Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Trouble With Striation

As a final post for the semester I would like to address something that I have brought up before, but this time look at it from a more personal place. I would like to re-introduce and discuss the distinction that John Rajchman (2000), in The Deleuze Connections, refers to as the difference between “using” Deleuze’s philosophy and “applying” it. He explains that,

One might thus say of Deleuze’s own style – with its peculiar usage of words (including “concept” itself), in composition in series or plateaus, its disparate, seamless “smoothness” and distinctive humor – that it works to encourage “uses” while frustrating “applications,” and so to serve as “interceder” inciting creation or thinking in other nonphilosophical domains (p.118).
Rajchman is thus drawing on Deleuze’s own project (his theory and his mode of writing) in order to determine the appropriate ways in which his work might continue to “move.”

So what exactly does it mean to use someone’s concepts versus applying them? In the case of Deleuze (and Guattari) it is helpful to look at the relationship between some of their main concepts, such as “smooth/striated,” “tree/rhizome,” “map/trace,” and “major/minor.” While the specific philosophical ideas of each of these conceptual pairs are different, their relationship to each other remains similar, and I think that it would be fair to include Rajchman’s “use/apply” to the set. These concepts relate to each other in the following two ways: 1) In each relationship it is not a simple question of one or the other, because one can become the other quite easily and unexpectedly; 2) It is always the more dominant term (striated, tree, trace, major, apply) that tries to regiment, solidify, and homogenize the more fluid and potentialized one (or visa versa).

That said, the problem with using vs. applying strikes me as something that is nonetheless a tad problematic. Why? Because in trying to decide (whether as an artist, philosopher, or scientist) how you are using his concepts, a tendency to striate your process begins to develop. Not in trying to remain academically rigorous and aware of the details of the argument, but in the way that that can turn into simply “re-tracing” that which has already been stated, not keeping it moving, and rendering it solid. In my case, I was editing a documentary for a final school project with the goal in mind of trying to understand the space and time of my Grandparents condo complex in Florida. What I encountered, upon receiving feedback from my production class, was that I needed to cut, cut, cut. I found this to be very confusing because I was caught between trying to remain in step with a practice that encouraged a particular relationship to time and space on the one hand and the demand to make a good (entertaining) film, on the other (and these things I believe are not necessarily opposed!).

In the end, I was not sure whether I was trying simply to apply Deleuze to a process that was increasingly striated or whether I was using his ideas to smooth it out. Ultimately, I have not finished this project and I do not have an answer to this problem but I think, whether you’re an artist or academic, it is important to keep this issue in mind – and remember that it is not about being “Deleuzian” but about increasing lines of flight and keeping things open.

-Vanessa Meyer


  1. Vanessa, but why did you decide not to create that film if YOU really wanted to explore temporal nature of film or portray your granparents in a particular way? And why do you think that the conventional film you feel the demand to make will be "better"?


  2. No, i do not feel that any kind of conventionality is better (i hope that did not come accross in my post!) And in fact I did make that film..it is just not finished yet and I will show a clip in class today! Thanks for the comments Lukas!