By Asher Mains
The following is a summary and response to a panel discussion held at the Transart Triennale in Berlin: Flux and Becoming: Identity, Self, Love, Other. The panel discussion included Gaby Cepeda, Rachel Dedman and Andrea Spaziani. Ruth Novaczek moderated the discussion.
This discussion was predicated and made possible by Deleuzian contributions of which sociologist John Urry says have, “infected contemporary social thought.” Although Deleuze predates the Internet and all of the contemporary issues the disembodied self wrestles with, his conceptual framework (along with Guattari) is perfect for situating this discussion. At the core of placing ourselves in the discussion is Deleuze’s concept of the rhizome. The Rhizome “ceaselessly established connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power, and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences, and social struggles" (D&G 7). This seems to be a useful way of defining the Internet except that there is an implication or illusion that the Internet is democratized and everyone can travel freely and have access to unlimited information.
Gaby Cepeda points out that the Internet is still a racist, sexist, heteronormative place and that safe spaces on the internet are about either hate or healing. In this case, the rhizomatic structure is less about unlimited connections and more about a hyerbolic reality where the realities of the offline world are magnified on the Internet. “How do we find a democratized, communicative space with the technology at our disposal?”, Novaczek prompts. The Internet is ultimately owned by corporations and self-interested governments and agencies and users do not have access to the the tools that make up the internet. “How do we moderate/mediate agency instead of becoming virtual robots?” Further, how do we recognize ourselves as existing in this rhizomatic structure where we cannot create new connections and cannot move as freely as we imagine?
Deleuze discusses the idea of nomadism as a way of life that exists outside of the State. In Deleuze’s political anthropology, the nomad is aggressively creative while the State plays the more passive role of consolidator. The nomad moves between points within the rhizome but how free is the nomad really to create new connections or realities? While the artist can act as a nomad, the paths are still pre-arranged and the points of interest are prescribed. Further, Rachel Dedman asserts that nomadism brings up issues of privilege. “Mobility is a privilege,” she says, “ the internet is a political space and it plays into issues of movement, travel and interconnectivity.” The Internet also brings up issues of power, how are different communities using the technologies to constitute communities, activism, etc.?
Body Without Organs
Deleuze adds to Antonin Artaud in describing a body without organs and mirrors the idea of the disembodied self. This body without organs is a manifestation of our self on the Internet, able to move from place to place in the world and even be in multiple “places” at once. This body without organs is an almost natural state to people who have access to the internet and free from censorship and in some cases reinvent their selves through the rhizomatic environment. Deleuze and Guattari describe a body without organs as empty, cancerous or full/healthy. They go on to describe how one can have a healthy body without organs. “Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization, possible lines of flight, experience them, produce flow conjunctions here and there, try out continua of intensities segment by segment, have a small plot of new land at all times.” (D&G, p 161) This is a philosophical lockpick for situating ourselves in this discussion. It would be very non-Deleuzian to try to interpret, define, or dictate each line, but this is a guide for navigating the Internet and self especially as it relates to art.
Deleuze and Guattari explain becoming as an exciting reponse to what may feel like a fatalist reality within a constructed system. Becoming is a generative of a new way of being that is a function of influences rather than resemblances. Becoming is creative and innovative. Becoming is a version of the self that is aware and contributes rather than always consuming. Gaby Cepeda points to sci fi as a a method for imagining new realities in this ‘becoming’ process. “Sci Fi is in the subconscious and is the spirit of the age that comes around when the world is in crisis.” Rachel Dedman echoes the usefulness of the concept of the apocalypse as a cleansing event where one can imagine new realities. In many ways creating vocabulary that is outside of the established organization can be a useful tool for both becoming and facilitating a healthy body without organs. The language of love can be especially useful because it is a vocabulary that many of us are familiar with and is already decidedly anti-capitalist and empowers the individual. Dedman points to the radical potential of self-love as an act.
The Deleuzian Stutter
Capitalism is so ingrained in many of our language that we cannot express things with an inherent hierarchical value system. The information that is available on the Internet is in direct correlation to the level of interest capitalism has in it. How do we begin using the Internet and vocabulary to subvert the structures of capitalism, corporations and governments? Andrea Spaziani summarizes an overarching method, “Choose love and bring it out in the world through compassion. Multiplicity of affect. If I open myself to be affected then I affect.” Deleuze invites a “stutter” that disrupts langauge and reshapes it to suit our purposes. If we can set our language free then we can set our thoughts free and invite others to do the same. This freedom is embodied by the “anybodyness” of the group, Pussy Riot. Their masked personas are not a negation of self but an invitation to join and enjoy. Spaziani, in her own practice, gives choreographic directive online and then it is acted on in unknown iterations. “How can you surrender to not knowing where the affect will travel?” This resituating of the classic model of information distribution is exactly the sort of disruptive language that leads to potential movements of deterritorializtion. Spaziani’s model creates a space for possibilities. Through intention of love or negotiation we create fissures in the system. As part of resituating the language and focus of becoming, Spaziani suggests, “separating optimism and hope from the immediacy of the present. In each moment we have this possibility that is a sliver of freedom.”
Love is rhizomatic. A "rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo" (D&G 25). Love produces, generates, creates and sustains. While capitalism and the State look to obtain and control, love is freeing. Spaziani is interested with what is carried off the screen and pushes something into action, a text’s “action potential”. Love is intentional and initiates action. Love is disruptive. Capitalism and the State need people to perform their functions. The radical act of self love makes a person immune to capitalism’s propaganda of not being enough. Self love leads to empathy and loving others. Love creates fissures because it acts in ways that the State or capitalism does not expect. If we talk about the Internet and communities in the language of love we situate the discussion outside the hands of capitalism. This shift or morph is necessary because it is nearly impossible to critique a system when the only language you have is the language of the system. Contemplating love and its manifestations as an outward focused, body affirming, creative force that is empathetic and nurturing and developing language and imagining action that embodies love allows us to approach a smooth space in our communication. Embodying a hyperbolic love through the tools we have with technology allows us to confront the dehumanizing structures of our hyperbolic Internet reality.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1987. Print.
About the contributor: Mains is from Grenada, West Indies, and engages in material explorations, establishing relationships with materials that are empathic and mnemonic.