Nonhuman landscapes of nature

I’ve written quite a bit on landscape and, well, I won’t let you down this time either. I’ve particularly focused on how Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari present it in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’. I’m not going to focus on that in detail here, again, for the umpteenth time. I’ll do my best to bring it up only where relevant. For those who are interested, as a suggestion, if you want a, how to put it, sober account on how they define it in that book, I recommend looking up ‘Faces’ by Ronald Bogue, chapter four of his book titled ‘Deleuze on Music, Painting, and the Arts’.

Anyway, as I pointed out, I’ll be doing something different this time, yet still pertaining to landscapes, as discussed by Bogue in ‘The Landscape of Sensation’, as nested in a book titled ‘Gilles Deleuze: Image and Text’. I’m doing this because I keep telling people that landscape, as discussed in much of the literature on landscapes, and emphasized in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, is not exactly something you should be keen on. However, there’s also something a bit lazy in arguing that this is how the world works, it’s so bad for you, or so to speak, to put it in very simple terms, but not attempting to go beyond it. The point here is to address how one would go beyond it as there’s no going back to time before landscape, as defined, for example, in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. There’s only going forward, coming up with something else instead, deterritorializing and reterritorializing, decoding and coding.

Bogue (9) is nice enough, having read Deleuze and Guattari quite extensively, to list the works in which landscape appears: ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, ‘Cinema 1: The Movement-Image’, ‘What Is Philosophy?’ and ‘Essays on Critical and Clinical’. He (9) notes that for the two it’s perhaps a bit too much to call landscape a concept, at least in the way that they define concept very strictly (but let’s not get tangled up in that). Instead, he (9) states that it’s rather a recurring element, a conceptual motif that has to do with the tension between “speaking and seeing, between texts and images”, that is to say statements and visibilities, hence the discussion of it as being the correlate of the abstract machine of faciality in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. I’m not sure if I should call it it’s own abstract machine, or merely what’s linked to the one on faciliaty. Perhaps I should call it the abstract machine of faciality-landscapity, or, the face-landscape complex, as Bogue (9) calls it. The point here being that while we can think landscape as the facialization of the world, i.e. the extension of faciality from the human body to the whole world, they nevertheless now work together, like a dynamic duo, if you will.

As a side note, which I may have pointed out in some essay, way back, if you don’t think the pair, face and landscape, is pervasive, cropping up everywhere, in the places you’d least expect them, just check your word processor page orientation. Oh, yes, yes, yes, your choice is between the portrait and the landscape! Not even blank white pages will leave you alone! Print a page, black and white (it’ll be black and white because it’ll most likely be just text) and there you go! It’s now literally a white wall with some black holes in it. Take it in your hand and rotate that wrist: portrait, landscape, portrait, landscape. The white wall, accompanied by the black holes, just won’t leave you be.

Bogue goes on to summarize how Deleuze and Guattari defined landscape in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, but as I pointed out already, I’ll do my best to avoid elaborating that in detail. I reckon you can do that yourself, just check pages 9 to 12 or so, give or take. To put it in words that I find very useful and concise, Bogue (11-12) states that:

“[Face and landscape] constitute a general schema of visibility, a kind of vectorial gridding of the visual as a component co-functioning with language in the maintenance of a field of forces. In this regard, the facialized world resembles the domain of ‘visibilities’ that Deleuze sees as a central feature of Foucault’s work. Foucault’s ‘visibilities’ take form within what Deleuze calls a ‘regime of light’, a structure of scintillations, shadows, glares and reflections, a given regime of light serving as the condition of possibility that determines what can be seen and what cannot.”

Now, if you think of it, at least if you have read … quite a bit of literature on landscapes, you might recall that, for example, Denis Cosgrove defines landscape as a way of seeing. I think he is very correct, yet, at the same time, what Deleuze and Guattari are on about goes a bit further on this. For them, as explained by Bogue (11-12), what defines the way of seeing is beyond the individual. The individual, or the subject, is, after all, not the starting point, but a certain secondary construct, as mind warping as it may seem. So, therefore, it’s very hard not to see a landscape, because, well, it’s how we, inevitably, come to see the world. It’s what comes with the territory these days. There’s no opt out, as you never really actually opted in to begin with. It’s not that you were born with it, as just looking up the dictionary definition will come to tell you, but that you ended up co-opting in it. Anyway, Bogue (12) offers further clarification on this, including the bit on it not being inherent or universal:

“Each historically specific regime of light is in a dynamic relationship with a discursive formation, but visibilities are not reducible to statements. Rather, visibilities and statements intervene in one another, interconnect while remaining heterogeneous and incommensurable.”

So, we can say that landscape is an invention, one that can be traced to the (re)introduction of the linear perspective, as explained by Cosgrove in, for example, his article ‘Prospect, Perspective and the Evolution of the Landscape Idea’. The point here is not to get tangled up with the development of it, how it came to be used for this and/or that, but that it’s not inherent to the world itself, beyond being as real as anything else that we’ve come up with. In other words, landscape has to do with a certain regime of light, or non-discursive formation, with certain historical origins, tied to a certain regime of signs, or discursive formation, yet it’s not reducible to either. It needs both. Bogue (12) explains:

“The face-landscape complex of faciality may then be seen as a specific regime of light, one coordinated with the mixed linguistic semiotic of the despotic and passional regimes of signs.”

For me, what I believe I initially struggled with is coming to terms with this. Landscape is not one or the other, but rather both, yet, not exactly either. Bogue is particularly right that landscape, as we come to see the world, is not how the world is, but rather how we’ve come to see it, hence the earlier point about visibilities, as influenced by statements. If it was simply out there, it would quite literally be the world itself, which it isn’t. Conversely, if it was only something that we came up with once upon a time, not bearing any relevance to the world, beyond being some words on paper (that’s in world, still very real), it would be rather easy to dismiss it. In this sense then, landscape, or, to be more accurate here, face-landscape, is a diagram or an abstract machine that assembles the world into landscape. So, it isn’t the world, but it’s how the world appears to us. I don’t know about others but it has taken me quite a bit of reading into this to wrap my head around that. I reckon I can say with confidence that I’m able to stop the machine from assembling the world in that way, but then again that’s only limited to me and perhaps a handful of other people, as well as anyone blissfully untouched by such (that’s not a lot of people, but I guess some people untouched by modernity aren’t affected). However, this hardly changes anything as the issue is, quite literally, beyond me. How to simplify this? Well, if I try explaining this to people, I either get the response that whatever they see is what they get, that is to say the objective reality, or that whatever I’m on about is just some subjective matter, hardly relevant beyond personal enjoyment of scenery. What’s common with the two is that it’s something that can be happily ignored.

I have explained this in a previous essay, but a bit of repetition won’t hurt us here. Going back to faces and faciality for a moment, in case you struggle with how that’s relevant, Bogue (10) explains it:

“The face functions in tandem with the mixed semiotic of the despotic and passional regimes to enforce networks of signification and subjectivation, and since the goal of that mixed semiotic is to subsume everything within its order, faciality extends from the face per se to other body parts[.]”

Take note here, that’s just the face, going from the head to all over the body. Deleuze and Guattari (170) are very clear on this in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:

“But the operation does not end there: if the head and its elements are facialized, the entire body also can be facialized, comes to be facialized as part of an inevitable process.”

Now, if you aren’t familiar with their work, you might wonder how other body parts, such as the mouth, the nose, the eyes (all parts of what we consider the face, mind you), hands, breasts and stomach, to name some listed by the two (170), are facialized, it’s because facialization doesn’t operate by “resemblance but by an order of reasons.” To be very clear on this, they (170) state that “[i]t is not at all a question of taking a part of the body and making it resemble a face[.]” Oh, as you might have gathered already, facialization won’t stop there, considering that I already indicated that it, sort of, takes over the world. Bogue (10) continues:

“[F]aciality extends … to neighbouring objects and to the surrounding milieu.”

Bogue (10) notes that this has to do with fetishization, as clearly indicate by the two (170). Once the body is done, facialized, the next stop is all kinds of objects, such as knives, cups, clocks and kettles, as listed by the two (175), stopping nowhere, extending to the whole world (172). That’s landscape for you, if it wasn’t clear already. I’ve dedicated quite a bit of time explaining this in my essays, so I won’t do more of that here. Instead, as pointed in the opening paragraph, I want to explore something else, how one would go beyond this. After all, that should be the goal, right?

Bogue (15) notes that in ‘What Is Philosophy?’ “landscape is associated with the ‘percept’, which, along with the ‘affect’, is one of the constituents of ‘sensation’, sensation itself delineating the domain proper to the arts.” Oh boy, that’s a lot to take in at one go. Deleuze and Guattari (24) state in ‘What Is Philosophy?’ that:

“[P]hilosophy extracts concepts (which must not be confused with general or abstract ideas), whereas science extracts prospects (propositions that must not be confused with judgments), and art extracts percepts and affects (which must not be confused with perceptions or feelings).”

Now this doesn’t help us much, considering that this is on a very broad level. That said, at least this tells us what percept isn’t to be confused with; concepts (philosophy), prospects (science) and affects (arts). There’s that. Later on in the book they (65) note that “the powers of affects and percepts” are tied to “aesthetic figures” and they “take effect on a plane of composition as image of a Universe (phenomenon).” They (65) specify that these aesthetic figures include “figures of thought and the novel”, that is to say people who write, as well as “of painting, sculpture, and music” which go beyond the everyday. They (65-66) go on to note that this does not mean that aesthetic figures are not to be found in philosophy which typically deals with what they call “conceptual personae” and vice versa.

Later on Deleuze and Guattari dedicate a chapter to ‘Percept, Affect, and Concept’. They (163) begin the chapter by addressing paintings:

“The young man will smile on the canvas for as long as the canvas lasts.”

Followed by addressing the same in writing and film (163):

“In a novel or a film, the young man will stop smiling, but he will start to smile again when we turn to this page or that moment.”

Regardless of the medium, the point here is that (163):

“Art preserves, and it is the only thing in the world that is preserved.”

Now, of course, they (163) note that while “[i]t preserves and is preserved in itself … [it] actually … lasts no longer than its support and materials – stone, canvas, chemical color, and so on[.]” Once its gone, its gone and everything fades away eventually. That said, they (163) note that, for example, statues stay the same, retain their pose even for thousands of years, regardless of who made it gesture or pose the way it does. Simply put, art outlives the artist, yet it still functions in the absence of the artist. Moreover, they (163-164) add that art not only becomes independent of the artist, the creator, but also of the person who senses it, for example the spectator if we are referring to visual art. Also, assuming that it’s supposed to be based on something or someone, to model them, they (163) note that art also becomes independent of what it is supposed to model. What is important here is what remains, as already pointed out. They (164) call this, what remains, a piece of art:

“What is preserved … is a bloc of sensations, that is to say, a compound of percepts and affects.”

To make more sense of this, they (164) elaborate percepts:

“Percepts are no longer perceptions; they are independent of a state of those who experience them.”

So, as already pointed out in general when it comes to art, percepts are independent of the perceiver, the creator, the artist, and also outlive the artist. At the same time, percepts remain and it matters not who come to see them later on. They (164) emphasize this to the extent that they argue that “[t]hey could be said to exist in the absence of man because man … is himself a compound of percepts and affects.” To be more specific, they (166) clarify that:

“As percepts, sensations are not perceptions referring to an object (reference): if they resemble something it is with a resemblance produced with their own methods; and the smile on the canvas is made solely with colors, lines, shadow, and light.”

The problem here is that to understand how percepts compound with affects as sensations, we need to understand how they are not perceptions. Bogue (15) clarifies that:

“Deleuze and Guattari derive their sense of the landscape from Henri Maldiney, whose account of the operation of form and rhythm in visual art is based on a phenomenological reading of Cézanne’s comments on painting.”

Maldiney gets mentioned by the two (149) when state in an example that “[p]henomenology needs art as logic needs science; Erwin Straus, Merleau-Ponty, or Maldiney need Cézanne or Chinese painting.” Bogue (15) specifies that to draw insights from Cézanne, Maldiney takes cues from Erwin Straus:

“[W]ho in The Primary World of the Senses … argues that we must differentiate the world of perception, in which subject and object are clearly distinguished and situated within commonsense spatiotemporal coordinates, from the world of sensation, primary, preverbal world we share with animals, in which subject and objects indistinguishable and space-time moves with us in a perpetual Here-Now.”

Maldiney’s book ‘Regard Parole Espace’ has, apparently, never been translated, so, as a word of warning, you’ll just have to do with my translations where applicable. Anyway, indeed, Maldiney (141) does state this with regard space (l’espace):

“Rien ne dépasse en importance dans l’histoire, faite ou à faire, de l’esthétique les analyses par lesquelles Erwin Straus a mis en évidence l’articulation de la musique et de la danse et la constitution de l’espace du paysage.”

Here Maldiney emphasizes the importance of Erwin Straus to his treatment of landscape. On the same page (141) Maldiney brings up how Straus differentiates between geography (géographie) and landscape (paysage). To give you a proper translation, Bogue (15) explains that, in terms used by Straus, “the space of perception is a space of geography, whereas [the space of] sensation[] is that of the landscape.”

Maldiney (142) explains how in the classical pictorial style the use of line is limited and measured. Deleuze and Guattari (172) indicate in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ how this works: “Compose them … color them in, complete them[.]” They (173) call it “the great composition of the white canvas and black slash” with its “axis of escape” and its “vanishing point”. They (173) use Titian as an example, stating that he “began his paintings in black and white, not to make outlines to fill in, but as the matrix for each of the colors to come.” The point here is that when it comes to landscapes, there is a way of doing it, starting with the lines and filling in the rest, adding color, in accordance to the black lines on the white canvas. It’s essentially a template of how to do landscapes. Start with the grid and the rest will follow. Maldiney (142) rejects this, citing Robert Delaunay in ‘Du cubisme à l’art abstrait’ (sorry, I couldn’t find a copy of this), stating that “‘the color gives depth – not perspective, not succession, but simultaneity.’” Aligning himself with Straus, he (142) states that color and form are inseparable, even if their use varies by style.

Assuming I get this right, when it comes to landscapes, Maldiney (143) argues that landscape is a full or replete space as it lacks nothing. He (143) explains this in Strausian terms, stating that in landscape one is surrounded or enveloped by space. He (143) clarifies that there are no points of reference, no coordinates, no geographical area. He cites (144) Straus approvingly:

“La peinture de paysage ne représente pas ce que nous voyons, elle rend visible l’invisible.”

Now, to be accurate, that’s a translation of what Straus (279) expresses in German in ‘Vom Sinn der Sinne: Ein Beitrag zur Grundlegung der Psychologie’, what Bogue refers to as ‘The Primary World of the Senses’. In the original Straus (279) states:

“Die Landschaftsmalarei stellt nich das dar, was wir sehen, nämlich bei der Betrachtung einer Gegend bemerken, sondern – das Paradox ist nich zu vermeiden – sie macht das Unsichtbare sichtbar, aber als ein Entrücktes.”

More concisely, he (279) summarizes:

“Die Vision ist ein Sichtbar-Werden des Unsichtbaren.”

This reminds me a lot of what Paul Klee (28) states in his part of ‘Schöpferische Konfession’:

“Kunst gibt nicht das Sichtbare wieder, sondern macht sichtbar.”

If your German isn’t up to the task, both Klee and Straus are saying that it’s not about rendering the visible but rendering visible. In other words, it’s not about re-presenting something, but presenting something, something you don’t see, as of yet.

Deleuze states something similar in his book on Kant, in the 1983 published ‘Kant’s Critical Philosophy: The Doctrine of the Faculties’, where he explores the work of Immanuel Kant and the notion of representation. He (8) states that for starters one must make a distinction “between the representation and what is represented.” This is fairly basic. In Kant’s terms, we could speak of phenomena and noumena or, in singular, phenomenon and noumenon. You can find this in Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’, where he (A249-A250) makes the distinction between how things appear to us and how things are in themselves. Deleuze (8) emphasizes that the thing with Kant is that phenomenon does not mean appearance but appearing. I find this explained better in a transcript of his first lecture on Kant titled ‘Synthesis and Time’, dated March 14, 1978. Deleuze states that while Kant’s split between phenomena and noumena is not unique, as such, what Kant makes of it is. Deleuze clarifies this:

“Previously philosophers spoke of phenomenon to distinguish what? Very broadly we can say that phenomenon was something like appearance. An appearance. The sensible, the a posteriori, what was given in experience had the status of phenomenon or appearance, and the sensible appearance was opposed to the intelligible essence.”

In short, we have, on one hand, sensible appearance and, on the other hand, intelligible essence. He further clarifies how it was generally understood before Kant:

“The intelligible essence was also the thing such as it is in itself, it was the thing in itself, the thing itself or the thing as thought; the thing as thought, as phenomenon, is a Greek word which precisely designates the appearance or something we don’t know yet, the thing as thought in Greek was the noumenon, which means the ‘thought’.”

In short, the intelligible essence is also known as the noumenon, the thing in itself, as it is thought, whereas the sensible appearance is its simply its appearance, regardless if we know its essence or not. Simply put, the noumenon is what it is and the phenomenon is its appearance. Deleuze attributes this to Plato:

“I can thus say that the whole of classical philosophy from Plato onwards seemed to develop itself within the frame of a duality between sensible appearances and intelligible essences.”

The problem here is, as explained by Deleuze, that this makes the subject defective as appearance, how, for example, we see something is not what it is, only its appearance. As I may have botched that, in his words:

“A fundamental defect, namely: appearance is in the end the thing such as it appears to me by virtue of my subjective constitution which deforms it.”

He exemplifies this with how a stick in water appears broken. If you go closer and take the stick out of water, it no longer has the appearance of a broken stick. It’s simply an illusion. He notes that this is “Plato’s theme: leave appearances to find essences.” It sort of makes sense, considering how appearance can be deceiving, as just explained.

This is, to be clear here, not how Kant defines phenomenon and noumenon. The lecture transcript is fairly lucid so I’ll stay on it. Deleuze explains that Kant radically transforms phenomenon:

“[T]he phenomenon will no longer at all be appearance.”

Instead, Deleuze adds:

“[T]he phenomenon is no longer defined as appearance but as apparition.”

In the English translation of the book on Kant, this is translated as appearing. In the 1963 French original, ‘La philosophie critique de Kant: doctrine des facultés’, the word used is apparition (14). I’ve explored this in the past, but, anyway, according to a dictionary, such as the Oxford English Dictionary, the word apparition (OED, s.v. “apparition”, n.) is used in English typically as:

“An immaterial appearance as of a real being; a spectre, phantom, or ghost. (The ordinary current sense.)”

It can, however, be used as appearing:

“The action of appearing or becoming visible.”

In contrast, the word appearance (OED, s.v. “appearance”, n.) has to do with:

“The action of coming forward into view or becoming visible.”


“The action or state of appearing or seeming to be (to eyes or mind); semblance; looking like. to all appearance: so far as appears to anyone.”


“The state or form in which a person or thing appears; apparent form, look, aspect.”

So, as I’ve explained in a previous essay, they are very similar but not exactly the same. Appearance has to do with how something looks, or, taking more senses into account, is sensible. Apparition is how something becomes visible, how it appears to our senses. Anyway, I prefer to use the word apparition instead of appearing. I think it’s just conceptually more distinct, having to do with the act of it, whereas I might use appearing more in general, when it has little do with this distinction.

Deleuze emphasizes the importance of this transformation, understanding phenomenon as apparition:

“The difference is enormous because when I say the word apparition I am no longer saying appearance at all, I am no longer at all opposing it to essence. The apparition is what appears in so far as it appears. Full stop. I don’t ask myself if there is something behind, I don’t ask myself if it is false or not false.”

Now, if you’ve done your homework, that is to say read Kant, you’ll be aware of that you can’t reach the noumena. We can’t get to the things as they are. Conversely, as pointed out here, what now matters is apparition, how something appears in as much it does. Simply put, there’s no search for the essences. This is also why Deleuze calls Kant the founder of phenomenology:

“I think that if there is a founder of phenomenology it is Kant. There is phenomenology from the moment that the phenomenon is no longer defined as appearance but as apparition.”

Deleuze thus defines phenomenology as “the opposite of a discipline of appearances”, as “a rigorous science of the apparition” which focuses on asking a specific question: “[W]hat can we say about the fact of appearing?” He further clarifies the distinction between appearance and apparition, first explaining what appearance pertains to:

“The appearance is something that refers to essence in a relation of disjunction, in a disjunctive relation, which is to say either it’s appearance or it’s essence.”

Followed by an explanation of what apparition pertains to:

“The apparition is very different, it’s something that refers to the conditions of what appears.”

In short, summarizing the two, as he goes on to do, appearance has to do with disjunction, a disjunctive appearance/essence couple, whereas apparition has to do with conjunction, a conjunctive “what appears/conditions of apparition” couple. He also calls the conjunctive couple “apparition/sense”, sense being “sense of the apparition, signification of the apparition”. In other words, as he puts is, it’s no longer a matter of finding essence behind appearance but there being “the sense or non-sense of what appears.” Deleuze goes on to note that this change in thought is so radical that, “to the point … that in this respect we are all Kantians.”

To be clear here, as Deleuze goes on to warn the audience (remember, it’s a lecture) against a possible radical misinterpretation, apparition does not entail that the subject constitutes what comes to appear to the subject. In other words, what’s outside the subject is not made up by the subject. If that were the case, we’d all exist in our own subjective worlds in which everything is tied to the subject. Instead, as he clarifies, the subject constitutes “the conditions under what appears to it appears to it”, the conditions of apparition. In other words, we live in the same world, but what comes to appear to us is based on us. For Kant, as explained by Deleuze, this is twofold. On one hand, there is the empirical subject, that of the appearance/essence, like you or me. On the other hand, there is the transcendental subject, “the unity of all the conditions under which something appears” to the empirical subject. In other words, you have what you can sense and know, as well as what you cannot sense, only think of and thus not know. Combining the two then, Deleuze explains that:

“We will seek the conditions of [the] apparition [of the phenomenon], and in fact the conditions of its apparition are, the categories on one hand and on the other space and time.”

If you wonder from where space and time are injected here, for Kant space and time are tied to the transcendental subject. They are for him (A373-A374) “representations a priori, which dwell in us as forms of our sensible intuition[.]” Deleuze simply calls them presentational, considering that they are the way they are “before any real object has even determined our inner sense through sensation in such a way that we represent it under those sensible relations”, as explained by Kant (A373-A374). To be more specific, for Kant (A494) space and time are “a receptivity for being affected”. Deleuze refers to space as “the form of exteriority”, meaning “everything which appears in space appears as exterior to whoever grasps it, and exterior from one thing to another”, and time as “the form of interiority”, meaning “the form under which we affect ourselves”. Simply put, they are irreducible to anything else besides themselves. Relevant to what was cited above, Deleuze notes that “space and time are the forms of representation of what appears.”

If you are wondering what are categories, or rather what he means by them, Kant (B129) explains:

“[They] are concepts of an object in general, by means of which its intuition is regarded as determined with regard to one of the logical functions for judgments.”

Which he (B129) then exemplifies:

“Thus, the function of the categorical judgment was that of the relationship of the subject to the predicate, e.g., “All bodies are divisible.”

Also in reverse (B129):

“[O]ne can also say: ‘Something divisible is a body.’”

The point here being that in both instances you have a subject predicate relationship, but, as Kant (B129) points out, through the category of substance the body is determined as the subject. I’m not going to go through his categories here. Otherwise this essays turns into a never ending detour into Kant. This was just so if you wonder what categories are in general, to not leave you hanging.

How does this all come together then? Well, Deleuze summarizes this:

“We have thus to distinguish the diversity of what appears in space and in time and the diversity of space and time themselves.”

He further elaborates that the first diversity, that of what appears in space and time, is empirical diversity and the second diversity has to do with space and time itself, constituting the a priori diversity, the forms of presentation. He adds that the categories function to unify diversity. They are the mediators, to make sense of it all. So, in a nutshell, in Deleuze’s words:

“It is in this sense that it is not simply a form of presentation of what appears, it will be a form of the representation of what appears. The prefix re- indicates here the activity of the concept in opposition to the immediate or passive character of space and time which are given or which are the form of what is given.”

Oh boy, I may have not done a good job here, but I reckon this will suffice as an explanation as to why the focus on rendering visible (apparition), not the visible (appearance). This, the part of Kant, is, of course, just how Kant approaches this. It doesn’t mean that I subscribe to Kant, nor that Deleuze does. I chose to explain this through Kant because, in a sense, the people discussed in this essay are all Kantians (at least up to this point).

Now where was I? Ah, yes, back to Henri Maldiney on space and landscape. Oddly enough, believe it or not (as I didn’t bother to read on before going on that tangent (Klee), followed by another tangent (Kant, Deleuze), Maldiney (144) brings up Klee:

“‘[L]’art ne rend pas le visible, il rend visible[.]’”

The passage is a translation, but it is the exact same passage, the one I already quoted in German. Only the publication in which it is included is different in Maldiney’s book. Deleuze and Guattari (422) paraphrase this in ‘Capitalisme et schizophrénie: Mille plateaux’ as:

Rendre visible, disait Klee, et non pas rendre ou reproduire le visible.”

Which is translated by Massumi in the English translation of the book as (342):

Render visible, Klee said; not render or reproduce the visible.”

It may make little sense to go through these, who cite or paraphrase Klee, but I included these bits to point out my favored … rendering of the passage, that is to say why I like to speak of rendering visible, not the visible. I get that from ‘A Thousand Plateaus’. It’s not in the German original, as such, but I prefer rendering over making as I think it works better in different contexts. There’s also another bit Maldiney (146) cites from Klee, from ‘Das bildnerische Denken’. I went through the effort of finding the German original, so I’ll present that here instead of the French translation:

“Da, wo das Zentralorgan aller zeitlich-räumlichen Bewegtheit, heiße es nun Hirn oder Herz der Schöpfung alle Funktionen veranlaßt, wer möchte da als Künstler nicht wohnen?”

My German is alright for reading, but often lacking in writing, so I’ll use the translation provided in ‘Paul Klee: Philosophical Vision: From Nature to Art’, edited by John Sallis. To be more specific, it’s in the book, in chapter titled ‘On Modern Art’. Klee states that (14)

“There where the central organ of all temporal-spatial animatedness, whether we call it the brain or the hear of Creation, occasions all the functions: who as an artist would not want to dwell there?”

To make more sense of this, in the same edited book, in chapter titled ‘Paul Klee’s Vision of an Originary Cosmological Painting’, Alejandro Arturo Vallega (30) points out what sort of was covered here already in the earlier bit included from Klee, how for Klee art is not about representing the “natural objective form or product” but about “form-giving”. In ‘On Modern Art’ Klee (13) explains that, in a sense:

“[An artist] is perhaps, without really wanting to be, a philosopher.”

Vallega (30) clarifies that, as you may gather from all this already (Kant/Deleuze in particular), what unites the two, the artist and the philosopher, is going beyond appearances, finding that there’s more than meets the eye. So, for the umpteenth time by now, as Vallega (30) points out, it’s creating or producing that is of interest to the artist, not the creation or the end product. Simply put, as emphasized by Vallega (31), the basis for art cannot be something in its objective presence.

Perhaps it has to do with the lecturer, Tuomas Tolonen, being a phenomenologist, but, oddly enough, this is something that was covered during the lectures on aesthetics that I attended not long ago. It was not in reference to Klee, but rather art in the 1800s. It wasn’t merely about painting, but it did pay a major role during the lectures as landscape painting was a big deal during that century. Anyway, in summary, a point was made how, at the time, art was not about re-presenting but about presenting. It was emphasized that an artist does not start with a clear picture or idea in mind, that one will simply know in advance what’s to come and then proceed to do just that. So, when it comes to painting, for example, the artist doesn’t have something on display, be it some object or the landscape, for it to be faithfully rendered in paint. The end result would be a reproduction, a recreation, a representation. Instead, the painter seeks to create something that is not already there, visible. Sure, fair enough, it’s hard to avoid re-presenting something, but that’s not the point here, whether you do or don’t.

For example, Caspar David Friechrich’s ‘Der Watzmann’ (The Watzmann), does look like the real deal but apparently he never even saw the mountains himself, as pointed out by Timothy Mitchell (452, 455) in his article ‘Caspar David Friedrich’s Der Watzmann: German Romantic Landscape Painting and Historical Geology’. As I don’t access to Mitchell’s more encompassing work, the ‘Art and Science in German Landscape Painting 1770-1840’, I have to make due with Stephen Daniels (369), who adds in his review of Mitchell’s book:

“Friedrich never visited the scene, and the painting was made in Rome.”

Why it does look quite a bit like the real deal then? Well, according to Mitchell (455), Friedrich likely had access to plenty of information on geology, including drawings of the mountains. He (455) also notes that it is possible that he has seen an unfinished painting of the mountains painted by a former student of his. However, Daniels (369) notes that while much of the painting looks as it should, as one might expect really, how “[t]he absence of the ubiquitous cataract of alpine scenes strikes a realistic note, it also has certain unrealistic notes, namely “[t]he outcrop in the foreground [which] has no topographical basis … [being] transposed from two illustrations” sketched by Friedrich and Goethe, having nothing to do with “the limestone range to which the Watzmann belongs” to. Mitchell (458) also points this out, noting that instead of striving for accuracy, “Friedrich substitutes a composite image derived from drawing done at completely different sites.” He (458) also points out how its factually off, including the substitution of an alpine stream with the arid rocky outcrop:

“Even from the standpoint of topographical accuracy, almost every aspect of Friedrich’s Der Watzmann is wrong, from the shape of the mountain to the type of rock displayed in the foreground.”

The rocky outcrop is, however, of particular interest. It’s wrong, because, as sign of the times, it had to be there, or so to speak. Mitchell (461) acknowledges this:

“[W]hile there are no granite outcroppings actually visible in the vicinity of Der Watzmann, theory demands that the suggestion of such forms be included. Friedrich sacrificed topographic accuracy for what he saw as a more profound truth.”

So, yes, it does bear certain resemblance, but it’s Friedrich’s vision of it, to a point of fault, as noted by Daniels (369) and Mitchell (458). The resemblance is, however, not of much importance here, considering that “Friedrich did not consider accuracy to local detail paramount in truthful rendering of a mountain scene”, as noted by Mitchell (456). Simply put, it was beside the point for him. Moreover, Mitchell (458-459) hints that not being accurate was likely intentional, doing it for religious reasons. According to Mitchell (458), for Friedrich “Nature was the book of God and revealed his active presence through [landscape]” and thus “landscape painting was [for him] a form of religious art.”

So, what’s really interesting in the painting is how the life of a mountain is presented in it by Friedrich. It’s fairly easy to miss if you are only interested in its appearance. I’ve explained this before, so I won’t go into much detail, but in the background you see the tall snow capped mountains, in the middle you see a less pronounced peak and in the front you see the formation of eroded rocks. The point here is about rendering visible how mountains have different stages in their geological lives. Don’t believe me? Well, Mitchell (452) points out the same thing, noting that:

“Friedrich’s paintings are recognizable as a hymn to the universal laws of mountain formation.”

To be more specific, Mitchell (458) argues that:

“Friedrich’s landscapes spring from a similar belief in this transcendental unity. By expressing the essential dynamics of mountain formation, Friedrich was simultaneously revealing part of God.”

In summary, at least the way I see it, having never even seen the real thing himself and not giving a hoot that his depiction is way off, in multiple ways, Friedrich isn’t rendering the visible, but rendering visible. What he renders visible are the ideas of geology, or, rather, what was then known as geognosy, as explained by Mitchell (455). To be accurate, as noted by Daniels (369-370), the mountain formation is not how we understand mountain formation, as you might have been taught in school, but how it was understood at the time, which is to say that if it’s off, it’s because it is. That said, the fact that it’s off, how mountains are not formed and transformed, is not of great importance. He was under the impression that it’s how it is, even though it clearly isn’t. If we believe Mitchell (458-459), what was important for Friedrich was revealing Nature, revealing God. The lecturer at the aesthetics lectures also pointed out this, how, following Kant, during this period landscape had to do with engagement in metaphysics and landscape painting was an art that was the practice of it. Simply put, ignoring the religiosity, it had to do with being one with the world. It’s very profound really, even if it is, in part, profoundly off as well, at least in the case of the Watzmann. Sign of the times, I guess.

Moving on, from Friedrich back to Klee, even if that’s an oxymoron, an anachronism, Klee (9) expresses the creative process in ‘On Modern Art’:

“[D]uring the period in which a work receives its shape this [creative] process goes on more or less preconsciously.”

Unless I’m mistaken, this is what the lecturer on the aesthetics lectures was on about. He explained how for an artists it’s not about seeing something and/or knowing something, in advance, and then rendering that on, for example, a canvas. Instead, he argued that it’s how an artist creates something sensible while at it, not knowing what will come of it, what the creation will be or should be beforehand. Klee (10) goes on to explain how, at least at times, people come judge such understanding of art as a creative process:

“[F]rom time to time people have wanted to forbid the artist these divergences from the given models, divergences that are necessary to the artistic process. Some people have been so outraged that they accuse the artist of total incompetence or deliberate falsification.”

In other words, if an artist doesn’t represent something accurately or realistically, it’s considered childish. Speaking of childish works, there’s something particularly interesting about them. For example, there’s this drawing by my nephew. The first time I saw the drawing, I thought it had a valley, some mountains or hills in the back, then some ground, perhaps a town, and some water in front of it, perhaps a lake. In the foreground there’s this black area that I thought is part of the elevated ground, hence the valley in it. I got it all wrong. What happened was that I assumed that there was depth in the drawing. I’m so used to the linear perspective that I project it, even on to a child’s drawing. According to the artist, my nephew, it’s a steam locomotive on tracks. Who is the incompetent one here? Klee (14) wonders the same:

“When people talk about the infantilism of my sketches, they must be taking as their point of departure those linear constructions in which I was trying to connect an objective representation … with a pure presentation of the linear element.”

Drawing from Klee, Deleuze and Guattari (344) make the same observation as I did, albeit without using a specific example. They (344) note how it is actually children who, by themselves, on their own, are able to pull it off by having the necessary sobriety to do so in order to deterritorialize matters, molecularize material and cosmicize forces. They (344) also note how, for some reason, “[p]eople often have too much of a tendency to reterritorialize on the child[.]”

I wonder when it is that it happens? When are children expected to render 3D on a 2D surface? I honestly can’t remember when it was in school that we used a model, no, not a human standing still somewhere, but any object that we drew on the basis of what we saw. I’ve been told that I used to draw a lot. I think I maxed all the visual arts courses in school and did stuff outside the school as well, until I foolishly deemed it not cool. Also, the older I got, the more I was annoyed by my inability to match the real world. I also couldn’t stand colors, so I usually just used a random pencil to draw things if it had to be realistic. Getting the colors right was a pain. That’s also why I didn’t like paints. It was probably just impatience though, not willing to put the hours in, learning to make use of the colors consistently. The exception here was doing pastel works. I loved the way I was able to draw color and then blend the powdery pigments, to get soft transitions between colors. It pushed me not to work with lines but with the colors. In retrospect, having now read Klee (10-11) who classifies three dimensions of image, line (measure), tonality (weight, black/white) and color (quality), what I think I liked about using pastels was the possibility to work with all of these at the same time. You can do lines of different color and tonality alright, pending how much you apply pressure and how you’ll blend or suffuse the chosen colors. Anyway, oddly enough, I think I ended up quitting drawing because it was considered childish unless you were able to do it realistically. I remember being disciplined for going off the script, drawing some made up version of an amphora instead of basing it on the model. So, in summary, I was pushed to mimic reality, but I found it rather unsatisfying because I wasn’t that good at it. Connecting this to the points made by Klee, as well Deleuze and Guattari, my point here is that children get pushed towards fidelity, mimesis, going against their own creativity.

Klee (13) speaks of “‘deformation’ of the natural form of appearances.” I take this as bearing particular relevance to depicting the real world. I think he (13) explains this particularly well:

“[H]e does not grant these natural forms of appearance the compelling significance they have for the numerous and loudly critical realists.”

This is just a part of the segment, but I stop here to emphasize two words here: appearance and realists. Anyway, he (13) continues:

“He does not feel so bound by these realities because he does not see in these culminating forms the essence of the creative process of nature.”

I’m stopping again for a moment. Here I’d like to direct your attention to two words: forms and process. He (13) concludes this segment:

“More important to him than the culminating forms are the formative forces.”

So, in summary, for Klee, what is of interest to the artist in the real world, or, as he (13) calls it, in “the objective realm”, are not forms but what forms those forms. Deleuze and Guattari (342) make note of this as they point out that this is no longer about finding “the corresponding principle of intelligibility in form” but about “elaborating a material charged with harnessing forces of a different order[.]” In simpler terms, they (342) summarize that it’s about “the visual material [that] must capture nonvisible forces.” This is why (13) Klee goes on to state that an artist “decries the things formed by nature that pass before his eyes, examines them with a penetrating look.” Simply put, the artists finds that there’s more than meets the eye to the world.

If you want examples of this, read the chapter on nomads, ‘1227: Treatise on Nomadology – The War Machine’ in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ and/or Gilbert Simondon’s ‘L’individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information’. I dedicated a short essay on this so I won’t go into this in detail. My example there had to do with chopping up firewood, how it makes a world of difference how you split the wood, going along the grain of the wood, instead of against it. The point here being that there’s more than meets the eye even in firewood.

Why is this important then? As Klee (13) goes on to point out, what was and is are not of great importance, at least not in comparison to what can be. He (14) explains this in other words, stating that it’s a matter of making “life something more than, on average, it appears to be”, “not simply mirror[ing] what has been seen, … but rather make visible those things that were seen in secret.” Vallega (28) brings up how for Klee (13) there’s a contrast between the stasis of the classical style and dynamism of the romanticist style, of which the latter Klee subscribes to, but only in the sense that he wishes to go beyond it, to “pass beyond the style of bathos and compulsion to the kind of romanticism that melts into the universe.” This may confuse you as I won’t look into it more here, but I brought that up just so that my choice to discuss romanticism through Friedrich would make more sense alongside Klee.

Where was I with Maldiney? I believe I got as far as space and landscape before going on a series of tangents. Following Straus, Maldiney (149) reiterates the earlier points made in this essay on landscape:

“L’espace du paysage ou le paysage (car en lui l’espace et le monde sont un) commence avant la peinture de paysage qui le révélera.”

In translation, he is saying that landscape exists before the landscape painting. There is a bit first on what he calls a landscape space that results in calling it just landscape because landscape necessitates space. This just so if you wondered earlier on what’s the deal with that. Anyway, he (149) goes on to reiterate the earlier distinction between landscape and geography:

“Plénitude enveloppante au milieu de laquelle nous sommes ici, il est la spatialité primordiale qui ne comporte aucun système de référence, ni coordonnées ni point origine.”

I include these here because you probably forgot about this already. Anyway, the point is that landscape is spatiality without points of reference, without a grid or a coordinate system. He (149) specifies this by noting that the only point of reference to you is the horizon, but that’s hardly systematic because it’s tied to each individual. The point here is that you are always in it, here and now, as he (149) characterizes it. In other words, if you move a bit, from here to there, wherever that is in relation to where you were, the only point of reference you have with landscape is still the horizon. Even calling it here to there is off, as he (149) points out:

“Le terme de progression n’a aucun sens dans le paysage. Nous ne nous déplaçons pas à travers lui, mais nous marchons en lui de ici en ici, enveloppé parl horizon qui, comme le ici, continûment se transforme en lui-même.”

So, in summary, as I pointed out already, you can’t move from here to there in landscape because there is no point of reference. Maldiney (149) adds that this also means that you are free to roam as you see fit. Sure, as Maldiney (149) acknowledges, you can take the road, go from here to there, there’s that, but you can also go your own way, do your own thing, go wherever the world takes you. When it comes to landscape, Maldiney (149-150) points out that, for him, it’s circular as he is always in relation to the horizon and vice versa, transforming itself as he moves. In other words, as I’d put it, it is, as if, the landscape was following you.

At this point I finally manage to make my way back to Maldiney on Cézanne, as he (150) cites him, as included in Joachim Gasquet’s ‘Cézanne’ (136):

“A ce moment là je ne fais plus qu’un avec mon tableau. (=Non pas le tableau peint, mais le monde à peindre.) Nous sommes un chaos irisé. Je viens devant mon motif, je m’y perds… Nous germinons. Il me semble, lorsque la nuit descend, que je ne peindrai et que je n’ai jamais peint.”

Now, to do a service to the readers, this has been translated to English as well. For example, the one I came across is an edited volume by Michael Doran, titled ‘Conversations with Cézanne’. In it, Cézanne (114) characterizes his process:

“In order to paint landscape correctly, first I have to discover the geographic strata. Imagine that the history of the world dates from the day when two atoms met, when two whirlwinds, two chemicals joined together.”

Okay, we are quite far from merely applying paint on canvas, but do go on (114):

“I can see rising these rainbows, these cosmic prisms, this dawn of ourselves above nothingness. I immerse myself in them when I read Lucretius. I breathe the virginity of the world in this fine rain. A sharp sense of nuances works on me. I feel myself colored by all the nuances of infinity.”

Right … this is still quite far from what people might think of when it comes to painting landscapes. In summary, so far, the way I read this is that it’s about being one with the world. Anyway, this is the point where to the passage cited above in French (114):

“At that moment, I am as one with my painting. We are an iridescent chaos. I come before my motif and I lose myself in it. [I dream, I wander. Silently the sun penetrates my being, like a faraway friend. It warms my idleness, fertilizes it.] We germinate. When night falls again, it seems to me that I shall never paint, that I have never painted. [I need night to tear my eyes away from the earth, from this corner of the earth into which I have melted.]”

To be transparent, I normally mark what I’ve added in [] but here I used [] to mark what is missing from the passage cited above in French, as included by Maldiney (150). This passage goes on as Cézanne (114) explains what happens the next day:

“The next day, a beautiful morning, slowly geographical foundations appear, the layers, the major planes form themselves on my canvas. Mentally I compose the rocky skeleton. I can see the outcropping of stones under the water; the sky weighs on me. Everything falls into place. A pale palpitation envelops the linear elements. The red earths rise from an abyss. I begin to separate myself from the landscape, to see it.”

He goes on with this, but I think that’s enough. That’s the gist of it, how he is first one with the world, as explained in the first passage, and only begins to see it once he picks up the brush and gets to painting. He (114) explains how at first he is stuck in the representational ways, in geometry, only to be replaced by some feeling or an emotion that comes over him. In his (114) words:

“An airborne, colorful logic quickly replaces the somber, stubborn geography.”

He (114) further explains how this happens, how he moves away from the geographically and geometrically organized sketches, bit by bit, until it collapses catastrophically. What results from this is that, in his (115) words:

“All that remains is color, and in color, brightness, clarity[.]”

His explanation is a fair bit longer, so I opted to abridge it here. He (115) goes on to explain the difficulty of doing what he does, how it is difficult to paint the world and only the world, not how we think it is but how it is, “[t]o paint it in its reality!” In the text Gasquet (115) asks Cézanne why it is difficult and why it is necessary to work the way he does, going through all the effort, to which Cézanne (115-116) replies that it’s rather unfortunate how we’ve come to see the world and how the skill or craft is all there is to it. In other words, I read him as lamenting on how art has turned into hollow representations, mere appearances that do look good but that’s all there is to them. Connecting this to Klee, as discussed in this essay, Cézanne (116) argues that:

“The artist must never have an idea, a thought, a word in mind when he needs a sensation.”

So, just as argued by Klee, as well as the lecturer on the aesthetics course, art is not about knowing what will come of the process beforehand. Cézanne (116) is particularly adamant about this point as he continues:

“Great words are thoughts that don’t belong to you and clichés are the leprosy of art.”

This was probably a bit unnecessary as he made his point already, but I just had to include this here. It is just so hilarious. Anyway, in summary, Cézanne is on about sensation. The same word, ‘sensation’ is used in French. However, I think it’s worth bringing up here that it’s not the case in Greek, as noted by Maldiney (153):

“[O]ù il est pris au sens le plus large et le plus primitif, esthétique se réfère au grec αἴσθησις (= sensation) et recouvre tout le champ de la réceptivité sensible.”

Here you have the ancient Greek αἴσθησις or aísthēsis. If we take a look in a dictionary, we’ll find the word exist in English as ‘aesthesis’ (OED, s.v. “aesthesis”, n.), indicated as having to with “[t]he perception of the external world by the senses”, its etymology being in ancient Greek for “sense perception, sensation, perception”, stemming from αἰσθάνεσθαι, to perceive, and probably having the same base as ἀίειν to perceive, to hear. If we take a look at a related word, ‘aesthetic’ (OED, s.v. “aesthetic”, n. and adj.), we’ll notice that while it has been used, in general, similarly to ‘aesthesis’, it has more contemporarily, in late 1700s and early 1800s onward, been shifted in part to something else:

“Of or relating to the perception, appreciation, or criticism of that which is beautiful.”


“Of a thing: in accordance with principles of artistic beauty or taste; giving or designed to give pleasure through beauty; of pleasing appearance.”

We also have the related word ‘anaesthetic’ (OED, s.v. “anaesthetic”, n. and adj.) which stands for:

“Insensible, deprived of sensibility.”


“An anæsthetic agent; an agent which produces insensibility.”

Oddly enough, despite having the medical use, to produce insinsibility, for something not to hurt when undergoing medical treatment, the ‘anaesthetic’ has remained tied to sensibility and perception. The etymology of the word (OED, s.v. “aesthetic”, n. and adj.) is indicated as, unsurprisingly, stemming from Greek “ἀναίσθητ-ος without feeling, insensible”.

Why I went on this tangent on etymology? Well, Cézanne emphasizes sensation, so I wanted point out the connection to aesthetics, which, in contemporary parlance is understood as having to do with beauty. In Cézanne parlance it’s not about aesthetics but about aesthesis, about sensation, being one with the world on an as is basis, or so to speak.

Now, back to Maldiney who goes on to reiterate certain arguments made by both Klee and Cézanne. In summary, he (154) acknowledges the coexistince of image and form, but argues that they are distinct, in the sense that form goes beyond the image which is a mere surface, an appearance. He (154) uses photography as an example of image in which the photograph is the copy of an intentional object. He (154) then contrasts this with a Johannes Vermeer painting, the ‘Gezicht op Delft’ (View of Delft), in which the elements, sky, earth and water, function as phenomenal formants. Simply put, while this is not the easiest nor the most lucid passage in Maldiney’s text, I understand this as having to do with how the painting is alive, the view being formed as I look at it, whereas the photograph is not. I think it’s worth adding that, of course, this does not mean that the painting, in this case the ‘ Gezicht op Delft’, is not an image or that it doesn’t have an appearance. It certainly does, but, again, there’s more than meets the eye. He (155) summarizes this on the following page:

“Dans une oeuvre figurative l’image a pour fonction essentielle non d’imiter mais d’apparaître[.]

Pay attention to two words: d’imiter and d’apparaître. Simply put, images have to do with appearance, whereas form has to do with apparition. I keep repeating these words for a reason, but if this notion of apparition still confuses you, I’ll provide an example here. Maldiney (155) makes note of iconoclasm (going after religious icons) in the Byzantine Empire, how iconoclasts were troubled by the power of icons without really understanding how it can be that a mere image has any power whatsoever. This what was also covered on the aesthetics lectures, how icons function, gazing from there to here. When you look at an icon, you’ll notice that it’s looking at you. As it’s all on a single plane, there being no depth in it, to it, there’s nowhere else to look, except looking outside the painting. In other words, they appear to be with us, making contact with us.

To get to the point here, Maldiney (155) elaborates how this works:

“Regard de celui qui est là-présent et dont la présence est façonnée de part en part par les structures de l’œuvre en fonctionnement, c’est-à-dire animée et constituée par les formes.”

The gist of this, how it works, if you didn’t already get it from the icon example above, is that it’s all about perspective (OED, s.v. “perspective”, n.), in the sense that it is understood as “[t]he appearance of viewed objects with regard to relative position, distance from the viewer, etc.” In other words, as explained during the lectures a number of times, to really sink in the idea, as you face the work of art, look at it, you are positioned by that work of art. With the icon, you are positioned as the one looked at when you look at it. With the landscape, you are the one looking at it, based on the view presented to you. Simply put, it’s not about starting at the surface appearance. It’s not about admiring the shapes and the colors, as the lecturer noted humorously. In other words, Maldiney argues that it’s a two way street. He (155-156) calls this autogenesis, how the form of the work of art is formed on the spot, and argues that a figurative form has two sides or dimensions:

“Une forme figurative a donc deux dimensions : une dimension ‘intentionnelle-représentative’ selon laquelle elle est image, et une dimension ‘génétique-rythmique’ qui en fait précisément une forme.”

So, as pointed out earlier on already, he reiterates that there’s always the image, the representatative side, but there can also be the form, the genetic or rhytmic side. As also pointed out already, these are not mutually exclusive, but indeed they can be. That’s why a lot of images are, well, just images, mere imitations, mere representations. The point here about the form and its autogenesis is that it gives the work of art a life of its own that comes to life once you engage with it, let it unfold, rather than merely look at its surface appearance. Taking a handful of cues from Klee, Maldiney (156) adds that in this sense the form of a work of art is never finished as it is always formed or gives form to itself once we engage with it. Moreover, he (156) adds that for it to be the case, the work of art to have a life of its own, or so to speak, it must have a world of its own and thus time and space of its own. For Maldiney (156) this also means that the autogenesis of form is not tied to this world but to its own world. The way I understand this is simply that the artwork is autonomous in the sense that the genesis of form occurs in the world of the artwork.

To bring in yet another point of view, for the sake of variety, Maldiney (167) indicates how Chinese painter Xiè Hè (in the text Sie-Ho) lists six principles of painting, of which Maldiney covers the first two. First (167):

“1° Refléter le souffle vital c’est-à-dire créer le mouvement”

Second (167):

“2° Rechercher l’ossature c’est-à-dire savoir utiliser son pinceau”

The first one has to do with a vital breath, the movement of the universe. The second one has to do with how the artist makes use of this, how the artist embodies and articulates that movement. Maldiney (167) specifies that art is located between the two, the universal vital breath, and its singular articulation. Bogue (14) notes that this is reflected in Deleuze’s treatment of film, as apparent in ‘Cinema 1’. In that book Deleuze (168) refers to the first principle as the ‘respiration-space’ and the second principle as the ‘skeleton-space’. He (168) also characterizes the first principle as “an ambient space” and “the organic form” and the second principle as “the vectorial space” or “vector-space” that has “temporal distances.” He (187) explicitly links these two, as present in Chinese and Japanese painting, with “the notion of landscape”. The first he (187) elaborates as:

“[T]he primordial void and the breath of life which permeates all things in One, unites them in a whole, and transforms them according to the movement of a great circle or an organic spiral.”

Followed by his (187) elaboration of the second principle:

“[T]he void and the skeleton, the articulation, the joints, the wrinkle or broken stroke which moves from one being to another by taking them at the summit of their presence, following a line of university.”

He (187) then assesses them both in other words, stating that the first principle has to do with the union, the pumping of the heart (“diastole and systole”, hence the respiration), whereas the second has to with the autonomous events. So, as explained by Maldiney (167), the first one is the universal or general one, whereas the second one is the singular or particular one. In Deleuze’s (187) treatment, however, it’s worth noting the first principle has to do with the appearing of things, whereas the second principle has to do with the disappearing of things. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive, considering that I’ve gone on and on about how it’s all about the artist rendering visible, not the visible. However, I reckon that this still holds. What Deleuze (187) is pointing out is that in the first instance it’s about “the presence of things in their ‘appearing’”, the totality of that if you will, whereas in the second instance something does appear as articulated by the artist, but not all. That’s why it’s about disappearing.

This reminds me about what I covered in an earlier essay that addresses singularities and multiplicities. To make more sense of that, in ‘The Logic of Sense’, Deleuze (52) defines singularities as neutral, “pre-individual, non-personal, and a-conceptual”, as “turning points and points of inflection” where something turns into something else, such as when water condenses and boils.

To link this to art, as that’s the topic here, he elaborates this neatly in ‘L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze’, a series of interviews conducted by Claire Parnet. Addressing the letter U, ‘U comme Un’, Deleuze argues that science has to do with singularities, be they, for example, mathematical, physical or chemical, such as points of congealing (as already pointed out in ‘The Logic of Sense’). For him this also means that science does not address universals. The point here is that whatever is at stake, the one, the singularity, is only part of the whole and even if you take into account multiple singularities, you are only dealing with multiplicities, what he also calls aggregates of singularities in the interview. This is why, as also stated by Deleuze and Guattari (17, 21) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, you don’t deal with the multiplicity, (the unknowable total, or so to speak, albeit, strictly speaking it’s not universal or total), the ‘n’, but what you deal with is always a subtraction of it, ‘n-1’. As noted by the two (21), even if you pile up the singularities, add them up, you never get to ‘n’ as each singularity is itself a subtraction.

Anyway, I thought I’d quickly cover this here, in case it helps to explain why Deleuze (187) explains the skeleton-space, the second principle in Chinese painting as having to do with disappearance as presented in ‘Cinema 1’. Simply put, assuming that I got this right, he speaks of it as having to do with disappearance because the artist cannot completely render visible the respiration-space. Something always disappears, regardless of what the artist renders visible. Now, of course with film this appearing-disappearing couple gets quite a bit more complex as it has progression in time whereas a painting is, in comparison, stuck in time. I concede that I haven’t done enough reading on this and I’m hardly an expert on film, but to my understanding film is more flexible than painting and thus allows the artist, the director, to play with articulation of singularities (some appear, others disappear) and link them, not only in space but also in time. Then again, when you think of it, if you manage to pull it off on a mere canvas, isn’t that even more impressive?

Bogue (14) offers his take on appearing and disappearing. He (14) emphasizes that the ‘skeleton-space’ is called ‘espace-ossature’ in the 1983 French original (231), ‘Cinéma 1 : L’image-mouvement’ by Deleuze, as ‘ossature’ is the word used by Maldiney (167). Bogue (14) clarifies that in French this works particularly well because ‘ossature’ means both skeleton, how bones are arranged as opposed to a mere collection of bones, as well as more generally speaking how anything is structured the same way. He (14) explains the first principle more or less as already explained Maldiney’s and Deleuze’s parlance but he also offers a further clarification:

“[The painter’s task to manifest this vital breath’s movement as it ‘appears’ and ‘comes into presence’.”

In addition, more importantly, I find his (14) elaboration of the second principle particularly helpful:

“[T]he painter must also render individual details with discrete brush strokes, thereby demarcating the structuring[,] the ossature of the world and revealing the ‘disappearing’ of things, like the dragon whose tail disappears behind a cloud.”

So, as I tried to explain but perhaps failed at it, as the artist renders something on canvas, something else is consequently rendered out of sight. Something must disappear for something else to appear. The totality can never made apparent, only parts of it. In other words, as reiterated by Bogue (14), respiration-space is all-encompassing, whereas skeleton-space is constructed piece by piece.

I think I’ve gone on a long enough tangent or series of tangents now, so it’s about time I get back to Bogue on Deleuze and Guattari. Bogue (12) makes note of what I at least attempted to cover in this article without going into detail about music (as it’s a bit too far from my comfort zone at the moment), that while music and painting are separate, there is a musical aspect to landscape. This is the liveliness, the rhythm in landscape painting, the process of forming, creation or articulation, the autogenesis, that happens in the painting in itself.

It’s time to get back to landscape and painting in ‘What Is Philosophy?’ by Deleuze and Guattari. Bogue (16) links what has been covered here so far with regards to art, especially the bits from the works of Maldiney and Straus, to how Deleuze and Guattari approach art in ‘What Is Philosophy?’. He (16) cites a passage in the book, which I’ll cover here in more detail. Firstly, Deleuze and Guattari (167) state that:

“By means of the material, the aim of art is to wrest the percept from perceptions of objects and the states of a perceiving subject[.]”

Going back a bit, here they reiterate the earlier point made about percepts being independent from the person experiencing them. This is also similar to the point by Maldiney on how an artwork has a life of its own if it goes beyond being a mere image. Anyway, Deleuze and Guattari (167) further elaborate the aim of art, adding that:

“[The aim of art is] to wrest the affect from affections as the transition from one state to another[.]”

Together then, combining both percept and affect, they (167) summarize that:

“[The aim of art is] to extract a block of sensations, a pure being of sensations.”

This also reiterates a previous point made by the two how sensations have to do with percepts and affects. If you can no longer remember what sensation is, it’s used here as it is used by Cézanne. When it comes to landscape then, they (169) state that:

“The percept is the landscape before man, in the absence of man.”

They (169) acknowledge that this is or may seem rather contradictory, considering how we generally understand landscape as tied to an observer. They (169) cite a passage from Gasquet’s book on Cézanne in which Cézanne (118) states:

“Well, no one has ever painted the landscape, man absent but entirely within the landscape.”

To be accurate, their (169) rendition is a bit shorter:

“Man absent from but entirely within the landscape.”

I included both here just so that you can compare the two. Anyway, Deleuze and Guattari (169) call this Cézanne’s enigma. Skipping the literary examples provided by the two here, they (169) clarify this position:

“We are not in the world, we become with the world[.]”

How to put this in other words? Well, if you’ve read Deleuze and Guattari, you’ll likely be aware that for them becoming is primary and being is secondary. More simply put, you always are, but only because you’ve become who you are. That’s my take on it anyway. The same thing applies here as well. You are not with the world, but you become with the world. I think Daniel Smith (xxxiv) summarizes it well in the introduction to Deleuze’s ‘Essays Critical and Clinical’:

“What the percept makes visible are the invisible forces that populate the universe, that affect us and make us become: characters pass into the landscape and themselves become part of the compound of sensations.”

He (xxxiv) adds that:

“These percepts are what [Virginia] Woolf called ‘moments of the world and what Deleuze terms ‘haecceities,’ in which the mode of individuation of ‘a life’ does not differ in nature from that of ‘a climate,’ ‘a wind,’ ‘a fog,’ or ‘an hour of a day.’”

If this is of interest to you, you can find more of this in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, where Deleuze and Guattari (261-263) state that, for example, “[t]aking a walk is a haecceity”, as is fog, glare, wind, climate, season and “five o’clock in the evening”, to name a few. In short, Smith (xxxiv) argues that for them landscape is no longer external to, an external reality, but very much something that is with us.

Bogue (16) summarizes the difference between how landscape is defined in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ and ‘What Is Philosophy?’. Starting with the former, he (16) argues that:

“[T]he earlier landscape was facialized landscape – that is, a landscape territorialized by forces of facialization.”

I think this is very aptly put. To be more specific, Deleuze and Guattari (172) state that it’s a deterritorialized world. However, to make sense of that, something must always deterritorialize something else in order for it to become to deterritorialized and then subsequently reterritorialized. That’s faciality or facialization, the abstract machine of faciality, that extends faciality from the head and the body to the whole world, resulting in landscapity, as explained by the two (172). In summary of the plateau ‘Year Zero: Faciality’, face and landscape, or the face-landscape complex as Bogue (9) calls it, are particularly troublesome as they are highly resistant to deterritorialization due to being situated at the intersection of the mixed semiotic system that operates through signifiance and subjectification. To be more specific, they (180) state that as faciality is machinic, it’s “not an annex to the signifier and the subject” but the other way around as it “is their condition of possibility.” In other words, as they (180) explain:

“What chooses the faces is not a subject … it is faces that choose their subjects.”

Here we could also replace faciality with landscapity to bear more direct relevance to this essay:

“What chooses the [landscapes] is not a subject … it is [landscapes] that choose their subjects.”

Simply put, the face-landscape complex is particularly pervasive and resistant to deterritorialization because it is intertwined with the mixed semiotic system. So, as Deleuze and Guattari (181) put it, its function is to “allow and ensure the almightiness of the signifier as well as the autonomy of the subject.” To further reinforce this notion, they (180-181) note that certain social formations or assemblages that impose signifiance and subjectification not only produce face and landscape and activate them, but also come to rely on them. So, in other words, it works both ways. The mixture of signifying and postsignifying regimes enables face and landscape while they enable the regimes. Therefore, as explained by the two (180-181):

“It is these assemblages … that give the new semiotic system the means of its imperialism … the means both to crush the other semiotics and protect itself against any threat from outside.”

Now, this is a rather negative and pessimistic view to this. The plateau is largely that way, but they do point out a couple of times how it is still open to further deterritorialization, despite the mutual reinforcement of the abstract machine and the assemblages. Bogue (16) makes note of this too, hence the optimism to be found in their definition in ‘What Is Philosophy?’ where it is, according to Bogue (16), defined as “most frequently paired not with faces but with becomings[.]” He (16) pinpoints this in the book (169):

“Sensation, then, consists of affects and percepts, and in the words of Deleuze and Guattari’s aphoristic summation, ‘Affects are precisely these nonhuman becomings of man, just as percepts – including the town – are nonhuman landscapes of nature’.”

Now, if this is confusing, it is because … it is. I’ll try to make sense of it. In the first instance, as in how it is defined in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’, landscape is tied to how we, us humans, have to come see the world. Therefore, simply put, we could speak of human landscapes of culture. The emphasis should be on human. In the second instance, as in how it is defined in ‘What Is Philosophy?’, it is the exact opposite, hence the point made by the two (169) in reference to Cézanne: “[hum]an absent from but entirely within the landscape.”

Bogue (16-17) notes how Deleuze and Guattari infuse rhythm and music into their discussion of landscape in ‘What Is Philosophy?’ but argues that it stays nonetheless primarily visual and selects the relevant bits scattered across the pages: “The landscape sees” (169), “Everything is vision, becoming” (169), “The artists is a seer, a becomer” (171), “It should be said of all art that, in relation to the percepts or visions they give us, artists are presenters of affects, the inventors and creators of affects” (174), “Aesthetic figures … are sensations: percepts and affects, landscapes and faces, visions and becomings” (177). So, as summarized by Bogue (16-17), it is evident that landscapes are paired with percepts and becomings are paired with affects.

As elaborated throughout this essay, there is a clear phenomenological inclination or undercurrent to this understanding of landscape. If you aren’t familiar with the work of Deleuze and Guattari, then, well, simply put, phenomenology is arguably too subject oriented for them. In this sense, it is a bit, no, not strange, but perhaps surprising that they draw on phenomenology. Bogue (17) makes note of how Deleuze and Guattari handle this in the book. They (178) pose this first as a question:

“Can sensation be assimilated to an original opinion, to Urdoxa as the world’s foundation or immutable basis?

They do answer their own question, but I want to draw your attention the word Urdoxa, just in case you don’t know what is meant by it. They (210) use to mean an “original opinion, or meaning of meanings.” If you break the word down to its components, ‘Ur’ and ‘doxa’, you get to that alright. ‘Ur’ has to do with something original, at least supposedly. For example, you can get beer called ‘Urweisse’ and ‘Urbock’. It usually marks that they are based on some original recipe, how they used to do it way back in the day. That just as something you might come across and be able to relate to. In phenomenology, you’ll find Urdoxa or protodoxa used by Edmund Husserl (59) in ‘Experience and Judgment: Investigations in a Genealogy of Logic’:

“All experience in this concrete sense rests at bottom on the simple pregiving protodoxa [Urdoxa] of ultimate, simply apprehensible substrates. The natural bodies pregiven in this doxa are the ultimate substrates for all subsequent determinations, cognitive determinations as well as those which axiological or practical. All come into being from these simply apprehensible substrates. But this domain of the protodoxa, the ground of simple doxic consciousness [Glaubensbewusstsein], is merely passive pregiving consciousness of objects as substrates. In this domain the existent is pregiven as a unity of identity. However, this domain of doxa is a domain of the fluid. A passively pregiven unity of identity is not yet one which is grasped as such and retained as an objective identity.”

Skipping some bits here (I’m sure you can find this yourself and read it properly), Husserl (59) adds that:

“It is so in pure perception, in which we let our glance wander here and there over the pregiven object which affects us.”

By this point it should be evident what Husserl means by Urdoxa. It’s the original and pure domain, the passively pregiven. The word can be found scattered across ‘What Is Philosophy?’. In it Deleuze and Guattari (149) make note of that phenomenology has set up as its task:

“It … goes in search of original opinions which bind us to the world as to our homeland (earth).”

Only to give it a twist (149):

“The distinction between original and derivative is not by itself enough to get us out of the simple domain of opinion and the Urdoxa does not raise us to the level of the concept. … [P]henomenology is never more in need of a higher wisdom, of a ‘rigorous science,’ than when it invites to renounce it. [It] wanted to renew our concepts by giving us perceptions and affections that would awaken us to the world, not as babies or hominids but as, by right, beings whose proto-opinions would be the foundations of this world.”

Followed by (149) by contrasting it with their own machinic understanding of the world:

“But we do not fight against perceptual and affective clichés if we do not also fight against the machine that produces them.”

At this point, it is, perhaps, useful to reiterate what Cézanne had to say about clichés. He (116) went as far as to say: “Great words are thoughts that don’t belong to you and clichés are the leprosy of art.” Deleuze and Guattari do agree, but not in order to dispel them and return to something originary. Therefore they (149) criticize phenomenology accordingly:

“By invoking the primordial lived … phenomenology could not prevent the subject from forming no more than opinions that already extracted clichés from new perceptions and promised affections.”

To get back on track here, to the passage noted by Bogue (17), Deleuze and Guattari (178) answer their own question, the one posed some paragraphs ago:

“Phenomenology finds sensation in perceptual and affective ‘a priori materials’ that transcend the perceptions and affections of the lived[.]” … The being of sensation, the bloc of percept and affect, will appear as the unity or reversibility of feeling and felt, their intimate intermingling like hands clasped together[.] … [F]lesh gives us the being of sensation and bears the original opinion distinct from the judgment of experience[.]”

It’s worth making note of a couple of words: a priori, unity and original opinion. They are all words that appear as such (unity) or in another form (a priori → pregiven, original opinion → Urdoxa, protodoxa) in the passage I cited from Husserl (59). The last bit on flesh, they (178) turn their attention to that in particular, finding it lacking, calling it, embodiment, “the final avatar of phenomenology” plunged in “the mystery of incarnation.” Their (178) gripe with it is, rather poetically, that the flesh only works inasmuch as it has bones to support it. They (178) argue that in this case the supporting skeleton consists of religious piety and sensuality. For them it’s not much of a support. This is why they (179) offer something else instead:

“[N]ot so much bone or skeletal structure as house or framework.”

What they are offering instead of a skeleton is more of an exoskeleton, in the sense that it’s not located within the subject. It’s not internal but external. They (179) elaborate that it consists of various sections:

“[P]ieces of differently oriented planes … provide flesh with its framework – foreground and background, horizontal and vertical sections, left and right, straight and oblique, rectilinear or curved. [They] are walls but also floors, doors, windows, French windows, and mirror, which give sensation the power to stand on its own within autonomous frames. They are the sides of the bloc of sensation.”

As this may seem quite obscure, Bogue (17) characterizes the house or the framework as “a kind of scaffolding, a structuring schema of planes” with various “surfaces and openings” that “serve as membranes and conduits for the interaction of forces outside and inside its scaffolding of planes and frames.” I used exoskeleton, but I reckon scaffolding is even more fitting. Deleuze and Guattari (180) emphasize its importance as a junction, noting that it takes part in becoming and thus calling it “life, the ‘nonorganic life of things.’” Bogue (17) makes note of how Deleuze and Guattari (182) point out that the house is not a mere shelter from forces, but something that, at best, filters them, selects them.

I realize that I have, once again, strayed quite far from landscapes. To get back on track, Bogue (17) states that Deleuze and Guattari expand landscape in ‘What Is Philosophy?’ to the cosmos, to the whole of universe. Bogue (17) summarizes their views, what I covered in the previous, rather obscures passages on phenomenology, its limitations and what they propose instead, as having three elements. The first element is affective becomings (instead of being, the flesh of the world). The second element is the house or the framework (instead of the skeleton). The third element is the cosmos, the universe. He (18) specifies the second element, the house, framework or scaffolding, as delimiting and framing forces, whereas the third element, the landscape, has no limits and no frames as it is simply “a plane that extends to infinity.”

This has to end at some point and I’ve already gone on a series of tangents that probably make this a tedious reading, so I’ll try summarize this essay, as concisely as possible. So, right, I wanted to address Bogue’s text because examines how one would go about rethinking or reimagining landscape. I wanted to do this because I keep preaching about the perils of what Bogue calls the face-landscape complex but not offering any solutions to the issue. I’m not sure if I did a good job here. I tried covering all the relevant bases, going far beyond my own comfort zone to read on art and phenomenology, but I’m aware that I may have misunderstood something (hopefully not everything). Perhaps some of these will open up better in the future.

In order to make sense of this endeavor, I think it’s best contrast how landscape is presented first in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ and then in ‘What Is Philosophy?’. Bogue (24) offers apt concise definitions of both. He (24) characterizes how landscape is presented in ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:

“The landscape of faciality is a landscape of stratification, part of a face-landscape complex co-functioning with the mixed semiotic of the despotic and passional regimes of signs.”

I covered this in more detail in this essay, using a bit different terms, the signifying and the postsignifying regimes of signs. The important thing is to remember how the face-landscape complex and the mixed semiotic system mutually reinforce one another. That is what makes it so pervasive and hard to change it. Bogue (24) characterizes how landscape is presented in ‘What Is Philosophy?’ (169, 183):

“The landscape of sensation is a landscape of destratification, of percepts which are intimately related to affects. The ‘nonhuman landscapes of nature’ and the ‘nonhuman becomings of man’ … form part of a triad of cosmos-house-becomings, the ‘being of sensation’ consisting of ‘the compound of nonhuman forces of the cosmos, of man’s nonhuman becomings, and of the ambiguous house that exchanges and adjusts them’[.]”

When it comes to landscapes, that is to say landscape painting, he (24-25) adds that they are to take life of their own, as noted by Maldiney (155-156), to create percepts, that is to say ‘nonhuman landscapes of nature’. The purpose is “to make perceptible the imperceptible forces that populate the world, affect us, and make us become”, as defined by Deleuze and Guattari (182) in ‘What Is Philosophy?’. More simply put, as expressed by Bogue (25), painting is about rendering visible invisible forces. I find these definitions very close to the definitions of art by the artists discussed in this essay: Cézanne, Klee and Xiè Hè. This is exactly why I am captivated by apparition, not appearance. There’s more than meets the eye.

As a final note, I wholeheartedly recommend reading Bogue’s ‘The Landscape of Sensation’. As you may struggle with it, I also recommend reading his other text ‘Faces’. Having prior familiarity with ‘A Thousand Plateaus’ and ‘What Is Philosophy?’ is arguably recommended, but I think Bogue does an excellent job at explaining the relevant parts to his readers. Reading the other texts covered in part in this essay is also recommended, especially the texts by Paul Klee.


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