I had planned to return to actually address what Félix Guattari thought of Michel Foucault’s work, but … surprise, surprise … I’m not going to do that here. That’ll have to wait a bit more. I actually got quite far with it, but then I got sidetracked with a lot of other stuff. It’s exam season right now, so that takes priority. It might not take priority with others, but, well, I think that it’s my job to get the exams done and graded, ASAP, and not whenever I feel like it. I mean, that’s what I get paid to do, so it’s what I do. I don’t mess about at work. You probably won’t find me gossiping by the water coolor, or the like.
To be clear, I mainly teach pretty basic stuff, well basic studies, so introductions to introductions, really, so it’s not that demanding on me. The thing is, however, that I like to keep things fresh, so I’ll try to come up with new stuff. Oh, and I do like to cater to my students. I try to get feedback during the course, not after it. I mean, after it is alright, but that doesn’t do anything for those students. Plus, what might or might now work for them might or might not work some other group of students. It doesn’t change the course content, what it is, but how it’s done. I also get to learn that way, to see what works and what doesn’t work. Those lessons are also for me.
And yeah, I know, I know, I get paid for it, so, no, it’s not the same in terms of learning. They basically have to work part-time, unless they have parents or relatives who do that for them. I’m well aware of this and I do try to remember it when discussing scheduling with the students. If you have to be at work, well, then you have to be at work. It’s not great, for you, but that’s the point. It’s not great for you. Your absence is already a punishment, for you. I do keep tabs on who’s there and who’s not, that’s not it. It’s rather that I’ve read enough Foucault, so it’s actually hard for me to be a disciplinarian. I’d say I have distaste for that these days. I find it also to be pretty counterproductive. You won’t anything creative done by yelling at people and demanding them to respect your authority.
This is also why I probably come across as pretty hippy-dippy, if you ever run into me. I just want things to work out and I’m not too fussed about how that happens, as long as it happens. I’m like are we gonna do this or what? Are we gonna mope around or are we gonna get this done? That’s my attitude. I’m pretty serious out page numbers though and, apparently, have a reputation for that now.
That also means that I may come across as pretty intense, like I’m always on. Well, truth be told, I’m like that, always on. I don’t really have anxiety over anything. I might still be annoyed, even to the point that I’m fuming, but that’s more about me wanting to get things done, sooner than later, and less about me worrying over something. I might still get sad about something. For example, when I happen to think about my former students, exchange students from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, yeah, what can I say? I don’t think I can say anything that’s of use in the moment. It’s like a mixture of sadness, hoping none of them end up dead, because of someone’s delusions of imperial grandeur, and anger, being pissed off by the whole thing.
Why am I always on? Well, having read what I’ve read, and written what I’ve written, I guess (because writing helps me to process what I’ve read), it’s made me realize that you are your worst enemy. Sure, others play a role, it’s not like you were born that way, but you still do most of the work, at the moment, working against yourself. Once you manage to do that, it is great! I’m telling you, it is. You’ll no longer even think that there’s anything odd about always being on.
That’s probably also my charm, that intensity, assuming you like intensity. Sure, it may come across a bit or more than a bit unhinged, as I’ve mentioned in the past, but it is what it is. Take it or leave it. I don’t really know why you’d want it any other way. What makes people charming, or captivating, is that intensity, which is often something that’s considered at least slightly weird. I guess it is weird, but I’m using weirdness in a positive sense here, like ‘this is weird alright, but, hey, I like it!’ It’s like if you happen to like a saison. It has that funky taste to it. It’s … odd, but … yeah … gotta love it.
Getting there is, of course, very, very difficult. You can’t just wish things were different or force yourself to be different. The trick is to come to terms with that you already are, what you are. But how to do that? Well, as Guattari points out with Gilles Deleuze (160) in ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’, you have to be careful about it. That’s the nice and non-jargony way of explaining that, but, as that may, of course, come across as a bit or more than just a bit condescending, as if you couldn’t handle it (I’m sure you can, but with caution, at least initially), I’m going to let them explaing that.
So, how to get there? How to be like me (emphasis on like, because you won’t be me, which is the whole point, like same, yet different, or should I say differentiated)? Well, let’s go. They (159) state that we need to deal with need to address three things: organism (biological/physiological organization), signifiance (signification, play of signifiers) and subjectification (how one’s subjectivity is formed). To elaborate the first thing, they (159) point out that your body is organized in a certain way. On one hand, It can do certain things and, on the other hand, it is expected to do certain things, let’s put it that way. The thing is that your body can do many things, some, if not many that you are unaware of, but even your own body expects you to function in a certain way (albeit this is tricky, is it your body that does that or is you thinking it’s your body does that?). To elaborate the second thing, they (159) add that to be part of a society, you gotta play the game (of signifiers), that you are this and/or that, otherwise “you’re a deviant” (oh, and do I love to be one!). To exemplify that, briefly (and to connect it to my note/question), it’s not just that you are, let’s say biologically male or female, capable of certain things in terms of reproduction (which you are or aren’t, depending of the organization of your body, in relation to other bodies that organized in a certain way; and no judgment here, it’s a fascinating topic, if you ask me, like how certain organisms get by that way, making it more difficult for parasites to take advantage of them, unlike, let’s say, most bananas, because they are clones), but also that you are thus, somehow, defined as such (what such?), capable of whatever it is that your signifiers (for whatever reason) define you as, such and such (what such?). To simplify that, it’s not that you are just male or female (I know, that’s not all there is, but let me get to the point), in terms of reproduction, but that you are expected to behave, no, to be, to act out your masculine or feminine essence. If you don’t, you are a deviant (basically a pervert!). To elaborate the third thing, they (159) point out that, it’s really about you, you and you, you on you, you working on you, so that you think that it’s all about you, from the point of view of you. The apt word here for this is recoil (the subject recoils to itself, doubling itself, hence all that you and you, on you, by you, back there), as they (129, 131, 137, 159, 187) mention it elsewhere in the book (every time you see it, it’s about this, coiling, recoiling, how you work on yourself, largely in ways that are against your own interests, mind you). As a side note, I just love the way they use coil and recoil, like, fuck-a-doodle-doo (I honestly didn’t know that was a film reference, before I checked on it, and, yes, I’ve seen it), didn’t see that coming. Why? What’s so special about it? Well, Deleuze has this, sort of, baroque theme (folding or coiling) in ‘The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque’, which hit me on those aesthetics lectures, years ago (whenever it was, not that long ago), when the lecturer pointed out that baroque art is filled with everything that coils or recoils, like locky hair on people (I was like, whoa!), after looking at examples of that.
But how to do that, how to get past those three things? Well, they (160) point out that it’s all about experimenting, opening yourself up to all kinds of connections. So, in short, it’s all about letting go of yourself, or, rather, of that idea of yourself. Is it easy? Well, no, absolutely not. I remember reading this part of the book, the plateau ‘How do you make yourself a body without organs?’ and having trouble with it, having to take break from it, because it was, like they (160) point out, like tearing, “[t]earing the conscious away from the subject in order to make it a means of exploration, tearing the unconscious away from signifiance and interpretation in order to make it a veritable production”, which is, “assuredly no more or less difficult than tearing the body away from the organism[.]” It’s like that, like someone (you, really) tearing yourself apart, as you are reading it, which can be … I don’t know how to explain it … a lot, because it is, after all, you, as if, tearing yourself apart, in hopes of reconstituting yourself. It is difficult at that stage. Will you let yourself be torn apart, by you? Or, will you reject this as nonsense.
Plus, it’s not just that. Rejecting it is not as bad as you might think as that still means that you still have a chance of coming back to it, to reject it later on. Going too far, too quick is the real problem. That’s why they (160) liken the process to “the art dosages”, where you do not want to overdo it, because that’s pretty the same as overdosing. So, if you wanna get there, proceed with caution. Yes, to get there, you need to get there, but you do need to rest, here and there. That grip of what you are used to is really that strong that when you read this chapter, you’ll doubt your sanity, as if someone was tearing you apart, as if the reality, as you know it, as you’ve been taught, was being torn apart. The good thing is that the reality is going nowhere. It’s all you, wrestling with yourself. The bad thing is that you are your worst enemy. So, yeah, do not rush it. As they (160) point out, “overdose is a danger.”
If it were up to me (it’s not), I, of course, want you to make it, but I don’t want you to lose your way in the attempt. In their (160) words:
“Caution is the art common to all three; if in dismantling the organism there are times one courts death, in slipping away from signifiance and subjection one courts falsehood, illusion and hallucination and psychic death.”
So, what’s the trick, really? Well, I can’t give you any definite advice, as it depends on you, but, if you want me to explain that, to give you the gist of it, it’s about letting go of yourself (it’s really an art, you know a fellow traveler who has let go one of oneself when you meet one) and, more broadly speaking, this idea of truth and falsehood.
To exemplify that with a personal example (which is like pulling an example from my arse, I know), as a photographer, I am puzzled by the recent (or is it really recent?) discussion, if not upheaval about how people use filters on their photos, especially when they are photos of themselves. Why? Well, firstly, let’s stay digital here. I am flabbergasted by how people think there is a photo that is filterless (?), by which I mean that it is, somehow, unadulterated. That’s not how it works. Without getting bogged down on the details, you have something analog, what it is that you want to photograph, aka reality, which is converted into something digital in the process, which, by no means, is a 1:1 conversion. That’s always a take on it. And that’s just if we think in terms of the sensor. Now, to use all of that digital data that you got out from that conversion, you need to turn it into something recognizable, which is, then, a take on that take. Get where I’m going with this? So, to keep things simple, there’s processing (or is it pre-processing) and then there’s post-processing (or is it just processing?). We are in the habit of thinking that the first step involves the camera providing us a faithful take of reality and that the second step is where falsity is introduced, even though, by all logic, we should be troubled by the first step, as that’s the moment when something is turned into something else.
You might disagree with that. Fine. If you will. Be my guest. But, if we just take a digital camera, like the ones I have, DSLRs, they have all kinds profiles. There is often a profile that’s, supposedly, a neutral. Neutral? Neutral, according to what? According to who? See! You can change the profiles and customize them, the way you like, so that you are happy with the results. That’s how it works. If you import that all that date, without doing the second step on the came, you do that on a computer (which is, really, another computer as that the camera is also a computer).
Now, imagine the horror when someone says that it’s all fake, how people post photos of themselves with filter. Oh, no! Well, again, fuck-a-doodle-doo, there is no filterless photo. To be crystal clear, there is no photo that isn’t, already, post-processed. Even if we ignore the initial analog to digital conversion, we always need that so called post-processing (processing) for there to be an image.
Which settings give you the real deal? Well, none of them. They are all takes of the real deal. Now, to be clear, this is how it is, without taking into consideration the optics involved, how not all lenses are the same. Even if we limit ourselves to a certain focal lenght (really arbitrarily), the materials used to construct that lens, those lens elements, all that glass and/or resin, and the coatings that have been applied to them, are not all the same.
So, long story, short, imagine my amusement when someone blames someone for using a filter to distort reality. Haha! How naive! It’s all the same. None of it is true, which is why it is best to abandon it, that insistence of there being truth and falsehood.
Now, if you really still wonder what’s what, what’s the deal here, let me put this way: the photos I’ve taken, for editorial purposes, which is a fancy way of saying that they are considered truthful for the purposes of illustrating news, that is to say truthful, are not true. None of them are. None of them have ever been. They’ve always had certain settings applied to them, following the initial analog to digital conversion. What I’m saying is that I’ve already made a choice, which affects what I present to you, while you think I’m presenting you the real deal.
To really make sure that you get it, it’s not just me, but the engineers and the software developers involved. We all play a part. I choose to render the digital output of analog input in a certain way, which is, by no means, neutral (haha, the absurdity of that), which, in itself, is based on that conversion process that depends on the sensor and how it is then processed by the camera. On top of that, we need to think of the optics. I think you get the point already.
If you didn’t get the point, let’s go back a bit. Think of the film era. Did film (whatever that means, without getting into the details) render reality faithfully (ignoring the lens etc., while at it)? Well, no. Certain films were preferred for certain purposes. For example, you’d do landscape photography with Fuji Velvia (and, yes, I know there are different versions of it, just keepings things simple here) because it has lovely colors for that, but you probably wouldn’t use it for portaits because it makes everything look a bit red, so that the skintones just don’t look that good. It just makes people look a bit purpleish. Now, we may like to think that there’s something wrong with the film then. We can correct that and, to my understanding, that’s what they’ve done (with subsequent versions). That’s fine, if that’s what you want to do. The problem is that you lose what makes Velvia Velvia, that oomph, those lovely colors in landscape photos. There’s that intensity. There’s that character to it. Is it slightly off? In a sense, yes, but that’s what makes it what it is. It’s the supposed flaw that makes it lovable. Of course, strictly speaking, it’s not off, flawed, because we’d have to come up with some 1:1 baseline according to which we judge something as off or flawed.
Now, if you argue that I know it, that’s flawed, you are forgetting that human eyes adapt to different circumstances. I believe I’ve pointed this out before, but, the thing is that if we put you in a room that simply red, it won’t take long for your eyes to tell you that it’s orange. Is it red? Is it orange? Haha! See! The gist of this is that you need to stop thinking in terms of what something is and start thinking in terms of how appears to you, and what that does, to you. So, instead of asking whether this is red or orange, ask yourself how does that affect you.
Anyway, what else did I manage to do this month? Well I did manage to do some notes on book chapters, which is always great. I’ve also read and made notes for another article that I’m working on. It’s that one that got rejected and I ended up making it way longer. Yeah, I’m still on it. There’s just a lot going on with the teaching and the exams, but it’s progressing. I’m cutting on other things to make room for it. If you don’t see me that much, out there, offline or online, wherever I might roam, it’s because I’m trying to get more done. If days only had more hours, I would get so much more done or, at least, sleep more. I bet my students think at times that he musn’t get too much sleep. Well, I don’t, at least not when I’m working. But I manage. It’s alright. I don’t, really. Plus there are days when I get to sleep in and then there’s always next semester.
In actually interesting news, also managed to get my hands on a Finnish translation of ‘Capitalisme et schizophrénie: L’anti-Œdipe’. I remember seeing it, it actually existing also in Finnish, but I never managed to get a copy until now. It’s been interesting to read the same book, but in a different language. Plus, to be honest, I’m always puzzled what to call something, whatever it is, in Finnish. I’m so used to doing nearly all my work in English that I usually don’t even know what some pretty basic concept is in Finnish.
What’s in store for next month? Well, I hope to get on with this, to finish that previous essay, but we’ll see.
- Deleuze, G. ( 1993). The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque (T. Conley, Trans.). London, United Kingdom: The Athlone Press.
- Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari (1972). Capitalisme et schizophrénie: L’anti-Œdipe. Paris, France: Les Éditions de Minuit.
- Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ( 2007). Anti-Oidipus: Kapitalismi ja skitsofrenia (T. Kilpeläinen, Trans.). Helsinki, Finland: Tutkijaliitto.
- Deleuze, G., and F. Guattari ( 1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (B. Massumi, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.