Why is Deleuzeguattarian theory a good fit for Tim Barrus’ Cinematheque? Because both come out of the Sixties world cultural revolution, interrupted by plague, against the tyranny of both Freud and Marx. “Soft Subversions: Texts and Interviews 1977-1985” (Felix Guattari) and “A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia,” 1987 (both Deleuze & Guattari) explore concepts that don’t seem so revolutionary now as they must have seemed at the time. There are new forces that grip us now, but it seems to me that these D&G concepts are still not entirely unpacked or made very accessible, even as their ideas become more relevant, substrate to present thinking.
The basic concept to understand is that these ideas are against hierarchies — that is, they do not want to see things ordered on the basis of “importance” with one big thing at the top controlling everything in descending order underneath. It is inefficient, inhumane, and cannot endure without draconian enforcement. These days even China and Cuba have their doubts. In place of this “power tree” they suggest not the “bush,” (as though we were talking Hannukah here!) but the rhizome. A rhizome is a lot of small centers of growth connected by stolons (stem/roots) as a way of communicating. Think strawberries, think sweet grass, think hippie communes. One rhizome is not better than the other. Each has its own territory and fits it. Each is self-determined. Nassim Taleb would agree that it is a robust system, since destroying one leaves the others to persist. (Ask the crabgrass and the thistle.)
My biggest fear is that international corporations are growing like rhizomes but might suddenly coalesce into the Dark Empire, finding it profitable to organize among each other as they have within themselves, subsuming under themselves the rhizomatous growth of nations, mostly by controlling resources.
Guattari asks what if we see: “An ever more marked integration of the more privileged sections of the working class into the ideology, lifestyle and interests of the petty bourgeoisie, while new social strata of great insecurity come into existence: immigrants, hyper-exploited women, casual workers, the unemployed, students without prospects, all those living on social security.” The causes are over-population, specialized jobs, and the diminishing of resources like oil. We’re there. The potential and actuality of violent chaos (terrorism, civil war) is unmistakable. The withdrawing of the social safety net is already underway. Guattari doesn’t see individual black swans: he sees ecology change. (Compare weather.) He doesn’t see Marx’s underclass arising, he sees whole categories of people crowded off the edges of the continents.
When it comes to Freud, Guattari (a veteran radical psychoanalyst) says: “The result of Freud’s incessant comings and goings between an impenitent scientism [Freud aspired to the status of doctor] and a lyric inventivity reminiscent of romanticism [that love affair with Greek myth], is a sense of reterritorializations carried out in reaction to the numerous projections of the psyche.” I take this to mean that Freud could never decide whether these concepts he proposed (the libido, the unconscious and so on) were permanent maps of territories or suggested processes of the inner life. “Schizoanalysis,” which is the rhizomatous approach, wants to address inner chaos according to any system that gets good results. Experiment. Go by the territory — not by the map, because the map is always the part rather than the whole. The map is about the map-drawer.
Guattari remarks (p. 222-23), “It is a slight paradox to see thus coexisting presuppositions [hysteria, dreams, slips, wit] directly inspired by the psychophysics of Fechner and the “psychophysicalism” of Helmholtz and Bruke [I don’t know these guys] and an “abyssal” exploration whose adventurous character will have hardly an equivalent except with Dadaism and Surrealism.” [Ah! Here we are!] It all seems to indicate that the support Freud took from the scientific schemas of his epoch had given him self-confidence that allowed him to give free reign to his creative imagination.” Aha. Another of those oxymoronic paradoxes that are so fruitful because the tension forces things to a higher level of thought.
What I begin to see is that Guattari, at least, thinks of life as a zillion interacting particles (oh, yes, that’s physics, isn’t it?) which sometimes form patterns (fractals?). Then the interacting patterns or forces organize themselves into what he calls “machines.” “Machines” are a hard term for me to understand because to me they mean something mindless manufactured out of metal: devices, gizmos. But in this context they appear to mean something more like self-creating mechanisms, like a family or at least a marriage. More biological or social. But maybe any systems that perform or produce.
This thinking of D&G precedes the advent of the internet shuffling of the cards. Now we go to a fav story of Clay Shirky’s about how a bank catered to students and gave them nice perks until summer came along and the students were no longer in a position to organize and protest — so thought the bank. The bank instituted new fees and penalties, expecting to make a nice profit before the kids figured it out. But the students were on Facebook and — even dispersed across the planet — they carried laptops, iPhones, Blackberries and so on. They kept in touch. Soon they were organized, blazing in print and withdrawing their money.
At its core Cinematheque is only a few dozen marginalized adolescent boys (they are defined as “at risk” because they are infected with HIV/AIDS) with overdeveloped thumbs. With Barrus steering — more-or-less — through the use of video production on “vooks” (is that a “machine”?) they are nomadic, anti-hierarchical, ubiquitous, non-conforming and energizing. That’s not the mode of organization — that’s their very nature. Within days of establishing his Facebook page “Vook 1” Barrus was flooded with almost three thousand “friends.” They were listening for him. He had connected rhizomes in a way that neither face-to-face contact nor books can, partly because the connection is made through music and image. When one uses the phrase “new vision” here, it is quite literal. The email might be in Chinese characters.
Theatrical performance art, nomadically traveling the globe, reinforces electronic contact and creates real-people contact for the boys. Where the population is thick enough to support it, there might be art shows. At the private level, when pain and confusion make problems, the practice is a conversation with the red chair — Fritz-Perls- Gestalt-style — talking to the intangible, the iconic, the lurking subconscious creatures of the abyss. Maybe your mom. Maybe a revolver.
This quote is off the Internet. Deleuze “aims to view reality positively, in terms of what it is, rather than what it is not—that is, as differentiated and multiple, marked by specificity and individuality, rather than according to the abstractions generated by philosophies (such as Hegel’s or Sartre’s) which give priority to human consciousness and see the world in terms of negation, contradiction, opposition, and lack… Deleuze’s ‘schizoanalysis’ repudiates Freudianism as reductive and repressive; it believes individual ‘complexes’ to originate in specific social structures, not in universal, triangular family relations; it does not envisage desire as arising from lack but considers it a positive means of breaking away from social and political restrictions. For Deleuze, art is never neurotic; in his terms, it is psychotic and revolutionary: ‘schizoanalysis’ aims to uncover the revolutionary power of the text, its explosive potential energy. Malcolm Lowry, Deleuze claims, comes closest to his own conception of the literary text as a ‘sort of machine’. His concern is with what it can do, not with what it may mean. He does not interpret a text but rather asks what its uses may be, and argues that these are as varied and multiple as the domains of human desire. “
That’s about enough to think about for a while.
TIM BARRUS RESPONDS:
I could lie and fall back on my transparent onion and go to the power of a layered transparency but it wouldn’t really tell you much about Cinematheque; in fact, it would be obfuscation.
It’s not an onion.
You do hit some of the physics to it.
There is much going on in the world. Much of which I am not at liberty to even discuss because it would not be in our interest to do so.
Where there used to be much argument — especially at the quantum physics level (how small or powerful can it get). Today, there is a relative calm about what are the fundamental facts. The essential, fundamental facts are so at odds with what those facts were thought to be a mere ten years ago, you might not think we were imagining the same world. In FACT, the same universe.
Or dozens of them.
This will seem like a stretch to you to say nothing of your readers. But if you were to ask certain boys what Cinematheque was about, they would tell you cosmology.
Art is just one way to interpret small (smaller than the imagination will allow), subatomic parts of that.
The irony is that while we appear to be painting a vast horizon, we’re not.
We would consider the idea of a vast horizon as sophomoric.
Any horizon behaves in a particular way due to the laws of physics until such time as those laws are no longer relevant. The smaller you get the more irrelevant physics becomes.
Consider event horizons and neurology.
When certain particles interact under certain conditions, particle theory can make certain predictions.
So what is art.
A translation but a fluid one. No absolutes.
E=beauty, too. As equation.
You can talk to the revolver in the red chair or make it your mum. The revolver and your mum will not be altered. But the physics inside your brain will be. We know that much.
What we do not know about the brain is the equivalent to what we do not know about the universe.
There are people who get that, and then there are people who get it and envision some of the consequences, and they are the quiet ones. The arguments no longer rage.
Why Cinematheque. Because what you see on the screen is relative.
It’s not an absolute. It’s fluid.
It’s light and color which is light.
Cinematheque is infectious.
I do not mean that as “enthusiastic.”
I mean it as a new way of seeing things. Art may be translating, translating, translating, but eventually, the smaller you go, or the deeper you explore into the thing, you begin to think about such things as a virus in a different way.
Coming up for air is a problem. You see the stone age.
I head for whatever tree will have me sit under it. I have a companion.
Deleuzeguattarian theory seeks a structure and ends up constructing a pyramid. In terms of what isn’t there. But I am not sure they understand what is there anymore than string theory can count the number of parallel universes based on dimension.
An electron has no dimension. It is a wave. It can be in two places at the same time.
Social theory and Freud go so far. Freud was a creature of time and place. His work is irrelevant.
The idea that Tim Barrus drives (or steers) the machine is one I have spent the last year or so debunking.
Doing so is FRAUGHT with risk. I must not try too hard.
You yourself said: People will want to know that there are limits.
If you were to go to my blog, Enfant Terrible, you would see where I am questioning the role of limitation (you have used the word wisdom) in a parenting context (I wrote it in French because Americans will simply attack me) which I juxtaposed against the iconography of sadomasochism.
By “driving or steering” the machine: I am assumed to be in the dominate role and the boys submissive. I am the authority.
The chaos theory in particle physics is one that must be taken seriously.
Authority imbued with wisdom. Reality: you see what I want you to see. Authority imbued with common sense. I suppose that is comforting. This would be the conventional, hierarchal POV.
I have not opted for the transparency of deconstructing that.
Because I do not think people will get it. You can tell them the truth. You can say: an electron can be in two places at the same time. And they will look at you and nod but they have no reference point. It’s Greek in the stone age.
But THAT is exactly the condition of humanity, and has been for eons. It is the tension between civilization, her rituals and institutions, and the way of the universe.
Stone age man pretends he gets it. It is an illusion. One that many myths (many of them Greek) have been based on. He doesn’t get it. He falls back on what he thinks is wisdom or common sense. Or God.
Or family. The cave.
This is not a criticism and is not aimed at you.
It is an observation as to how humans work in systems.
The reality is that Tim Barrus drives nothing but sits under trees a lot. Another reality — one that western systems reject — is that I am only an equal among the boys. It appears differently. But appearances are misleading because we want them to be. I am no innocent boy. But either are they.
I do not buy the rhizome metaphor. It’s too pretty. It fails to make the connection — not roots to the roots of other organisms — but the roots to the leaves of the same organism.
There are things that drive Cinematheque. Drive is really the wrong word.
The right word is control. Again, SM imagery.
The effect of women.
Cats in bags. Technology cannot be put back in the bag.
Experimentation of the participants (drugs, relationships, paradigms such as monogamy — the public POV that the coupled relationships at Cinematheque ape heterosexual monogamy is an illusion we have deliberately employed).
Sadomasochism. I in no way refer to sex. I refer to control. IE: human trafficking.
One “thinker” who never gets mentioned (I think because of the theatricality) is the Marquis de Sade.
Yet it is exactly within the context of that theatricality you will find entire systems deconstructed.
In the beginning, I would have said: economics.
I am perhaps the most surprised at how little it drives anything at Cinematheque. We subvert most systems.
I can’t say how. One obvious issue is travel. But we subvert that, too. The rules don’t mean us. We have found numerous ways around them.
Chemicals drive us. Antivirals mainly.
Generational divides drive us. Usually around them. Or straight through if there is no other option.
Those Asian boys who want a piece of Cinematheque are not there because they have permission to be there.
I am learning from them. I have been very careful in dealing with them. The numbers alone.
The situation with them is more fluid than I like or am used to. But they have respected me. That is a new one.
My model is the organism infected with a retrovirus.
Not a social system, and not a psychiatric one.
To date, the most effective engineering that has come along to affect the HIV has to do with proteins and reproduction. This is a good first step.
But I think it has become PAINFULLY AND QUIETLY obvious to molecular biologists that the real answer here will be found at the quantum level. The level of the electron.
Science is not there yet.
It is still collecting neutrinos.
My own belief is that the new horizon for human medicine will be coming out of CERN, not the NIH.
Through designs and matter we are not familiar with.
Cinematheque operates like a body fighting a virus because that is what it is.
We have assembled an international paradigm. Because that is what a pandemic is.
My critics do not see the value in that. But they have no real affect on me. Daily contact with human beings does. We are very vulnerable.
This week, I have been learning about the relationship of HIV to stroke.
I seem to have plenty of company in the medical community.
Who treat me very badly. Publishing does. Internet haters are everywhere. There is metaphor to be discovered. Not my job. Sadomasochism (as the Marquis tried to point out) is everywhere in the human drama.
This is where some folks will mention God. Not me. I believe in physics. Can you imagine the hue and cry if Barrus was connecting SM to children or — God.
And yet he does. He’s dying. What does he stand to lose. It has all been taken from me. I own nothing. Not even and especially the tree I sit under with Siddhartha.
As we observe the stone age and the subsequent civilization and say it is.
But I am more interested in lives and creativity. Why. Because it will be creativity (or even cosmology) that finds the relationship between matter we do not currently understand, and the most simple system on the planet: a virus. — t