A Shell without a Yolk

255px-Humpty_Dumpty_1_-_WW_Denslow_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_18546Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty-Dumpty together again

Humpty’s body was fractured by a great fall that multiplied his lovely ovoid wholeness into a field of fragments interspersed with intervals of non-shell, non-Humpty, earth. The movement of gravity, extending from the revolving motion of the earth’s body, transmitted through Humpty’s body, and the Humpty-gravity-body then encountered the body of the earth’s surface at 9.8 m/s2, becoming the shattered Humpty-earth multiplicity that baffled both the king’s men and horses alike. They never read Deleuze, because if they had they never would have bothered reassembling a body that was never whole, a body that was always already an assemblage. They assumed Humpty was once unified and thus distressed enough at the sight of his evident dissolution to invest hoof and hand in cross-species camaraderie toward his impossible repair, never ‘seeing’ that it is not the amalgamated shell fragments but what lies in between and outside them that is the whole (outside). On the one hand, continuing the thread of my last journal entry, the “I” of Humpty Dumpty was already fragmented (I would argue fractal) at least, according to Kant, by the subject’s “Fall” from edenic wholeness, when the perceiving “I” recognized also the object that is a desiring “I,” an external subject longing for an external object, an in-itself and a for-itself. Eve shattered before she touched the apple of wisdom, when it was only the generator of a virtual other “I” that desired and, in so doing, dissected the “I.” Deleuze, of course, sees the postlapsarian Eve less as a divided entity than as a shattered subject, like Humpty-Dumpty, distributed along the plane of immanence in discrete but connectible shards of conceptual “I’s” that couldn’t possibly be ‘put together again.’ The king’s men and horses glimpsed only the visibilities of a unified whole emergent from a plane of immanence that shares contours with a sovereign individual king, a monotheistic deity, and a cartesian cogito. They did not see a multiplicitous body, nor the field and fragments folding into a body without organs (or yolk), because this was neither visible nor articulable to them. We see the “we” in Humpty-Dumpty, and this journal entry will consider the art of seeing the Deleuzian-Humpty-Dumpty fractal “I” and body, and the politics entailed therein.

How and why did Humpty-Dumpty fall? Was it accident or eggicide? Revealingly, there is no indexical sign pointing to a cause. All we know is that he fell and fractured, arbitrarily. Who or what was Humpty-Dumpty? Historians have speculated he was not necessarily an egg: in the 17th century he could have been a caricature of the hunchbacked King Richard II; or a “tortoise siege” machine mobilized in the siege of Gloucester in 1643; or a military cannon used in the same civil war; or as a 20th century topological illustration of the second law of thermodynamics, entropy, which theorizes the multiplicity of assemblages that a given system can unfold. He is an egg, a tank, a cannon, a king, and entropy, or rather, a body without organs that is deterritorialized and reterritorialized across space-time, things, humans, animals and concepts. He is a metaphor and a metamorphosis. For our purposes, Deleuze pushed the proverbial Humpty-Dumpty in his campaign to ‘break up’ the body by “opening up” words, things and the chaosmos-filled interval between perception and action. Humpty-Dumpty as a multiplicity of avatars and shards is essential if eggcentric: he/they demonstrate that bodies are matter, “the matter of force,” and have thus made visible the movement from sovereign power to disciplinary power, from body politic of the state to bio-politics of subjected bodies, from a King (Richard) to an egg/machine emblem of systemic disorder (entropy).

For Deleuze, while power has become ever more embodied and capillary, it has at the same time colonized a territory that is always in flux, always potentially deterritorializing itself through the virtual vicissitudes emerging in the gap-between bodies, perception and action, the visible and the articulable. As we will revisit, it is a shock or an intensity that we encounter through our bodies’ sensorium that induces thought. Art, shocking affective and particularly cinematic art, we can infer, can do just this. Again, Humpty-Dumpty reveals the radical possibilities of shock and art. After citing Klee’s axiom that “the people are missing in art,” Deleuze suggests that third world cinema aspires to “constitute an assemblage which brings real parties together in order to make them produce collective utterances as the prefiguration of the people who are missing” (TI 224). The ‘shock’ of a deconstructed Humpty-Dumpty ‘induces’ an assemblage of humans and horses, masters and subjects, to work collectively in the futile art of collectively putting Humpty-Dumpty back together again. Though they inevitably fail to synthesize the already multiplicitous Humpty-Dumpty, their human-equine assembled agency prefigures yet new and possibly more unpredictable assemblages of actors in future encounters. Is this contingent strata of both the body as a sensing machine and a body of actors as an always unfolding assemblage that resists the powers of biopolitics what Deleuze means by “life”? How does the body mediate thought, life, art and resistance in the many conceptual shards that Deleuze has strewn over his oeuvre’s theoretical plane of immanence? Rather than put the pieces back together again into a Humpty-Dumpty-whole of a coherent underlying unity in Deleuze’s thoughts on the body, what possible relations and combinations can we contemplate about the body from his conceptual field?

Movement is always rendered visible through relations amongst bodies, as Deleuze demonstrates with the concepts of anamorphosis, metamorphosis, metaphor and montage. Anamorphosis is a distorted representation that relies upon an external object or position to disambiguate it. Deleuze argues that dream images are anamorphoses that mediate irrational but relational connections amongst perception and recollection images, and thus along the movement from virtual to actual images. Deleuze provides the example of a dream image sequence that connects a recollection image of a green field studded with wildflowers once perceived, with a billiards table also a recollection of what was once perceived. This is not a metaphor, we are told. A metaphor refers to the “harmonics of the image” (TI 160), that unites two scenes with entirely different bodies enacting a ‘harmonically’ similar scenario or movement, the non-human counterpart implying a symbolically iconic relation to the human scenario. When the movement of one body is transmuted into the movements of another body, or when a single movement courses through two different and possibly ontologically distinct bodies, the movement undergoes metamorphoses. Deleuze observes that in cinema, “depersonalized and pronominalized movements, with their slow motion or rushing, with their inversions, pass just as much through nature as through artifice and the manufactured object” (TI 60). Dancing, in cinematic musicals, often entails this viral movement. The cadence of Gene Kelly’s dance in Singing in the Rain, for instance, transmutes the unevenness of the pavement into a rhythm of movements in the dancer’s body. Deleuze also describes this process of metamorphoses from the “personal motivity” of a “dancer’s individual genius, his subjectivity” into “a supra-personal element” as a “movement of world that the dance will outline” (TI 61).  In fact, Metaphor, anamorphosis, and metamorphosis all describe variations of “movements of world,” where movements are “depersonalized and pronominalized” across image types, formal affinities, symbolic resonances, transmuted motions. The movement of world, in effect, captures the transference of movement between worlds, the world of one object or subject to another, that “breaks” the sensory-motor links between perceptions extending into actions, entailing instead “circuits” of “pure optical and sound situations” that fold upon themselves and transmit into other circuits. Deleuze claims that the exaggerated sounds and gestures Jerry Lewis initiate a movement of world that “travels from one world to another, in a pulverizing of colours, a metamorphosis of forms and a mutation of sounds” (TI 65). Bodies, gestures, sounds, forms and colors effectively lose their definition and become “deterritorialized” instances along a more resonant and circuitous movement.

Deleuze and Guattari provide an image of a deterritorialized body in their concept of “a body without organs.” A body implies a territory in that it suggests discrete and stable boundaries, a skin, and all compartmentalization within, or its organs and their organ-ization. A body without organs is immediately contradictory if we imagine it as such an actual body rather than a virtual one of constantly flowing potentialities. Discrete as the material corpus of a paving stone and a dancer’s tendons are, they transmit a virtual current of movement that transcends all formal and material boundaries. Bodies within the movement, or rather organs within the virtual body of a movement of world — a seamless movement from one world to another — no longer exist, they have been bypassed in the movement’s circuit or, in Deleuze and Guattari’s terms, they have been “de-organ-ized.”  A body without organs “is continually dismantling the organism, causing asignifying particles or pure intensities to pass or circulate, and attributing to itself subjects that it leaves with nothing more than a name as the trace of an intensity” (TP 4). A body, an entity or an organism is but a visibility of an underlying fluid body without organs, much like a perceived image is but a refracted flash of a luminous plane of immanence that bursts in seemingly discrete visible flashes that are merely “traces” of a circulating intensity. We glimpse the shadow of a body without organs in processes of metaphor, metamorphosis and anamorphosis, or movements of worlds, that, like the cinematographic shot within a montage, reveal changes of a whole.

For Foucault a diagram captures this evolving relational movement of forces that constitute power, and for Deleuze the diagram is a map, not of a territory but of a deterritorialization, not of a geographic body but a topological body without organs. Deleuze and Guattari provide a mapping of the deterritorialization and reterritorialization of an orchid and a wasp as an example of a rhizome, an illustration reminiscent of Deleuze’s illustration of a fluctuating whole iced tea that is always ‘dismantling’ its discrete organs and ‘transmitting intensities’ across its constituent elements.

The orchid deterritorializes by forming an image, a tracing of a wasp; but the wasp reterritorializes on that image. The wasp is nevertheless deterritorialized, becoming a piece in the orchid’s reproductive apparatus. But it reterritorializes the orchid by transporting its pollen. Wasp and orchid, as heterogeneous elements, form a rhizome. (TP 10)

Two seemingly discrete bodies are folded into each other through a shared movement of world expressed in the ongoing and interchanging process of deterritorialization and reterritorialization upon a previous deterritorialization, and so on. The rhizome formed between the wasp and orchid is a map, a diagram of relations, that “fosters connections between fields, the removal of blockages of bodies without organs, the maximum opening of bodies without organs onto a plane of consistency” (TP 12). Jerry Lewis’s body and the set are a rhizome; Gene Kelly’s gait and the pavement’s character form a rhizome; the egg, king, machine Humpty Dumpty that is a shattered body fallen from a wall or a shattered wall felled by Humpty-Dumpty’s body is a rhizome. Each forms a map with the other in their respective rhizome, removing organs from the body of a movement of world.

If bodies are at once ‘worlds’ of receptivity and visibility but, as such, necessarily organ-ic, reductive and obstructive compared to bodies without organs, how can Deleuze claim that “what is certain is that believing is no longer believing in another world, or in a transformed world. It is only, it is simply believing in the body” (TI 172)? The concept of the “body without organs” and the rhizome configure the contemplation of a body-with-organs, the body we are asked now to believe in, as a limited actualization or a node of a much greater dynamic field flowing across worlds. Despairingly, Deleuze believes that “the link between man and the world is broken,” and yet metamorphosis, anamorphosis, metaphor, movement of world, rhizomes, wholes, montage all suggest the complete opposite. Is this the despair of the king’s men and horses, who see in the entropy of Humpty-Dumpty’s demise the shattering of not only a whole world-body, but also its connection with the whole world? Yes, the terror of the shattered link and the shattered whole is that of the king’s men and horses, but not of Humpty-Dumpty and Deleuze, both of whom lept from the wall and shattered the imago of a whole body to see the shell shards and earthy rhizome, the (literal) deterritorialization of the body and reterritorialization of the world within it — a mapping of the relations of force between bodies and worlds that would restore this belief through the fractal body. As for the hapless horses and humans, the fall was an intensity, and as we can recall from Difference and Repetition, “it is true that on the path which leads to that which is to be thought, all begins with sensibility. Between the intensive and thought, it is always by means of an intensity that thought comes to us” (DR 144). Bodies without organs transmit intensities, and this intensity was transmitted across the bodies of Humpty Dumpty, its many human and non human avatars, the earth and the assemblage of humans and horses forced to contemplate the body as multiplicity. “Contemplating is creating, the mystery of passive creation, sensation” (WIP 212), and sensation takes place in the body Deleuze asks us to believe in, the body that senses shocks and intensities, pushing our faculties to the limit, and thereby precipitating thought. “When the diagram of power abandons the model of sovereignty in favour of a disciplinary model, when it becomes the ‘bio-power’ or ‘bio-poitics’ of populations, controlling and administering life,” Deleuze tells us in his reading of Foucault, “it is in man himself that we must liberate life, since man himself is a form of imprisonment for man” (F 92). WIth one final return to our well-whipped egg parable, the only thinking subjects of the Humpty-Dumpty tale are the frustrated inter-species fellowship of man and horse, contemplating the shock of a shattered body without organs or yolk in which they believe, just as Deleuze and Humpty-Dumpty would have them do.

One thought on “A Shell without a Yolk

  1. This is a compelling entry, indeed more of a short essay than a notebook. I appreciate the clarity with which some quite difficult concepts, ideas, and arguments are addressed. In particular, I am quite interested in how the body, as both a bio-matter and a consciousness, is both deterritorialized and reterritorialized toward matter, force, and intensity on one side, and perception, affect, and receptivity on the other. You have made very clear to me how the problem of “belief in the body” requires a new concept of the body, and precisely what D&G call a “body without organs.” This is a very difficult concept, because it is very hard for us poor humans to think of our bodies as permeable organisms flowing into and out of the world with and within movements-of-the-world, rather than as containers or carapaces. But I think you are right. This is a dimension or domain in which Deleuze ask us to believe in “life,” and to release new life from imprisonment in the body. Fascinating!

    PS. A note to all: you will find in Logic of Sensation some of the best pages Deleuze has written on the “body without organs.”

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