free indirect speech-acts

“Pasolini had a profound insight about modern cinema when he characterized it by a sliding of ground, breaking the uniformity of the internal monologue to replace it by the diversity, the deformity, the otherness of a free indirect discourse” (Cinema 2, 183-184)

“If the filmmaker assimilates himself to his character and, through him, tells a story, or represents the world, he cannot have recourse to that formidable instrument of differentiation which is language. His operation cannot be linguistic, but stylistic…The fundamental characteristic of the “free indirect subjective” is therefore not of a linguistic nature, but of a stylistic one.” (Pasolini, “The Cinema of Poetry”)

That the question of “who speaks” in film remains irreducible to linguistic models of identification makes transpositions of “free indirect discourse” onto the cinematic particularly awkward. In its literary incarnation, free indirect discourse hinges predominantly on the idiosyncracies of personalized speech, staging the slippage between distinct voices by performing one from the vantage point of an other. Particularly effective as an admixture of commentary and description, free indirect discourse represents another’s idiom just enough to conjure a position outside it: think, perhaps, of the several times the Austenian narrator dips momentarily into Mr. Woodhouse’s consciousness to poke fun at his dietary eccentricities or inefficacy as a patriarch. Ventriloquy here shows its own hand: we are not meant to take the reported thought for its actual enunciation, but to recognize the oscillation between the thought itself and its representation, reproduction, or parody. The indirectness of free indirect discourse—“representation of thought rather than an expression of it” Frances Ferguson writes—references the misalignment of speaker and utterance, carving out a zone of indistinction from which the narratorial voice briefly dons the perspectival coordinates of another subjectivity.

Central to analysis of FID, then, is an ear for the multiplicity of voices in a single enunciation, the ability to register in this enunciation one voice (or several voices) too many. The absence of discriminating markers for enunciatory personalities in cinema seems to complicate such recognition: to the extent that linguistic indices of specific (and distinct) subjectivities remain unavailable, the challenge of cinematic FID becomes that of inserting the subjective, the notion of distinct subjectivities, at all, of alerting viewers to the presence of an intervening consciousness or intercessor. Because premodern(?) takes the interchangeability of author and character for granted (what Deleuze refers to as the “unity of the author, the characters and the world guaranteed by the internal monologue”), making the question of who is speaking (or, more accurately, whose consciousness images are filtered through) apprehensible as a question at all becomes the first hurdle. How and when does the subjective, as rupture in the author-character-world continuum Deleuze locates under the regime of the internal monologue, enter without being conveyed discursively?

Pasolini’s answer, it seems, bears little attachment to the discursive. Having established the filmmaker’s lack of recourse to that “formidable instrument of differentiation which is language” (7), he effectively substitutes for free indirect discourse what he terms “free indirect subjectivity”—FID minus the discourse. Stylistic rather than linguistic, free indirect subjectivity is FID without recourse to codified sign systems, FID in a more inchoate, and thus stylistically flexible, form. Ultimately, this turn from the linguistic to the stylistic enables a reading of free indirect subjectivity that folds back into internal monologue, capitalizing on an indiscernability between author and the alternate subject position she has taken up in order subsume the latter under the former. If free indirect discourse in Ann Banfield’s formulation (Unspeakable Sentences) refers specifically to utterances that are neither communicative nor expressive (neither addressed to a “you” nor tethered to a speaking “I”), the techniques cultivating “free indirect subjectivity” ultimately become in Pasolini radically expressive. Free indirect subjectivity affords the author “poetic liberty”—the author avails herself of characterological perspectivalism/the free indirect subjective in order to take this “stylistic exercise as inspiration.” For Pasolini, the emergence of an intervening or alien consciousness becomes mere “pretext,” “enabling the author to speak indirectly — through some narrative alibi — in the first person.”

But the free indirect remains a lurking potentiality in Deleuze—defamiliarization, or rather, subjectivization, can infiltrate any moment of seeming internal monologue, such that instances of direct style preserve kernels of an “indirect origin and does not allow itself to be fixed with the first person” (Cinema 2, 248) For Deleuze, the coherence of internal monologue is not recovered in free indirect discourse’s cinematic analogue, but “shatters into anonymous debris.” “Stereotypes, clichés, ready-made visions and formulas took away the outside world and the interiority of characters in the same decomposition.” (Cinema 2, 187) Whereas Pasolini collapses free indirect subjectivity back into a first person that subsumes all under authorial, Deleuze maintains the irreducibility of incompossible subject positions—the interstice at the heart of FID. “The author takes a step towards his characters, but the characters take a step towards the author: double becoming” The disassociative force of free indirect discourse no longer begs the question how one voice will be reconciled the other, but the disjuncture between utterance and the position from which it is uttered.

In fact, preservation of the disjuncture seems in keeping with a larger set of concerns in the last chapters of Cinema 2: the problem of accounting for non-totalizing relation, of contact without the assurance of organic totality or integration into a whole that is always elsewhere, out-of-field. “The Whole is outside.” What is banished with the break in the sensory-motor link is not just a correspondence between images seen and read/heard, but the very enterprise of linkage–of rendering visible interaction between components belonging to a single set. The speech-act moves, with the collapse of continuity between action/reaction, from the realm of sensory-motor links into the “regime of free-indirect.”

If, for Pasolini, the possibility of relinkage remains, and free indirect subjectivity can ultimately be repurposed to bolster the first person—such that the organizing consciousness escapes into another only to fold this back into an elasticized but ultimately all-encompassing version of self-sovereignty (alterity thus framed as “inspiration” rather than shock or forced thought), Deleuze’s account of free indirect discourse stages an expropriation of voice that echoes expropriation of thought—the “theft of thought of which thought is a constant agent and victim.” Insofar as represented internal monologue becomes internal monologue suddenly encountered from outside, dispossessed of thought also becomes thought turned inside out to reveal the unthought immanent in thought. FID is never coincident with represented thought, but it is also remarkable for how close it is: it does not simply offer dispassionate, clinically detached reportage, but, as Anne Lise Francois writes in Open Secrets, “makes available experiences that may entirely elude their subjects.”

Whereas the first person of internal monologue, the alignment of speaker and utterance that allows “I” to be spoken, posits a consummate and ultimately self-identical whole—“open” and evolving precisely because its incorporative power links together what is only seemingly discontinuous— FID posits the fractured I. Though the irreconcilable heterogeneity that surfaces in FID is framed as the crowding out of the first person through the insertion of a third party—“either the author expresses himself though the intercession of an autonomous, independent character other than the author or any role fixed by the author, or the character acts and speaks himself as if his own gestures and his own words were already reported by a third party”—it features, more importantly, as internal fissure within the first person. FID, in precluding total identification, becomes not so much the imposition of an external POV on thought as the excavation of noncoincidence from within. Deleuze’s insistence on free indirect discourse (choice, perhaps, to foreground Pasolini’s conception of FID rather than that of free indirect subjectivity) mines the potentiality of FID speech-act—as an act of storytelling, of resistance—to enact splitting. The notion of FID as speech-act refocuses on what is created, generated at moment of impossible enunciation—the performative possibilities of inhabiting both the multiple (proliferation of mutually exclusive and incompossible positions) and the double-bind (the evacuation of possibility, the no-place or impasse).

The sense in which one can speak in an language that does not belong to one, and, inversely, that an idiom can be spoken by one that does not belong to it, makes FID particularly useful in Deleuze’s discussion of the colonized’s relation to language. That speaker and utterance do not belong to one another, but remain suspended in mutual disarticulation, puts FID’s theoretical impossibility to political use. (Important that it features as speech-act: “Daney observed that African cinema (but this applies to the whole third world) is not, as the West would like, a cinema which dances, but a cinema which talks, a cinema of the speech-act.” (229)

In Deleuze’s conception of “minorness,” the refrain the “whole is outside” takes on new valence when placed alongside “the people are missing”: insofar as FID is inevitably collective (or non-individualistic/nonsingular) in its enunciation, this collectivity remains far from resolved or consolidated in the speaking subject. The minor will always be speaking on behalf, or as representative, but in a tongue not their own—even as there is a sense that to speak/write is to be dispossessed in some way, one is driven by the necessity of speaking. As response to the refrain of the “the people are missing,” free indirect discourse performs both proliferation and impasse. The question of who is speaking becomes particularly charged, even as it remains undeterminable. FID’s impossibility as utterance is here twofold: (1) speaking requires a position that doesn’t exist yet—the people are missing; the free indiscursive mode is merely a prefiguration (2) the position that does exist is compromised—utterance and speaker do not belong to one another; dispossession becomes the very condition of speaking, because one can only ever speak in another’s voice.

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.

More Power, Virtuality, Thought

So I’ve been spending some time with the Power (Strategies or the Non-stratified) chapter of Foucault, and I keep going back and forth between feeling like the debate that we got embroiled in last class (or at least my persistence in it) was super helpful, and thinking it might have been more off-base. On the one hand, I think we touched on some questions that seem exceptionally important, at least to me—in particular some of the nitty-gritty of the relationship of power to knowledge and power’s virtuality/actuality axis. On the other hand, the question of primacy seems relatively secondary, and there are several points at which Deleuze seems almost tempted to back off of it. There’s even a remarkable passage in which he might be ditching it all together, in his discussion of the way in which Foucault’s dualism (in this case between the visible and the articulable) is in fact a “preliminary distribution operating at the heart of a pluralism (83).” Either way, I think part of why our debate was paradoxically useful is because it did an excellent job articulating why it felt so uncomfortable to have primacy and an even heuristic dualism within Deleuze’s thought! Square peg in a round hole indeed!

Anyhow, I do want to discuss a bit more of virtuality and power, because in my reread I think there’s a lot of nuance but also a great amount of detail in Deleuze’s discussion of power and its forces, relations, and affects. There are two bits that come early in the chapter that I want to look at and start to unpack a bit. The first is the relation of power to function, and the second is power’s relationship to the state. “the power to affect is like a function of force.” writes Deleuze, “But it is a pure function, that is to say a non-formalized function, independent of the concrete forms it assumes, the aims it serves, and the means it employs.” Further down the page, discussing the Panopticon, he writes “No account is taken either of the forms which give the function ends and means…or of the formed substances acted upon by the function.”

This seems crucial to understanding the role of power in Deleuze’s work. A few pages earlier, Deleuze says that “power is not a form.” So when power becomes pure function, it is already akin to the Panopticon (and for the record, to the diagram) in the sense that it exists as a structure without particular effects, that is, as Foucault has it, ‘detached from any specific use’ and ‘specified substance. So when power exists in the form of a pure function, it has already begun to pull away from virtuality – it has begun to assume shape, in the abstract terms of the diagram, or the abstract machine itself. It would seem that power does exist without the structure the diagram or pure function gives it, but it is only through the diagram that it can begin to affect.

On the other hand, it is not as though power has become fully actualized. It still remains within the realm of the diagram. Within the diagram “power relations…simultaneously local, unstable, and diffuse, do not emanate form a central point or unique locus of sovereignty, but at each moment move ‘from one point to another’ in a field of forces…they evade all stable forms of the visible and articulable (73).” Later in this same paragraph, Deleuze indicates that these characteristics of power are due to its reference to ‘microphysics,’ cautioning that this means a wholly different dimension or realm, “irreducible to knowledge (74).”

Power, then, is a funny beast. It shares the domain of its existence with concepts like Deleuze’s expanded definition of the Image—both potentially virtual and partially actualized, power is like the two halves of the symbol: one half dipped in the virtual, the other flowing, unstable, into the actual. Finally, like the image, power is always constituted relationally. Power lacks form or essence of it own, but is instead defined by the forces or situations through which it flows.

This relationality is brought out a bit more clearly in Deleuze’s analysis of how power can become integrated, in particular by institutions. For Delueze, relations of force remain without their full power unless they are “carried out” by forms of knowledge. These forms of knowledge participate in a process of integration: “an operation which consists of tracing a ‘line of general force,’ linking, aligning, and homogenizing particular features (75).” This process of integration involved not only forms of knowledge, but institutions, such as the State, the Family, Art and Morality, who are the “agents of stratification.” However, what’s so crucial about these integrating factors is that they are not sources or essences—they are only the networks that “fix” power, not the structures from which power issues. “There is no State, only state power,” writes Deleuze; power is presupposed by the state, and power exceeds it and all institutions.

If we’re going to talk about primacy here, then we can at least say that power has primacy over the institutions that fix it, as power runs through all institutions and, just as importantly, also bubbles up beneath them. Although without institutions of any kind and without forms of knowledge and knowledge relations, power would remain “embryonic,” it is this very lack of structure that gives it the ability to power structures themselves. As Deleuze has it, power is blind and deaf, but robbed of sight and hearing, it is the only thing that can make us see and hear. The power of power, then, comes from its nature to exceed the structures it requires to become influence and actualization, to always flow back out, against, and through the inflexibility of specific structures like the Panopticon or the State.

To give this a little concreteness, there are a lot of analogies that occur to me here, but actually the first one that comes to mind is maybe a little lame, but also kind of satisfying. In the Harry Potter series, Voldemort spends much of his time in an ethereal, bodiless form. He is pure power, that is to say, continually weak, until he finds a structure (actually a few structures) that can give him shape. These structures have varying levels of ability to affect, until Voldemort reaches his final form sometime in the last few books, in which his ethereal form finds a structure that can handle/fix quite a bit of power flowing through it. Structures, institutions and forms of knowledge in the world can fix varying sets of forces and capacities to affect—in large historical terms, Religion is perhaps a structure that has a waning capacity to affect, whereas capitalism has only an ever-increasing influence.

Finally, this links up with the one thing we didn’t end up talking about much in class, which is the Outside. Personally, I was so overwhelmed by the first half of the chapter that I didn’t read the second half near closely enough before our class discussion. But on my re-read, it struck me as perhaps some of the most radical material we’ve seen from Deleuze so far. It reminds me quite a bit of the section on Artuad from Cinema 2, i.e. section 2 of chapter 7, where Deleuze articulates the power of being powerless to think. I don’t have a ton of space left in this journal to gloss the section, but I think the crucial point is that the Outside, like, in a way, the virtual, is the dimension from which mutation and change emerge.

The diagram “stems from the outside,” but is not coextensive with it. Nor does the diagram structurally maintain a connection with the Outside. Instead, it is the forces that traverse the diagram that maintain a connection with the outside. The outside is the realm of Force, and all forces that traverse the diagram maintain a connection with the outside, an irreducible realm in which all forces share. Because the outside lacks stable definition, it appears to be always in flux, and the forces that emerge from it, the composing forces that make up other structures or articulations, are what shift within structures. Structures, according to Deleuze, do not themselves shift, but their composing forces, retaining a connection to the Outside, rearrange, recompose, and reorganize themselves, which in turns alters the composition of the structures. As Deleuze has it: “Emergence, change and mutation affect composing forces, not composed forms.” The “death of Man” occurs because the forces that composed the historical structure of “Man,” have begun to rearrange, giving the forces previously contained by the structure the freedom to find a new arrangement.

This radical potentiality, this freedom of the Outside, is what I find most exciting about this chapter. In particular, the way in which Deleuze defines the Outside in relation to thought is, frankly incredible: “Thinking does not depend on a beautiful interiority that would reunite the visible and the articulable elements, but is carried under the intrusion of an outside that eats into the interval and forces or dismembers the internal.” This seems to me to be the most radical yet detailed and clear conception of the power of Thought that we’ve come across so far. Thought, true thought, the difficult thinking, thought-without-image, etc. is a form of contact with an outside that is uncontained, irreducible, limitless and eternal, and therefore a dimension of radical potentiality, difference and newness. Thought’s power is its contact with that which can reconfigure structures, can reorganize the compositions of forces that are the State or the Panopticon. Thought is contact with a dimension that is unbounded—forms of knowledge or institutions may constitute power and force’s actualization, but the Outside touches thought to the possibility of remaking all that has ever been actualized.

Vitalism and Affection in Foucault’s Method and Power


For Foucault, power does not simply emerge from the top-down, commonly attributed to a sovereign wielding authority over its subjects. Instead, as Deleuze writes in Foucault, power is “less a property than a strategy, and its effects cannot be attributed to an appropriation ‘but to dispositions, manoeuvres, tactics, techniques, and functionings’; ‘it is exercised rather than possessed; it is not the ‘privilege’, acquired or preserved . . . but the overall effect of its strategic positions.” F, 25. Because power is the result of strategic positions and relations, Deleuze and Foucault uses a functional microanalysis to analyze the “possible relations between forces” that constitute power. F, 27. This analysis reveals two key ideas, amongst many. First, power cannot be ‘known,’ it can only be exercised and practiced. Second, because resistance is essential to power, it is possible to develop strategies to resist force. Interestingly, both Foucault’s method and conception of power contain a certain vitalism.

1.  Foucault’s Diagrammic Method

Deleuze identifies two characteristics of Foucault’s thinking and writing. First, Foucault imbues his writing with a unique sense of “gaiety in horror” or a “great joy which is not the ambivalent joy of hatred, but the joy of wanting to destroy whatever mutilates life.” F, 23. Deleuze notes that “Foucault’s book [Disicpline and Punish] is full of a joy and jubilation that blends in with the splendor of its style and the politics of its content.” F, 23 (emphasis added). Here Deleuze implies that the political aim of Foucault is filled with joy and affirmation, a theme reiterated in Deleuze’s other works on Spinoza and Nietzsche. This sheds some light on Foucault’s goals in writing. Second, Foucault “is not content to say that we must rethink certain notions; he does not even say it; he just does it, and in this way proposes new co-ordinates for praxis.” F, 30. Foucault is not just concerned with what or how we think, but how we act or practice. Foucault’s functional microanalysis could be understood within these two aims, a joyous attitude and an emphasis on practice.

Deleuze’s description of Foucault’s methodology is far from formal and rote. Deleuze characterizes Foucault’s methodology as theatrical: “Analysis and illustration go hand in hand, offering us a microphysics of power and a political investment of the body. These illustrations are coloured in on a minutely drawn map.” F, 24. Usually, people understand illustrations and analysis as serving two different goals. Illustrations are creative or interpretive, while analysis is rigorous and objective. Illustrations serve analysis by analogizing or illustrating a principle. For Foucault, illustrations express the effects of analysis. Id. Foucault understands each historical strata as being composed of “visible and articulable features unique to each age which goes beyond any behavior, mentality or set of ideas, since it makes these things possible.” F, 48-49. Foucault’s analysis is meant to show the very functions of power. F, 25 (“Foucault shows that . . . the State itself appears as the overall effect or result of a series of interacting wheels or structures which are located at a completely different level, and which constitute a ‘microphysics of power’”). But how precisely does Foucault show or illustrate power-relations?

Foucault gives us a “new topology [that] no longer locates the origin of power in a privileged place.” F, 26. Foucault describes particular social phenomena in terms of a diagram or a “display of the relations between forces which constitute power . . . .” F, 36. Diagrams also show the distribution of the power to affect and the power to be affected and are the combination of the non-formalized pure functions and unformed pure matter. F, 72-73. The diagram is a map of the various relationships between forces or intensities, which plot out specific points where power circulates and moves through. Id. Both Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality discuss two different functions of force. In Discipline and Punish, the Panopticon is a diagram which shows power operating as a function of force aimed at “imposing a particular taste or conduct on a multiplicity of particular individuals” located in a discrete space (like in schools or prison). F, 72. The History of Sexuality discusses the function of administering and controlling life across broader populations. Id. In both diagrams, Foucault illustrates a general form of power or an abstract machine, a machine that is “blind and mute, even though it makes others see and speak.” F, 34.

2.  Power, Knowledge, and Resistance

Foucault defines power as “a relation between forces.” F, 70. Forces are never singular and exist in relation with other forces. Id. (“[F]orce has no other object or subject than force”). Forces imply power relations, insofar that each force has the power to affect others and the capacity to be affected by others. F, 71. Foucault contrasts power with knowledge, which primarily deals with forms. F, 72. Power, on the other hand, passes only through forces. F, 73. But here Foucault is not attempting to argue that there is no relationship between power and knowledge. Instead, Foucault is attempting to show that both power and knowledge are irreducible to the other. Power and knowledge are never free in relation to the other and are linked on “the basis of their difference.” F, 75. The difference between the two depend on their specific roles. Id.   The fundamental difference between knowledge and power constitutes a type of mutual immanence: “[K]nowledge never refers to a subject who is free in relation to a diagram of power, but neither is the latter ever free in relation to the forces of knowledge which actualize it.” F, 74.

Power determines particular features and affects. F, 75. Power is able to both integrate and stabilize relations or particular points, as well as separating or dividing these relationships. Knowledge, on the other hand, creates forms and practices that emerge from the difference between the articulable and the visible. F, 51. Knowledge deals with “formed substances and formalized functions by using the receptive kind of visible element, or the spontaneous kind of articulable element.” F, 77. Power establishes contact “between unformed matter (receptivity) and unformalized functions (spontaneity).” Id. Deleuze terms this space between matter and unformalized functions the outside, or the unformed element of forces, which “stirs up their relations and draws out their diagrams.” F, 43. In contrast to knowledge, the Deleuzian-Foucauldian conception of power seems to be generative, since power seems to be the source of affection as the contact between receptivity and spontaneity.

Power’s emphasis on the affective or embodied is what, in part, allows for resistance. The paradox of power is that “resistance comes first , to the extent that power relations operate completely within the diagram, while resistances necessarily operate in a direct relation with the outside from which the diagrams emerge.” F, 89. The social field, the domain where power relations emerge, creates more resistances than strategies of power. F, 90. This occurs because the diagram of power abandons the “model of sovereignty in favour of a disciplinary model, when it becomes the ‘bio-power’ or ‘bio-politics’ of populations, controlling and administering life. . . .” F, 92. Here life is the new object of power; the sovereign privilege of force is administered in the name of race, space, and population.

But contrary to the Marxian models of power, there is no need to “uphold man in order to resist.” F, 92. Both Foucault and Deleuze do not understand resistance as something men and women wield to overthrow a sovereign power. Resistance means something both deeper and broader: “When power becomes bio-power resistance becomes the power of life, a vital power that cannot be confined within species, environment or the paths of a particular diagram.” Id. Resistance, as a force from outside power, emerges from a certain vitalism that is present in both Foucault’s style of writing and politics. F, 93. Power is necessarily incomplete, according to Foucault, since it depends on the dominated. According to Foucault, power invests in the dominated, “passes through them and with the help of them, relying on them just as they, in their struggle against power, rely on the hold it exerts on them.” F, 28. This is why Foucault believes that every diagram also contains the relatively free and unbounded points of creativity, along with its points of power relationships. F, 44. Similarly, because now power has invested itself into life, life can in turn produce resisting forces to power.

Snarls, Squeaks, Stammers

I am haunted by a rather strange paragraph in What Is Philosophy?, which I find to be the most beautiful passage in the book, but also the most cryptic and mysterious. It is towards the beginning of  “The Plane of Immanence”, and seems to interrupt the continuity of the chapter. At the risk of straying from our seminar’s focus on the Image, I would like to take this chance to meditate on the distinctiveness of this passage, and if not wrest from it any useful meanings, at least marvel at its  crystalline abundance. It follows:

Thinking provokes general indifference. It is a dangerous exercise nevertheless. Indeed, it is only when the dangers become obvious that indifference ceases, but they often remain hidden and barely perceptible, inherent in the enterprise. Precisely because the plane of immanence is prephilosophical and does not immediately take effect with concepts, it implies a sort of groping experimentation and its layout resorts to measures that are not very respectable, rational, or reasonable. These measures belong to the order of dreams, of pathological processes, esoteric experiences, drunkenness, and excess. We head for the horizon, on the plane of immanence, and we return with bloodshot eyes, yet they are the eyes of the mind. Even Descartes had his dream. To think is always to follow the witch’s flight. Take Michaux’s plane if immanence, for example, with its infinite, wild movements and speeds. Usually these measures do not appear in the result, which must be grasped solely in itself and calmly. But the “danger” takes on another meaning: it becomes a case of obvious consequences when pure immanence provokes a strong instinctive disapproval in public opinion, and the nature of the created concepts strengthens this disapproval. This is because one does not think without becoming something else, something that does not think—an animal, a molecule, a particle—and that comes back to thought and revives it. (WIP, 41-42)

The first sentence is the most ambiguous: in whom is indifference provoked, and towards what? In the preceding paragraph, Deleuze and Guattari posit the plane of immanence as pre- or nonphilosophical, which proves to be one of the most important passages in regards to their answer to the title question. As they put it:

Prephilophical does not mean something preexistent but rather something that does not exist outside of philosophy, although philosophy presupposes it. These are its internal conditions. The nonphilosphical is perhaps closer to the heart of philosophy than philosophy itself, and this means that philosophy cannot be content to be understood only philosophically or conceptually, but is addressed essentially to nonphilosophers as well. (ibid., 41)

This introduces to their definition an element which is not reducible to identity (which could thus far be summarized positively as the creation of concepts and the institution of a plane of immanence, and negatively as not contemplation, not reflexion, and not communication). It locates in philosophy an internal difference, a differenciation that leaves it obscure despite having a distinct shape and frontier. Philosophy has an “essential relationship” (ibid., 218) with the chaos through which it cuts.

So what then does it mean to be indifferent, and why is this provoked by thinking? It is interesting that D&G do not find it necessary to qualify ‘thinking” in this instance. I infer, however, that they mean something along the lines of thinking under a dogmatic Image, a thinking that invests itself in finding a refuge from the imposing instability of a world in flux. “We require just a little order to protect us from chaos. Nothing is more distressing than a thought that escapes itself, than ideas that fly off, that disappear hardly formed, already eroded by forgetfulness or precipitated into others that we no longer master” (ibid., 201). Such refuges D&G call “fixed opinions”, attempts to fashion “a little ‘umbrella,’ which protects us from the chaos” (ibid., 202).

Avoiding this indifference can be thought of as the another articulation of project Deleuze laid out in Difference and Repetition: the embrace of difference in itself and repetition for itself, the act of thinking without image. This risks exposure to the aforementioned distress: “It is as if the struggle against chaos does not take place without an affinity with the enemy, because another struggle develops and takes on more importance—the struggle against opinion, which claims to protect us from chaos itself” (ibid., 203).

This brings us to the “groping experimentation” of thinking. D&G go for the grotesque when they try to describe it: “measures that are not very respectable, rational, or reasonable” which “belong to the order of dreams, of pathological processes, esoteric experiences, drunkenness, and excess.” This corresponds to a description later in the chapter of the modern, Nietzchean image of thought. They speak of its “Incapacity…If thought searches, it is less in the manner of someone who searches than a dog that seems to be making uncoordinated leaps” (ibid., 55). Here they reference Artaud and Kleist, for whom “thought begins to exhibit screams, snarls, stammers; it talks in tongues and screams, which leads it to create, or try to” (ibid.).

The reference to Kleist is apposite; a very Deleuzian account of such thinking is given in his two wonderful short texts, “On the Gradual Formation of Thoughts While Speaking” and “On the Theater of the Marionettes”. They crystalize the junction between Deleuze, Bergson, and Kant, seeking to intuit the fractured self. The former begins, “If you want to know something and can’t find it out through meditation, then I advise you, my dear, quick-witted friend, to talk it over with the next acquaintance you happen to meet” (Kleist, Selected Prose of Heinrich von Kleist, 255). Such stimulation provides the necessary start to the process of thought (perception, affection, impulse, action, reflection…), and Kleist describes it so:

…because I have some kind of an obscure inkling that harbors a distant relation to that which I am seeking, if I only utter a first bold beginning, as the words tumble out, the mind will, of necessity, strain to find the fitting ending, to prod that muddled inkling into absolute clarity, such that, to my surprise, before I know it the process of cognition is complete. (ibid., 257)

Kleist concludes, “…it is not we who know, but rather a certain state of mind in us that knows” (ibid., 262).

As an illustration, he recites an anecdote from the French revolution, in which the orator and statesman Mirabeau defied the King’s order for the Estates General to disperse. Kleist comments:

I am convinced that in uttering [his] ordinary opening words, he had not yet conceived of the verbal bayonet thrust…we can see that he does not yet rightly know what he means to say…he went on, and then, suddenly, a rush of heretofore inconceivable concepts rolls off his tongue…and only now does he find the words to express the act of resistance to which his soul stands ready: ‘You can tell your king that we will not leave our seats , save at the point of a bayonet.’ (ibid., 258)

Here we come to what makes thinking dangerous. If we take Kleist’s story at its word, even such an unscrupulous, opinionated politician as the infamous Mirabeau is capable of uncovering from beneath the sheltering Urdoxa the hidden chaos, that is, the virtual potentialities for difference. The “obvious consequences when pure immanence provokes a strong instinctive disapproval in public opinion” becomes something of an understatement.

The last sentence of our paragraph is, in my opinion, the most poetic formulation of Deleuze’s fundamental metaphysical principle of the I fractured by the form of time. It took me quite a long time to appreciate just what Deleuze was getting at, and I found help through an encounter with the latter of the above-mentioned Kleist texts. This essay recounts a dialogue with a famed dancer who enthuses over a makeshift marionette theater. The dancer envies the extraordinarily graceful movements of the puppets, which to him seem to have an advantage over the living.

‘The advantage? First of all, a negative one, my friend, namely that it never strikes an attitude. For attitude, as you well know, arises when the soul (vis motrix) finds itself twisted in a motion other than the one prescribed by its center of gravity. Since, wielding the wire or thread, the machinist simply has no other point at his disposal than this one, all the other bodily articulations are as they should be, dead, pure pendulums, and merely follow the law of gravity; an admirable quality that one may seek in vain among the vast majority of our dancers.

‘…missteps,’ he added as an aside, ‘are unavoidable ever since we ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. But Paradise is bolted shut and the cherub is on our tail; we are obliged to circle the globe and go around to the other side to see if there’s a way back in.’

I laughed—Indeed, I thought to myself, the spirit can’t go wrong if there’s no spirit to begin with. (ibid., 268-269)

We can see in this again the fractured I: a desire of the passive Ego to maintain contact with the I which affects it, the “entire machine of determination and the indeterminate” (Difference and Repetition, 276). To think, I must be an Other, an unthinking other. I will give the last word to Kleist, who writes with the bloodshot eyes of the mind:

‘…just as two lines intersect at one point, and after passing through infinity, suddenly come together again on the other side; or the image on a concave mirror suddenly reappears before us after drawing away into the infinite distance, so, too, does grace return once perception, as it were, has traversed the infinite—such that it simultaneously appears purest in human bodily structures that are either devoid of consciousness or which possess an infinite consciousness, such as the jointed manikin or the god.’ (Kleist, 273)


That there is, ultimately, nothing but images of time for Deleuze necessitates closer attention to the varieties the time-image comes in. If the cinema books seem to map an evolutionary trajectory from “indirect” to “direct” images of time, detailing the movement-image’s supersession by its more temporally-sensitive counterpart—any rubric for hierarchization crumbles once we recognize in movement-image the image of time all along. Insofar as directness and its obverse serve more as generic distinction than metrics for representational accuracy, how might we attend instead to “directness” without connotations of immediacy and privileged access? This is, more than anything, an opportunity for me to revisit the intricacies of D’s argument, to recount for myself what directness means for Deleuze, and to trace it through different aspects of his constellation of concepts.

1. Directness and sensation: “directness” as a way of talking about the sensational in Deleuze

If “what is specific to the image…is to make perceptible, to make visible, relationships of time which cannot be seen in the represented object,” the “pure optical and sound situation” characteristic of the direct time-image intensifies this perceptibility into sensation. Once the motor falls away in the sensory-motor circuit, it is the sensory that remains, an uncoupling that radically changes the nature of perception. No longer, in Bergsonian sense, inseparable from its extension into action, perception is given over to the sensory, the interface with intensity and pure difference that does not congeal into action.

This altered mode of perception (lingering in the excitative, vibrative and energetic—interminable, unceasing excitation) precipitates a “new dimension of subjectivity.” In place of a perceiving living image, we are given a sensing one, a subjectivity that “takes on a new sense, which is no longer motor or material, but temporal and spiritual: that which ‘is added’ to matter, not what distends it.” No longer is the interface between the two systems of images (living image vs universal variation) that of mutual distortion and accomodation, at least in the sense of a curvature in universal variation to accommodate the perspectivalism of living image. Instead, sensing subjectivity, the new “living image,” is both overpresent—added to matter (without diminishing?)—and markedly absent—no longer capable of distending the fabric of universal variation or leaving its previous material mark.

Directness, then, becomes a way of characterizing the tension between these two systems of images, brought into closer but irreconcilable proximity under the regime of the time-image. With the loss of the action-image, the living image is made even more to resemble one image among others, receiving and executing movement in all directions (movement unrecognizable as “action”). (Could the sense of miredness and immobilization in the time-image might be traced back to the fundamental incompatibility between this “double regime of reference of images”? Rendering the tension between Bergson’s two regimes of images sensible, such that those who encounter the time-image are made to inhabit this incompatibility, might account for collapse of sensory-motor.) Yet, as I will argue later, there is also an insistence in second cinema book on this amorphousness being narrated from within——a radical empiricism that seeks an experience of time/distended duration from inside (an opsign, for instance). Deleuze’s radical empiricism becomes an answer to, or complication of, phenomenology’s , an experiment in how to talk about the sense experience of a subject after the dissolution of these subjective contours (“subject” as merely one image among others—operating in a receptive rather than animating capacity). This is the experience of discovering “self” as little more than an accident of position, an epiphenomenon of “the phenomenon of the gap, or interval between a received and an executed movement.”

I haven’t quite figured out how to read sensation across the cinema books and Deleuze’s other works, though I think I can say his preoccupation with the intersection of art and philosophy (and the imagistic?) takes direction from a curiosity in the shape philosophical projects take when they use sensation as a departure point. Deleuze’s preoccupation with thought’s origination in sensation seems to take an empiricist turn, retracing the origination of thought to sense-experience. If thought’s genesis in a chain of transmission of violence between faculties otherwise uncoordinated, the ripple of intensity passes from sensibility (brought to its limit) onwards, to imagination to memory and then to understanding. “The privilege of sensibility as origin (of thought) appears in the fact that, in an encounter, what forces sensation and that which can only be sensed are one and the same thing, whereas in the other two cases (imagination and memory) the two instances are distinct. In effect, the intensive or difference in intensity is at once both the object of the encounter and the object to which the encounter raises sensibility.” (D&R, 145) Whereas imagination and memory, each carried to their constitutive limit, must ultimately take recourse to consolidated forms (the “forgotten thing appears in person,” for instance, to the memorandum), such that the object that precipitates the break/encounter and the object that intervenes on the faculty’s behalf are never one and the same, sensation’s empirical and transcendent functions are much closer in kind. Sensation becomes an exceptional case of a faculty’s transcendental exercise, “which insists that what can only be (recalled, imagined) should also be empirically impossible to (recall, imagine).” (D&R, 140) The [opposition] of the transcendental to the empirical—transcendent exercise of faculties intervenes where the empirical encounters its own limit—begins to break down when everything feels like a limit case.

Perhaps a reckless but potentially useful overstatement of this: any sensation bears the potential for disruption (and thus transcendent exercise) of faculties because sensation itself is always a limit case, an encounter with intensity as pure difference. Whereas the model of subtractive perception/translation of sensory into motor makes certain assumptions about the cooperation of faculties responsible for apprehending an object—such that there will be consensus regarding the utility of certain bits of sensory data as opposed to others—sensibility at its most transcendent thwarts recognition, representation.

Immersive sensation makes available a conception and experience of temporality different from the one that inheres in movement/action executed in space. Insofar as each temporal trajectory is traced out by extension of perception into an action-version of time subordinated to movement, sensation is remains gravid with the possibilities prior to perception’s diminishment of sensory data. Herein lies the potentiality of sensation: its condensation of multiple and infinitely proliferating temporalities, its cultivation of mutually exclusive timelines/realities (fracturing of causality into incompossible)

As both counterpoint and complement to the proliferative temporality of sensation, Deleuze also deploys th elanguage of return and preservation when talking about sensation. Post-action-image, we find ourselves in the realm of protracted intervals and recursive beginnings—sensory data that cannot be pared down into blueprints for movement, energy that can no longer be efficiently displaced onto/rerouted into action. “Sensation contracts the vibrations of the stimulant on a nervous system or in a cerebral volume: what comes before has not yet disappeared when what follows appears.” (WIP 211) The syncopated rhythm of sensation, which elicits a response that is always overtaking/rebounding onto the excitation that occasions it, forms a feedback loop that the sensory-motor schema’s orderly extension of perception into action precludes. The language of preservation, of retention and persistence, running throughout the treatment of sensation as contraction (in WIP) frames sensibility as an endless return to an originary(?) impulse, each time with a different outcome. The interminable cycle of contractive “enjoyment” and “self-enjoyment,” then, necessarily brings into conjunction multiple temporal layers. “Contraction is not an action, but a pure passion, a contemplation that preserves the before in the after.” (WIP 212) If perception>action might be considered fundamentally entropic (the taming and dissipation of energy into discrete actions), sensation’s perdurability and preservative power(?) lasts by turning inward, “contracting that which matter dissipates, or radiates, furthers, reflects, refracts, or converts.”

2. Directness and identification: “directness” as a way of talking about the identificatory? in Deleuze

In the movement-image regime, subjecthood at its most attenuated—centers of indetermination, in which “living images” become distinct from other images—surface in the fleeting interval between received movement and its execution. The movement-image leaves little room for even this watered down “subject”: when montage is accelerated (the efficiency of the sensory-motor schema to produce linkages is dialed up), the first thing to go is the “interval between actions.” In this sense, centers of indetermination are always already under erasure in the universe of movement-images.

I would argue that there is a return of sorts to the living image, the intermediary between received and executed movement, in the wake of the sensory motor schema’s collapse. Insofar as the time-image might be analogized to an expansion of the interval, such that there is nothing left but affection-image and the hesitation between perception and action, [subjectivity] becomes all there is. The paradox, of course, is that it is precisely this re-privileging of the living image that [sets up the] conditions for the “fractured I” and that makes impossible the image’s relation to an encompassing “whole.” If the subject under the regime of movement-image, as “center of indetermination in an acentered universe of movement-images,” could still have some semblance of internal consistency spatially understood in relation to other acting/reacting bodies around it (and as part of an all-encompassing, if constantly evolving, whole), the turn to sensation in the opsign precludes this sense of belonging to a set. Sensation cannot be deduced from outside or between images the way totality though montage can—must be encountered (position in whole relinquished to immersive interiority—no extensity).

Insofar as Deleuze’s treatment of the time-image inherits a set of empiricist concerns, the unit of analysis remains experience as filtered through subject, however attenuated. Deleuze identifies a new paradigm of identification in his turn to the time-image. In the cinema of movement-images, “the characters themselves reacted to situations…what the viewer perceived therefore was a sensory-motor image in which he took a greater or lesser part by identification with the characters. But now that the identification is actually inverted: the character has become a kind of viewer.” (A few pages later: “The important thing is always that the character or the viewer, and the two together, become visionaries.”) The conceit of actants become voyeurs, characters unable to act or immersed im situations that have suddenly become sensorially overwhelming and unbearable, strangely translates the time-image and Deleuze’s metaphysics of time into a lived experience within the diegetic fabric of films. The distintegration of the sensory-motor schema not only [informs] the film’s formal aesthetics, but becomes literalized/thematized, as though this “new dimension of subjectivity”—the fractured I—were somehow being modeled on screen. If the movement image’s capacity for extracting movement from its constituent elements (“the movement of movement”) depended on identification with the camera’s movement (the filmic mechanism), here identification with the human, the embodied onscreen seems strangely foregrounded.

That viewer and character must inhabit the sensorial in the time-image in tandem is an aspect I find puzzling in Deleuze’s account of the time-image. I will say that it is properly Deleuzian in the sense that it does not so much [model] identification (retaining sense of distinctiveness of between self and other one is aligning oneself with) as a version of over-identification (self and character collapsed into one viewer, indiscernable from one another). This may be the closest we’ve come to an account of the viewer/film dynamic.

The Refracted and Fractal “I”


Between Cinema I: The Movement Image, Cinema 2: The Time Image, and What is Philosophy, Deleuze elaborates an image of time, which he articulates through a variety of spatial metaphors encompassing facets, holes, contours, peaks and planes that inevitably not only connect but flow fluidly through each other. Generally speaking, Deleuze arrives at a formulation by literally ascribing a multi-dimensional and processually evolving form to relationships of concepts across, or rather, through time. To perpetuate Deleuze’s spatializing metaphor of time, we can imagine the movement-image as an inclinator (a type of elevator that can move horizontally and diagonally) that travels along the ‘contours’ of a plane of immanence, opening its sensory-motor doors onto minute ‘shots’ of a virtual plane of related images that we perceive and actuate through perception-images and action-images. With the time-image, however, the sensory-motor inclinator operates more like Willy Wonka’s glass elevator, or “Wonkavator,” that can move “up and down, sidways, slantways, and any other way you can think of” across layered planes of immanence, along the infinitely variable shafts of time. Recollection-images are the buttons that mobilize our movements across planes, and each ‘floor’ is a layer of a concept that connects all past images of said concept with their present and parallel peaks. As Deleuze explains in his repeated critiques of the cogito’s “I think therefore I am” rendering of the self, an “I” is always a concept and as such, according to Deleuze’s own architecture of concepts penetrating across sheets of time, this “I” is always a multiplicity. Or, in cinematic terms, a conceptual “I” is always a montage of laminated shots and component images. His elaboration of an “I” that projects onto multiple sheets of time – like an image projected onto multiply layered diaphanous screens superimposed upon one another – can only be conceived as a whole that is open, and without end.

Why, then, when describing “the dissimilar in the pure form of time” that constitutes “transcendent memory” in Difference and Repetition, does Deleuze delineate “an I fractured by this form of time” (DR 144)? How does the “fractured I” gel with the conceptual “I” that spreads across the time-image, that undergoes “metamorphosis” across concepts, people and things in the movement of world? Does not the idea of an “I” that is capable of being “fractured” either presuppose or entail a whole “I” that was or will be discrete? How does this differ or repeat the post-lapsarian fantasy of a whole “I” much contemplated by his intellectual forbears, along other planes of immanence? Shouldn’t Deleuze describe a fractal ‘I’ not a fractured ‘I’?

The “fractured I” that Deleuze describes evokes what I would call a “post lapsarian fantasy” of a once coherent whole riven by a fall from purity. In the case of social theory and philosophy, particularly of Kant, Hegel (see footnote 1), Lukács, and Lacan (see footnote 2), the whole constitutes the conceptually cohesive conceptualized “I” that is fragmented, fractured and fissured as it becomes social. Desire – for a thing, for recognition, for illusory and impossible wholeness, for communicative commensuration, in other words, for belonging – is always ecstatic, both emotionally and in its external orientation towards that which is outside, or Other. Deleuze describes this Other “not as another subject but rather the subject who becomes an other” (WIP 32). This first gap between a subject-self and subject-other maps onto the gap of necessity and desire, our original ‘lack’ (in Hegel and Kant’s formulation), that provoked our earliest agency and, in retribution for our profane insurrection, the (spiritual and philosophical) gods responded to by reifying our acts of violating wholes into the shattering of the respective unified world-bodies. This is true of the Eden and Aristophanes parables the aforementioned theorists mobilize and metaphorize into their theories of sociality-as-whole-splitters. The postlapsarian worlds that ensue are fated to unfulfilled nostalgia writ in the discrepancy between total and partial, ideal and actual, necessity and desire, monad and dyad, subject and object, and are rectifiable only in the telos-myth of reintegration. How, whether and by what poignant means we put the pieces back together, how we manage the agony of ecstasy (in all senses of the words) comprises the theoretical genome pervading the aforementioned authors’ respective projects. Deleuze’s designation of his conceptual “I” as a “fractured” one runs the risk of imputing an original or teleogical closable one-ness: only something once whole can be fractured, and fracturing implies potential reintegration. Continue reading

Reading Deleuze from the Ground Up

In these journals, I would like to continue the work that I began in my initial discussion post dealing with the work of the cartoonist Chris Ware as it pertains to Deleuze’s writing on time, thought, and the image. I do not know, precisely, that I am using Ware to explain Deleuze, or, conversely, that I am using Deleuze to explain Ware. Either method would likely be reductive. Rather, I hope that these journals will generate a new understanding of comics as a medium, its structure and, more importantly, its possibilities, particularly in the modes of the ethical and the political. At the same time, I hope that the application of Deleuzian models of thought will enhance my personal understanding of his work. With these twin goals in mind, I will use Ware’s Building Stories (2011) as my primary testing ground, with occasional recourse to Ware’s other works, like Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000), and perhaps older experimental comics such as George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (1913-1944).

The question that concerns me most, in relating Difference and Representation to Cinema 2, is the question of how the Image of Thought (and, necessarily, the Thought without Image) relates to Deleuze’s metaphysics of Time. What is the structure of time, such as it relates to the production of real difference—a difference that also seems to be a repetition that appears, in an illusory form, only as resemblance, identity, analogy, representation, and the negative (Difference and Repetition 265-267)? It is through thought, it seems, that difference is grasped, or sensed, but in a form that exceeds ‘faculties’ like memory, imagination, and intelligence—or, rather, thought is born of the instant when the encounter tears apart any unity between the faculties, and takes each to the edge of its ability. How does this happen? It must, it seems, be related to how time is conceived (or preconceived), because each of the faculties seem to correspond with an attempt to locate the self within time. Memory represents to the self the I of the past, while intelligence is applied to grasp at the present, and imagination produces possible futures. But in all these conceptions, the unity of the self is presupposed, as is the ability of the self to order itself within time. Deleuze, rather, is pursuing something else, a kind of something that does not presume an ordered and unitary self that moves through an ordered and unitary time—whether circular or linear—but that is fragmented, fractured, and only comes into being through its contingent, chaotic encounters throughout space and time.

“We seek the truth only within time, constrained and forced,” Deleuze writes in Proust and Signs (97). But we know time only by presupposing the I that moves through it. In the case of both the Platonic (or Viconian) circular time, and the Kantian linear time, we maintain our stability through representation, analogy, identity, and similarity. These elements form the “ground” that covers over difference and buries it within its own substance. The ground, Deleuze writes in Difference and Repetition, is a tripartite structure formed of Identity, Resemblance, and Simulacra. The same or identical is that which is the only thing that possesses itself: “What it is, and what it possesses, it is and it possesses primarily, in the utmost. What, apart from Courage, would be courageous, or virtuous apart from Virtue?” (272). In other words, courage and virtue are among those things that are identical only to themselves, that are inhabited and can be claimed only by themselves. When a person says, “I am virtuous,” or “I am courageous,” it is an appeal to the second part of the structure, Resemblance. This claim of resemblance “is always a claim or an ‘image’ that requires a ground or appeals to a ground […] Each well-grounded image or claim is called a representation, since the first in the order of claims is still second in itself in relation to the foundation. It is in this sense that Ideas inaugurate or ground the world of representation” (272). Resemblance is thus one step removed from its transcendental ground, the unified idea of courage upon which it stakes its claim, yet it can be claimed only because of that presupposed and inaccessible ground. Finally, there are also Simulacra, “the rebellious images which lack resemblance” (272). These, Deleuze writes, “are eliminated, rejected and denounced as ungrounded, false claimants” (272). It seems, however, that this is precisely the sign of difference, of the ungrounded that destabilizes the image(s) of thought that cannot account for it. This is also why Deleuze says that stupidity, not error, is the enemy of learning; because error is productive, and marks the return of difference. Deleuze rails against a philosophy that finds in the simulacra only the negative, or an antithesis to be incorporated into a Whole, because they encounter difference only as an obstacle to be surmounted, to be subsumed by repetition. Rather, it is not difference in repetition but the repetition of difference that seems to give form to history and time. “It is as if repetition were never the repetition of the ‘same’ but always of the Different as such, and the object of difference in itself were repetition” (256).

Yet the question remains: how does this bear upon time and its image? Deleuze gives the ground a temporal as well as an ideal dimension: To ground is “to represent the present—in other words, to make the present arrive and pass within representation (finite or infinite). The ground then appears as an immemorial Memory or pure past, a past which itself was never present but which causes the present to pass, and in relation to which all the presents coexist in a circle” (273-74). This image is particularly intriguing when one thinks of the work of Chris Ware, but I want to bypass that for now and continue along this line of thought. The point is that such a conception of time still invokes representation, still covers over difference because it proceeds along points, in memory, or in a mythical circling, that precede the encounter itself, and denies the division between the I that has happened and the I that is happening. To grasp hold, somehow, of this fracture, which is not an absence but a site of productive difference, seems to be the location, or the temporality, of the image without thought:

It is this form of time which distributes throughout itself an I fractured by the abstract line, a passive self produced by a groundlessness that it contemplates. It is this which engenders thought within thought, for thought thinks only by means of difference, around this point of ungrounding (276).

For Deleuze, it is not representation that orients us within time but his interpretation of Nietzsche’s eternal return: a repetition that is only the repetition of difference. “Time,” he writes, “must be understood and lived as out of joint” (298). This pure form of time is structured only by the singular intensities and multiplicities that emerge within it; it is the only guarantee of time itself.

As it turns out, I have left myself without the space or time necessary to include anything but a cursory mention of comics in this journal entry.  Nor have I been able to find the ethical implications of this investigation, so far as it stands. I hope, in future entries, to return to those subjects. They are, I think, integral to my development as a scholar. So, at this point I would like to simply end with a question rather than an assertion. The question I want to end with: Deleuze seeks the ungrounded thought without image, a mode of inquiry that begins with something like the interrogative: is-God rather than God-is or God-being. Deleuze himself describes a thought without image as “solipsistic” and “an essentially amnesiac narcissistic ego.” Yet he also writes of a plane of immanence that is always becoming, always growing with intensities and mutations. But if this is so, if every presupposition must be resisted, how can any structure be built upon, or any seed germinate? 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. Or, maybe, it is less a matter of abandoning any permanent structure than it is of historicizing it, of bearing in mind its contingency and the particular forms of deviant simulacra it has denounced in order to appear as it does. If this is the case, it seems to indicate a sort of tactical philosophy, which may indeed be a philosophy of life and affirmation.

The Affective Lives of Kats

“Several times on every page the reader is released–like a trapeze artist–into the open air of imagination… then caught by the outstretched arms of the ever-present next panel!  Caught quickly so as not to let the reader fall into confusion or boredom.  But is it possible that closure can be so managed in some cases–that the reader might learn to fly?”

–Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (1994), 90.


In this entry, I would like to focus most directly on the movement-image and time-image. Specifically, I would like to explore the modes of linkage that at once connect them to and expand the plane of immanence. To do so, I will turn once more to work in the field of comics. To say that the fundamental operation of comics is the representation of time as space is a truism in comics studies. Is there room, however, to assert that it is possible for time itself to enter the picture (or image)? Perhaps, and perhaps this is what McCloud implies (though likely unwittingly) when he suggests that there might be an alternative to the way the reader is “caught” by the outstretched arms of the next successive instant. Can space, and the contents of the image bound on each side by the frame, be managed (or unmanaged) in such a way that the comics panel becomes something other than a discrete moment of chronologized time? I believe so, but first it is necessary to indicate how the movement-image emerges in the comics form.

The movement-image, as montage and sequence, is without doubt (but with qualifications) the classical form of the comic strip as it developed during the proliferation of mass media.[1] In the newspaper strips of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the inevitable repetition of action—often a physical gag at the end of the strip—provided a structure for comics that did not merely mark the conclusion of the narrative, but rather shaped the strip in its entirety. The direction of reading, the iconic arrangement of its parts, and the number and order of its panels found significance through the transcendental power of the final gag. This is true even of highly regarded works that approached the avant-garde in their manipulation of movement and sequence. Winsor McKay’s Little Nemo (1905-1926), for instance, about a boy’s fantastical adventures in the land of dreams, always ends with Nemo waking abruptly in his bed. Likewise, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat (1913-1944) consistently revolves around the moment when Ignatz Mouse launches a brick at the head of his lovelorn admirer, Krazy, who takes each lump as a sign of Ignatz’s devotion. This fact, of course, does not in the least minimize the importance of these works. Deleuze, following Bergson, writes that “through movement the whole is divided up into objects, and objects re-united in the whole, and indeed between the two ‘the whole’ changes” (MI 10). The open whole that changes through the variation of its parts is the indicator of universal variation. How does this process make itself known in comics, even in the early strips that I relate to the movement-image? A brief example is in order.

A single image from Krazy Kat should suffice to make clear the role of the movement-image in comics. My own work is largely focused on the inter-iconic relations between panels—on what I see as the radical potential of the networked page as opposed to the linear sequence—but, for the sake of brevity, and to follow Deleuze in demonstrating the indication of the whole by the set, I will focus on a single panel (Figure 1). Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 7.37.43 PM

In this image, we can see the tripartite elements of perception, affection, and action that make up the movement-image. Indeed, here the elements form an inseparable circuit, a sort of perpetual movement machine. The form of the image is circular: we begin at the top left (following the typical vector of reading), where the violent “POW” that leaps out from the static background suddenly dissolves the calm evening sky. Our eyes could drift down to the impact that caused the sound, the brick hitting Krazy’s head, but to do so would ruin the effectiveness of the strip—the inevitable gag must wait until the end, even though the initial “POW” has already signaled its occurrence. Instead we let our eyes be drawn along the road that seems to begin at the sound itself. We are led, again along the typical vector of reading, to Offissa Pupp, the police officer dog who tries to protect Krazy from harm. The road we’ve followed leads directly into Pupp’s eyes—he is pure perception. “Living beings allow to pass through them,” Deleuze writes, “those external influences which are indifferent to them; the others isolated become ‘perceptions,’ by their very isolation” (MI 62). Pupp isolates the violence of the inevitable brick; for him, it is “Transgression!!!” and nothing else, though, as we will see, the role of the brick is far more complicated than that. In this image, Pupp is frozen at one end of the sensory-motor situation. He, like the reader, is only a witness to the event. However, he also reassures us of the unity and authority of our subjectivity. Because the knowing reader’s perception is different from Pupp’s (it circumscribes his own), our perception of his perception becomes a source of laughter.

Moving on from Pupp, we find Ignatz Mouse’s hand (which has always already launched the brick) blocking the road itself, arresting the movement of the reader’s eye and demanding its subordination to the action of the flying brick. We may think of Ignatz as pure action, arm always outstretched, leg lifted, always having just released his missile. We can no longer simply follow the road that curves through the panel—we must follow the path of the brick itself, indicated with ‘speed lines’ and a dynamic “ZIP.” Finally we reach Krazy Kat, who—in a very simplistic sort of way—marks the image of affection. Krazy’s position here is neither that of action (s/he is being acted upon), nor purely that of perception (it is significant that in the visual medium of comics, Krazy always faces away from the brick). Of course, affect here is not a simple subjective emotion, despite the heart that we see emanating from Krazy. As Deleuze tells us, “there is inevitably a part of external movements that we ‘absorb,’ that we refract, and which does not transform itself into either objects of perception or acts of the subject; rather they mark the coincidence of the subject and the object in a pure quality (MI 65). Here it is the brick itself that is transformed; freed from Ignatz’s hand as an object of aggression, it is re-fashioned mid-flight into a sign of love. The heart on the far left, at the end of the reader’s journey, matches the color and trajectory of the brick exactly, so that it seems to have physically transformed as it passes through Krazy. Here, then, the brick itself seems to occupy the “zone of indetermination” that Deleuze says is the mark of the subject (MI 66). It is overdetermined, divided between perception, affection, and action, cutting through the center of the image and warping the temporality of the scene into a spiral that uncurls in its wake. It is singular and still, yet it is a movement-image.

As I began this close reading, I noted that the image from Krazy Kat forms a sort of circuit, a perpetual movement machine. Indeed, our path through the image leads us finally from the brick back up to the sound it makes, the “POW” that re-initiates the cycle. But if this were wholly true, what chance would there be of a direct image of time in the comics medium (or in any work of art)? There is something in the movement-image that is not equal to itself… some element of excess where the actual and the virtual collide. I propose that this element emerges in the paradoxical and simultaneous co-existence of the heart and the “POW” onomatopoeia.   This is the true “gap” whose presence is diagetically echoed by the brick. For the gag to be truly complete, the reader must read in the direction of the heart (to the left), the sign of Krazy’s joyful acceptance of the brick as a token of love. At the same time, the brick’s physical collision with Krazy must lead upwards, toward the sound that accompanies it. It is true that the eye can take in both these moments at once, but it cannot do so and remain loyal to the vectors of motion that structure the strip. To follow the brick straight to the “POW” means disregarding the heart. Conversely, to follow the brick to the heart means having to reverse the trajectory of reading, to go backwards—violating the ‘time as space’ truism of the comics image—to the brick and then up to the “POW.” This is where recollection, incompossibility, and the co-existence of presents make their presence felt. The sensory-motor flux is troubled, and the heart points outward toward the out-of-field. Herein lies the limitation of the movement-image on the comics page. Herein waits the germ of true difference in the cyclical image.

Once again, I’ve set myself up for a thesis that I did not have space to put forth. The time-image as it may appear on the comics page is a result of the mode of inter-iconic linkages between panels and across pages. This much I’m sure of. I’ll have to prove it to you next time.

[1] Because comics are drawn rather than filmed, they make different claims of indexicality. They are incapable of the “any-instant-whatever” of cinema and are bound to present privileged moments. This is a complication that must be addressed if one wishes to explore comics through the work of Bergson or Deleuze. I hope I’ll have the opportunity to do so at some point.

Movement=Image, Virtuality, The Plane of Immanence

As has probably become clear in class, I’m a tad obsessed with chapter four of Cinema 1. It seems to me that there’s so much of Deleuze’s philosophical project contained within these fourteen pages, and it’s elucidated in a strikingly clear but incredibly intense way. In reading around about Deleuze, I’ve come across a variety of references to what is referred to as the “performative” aspect of Deleuze’s thought. That is, the idea that the actual experience of reading his work is inseparably tied to the ideas, concepts and work that may arise out of that experience. I will admit to having this feeling a number of times already – reading the Image of Thought chapter from D&R and this chapter from Cinema 1 not least among them. Although I could riff on this experience for a while, I can also sum it up rather easily as positive pole of the experience of becoming lost.

Reading these chapters, I had the sensation of not quite being sure what I was understanding, and feeling frequently as though I had lost the grip of Deleuze’s argument. Although I was underlining, starring, and circling rather furiously, I was drifting in and out the experience of comprehension, lacking entirely the kind of epiphany that arises out feeling like you’re fully understanding a line of argument or web of concepts (the experience that reading “Critical Theory” has for me, at its best). However, now that I’ve had that initial, very pleasurable and intense reading experience, I’ve become aware of two facts: the first is that I “understood” a lot more than I thought I did at the time—I feel comfortable with many of the ideas and can connect them to other, integrate them into my own thinking, to a degree I continue to find surprising. On the other hand, the second is that I also feel as though the ground continues to shift beneath my feet, producing new problems with their own tentative solutions and webs of connectivity. This is all a long preamble to the point that although I constantly refer back to this chapter from Cinema 1 as a focal point, every time I open the book I find something rather different. I want to use this journal as the beginning of an exploration into a few related concepts from this chapter that are particularly adept at worming their way through my thought.

They all revolve around what I’m tempted to call Deleuze’s “cosmology of images.” This occurs throughout the chapter, but Deleuze establishes the broad strokes rather quickly in section one, glossing on Bergson and then launching himself into space. “Everything,” Deleuze writes, “that is to say every image, is indistinguishable from its actions and reactions: this is universal variation (60).” In establishing his plane of immanence, Deleuze takes particular care to make clear that this is particularly true of the human subject: “My body is an image…how could my brain contain images since it is one image among others?” and, even better, “External images act on me, transmit movement to me, and I return movement: how could images be in my consciousness since I am myself image, that is, movement?” At this point in his argument, Deleuze is eager to banish the kinds of differentiation that he will later introduce in the movement-image types, and instead is attempting to establish the terms of universal variation that, for the moment, prevent any kind of distinguishing capacity between images. He provides two reasons for why this is possible. The first, negative, reason is that a conception of bodies prevents us from experiencing everything as movement-image; Deleuze wants us to consider what this plane of immanence would be like if we do away with the body and replace it with movement, pointing out that this will necessarily erase the boundaries between action, quality, and body itself. The second, positive, reason is “that the plane of immanence is entirely made up of Light…propagated ‘without resistance and without loss (62).’” The brightness of the Light that composes the plane of immanence forms everything not as body but simply as figures of light and non-rigid lines. As opposed to the light-beam of consciousness that illuminates things for phenomenology, this Bergsonian conception claims everything in the plane of immanence as luminous for itself, immanent to a consciousness that is equally diffused through all images on the plane.

This sets up Deleuze’s radical complication of this schema, in which he introduces the workings of our interactions on the plane of immanence, our ability to reflect and block the light, so as to shape the plane into what we experience as consciousness, vision, perception. Not as body or as subject, but simply as “living images” or “centers of determination,” in which the light runs up against “an obstacle, that is an opacity which will reflect it (64).” I won’t go into too much detail about the way in which Deleuze defines this, but his centers of determination are the vector through which movement-images writ large become shaped into action-images, perception-images, and affection-images, a tripartite but seemingly only temporarily limited schema of images that form in the interval between action and reaction, and which begins to differentiate the plan of immanence. In all his talk of privileged facets and the opacity of living images that allows them to form responses in the interval, Deleuze is careful to emphasize that this is a description of our experience of the plane, and does not hierarchize this capacity as being especially human—or especially anything, really. He attempts to explain how we can understand our role in the plane, but doesn’t detail if this is an experience that is shared with other living images, or what those might be.

This strikes me as being particularly interesting on a number of facets, but in particular seems to illuminate some of what we’ve been struggling with in class about the plane of immanence. Notably, it’s the attempt to comprehend the cosmology that he’s sketching out for itself, as opposed to for us, that led me down the path in class of describing it as being like the veil of ignorance. The other image of thought that I came up with to describe the plane of immanence as he sketches it out here is in early descriptions of cyberspace—I’m thinking in particular of the way that William Gibson describes it in Neuromancer. I don’t have the text in front of me, but the principle is that entities in Gibson’s cyberspace form blocks of color of varying shapes and sizes that don’t have any consistent or telling connection with their real-world counterparts. A massive block of color could be a corporation’s firewall, but it could also simply be a disguise for something else, a massively powerful supercomputer or A.I. The point being, that while things are differentiated, that are differentiated infinitely so—no one object looks like another, and there are no “types” that allow users to distinguish between themselves and others. Hence the particular skill of the hackers that populate such a world, who are, through a combination of incredible amphetamine powered reflexes, practice, and luck, able to navigate such a space.

This ability to navigate is what differentiates this cyberspatial metaphor from Deleuze’s cosmology, particularly as it exists prior to distinguishing between types of movement-images. Without the particular capacities of the living images to slide into the interval between action and reaction, there is no orientation, only universal variation. However, the comparison does illuminate something for me that seems useful for thinking through Deleuze’s schemas and his thought in general. The limited similarity between cyberspace and the plane of immanence seems like it might be conditioned through the concept of virtuality, writ large.

Virtuality, for Deleuze, seems most explicitly drawn out in D&R. When Deleuze is discussing the qualities of ideas in relation to the dual regimes of differenciation/differentiation, he offers a useful example of the way virtuality operates: “It is as though everything has two odd, dissymmetrical and dissimilar ‘halves,’ the two halves of the Symbol, each dividing itself in two: an ideal half submerged in the virtual and constituted on the one hand by differential relations and on the other by corresponding singularities; an actual half constituted on the one hand by the qualities actualizing those relations and on the other by the parts actualizing those singularities.” Differenciation is what brings the virtual into the actual. Defined this way, virtuality seems to have a lot in common with the two different approaches to the plane of immanence as I’ve tried to sketch it out here. The plane of immanence—before movement-image is separated out into action-image, perception-image, and affection-image—is purely virtual: everything within it is infinitely differentiated, as it exists within the realm of universal variation, but nothing is differenciated or actualized. Were we to exist within this plane, losing our capacity as centers of indetermination, we would be incapable of perceiving anything but Light, universally diffused and infinite. However, when the living image begins to play around in the interval between action and reaction, might we see some forms of differenciation? As movement-image goes from universal variation into specific forms of action-image, etc, does it become actualized? Or am I trying to put a square peg in a round hole?

Part of the puzzle here, for me, is trying to work out exactly what Deleuze means when he’s sketching out his cosmology here – as with the Image of Thought, or the Plane of Immanence itself, there’s a fluidity between Deleuze’s various works in relation to what these concepts are doing, or might mean. It seems foolhardy to try and integrate them into a systemic order, not because of any inconsistency, but simply because his supposed “overproduction of concepts” is a way of responding to the ever-shifting set of problems he’s trying to approach. The Plane of Immanence has to change in accordance with what it’s posing itself as the concept for. Having said that, I wonder about the universal variation as Deleuze sketches it out here. The world of movement=image, especially prior to the opacity provided by living images, does seem to have a special and, dare I say it, permanent role for Deleuze, in terms of what all of his concepts share. Whether it’s THE plane of immanence or the thought without image, there’s a mutually constitutive interest in this cosmology of infinite differentiation, immanent to consciousness and to itself, which is the universe.

This is why I find it curious that it’s so tempting for me to try and understand the plane of immanence in terms of metaphors or reference to other concepts. It seems like it’s tempting for others as well. I wonder if, undergirding this temptation, there’s a sort of will to power at work. Is my desire to understand the plane of immanence in terms particular to my experience or perceptual apparatus—to understand, almost literally, what it looks like—an attempt to rehumanize the non-human, to experience universal variation? Because it does seem as though Deleuze is arguing that this is constitutively precluded from our experience of the world due to our role as living images. We’re fundamentally incapable of not becoming blocs of opacity that allow us to perceive, act, etc. For us, the plane of immanence will never appear truly immanent—we only receive glimpses, back up the path towards the “acentered state of things.”

Final thought: where is time? Obviously, we’re still in the realm of the movement-image, but I’m interested in the way that time is somewhat occluded from this plane of immanence. Deleuze refers to the plane as being one of universal variation, but he describes this as being part of the always-moving images, not as images that are continually unfurling in a process of becoming. It would seem that the plane of immanence in this instance exists in the pure and empty form of time that we’ve seen scattered around Deleuze’s work. Time, in the most general sense, forms part of the structure of the plane of immanence here, but it seems undifferentiated as well as undifferenciated. I wonder if we’ll see this in the time-image? Does time lend itself to the same kind of differentiation as movement?