faciality


faciality
  ---- by Tom Conley
  The concept of faciality, theorised in detail in A Thousand Plateaus and applied to cinema in the chapters of Cinema 1: The movement-image devoted to the close-up, stands at a crossroads of subjectivation and signifiance. The former belongs to the language of psychogenesis (how a living being grows into and negotiates the ambient world) and the latter to semiotics (denoting, contrary to polysemy, signs that disseminate infinite meaning in both conscious and unconscious registers and in directions not under the control of language rules). Subjectivation and signifiance are correlated, respectively, with the 'black hole' or unknown area of the face in which the subject invests his or her affective energies (that can range from fear to passion) and with the 'white wall', a surface on which signs are projected and from which they rebound or are reflected. Faciality is thus constituted by a system of surfaces and holes. The face 'is a surface: traits, lines, wrinkles; a long, square, triangular face; the face is a map' (D 1987: 170). A series of layers or strata, the face becomes a landscape when it is abstracted from the world at large and understood as a deterritorialised space or topography. It is a displacement of what a perceiver makes of the milieu and the faces that he or she discerns.
  Deleuze relates faciality to the close-up in film, the cinematic technique that generally uses a lens of long focal length to bring the face forward and soften the edges of the frame, or else, to the contrary, deploys a lens of shorter length to obtain a facial projection or distortion at the centre of the image while the surrounding milieu is seen in sharp focus. In either mode the rotundity of a person's cheeks can resemble hillocks or mesas; the eyes might be reflective pools and ponds; the nostrils lairs and caves, and ears at once quarries and cirques. Yet the landscape or face also looks at its spectators, calling their gaze into question or even psychically 'defacing' them. Such is the effect of close-ups that establish sequences in a good deal of classical cinema (Deleuze's preferred directors being Jean Renoir, Alfred Hitchcock, David Wark Griffith, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein, Luis Buñuel). The face emits signs from its surface at the same time that the viewer seeks to fathom meaning from its darker or hidden regions. If the face is a 'white wall' it is connoted to be what resists understanding or semiosis in general.
  He further elaborates the concept through reference to literature. For Marcel Proust, describing in Un amour de Swann the face of the beloved (but delightfully crass and despicable) Odette de Crécy in the eyes of the awestruck Swann is an abstraction that allows him - aesthete that he is - to wax poetical by recalling infinite expressions, drawn from memories of works of art, musical notes and sculpted surfaces in his fantasies. Yet once she disillusions him the jealous lover discovers that her face is a fetish or even a black hole. Proust meticulously describes Swann's passion for Odette's visage, Deleuze observes, in order to sanctify faciality in the name of art. To counter Proust's reductive turn, he shows that Henry Miller undoes the face by travelling over it with artistic dexterity. The author of Tropic of Capricorn (1939) makes it less a goal or an essence than a surface - a white wall or the blank sheet of a future map - on which a creative itinerary can be drawn. In Miller's description of faces a process of deterritorialisation makes the work of art not an end in itself but a process and an adventure that plots the face instead of diving into it.
  In A Thousand Plateaus faciality is formulated to serve the ends of a political polemic. To discern details of the face without wishing to idealise its aura or charm constitutes a micropolitics that calls into question the power of facial images. Implied is that Deleuze (with Guattari) seeks, first, to be finished with the face where it would be a site of psychological inquiry or of a reassuring human essence or goodness. He and Guattari wish to divest the face of any auratic or seductive power of the kind that contemporary media - cinema, advertising, television - confer upon it. By turning it into an abstraction (but not an idea) and a site of multiple possibilities of affectivity (and neither a hearth nor a site of warmth) they turn it into a zone of intensity. The latter finds a powerful visual correlative in Deleuze's treatment of the paintings of Francis Bacon. The heads of the artist's portraits meld the face into the body and thus confuse the face with its tradition as a 'veil of the soul' with the human animal. In the text of The Logic of Sensation that studies Bacon's portraiture Deleuze shows that the head is not what lacks spirit; rather, it is the spirit in a corporeal form, a bodily and vital breath whose end is that of undoing the face. In sum, a forceful reconsideration is made of the face work in philosophy, aesthetics and political theory.
  Connectives
   § black hole
   § molecular
   § subjectivity

The Deleuze dictionary. . 2010.

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