Diagrams with Friends

For this final entry, I want to say a bit more on the important role re/linkage plays in Deleuze’s work. It’s a fascinating process, and, like the wave that passes through the body without organs, it manifests throughout the whole range of texts that we have encountered in this course. It is as though, for Deleuze, the force of thought is precisely the capacity to link, and to chart these links is the matter of philosophy. It is important to keep in mind, however, that to link is never to merely indicate a pre-existing connection between forms or functions; rather, the process of linking produces a transformation on both ends, a reciprocal difference not only between each node in their spatial relations (were we to visualize it), but between each node and itself in time, before and after being linked. This is why, for instance, diagrammatic relations are relations of force, where force is not merely the exertion of influence from one body on another, but a radically polyvectorial dispersal of influence across both bodies (and others besides them). This is what Deleuze means when he writes that the diagram “makes history by unmaking preceding realities and significations, constituting hundreds of points of emergence or creativity, unexpected conjunctions or improbable continuums” (F 35). To understand force in this way provokes a powerful challenge to ideas of hierarchy and causality; making becomes inseparable from unmaking. Why, then, do we continue to pursue these explanations as sufficient, and how can this knowledge transform the way we live?

Following the historical diagram of Foucault, we might say that hierarchy and causality assert conceptual dominance at the stratigraphic level, the level of “bands of visibility and fields of readability.” As the abstract machine that is the diagram passes through each stratum, its polyvectorial force is distributed in different ways according to the available forms, just as the uniform light of the sun enables different shadows to be produced based on the structures it encounters. At the same time, it’s only through light’s encounter with an object that we recognize it as such (even if that object is only our eyes). In these particular distributions of force, certain organizations are produced while others are unrealized—certain vectors of force are ‘caught’ while others, no less active, remain informal.

As I write this, I’m aware of the risk that we discussed in Monday’s session, of drawing a too-simple parallel between the macro-level diagrams of Foucault and the micro-diagrams Deleuze writes of in the Logic of Sensation. Chalk it up, I suppose, to the desire to map and link that Deleuze catalyzes in his readers. Looking over what I’ve written above, it’s clear that I’ve unintentionally echoed a series of metaphors that Deleuze himself invokes in his writings on Bacon: light, waves, the eye, and so on. I want, perhaps mistakenly, to see a correspondence between the work of painting and Foucault’s archeology; after all, both are concerned, in Deleuze’s reading, with the effect of forces upon the body. Indeed, Deleuze represents the diagram of painting as a tremendous scaling-down from the macro to the micro: “it is as if a Sahara,” he writes, “were suddenly inserted into the head,” as if “the unit of measure were changed, and micrometric, or even cosmic, units were substituted for the figurative unit” (LS 100). Like the abstract machine, the diagram of the painting operates as “asignifying and nonrepresentative” “possibilities of fact” (ibid.). The diagram as pure informal relations of force or as latent possibility of fact; in both cases, they exist in a virtual state, unrepresentable until they collide with bodies and matter. Even then, they seem to be unknowable as themselves, as discrete units of force, and it is only through a nonpersonal relinkage on the order of the percept, affect, and concept that their relations can be rendered legible.

Affects and percepts are the names given to virtual linkages, patterns of relationality in time that can be grasped only in the way they organize the material world. These organizations of landscapes and bodies are what Deleuze calls sensation. “Force is closely related to sensation,” Deleuze writes. “For a sensation to exist, a force must be exerted on a body, on a point of the wave. But if force is a condition of sensation, it is nonetheless not the force that is sensed, since the sensation ‘gives’ something completely different from the forces that condition it” (LS 56). This difference, of course, is a difference in time, a change—as I’ve said—of both the composing figure and the Figure composed. This is what Deleuze means, I believe, by “becoming other” (WiP 177).  Further, this is what makes painting (and, in different ways, literature and cinema), so significant to Deleuze: it is a monument to becoming-other. It is the only way that a relinkage can be rendered visible, “time itself being painted” (LS 48). Significantly, this is not done through representation, but rather by mobilizing an array of irreducible codes that each react differently to force, like “the faces of a dice of sensation” (WiP 187). To sense the forces that act upon the body, and to recognize these actions in time, seems to offer the capacity to act, and to perhaps be otherwise. “It is within visibility that the body actively struggles, affirming the possibility of triumphing, which was beyond its reach as long as these powers remained invisible,” Deleuze writes (LS 62). The forces themselves, the links, are invisible, but in the act of relinkage through art, we draw new vectors of force, new ways to move and be within the world.

To end on a somewhat cheesy note, I’d like to return to one of our first readings, where Deleuze asks a series of questions that have stayed with me throughout the course:

“However one sees it, we’re on the plane of immanence; but should we go around erecting vertical axes and trying to stand up straight or, rather, stretch out, run out along the horizon, keep pushing the plane further out? And what sort of verticality do we want, one that gives us something to contemplate or one that makes us reflect or communicate? Or should we just get rid of all verticality as transcendent and lie down hugging the earth, without looking, without reflecting, cut off from communication? And then, have we got a friend with us, or are we all alone, Me = Me, or are we lovers, or something else again, and what are the risks of betraying oneself, being betrayed, or betraying someone else? Doesn’t there come a time to distrust even one’s friend? How should we understand the philos in philosophy?”

When I first read this passage, I found it, frankly, disturbing and unanswerable. It reaches something like the uncomfortable core of post-structural anti-humanism: in the absence of the monadic individual, what are we, what are we to one another, and what ought we to do about it? As I wrote in my first journal entry:

“Deleuze says, ‘it’s multiplicities that fill the field of immanence, rather as tribes fill the desert without it ceasing to be a desert’ (Negotiations 146), but are these to be nomadic tribes, constantly scrounging for a meager subsistence, always on the move and without any permanent shelter, any way to organize their own existence? If so, it’s a bleak proposition, though perhaps this fear and disorientation I feel at such an idea says more about my own image of thought than it does about Deleuze’s.”

Change is constant, but consistency allows for deep communal attachments, and offers the hope of protection from the eternal throw of the dice. The image of a person stretched out against a desert landscape, all concept of the self forgotten, is still a frightening thought. Now, however, I think it’s possible to see the work of philosophy not as the dissolution of bonds, but as a steadfast dedication to them. Friendship, after all, is a bond—a link—and Deleuze’s work is profoundly concerned with building links over and across even ‘irrational cuts.’ It is important to keep in mind however, that such links are never simply progressive or sequential, but always transformative. To identify as a friend is to always stand in a differential relation to the self: n-1 instead of Me=Me. Accordingly, the relation itself changes, a kind of productive feedback loop of mutation. With each mutation, however, the friend reaches out again, though the one I reach out to will not be the same, and the pathways travelled will be radically different—new risks, new loves, new betrayals. This is, I think, the philos of philosophy.

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