smooth space


smooth space
  ---- by Tamsin Lorraine
  In A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari characterise living organisms in terms of 'interior milieus' (cellular formation, organic functions) and 'exterior milieus' (food to eat, water to drink, ground to walk on). Milieus are vibratory blocks of space-time constituted by the periodic repetition of the configurations of forces that makes them what they are (D&G 1987: 313). All the milieus of the organism have their own patterns and these patterns interact with the patterns of other milieus with which they communicate. The rhythm of the interactions between these different milieus operates in terms of heterogeneous blocks rather than one homogeneous space-time. Thus, an organism emerges from chaos ('the milieu of all milieus') as vibratory milieus or blocks of space-time that create rhythms within the organism as well as with the milieus exterior to the organism. Territorial animals (including human beings) are natural artists who establish relations to imperceptible as well as perceptible forces through the refrains of song (birds) or movements and markings (wolves, rabbits) that create the rhythms of life-sustaining regularities from cosmic chaos. The various rhythms of the human subject's components and their relations to interior and exterior blocks of space-time become territorialised into the sentient awareness of one organism living in the 'striated' space of social life, cancelling out anomalous interactions among milieus in the process. The conventional notion of space as a homogeneous whole within which movement unfolds is thus, for Deleuze and Guattari, a totalised construct of space that emerges from heterogeneous blocks of space-time. They contrast their concept of 'smooth space' to the more conventional notion of space; 'smooth space' haunts and can disrupt the striations of conventional space, and it unfolds through 'an infinite succession of linkages and changes in direction' that creates shifting mosaics of space-times out of the heterogeneous blocks of different milieus (D&G 1987: 494). Deleuze and Guattari are interested not in substituting one conception of space with another, but rather in how forces striate space and how at the same time it develops other forces that emit smooth spaces (D&G 1987: 500).
  In a discussion of the concept of the 'movement-image' inspired by Henri Bergson, Deleuze distinguishes movement from space: 'space covered is past, movement is present, the act of covering' (D 1986: 1). Spaces covered by movement are divisible and belong to a single, homogeneous space while movement changes qualitatively when it is divided. Movements, of what Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus call 'deterritorialization', are acts of covering that are not referred to space conceived as a uniform area of measurable units within which changes occur. A subject who orients himself with respect to movements, rather than a retrospectively created construct of space, experiences space not in terms of a totality to which it is connected (I walk across the snow five miles from the centre of town), but rather in terms of pure relations of speed and slowness (snow under moving feet as wind lifts hair) that evoke powers to affect and be affected, both actual and potential (pushing feet against ground, could also jump or run). A person on a trip to another city might orient himself by following the road mapped out through social convention from one point to another. A nomad of the desert in search of food might orient himself differently, travelling not from one point to a predesignated destination, but rather travelling from one indication of food to the next as the need arises. In the former case, local movements are charted with respect to already specified points (thus imposing a plane of organisation upon the movements that unfold). In the latter case, space shifts with each movement in keeping with shifts in meeting the need for food. These shifts do not occur in space; rather they establish different configurations of nomad and vegetation and landscape that unfold as the smooth space of the search for food. The smooth space shared with others emerges not with reference to an 'immobile outside observer', but rather through the tactile relations of any number of observers (D&G 1987: 493). It is thus a space - like that of the steppes, the desert or polar landscapes occupied by intensities, forces and tactile qualities, with no fixed reference point (D&G 1987: 479).
  Connectives
   § deterritorialisation / reterritorialisation
   § nomadicism
   § space
   § subjectivity

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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