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 to 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. 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 production has gone through the roof (this took less than two days, so some hours), largely thanks to the authors of ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’, 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 were 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 ‘La Trahison des Images’ (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’, first illustrating a problem in reference to ‘The 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’. 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 (signification) 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’ 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.”
What’s important here is the lack of individuality. 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.”
This, what this is, will be explained shortly. Just be patient for a moment. 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.”
In other words, the mechanism involves a double redundancy. They then 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.”
So, you have a surface to inscribe something on. 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.”
The black hole is indeed a hole, unlike the white wall, which is, as they (168) put it, a wall, a frame or a screen, or, as I’d put it, a surface. The point here is that signifiance (signification) and subjectification have distinct features.
If you are not convinced by their definitions, 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.”
A 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.”
So, think of the face as a surface, one that isn’t simply flat, you know, like an actual face. 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 quoted 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, ‘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, “facies 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 (177) 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 (here in reverse, as non-italicized, due to the blog template), 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.”
It’s indeed all-encompassing. 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 the 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 wouldn’t 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 Ronai’s first landscape article. 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 ‘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 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’, 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 as 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 machine 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) points out. 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:
“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 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 ‘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 its exercises 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 ‘Critical Practice’:
“[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 Archaeology of Knowledge’, “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 why the examination of the abstract machine of faciality/landscapity is crucial. Like other abstract machines, it “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 sees 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 so, 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 or 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 as 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 may, 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’:
“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, as it appears to us. 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 ‘Battleship 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 ‘The Calling of the Apostles Peter and 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 devise 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 looked 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 landscape 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.
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