I wanted to address or attempt to address ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari before continuing with the line of thought presented by the combination of Michel Foucault and Deleuze. I don’t know how I fared with my attempt to explain rhizome and multiplicity, in absence of most of the other concept presented in the book, but at least I tried. So, anyway, this essay will rewind back to discussing diagram/abstract machine, as discussed by Foucault and Deleuze, but this time in relation to landscape. There’s going to be a fair bit of Deleuze and Guattari in the mix though before I make that return.
So previously it was established that a diagram or an abstract machine is a discursive formation and a non-discursive formation, or, rather how they come together. I’m not going to reiterate the definitions for discourse, discursive formation or non-discursive formation. It’s not worth the effort as it’s possible to just navigate down on the page and/or search for the relevant parts if needed. All I’m going to do here is to reiterate that this is a Deleuzian take of Foucault, as Deleuze made it clear in his work on Foucault. Foucault himself wasn’t that keen on discussing the non-discursive.
When I turn to Foucault, it is evident that he didn’t really offer anything on landscapes, as I may have pointed out in some earlier essay. Judging by his interview with French geographers in 1976, he seemed interested in geography and its concepts, but to my knowledge he never went there. He had other projects, so fair enough. Now, what about Deleuze, or Deleuze and Guattari? To my surprise, Deleuze and Guattari do actually address landscape. In chapter seven of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, titled ‘Year Zero: Faciality’, they liken it to a face and face to a landscape. In my previous essay I pointed out that their thought is more or less incompatible with landscape, which I think still holds. That said, I also pointed out that they would acknowledge that their views are not the views of the majority of people, more like the opposite. They are nonetheless keenly aware of how they are going against the grain.
Chapter 5 of ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, titled ‘B.c.-A.D. 70: On Several Regimes of Signs’ is important in order to understand how Deleuze and Guattari understand landscape. They introduce four types of regimes of signs. They point out that their list is by no means complete and that mixing is both possible and likely occurring (119). Anyway, they (117) state that the first regime is the signifying regime, marked by eight principles. First, the sign is limitless, in infinite referral. Second, the sign is circular, in infinite return as other signs bring it back. Third, the sign moves from one circle to another, in infinite circularity, displacing its center. Fourth, the circle undergoes expansion caused by interpretation. Fifth, there is a despotic supreme signifier, one that the infinite sets refer to, “presenting itself as both lack and excess”. Sixth, the supreme signifier has a body, or rather, the ‘Face’. Seventh, the Face condemns those that take their own path. Eight, the regime relies on deception in all its principles.
It is worth explaining that I just left out some things to keep it simple. You have to fill in the gaps yourself. Deleuze and Guattari use the concept of territory, which is why I only found it an appropriate joke in the second paragraph of my previous essay. Broadly speaking, they (117) refer to change as deterritorialization. So when the sign is in infinite referral in the first principle, the sign becomes deterritorialized. Plainly put, it moves outside its territory. The second principle brings it back. The fifth principle, the supreme signifier, i.e. the face, sets limits to deterritorialization. The sixth principle, reterritorializes, i.e. restructures the supreme signifier as faciality traits. Reterritorialization is the process of in which something in new territory, having moved away from one territory, that is deterritorialized, is reconstituted. The seventh principle makes sure that those who do not stay in line are turned into scapegoats by the Face. As they (116 ) humorously point out: “Your choice will be between a goat’s ass and the face of the god[.]” The face is essentially just the one on the top of the pyramid, the one you must bow down to, do what you are told, otherwise you’ll find yourself punished. Another concept used here by Deleuze and Guattari (116) is the line of flight, which, is, well, surprisingly self-evident. It’s about going your own way, something which the despot or the king, cannot tolerate and must block (116). Back to the punishment that will incur, they (116) state that “[a]nything that threatens to put the system to flight will be killed or put to flight itself.” In more humorous commentary, they (116) add that “the one who is tortured is fundamentally one who loses his or her face, entering into a becoming-animal, a becoming-molecular the ashes of which are thrown to the wind.” Having just a while ago made contact with an ember, I see what they mean here. The dark humor might not open up if you are not familiar with how Deleuze and Guattari define molecular, the opposite of molar. In the previous essay it was all about multiplicity. Well, that’s essentially the molecular level whereas the molar level is how things are generally understood as entities, such as the individual person. So, now you can imagine how torture by fire quite literally turns you, or rather only parts of you into ash to be scattered, emitted to the wind. Of course it may be that I take that too literally. They (116) put the whole system into other words:
“The complete system, then, consists of the paranoid face or body of the despot-god in the signifying center of the temple; the interpreting priests who continually recharge the signified in the temple, transforming it into signifier; the hysterical crowd of people outside, clumped in tight circles, who jump from one circle to another; the faceless, depressive scapegoat emanating from the center, chosen, treated, and adorned by the priests, cutting across the circles in its headlong flight into the desert.”
Now, this comes across a very time or era specific view, one that might not apply in a contemporary setting. Deleuze and Guattari (116) make note of this, calling it an “imperial despotic regime”. At the same time, they add that:
“[It] is applicable … to all subjected, arborescent, hierarchical, centered groups: political parties, literary movements, psychoanalytic associations, families, conjugal units, etc. The photo, faciality, redundancy, signifiance, and interpretation are at work everywhere. 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.”
The way I read this is as a harsh criticism on representation. I think the novelty here is that they extend their criticism from abstract models, one that use something given to explain the given, to the ones that permit instability, the ones that emphasize interpretation instead of description. Now, if you’ve been wondering, I have intentionally avoided using the word describe in its many forms. It’s not that not a fitting word, it is. I find myself in the interpretative camp in my own research. Using the word wouldn’t be a problem if there wasn’t risk of coming across as if stating facts, you know, as if it was possible state objective facts. I think it’s possible to use that word, but I find it, well, overladen or tainted. I don’t mind using it if, in a Foucaldian sense, it is taken to describe something within the limits of the applicable historical formations or strata.
To get back to the topic at hand, the second regime of signs explained by them (117) is the presignifying semiotic regime. They (117) state that it is characteristic of operating “much closer to ‘natural’ codings” that operate without signs. The third regime they (118) introduce is the countersignifying semiotic, which is characteristic of nomads. Now, the authors describe them in greater detail, but I’ll move on to the fourth regime instead as only the first and the fourth regimes are relevant to landscapes. They (119) call the fourth regime the postsignifying semiotic and immediately point out that it’s marked by subjectification. If you are familiar with Foucault’s work, this one is not going to surprise you. They (120) continue, stating that it’s passional and that in contrast to the signifying regime, the postsignifying regime “is defined by a decisive external occurrence, by a relation with the outside that is expressed more as an emotion than idea, and more as effort or action than imagination[.]” Continuing the comparison, they (121) state that it is marked by a line of flight, but unlike in the signifying regime, it is not blocked. So, the postsignifying, subjective or passional regime is, well, about going your own way. They (123-124) note that if the signifying regime is marked by the face, having to look at it straight on as turning away from it leads to a blocked line of flight, resulting in scapegoating, the postsignifying regime is marked by turning away from the face. So it’s marked by faciality, but positively, leading to a line of flight, rather than negatively, which would mean blocking it. Earlier on they (117) indicated that the signifying regime is marked by interpreters, seers or priests. Later on they (124) they state that in the postsignifying or passional regime these are replaced by prophets, who do not despotically interpret but passionately proclaim with authority.
Now, it may seem that the postsignifying regime is better than the signifying regime, considering it is marked by a line of flight, rather than opposed to it, but one should take note of the words used to depict them: signifying being the despotic, postsignifying being the authoritative. While it may seem like a positive thing, I mean who is opposed to passion, they (129) state that the passional line of the postsignifying regime functions as a point of subjectification, marking “existence under reprieve.” In other words, what is a swift and harsh punishment in the signifying regime, likely leading to death, is postponed indefinitely in the passional line, as they (123, 125) point out. They (129) add that that there tends to be multiple points of subjectification and they are subject to change due to circumstances, such as the school system which pushes people towards towards the ideals of the society. So essentially they (129) argue that the passional line turns into a line of subjectification through language, which they (134) add “imposes on the line of flight a segmentarity that is forever repudiating that line[.]” What was it that Louis Althusser was on about again … interpellation. In other words, this line leads to being subject to, even in the absence of that someone that you are subject to, as they (130) point out:
“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?”
Oddly enough, flipping to this page, going past the previous one that I referred to quite a bit, who do I find being discussed in the next paragraph after the paragraph that is quote here above this text? Well I’ll be damned, Deleuze and Guattari invite Althusser to the stage, alongside Émile Benveniste whose ‘I’ and ‘You’ personology they address as well (130) by stating that:
“This is not, however, a question of 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.”
Similarly, they (130) go on to correct Althusser’s interpellation, cutting it away from centered ideology. To Deleuze and Guattari (130) there is really no speculary or doubly speculary with its mirror-structure, no god-like superstructure as argued by Althusser (180-181) in ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes towards an Investigation’, as included in ‘Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays’. The way Deleuze and Guattari (130) see this is that there is no self operating ideology that somehow superimposes itself on to everyone around it:
“Neither is it a question of a movement characteristic of ideology, as Althusser says: subjectification as a regime of signs or a form of expression is tied to an assemblage, in other words, an organization of power that is already fully functioning in the economy, rather than superposing itself upon contents or relations between contents determined as real in the last instance. Capital is a point of subjectification par excellence.”
In other words, as one should already gather, Deleuze and Guattari (130) oppose this type of distinction between the base and the superstructure rooted in Marxism. To them (130) the way it works is within the base as there is no superstructure. If we go back a bit they (129-130) note this clearly:
“There is no longer even a need for a transcendent center of power; power is instead immanent and melds with the ‘real,’ operating through normalization. A strange invention: as if in one form the doubled subject were the cause of the statements of which, in its other form, it itself is a part.”
To avoid repetition here, as a stated a few paragraphs ago, there is this paradox where the subject, you and I, are both in command and commanded at the same time, by you and I, simultaneously subjecting and being subjected. The result is that, strangely, there is no one specific to blame, no cigar smoking and wine sipping elites that assemble behind closed doors to come up with ways of oppressing people. There is only you and I. As Deleuze and Guattari (130) put it: “for in the end you are only obeying yourself!” Now, one could object here and point out that surely there are people and entities that do exercise power over people. Agreed, but at the same time there is something absurd in assuming that the world is ran that way. The behind closed doors thinking comes across as if comic book villains rule the world. What comes to what I here generically labeled as entities, it is perhaps useful to turn to Foucault for a bit here. In the afterword to the second edition of ‘Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics’ by Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Foucault (217-219) speaks of blocks, which “constitute regulated and concerted systems” that weld together partially overlapping and reciprocal power relations, relationships of communication and objective capacities. He (218-219) uses the example of educational institutions, which are marked by the organization and regulation of space, communication and power processes. To get back to Deleuze and Guattari, the point is that it is not that there aren’t these blocks, which are, in fact, highly important to take into account. It is rather that power is not monolithic or held, but rather dispersed and exercised. That said, as Foucault (224) notes, much of power relations have become state controlled, or rather, governmentalized, resulting in state institutions. In Althusser’s (142-143) terms these are the ideological State apparatuses (ISAs) that include religious, educational, familial, legal, political, unionist, communicational and cultural ISAs, among others. To align them with Foucault and Deleuze and Guattari, one would take away the ideological part and downplay the emphasis on the state of the ruling class, which comes across as a bit of an oversimplification. It is worth emphasizing that the state is not some despot in the thinking of Deleuze and Guattari, but the legislator-subject which entails obedience to the dominant reality that you and I created, or so to speak. Now, I think it’s perhaps also worth clarifying that it is not exactly that you or I created or invented it, but rather that everyone plays along, regulating oneself. Of course there isn’t much one can do otherwise, hence the irony of it. No one specific is to blame for it, only the great anonymous.
In order to further the discussion of the signifying semiotic and the postsignifying semiotic, Deleuze and Guattari (134-135) elaborate the concept of deterritorialization, listing three types. The first type is the relative deterritorialization, culminating in signifiance, being tied to the strata that binds humans, “the organism, signifiance and interpretation, and subjectification and subjection” which separates them from the abstract machine and the plane of consistency. Like the first type, the second type is also negative, that is tied to the strata, but it is absolute and works through subjectification instead of signifiance. The third type is like the second type, absolute, but instead of negative, it is positive as it faces the plane of consistency, the body without organs.
Applying this, they (135) further elaborate the signifying semiotic:
“[O]vercoding is fully effectuated by the signifier, and by the State apparatus that emits it; there is uniformity of enunciation, unification of the substance of expression, and control overstatements in a regime of circularity; relative deterritorialization is taken as far as it can go by a redundant and perpetual referral from sign to sign.”
In contrast to this, they (135) clarify the postsignifying semiotic:
“[I]n which overcoding is assured by the redundancy of consciousness; a subjectification of enunciation occurs on a passional line that makes the organization of power (pouvoir) immanent and raises deterritorialization to the absolute, although in a way that is still negative.”
In other words, as already discussed to some extent, the postsignifying semiotic, despite its absolute deterritorialization, its line of flight, it remains negative, stuck in the strata. To better understand why it is still negative, instead of positive, it is perhaps helpful to address what Deleuze and Guattari mean by positive in this specific context. They (134) state that to overcome the issue is to destratify, to face the body without organs. Now the concept of body without organs (BwO) may seem odd and I don’t intend to thoroughly address it here, but in other words it means body without organization. For example, human hands or mouths are known for their different functions, but here the point is that their classification as organs that have these certain functions limit their potential and thus becoming. Deleuze and Guattari (132-135) elaborate how even the typical couple (lovers) is like the cogito, but only for two instead of one. It may seem like an odd example to bring up, but they are on to something here as they (134) argue that in order to overcome the doubling of oneself, one’s consciousness, the subjectification, one can make use of love: “Let consciousness cease to be its own double, and passion the double of one person for another.” The doubling of the self makes me think of Lacan’s mirror image here, once more. Deleuze and Guattari make use of Henry Miller’s Sexus (229) to explain this:
“To become the great lover, the magnetizer and catalyzer … one has to first experience the profound wisdom of being an utter fool.”
What I think is helpful here is to take a closer look at the previous sentences on the same paragraph by Miller (229):
“The personal life is altogether based on dependence, mutual dependence. Society is the aggregate of persons all interdependent. There is another richer life beyond the pale of society, beyond the personal, but there is no knowing it, no attainment possible, without first traversing the heights and depths of the personal jungle.”
What I believe Miller is after is letting go of oneself, in order to tap that potential available on the plane of consistency, the body without organs, as Deleuze and Guattari would put it. What Miller goes on about on that page and the previous page (228-229) is that to love is not to conquer as the conqueror must remain vigilant and retain that position, ever troubled by “[t]he mere threat of self-dependence” of the other. Miller (229) adds:
“As to those who ask merely to be loved, who seek only their own reflection in the mirror, no love, however great, will ever satisfy them. In a world so hungry for love it is no wonder that men and women are blinded by the glamor and glitter of their own reflected egos.”
In other words, to really conquer the hearts and minds of others is to bend the knee, not to make others bend the knee. While the couple double is just one example related to potential becomings, it is helpful and also very fitting as in the thinking of Deleuze and Guattari going beyond oneself is achieved in relation to others. In ‘Negotiations, 1972–1990’, Deleuze (140-141) addresses the question of working and writing together with Guattari posed by Raymond Bellour and François Ewald. Deleuze (141) replies to them:
“Given that, writing with someone else presents no particular problem, quite the reverse. There’d be a problem if we were precisely two persons, each with his own life, his own views, setting out to collaborate with each other and discuss things. When I said Félix and I were rather like two streams, what I meant was that individuation doesn’t have to be personal.”
He (141) adds that:
“Félix and I, and many others like us, don’t feel we’re persons exactly. Our individuality is rather that of events, which isn’t making any grand claim, given that h[a]ecceities can be modest and microscopic.”
What Deleuze is explaining is that you and I, in his case Guattari and him, can be understood as separate beings and that, as pointed out in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, this does not necessarily mean that one escapes the doubling of the self as it is tied to the strata through subjectification. Deleuze is not, however, just writing alongside Guattari. It’s not merely something between separate individuals. Instead, Deleuze (141) states that:
“It’s just a question of something passing through you, a current, which alone has a proper name. Even when you think you’re writing on your own, you’re always doing it with someone else you can’t always name.”
If Deleuze was indeed writing with Guattari in conversation, in dialogue, comparing their views, then wouldn’t they be like a couple cogito, as described by the two (132-135) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’? It may not seem much of a thing to collaborate with someone, but, well, to them it is. In ‘What Is Philosophy?’, Deleuze and Guattari (28-29) make a keen observation that philosophy is a solitary practice. They (29) argue that, for example, while generally known for dialogue, Socrates is hardly discussing anything with others:
“In fact, Socrates constantly made all discussion impossible[.]”
It may seem like an odd remark to make, considering that ‘What Is Philosophy?’ is a joint project. That said, if we take into account what Deleuze and Guattari (132-135) write in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ and what Deleuze (141) explains in conversation with Bellour and Ewald, this is not odd at all. They are not a cogito of the two, but one individuality, a haecceity.
So to return to deterritorialization, I think the lovers example works well to exemplify how one can become. If you assert yourself to the other, there is a divide between you and I, retaining the doubling, the mirror image. In order to become, that is to say become something new or different, perhaps better for you and the other in that couple is to cease to be a couple, a two instead of one, or as Deleuze and Guattari (134) put it:
“Let consciousness cease to be its own double, and passion the double of one person for another. Make consciousness an experimentation in life, and passion a field of continuous intensities, and emission of particles-signs.”
I must admit that my own word choice of better is not exactly apt. It’s rather irrelevant really in the general sense. The point is that ceasing the doubling of the cogito, be it the single or the couple, opens up new possibilities in life. So in this sense it is better, or rather, positive instead of negative. It enables becomings.
Finally, after the lengthy detour into regimes of signs, it is time to return to the chapter on faciality. Deleuze and Guattari (167) note that the two semiotic systems, the signifying semiotic and the postsignifying semiotic, work through signifiance and subjectification, but argue that they tend not to exist in isolation of one another. So, they (167) elaborate that signifiance “is never without a white wall” to be inscribed upon and that subjectification “is never without a black hole” in which it is lodged. More crucially, they (167) argue that as they borrow from one another to certain extent, i.e. that they are in fact mixed, there exists a special mechanism where these two intersect: “[I]t is the face: the white wall/black hole system.” More poetically, they (167) characterize it as “[a] broad face with white cheeks, a chalk face with eyes cut in for a black hole.” They (168) further elaborate it:
“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. 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.”
In reverse, they (168) rephrase it:
“It is not exactly the face that constitutes the wall of the signifier or the hole of subjectivity. The face, at least the concrete face, vaguely begins to take shape on the white wall. It vaguely begins to appear in the black hole.”
So, in other words, they (168) summarize the mechanism:
“And there are already a number of possible combinations in the system: either black holes distribute themselves on the white wall, or the white wall unravels and moves toward a black hole combining all black holes, hurtling them together[.]”
What is important here is to understand that faces are not a priori, i.e. ready made as Deleuze and Guattari (168) point out. Faces are the result, the effect produced by what Deleuze and Guattari (168) refer to as “an abstract machine of faciality (visageite)[.]” So, here is a segue to a previous essay that focused on diagrams and abstract machines. Simply put, faciality is an abstract machine, a diagram. Now, one could object that face is already there, considering that everyone has one. Deleuze and Guattari (170) make note of this, but instead argue that the body has a head, not a face:
“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.”
Rephrasing this, the face has been imposed on the head, it has organized that part of the body. Now, by this point you are probably wondering the relevance of this. How is the abstract machine of faciality relevant to landscapes? Deleuze and Guattari (170) advance their line of thinking from the head to the rest of the body:
“[I]f the head and its elements are facialized, the entire body also can be facialized, comes to be facialized as part of an inevitable process. … Hand, breast, stomach, penis and vagina, thigh, leg and foot, all come to be facialized. Fetishism, erotomania, etc., are inseparable from these processes of facialization.”
Relevantly to my interest in landscapes, they (172) go further:
“Now the face has a correlate of great importance: the landscape, which is not just a milieu but a deterritorialized world.”
They (172) also elaborate how it works two ways:
“Face and landscape manuals formed a pedagogy, a strict discipline, and were an inspiration to the arts as much as the arts were an inspiration to them. Architecture positions its ensembles – houses, towns or cities, monuments or factories – to function like faces in the landscape they transform. 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.’”
So, in other words, landscape, much like face, involves a negative absolute deterritorialization. A landscape is not environment or milieu, but the result of the abstract machine of landscapity (paysageite), which is the correlate of the abstract machine of faciality (visageite), if not the same thing. What we call a landscape is the environment, the milieu or the world that undergoes deterritorialization and reterritorializes (settles) as a landscape, as Deleuze and Guattari (181) explain it.
Going back to a previous essay on the diagram and the abstract machine, we can understand how landscape functions. Like other diagrams or abstract machines, it, as defined by Deleuze and Guattari (142), “does not function to represent, even something real, but rather constructs a real that is yet to come, a new type of reality.” Similarly, as Deleuze (35) puts in ‘Foucault’, “[i]t never functions in order to represent a persisting world but produces a new kind of reality, a new model of truth.” It is both discursive and non-discursive, concerning both formations, involving both statements and visibilities, as elaborated by Deleuze (31). Ronald Bogue (12) aptly summarizes this face-landscape complex in ‘The Landscape of Sensation’ that appears in ‘Gilles Deleuze: Image and Text’ as a regime of light, coded and coordinated by the mixed semiotic of the despotic (signifying) and the passional (postsignifying) regimes of signs.
This proved proved to be quite the endeavor, but I find it all helpful in order to understand what landscape is and what it does. I now hope to get back on track with more specific landscape related publications. They should prove to be less acidic reading. That said, I think that it is very important to understand what you are dealing with to begin with, otherwise you risk of just doing more of the same, being complacent and complicit at the same time. That’s exactly why I wanted to dig deep in this essay and in a few other essays. I might make further detours in the future though. For example, addressing governmentality and biopower would be worth it.
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- Bogue, R. (2009). The Landscape of Sensation. In E. W. Holland, D. W. Smith, and C. J. Stivale (Eds.), Gilles Deleuze: Image and Text (pp. 9–26). London, United Kingdom: Continuum.
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- Miller, H. (1965). Sexus. New York, NY: Grove Press.