ATP reading notes 3 – mapping and tracing

Turning to the 5th and 6th characteristics of the rhizome – the principle of cartography and decalcomania – we move from discussions of the book, of evolutionary science, of music, to discussions of psychoanalysis, the first real moment in which a continuity between ATP and Anti-Oedipus really makes itself felt.

First, a brief note on that strange word ‘decalcomania’, and an even briefer note on ‘cartography’. Cartography, or map-making, involves the active ‘making’ of maps and that active ‘making’ element is important here, which is why it is not the principle of ‘maps’ but of ‘cartography’, or more colloquially, of ‘mapping’. The productivity of cartography is put in relationship to the practice of ‘tracing’, which is a restrictive, constricting practice. In one sense we can understand cartography as producing openings and decalcomania as producing constrictions. Decalcomania itself appears to refer to a practice of tracing that developed in the 19th century as a form of decorating pottery. It involved a process of producing a ‘decal’ that was then laid onto pottery or glass and the Wikipedia entry also indicates a couple of other fascinating connections, first to some surrealist practice and second to some work with regard fractals. I’m not sure why D&G would use the idea of ‘decalcomaia’ rather than simply ‘tracings’ here if it wasn’t to at least allude to these particular forms of tracing, since the actual discussion – at least in the English translation – reverts to the term ‘tracings’.

In terms of the actual principles themselves, it’s important to note that they are not claiming that maps are simply better than tracings, even though at one point they say “the rhizome is altogether different, a map and not a tracing. Make a map, not a tracing.” (ATP 12). In the very next paragraph they attempt to make clear that they do not intend to “revert to a simple dualism” (ie, of the form maps=good tracings = bad). Rather the tracing has the danger of ‘neutralising’ the rhizome and in particular “what the tracing reproduces of the map or rhizome are only the impasses, blockages, incipient taproots, or points of structuration” (ATP 13). Therefore “it is a question of method: the tracing should always be put back on the map” (ibid).

The map, in this situation, is an open, experimental and productive process, hence why it is possibly better thought of as ‘mapping’ rather than ‘the map’. In one of the most interesting lines, they claim that “the map does not reproduce an unconscious closed in upon itself; it constructs the unconscious. It fosters connections between fields, the removal of blockages on bodies without organs, the maximum opening of bodies without organs onto a plane of consistency” (ATP 12). In the discussion that follows the concrete examples they draw on come from psychoanalysis – Freud on Little Hans and Klein on Little Richard – and here the rhizome connects clearly to the thematics of Anti-Oedipus. In their criticism of psychoanalysis they say the following:

“You will be allowed to live and speak, but only after every outlet has been obstructed. Once a rhizome has been obstructed, arborified, it’s all over, no desire stirs; for it is always by rhizome that desire moves and produces. Whenever desire climbs a tree, internal repercussions trip it up and it falls to its death; the rhizome, on the other hand, acts on desire by external, productive outgrowths.” (ATP 14)

It becomes increasingly clear that the rhizome is being developed as a method because of it’s political (micro-political) implications. In this situation, the reference made to the relationship between mapping and tracing as involving a method makes more sense – it is a question of method assuming that we wish to liberate desire, it’s a question of a method for the schizoanalyst. In this context, one small reference stands out and that is to the work of Fernand Deligny. As the discussion on psychoanalysis comes to an end D&G refer to “Deligny’s method: map the gestures and movements of an autistic child, combine several maps for the same child, for several different children.” (ibid) Deligny’s work appears to have become a focus for research in recent years and in particular he seems closely connected to the idea of ‘lines of flight’.

(Here’s a short essay on what Deligny called ‘wander lines’ that gives a brief introduction to him and his work and have a look at this Google search for recent researches and connections.) Deligny will return in Chapter 8, the ‘Three novellas’ chapter, at an important moment in the discussion of lines of flight, as a key positive source of inspiration (ATP 202-203), and again at the beginning of Chapter 11, ‘Of the refrain’, once more in a positive ‘opening’ moment (ATP 311-312, fn.1).

After having given these 6 characteristics we find D&G moving the discussion through a kind of loose comparative analysis, whereby they look at the possible understanding of an arborescent/rhizomatic difference in specific fields, primarily in a discussion of a debate from within information science that they read in terms of an arborescent/rhizomatic difference, but there are also comments on the nature of  the difference between West and East in terms of the role of the tree, as well comments about America and bureaucracy. After 4 or 5 pages of this kind of discussion they again summarise the ‘characteristics’ of the rhizome (ATP 21) and then explain their use of ‘plateaus’, which is derived from Gregory Bateson’s work and deployed in order to subvert the book having a beginning, since each plateau is always ‘in the middle’ (intermezzo). Even in this closing discussion, however, we again find a kind of quick, rough and ready comparative analysis being deployed when they briefly discuss history, making the claim that ‘what is lacking is a nomadology’ (ATP 23).

What we find by the end of this first introductory chapter is a baroque and convoluted form of philosophy, one in which a methodology is put forward (the rhizome) as the means by which a particular practice can be developed (schizoanalysis) but where this is done almost in a performative way, as thought it were presenting an example of the kind of rhizomatic practice being articulated and advocated for. Reading through ATP I am reminded of how often I have spun off into one of the references, such as the Deligny, not in order to simply understand what D&G are saying but because the connection offered through that reference opens a whole new world of possibilities. This ‘opening of a world of possibilities’ is, I think, one of the most important ways of encountering the rhizome, the lines of flight, the multiplicity that is schizoanalysis. It is at times intensely infuriating, particularly if what you want to do is ‘understand’ D&G quickly (usually in order to be able to dismiss it in favour of some preferred model). If, however, the goal is to develop what we might call a ‘schizoanalytic’ method, then this first chapter offers a clear example of both the possibilities and problems involved.

One final note – the ‘philosophical’ background to much of the discussion of the rhizome – from within the work of Deleuze – lies in the problem of ‘multiplicity’ and at the heart of that are a whole bunch of interesting discussions regarding space and time, discussions that move from Kant’s account of the pure intuitions, through Bergson, Husserl and Heidegger up to the work of Deleuze in his Bergson book and elsewhere. I haven’t really noted any of this in any detail but wanted to leave a couple of references here for when I return to these notes:

This extract from a lecture by Deleuze on Bergson’s theory of multiplicities, and this useful summary by John Protevi of Chapter 2 of Deleuze’s ‘ book Bergson’ on ‘Time and Free Will’.

There is also this interesting connection to Anti-Oedipus and what is said about multiplicity as a substantive there:

It is only the category of multiplicity, used as a substantive and going beyond both the One and the many, beyond the predicative relation of the One and the many, that can account for desiring-production: desiring-production is pure multiplicity, that is to say, an affirmation that is irreducible to any sort of unity. (AO Ch1, Part 6 end of first paragraph: Athlone 42).

This obviously connects closely to what is said in the 3rd principle of the rhizome (ATP 8).

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philosopher and filmmaker from brighton, currently teaching philosophy at the Free University of Brighton

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