Home > Uncategorized > Rhizomatics: From the Linearity of Displacements to the Transversality of Intensive Movement

Rhizomatics: From the Linearity of Displacements to the Transversality of Intensive Movement

The following was written by Marie-Pier

New Media and Rhizomes, Chance and Contingencies

As a “question provider” for this week, I decided to start by highlighting some key concepts and critical issues raised in Deleuze and Guattari’s piece. I chose to follow some of the text’s lines in order to “construct” deeper rhizomatic connexions. My contribution is however not exhaustive –it does not cover all the concepts presented in the piece we had to read. It is more a nomadic journey. (Deleuze and Guattari themselves took more than 600 pages to perform the connexions their are mapping in the introduction). My contribution is neither linear: it operates by jumps between successive and dynamic equilibriums. My journey goes from the exploration of concepts to the interrogation of  epistemological/ontological issues. My aim is not to give specific definitions but to open a space for discussing this week’s pieces.

You will find my questions at the end.

Becoming Rhizome:
Relational Mapping, Reticulations, and Consistency of Connexions

One will enter by any side, none is worth more than another, none of the entries has privileges even if it is almost an impasse (…) One will only seek with which other points the one we enter by is connected to the others, by which crossroads and galleries one passes to connect two points; what is the map of the rhizome, and how it would be immediately modified if one would enter by another point. (Deleuze and Guattari 1975: 7, my translation)

Rhizome is the introduction of A Thousand Plateaus, the second book of Capitalism and Schizophrenia (the first being Anti-Oedipus). It is more a mapping than an introduction: it maps the multiple lines of the book. Rhizome is in a way a meta-plateau, which qualifies (and performs) the dynamic organization of the book: it does not effect a linear explanation but maps its plateaus. Every plateau of the book performs conceptual connexions; every plateau accentuates the consistency of connexions of the concepts mapped by the rhizome (and of other concepts that emerge within the connexions themselves). As Deleuze and Guattari (D+G hereafter) note, “a plateau is always in the middle, not at the entry or at the end” (D+G 1987: 22-23). Following Bateson they use plateau “to designate something very special: a continuous, self-vibrating region of intensities whose development avoids any orientation toward a culmination point or external end”. (Ibid.) Hence, the reader must chose an entry point (a line), and construct the line’s connexions with other lines without imposing a beginning to end logic to his reading experience.

From Meaning to Functioning
The dynamic form of the rhizome insists on functioning. The question it raises is not what does it mean to be a rhizome? but how does the rhizome work, how does it function, what connexions does it perform? By capturing a problem’s operational form (its functioning), the rhizome negates the possibility of a totalizing gaze (the rhizome is active, it is a becoming, it is therefore impossible to look at it as a totality). In this perspective, and in order to seize the ethical and political implications of the rhizome, e.g. to let it express its becoming, it is necessary to (1) avoid the articulation of any kind of contemporary ideology that would seek to determine what the rhizome means, and (2) neglect its understanding in terms of a product to the benefit of its process.

From Hierarchy to Relational Connections
The rhizome resists the traditional hierarchical model which translates an oppressive social order into epistemological terms. The organization of its constitutive elements does not follow a line of hierarchical subordination -with a base, a center, or a root, taking its origin of connections in the model of the tree- but where any elements can affect or influence any other. The rhizome is not a model as a model implies something one should conform itself to. It is rather a becoming, a process, a becoming-process, an organization in becoming. As an organization in becoming -a becoming-organization- the rhizome can be understood as a meta-methodology whose problems are active; problems in action, in operation. It is a process-based approach that aims at allowing problems to expose themselves in all the complexity of their becoming, in all the complexity of their discontinuities. By negating hierarchy and predetermination, it functions as an open-ended and relational map; it does not obey to any kind of order, it has no centre from which its elements would be distributed, only milieus from which the elements emerge, derive, and recombine.

Rhizome: connexions/trans-formations/metamorphosis/reconfigurations.

The rhizome anti-hierarchy considers problems as having multiple entries. What is at stake is the mapping of the problem’s connections network, the way in which each line is (or gets) connected to the others; consistency of connexions. The entry is therefore not the core of the problem. The rhizome is like a puzzle, a dynamic puzzle, whose pieces could be placed differently and still generate, in every new assemblage, a coherent or consistent organization/form/shape/image/figure. However, as I will explain later with the concept of the multiplicity, the assemblage must produce a trans-formation, a difference in kind: metamorphosis. In such circumstances, the rhizomatic mapping does not follow a predetermined path, it does not take place in a linear way, it does not follow a logic in context of which every line would directly result from the one that precedes it. Rather, it operates by complex connections of lines, connections which generate and are generated by and through knots of problems; multiplicities. Indeed, “these lines, or lineaments should not be confused with lineages of the arborescent type, which are merely localizable linkages between points and positions”. (D+G 1987: 21) Here note that the lines’ connections are only noticeable in praxis; the knots only express themselves by and through praxis. The consistence of connexions is only revealed in action, in situation, in operation.

The rhizome is not linear. Rather it is multilinear, multidirectional, and multidimensional. However, multilinearity, multidirectionality, and multidimensionality qualify the multiplication of lines but do not necessarily account for the consistence of the connections, for the dynamic organization (metastable equilibrium), for the multiplicity itself. In fact, the multi of multiplicity does not mean multiplication but rather interconnection (…and….and….and). In addition, the multi of multilinear, multidirectional, and multidimensional doesn’t seem to allow the analysis of the multiplicities metamorphosis, the differences in kind. In this perspective, it might be more accurate to say that the rhizome is transversal. Transversality can be understood in terms Gilbert Simondon’s concept of transduction. According to him, transduction“finds its structures resolving from the tensions of the same field, rather than from external principles” (1989: 200 my translation). Hence, transduction account for the interconnections (and maybe more for the intra-connections). In addition, transversality highlights the fact that a rhizomatic approach is an approach in action, in operation. Indeed, in his last book (Chaosmose 1992), Guattari argues that “transversality is never given as an already there, but has to be conquest by a pragmatics of existence”. (173 – my translation). (Transversality could also be understood with Pierce’s concept of abduction. Abduction, for him, is the vague perception of a potentiality which has yet to be expressed (lived hypothesis) and which constitutes the first step towards a transversal operation.)

From the Linearity of Displacements to the Transversality of Intensive Movement (Nomadology)
“It is more difficult to stand than to move”. Standing still is a metastable activity: the stillness demands precise adaptation to the micromovements of a shifting equilibrium. To stand still you have to move. (…) Posture is less a stopping of movement than a passing-through. (…) Moshe Feldenkrais defines posture as “dynamic equilibrium.” He suggests that posture is how we move through. Posture is how we carry our movement stilling. (…) It is not a position, not something to aim for or to attain; it is a movement-with movement reconfiguring (Manning 2009).

In the Treatise on Nomadology (chapter 12 of Thousand Plateaus), D+G distinguishes the nomad, the migrant and the sedentary. The sedentary doesn’t move: he is enclosed in his point. The migrant moves from one point to the other. What is at stake are his displacements from point to point. Hence, the migrant creates lines that, unlike the rhizomatic lines “are merely localizable linkages between points and positions”. (D+G 1987: 21)). Conversely, the nomad is not to be considered in a static position (like the sedentary), neither in its displacements (like the migrant). The nomad ought to be considered in its capacity to continuously push to its maximum the lieu which he occupies, i.e. his abilities to follow the lines of flight. Indeed, the nomad does not travel from one point to the other: he settled in a space and constantly pushes its limits. In so doing, he minimizes his displacements. The nomad is however continuously in movement: intensive movement. Its from his intensive movement that he occupies the space of his own dynamism. Intensity here calls upon specification.

Bergson, Deleuze, Lynn amongst others use the terminology multiplicity, issued from the mathematics whereas Hobbes, Spinoza, Hardt and Negri use «multitude», issued from political theory. Multiplicity distinguishes “the many” from a simple collection or aggregate of “ones”. Lynn explains the multiplicity as being relational “it is neither one nor may, but a continuous assemblage of heterogeneous singularities that exhibit both collective qualities of continuity and local qualities of heterogeneity”. (Lynn, G. 1999: 23). According to Bergson (here read by Deleuze), there are two types of multiplicities: extensive and intensive. Extensive multiplicities are represented by space (or homogeneous time), they are multiplicities of “exteriority, simultaneity, juxtaposition, order, and quantitative differenciation” (Deleuze 1966: 30-31, my translation). Extensive multiplicities exhibit differences in degree; they are discontinuous, actual, and closed; they are numerical multiplicities. On the other hand, intensive multiplicities are presented in pure duration, they are multiplicities of “succession, fusion, organization, and heterogeneity”. Intensive multiplicities are internal and qualitative. In addition, they are open, virtual, continuous and irreducible to number. Unlike the extensive multiplicities, they exhibit differences in kind (Ibid).

Here note that micropolitics, nomad thought, and rhizomatics operate on the intensive level (resonance, communication, immanent proximity).

Micropolitics and Lines of Flight
Deleuze and Guattari explain micropolitics in terms of relations between molar and molecular formations, in terms of relations between a minority and a majority. Although the relations are not explicable in quantitative terms. Indeed, says Guattari “the molecular does not define itself by the smallness of its elements, but by the nature of its mass” (D+G 1980 my translation). “A minority can be greater in number than a majority. What defines the majority is a model to which it has to conform itself (…) Whereas a minority has no model, it is a becoming, a process”. (Deleuze 2003: 233) He adds that “between these two levels there is no distinctive opposition which depends on a logical principle of contradiction” (Guattari and Rolnik 2007: 178). Thus, the molar does not exist without the molecular, which it presupposes, and reciprocally. The molecular as a becoming draws from the same field of potentialities as the molar. Hence, opposition, resistance, and counter-power are not understood as reactions against the molar, or even worse as renunciations. They are rather explicable in terms of creations, which are activated within the relations they share with the molar. This creation is a line of flight. However, as notices it Agamben (2000 http://www.vacarme.org/article255.html), a line of flight does not mean detour, non-confrontation, but rather resistance. He adds that it is a question of thinking “a flight that does not involve an evasion, but a movement in the situation where it is happening”. The line of flight is thus a creation activated within the dynamic space of the problem itself. It is transversal and transductive as it draws from the same field of potentialities, and not from external principles. A line of flight emerges from local forces differences where forces are considered as active generators of differences. A line of flight is hence an emerging integration, a transversal or transductive creation. The line of flight can also be understood as a process of deterrritorialization. Here note that a deterritoralisation always effects a reterritorialization. It is therefore a matter of analyzing the differences effected by the process of retorritorialization: does it generate an extensive (quantitative- dfferences in degree) or intensive (qualitative, differences in kind) multiplicity.

In order to to follow the line of flight, says Guattari, one has to follow the formations of desire in the social field. Micropolitics, he adds, is an “analytic of the formations of desire in the social field” (Guattari and Rolnik 2007: 179). He adds that the molar and the molecular, when considered as formations activated within the social field, function by “captures of mini-processes of desire, of liberty of singularization” (Ibid). Consequently, any micropolitical problem consists in the assemblage of the singularization processes at the exact level they emerge” (Ibid). (Every singularity is a pure difference, and is always pre-individual and impersonal. A singularity is never fixed, or localizable, it is a becoming, a form of life.) The micropolitical problem thus questions the processes from which “we reproduce the dominant modes of subjectivation” (Ibid: 183) through the analysis of “what blocks the processes of transformation of the subjective field” (Ibid: 190). (Here we can relate the processes of transformation in the subjective field to the processes of transformation of the multiplicities). Hence, a micro-political approach aims at enlightening the singular and creative difference, the real becoming.

Subjectivation, which is only visible in its effects, must however not be mingled with the subject. Quoting Deleuze:

A subjectivation process, e.g. the production of a mode of existence, cannot be confused with a subject unless discharging him of any interiority and even of any identity. Subjectivation has nothing to do with the person, it is an individuation, particular or collective, that characterizes an event. (…) It is an extensive mode and not a personal subject. (Deleuze 2003: 135 – my translation)

Here, subjectivation and individuation seem to act as synonyms, although Guattari distinguishes them in order to give a broader reality to subjectivation, which, contrary to individuation, is not necessarily corporeal. Subjectivity, he says “is not made in the individual field, its field is the one of all the processes of social and material production” (Guattari and Rolnik 2007: 46). Individuation is hence considered as an expression of subjectivity, as its process of corporealization. Individuation acts as a subjective expression whilst subjectivity is the dynamic form of individuation. The confusion raised between subjectivation and individuation concerns the fact that Deleuze refers to the individual field as traditionally understood, e.g. the individual as a complete reality in itself, and in a relation of opposition to the collective. In such context, the subjectivation process takes the form of a generative field from which individuation processes emerge.

Differences, Homologies, and Trans-formations
The rhizome concerns the analysis of trans-formations, metamorphosis, reconfigurations, differences in kind: the analysis of variations. The rhizome is the multiplicity of modes of reference, of points of view, it is a schizo approach -remember RHIZOMATICS=SCHIZOANALYSIS (D+G 1987: 22), i.e. seeing double, triple, etc.; ensuring the proliferation, the inter or intra-connection of lines. In this perspective, schizoanalysis and rhizomatics differ from (1) an analysis by analogies (identification by classification), which tend to minimize differences and negate the “singular-multiple”; and (2) structural homologies that on the contrary generate a dualist mode of thinking (binary oppositions).

In this perspective, could a rhizomatic approach be considered as a critique of remediation? Remediation insisted on both differences and homologies between old and new media but did not seem to insist on the metamorphosis generated, on the emerging properties of the potential “new connexions”, on the potential for new modes of subjectivation to be generated. Remediation did not seem to account for the lines of flight. Conversely, it seems to me that remediation was an attempt to create a model for understanding media, rather than a cartography of their becoming. To me remediation blocks the potential for subjectivation processes to emerge, as it operates as an extensive  rather than an intensive multiplicity (remediation did not seem to concentrate on succession, fusion, organization, and heterogeneity but rather on juxtaposition, order, and quantitative differenciation).

Questions related to this week’s pieces
I chose to concentrate on the Blue Hyacinth, Self-portrait as Others, and also on the text on Stir Frys and Cut Ups.

Illustration or Performance?
How can we think the consistency of connexions, the active knots of problems exhibited in this week’s proposed pieces? How Stir Frys and Cut Ups techniques, or pieces like Blue-Hyacinth and Self-portrait as Others, go beyond the illustration (or the realization) of the rhizome? Or in other words, how do they perform the rhizome, how do they become rhizome?

In order for these practices/pieces to become rhizomatic, their organization should perform the rhizome’s principles (they should not apply them, but to perform them – the rhizome is a becoming, not a model. In fact, these principles ought to be considered as “approximative characters”).
(1)    connection and heterogeneity (any text or image can be connected with any other one) I think the two pieces exhibit qualities of connections as they connect images and texts randomly (is random appropriate or shall we rather talk about recombination?). However do they convene heterogeneous dimensions or they only effect homogeneous reconfigurations? Strangely one of the Blue Hyacinth’s creator argues that “each essay is in no way connected to the next. (http://meagm.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/e-lit-for-quickness/). Although each essay contains the phrase “blue hyacinth” at some point. There are not many connections between the content but each holds an interesting narrative by a first person narrator”. His definition of connection seems to take the form of a recognition, which seems to be quite different from the rhizome’s qualities of connections, and the third principle of a-significance. We could therefore interrogate the nature of the connections;
(2)    multiplicity/metamorphosis (no text or image serves a pivot, or centre). Here we could question the repetition of of Blue Hyacinth in all the texts. Does it facilitate a metamorphosis of the text? Is the repetition static or dynamic?  In other words: is the repetition creative? Does it generate a change in kind or in degree (intensive or extensive multiplicities)? Does Self portrait as Others go beyond the juxtaposition of its constitutive elements? Does it fusions them? If so, what are the heterogeneous qualities revealed by the piece?;
(3)    These question brings us to the third principle: the a-significant rupture (no significant cut between the texts and images) here I would come back to the previous question I raised concerning the repetition of blue Hyacinth in every text: does it generate an a-significant rupture or it participates in generating continuity (homogeneity vs heterogeneity) between the texts? What are the a-significant ruptures exhibited in Self portrait as Others?;
(4)    principles of cartography and tracings (the organization of the text does not follow a structural model). I have doubts that both the pieces succeed here. In fact, their presentation is always structured in the same way. The components are combined differently but the structure seems to remain the same, e.g. the overall organization of the piece seems to conform itself to a pre-established model. I feel that the recombination of the contextual elements does not necessarily generate a cartography.

Blue Hyacinth
Do the iterative qualities of the narrative in action, in creation, exceeds linearity? Is the piece multilinear or transversal? Blue Hyacinth is a kind of hypertext. It is non-linear and open. It has no ending but endless loops. The piece exhibits unfixed narratives, narratives in dynamic equilibrium. It does not exhibit a beginning to end logic, but a set of multiple entries. In so doing, it enlightens the “constructing” of a narrative rather than its discovery. Can it be considered as becoming rhizome, a relational reading that actualizes itself by the pragmatics of experience? Did you experience the piece through making connections? If so, what are the qualities of the connections you made? The piece itself reconfigures the narratives of the four texts and generates different narratives. Are these narratives different in kind or in degree?

The piece propose a journeying rather than an aimed destination. It allows the reader to generate consistency of connexions between the texts. One way of interrogating the piece would be to point its function (how it works), the potential resistances to this function (line of flight) and the emerging reconfiguration. Does your experience of the piece went beyond the transformation of fictive stories into poetry, back into fiction? What are the line of flights in the piece? Are they restrained to the production of different narratives or they resonate elsewhere (a-signifying rupture)? Does the piece crosses other dimensions than the production of a narrative, what are its multiple dimensions?

Self-portrait as Others; Je est un autre
Since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd. (D+G 1987: 3)

Can Self-portrait as Others be understood as the actualization of the becoming other, becoming other selves, i.e. as an intensive multiplicity: becoming as metamorphosis. It seems to me that the piece does not actualize the becoming other in the sense of becoming the other (other as one—predetermination and linearity) but rather in the sense of becoming others (as many). Is this becoming others a multiplicity in the sens that Lynn described it (it is neither one nor may, but a continuous assemblage of heterogeneous singularities that exhibit both collective qualities of continuity and local qualities of heterogeneity). The piece interrogates the “logic” of the becoming, and reveals a process of heterogenesis as well as the impossibility of fixed identities (rhizomatic identity). What are the ways in which the becoming other is being captured and expressed? How does the piece exceeds the binary opposition of self/other or self/others, the opposition of one/many? Does the singular-multiple character of the piece succeeds in going beyond these oppositions? D+G argue that “what is real is the becoming itself, the bloc of becoming. It is not supposedly fixed terms that the one becoming would pass through” (D+G 1980: 291, my translation). “A becoming, they add, is not a correspondence between relations. Neither is it a resemblance, an imitation, or, at the limit, an identification. (…) Becoming produces nothing else than itself” (Ibid). In this perspective, does the piece generates a becoming or only a set of correspondences between the artists?

How are the different medium (for instance image, text) used to situate frame, and connect one another? Does the assemblage (of the image with the text, but also of the text itself) successfully perform a transversal creation, an emerging integration or it only produces a mere illustration ( juxtaposition)?

Would it be correct to say that identity, authenticity, and history are the molar dimensions of the piece? If so what would be its molecular dimensions? How does the piece makes visible what blocks the emergence of new modes of subjectivation associated with these molar dimensions? The piece generates coherence out of context and criticizes the notion of representation by playing with fiction, commentaries and facts. Can these be considered as lines of flight that derive from traditional (or molar) narratives?

Stir Frys and Cut Ups
Jim Andrews says that “the common thread among these works (stir frys and cut ups) is the way that textual or visual materials are quite literally cut up into pieces and then rearranged, partly at random and partly according to either the artist’s associativity and/or the associativity the artist gives into the hands of the reader/viewer to rearrange and recombine the materials.”

Here Andrews insists on the content and form, but not necessarily on the expressions. I think Timothy Murphy’s explanation is more interesting, and that it highlights the multiplicities revealed by these techniques: “the point of the cut-up is to to break the rigid linear historio-logical determinism of syntax to allow the future to leak out”. (Murphy 1998 :139). According to him, stir frys and cut-ups exhibit multiplicities of pure duration (intensive). However, one could interrogate if these techniques of creation generate a logic of subordination? In fact, in order to become rhizomatic, the piece, or the process of creation, ought to be a-centered. Do cuttings and rearrangements take the form of centres from which a generative model emerge? Do cuttings and rearrangements become models? Are they really a-centered? How?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Marie-Pier
    September 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Oups! Big mistake…quoting Deleuze, I wrote that a subjectivation process was an extensive mode….it is not…it is intensive!

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