they (43) state:

“[Hjelmslev] used the term matter for the plane of consistency or Body without Organs, in other words, the unformed, unorganized, nonstratified, or destratified body and all its flows: subatomic and submolecular particles, pure intensities, prevital and prephysical free singularities.”

That’s matter covered, at least for now. They then (43) define content:

“He used the term content for formed matters, which would now have to be considered from two points of view: substance, insofar as these matters are ‘chosen,’ and form, insofar as they are chosen in a certain order (substance and form of content).”

Then they (43) define expression:

“He used the term expression for functional structures, which would also have to be considered from two points of view: the organization of their own specific form, and substances insofar as they form compounds (form and [substance] of expression).”

As a side note, the [] indicate here addresses the mistranslation or typo in the English translation. In ‘Mille plateaux’, the French original, does use the wording ‘forme et substance d’expression’, so it ought to be substance, not content there. Anyway, they (43) then redefine stratum:

“A stratum always has a dimension of the expressible or of expression serving as the basis for a relative invariance; for example, nucleic sequences are inseparable from a relatively invariant expression by means of which they determine the compounds, organs, and functions of the organism.”

Only to move back to the articulations, after some examples that they mention, but do not clarify (44):

The first articulation concerns content, the second expression. The distinction between the two articulations is not between forms and substances but between content and expression, expression having just as much substance as content and content just as much form as expression.”

Okay, that ought to be clear by now. That said, they (44) immediately problematize it, reiterating what was already previously pointed out:

“The double articulation sometimes coincides with the molecular and the molar, and sometimes not; this is because content and expression are sometimes divided along those lines and sometimes along different lines.”

So, as already pointed out, the first does have to do with the molecular and the second with the molar, but it is not always the case. It tends to be the case, but not always. They (44) then add what’s also discussed in the plateau on the postulates on linguistics:

“There is never correspondence or conformity between content and expression, only isomorphism with reciprocal presupposition.”

So, indeed, as discussed on an other plateau, and in some of my previous essays, one does not precede the other nor vice versa. They are sort of the same, yet different, hence they are distinct, as they state (44):

“The distinction between content and expression is always real, in various ways, but it cannot be said that the terms preexist their double articulation. It is the double articulation that distributes them according to the line it draws in each stratum; it is what constitutes their real distinction.”

When I stated that they don’t precede one another, it may seem a bit odd, considering Deleuze and Guattari speak in ordinals, the first and the second, but it’s just a matter of convenience, as they (44) note:

“Even though there is a real distinction between them, content and expression are relative terms (‘first’ and ‘second’ articulation should also be understood in an entirely relative fashion).”

They (44) then add that:

“Even though it is capable of invariance, expression is just as much a variable as content. Content and expression are two variables of a function of stratification. They not only vary from one stratum to another, but intermingle, and within the same stratum multiply and divide ad infinitum.”

So, as I’ve pointed out in my previous essays, the two do intermingle. They don’t just exist neatly isolated from one another. In other words, they (44) summarize:

“In short, we find forms and substances of content that play the role of expression in relation to other forms and substances, and conversely for expression. These new distinctions do not, therefore, coincide with the distinction between forms and substances within each articulation; instead, they show that each articulation is already, or still, double.”

To get the gist of this, it’s worth going back just a bit, to where they (44) state that for form and substance:

“[T]here is no real distinction between form and substance, only a mental or modal distinction: since substances are nothing other than formed matters, formless substances are inconceivable, although it is possible in certain instances to conceive of substanceless forms.”

Finally, to exemplify this, they return to the organic stratum (44-45):

“[P]roteins of content have two forms, one of which (the infolded fiber) plays the role of functional expression in relation to the other. The same goes for the nucleic acids of expression: double articulations cause certain formal and substantial elements to play the role of content in relation to others; not only does the half of the chain that is reproduced become a content, but there constituted chain itself becomes a content in relation to the ‘messenger.’”

So, in summary, there is this … double-double, double articulation of both content and expression. To make things less clear and somewhat more problematic, they (45) add, quoting Hjelmslev, that calling the two, content and expression, what they are called, content and expression, is hardly justified, but they are what they are, identified only by “their mutual solidarity” and defined by their mutual opposition and relativity, hence the real distinction, reciprocal presupposition and relativity.

Right, so, in summary, as indicated on the plateau on the linguistic postulates and expressed in some of the previous essays, content and expression are the pivotal concepts, both having matter, form and substance. As Deleuze and Guattari note (43), matter is “the unformed, unorganized, nonstratified, or destratified body and all its flows” and has to do with intensities. Content, as they (43) note, is the formed matter, its substance being chosen and its form being the order how its chosen. Expression then, as they (43) note, stands for functional structures with form referring to its organization and substance to compounding of forms. With regards to the relativity then, they (44-45) use the example of nucleic acids, think of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which, for example, can function as a content with the expression being, for example, a human being, which then, once aggregated, can function as content to the expression that is a collective, such as a society. So, in other words, think of the expression as, well, the expression of something, which can then also function as something which is the basis of another expression, which then … and so and so on. With regards to the lack of deemed justification for distinguishing the two, as noted by Hjelmslev himself, it sort of makes sense when you take account that chain I just described or attempted to describe anyway. That’s the deal with the isomorphism, same but different, different yet same, one not before the other or the other way around. If we go back to the erosion and sedimentation example, assuming that we ignore other rock (trans)forming processes, for something to sediment and to then become sedimentary rock, a thin layer or a bed of, say, sandstone or shale, there needs to be something to be eroded, i.e. chosen to be suspended in the water or moved by it (saltation). That would be mineral particles of certain sizes, such as sand and clay, chosen to be carried away from their (then) point of origin by the stream of water (stream or river) flushing downstream. It could be another harder material that is eroded, i.e. chosen or deducted, instead of a sandy or clayey river bank and/or bottom, but that only changes some of the dynamics, not the process itself. So, in other words, the point is that it’s not a closed system with a linear progression, from here to there, from this to that, but a dynamic open system in which the content and expression are distinct and relative to another, in reciprocal presupposition. You can’t have sedimentation without sediment, which in turn requires something to be eroded, which itself could well be sedimentary rock. Here I purposely ignored other rock formations and how they relate to one another, but let’s not go there, otherwise this will never end. Instead, it’s worth emphasizing that as Deleuze and Guattari (45, 40) express it, there is “a multiplicity of double articulations affecting both expression and content”, “[t]here are double pincers everywhere on a stratum”, “double binds and lobsters” for “God is a Lobster[.]” Attempting to list all of them, if that’s even possible (I don’t think it is), would be foolish, not to mention besides the point, as the double articulation goes on and on, and on and on, for all eternity, or as they (44) put it, “[t]hey not only vary from one stratum to another, but intermingle, and within the same stratum multiply and divide ad infinitum.”

To use another example of what Deleuze and Guattari are after, one could think of procedurally generated maps in games, such as XCOM 2, to use a contemporary example. The idea behind procedurally created maps is having a pool of assets, bits of this and that, which then get actualized in various ways. It’s worth pointing out that procedural maps are not the same as simply random. Now, for example, in XCOM games a team of soldiers engage on a tactical level in different locations. It is possible to craft a vast number of local level maps for these engagements and simply hope the player never engages more than that preset number of maps hand crafted by the game developers. However, in practice, that’s quite the resource intensive task. It also results in people eventually knowing the maps in advance, enabling them to engage the enemy in ways that ought to be unforeseen at that situation. Randomizing the assets, for example walls, doors, cars, trees, etc. would surely result in more variety, but without some guiding principle, some generality to it, it would be all over the place, ruining the immersion and possibly gameplay as well. What you want instead is a modular system in which there are multiple levels of generality of … content and their … expressions, which function as the content for other expressions. So, in other words, you’d have a map layer which would function in map generation as a blueprint for the allotment of certain assets, say buildings. Ideally you’d have some generality that as well, based on, for example, landforms. Once those are generated on the map, it restricts the randomization of other assets on other blueprints. So, you’d only find trees on the ground, not on top of a building, a trash can in the middle of the forest or a wire fence inside a building, unless the code permits such. Obviously a game is simply a game and hardly a match for reality itself, but this is just so if you fail to grasp what they are after. It would require something along the lines of coding a game that has not only its contents and expressions manifest according to certain code or structure that permits variation, but also have that code or structure change dynamically in response to those manifestations. I guess that would be like attempting to create an actual open ended reality, one without set bounds, so, as much as I admire the work of coders, somehow I don’t see that happening.

Back to Deleuze and Guattari who move on to provide more examples. They (45) address the molecular and the molar, by providing some examples:

“In biochemistry, there is a unity of composition of the organic stratum defined at the level of materials and energy, substantial elements or radicals, bonds and reactions. But there is a variety of different molecules, substances, and forms.”

Right, note the unity part in particular as it’s relevant to what I just exemplified myself. They (45) start making use of Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, a naturalist in the 1700s and the 1800s:

“He said that matter, considered from the standpoint of its greatest divisibility, consists in particles of decreasing size, flows or elastic fluids that ‘deploy themselves’ by radiating through space.”

Ay, so another way of speaking of matter. They add (45):

“Combustion is the process of this escape or infinite division on the plane of consistency. Electrification is the opposite process, constitutive of strata; it is the process whereby similar particles group together to form atoms and molecules, similar molecules to form bigger molecules, and the biggest molecules to form molar aggregates: ‘the attraction of like by like,’ as in a double pincer or double articulation.”

Here we have the process which has to do with the molecular, of atoms and molecules, and the molar, the aggregates. They (45) continue:

“[T]here is no vital matter specific to the organic stratum, matter is the same on all the strata.”

Now I maybe falling short here, considering that I was never really that much into the natural sciences and I haven’t taken too many courses in the relevant fields, but they are pointing out that matter is simply matter. There is no magic sauce type of matter attributable to the living that differentiates them from the non-living. They (45-56) then go on to point out:

“But the organic stratum does have a specific unity of composition, a single abstract Animal, a single machine embedded in the stratum, and presents everywhere the same molecular materials, the same elements or anatomical components of organs, the same formal connections. Organic forms are nevertheless different from one another, as are organs, compound substances, and molecules.”

So, no vital matter, but something else, something machinic that leads to certain formations. They (46) summarize their view on this:

“The important thing is the principle of the simultaneous unity and variety of the stratum: isomorphism of forms but no correspondence; identity of elements or components but no identity of compound substances.”

They (46) then move on to posit Geoffroy against Georges Cuvier, the former arguing in favor of what we’ve covered so far, the unity of composition, isomorphism and a continuum of development with varying degrees and modes, and the latter who stood in staunch opposition of such nonsense. They (46) position Geoffroy as stating that:

“It is not everywhere on a stratum that materials reach the degree at which they form a given aggregate. Anatomical elements may be arrested or inhibited in certain places by molecular clashes, the influence of the milieu, or pressure from neighbors to such an extent that they compose different organs.”

Adding some clarity, they (46) have Geoffroy rephrase this:

“The same formal relations or connections are then effectuated in entirely different forms and arrangements. It is still the same abstract Animal that is realized throughout the stratum, only to varying degrees, in varying modes.”

And once more (46):

“Each time, it is as perfect as its surroundings or milieu allows it to be (it is obviously not yet a question of evolution: neither folding nor degrees imply descent or derivation, only autonomous realizations of the same abstract relations).”

Deleuze and Guattari, I guess you could say famously, are all about becoming, not being, not that being is in opposition of becoming, as I’ve explained in some of my previous essays on the two. The way I read this has all to do with that. So you are exactly what you are at any given moment. You are always as perfect as you are, no less, no more. It’s worth noting here that this operates on a more general level than that of biological evolution, as they note in the extract above. I think it’s also worth adding that when they point out that the surroundings or the milieu play a role, they are not exactly saying that because the environment is this or that, it leads to certain things, but rather plays a role, among other factors which may or may not play some role, in varying degrees. Their opposition to arborescensce crops up in this discussion as well, in their characterization of Cuvier who they (46) have respond to Geoffroy:

“There are irreducible axes, types, branches. There are resemblances between organs and analogies between forms, nothing more. You’re a falsifier, a metaphysician.”

Indeed, axes, types, branches, you know, trees, arborescence. Anyway, Deleuze and Guattari (46-47) include other contemporaries of Geoffroy and Cuvier in the discussion, but you can read these yourself. As the main lines argumentation are between the two, it’s not worth going to detail here. Deleuze and Guattari (47) summarize their characterization of the two:

“Cuvier reflects a Euclidean space, whereas Geoffroy thinks topologically. … Strata are topological, and Geoffroy is a great artist of the fold, a formidable artist; as such, he already has a presentiment of a certain kind of animal rhizome with aberrant paths of communication – Monsters. Cuvier reacts in terms of discontinuous photographs, and casts of fossils.”

They (47) move on to summarize what was invoked by the discussion of Geoffroy:

“[W]e invoked two factors, and their uncertain relations, in order to explain the diversity within a stratum – degrees of development or perfection and types of forms.”

They (47-48) then bring Darwin into discussion:

“[The factors] now undergo a profound transformation. There is a double tendency for types of forms to be understood increasingly in terms of populations, packs and colonies, collectivities or multiplicities; and degrees of development in terms of speeds, rates, coefficients, and differential relations. A double deepening. This, Darwinism’s fundamental contribution, implies a new coupling of individuals and milieus on the stratum.”

They (48) elaborate this, first focusing on the coupling of individuals and milieus:

“First, if we assume the presence of an elementary or even molecular population in a given milieu, the forms do not preexist the population, they are more like statistical results. The more a population assumes divergent forms, the more its multiplicity divides into multiplicities of different nature, the more its elements form distinct compounds or matters – the more efficiently it distributes itself in the milieu, or divides up the milieu.”

They (48) clarify this by stating that this is the reversal of the relation between embryogenesis, anticipating a preestablished outcome on the basis of the parents, and phylogenesis, group development of organisms with no preestablished outcome. Following Georges Canguilhem, Georges Lapassade, Jacques Piquemal and Jacques Ulmann in a 1960 publication titled ‘Du développement à l’évolution au XIXe siècle’, as indicated in the notes (522), Deleuze and Guattari (48) point out that with the former there seems to be a preestablished outcome, fixity, but it is illusory, only there for the sake of the “convenience of expression” as there are no fixed reference points or centers. Quoting Canguilhem et al. (34), they state:

“Life on earth appears as a sum of relatively independent species of flora and fauna with sometimes shifting or porous boundaries between them. Geographical areas can only harbor a sort of chaos, or, at best, extrinsic harmonies of an ecological order, temporary equilibriums between populations.”

Moving on to the second part, on degrees of development, they (48) elaborate:

“Second, simultaneously and under the same conditions, the degrees are not degrees of preexistent development or perfection but are instead global and relative equilibriums: they enter into play as a function of the advantage they give particular elements, then a particular multiplicity in the milieu, and as a function of a particular variation in the milieu.”

They (48) add that, importantly, as a result:

“Degrees are no longer measured in terms of increasing perfection or a differentiation and increase in the complexity of the parts, but in terms of differential relations and coefficients such as selective pressure, catalytic action, speed of propagation, rate of growth, evolution, mutation, etc.”

So, in summary of the contribution of Darwinism, they (48-49) argue that it substitutes or replaces types with populations and degrees of development with speeds, rates and differential relations, resulting in shifting boundaries.

After admitting going on a tangent, or rather setting Challenger to go on on one, Deleuze and Guattari (49) return to the general discussion of strata. As already mentioned, they (49) reiterate:

“Materials are not the same as the unformed matter of the plane of consistency; they are already stratified, and come from ‘substrata.’”

What is added here is, as they (49) go on to state, that:

“[S]ubstrata should not be thought of only as substrata: in particular, their organization is no less complex than, nor is it inferior to, that of the strata; we should be on our guard against any kind of ridiculous cosmic evolutionism.”

It’s worth going back a bit, to the point where they introduce the substratum. It was previously established that the machinic assemblage faces the strata and is the in-between strata, the interstratum, and what it faces on one side, the plane of consistency or the body without organs, the metastratum (40). It was also established that layers or strata come in pairs, one serving as the substratum for the other (40). Unless I’m mistaken, it sort of makes sense, considering that a layer is always on top of something else, why call it layer otherwise? Anyway, they (49) further elaborate the substrata:

“The materials furnished by a substratum are no doubt simpler than the compounds of a stratum, but their level of organization in the substratum is no lower than that of the stratum itself. The difference between materials and substantial elements is one of organization; there is a change in organization, not an augmentation.”

Okay, so, yes, it’s a matter of organization, not of adding or augmenting. The following will probably be among the tougher parts to grasp, but here we go. They (49) add:

“The materials furnished by the substratum constitute an exterior milieu for the elements and compounds of the stratum under consideration, but they are not exterior to the stratum.”

Aha, exterior, but not actually exterior, sure. Anyway, do go on (49):

“The elements and compounds constitute an interior of the stratum, just as the materials constitute an exterior of the stratum; both belong to the stratum, the latter because they are materials that have been furnished to the stratum and selected for it, the former because they are formed from the materials.”

As a clarification, remember, earlier on it was established by the two (40-41) how the first articulation is about choosing, deducting or selecting, from substance to form, and the second articulation is about establishing stable function structures and then constructing molar compounds, from form to substance. Now, they (49) add important bit about relativity next:

“Once again, this exterior and interior are relative; they exist only through their exchanges and therefore only by virtue of the stratum responsible for the relation between them.”

Using the organic stratum as an example, skipping the other one here for the sake of brevity, they (49-50) summarize:

“[T]he materials furnished by the substrata are an exterior medium constituting the famous prebiotic soup, and catalysts play the role of seed in the formation of interior substantial elements or even compounds. These elements and compounds both appropriate materials and exteriorize themselves through replication, even in the conditions of the primordial soup itself.”

Okay, I admit I’m a getting a bit lost here, but keeping in mind the double articulation does help. Anyway, they (50) introduce a new term, the central layer or ring, which is comprises “the unity of composition of a stratum: exterior molecular materials, interior substantial elements, and the limit … conveying formal relations.” Moreover, they (50) add that the stratum envelopes an abstract machine that constitutes its unity. They (50) call it the Ecumenon, the counterpart of the Planomenon which is on the unformed side, on the plane of consistency. Complicating things further, they (50) indicate that it is not possible to uncover or locate the central layer of the stratum, to navigate to it, as it has several layers, stretching from a center to a periphery, which, in turn, functions as a center in relation to a new periphery, and so on, and so on. They (50) introduce a new term epistrata for these outgrowths that they call intermediaries:

“There is an outgrowth and multiplication of intermediate states, and this process is one of the local conditions of the central ring (different concentrations, variations that are tolerated below a certain threshold of identity). These intermediate states present new figures of milieus or materials, as well as of elements and compounds. They are intermediaries between the exterior milieu and the interior element, substantial elements and their compounds, compounds and substances, and between the different formed substances (substances of content and substances of expression).”

They (50-51) rephrase this, stratum in relation to the epistratum:

“A stratum, considered from the standpoint of its unity of composition, therefore exists only in its substantial epistrata, which shatter its continuity, fragment its ring, and break it down into gradations.”

Further complicating things, they (51) introduce annexation and association alongside the relative interior and exterior. They (51) indicate that the association, or, more specifically the associated milieu, is defined by:

“[T]he capture of energy sources (respiration in the most general sense), by the discernment of materials, the sensing of their presence or absence (perception), and by the fabrication or nonfabrication of the corresponding compounds (response, reaction).”

Taking cues from Jakob von Uexküll’s ‘Streifzüge durch die Umwelten von Tierenund Menschen’ published in 1934, translating into ‘A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans’ published in 2010, as translated by Joseph O’Neil, they (51) exemplify this with how a simple tick is defined by energy (gravitational energy of falling), perception (perceiving sweat) and response/reaction (latching on to skin). You can find the tick example in great detail in von Uexküll’s text already in the introduction. I’ll go on a bit of tangent here, before returning to the example.

It’s fair to say that Deleuze is fascinated by animals, as evident in the letter ‘A is for Animal’ in his ‘Abécédaire’, a set letter by letter of interviews conducted by Claire Parnet. In this context he clarifies that he isn’t fond of animals that are treated as humans or rather like non-animals, as members of family, as familiar or familials, i.e. not on their own terms, if you will. Instead he is fond of having an animal relationship with animals, noting that, for example, hunters have an astonishing relationship with animals. Anyway, he is fascinated by animals, not only the fuzzy ones, like cats and dogs which he clearly isn’t fond of, albeit clearly for the human reasons, but also the supposedly insignificant ones like spiders, ticks and fleas. Of course, ask a biologist and surely they’ll tell you that they are not insignificant, but that’s the point exactly. They don’t have fuzzy muzzles and they creep around, creeping us, so they get relegated into the baddie sector. Anyway, back to the interview, he states that he is impressed by the fact that every animal has a world, regardless of the scope. He uses the example of a tick, as by Deleuze and Guattari (51). As I’m on the interview now, I’ll have Deleuze explain what a territory is, as it’s been popping up quite a bit in this text already, just in case you are frustrated by it (not sure of the translator here, sorry):

“Territory constitutes the properties of the animal, and leaving the territory they risk it, and there are animals that recognize their partner, they recognize them in the territory, but not outside the territory … I am interested in reflecting on this notion of territory, and I tell myself, territory is defined in relation to a movement by which one leaves the territory. So, to address this, I need a word that is apparently ‘barbaric.’ … [T)he concept of ‘deterritorialization.’ … What is means, what its use is … [T]here are equivalents in other languages. … [I]n Melville, there appears all the time ‘outlandish’ … [it] is precisely the equivalent of the ‘deterritorialized,’ word for word. … [T]here is no territory, without a vector of exiting the territory; there is no exiting the territory, that is, deterritorialization, without at the same time an effort of reterritorializing oneself elsewhere, on something else. All this functions with animals and that’s what fascinates me.”

That ought to explain not only territory but the perhaps odd terms of de- and reterritorialization that crop up in the text quite often. The interview is helpful as it explains this in quite simple terms.

Anyway, back to the milieus. Deleuze and Guattari (51) point out that the associated milieus are related to organic forms, which, in turn, should not be considered as mere structures, but rather as structurations, constituting associated milieus. They (51) ponder the relation between the organic form, such as a spider, and the associated milieu, such as a spider web, stating that both having a role in the morphogenesis of the organic form. I believe this touches on the topic of the role of genetics and the environment on the development of the individual. They (51-52) characterize the relation as interlaced, active, perceptive, and energetic; the milieu has to be in conformity with the code of the organic form, yet the milieu may develop the organic form. More specifically, they (52) state that:

“Milieus always act, through selection, on entire organisms, the forms of which depend on codes those milieus sanction indirectly.”

They (52) specify that:

“Associated milieus divide a single milieu of exteriority among themselves as a function of different forms, just as intermediate milieus divide a milieu of exteriority among themselves as a function of the rates or degrees of a single form.”

They (52) then introduce yet another term into play, the parastrata:

“We will apply the term ‘parastrata’ to the second way in which the central belt fragments into sides and ‘besides,’ and the irreducible forms and milieus associated with them. This time, it is at the level of the limit or membrane of the central belt that the formal relations or traits common to all of the strata necessarily assume entirely different forms or types of forms corresponding to the parastrata.”

Only to rework the definition of strata once again (52):

“A stratum exists only in its epistrata and parastrata, so that in the final analysis these must be considered strata in their own right. The ideally continuous belt or ring of the stratum – the Ecumenon defined by the identity of molecular materials, substantial elements, and formal relations – exists only as shattered, fragmented into epistrata and parastrata that imply concrete machines and their respective indexes, and constitute different molecules, specific substances, and irreducible forms.”

Going back a bit, they (50) just defined the Ecumenon as the stratum that envelopes an abstract machine that constitutes its unity. Getting back on track, they (52) state something similar:

“[P]arastrata envelop the very codes upon which the forms depend, and these codes necessarily apply to populations.”

They (52) rephrase this in more simple terms:

“[W]e must always think in terms of packs and multiplicities: a code does or does not take hold because the coded individual belongs to a certain population[.]”

They (52) then ask a question:

“What does it mean to say that new forms and associated milieus potentially result from a change in the code, a modification of the code, or a variation in the parastratum?”

Only to answer it themselves (52-53), stating that it does not involve a passage from one preestablished form to another, from this to that, as “a translation from one code to another”, as that would entail going the Cuvier route where forms are irreducible. Later on (54) they point out that this works mighty fine, as long as forms are deemed as preestablished and compared to predetermined degrees of development. It’s actually rather obvious that it’s the case, because then it’s rigged to be the case. Neat but static. Instead, they (53) argue that code is inseparable from the process of (de)coding, noting that “[t]here is no genetics without ‘genetic drift’ and pointing out that code gets transferred sideways, meaning that, for example, the human code not only changes as we move from generation to generation to generation and so on, but it is also influenced by fragments of codes injected from other animals, namely through viruses. More simply put, for example, viruses decode certain fragments of code from one host which may then end up coded into the code of another host.

Returning to parastrata and epistrata, Deleuze and Guattari (53) indicate that, on one hand, “[f]orms relate to codes and processes of coding and decoding in the parastrata” and, on the other hand, “being formed matters, relate to territorialities and movements of deterritorialization and reterritorialization on the epistrata.” So, more simply put, the parastrata have to do with coding and the epistrata with territorialization. They (53) offer an example of the latter:

“Physical particles and chemical substances cross thresholds of deterritorialization on their own stratum and between strata; these thresholds correspond to more or less stable intermediate states, to more or less transitory valences and existences, to engagements with this or that other body, to densities of proximity, to more or less localizable connections.”

If we take the example of erosion and sedimentation, followed by rock formation, deterritorialization is required for it to take place. You need sediment for something to be sedimented and turn into a rock eventually after being deposited. At the same time you need material, no matter the size, anything that can be eroded one way or another, but let’s say granules of sand, for a stream or a river to carry it somewhere to be deposited. Now, once again, I’m purposely ignoring other rock forming and deforming processes, but that’s just for the sake of brevity. Deleuze and Guattari offer other examples, but I’ll use this as it was used previously already. It’s worth noting, as they (54) do, that deterritorialization is not a negative, but “a perfectly positive power” with degrees and thresholds, always relative and complemented by reterritorialization. This is the case in sedimentation and the formation of sedimentary rock, deterritorialization followed by eventual reterritorialization, only to be followed by deterritorialization and so on and so on.

With the regards to the former, the parastrata, they (54) point out:

“[F]orms depend on codes in the parastrata and plunge into processes of decoding or drift and that degrees themselves are caught up in movements of intensive territorialization and reterritorialization.”

So, as they pointed out a page ago (53), the two are not the same, yet they are inseparable:

“[T]he epistrata are just as inseparable from the movements that constitute them as the parastrata are from their processes.”

Moreover, they (54) further characterize this linkage, pointing out that “[t]there is no simple correspondence between codes and territorialities … and decodings and deterritorializations[.]” Instead, they (54) add, “a code may be a deterritorialization and a reterritorialization a decoding.” In other words, it’s all a big happy mess, separate, but linked, distinct, but intertwined, or as they (54) put it more neatly:

“Wide gaps separate code and territoriality. The two factors nevertheless have the same ‘subject’ in a stratum: it is populations that are deterritorialized and reterritorialized, and also coded and decoded. In addition, these factors communicate or interlace in the milieus.”

They (54) summarize that changes in the code may have an effect on the milieu of exteriority, which, in turn, may have an effect on the interior milieus and the compatibility between the two, which then affects whether or not the changes become popular. They (54) add that deterritorializations and reterritorializations do not cause changes by themselves, but instead determine the selection of changes. The following bit, I admit, is a bit over my head, at least at the moment, so I’ll divert here for a bit. Deleuze and Guattari (54) refer to milieus of interiority and exteriority, or interior and exterior milieus, but, at least for me, perhaps because I’m not familiar enough with the topic, they are not well defined. No that it’s that surprising, you are sort of supposed to figure things out yourself. Anyway, earlier on they (51) refer to them, at least implicitly, in reference to von Uexküll and then, later on in the same plateau, the name André Leroi-Gourhan pops up. The latter (333-334) addresses milieus in his 1945 publication ‘Milieu et techniques’:

“Les valeurs de milieu extérieur et de milieu interéur sont claires. Par le premier terme, on saisit d’abord tout ce qui matériellement entoure l’homme: milieu géologique, climatique, animal et végétal. Il faut, avec modalités que nous dégagerons, étendre la définition aux témoins matériels et aux idées qui peuvent proviner d’autres groupes humains.”

This translates to something along the lines of the exterior milieu is to be understood as to everything material that surrounds a human, be it geological, climatic, animal or plant milieu, extending to ideas from other groups of humans. As my translation is likely shoddy, I’ll let Bernard Stiegler (57) express this instead (or whoever it was that translated it to English that is), as stated in the English translation of ‘La technique et le temps, 1: La faute d’Epimétmée” ‘Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epithemeus’ first published in 1994:

“With this concept of exterior milieu ‘is first apprehended everything materially surrounding the human: the geographical, climactic, animal and vegetable milieu. The definition must be … extended to the material signs and ideas which may come from other human groups[.]’”

To be honest, if that’s it, I don’t think I struggled with the exterior, but rather the interior, so what about that? Leroi-Gourhan (334) continues:

“Parle second terme, on saisit, non pas ce qui est propre à l’homme nu et naissant, mais à chaque moment du temps, dans une masse humaine circonscrite (le plus souvent incomplètement), ce qui constitue le capital intellectuel de cette masse, c’est-à-dire un bain extrêmement complexe de traditions mentales.”

Now, this is a bit trickier, I’ll just refer to the Stiegler (57) translation:

“With the concept of interior milieu ‘is apprehended not what is proper to naked humans at birth, but, at each moment in time, in a (most often incomplete) circumscribed human mass, that which constitutes its intellectual capital, that is an extremely complex pool of mental traditions.”

As my French is next to none, Stiegler (57) adds, in reference to Leroi-Gourhan (334):

“The interior milieu is social memory, the shared past, that which is called ‘culture.’ It is a nongenetic memory, which is exterior to the living organism qua individual, supported by the nonzoological collective organization of objects, but which functions and evolves as a quasi-biological milieu whose analysis reveals ‘used products, reserves, internal secretions, hormones issuing from other cells of the same organism, vitamins of external origin[.]’”

So, in summary, as noted by Stiegler (57), the exterior milieu is the inert material environment surrounding the individual and the internal milieu is, perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, if not misleadingly, what is socially outside the individual, the social memory.

Now, where was I before that necessary tangent? Right, back to Deleuze and Guattari. Now that we have the exterior and the interior milieus clarified, at least I think we do, it’s time to reiterate them in terms of territorialization better. They (54) note that deterritorialization is a positive power, with different degrees of it and different thresholds that need to be passed. Those thresholds they (54) hint as the epistrata, earlier on (50) defined as outgrowths, intermediaries or intermediary states. It was also noted earlier on that there needs to be reterritorialization for something to eventually deterritorialize, as also pointed here by the two (54). With regards to the interior and the exterior milieus then, they (54) clarify:

“An organism that is deterritorialized in relation to the exterior necessarily reterritorializes on its interior milieus.”

They (54) exemplify this by stating that:

“A given presumed fragment of embryo is deterritorialized when it changes thresholds or gradients, but is assigned a new role by the new surroundings.”

They (54) then move to speak of intensities, something that also gets discussed quite a bit by the two, here and there:

“Every voyage is intensive, and occurs in relation to thresholds of intensity between which it evolves or that it crosses. One travels by intensity; displacements and spatial figures depend on intensive thresholds of nomadic deterritorialization (and thus on differential relations) that simultaneously define complementary, sedentary reterritorializations.”

Okay, but now we need to grasp what are intensities. I did cover this in a previous essay, but here we go again. In ‘Difference and Repetition’ (translated by Paul Patton) Deleuze (222) distinguishes intensities from extensities, i.e. how things are perceived as extensive, as the condition of the apparition of extensities. He (222) lists some examples, such as temperature, pressure and tension. This ought to help make sense of what was just provided in the quote above. They (54) then move this to the level of stratum:

“Every stratum operates this way: by grasping in its pincers a maximum number of intensities or intensive particles over which it spreads its forms and substances, constituting determinate gradients and thresholds of resonance (deterritorialization on a stratum always occurs in relation to a complementary reterritorialization).”

Again, they (54) assert that deterritorialization is accompanied by reterritorialization, but it’s not just about extensities moving about, leaving a territory and then forming another outside the originating or previous territory. You also have to keep the intensities in mind, as well as how those pincers work, the double articulation. If you think this is complex and quite the jumble, it is because it is. You have to keep a lot in mind at the same time. As pointed out earlier in paraphrase, they (54) are quite clear on this, marked by this passage:

“As long as preestablished forms were compared to predetermined degrees, all one could do was affirm their irreducibility, and there was no way of judging possible communication between the two factors.”

It should be quite evident that Deleuze and Guattari are far from being content on using preestablished forms, starting from multiple places at once, involving intensities and extensities, territorializations and codings, as well as the double articulation. Anyway, after that lengthy back and forth, back and forth, it’s time to move on to something new, to better explain how coding is relevant in all this. They (54-55) do this by returning to the associated milieus:

“Perceptions and actions in an associated milieu, even those on a molecular level, construct or produce territorial signs (indexes).”

If it helps with the terms, think about the tick example where the tick perceives sweat and acts by dropping on to the animal. Anyway, they (55) continue:

“This is especially true of an animal world, which is constituted, marked off by signs that divide it into zones (of shelter, hunting, neutrality, etc.), mobilize special organs, and correspond to fragments of code; this is so even at the margin of decoding inherent in the code.”

Now, by code they don’t mean language, that is human language, which it, of course, could be, but broadly speaking anything that functions as a marker of zones. The special organ could be a gland used for this purpose, emitting certain scent, or, well, just territorial pissings. That said, in the ‘Abécédaire’, on ‘A is for Animal’, Deleuze further clarifies this:

“How an animal marks its territory, everyone knows, everyone always invokes stories of anal glands, of urine, of … with which it marks the borders of its territory.”

Only to add that:

“But it’s a lot more than that: what intervenes in marking a territory is also a series of postures, for example, lowering oneself / lifting oneself up; a series of colors, baboons for example, the color of buttocks of baboons that they display at the border of territories … Color, song, posture: these are the three determinants of art: I mean, color and lines – animal postures are sometimes veritable lines – color, line, song – that’s art in its pure state.”

It’s worth going back, just a bit, to reiterate that territorialization has not only to do with the exterior milieu but also the interior milieu, so it’s not strictly speaking only about some pissings on some trees or baboons flashing their behinds. I’m not even sure if baboons do that to mark certain area instead of it having some social group aspect to it, but that’s then the interior milieu, as discussed by Leroi-Gourhan (334). I might still be off with that as I’m hardly a baboon expert. I was actually thinking of grouses myself. If I’m correct, they tend to do quite a bit of posturing, appearing big and making a lot of noise with their wings for a relatively small bird. I believe bird singing also has to do with territoriality, at least to some degree. For color, it seems that it plays some part with robins, but I’m hardly an expert. Anyway, this detour was just so to point out that the code is not just about certain types of signs, but all kinds of signs that have something to do with territoriality.

Deleuze and Guattari (55) further explain the territorial signs or indexes:

“[They] are inseparable from a double movement. Since the associated milieu always confronts a milieu of exteriority with which the animal is engaged and in which it takes necessary risks, a line of flight must be preserved to enable the animal to regain its associated milieu when danger appears[.] … A second kind of line of flight arises when the associated milieu is rocked by blows from the exterior, forcing the animal to abandon it and strike up an association with new portions of exteriority, this time leaning on its interior milieus like fragile crutches.”

Here we encounter the line of flight, which, to me isn’t that tricky. It’s about finding a way. The translator, Brian Massumi (xvi), explains this in the notes on the translation, stating that a line is drawn, created, opening up new avenues, and that flight has to do with “fleeing or eluding, but also flowing, leaking, and disappearing” and has nothing to do with the actual act of flying, aside it being movement, I’d add. If you are put to flight, you are to run away, flee, retreat or the like, not exactly fly, unless that’s relevant to the context. Anyway, a line of flight isn’t all negative. It can be, but it’s not necessarily so. I might be wrong, but for the first part I think of cornering a dog, because they probably try to avoid that as its disadvantageous. Anyway, they (55) use the example of bulls in an arena. The second part is a bit more, erm., or rather less here and now example:

“When the seas dried, the primitive Fish left its associated milieu to explore land, forced to ‘stand on its own legs,’ now carrying water only on the inside, in the amniotic membranes protecting the embryo.”

It’s not exactly your everyday example, like the one on bulls, but it does actually hit home. They (55) clarify their position on territories, stating that they necessitate the movements, the lines of flight, deterritorializations and reterritorializations. They (55) refer back to sedimentation, noting that there’d be nothing to be posited if something wasn’t swept away somewhere else, upstream. Of course those deposits also became deposited once. So, as they (55) note, there’s always movement and drift, all intersecting in the milieus. Nothing is ever fixed, strictly speaking, as they (55) summarize:

“[T]he epistrata and parastrata are continually moving, sliding, shifting, and changing on the Ecumenon or unity of composition of a stratum; some are swept away by lines of flight and movements of deterritorialization, others by processes of decoding or drift, but they all communicate at the intersection of the milieus.”

On a broad scale then, on the level of the strata, they (55) add:

“The strata are continually being shaken by phenomena of cracking and rupture, either at the level of the substrata that furnish the materials (a prebiotic soup, a prechemical soup …), at the level of the accumulating epistrata, or at the level of the abutting parastrata: everywhere there arise simultaneous accelerations and blockages, comparative speeds, differences in deterritorialization creating relative fields of reterritorialization.”

The territorial concepts, territory, deterritorialization and reterritorialization, were defined earlier on in this essay. Deleuze and Guattari (55) warn not to confuse relative and absolute deterritorializations and lines of flight, clarifying that the former is desirable as its “stratic or interstratic” whereas the latter is destratic, involving combustion. Perhaps it’s off to summarize them as stating that the latter is undesirable. It’s rather that while turning towards the destratified plane of consistency can be useful, I wouldn’t recommend attempting to stay there, considering that it is “the state of unformed matter” as stated by Deleuze and Guattari (55-56). They (56) provide an example, the speed of sound:

“[T]he acceleration of relative deterritorializations reaches the sound barrier: if the particles bounce off this wall, or allow themselves to be captured by black holes, they fall back onto the strata, into the strata’s relations and milieus; but if they cross the barrier they reach the unformed, destratified element of the plane of consistency.”

Now, this is easy to take as just as a mere matter of speed, but they (56) note that going from relative to absolute is not just a mere matter of acceleration, even if at times that may be the case. On the contrary, they (56) argue that absolute deterritorialization may occur through “slowness or delay.” Moreover, skipping a lengthy conceptual explanation and summarizing the two (56), the key here is stratification; the plane of consistency is unformed, hence it’s not stratified. So, when something becomes absolutely deterritorialized, it’s no longer formed, no longer stratified, as it has been combusted, as they (55) point out. Conversely, when absolute deterritorialization becomes relative, it becomes stratified, residual, as they (56) insist. So, in summary, you have the destratified and the stratified, the virtual and the actual as stated by Deleuze (208-209) in ‘Difference and Repetition’. Deleuze and Guattari (56-57) demonstrate how the are, in relation to one another:

“There is a perpetual immanence of absolute deterritorialization within relative deterritorialization; and the machinic assemblages between strata that regulate the differential relations and relative movements also have cutting edges of deterritorialization oriented toward the absolute. The plane of consistency is always immanent to the strata; the two states of the abstract machine always coexist as two different states of intensities.”

So, it’s worth emphasizing that the two, the absolute and the relative, the virtual and the actual, the intensive and the extensive are not in opposition of one another. They word here is the immanence that is perpetual. Changes may occur at any given moment, pending the criteria are met and the threshold is crossed.

After explaining the core concepts, all having something to do with strata, territory and milieu, Deleuze and Guattari go on to elaborate three different strata: the geological stratum (57), the organic stratum (58) and the alloplastic or linguistic stratum (60). I think this is a good point to wrap up things, leaving the elaboration of strata for a following essay.

It’s all about the Benjamins, or is it?

Money, money, money. The haves and the have nots. You want it when you don’t have it. You want more of it when you have it. Or, well, so they say anyway. To be serious for a moment, we do like to measure things in money, what’s something worth. Even time is money. Everyone supposedly has a price, yet, oddly enough the highest price is actually priceless. It should be evident that this essay has to do with money, but I’d like to shift that more towards value or capital. Why is this at all relevant? Well, I keep reading about wages, wage gaps, etc., yet, while I’m hardly an economist, I wonder if that’s all there is? Is this how people think? If someone makes a bit more than I do, does that mean that I have less, just because I make less. Maybe, maybe not. I’m not even including spending here, just looking at making it as including other factors would complicate it here quite a bit, yet I fail to grasp how the supposed gap between me and someone is that simple, me having less than the other person.

I haven’t brought up Pierre Bourdieu that much, but I think his views on accumulation of wealth or capital is worth addressing. He takes a closer look at this in ‘Ökonomisches Kapital, kulturelles Kapital, soziales Kapital’, an article published in 1983, translated to English as ‘The Forms of Capital’ by Richard Nice, nested in the ‘Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education’ published in 1986. The title or titles already suggest that Bourdieu considers capital to me more than just money, money, money, or something material measurable in money, to be more specific.

Bourdieu kicks off with a … let’s say a rather ordinary way of defining capital. He (241) states that

“Capital is accumulated labor (in its materialized form or its ‘incorporated,’ embodied form) which, when appropriated on a private, i.e., exclusive, basis by agents or groups of agents, enables them to appropriate social energy in the form of reified or living labor. It is a vis insita, a force inscribed in objective or subjective structures, but it is also a lex insita, the principle underlying the immanent regularities of the social world. It is what makes the games of society – not least, the economic game – something other than simple games of chance offering at every moment the possibility of a miracle..”

He (241) then notes that it’s unlike roulette because it’s not just random; it’s not just spinning the wheel. In his words (241):

“[It is not] perfect competition or perfect equality of opportunity, a world without inertia, without accumulation, without heredity or acquired properties, in which every moment is perfectly independent of the previous one[.]”

In other words, in card game terms, you get to play with the cards you happen to have. The deck is not shuffled, nor do you necessarily get to swap your cards for other cards. You essentially have to work with what you got and what you got depends on what you were given. In his words (241-242):

“Capital, which, in its objectified or embodied forms, takes time to accumulate and which, as a potential capacity to produce profits and to reproduce itself in identical or expanded form, contains a tendency to persist in its being, is a force inscribed in the objectivity of things so that everything is not equally possible or impossible.”

So, you may start with a better hand if the people giving that hand to you happen to have good hands. The thing with good hands then is that you tend to win games with good hands, as opposed to bad hands. In his words (242):

“And the structure of the distribution of the different types and subtypes of capital at a given moment in time represents the immanent structure of the social world, i.e. , the set of constraints, inscribed in the very reality of that world, which govern its functioning in a durable way, determining the chances of success for practices.”

I think it’s worth adding that what you were given at the start of the game depends on the rules of the game. There may be rules in place to make the game more even between the players, so that some players aren’t advantaged over the others. That, of course, depends. Some prefer a more even start, whereas others are less bothered by it.

Bourdieu (242-243) is, however, not at all content with defining capital as merely quantifiable in and convertible to money. Something seems to be missing. Instead, he (243) presents three guises of capital, firstly:

“as economic capital, which is immediately and directly convertible into money and may be institutionalized in the forms of property rights[.]”

Secondly (243):

“as cultural capital, which is convertible, on certain conditions, into economic capital and may be institutionalized in the forms of educational qualifications[.]”

Thirdly (243):

“as social capital, made up of social obligations (‘connections’), which is convertible, in certain conditions, into economic capital and may be institutionalized in the forms of a title of nobility.”

From the three guises of capital, Bourdieu (243) addresses cultural capital first, albeit technically it’s now the second, considering he begins his discussion of capital with the economic capital. Anyway, he (243) distinguishes three forms of cultural capital, firstly:

“in the embodied state, i.e., in the form of long-lasting dispositions of the mind and body[.]”

Secondly (243):

“in the objectified state, in the form of cultural goods (pictures, books, dictionaries, instruments, machines, etc.), which are the trace or realization of theories or critiques of these theories, problematics, etc.”

Thirdly (243):

“in the institutionalized state, a form of objectification which must be set apart because, as will be seen in the case of educational qualifications, it confers entirely original properties on the cultural capital which it is presumed to guarantee.”

It’s worth pointing out that Bourdieu already noted that cultural capital is convertible to economic capital, i.e. money, but it depends, as pointed out here. You may have plenty of know-how embodied in you, but it’s not worth much unless you it’s formalized via an institution. In other words, if you don’t have the right formal qualifications, some degree or diploma, you might find it tricky to make use of that cultural capital, even though you have such. Alternatively, you might be able to put it, for example, into words, making it into a book or come up with something worth a patent. Good ideas are only good ideas unless you can turn them into something, something more convertible. That said, I would add that qualifications ought to be based on the embodied capital, yet they might not be. What I mean is that in some cases, while it’s probably not that common, some people manage to acquire qualifications that they have not earned through the system. If you have enough dough, you might be able to bake one, if you know what I mean. So, it’s also worth emphasizing that, as noted by Bourdieu (244), cultural capital, while distinct, it is not separate from the other guises of capital. In other words, they all contribute to one another. How much? Well, that depends on the circumstances. As Bourdieu (244) points out, there are costs involved in embodiment of something as working on oneself takes, at least, time and effort. While time and effort are of course required, considering that you don’t acquire new skills instantaneously, Bourdieu (244-245) also points out that economic and social capital do make a difference in the embodiment of cultural capital. He (244) points out that prior education in particular contributes to further education, ranging from the education provided by the family prior to formal schooling. So, If your family, namely your parents, don’t value education, it may pose issues down the road. Having been in teaching positions, this is rather apparent to me. It’s quite tricky to enable a student to embody cultural capital if they view it as a waste of time due to their domestic education, as Bourdieu (244) puts it. Related to this, Bourdieu (245) also argues that:

“Because the social conditions of its transmission and acquisition are more disguised than those of economic capital, it is predisposed to function as symbolic capital, i.e., to be unrecognized as capital and recognized as legitimate competence[.]”

I agree with this. In my own experience, even if it’s only anecdotal, some people don’t actually recognize it as such. I’ve witnessed people tell their own children that they cannot achieve something, for example, a certain degree through education as, well, they are not competent to do so. Anyway, moving on, Bourdieu (245-246) also points out that objectified cultural capital plays a role. If you happen to have cultural goods, such as books, then they can help you embody more cultural capital. Books are probably not the best example these days, but think of any source of knowledge. I guess online access would be a bigger thing these days than books. Related to the earlier points made, Bourdieu (246) puts particular emphasis on the family:

“[T]he process of appropriating objectified cultural capital and the time necessary for it to take place mainly depend on the cultural capital embodied in the whole family[.]”

So, he (246) adds:

“[T]he initial accumulation of cultural capital, the precondition for the fast, easy accumulation of every kind of useful cultural capital, starts at the outset, without delay, without wasted time, only for the offspring of families endowed with strong cultural capital; in this case, the accumulation period covers the whole period of socialization.”

He (246) characterizes this as “the best hidden form of hereditary transmission of capital[.]” You might be wondering how that’s hereditary, considering that it has nothing to do with your genetic inheritance and little to do with the wealth of the family or hereditary titles, but Bourdieu (244-246) is adamant about it, pointing out that this tends to get ignored and assumed as an inherent disposition and/or a matter of competence, which only contributes to the unequal distribution of capital. In other words, education and attitudes towards it matter particularly much. Bourdieu (246) makes yet another important observation, noting that economic capital, not only your economic capital, but also the economic capital of your family, has effect on the acquisition and embodiment of cultural capital. It’s however, worth noting that, as pointed out by Bourdieu (246), it’s not all about the money itself, but what it enables. If you work all time and make a ton of money while at it, you never have the time to develop yourself, unless you manage to do that while working. Also, you might be working a lot, but not making a lot of money, which pushes you to work more to get more money. In the first case you at least have a well paying job, which, if you simply worked less, could make it possible to develop yourself and embody more cultural capital, say, by buying those cultural goods, enrolling in part time studies or hiring a teacher or a trainer. In the second, less fortunate, case, the person simply doesn’t have the option to work less hours as all those hours are needed, unless the person manages to cut on certain expenses, thus freeing more economic capital that could be used to acquire more cultural capital. It’s worth noting that, as pointed out by Bourdieu (246), we also need to consider our existing cultural capital in all shapes and forms. The longer you have time to embody it and acquire it as goods and qualifications, the more you can put it to use later on, contributing to the acquisition of economic capital, as well as social capital. So, if your parents are well educated, value education and contribute to your education, by having economic capital to pay for your education and/or having to work less in order to teach you themselves, the more you are likely to be well off in the future. Of course this is not something in which one thing simply leads to another, not at all, but it does tend to make a difference.

In the discussion of the objectified cultural capital, Bourdieu (246-247) makes yet another point about the importance of the embodied cultural capital, pointing out that certain economic capital, such as machines and instruments, require cultural capital. The point he makes is that simply having economic capital isn’t sufficient, so it’s hardly useful to appropriate the economic capital from those who have it, when cultural capital is required for them to have any real value to their owners. Unless you know how to use a computer or, I guess more appropriately these days, certain computer software, you have little use for that computer or that software, meaning that you have to get someone to do what you need for you or learn to do it all yourself. That’ll of course cost you, one way or another.

Explaining the final part of social capital, Bourdieu (247) neatly explains the difference between embodied and institutionalized cultural capital:

“[There is a] difference between the capital of the autodidact, which may be called into question at any time, … and the cultural capital academically sanctioned by legally guaranteed qualifications, formally independent of the person of their bearer.”

I condensed his example a bit, but I think his comparison of an autodidact and someone with formal qualifications, sanctioned in law, is particularly apt. An autodidact may embody the same cultural capital as someone with a degree, but lacks the recognition for it. It’s of course not useless to be an autodidact, learn stuff all by yourself without any formal recognition, far from it, rather the opposite in my opinion, yet it isn’t valued. Instead, one could argue that learning this or that, all by yourself, is viewed with suspicion. It is, as if the person who comes to embody cultural capital on their own is circumventing the system, hence the suspicion, I reckon. In the academic context, one could also point to the author function, as discussed in an earlier essay. In short, if you haven’t jumped through the hoops of publishing, having to wait forever followed by someone simply rejecting you as unworthy, outlandish, heretical or sorcerous, i.e. for doing the wrong thing, or simply writing something that doesn’t anger the priests (in the absence of an actual Emperor, mind you), i.e. doing the right thing, then you are no one, a no name, and will be treated as such whereas those with a name tend to get a pass. In this context, following Bourdieu (245), while it is well within reason to assume that people with publications are surely competent, more competent than the ones without or fewer publications to their name, it is not necessarily the case, considering that the review system can hardly be characterized as transparent. This also applies to funding, hence the ties of institutionalized cultural capital and economic capital. Speaking from experience, it’s trickier, just a tiny bit trickier to publish when you lack economic capital to do so. I’m not saying it’s impossible, far from it, but the point is that, following Bourdieu, one would think that the supposed competence would have more to do with the embodied cultural capital rather than institutionalized cultural capital. Then again, what do I know? As I don’t have the necessary qualifications, the necessary formal recognition of competence to discuss this, so do ignore my arguments. Anyway, back to the text itself, Bourdieu (248) indicates the connection qualification form with economic capital:

“Furthermore, it makes it possible to establish conversion rates between cultural capital and economic capital by guaranteeing the monetary value of a given academic capital.”

The point he is making is that qualifications, such as academic degrees, guarantee a certain value to the otherwise rather obscure cultural capital that is hard to quantify. He (248) does, however, add that it’s just that a degree guarantees certain profit on the job market as the value depends on how many other people have the same qualifications. In other words, he (248) is making note of the possibility of degrees suffering from inflation, like they do, if you ask me. If everyone has a Bachelor’s Degree, a Master’s Degree or a PhD, then what is it worth anymore? I don’t know how things were in France in the early 1980s, but this is the case these days. Having qualifications is one thing, which, in a way you have to get because otherwise you are simply out of the game, but you also need to stand out from the horde of degree holders.

Moving on to social capital, Bourdieu (248-249) elaborates it:

“[It] is the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition – or in other words, to membership in a group – which provides each of its members with the backing of the collectivity-owned capital, a ‘credential’ which entitles them to credit, in the various senses of the word.”

In the everyday sense, this is what people call networking, knowing the right people. Bourdieu (249) then further clarifies this:

“These relationships may exist only in the practical state, in material and/or symbolic exchanges which help to maintain them.”

Okay, so, as I pointed out, it’s about knowing people, hopefully people who know people. He (249) then adds that:

“They may also be socially instituted and guaranteed by the application of a common name (the name of a family, a class, or a tribe or of a school, a party, etc.) and by a whole set of instituting acts designed simultaneously to form and inform those who undergo them; in this case, they are more or less really enacted and so maintained and reinforced, in exchanges.”

Indeed, while it’s essentially still just about knowing people, it worth noting that those people may be part of different groups. Being or becoming a part of a certain group may give you access to people, perhaps the right people. It’s only apt to speak of the right people because knowing people for the sake of knowing is hardly advantageous. Bourdieu (249) is well aware of this:

“The volume of the social capital possessed by a given agent thus depends on the size of the network of connections he can effectively mobilize and on the volume of the capital (economic, cultural or symbolic) possessed in his own right by each of those to whom he is connected.”

Simply put, more is not necessarily better. It’s not only about quantity but also quality, hence you should get to know the right people, those with capital, be it economic, cultural or social. Knowing the right people for the appropriate reasons, whatever it is that your are trying to achieve, can be highly beneficial to you. If you can connect to the right person, possibly through another person, say, someone looking to hire someone with certain requirements on cultural capital, you are make use of the social capital. This could be the other way around as well. Someone might be able to get the person they need, the one with plenty of relevant cultural capital through their contacts, thus maneuvering past potential competition for that person’s talents. The person hired might also be persuaded accept the position due to the mutual connection. The person connecting the parties may also find the arrangement to be beneficial as they may then feel to be in some sort of gratitude to the one who made the connection possible. Therefore I think it’s worth emphasizing that it’s not just knowing people, people who know people you already know yourself, but about knowing people who know people you are unaware of. You want to know the right people, not just any people.

Bourdieu (249-250) summarizes how it all works with social capital:

“[T]he network of relationships is the product of investment strategies, individual or collective, consciously or unconsciously aimed at establishing or reproducing social relationships that are directly usable in the short or long term, i.e., at transforming contingent relations, such as those of neighborhood, the workplace, or even kinship, into relationships that are at once necessary and elective, implying durable obligations subjectively felt (feelings of gratitude, respect, friendship, etc.) or institutionally guaranteed (rights). This is done through the alchemy of consecration, the symbolic constitution produced by social institution (institution as a relative – brother, sister, cousin, etc. – or as a knight, an heir, an elder, etc.) and endlessly reproduced in and through the exchange (of gifts, words, women, etc.) which it encourages and which presupposes and produces mutual knowledge and recognition.”

He (250) then argues that this results in signs of recognition, either mutual, between parties, or within a group. He (250) also notes that it reproduces the group, as well as, possibly, albeit rather likely, sets the limits of that group. In other words, not that it’s that surprising, but those that inside the limits are included and can benefit from it, whereas those that are outside the limits, are excluded. Of course each point in the network, each member of the group, can regulate this, at least to some extent, as noted by Bourdieu (250). It of course depends on how different groups work these out, how flexible or rigid they are, what are the criteria for entry. It also depends on how set in stone the limits are. Bourdieu (251) refers to nobility as “the par excellence” of lasting form. Nevertheless, network is more of an ongoing process than a fixed state of affairs, no matter how much things are controlled, as Bourdieu (250) explains:

“The reproduction of social capital presupposes an unceasing effort of sociability, a continuous series of exchanges in which recognition is endlessly affirmed and reaffirmed.”

It keeps on going and, guess what, requires time and effort, to begin with, as well as other investments to make the best out of it, as explained by Bourdieu (250):

“This work, which implies expenditure of time and energy and so, directly or indirectly, of economic capital, is not profitable or even conceivable unless one invests in it a specific competence (knowledge of genealogical relationships and of real connections and skill at using them, etc.) and an acquired disposition to acquire and maintain this competence, which are themselves integral parts of this capital.”

Once again, it can’t be stressed enough, no matter how abusive it may seem to people, it’s about knowing the right people, for the right purposes. You don’t want to invest your time and effort, not to mention money, into something that doesn’t benefit you, one way or another, now or later. As Bourdieu (250) puts it, it’s about profitability. As one person can only have so much capital, in its different guises that is, not just economic, knowing people, the right people can act as a handy multiplier, one that also saves time and effort, as explained by Bourdieu (250-251):

“Because the social capital accruing from a relationship is that much greater to the extent that the person who is the object of it is richly endowed with capital (mainly social, but also cultural and even economic capital), the possessors of an inherited social capital, symbolized by a great name, are able to transform all circumstantial relationships into lasting connections. They are sought after for their social capital and, because they are well known, are worthy of being known (‘I know him well’); they do not need to ‘make the acquaintance’ of all their ‘acquaintances’; they are known to more people than they know, and their work of sociability, when it is exerted, is highly productive.”

So, in other words, as pointed out already, it’s highly beneficial to know people who know people you don’t know. It would take plenty of time and effort, if not insurmountable amount of both, to attempt to know everyone yourself, rather than sort of delegating that task to other people, the people who are rich in social capital. As time is also money, it then allows you to focus on economic and cultural capital instead, as Bourdieu (251) explains it:

“Every group has its more or less institutionalized forms of delegation which enable it to concentrate the totality of the social capital, which is the basis of the existence of the group (a family or a nation, of course, but also an association or a party), in the hands of a single agent or a small group of agents and to mandate this plenipotentiary, charged with plena potestas agendi et loquendi, to represent the group, to speak and act in its name and so, with the aid of this collectively owned capital, to exercise a power incommensurate with the agent’s personal contribution.”

Simply put, on the level of the individual, you should be managing your social network, not micromanaging it. Bourdieu (251) adds that this also functions the other way around, not as managing inclusion but also exclusion. He (251) points out that in groups, especially in institutions, those in charge are not only designated as the ones responsible for managing the connections: who’s in and who’s out. He (251) argues that:

“[It] ensures the concentration of social capital, also has the effect of limiting the consequences of individual lapses by explicitly delimiting responsibilities and authorizing the recognized spokesmen to shield the group as a whole from discredit by expelling or excommunicating the embarrassing individuals.”

This connects to my earlier criticism of priesthoods, those of academic circles to be more specific. The priests are in position to judge the piety of the group members in order to protect the integrity of the group. Those deemed unworthy are anathematized. Heresies must be dealt with swiftly before they threaten the integrity of group, or so they say. Bourdieu (251) recognizes this:

“One of the paradoxes of delegation is that the mandated agent can exert on (and, up to a point, against) the group the power which the group enables him to concentrate.”

Indeed, if you delegate the right exercise power to certain figures in the group, you may end up with a system in which those figures may be entitled to work against members of the group in the protection of the group, or well, at least supposedly for that reason. Also relevant for the academic circles, Bourdieu (251) adds that this tends to be the case in particular “when the group is large and its members weak” because of the spatiotemporal requirements that necessitate the dispersal of the group members. In other words, as large groups require more space and contact between each of them would require more time than in small groups, you tend to end up with that kind of a system. Bourdieu (251) points out that the problem with this is that it “also contain[s] the seeds of an embezzlement or misappropriation of the capital which they assemble.” Moreover, he (251-252) argues that this is a latent feature of it, elevating some to the rank which enables them to represent the group with authority and to speak on its behalf, even against its individual members, as mentioned earlier on. He (251-252) refers to these delegates aptly as nobiles, stating that “the noble is the group personified.” If you wonder how that’s apt, rather than a mere stab at some long gone aristocracy, do look up the word noble in a dictionary. Bourdieu is pretty spot on with this. Furthermore, he (252) uses the feudal system as an example of this, as well as personality cults, such as those identified with “parties, trade unions, or movements” with their distinct leaders. The problem with this is, as recognized by Bourdieu (251-252), as well as Deleuze and Guattari in ‘Mille plateaux’, as discussed in previous essays, that those supposedly representing the group, as elevated to such positions by the group, for the benefit of the group, tend to end up defining the benefit of the group through themselves, the group serving them instead of them serving the group. Questioning such an arrangement will be met with being excluded from the group, being branded as a heretic, thus restricting the access to capital in all of its guises, as Bourdieu might put it.

There’s a final part on conversion, how types of capital relate to one another and how they convert, if they do and to what extent, but I think it’s not worth going through. It reiterates some of the points made already and I assume the reader, you, can take a look at it yourself. So this is the end of this, the essay, probably not the topic though, considering that this is just Bourdieu’s view on it. I chose the text because it is fairly easy to understand, which, I guess means that it doesn’t require a ton of cultural capital. It would be rather counterproductive if it did, pushing you to acquire more of cultural capital just to understand cultural capital or using your social capital to get someone with sufficient cultural capital to explain it to you. Anyway, I wanted to take up the issue of capital or simply put money because I keep reading and hearing that it’s all that there is to anything, that if you don’t earn this or that much, you are poor, or that if you end up earning less than before at some point in life, choice or not time wise, you are essentially worth less. The thing is, as Bourdieu is nice enough to elaborate, that it’s not all about the money, far from it. What about me? Well, I for sure am not stacked with money. No, I’m not poor, far from it. Most people in the world are poor, I’m not, and that’s just in terms of the economic capital. That said, relative to most Finns, being a doctoral student, working part time, figuring out how to make things work, trying to earn more, I’m not well off. I wonder how things would be if I could focus on the studies full time. By all logic productivity should be through the roof at that point. Anyway, in terms of cultural capital, I’d say I’m making bank. Of course, while my autodidacticism is personally a boon, resulting in stacks of cultural capital, it is not formally recognized and possibly even viewed with suspicion. How dare I cross disciplinary boundaries and have no senseis? Damned sorcerer! Well, when you lack that economic capital to propel your studies full time, you start figuring out ways that could help with that, at least in the long run. With regards to social capital, well, I reckon I’m doing fine. Could be better, could be worse. I know a fair number of people, some of them the right kind of people, but it could be better, of course. I’m not overly worried about the states of my capital. I’m more worried about others, those who stare at the numbers, not seeing that the math is far more complex when it comes to capital. You have to know how to play the game, how to get better cards and with whom to trade cards with, but I’m sure most people don’t know how to, have terrible cards and/or don’t know people to trade with.

As an addendum, after a couple of days later, I think it’s useful to link this to contemporary matters. I think Bourdieu is on to something when he emphasizes the importance of cultural capital, namely in the institutional form. This applies to anyone really, but I guess in particular to people who migrate, voluntarily or involuntarily, unless they are already well off in terms economic, cultural and/or social capital. That said, this does, of course apply to anyone who is dealt bad cards to begin with, so it’s hardly exclusive to certain groups of people. Bad starting cards are bad cards regardless of who you are. The problem is, I reckon, that the future prospects aspect, as emphasized by Bourdieu, gets glossed over as there is little concern to long term effects. One generation without much capital might be happy with the increase in capital in their life time, particularly that of economic capital, but, if we follow Bourdieu on this, it ignores the hereditary aspects of capital. If you don’t have a lot of economic capital, you need to work for it, but then that’s probably off from the domestic education of the next generation. If you don’t work as much as you can, then you may face economic issues, which will also affect the next generation. You’d wish to earn more in order to work less, but that avenue is hardly open to you as you lack the cultural capital. It might also be that the cultural capital is only embodied and not recognized, meaning it’s essentially worthless in accruing more capital. You also probably know fewer people, at least fewer right people, those who might be of use to you in terms of capital. Okay, you might still do fine, more or less, at least in terms of the economic capital, but the next generation probably won’t benefit from your capital in any shape or form that much, hence they essentially from scratch, which would be like anyone else if that was the case, as noted by Bourdieu. Now, that doesn’t mean that you still can’t do well in this … game, no no, only that it’s quite unlikely to be the case. On top of that, the way the game works is that of indifference. As they say, don’t hate the players, hate the game. If you hate the players, you’ll seem like a sore loser, which in turn will hurt your chances in the future. You have to play the game, but then others don’t want to play with you, regardless of your hand. It’s unlikely that the individuals, those with more capital, are against you, per se. I reckon it’s more likely that they are indifferent to it all. They are probably not even aware of your existence, hence the indifference. Also, even if they were, your lack of capital might be a turn off to them. In addition, others might not be the best of players, but they know it’s a game and play accordingly. If you don’t know it’s a game, good luck trying to win in it. That’s when the cards are for sure stacked against you. You’ll also find it hard to address the game, if that’s what you are thinking. It’s not exactly productive to do that, if you know what I mean. You may also find the game replicating itself, even if you think you’ve managed to change it. I realize that I may now appear in favor of such a dystopian view, even giving excuses to it, but that’s not the case. I’m merely pointing out how this works in Bourdieusard terms.

Oh, Eye See! How Nobel!

I’ve written extensively on all things visual. Not all my texts deal with vision, but I’d wager most of them do. That has to do with the heavy focus on landscape. It sort of comes with the territory, like it or not. For many it’s probably unsurprising, so bringing it might be odd. I’ve commented on it and in connection to landscape, it is not all uncommon to make note of seeing as distinct from vision, the latter a faculty, the former an art, as George Perkins Marsh (10) puts it in in his 1864 publication ‘Man and Nature: Or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action’. That is, excuse the pun, a remarkable observation, considering the date of publication. Moreover, Marsh (10) also notes that seeing what’s out there, right in front of us, is a skill, most important, yet particularly hard to train.

Marsh is not the only one to make the distinction, as is evident from much of landscape literature. Anyway, instead of just reiterating what I’ve written in the past, I’ll do something else, in a way more of the same, but rather broadly speaking addressing what’s at stake. This time I’ll focus on Martin Jay’s ‘Scopic Regimes of Modernity’, as included in ‘Vision and Visuality’ edited by Hal Foster, published in 1988, and ‘Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought’ published in 1993. I’ll do some bits on the former, then move to the latter because it emphasizes the role of all things visual in speech.

So, let’s get to it. Jay (3) opens up the former, asserting that:

“Beginning with the Renaissance and the scientific revolution, modernity has been normally considered resolutely ocularcentric.”

Jay (3-5) is quick to add that while there arguably is a dominant “visual model of the modern era”, also known as Cartesian perspectivalism, it’s not, borrowing a term from Christian Metz in his 1982 text ‘The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema’ (translated by Celia Britton), the one and only scopic regime. It is, nonetheless, the dominant one, the reigning champion, as noted by Jay (5). Now, stating the it is a model or a regime, not to mention the dominant or the reigning one, as I did there, deliberately, of course puts our vision into doubt. Jay (9) summarizes its importance:

“Cartesian perspectivalism was … in league with a scientific world view that no longer hermeneutically read the world as a divine text, but rather saw it situated in a mathematically regular spatio-temporal order filled with natural objects that could only be observed from without by the dispassionate eye of the neutral researcher.”

Jay (9) also makes note of how detached this model is, connecting it to certain bourgeois ethic where the world is seized and hung on to a wall, only to be bought and sold, i.e. a commodity. He (10) also comments on how it set the observer as no one, detached, distanced, disembodied, i.e. what I’d say cleansed or purged of anything subjective. Sanitized would be another fitting word there. Jay actually goes on to discuss two other models, ones that, at least, in part challenge the one characterized here. I guess it’s actually more fitting to call them alternatives rather than merely in opposition of the dominant one. Anyway, so do read the whole thing if interested.

Moving on to the second book, unable to resist them himself, Jay (1) states that:

“Even a rapid glance at the language we commonly use will demonstrate the ubiquity of visual metaphors. If we actively focus our attention on them, vigilantly keeping an eye out for those deeply embedded as well as those on the surface, we can gain illuminating insight into the complex mirroring of perception and language.”

Okay, fair enough, I led you astray, I’m sure Jay is well aware of the word choices in the excerpt I provided above and intentionally uses a number of words related to vision: glance, demonstrate, visual, focus, vigilantly, keeping an eye, illuminating, insight, mirroring, perception. This is particularly funny for me, so do go on (1):

“Depending, of course, on one’s outlook or point of view, the prevalence of such metaphors will be accounted an obstacle or an aid to our knowledge of reality. It is, however, no idle speculation or figment of imagination to claim that if blinded to their importance, we will damage our ability to inspect the world outside and introspect the world within. And our prospects for escaping their thrall, if indeed that is even a foreseeable goal, will be greatly dimmed.”

Haha! It’s evident that Jay just keeps going, adding word after another, many of them linked to all things visual. There’s just so many of them, too many to keep track, but I’m sure you … here we go again … take a look yourself. Okay, according to Jay (1), there are a total of 21 visual metaphors in the opening paragraph of the book, which I didn’t fully cover. Anyway, as a related matter, in case you didn’t get my humor in the past, where I apologize for some choices of words, especially the ones linked to visual metaphors, this should explain my behavior. It’s just damn hard not to use them, especially when speaking as you simply lack the time you have when writing … say … an essay like this.

Okay, that’s all in English. How about other languages? Jay (2) notes that this applies to other languages as well and points outs that it applies to, for example, German and French:

“No German, for instance, can miss the Augen in Augenblick or the Schau in Anschauung, nor can a Frenchman fail to hear the voir in both savoir and pouvoir.”

I can add that this applies to Finnish as well, so it’s not only an Indo-European thing. I was recently in a job interview (I didn’t get, in case you wonder), and they asked me: ‘missä näet itsesi viiden vuoden päästä?’ In other words, for those who can’t crack the code, the interviewers asked me where the classic question: where do you see yourself in five years? I responded with something obscure, as far as my own … erm. … line of thinking permitted me to answer such a hilariously banal question. I think my answer was rather Deleuzian, something about how you need to keep going, if not there, then somewhere else, not too locked on there, otherwise you might get stuck there. If only I could have had a good conversation about the differences of being and becoming and how I se… I mean align myself with the latter. I think it would have been dishonest to state anything specific but also too … outlandish … for the interviewers for me to opt for some Deleuzian parlance. Anyway, there is (assumed) linkage between seeing and knowing, the eye and the mind, as noted by Jay (9) in the first book. It also applies to Finnish. To list some, with a bit of effort: ‘en näe siinä ongelmaa’ (I don’t see a problem with that), ‘näkemykseni mukaan’ (in my view), ‘pitää silmällä’ (keep an eye on), ‘tarkkasilmäinen’ (keen eye, perceptive, able to notice things), ‘ensisilmäyksellä’ (initially, at first glance) and ‘tulevaisuuden näkymät’ (prospects).

I happen to write quite a bit in English so I come across visual metaphors quite often and the examples are easy to provide. In fact, it’s the other way around. They are so abundant that it’s hard not to use them, hence the pun warnings here and there. Just the reporting verbs when writing an article, how does one avoid using words and expressions like, including but not limited to, demonstrates, examines, inspects, notes, observes, provides insight, speculates, surveys and views? Okay, I can use, say, someone analyzes, asserts, states or comments, to name some that came into my mind quickly, but that’s quite limited and bound to push someone to comment how drab the language is then. There is also a bit of a difference between, say, stating something like ‘in my opinion’ and ‘in my view’. At least for me, the former just seems more subjective and, well, opinionated, whereas the latter, well, it seems at least more distanced, making note of the possibility of a certain degree of subjectivity, but anything conceded as opinionated.

While this essay is evidently largely critical of understanding seeing as something neutral or objective, I think it’s worth pointing out that, for example, Jay is not altogether hostile to vision. In the second book, in the 1993 one, Jay (5-6) notes that human vision is not the same as the vision of other animals, having developed to how it is, in general, due to the upright human posture. He (6) makes note of infantile synesthesia, pointing out that some infants may encounter initial sensory confusion as, it is argued, that sight develops after other senses, namely smell and touch, only to become the superior sense for the child, far ahead of hearing. He (6-7) also points out the complex nature of human vision, as discussed in one my earlier essays, making particular note of how the human eyes saccade, moving ever so slightly across the visual field, and how it is countered by “vestibulo-ocular reflex”, adjusting automatically to the movement of the head so that the field of view isn’t all choppy. Just imagine if your eyes couldn’t position accordingly when your head moves or tilts. He (7) also stresses that while fixing the gaze is indeed possible, focusing on something particular, it is tiresome and eventually intolerable. In other words, the eyes, while there for you, as a faculty, if you will, they are rather complex, to say the least. That said, after all the concessions made, Jay (8) notes that human vision is not without its blind spots (quite literally so as he also notes in the same paragraph):

“[W]e are often fooled by visual experience that turns out to be illusory, an inclination generated perhaps by our overwhelming, habitual belief in its apparent reliability.”

I think it’s worth emphasizing the very final bits here, the apparent reliability. As Jay (6) points out, human vision is the dominant sense, far ahead of the other senses, so, in a way, it’s hardly surprising that we consider it particularly reliable, at least far more than, say, our sense of smell. Just imagine attempting to track something on the basis of smell, competing against, for example, a dog. Sure, we might find the person who ate garlic if close by, but when was the last time they employed a human sniffer at the customs? I’ve employed it a couple of times now, on purpose, so, as indicated by Jay (8), there is something of a relationship between language and sight, along the lines of mental images that we … erm. … imagine. Even that is coupled with vision. It is also the case with its Finnish equivalent ‘kuvitella’, having to do with ‘kuva’ for an image or a picture, resulting in ‘mielikuva’, a mind picture. Jay (9) emphasizes the importance of this, arguing that:

“Although perception is intimately tied up with language as a generic phenomenon, different people of course speak different tongues. As a result, the universality of visual experience cannot be automatically assumed, if that experience is in part mediated linguistically.”

The key word here is mediation. As Jay points out, how it works is, somewhat obviously, affected by language, which, is not the same all across the board. I did cover the language or languaging vs. languages and I won’t go deep into that here, but even if we assert outlandishly that there is only language, not languages, it still doesn’t remove the actualized differences, the ones that for some reason or another result in people considering there to be multiple languages. That would still hold. Anyway, Jay (9) continues:

“Natural science, therefore, itself suggests the possibility of cultural variables, at least to some degree. It implies, in other words, the inevitable entanglement of vision and what has been called ‘visuality’ – the distinct historical manifestations of visual experience in all its possible modes. Observation, to put it another way, means observing the tacit cultural rules of different scopic regimes.”

I guess I could still object to the use of culture, which, I’m not particularly fond of, namely due to its rather glacial … erm. … nature to use another often used by equally glacial word, here used for the added humor marked by the contradiction, defining culture as having to do with nature. Anyway, joking and nitpicking aside, Jay makes an excellent point, one that survives the one or more languages debate. It seems fair enough to state that observation is affected by who we’ve become and I use we, not because I want to sneak culture in through a back door, but because something tells me that we don’t learn (to use) language just by ourselves. I’m not ever sure how one could test that properly, to bring up a child without bringing it up from day one. There’s also the … cough cough … minor inconvenience that we are not going to conduct tests on that, for rather obvious reasons. I haven’t done the reading for this or conducted any relevant experiments, nor will I, except maybe for the reading part, but I reckon that this is the case even with animals. Okay, maybe, say, a dog might be able to bark and/or growl on its own if raised in lab conditions, yet something in me is saying that it would struggle if it was introduced to other dogs, at best just barking or growling randomly at them, at least initially. I have no idea nor how would I even know the difference between sensical bark and a nonsensical bark.

Getting back on track here, Jay (9-10) adds another layer to the mix, pointing out that while we no longer think that light emanates from the eyes, we still like to think that … sorry for the pun … there is more than meets the eye. Okay, Jay (9-10) doesn’t muck about like that, but rather states that just the gaze and the look of the eye have something to them, something active (10):

“Common phrases such as ‘a piercing or penetrating gaze,’ ‘melting eyes,’ ‘a come-hither look,’ or ‘casting a cold eye’ all capture this ability with striking vividness.”

He (10) adds tears to the mix and notes that it’s something particular to humans, only to add that:

“[T]he eye is not only, as the familiar clichés would have it, a ‘window on the world,’ but also a ‘mirror of the soul.’ Even the dilation of the pupil can unintentionally betray an inner state, subtly conveying interest or aversion to the beholder.”

Ah yes, how our eyes betray us. I remember reading about the dilation of pupils, how they, at least supposedly, convey interest, and then checking on the dilation of pupils, wondering if there’s something to it. As someone who knows a thing or two about photography, which is, more or less, modeled after the human eye, as discussed in a previous essay, I have to point out that the dilation of pupil may also have to do with low light, you know, like in dim lit bar, on a romantic dinner at a restaurant or somewhere outdoors in the evening or at night, otherwise you’d have hard time seeing much. This works the other way around too, so if you focus on the eyes of your lover on a very bright day, the chances are the pupils are not dilated. Apparently there’s more to pupil dilation than just light or the lack thereof, and no, not only that of chemistry of the pharmaceutical kind, so I’m not saying there’s nothing to it, but rather that not every dilated or non-dilated pupil indicates interest or the lack of it. Anyway, Jay (10) also makes note of the so called ‘evil eye’, how gazing can not only seem friendly but also hostile or disapproving. I wonder how much the face or the head, as well as the overall posture has an effect on it though. I mean it seems a bit off that we’d think of that without the other parts, as if the eyes themselves, hovering in the air, dismembered from the body, make us think their gaze is disapproving.

Jay (11) adds that there’s even more to this, that gazing extends from actually being observed to the imagined observation, hence panopticism as in Bentham’s panoptic prison. He (11) notes, however, the spectrum is quite wide, some may be rather paranoid of such, which is, arguably, the point of panopticism, but others thrilled by it, exhibiting themselves not only to others but also to potential others. He (11) also notes that the lack of attention, i.e. being feeling as if invisible, is also a thing. There’s actually quite a bit more to all of this, as explained by Jay (12-13), including but not limited to the religious aspects of it, some revering it in the form of extraordinary seers, others, namely the monotheists, considering it idolatry and ocular desire.

I don’t intend to cover all Jay has to say on the topic, there’s just too much on it, but instead link it to landscape research. That said I think it’s still worth adding that Jay is particularly self-aware of all kinds of contradictions in his presentation. For example, he (17) concedes that he is beholden by a certain faith in illuminating or clarifying ideas, opting to embrace a markedly visual approach in his own study and making use of more or less visual concepts such as totality. He (17-18) comments on his own visual figures of speech, synoptic, survey and mapmaking:

“But as any honest geographer will readily admit, mapmaking cannot escape the bias – both in the literal sense of a slanted perspective and in the metaphorical one of a cultural prejudice – of the mapmaker. There is no ‘view from nowhere’ for even the most scrupulously ‘detached’ observer.”

Moreover, he (18) goes on to add that he is guilty of not only embracing a visual approach, but also of paraphrasing. I’ve covered the latter to some extent in a previous essay, so I won’t go into that, again, as it would deviate from the overall topic here quite considerably. Maybe I’ll dedicate something on this in yet another text, but we’ll see how things pan out. Anyway, I read Jay (18-19) as pointing out paraphrasing, providing a synopsis or a summary are problematic as they seem to provide something that could be criticized for resulting in totalities, which, as mentioned earlier on by Jay (17), is yet another visually loaded word, hinting towards an “absolute God’s-eye view” or, following Jean Starobinski, “le regard surplombant”, “the look from above[.]” Making note of all this, borrowing from Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jay (18) offers horizon as his preferred alternative here, which is, well, still somewhat totalizing and yet another visual metaphor. He (18) argues that it works from a vantage point, as horizon is always perceived from a certain point, whereas the absolute or total view doesn’t necessitate any position, nor can horizons be fused to create totality. In his publication ‘Truth and Method’, in this case in the 2004 second revised edition of it (for pagination, translation by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald Marshall), Gadamer (301-302) discusses various situations, extending to past situations, i.e. history, and states that (301):

“To acquire an awareness of a situation is, however, always a task of peculiar difficulty. The very idea of a situation means that we are not standing outside it and hence are unable to have any objective knowledge.”

As a result, he (301) adds:

“We always find ourselves within a situation, and throwing light on it is a task that is never entirely finished. … The illumination of this situation – reflection on effective history – can never be completely achieved; yet the fact that it cannot be completed is due not to a deficiency in reflection but to the essence of the historical being that we are.”

So, there’s this perpetuity or infinity deferral of completion, if that even makes sense. I mean completion or total illumination can never be achieved because it always builds on this and/or that. Gadamer also points out that it’s not that we don’t get it, that we fail to look back, but unless I’m mistaken it’s that looking back that is affected by who looks back. Anyway, Gadamer (301) reiterates this:

To be historically means that knowledge of oneself can never be complete. All self-knowledge arises from what is historically pregiven[.]”

Now, I’m honestly not familiar enough with Gadamer, nor Hegel to whom he refers to in this context, and I probably wouldn’t even bring them up here if were not for Jay, but, perhaps going against them, I would emphasize the final two words, historically and pregiven because historical is not the same as universal and pregiven is, at least for me, just another word for a priori. Anyway, moving to horizon, Gadamer (301) presents it alongside situation:

“Every finite present has its limitations. We define the concept of ‘situation’ by saying that it represents a standpoint that limits the possibility of vision. Hence essential to the concept of situation is the concept of ‘horizon.’ The horizon is the range of vision that includes everything that can be seen from a particular vantage point.”

He (301) then expands the notion:

“Applying this to the thinking mind, we speak of narrowness of horizon, of the possible expansion of horizon, of the opening up of new horizons, and so forth. … [T]he word has been used in philosophy to characterize the way in which thought is tied to its fine determinacy, and the way one’s range of vision is gradually expanded.”

Then he (301-302) exemplifies it:

“[On one hand] [a] person who has no horizon does not see far enough and hence over-values what is nearest to him. On the other hand, “to have a horizon” means not being limited to what is nearby but being able to see beyond it. A person who has [a] horizon knows the relative significance of everything within this horizon, whether it is near or far, great or small. Similarly, working out the … situation means acquiring the right horizon of inquiry for the questions evoked by the encounter with tradition.”

Jay (18) not only mentions horizon, but also the fusion of horizon, which may seem a bit murky without familiarity with Gadamer (305) who explains that a horizon isn’t fixed or isolated, but rather continually tested in relation the past and “the tradition from which we come.” More specifically, Gadamer (305) states:

Rather, understanding is always the fusion of these horizons supposedly existing by themselves. … In a tradition this process of fusion is continually going on, for there old and new are always combining into something of living value, without either being explicitly foregrounded from the other.”

Jay (18) points out that what he takes from the fusion, as mentioned earlier, is that even when horizons are fused, it’s still a just fusion of a number of horizons, which do not combine into an all seeing perfection, a “God’s-eye view” as he puts it. He (18) adds that it’s not that it’s useless to take different perspectives into consideration, far from it, but rather that attempting to reconstruct a true or objective view is futile. He (18-19) explains that having worked with others, in dialogue, successful or not, he has experienced fusion or some sort of transformation, having had to interact with other horizons. Of course, as I’m hardly an expert in Gadamer, I’m not sure how liberal Jay is on his use of horizon here, but I think he manages to make the point that what we see, as well as think, often if not typically associated with one another, as pointed out in the first text examined in this essay, is hardly objective, yet not exactly subjective either, but rather co-created.

How is this all related to landscapes? Well, I have covered that in previous articles, particularly when examining the texts of Denis Cosgrove, as well as Maurice Ronai. Anyway, still on Jay, in the second book, he (51) argues that the Renaissance (re)discovery of the linear perspective, a veritable invention when applied, as discussed in some of my previous essays, made it possible to render “three-dimensional space on to the two dimensions of the flat canvas.” More importantly, he (51-52) notes that it was particularly important in denarrativizing painting, severing the aesthetic from the religious, becoming “the naturalized visual culture of the new artistic order.” Even more importantly, he (52) emphasizes that art now functioned similarly to that of science, as mannerly, ordered, coordinated and uniform, becoming an “eternal container of objective processes.” In other words, the introduction of the linear perspective into painting more or less purged it from its previous narrative properties, I guess what one would hold as subjective, resulting in something that appears as an objective depiction of space. Jay (54) refers to John Berger in his 1972 publication ‘Ways of Seeing’ in which Berger (16) summarizes this aptly:

“The convention of perspective, which is unique to European art and which was first established in the early Renaissance, centres everything on the eye of the beholder, it is like a beam from a lighthouse – only instead of light travelling outwards, appearances travel in. The conventions called those appearances reality.”

So, simply put, what meets the eye is reality itself. That’s it. Anyway, Berger (16) continues:

“Perspective makes the single eye the centre of the visible world. Everything converges on to the eye as to the vanishing point of infinity. The visible world is arranged for the spectator as the universe was once thought to he arranged for God.”

God sees it all, no matter where, but once God got killed, as Nietzsche put it, that only gets shifted elsewhere. It was already established by Jay (18) that there is no God’s-eye view, but that matters not when it comes to this. Jay (54-55) adds that this resulted in an synchronic stasis, cutting it off from the passing of time, as well as anyone specific, which I think Jay aptly summarizes via Norman Bryson (94), who, in states in his 1983 publication ‘Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze’:

“In the Founding Perception, the gaze of the painter arrests the flux of phenomena, contemplates the visual field from a vantage-point outside the mobility of duration, in an eternal moment of disclosed presence; while in the moment of viewing, the viewing subject unites this gaze with the Founding Perception, in a perfect recreation of that first epiphany. Elimination of the diachronic movement of deixis creates or at least seeks, a synchronic instant of viewing that will eclipse the body, and the glance, in an infinitely extended Gaze of the image as pure idea: the image of eidolon.”

I think it’s worth noting that deixis is the fancy word for certain spatial and/or temporal conditions that are required to make sense of things. Jay (56-57) adds in the notes that in this context it has to do with the body of the painter. I’m not familiar with eidolon, beyond it apparently having to do with image, but that’s hardly helpful as that would result in the image of image, unless it means copy of the original image. In the introduction to ‘Simulation and Social Theory’, published in 2001, Sean Cubitt (2) states that it is generally translated from Greek to Latin as simulacrum, so in a way my guess is correct. Cubitt (87) actually refers to the very same piece of text quoted above, clarifying that in Bryson’s use eidolon or simulacrum is that image that is so severely disconnected from its origin that the origin is irrational or, I guess, irrelevant, not of particular importance that is. Cubitt (87) states that:

“Bryson argues that the painter’s freezing of the action destroys its credibility as a depiction in favour of presenting the spectator with a spectacle.”

As a side note, well a relevant one, but a bit off the mark of clarifying a Greek word, Cubitt (88) adds to the overall discussion of how mind and vision are connected by pointing out, in summary of Richard Rorty in his 1979 ‘Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature’, that one of the key words, reflection, is clearly a visual metaphor which separates the mental from the physical and thus inventing the mind as separate from the physical world. Moreover, Cubitt (88) adds that once mind is separated from the world, it is put to the task of doing all kinds of questions, which it then would solve via representation, resulting in the mind functioning as a mirror, reflecting the physical world. In his own words, Rorty (163) states:

“[T]he way to have accurate representations is to find, within the Mirror, a special privileged class of representations so compelling that their accuracy cannot be doubted. These privileged foundations will be the foundations of knowledge, and the discipline which directs us toward them – the theory of knowledge – will be the foundation of culture.”

If this bewilders you, I believe Rorty is speaking of the quest for truth, the truth and nothing but the truth, the objective truth, beyond any doubt. Anyway, he (163) continues:

“The theory of knowledge will be the search for that which compels the mind to belief as soon as it is unveiled. Philosophy-as-epistemology will be the search for the immutable structures within which knowledge, life, and culture must be contained – structures set by the privileged representations which it studies.”

I’d love to get stuck on this, but even this is a but much, not to handle, but to include as a side note. Where was I? Oh, yes, the Bryson quote. Right, so, in summary, Bryson (94) is stating that gaze generalizes the observer or spectator, stops the passing of time and reduces space into a simulacrum. In a way, summarizing Jay (58), the linear perspective offers a fiat version of reality.

Returning to the earlier comment made on Cartesian perspectivalism, Jay (58-59) points out that perspectival paintings, i.e. landscape paintings, became commodities to be circulated on the market, and, following Raymond Williams in his 1973 publication ‘The Country and the City’, disconnected land from its uses, such as working on fields, turning it to something to be enjoyed from a distance, “an aesthetically ‘pleasing prospect’”, “the real estate version of perspectival art.” It’s worth noting that Jay (57-59) addresses his own views, point out that he does not see perspectival art as some specific capitalist plot, but rather entangled in it. I guess you could characterize it as a tool or a medium, one among others, as means to certain ends. Jay (59-60) points out the usefulness of perspectalist art, this time in reference to William Ivins, who, in ‘On the Rationalization of Sight: With an Examination of Three Renaissance Texts on Perspective’, assumes “unity between a technique of representation and vision itself.” In his 1938 text, Ivins (9-10) addresses perspective:

“Important as this is to picturemaking in the narrowest sense, it is doubtless even more important to general thought, because of the premises on which it is based are implicit in every statement made with its aid. Either the exterior relations of objects, such as their forms for visual awareness, change with their shifts in location, or else their interior relations do. If the latter were the case there could be neither homogeneity of space nor uniformity of nature, and science and technology as now conceived would necessarily cease to exist. Thus perspective, because of its logical recognition of internal variances through all the transformations produced by changes in spatial location, may be regarded as the application to pictorial purposes of the two basic assumptions underlying the great scientific generalizations, or laws of nature.”

In other words, as noted by Jay (59), perspective is equated with the faculty of vision. The link between perspective and science via geometry is as evident as it gets as defined by Ivins, to the extent that if one were to challenge it in art, which, at least in the text quoted above, is not of particular importance to him, would result in taking on science and technology as well. Now we can’t have that now, can we? That’d be outlandish! Skipping quite a bit here, I assume you can read for yourself, and on to the directly relevant part, Jay (63-64) states that:

“The nonpassive dynamic of modern science was also defended by such empiricist advocates of the scientific method as Francis Bacon, who defiantly claimed that ‘I admit nothing but the faith of the eyes.’”

Indeed, pics or it didn’t happen, as they say to counter unsubstantiated claims. I have encountered this as well, and no, not only in the everyday sense of that, but also relevantly to the topic, when arguing a case, as if photographic evidence is automatically validates a claim, one that could be made and successfully argued for even as a hypothetical. If I can provide the example in words, like written here, black letters on a white background, in a certain font, forming words, and then addressing that example, that should be sufficient. For example, if I point out that the streets signs in Turku that contain both Finnish and Swedish, for example ‘Hämeenkatu’ and ‘Tavastgatan’, are indexical of the presence of groups of people in a certain geographical area, that ought to hold regardless of whether I provide a photo of such signs. It’d be a different story if I’d be claiming that, say, it’s a thing that signs only contain Finnish in Turku, despite the requirement for them to contain the information in Finnish and Swedish. Appearance and apparition are two different things, at least to my knowledge they are. Then again, what do I know? All hail the Emperor! Jay (64-65) actually makes note of this, albeit strictly speaking he is not taking a stance, for or against, but noting that it may well be the case, going from dialogue to monologue to visual observation and evidence. I would say it is, albeit I concede I may simple be wrong.

I’m not going to go through everything Jay has on this, I mean the book has about ten chapters, which I covered, in part, being quite selective, only the introduction and chapter one. There’s, for example, a fascinating chapter on Foucault (and Debord), but that’s beyond this essay. Instead, I reckon it’s better to finish this off with a return to all things landscape. Not long ago I ran into an essay written by Cosgrove for the republication of his 1984 ‘Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape’ where he reflects on his own work, a bit over a decade or so later from the original publication. He (xiv) refers to the original 1984 introduction in which he (1) summarizes:

“[T]he landscape idea represents a way of seeing – a way in which some Europeans have represented to themselves and to others the world about them and their relationships with it, and through which they have commented on social relations. Landscape is a way of seeing that has its own history, but a history that can be understood only as part of a wider history of economy and society; that has its own assumptions and consequences, but assumptions and consequences whose origins and implications extend well beyond the use and perception of land; that has its own techniques of expression, but techniques which it shares with other areas of cultural practice.”

So, just as Jay (57-59) puts is, more or less, landscape is, in its perspectivalism, a way of seeing, but it’s not outside other developments that took place alongside it. Anyway Cosgrove (1) continues:

“The landscape idea emerged as a dimension of European elite consciousness at an identifiable period in the evolution of European societies: it was refined and elaborated over a long period during which it expressed and supported a range of political, social and moral assumptions and became accepted as a significant aspect of taste. That significance declined, again during a period of major social change, in the late nineteenth century.”

Cosgrove looks back at his own work, finding a number of flaws or problems in it, among them a problem that relates to this statement in the original work, which he opted not to touch in the republication. He (xx) notes:

“In the book I claim that landscape as an active concern for progressive art died in the second half of the nineteenth century, after the last flourish of Romanticism, and that its ideological function of harmonising social-environmental relations through visual pleasure was appropriated by the discipline of Geography.”

He (xx-xxi) realizes that this is theoretically neatly put, but lacking in historical actualities. However, he is not saying that he got it wrong, per se. He (xxi) comments that:

“[C]apitalist modes of productive organisation had come so completely to dominate European societies, I argued, that the moral power of landscape had to be exhausted.”

After this, he (xxi) adds:

“My interpretation of the impacts of photography on landscape representation seemed, when I was writing the book, to offer convenient technical support for this claim. I do not now believe that much of this stands up to either theoretical or historical scrutiny. My claim that Romanticism was itself little more than an ideological expression of capitalist social relations and urban industrialism exemplifies the constraints that the book’s theoretical model tends to impose on a much more richly textured feature of modernising European societies.”

Here, as well as in the following few sentences, he points out that he had managed to oversimplify things to certain extent. So, addressing this, he (xxi) notes:

“[It] ignores the active role played by the imaginative creation of new identities, which often drew upon landscape images … in shaping territorial and political structures such as the nation state, in which capitalist production has been obliged to operate for much of the past two centuries. Relations between landscape and Romantic nationalism have a complex history which extends over most of that period and has been a focus of some of the most exciting work by students of landscape since 1984[.]”

My examination of this is, of course, in further retrospect than his own retrospect, so I don’t see how this could be glossed over. It would seem a bit of a jerky jump to go from having impact to suddenly no impact. What if, what if landscape, as an idea shifted, instead of declined, or shifted alongside its decline, but never really going away? Well, I think this is what Cosgrove is attending to in his essay, looking back at what was missing in his 1984 text. Anyway, I’ll let him (xxi) further explain:

“The emergence of Geography as a scholarly discipline in many European counties was itself very much an expression of Romantic nationalism … and geography’s iconic elevation of specific national landscapes may be read as an extension of the moral discourse to which landscape art had already been couple during the eighteenth century[.] … Contrary to the claim that Geography replaced landscape art however, Romantic nationalism found intense artistic expression through landscape representation in precisely those fin-de-siècle years of the nineteenth century when the text requires that landscape art lose its appeal.”

So, no, as Cosgrove explains, landscape didn’t exactly go anywhere, it just eventually had less to do with the canvas. Moreover, he (xxii) counters the decline on canvas, noting that:

“The art of the final years of the nineteenth and the early years of the twentieth centuries includes some of the most enduring of Europe’s landscape images, many of them exploring the spatialities and environmental relations of modern life[.]”

He (xxii) also notes that landscape has sort of re-emerged in postmodern culture, as one avenue to be re-explored, of course not in the same way as before, but the point being that it hasn’t gone away altogether as there hasn’t been hostility towards landscape but rather indifference towards it. He (xxii-xxiii) goes on to add that while technologies were developed, such as photography and aerial photography, the “appeal of a landscape aesthetics” did not go away. He (xxiii) notes that:

“British debates over planning and cotrolling the impacts of a modern industrial state and post-war reconstruction at mid-century turned in very considerable measure on maintaining continuity in the appearance of the land, not merely for aesthetic ends but out of a sustained and widely-held belief that orderly landscape was both cause and consequence of a morally ordered civic society seeking to negotiate the changes wrought by modern living[.]”

He (xxiii) continues with examples:

“[E]igteenth-century English parkland often acted as a template for a resolutely progressive landscape design code. And Stalinist Russia, despite a triumphalist rhetoric of the onward march of Modern Socialism to communist victory over a subordinated nature, and the inscription of technological reason across a waywardly picturesque landscape, actively encouraged conventional landscape representations by Socialist Realist painters as the official image of Russian countryside[.] German National Socialist and Italian Futurism negotiated in similar but diverse ways equally complex paths between Modernist aesthetics and appeals to the spiritual power of landscape[.]”

So even as the things changed and keep changing, landscape persists due to its versatility, adapting and lending itself to different uses. In Cosgrove’s (xxiii) words:

“[O]nly a superficial reading of cultural history would suggests that the mechanistic and inorganic aspects of technology have actually resulted in a lessened appeal of landscape.”

If landscape is thought only as something confined to being rendered on canvas, painted by famous people way back then, I’m not exactly surprised if people burst to laughter when its importance is argued to them beyond this. I may have pointed out this before but initially, with no familiarity with any of this, it does seem absurd that people were mesmerized by some paintings and that it would have any relevance these days, I mean it’s just some art, on some wall, in some gallery. The point being here that it would seem that landscape has gone away, fizzled away and only seen as a motif in art galleries, and that it only remains in a neutral everyday sense, referring to open expanses out there. I think Cosgrove acknowledges the same problem. Anyway, he (xxiii) continues:

“Photography, which I deal with in these pages only in its impacts on nineteenth-century landscape, has been central to the promotion and recording of landscape during the twentieth century. … And this is due not merely to the work of art photographers … but to the much more demotic medium of film.”

Of course, this was written before the introduction and popularization of digital imaging, but that doesn’t change his argument. Instead, it arguably only reinforces it, life through the frame of a viewfinder and now, in the absence of viewfinders, life through the frame of the screen of some device that has a camera. It would be inaccurate to state that now everything has a camera. That said, try getting a smart phone or a tablet, a hand held device with a screen that is, that does not come with a camera. Cosgrove (xxiii-xxiv) goes on to add that this extends to from still photography to video and arguably still applies today, considering that digital cameras tend to be video capable as well. In summary, going against his own work in the past, Cosgrove (xxiv) argues that landscape is alive and well:

“Twentieth-century technologies of vision and representation have been coupled with other technical achievements, transforming, but not extinguishing, the appeal of landscape and its power to articulate moral and social concerns.”

Indeed, landscape may have escaped the canvas, but it has not disappeared, having latched itself to rolls of film and digital sensors, as well as persisting in the minds of people, in a rather Cartesian sense of it. As examined in this essay, landscape, as a way of seeing, is particularly hard to shake off because it is tied to perspectivalism, which is the backbone of the scientific method. Descartes may not exactly be someone read attentively by scientists, if at all, I mean hardly, nor is there much reason for that to be the case these days but Cartesian perspectivalism still lingers as noted by Jay in his texts. It’s also just not landscape that is hard to shake off, it’s all the visual metaphors that crop up on a daily basis, as also discussed by Jay. I’m sure I forgot something, got something wrong, glossed over something and/or oversimplified something in this essay, but that’s just how it is. I wish I could go on tangent after tangent, addressing what I leave out, but these would never get finished otherwise.

Almond Blossoms

It’s been quite a while now, a couple of weeks or so. I haven’t abandoned this, no no, that’s not it. I think I got stuck on a plateau, going all over the place, the highways and the byways. I’ll get to it. Currently it’s a bit on the heavy side, but I’ll see to it. That plateau is just hard to split into segments unlike the one on the postulates of linguistics that were neatly split in the book already. Anyway, something else in between then.

Earlier on I mentioned that the first university lecture course that I took was in aesthetics. Yesterday I attended the first lecture of the very same course again. Yes, it was Tuomas Tolonen, still the same lecturer as before, some … erm … over a decade ago, the one I had as a philosophy teacher in high school. Oh, and even better. It seems the course hasn’t changed one bit. Not that my memory is that good, but it seemed to be the case, with handouts given on Ghent Altarpiece and how it all works, what went into it etc. I remember this despite the dozen or so years, no, even more, in between. Also, one handout that was covered in detail, despite its sparsity of expression, was a short poem, a Tanka, by Emperor Fushimi or Fushimi-tennō. I couldn’t find an English translation of it. It could be that it has not been translated or maybe it is but I just don’t know where to look. Speaking of looking, sight and seeing, despite only being discussed in a broad introductory manner, the lecturer made it clear that seeing is one of the hardest things to do. You’d think it’s easy as surely everyone can see, except the blind of course, but that’s conflating two things. At that moment, I thought of George Perkins Marsh (10), who makes the very same … pardon the pun … observation as the lecturer in his 1864 publication ‘Man and Nature: Or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action’:

“To the natural philosopher, the descriptive poet, the painter, and the sculptor, as well as to the common observer, the power most important to cultivate, and, at the same time, hardest to acquire, is that of seeing what is before him.”

Indeed there is a distinction to be made (10):

“Sight is a faculty; seeing, an art. The eye is a physical, but not a self-acting apparatus, and in general it sees only what it seeks.”

And the same, more or less, but in different words (10):

“Like a mirror, it reflects objects presented to it; but it may be as insensible as a mirror, and it does not necessarily perceive what it reflects.”

Now, I’m sure some people might object to this distinction. During the lecture no one was up in arms about it though. Then again, the student lecturer relationship tends to be of one where people do not challenge the authority of the lecturer. Well, at least it’s rare during a lecture in Finland. You rather keep your mouth shut and let the lecturer do his or her thing. Of course it might just be a Finnish thing. The assertion that you can see, yet you can’t is still a bold claim though, made by the lecturer and Marsh alike. It just happens to be the case that Peirce Lewis once asserted something similar. In ‘Axioms for Reading the Landscape Some Guides to the American Scene’, published in 1979 in the collection of essays titled ‘The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays’ edited by Donald Meinig, Lewis (14) asserts:

“[T]o make cultural sense of the ordinary things that constitute the workday world of things we see, most of us need help.”

So, once again it is stated that we see things, yet we don’t. Lewis (14) comments on this:

“I took a long time learning that fact. Years ago, when I started teaching cultural landscapes of the United States, I was puzzled and annoyed that students seemed obtuse. They seemed blind to all that marvellous material around them, and even worse, some of them seemed insulted when they were told to go outdoors and use their eyes and think about what they saw. Gradually, I realized that the students were not obtuse; I was.”

Lewis (14-15) goes on to further comment that he simply didn’t even think of why that is earlier on. For him it was obvious, so it bothered him and the students seemed, well, just a bit thick or slow. He then realized that no one had ever pushed them into this direction, rather the opposite, as he (15) comments:

“[S]erious students did not deal with trivial questions about ordinary everyday things, such as … why people put pink plastic flamingos in their front yards.”

Anyway, summarizing his thought on the subject, Lewis makes note of a certain blindness or, well, blind spots. It’s not that people are factually blind, no no, but rather that things don’t appear important to them and if you go the extra mile to explain this to people, they may well get offended because they think you are asserting that they are blind fools.

What else was there on this? Well, in general, it was pointed out that … sorry for the pun again … that there is more than meets the eye when we speak of, say, art, religion, science and philosophy. It is far from self-evident that these are separate … categories. It was pointed out that these are fairly recent divisions, locating this into this or that category. If you’ve read, say, Foucault, you are already familiar with this. Back in the day, for sure pre-Renaissance, but more like pre-18th and 19th centuries, it was not at all clear that these things were separate, although I guess it should be phrased more like that such distinctions were not warranted. How to put it better? It’s sort of telling of the time, of contemporary thinking, to speak of art in whatever period in history. It’s not that it’s useless to do so, no no, but that by doing so, I’m taking it for granted that art was always or at least also way back then the same thing we take it to be now without any consideration as to how it functioned at the time. I think this was the point made by the lecturer, albeit in other words.

As the lecture course covers different eras, currently the medieval era, religion is particularly relevant to the discussion of art, and vice versa. Christian theology got covered in passing, how time is understood, in reference to Saint Augustine (of Hippo) and Mircea Eliade. The gist was splitting time into past, present and future in the everyday sense, how it is actually generally understood, and not having this divisioning in the sacred. Unlike space, time is not something that I’ve read a ton on, so I can’t really comment on this, perhaps in the future (haha, could avoid that one!). Anyway, the discussion of what’s what, what’s religion and what’s art, ventured into what counts in art and the lecturer pointed out that not everyone is an artist, hardly so, an assertion that reminded me of Gilles Deleuze. The point was made that there is something … particularly perceptive in works of art, I can’t remember the exact wording, but something along the lines of an intense observation, not just any this or that statement of what is out there. Once again this reminded me of Deleuze, as well as Paul Klee, to whom it’s all about rendering visible, not the visible, a matter of apparition, not of appearance, as Deleuze might characterize it. If you want to look those up, see Klee’s ‘Schöpferische Konfession’ published in the 1920 publication ‘Tribüne der Kunst und der Zeit. Eine Schriftensammlung’ edited by Kasimir Edschmid, and ‘Kant’s Critical Philosophy: The Doctrine of the Faculties’ by Deleuze (translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam). Deleuze’s lectures on Kant also useful in this regard.

The lecturer gave a biblical example, one of natural marvel, not of supernatural marvel, sort of making the case that religion is, at least in this context, to be thought of dealing with marvels of the natural kind, not supernatural kind, which probably didn’t open up to the audience, unless they are familiar with the line of thinking also presented by Klee and Deleuze. Okay, maybe it did, I can’t claim to know the audience. I think I understood, albeit I need to (re)check on it myself. Anyway, the lecturer also provided other examples of everyday marvels (intentional emphasis here on the word marvel because Lewis also uses it), how children may stare at various things and point at them as if they were somehow marvellous, as if seen for the very first time. The lecturer actually emphasized that what the deal is not just seeing something, but like seeing it for the very first time, glaring at its marvel. Maybe sensational would be another fitting word. For me, this is apparition, something becoming visible, like a sudden flash. My own memory also serves me with examples where children do that, like point at a hole in a shoe and take it to themselves to tell everyone else that there is a hole in a shoe. For me, an adult, it’s hardly marvellous, more like glaringly evident and an actual annoyance, having to get new shoes, although I get it that for a child this may well be quite marvel. If you think of it, when was it the first time that you ever saw a hole in a shoe? I can’t remember, that’s for sure. It probably takes a while to encounter, unless it’s someone else shoe in question as children outgrow their shoes in quite the rapid succession. Of course one would need to think of when does one start to think of holes and their apparition in different places, including but not limited to the random shoe. What is a hole anyway?

How is this relevant to art then? I’d say that artists, such as painters and writers, can be highly perceptive, not in the way that they render the visible, (re)producing resemblance, but render visible, express something, something more than mere resemblance, and in a way eternalize it. Of course eternalize is a bit hyperbolic. The problem with, for example, paintings is that they are hardly eternal in their materiality. Writing is less prone to this as it’s not the paper and ink that are essential, unless only one copy exists, of course. It’s in the ‘Abécédaire’ where Deleuze, interviewed by Claire Parnet, puts this way better than I can, stating artists, here painters and writers, can create, render, invent or capture percepts (I’m not sure which word to use), which he defines as an ensemble or an aggregate of perceptions and sensations, which outlive the person perceiving or sensing. Maybe immortalize is a more apt word here, considering it then outlives the artist, even if it’s still a bit … assuming much.

I reckon I forgot something, saw too much into things and/or got something mixed up, but it was time to write something and this seemed only fitting, not taking too much time or thought. These texts are supposed to be works in progress, musings if you will, so it’ll do, anyway. Next I’ll try to write something more substantial, albeit I guess a bit of a break, here and there, is good for those who wish to read some of the older texts, if someone actually reads these, that is.

The belle of the ball

I was looking up something else, how cities and landscapes are connected in Finland, but I ended up at Finlex Data Bank, going through various Acts and Decrees. I believe I was browsing the website of the National Bureau of Antiquities, a fancy title if you ask me, albeit less so in Finnish. The point was to examine what they have to say about landscapes of urban areas. While reading some document, I ended up elsewhere, examining pieces of legislation. Anyway, I stumbled upon the ‘Nature Conservation Act’ (1096/1996). Interestingly, it is stated in the official unofficial translation of the Act that one of the aims of the Act is (1 §):

“[To] conserve the beauty and scenic values of nature[.]”

I say official unofficial because it’s contained in the same Data Bank or as I would call it, database. Anyway, some liberties have been taken in the translation as the original as it is stated that (1 §):

“[Tavoitteena on] luonnonkauneuden ja maisema-arvojen vaaliminen[.]”

Now, if you are not familiar enough with Finnish, well, then you are out of luck here. The key word in Finnish is ‘maisema’ translating simply as ‘landscape’. To be honest, the translation is not actually inaccurate. It’s rather that, as Brian Massumi puts it so nicely in his 1992 publication ‘A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia’: “Translation is repetition with a difference.” The difference here is that in the translation provided nature is attributed with beauty and scenic value, whereas the beauty of nature is considered alongside the landscape values. Anyway, moving on to the following section in the translation, the scope of application is addressed (2 §):

“This Act shall apply to nature and landscape conservation and management[.]”

There is little difference between the translation and the valid Finnish original (2 §):

“Tätä lakia sovelletaan luonnon ja maiseman suojeluun ja hoitoon.”

Indeed, almost word to word the same with next to no difference between the two. It is further stated that:

“Nature conservation planning and landscape conservation provided for under this Act shall take into account financial, social and cultural considerations, and characteristic local and regional features.”

Again, the translation is very true to the original. For the sake of brevity, let’s not quote all the parts in both languages. I’ll take up the differences regarding the use of the word ‘maisema’ and whatever it is translated to as I move on. In section six it is stated that (6 §):

“The Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the overall guidance and supervision of nature and landscape conservation.”

In a previous essay I took up to investigate a landscape management report. That was commissioned by the ministry in question. As it falls within their jurisdiction. It is added in the same section that (6 §):

“It is the responsibility of the centre for economic development, transport and the environment to promote and supervise nature and landscape conservation within its jurisdiction.”

As well as (6 §) that:

“It is the responsibility of the local authority to promote nature and landscape conservation within its jurisdiction.”

Okay, so, so far it’s been established who’s gig it is to promote and supervise landscape conservation. The next time the word landscape appears is in section 13. Addressing protection provisions, it is stated that (13 §):

“The following is thus prohibited in [a national park or strict nature reserve]: … any other action which may have a detrimental impact on the natural conditions and the landscape, or on the preservation of fauna and flora.”

Moving on to section 23, it is stated that (23 §):

“If a single tree, group of trees, erratic boulder or other corresponding natural formation is deemed worthy of special conservation because of its beauty, rarity, scenic value, scientific interest or other corresponding reasons, it can be designated a protected natural monument.”

As noted earlier, landscape is conflated with scenic value in this translation. The Finnish original uses the wording ‘maisemallisen merkityksen’, which could also be translated as ‘landscape value’. The next instance is in section 25, where it is stated that (25 §):

“For the purpose of nature and landscape conservation, a contract can be concluded between the centre for economic development, transport and the environment and the landowner on the temporary protection, either complete or partial, of land referred to in section10, paragraph 2. The term of the contract is not to exceed 20 years.”

Those who want to look up what’s in section, paragraph 2, feel free to do so. Section 29 contains the next instance of the word. It is stated in that section that deals with protected habitat types that (29 §):

“It is prohibited to alter any of the following natural habitat types or comparable habitats in such a way as to jeopardise the preservation of the characteristic features of the area in question: … prominent single trees or groups of trees in an open landscape.”

Moving on, landing a chapter further into the act. Chapter five is titled as ‘Landscape conservation’. In that chapter, the first section, section 32 is titled as ‘Landscape conservation area’. It is elaborated as (32 §):

“A landscape conservation area can be established in order to preserve and manage a natural or cultural landscape of outstanding beauty, historical interest or other special value.”

It is followed by a section on the ‘Establishment of a landscape conservation area’. It is stated that (33 §):

“The Ministry of the Environment shall decide on the establishment and prospective uses of a landscape conservation area of national interest. In cases where the landscape conservation area does not hold national interest, the matter shall be decided by the centre for economic development, transport and the environment on submission of the regional council.”

The following section, section 34 deals with the ‘Provisions on landscape conservation areas’. It is stated that (34 §):

“Provisions necessary for preserving the characteristic features of a landscape conservation area can be written into the decision establishing the area. These provisions are not, however, to constitute a significant inconvenience to the property owner.”

It is added in the following paragraphs in the same section that (34 §):

“In individual cases, the centre for economic development, transport and the environment can grant derogations from the prohibitions in force in a given landscape conservation area.”

And (34 §):

“Provisions within the building legislation concerning a landscape conservation area shall not apply to sites where there is a town plan or legally valid master plan in force.”

As stated earlier on in the act, the ministry is the top authority on this, followed by the centers for economic development, transport and the environment and the regional authorities. In this section it is pointed out that towns and other similar areas with a plan in force. There is a reference to changes made to the building legislation. It is not referenced to this act, but the specific act concerning buildings is the ‘Land Use and Building Act’ (132/1999). I’ll see to that after the nature conservation part. Anyway, in this part it is indicated that populated built areas are excluded from these conservation provisions.

Section 35 deals with ‘Lifting a landscape protection order’. It is stated that (35 §):

“What is provided in section33 concerning the establishment of a landscape conservation area shall apply, as appropriate, to the lifting of a landscape protection order or any other decision altering its status.”

And (35 §):

“A landscape protection order can be lifted or derogations granted if the scenic value of the landscape has declined substantially or its protection prevents the implementation of a project or plan of major public interest.”

It’s not surprising that a protection order can be lifted, I mean duh, but the reasoning is interesting. If the scenic value, or landscape value as it could also be translated to, declines substantially then it’s ok to scrap it. Also, if whatever it contradicts with is too big a deal, then it can also be scrapped. It’s like saying, a landscape area ought to be protected, but if we fail at it or if we like something else then whatever.

The rest of the instances in the act (62, 70 §) deal with appeals and exemption from payment, so this is all there is to the use of word in the act. The areas mentioned in the act I already covered in the previous essay, so that’s not worth getting further into either. Those interested in the rural areas can have a look at that essay instead. Anyway, it was pointed out that populated built areas, namely towns and cities are excluded from these areas and handled separately. So, what about it then. Let’s have a look at the ‘Land Use and Building Act’ (132/1999). Section 28 deals with the ‘Required content of the regional plan’. In it is indicated that (28 §):

“Nature conservation programmes and decisions referred to in sections 7 and 77, and designation decisions concerning landscape conservation areas referred to in section 32 of the Nature Conservation Act (1096/1996) must be used as a guideline in drawing up the plan.”

I’m using another official unofficial translation here, in which it is indicated that what I just covered needs to be taken into account. That said, it must now be noted that it only applies if it applies, as noted earlier on with regards to the populated built areas. If it does apply, then it does. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. Anyway, in the same section it is specified that (28 §):

“In planning, special attention shall be paid to the following: … protection of landscape, natural values, and cultural heritage[.]”

Dealing with ‘Regulations issued in a regional plan’, it is added in section 30 that (30 §):

“When an area requires protection due to its landscape, natural values, built environment, cultural and historical values or special environmental values, the necessary regulations for this purpose may be given in the regional plan (protection regulations).”

For the Finns, it’s worth clarifying that the regional plan is ‘maakuntakaava’ or, more interestingly, ‘landskapsplan’ which includes the word in it. Jumping ahead to the municipal level, which, in my experience, is actually the level most familiar to people, section 39 deals with the ‘Required content of the local master plan’, which, for the Finns is ‘yleiskaava’ or ‘generalplan’. In this section it is stated that in addition to taking into account the regional plan (39 §):

“The following must be taken into account when a local master plan is drafted: … protection of the built environment, landscape and natural values[.]”

For the Finns, this is the Still dealing with the local master plan, dealing with ‘Regulations issued in a local master plan’, it is added in section 41 that (41 §):

“When an area or building requires protection due to its landscape, natural values, built environment, cultural and historical values or other special environmental values, the necessary regulations for this purpose may be issued in the local master plan (protection regulations).”

In section 43, dealing with ‘Restrictions on building and actions’, it is indicated that (43 §):

“It may also be stipulated in the local master plan that action altering the landscape may not be taken without the permit referred to in section 128 (restriction on action).”

Jumping to section 128 then, to clarify this, a ‘Permit for landscape work’ is required. It is stated that (128 §):

“Earth works, tree-felling or corresponding action altering the landscape may not be carried out without a permit (restriction on action) in areas: … covered by a local detailed plan … covered by a local master plan, if the plan so stipulates; nor … where a building prohibition as referred to in section 53 is in force for the purpose of drawing up a local detailed plan, or where it has been so order for the purpose of drawing up or amending a local master plan.”

Conversely, it is added in the same section (128 §) that meeting what is included in the plans is just fine, same with actions that only have a minor impact, whatever that means. It is also noted that some work on landscapes may require another permit, if it happens to fall under the Extractable Land Resources Act (555/1981). It seems that there is no official unofficial translation, but in summary in that act it is indicated that (3, 6 §) land resources must not be extracted if it causes detriment to the beauty of the landscape, including townscape, and that any damages to nature and landscape will remain limited or mitigated. Back to where I was before this detour, the next instance is in section 50 of the ‘Land Use and Building Act’ (132/1999). The section is in chapter seven, dealing with the local detailed plan, a plan more detailed than the local master plan. For the Finns, this is ‘asemakaava’ or ‘detaljplan’. In this section it is indicated that (50 §):

“The local detailed plan is drawn up for the purpose of detailed organization of land use, building and development, with the aim of designating areas necessary for different purposes and of steering building and other land use, as required by local conditions, townscape and landscape, good building practice, promoting the use of existing building stock and other steering goals of the plan.”

In addition, the same prohibitions apply on this level as on the local master plan (53 §):

“The local authority may impose a building prohibition in an area concerning which a local detailed plan is being drafted or amended. Alteration of the landscape in areas where building is prohibited is subject to permit as laid down in section 128 (restriction on action).”

Here with the reference to another section that was just covered. In section 57, dealing with ‘Regulations issued in the local detailed plan’, it is stated that (57 §):

“When an area or building requires protection due to its landscape, natural values, built environment, cultural and historical values or other special environmental values, the necessary regulations for this purpose may be issued in the local detailed plan (protection regulations). The protection regulations must treat landowners reasonably.”

Moving on to chapter nine then, to … national urban parks. In section 68 on ‘National urban park’, it is stated that (68 §):

“A national urban park may be established to protect and maintain the beauty of the cultural or natural landscape, historical characteristics or related values concerning the townscaping, social, recreational or other special values of an area in an urban environment.”

And (68 §):

“Areas designated in a plan referred to in this Act as parks, recreation or conservation areas, or areas of outstanding landscape value, or marked out for some other use appropriate for the purpose of national urban parks, may be designated to form a part of a national urban park.”

Moving on to … other shores, in chapter 10, in section 72 on ‘Need for planning in shore areas’ it is stated that (72 §):

“Buildings may not be constructed in shore zones in the shore area of the sea or of a body of water without a local detailed plan or a legally binding local master plan which contains special provisions concerning use of the local master plan or a part thereof as the basis for granting a building permit.”

It is then specified that (72 §):

“After having heard the regional environment centre, a local authority may designate areas in the building ordinance where the restriction laid down in paragraph 1 is not in force because no building activity is anticipated in the area due to its location and the area has no special natural or landscape values or is not needed for recreational use. The maximum term of such a building-ordinance regulation is six years at a time, though not continuing if the conditions from which the regulation derives change and the preconditions for the regulation no longer exist.”

There is also a special provision, a waiver of sorts, for areas acquired by land owners before 1997, but it doesn’t alter the content particularly so let’s not get tangled into that. Landscape is mentioned though. Anyway, in the next section on ‘Special requirements regarding local master plans and local detailed plans which concern holiday homes in shore areas’ it is added that (73 §):

“When a local master plan or a local detailed plan (detailed shore plan) is drawn up for the principal purpose of arranging for holiday homes in a shore area, care must be taken to ensure that, in addition to what is otherwise provided concerning local master plans and local detailed plans: … the planned building and other land use conforms with the shore landscape and the rest of the environment … nature conservation, landscape values, recreational needs, water protection, the provision of water supply, and the characteristics of the body of water, the terrain and nature are also taken into account otherwise[.]”

Adding to section 10, section 10 a separately addresses wind turbines. It is noted (73 b §) that when placing them somewhere, where it is, their placement and other land use must conform to the landscape and the environment. This section is not in the translation, probably because it is a bit dated. Moving on to other things, in section 89 on ‘Moving service conduits, equipment and structures’ it is stated that (89 §):

“If a service conduit, piece of equipment or a structure located in a public area hinder the implementation of the local detailed plan or street management, or are not suitable for the landscape or townscape, the owner or titleholder of the service conduit, piece of equipment or structure is obliged to move it to a location approved by the local authority.”

Moving on to buildings in chapter 17, it is stated in section 117 on ‘Requirements concerning construction’ that (117 §):

“A building must fit into the built environment and landscape, and must fulfil the requirements of beauty and proportion.”

Skipping a host of sections that mention landscape, namely with regards to permit requirements that reiterate what has been stated so far, the next instance in section 169 has to with ‘Outside storage’. It is indicated that (169 §):

“Outside storage must be organized so that landscape visible from a road or other public thoroughfare or area is not damaged or the surrounding habitation disturbed.”

This is the last instance before the instances have to do with appeals. I guess it’s time to sum things up. As I pointed out in the initial paragraph, I intended to have a closer look at urban areas as a previous only covered the rural areas, but then I ended up being referred to these acts as the primary documents dealing with populated urban areas. I think this, while a bit drab in terms of the content, is still a worthwhile detour. It’s surprising how many times and in how many contexts the word landscape pops up in these acts. You need to take it into account almost, well, whenever you want to change anything … out there. No that a lack of a clear cut definition in a piece of legislation is somehow out of the ordinary, more of the opposite, but I still find it very striking that there is just … this assumption that everyone knows what a landscape is, what its value or beauty is, why it’s valuable or beautiful etc. I already covered the definition and what it entails in the rural context, but I have yet to do that in an urban context. For the sake of clarity, I’ll do that in another essay. This will suffice for now, at least it might help those who interested in urban landscapes, including urban linguistic landscapes, in the Finnish context. It should help you to find what discourses should be contained in what types of plans, serving as a sort of a starting point, as well as general background knowledge. There might be other acts (and decrees) as well that should be taken into account, but these seem to be the ones dealing with urban areas.

A day later from publishing this, I ran into what I guess translated to a 2016 bachelor’s thesis that covers parts of this essay: ‘Maiseman huomioiminen maankäytön suunnittelussa: Haastattelututkimus seitsemässä kaupungissa’ (Recognition of landscape in the planning of land use: Interview study in seven cities) by Taru Lahdenperä. It might be of interest to some, hence the addition here.