America is a special case. Of course it is not immune from domination by trees or the search for roots. This is evident even in the literature, in the quest for a national identity and even for a European ancestry or genealogy… Nevertheless, everything important that has happened or is happening takes the route of the American rhizome…
from a thousand plateaus
by gilles Deleuze / felix Guattari
Why America? What is there special about America that these nameless ones – these schizoanalytical philonauts who write neither philosophy, nor anything that could be identified as part of the two-thousand year literature of wisdom, have discovered about the dreamworlds of the “Western Lands” (Burroughs). “There is a whole American “map” in the West, where even the trees form rhizomes. America reversed the directions: it put its Orient in the West, as if it were precisely in America that the earth came full circle; its West is the edge of the East”(19).1 What is this open secret, what story does America have to tell us? “Has not America acted as an intermediary…,” D&G inquire. Yes, we say, it has brought both death and life, flows, intensities, migrations, exterminations, liquidations, and immigrations:
The flow of capital produces an immense channel, a quantification of power with immediate “quanta,” where each person profits from the passage of the money flow in his or her own way…: in America everything comes together, tree and channel, root and rhizome. There is no universal capitalism, there is no capitalism in itself; capitalism is at the crossroads of all kinds of formations, it is neocapitalism by nature. It invents its eastern face and western face, and reshapes them both – all for the worse. (20)
Place is not essential. It could have been somewhere else. What matters is not place but the model that is “perpetually in construction or collapsing, and of a process that is perpetually prolonging itself, breaking off and starting up again … We employ a dualism of models only in order to arrive at a process that challenges all models” (20). What are we seeking? The “magic formula we all seek: PLURALISM = MONISM – via all the dualisms that are the enemy, an entirely necessary enemy, the furniture we are forever rearranging” (21). What is this strange rhizome of which D&G pit against the labors of One or the multiple? Irreducible to a regime of signs or non-signs, neither encoded in binary genealogies, or catechisms of discursive allegorization; it is “not composed of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motions”: it has neither beginning nor end, but the middle way out of which grows and overspills its plenitude (21). Against genealogy it is an antigenealogy. Against long-term memory, it is antimemory. Like wave after wave of migratory peoples it operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots (21). Against representational art, photography, and drawings the rhizome is a map that is produced moment by moment, detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable, with multiple entry points and no exits of its own, only “lines of flight” that embark toward no end or beginning (21).
In contrast to centered (even polycentric) systems with hierarchical modes of communication and preestablished paths, the rhizome is an acentered, nonhierarchical nonsignifying system without a General [Master Signifier] and without an organizing memory or central automaton, defined solely by a circulation of states. (21)
Against termination, extinction, war, finality we have the plateau, a term coined by Gregory Bateson to designate the sensual foreplay that has no endpoint: a continuous, self-vibrating region of intensities whose development avoids any orientalism toward a culmination point or external end (22). Even the book D&G write is based on this rhizomatic and plateau form: acentric, loopy, multivalent, without terminus:
Each morning we would wake up, and each of us would ask himself what plateau he was going to tackle, writing five lines here, ten there. We had hallucinatory experiences, we watched lines leave one plateau and proceed to another like columns of tiny ants. We made circles of convergence. Each plateau can be read starting anywhere and can be related to any other plateau. (23)
Against any reduction to unity, this is a multiplicity without center or circumference. Against history we have Nomadology: we’re past the point of “One or multiple” – there is a “collective assemblage of enunciation, a machinic assemblage of desire, one inside the other and both plugged into an immense outside that is a multiplicity in any case (24). Is such a thing possible? D&G ask, “How can the book find an adequate outside with which to assemble in heterogeneity, rather than a world to reproduce?” (24) Instead of the endless critique of cultural analysis interminable we have pop-analysis, a nomadism that does not rely on history or long-term memory, but the rhizomatic memory of the moment and event. Not science (“science would go mad”), and not math (“a monstrous slang”).
The nomads invented a war machine in opposition to the State apparatus. History has never comprehended nomadism, the book has never comprehended the outside. The State as a the model for the book and for thought has a long history: logos, the philosopher-king, the transcendence of the Idea, the interiority of the concept, the republic of minds, the court of reason, the functionaries of thought, man as legislator and subject. The State’s pretension to be a world order, and to root man. The war machine’s relation to an outside is not another ‘model’; it is an assemblage that makes thought itself nomadic, and the book a working part in every mobile machine, a stem for a rhizome … (24).
Make maps, not photos or drawings. Stand in the middle between things, enter the gap of interbeing. Maybe travel with William Burroughs into Interzone. D&G tells us that American literature was right, it found the middle way between things: it manifests the directional crux of rhizomatic movement, it knows how to overcome ontology and foundations, nullify endings and beginnings. Nomads are at home in the labyrinth, moving now one way and now another, knowing there is no center and no outlet there is only the movement between things: the middle path that keeps accelerating with each step. Multiple entries offer you a path, a line of flight… enter if you dare!
See Leslie Fiedler. The Return of the Vanishing America
D&G: “Every great American author creates a cartography, even in his or her style, in contrast to what is done in Europe, each makes a map that is directly connected to the real social movements crossing America.” (Notes: 520)
See Joelle de la Casiniere: Exhibition (The Emergency Book):
In the year 1971 French artist Joëlle de La Casinière sold all of her paintings and her motorcycle, and, with light luggage, embarked on a journey to South America. It was the beginning of a journey around the world and through many worlds that has not yet come to an end. La Casinière’s extraordinary work is in keeping with her nomadic lifestyle and is intimately linked with the impressions and restrictions involved in travelling. Structured along an idiosyncratic system of references, her collages, manuscripts and video works talk about autobiographic and historical moments as well as the evils of the medium of television.
Sixty of these wonderfully eclectic collages – the “Tablotins” – are presented at croy nielsen. They combine calligraphy-style writing and ornament, stickers from advertising and children’s albums, found fragments from everyday objects, postcards, and photographs. They are private and intimate notebooks as much as they are critical commentary and observations of contemporary life.
La Casinières first book, “Absolument nécessaire – The Emergency Book”, was published in 1973 with Les Editions de Minuit in Paris. In “A Thousand Plateaus”, it is celebrated by Deleuze/Guattari as one of the rare successful examples of a truly nomadic book. It is a unique travel diary, marked by the distinctive handwriting of the artist. “La première partie du roi Henri IV de double V Shakespeare : une analogie” is the celluloid extension of the book and amalgamates – like most video works by the artist – image, writing, and sound. It documents the dream of a group of artists around La Casinière to stage Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” amid the picturesque setting in the streets of a small town in Columbia, with its inhabitants as actors.
1. a thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia. Gilles Deleuze and Feliz Guattari. (University of Minnesota Press, 1987).