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Adams, Tim; Diagrams of Interface; University of Auckland- New Zealand 1997 Abstract This paper surveys the reception of Deleuze and Guattari in the recent architectural practices of Peter Eisenman, Jean Nouvel, Marcos Novak, and others. Deleuze and Guattari´s concepts have an intrinsic potency for architectural theory; machinic desiring, deterritorialization, and interdisciplinary interference can be variable bridges between the speed of philosophy and the slowness of our concrete habitat. Prior to the conception of territory changing the nature of a previously nomadic culture, there first had to exist a differentiation of speeds (Paul Virilio). Today our conception of territory is formed by heterogeneous speeds- highways, both vehicular and informational, now define the unstable edges of our cities. Interface, the face to face interaction with information sources has now replaced the human-environment paradigm for conceptualising architecture and urbanism (Michael Heim). My hypothesis is that Deleuze and Guattari´s concept of the diagram (which they borrow from C.S. Peirce, but greatly expand on) is the best available approach to mapping this interface and, ipso facto, is a powerful tool for conceptualising the current condition of architecture, East and West. Essay What does it mean for an architect to think? That is, can one think in Architecture, not about it (everyone has thought about it), but can one think something with it? Can there be a genuinely architectural concept? A question already asked by the French architect Jean Nouvel, but a question that all architects who add the concepts of Deleuze and Guattari to their set of tools must ask. But why should architects even be interested in Deleuze and Guattari? Or, conversely, why should any of Deleuze´s and Guattari´s non-architectural readers be concerned with architecture? What´s in it for both groups? To begin with, both have a common interest in such Deleuze-Guattarian concepts as machine, speed, and abstraction, for they all originate in the work of architectural critics (Lewis Mumford, Paul Virilio, and Wilhelm Worringer, respectively). Secondly, Deleuze and Guattari sometimes use architecture to support their arguments. For example, the Gothic Cathedral as a performance of minor science in A Thousand Plateaus, Carlo Scarpa´s buildings that turn the thickness of the plane into a genuine concept in What is Philosophy, the Baroque Church as an allegory for the Leibnizian monad in The Fold, and the extraordinary buildings of Shin Takamatsu as a demonstration of the polyphony and diachrony of space in Space and Corporeity. The last example being from a 1990 paper Guattari delivered at the Columbia University School of Architecture, which makes the ethico-aesthetic paradigm discussed in his Chaosmosis available to architecture and vice versa (making architecture available to Caosmosis). So there is ample give-and-take between Deleuze, Guattari, and architecture to justify developing the initial question- what does it mean for an architect to think in specifically deleuze-Guattarian terms? But first, by way of a left-handed approach to Deleuze and Guattari´s vast body of work, their concept of diagram, as put forward in the fifth plateau (587 BC- AD 70: On Several Regimes of Signs; A Thousand Plateaus), will be examined. Left-handed, because it is connected to the work of Charles Sanders Peirce, who claimed that his mental left-handedness rendered him inadequate in terms of linguistic expression, but superior in terms of thinking in diagrams (Peirce was in fact ambidextrous). Architects are also mentally left-handed to the extent that they agree with Peirce when he writes that “all valid necessary reasoning is in fact... diagrammatic.”1 For example, architectural students who struggle with Leibniz´s language in the Monadology, yet instantly grasp, with intuitive understanding, Deleuze´s diagram of the Leibnizian monad in The Fold. Such an intuition, says Peirce, “is the regarding of the abstract in a concrete form, by the realistic hypostatization of relations; that is the one sole method of valuable thought.”2 There are many such diagrams scattered throughout the writings of Deleuze and Guattari, so perhaps architects will find this left-handed approach more useful. The importance of Peirce for Deleuze and Guattari cannot be denied. They make his term pragmatics synonymous with schizoanalysis, their term for the entire project. Peirce was the first to make pragmatism a philosophical concept. It denotes a method for establishing meaning based on the practical effects produced (based not on what a thing is, but on what one can do with it). Peirce is also the founder of modern semiotics. His basic trichotomy of signs is 1. the icon, which signifies by resembling its object (a painting of fire), 2. the index, which signifies as an effect of its object (smoke indicating fire), and 3. the symbol, which signifies through a learned convention (the word “fire”). Peirce places diagrams along with but separate from those images in the first category of icons. This being the case, why should Peirce make such extravagant claims for diagrams (that all valid reasoning, all creative synthesis, and even algebraic equations are all predominantly diagrammatic), when he categorises diagrams as relying on merely iconic resemblances? Surely indexical signs are closer to the real and symbolic signs more creative. Not so, says Peirce. Firstly, all signs are mixtures composed of varying degrees of the three basic classes,


so a diagram is only predominantly an icon, but is also aided by symbolic conventions and uses real indexical effects. This is what Roman Jakobson calls one of the most important and shrewd features of Peirce´s semiotic, and a feature that Deleuze and Guattari reinforce in their redeployment of Peirce. Therefore, the predominantly iconic diagram can have the creativity of the conventional sign and the connectedness-to-the-real of the indexical sign. But the reason why the diagram is so important to Peirce´s semiotics is because it can represent the essential relations of parts of one thing with analogous relations with its own parts. Diagrams are not resemblances, although sensuous resemblance is certainly not ruled out for them (after all, all signs are mixed, so diagrams can have images too). They are, instead, veridically analogous to the thing represented. Thus, diagrams have the capacity of revealing unexpected truths about their objects. One of Peirce´s examples is the chemist who experiments with small samples of a substance by forming a diagram of the molecular structure of all such elements. The experiment is performed on the molecular structure of the object (in other words, on real relations between parts and corresponding relations on the diagram). Peirce calls this “the system of diagrammatization,” by which experiments are made with the real by performing operations upon diagrams that exactly capture the nature of the relations concerned: simultaneously an experiment with thought and with matter. Diagrams also link science with art. “The geometer draws a diagram,” says Peirce, “which, if not exactly a fiction, is at least a creation, and by means of observation of that diagram is able to synthesize and show relations between elements which before seemed to have no necessary connection.”3 This is not unlike the work of the artist, says Peirce, who “introduces a fiction; but it is not an arbitrary one; it exhibits affinities to which the mind accords a certain approval.” This leads Peirce to conclude that “the work of the poet or the novelist is not so utterly different from that of the scientific man.”4 Deleuze and Guattari acknowledge peirce as the true inventor of semiotics, and proceed to adapt his concept of diagram to their own purposes. Diagrams are now abstract machines; they are in the “cutting edges of creation and deterritorialization.”5. Here are two examples to demonstrate their concept of deterritorialization: If territorialization is the partitioning and coding of any continuum whatsoever, be it in time or in space (such as a bird´s refrain that claims for itself particular coordinates, in the continuum of the forest, in the spectrum of sound, and in the flow of time), then deterritorialization is a decoding, a transversal line across all coordinates (the musicality of the refrain captured in a song). But reterritorialization is always waiting to reinvest such flows with recoding and partitioning (the refrain captured in a town clock, marking the hours of the day for organized labor). Another example: tribal cultures territorialize the body by inscribing it specifically during elaborate rites of passage. Capitalism then deterritorializes the body by creating the private individual as the owner of his or her own body, but at once reterritorializes the body as the body of the proletariat, regulated by the State. The problem then is how do we separate a positive deterritorialization from a negative deterritorialization (one which is simultaneously reterritorialized). When Deleuze and Guattari redeploy Peirce´s trichotomy of the sign, they change the basis of the trichotomy from relations between the signifier and the signified (similarity, real effect, and convention) to relations between territoriality and deterritorialization (territoriality, reterritorialization, and negative deterritorialization). Here they conflate Peirce with Sausurre because in Peirce´s terminology it is relations between the representamen (the perceptible or imaginable object that represents another object) and its object (the referent) that determine the trichotomy. They do this because they consider Louis Hjelmslev, “the only linguist to have actually broken with the signifier and the signified.”6 Sausurre´s term signified corresponds more closely to Peirce´s third term of interpretant (the meaning of a sign; its content), but any exchange of terms between a dichotomy and a trichotomy will be problematical. A result of this change is that now diagrams must not only be distinguished from indexes, which are territorial signs, but also from icons, which pertain to reterritorialization, and from symbols, which pertain to negative deterritorialization. Diagram therefore must form its own special category of “the diagrammatic or abstract machine that does not function to represent, even something real, but, rather, constructs a real that is yet to come; a new type of reality.”7 In other words, the positive deterritorialization (a diagram) that must be distinguished from negative deterritorialization (a symbol). A diagram is, for them, an abstract machine on a plane of consistency, and “the plane of consistency is the abolition of all metaphors (all icons, indexes, and symbols). All that consists is real... there is no ‘like’ here. We are not saying ‘like an electron,’ ´like an interaction.’ These are electrons in person, veritable black holes, actual organites, authentic sign sequences”.8 Taking their cue from Hjemslev’s metasemiotic in his Prolegomena, with its great variety of semiotics (scientific semiotics, nonscientific semiotics, connotative semiotics, non-linguistic semiotics, and even non-semiotic), Deleuze and Guattari introduce their own trans-semiotic regimes of signs. These include presignifying, signifying, countersignifying, and post-signifying semiotic systems. Dorothea Olkowski (The Semiotic Web, 1990, Recent Developments in Theory and History) has already discussed these regimes, so here it will only be aded that Deleuze and Guattari warn us that this is an arbitrarily limited set. What they do insist on is that all semiotics are mixed semiotics: “all semiotics are mixed and not only combine with various forms of content, but also combine different regimes of signs.”9 This extends Peirce´s insight about the sign always being mixed to the sign-system itself. Besides, our interest here lies in the diagram, which, say Deleuze and Guattari, is a transformation that blows apart all the semiotic systems. Hence their term “asignifying diagram,” because it is an abstract machine that is itself deterritorialized, leaving nothing but matter (that is, purport, and not substance) and function: “an abstract machine in itself is not physical or corporeal, any more than it is semiotic; it is diagrammatic (it knows nothing of the distinction between the artificial and the natural ether). it operates by matter, not by substance, and by function, not by form (a matter-content having only degrees of intensity, resistance, conductivity, heating, stretching, speed, or tardiness, and a function-expression having only tensors, as in a system of mathematical, or musical, writing). Writing now functions on the same level as the real, and the real materially writes.”10


A tensor in mathematics is a resultant vector of components in two or more directions. In other words, it is an abstraction that is no less real than its components, and matter, content, substance, and function are all terms pertaining to the Hjemslevian sign model, a model that has made considerable effect on Deleuze and Guattari, justifying some further explanation. Louis Hjelmslev (1899-1965) was a Danish linguist whose influential school of semiotics is knon as glossematics (from the Greek glossa: language). A professor of comparative linguistics, “he had a solid knowledge of forty or fifty languages. And he had learned and forgotten just as many.”11 Hjelmslev’s sign model is outlined in chapter 13 of his Prolegomena. Instead of Sausurre’s bilateral sign model of the signifier (the sound-image) and the signified (the concept) of the sign, we find, instead, expression and content as two inseparable planes of the sign function. Each plane is further stratified into form (the system of sign forms; the open net), substance (semiotically formed matter; the shadow of the form on the purport), and purport (presemiotic matter; an undivided amorphous continuum). The term purport (ostensibly meaning sense or tenor in a statement) translates from the Danish word mening and causes some confusion. Umberto Eco prefers to call it matter. Taking Hjelmslev’s example of colour, the content-purport is the color spectrum, the contentform is the colour morphemes (the units of signification unique to each language that correspond to bands of the spectrum), and the content-substance is the specific instances of colours (the projection of a specific language-net onto the color spectrum). This explains, for example, how the English morphemes for green, blue, grey, and brown may cover similar bandwidth of the color spectrum as the Welsh morphemes for gwyrdd, glas, and ilwyd, yet when we compare the boundaries from one color to the next on the spectrum, they will not coincide. In addition, Hjelmslev discovered a parallelism between the two planes, so we, similarly, find that for the plane of expression there is an expression-purport (the continuum of human phonetic and graphic potential), an expression-form (the phomenes and graphemes, units of sound and text unique to each language), and an expression-substance (specific expressions). Hjelmslev describes the sign as “the unit consisting of content-form and expression-form, and established by the solidarity that we have called the sign function.”12 This is an immanent definition of the sign, as a function posited between two functives that presuppose each other. The sign function is then the reciprocal solidarity of the content-form and the expression-form. If the sign can be said to be something other than itself, then it is- “paradoxically as it may seem- a sign for a content-substance and a sign for an expression-substance”13 (In Deleuze and Guattari’s words, a tensor with components pointing in opposite directions). But, Hjelmslev concludes at the end of the Prolegomena, it is “precisely through that immanent point of view and by virtue of it that language returns the price that it demanded... Instead of hindering transcendence, immanence has given it a new and better basis; immanence and transcendence are joined in a higher unity on the basis of immanence.”14 This Hjelmslevian dictum can also be read as our approach to reading Deleuze and Guattari: it is precisely through their philosophy of immanence and by virtue of it that we may find a higher unity of philosophy and non-philosophy. In our case, a higher unity between philosophy and the architecture that transcends it. We have seen how both Hjelmslev’s sign model and Peirce’s concept of the diagram are used by Deleuze and Guattari. The problem is then how to make a synthesis between them. the diagram is an abstract machine that occurs at the level of the purport. The misleading term purport is replaced by the state of unformed matter on the plane of consistency, which, like Hjelmslev’s purport, must not be confused with chaos of any kind.. It is, instead, an assemblage of human, animal, or machinic potential. If the diagram’s content and expression are rendered indiscernible due to the variability of their plane of consistency, then the diagram can be said to be an absolute deterritorialization. Otherwise it remains only relatively deterritorialized. The diagram, therefore, is not a sign at all. It only becomes mixed with signs due to the language-function. The abstract machine as it relates to the diagram of the assemblage is never purely a matter of language, except for lack of sufficient abstraction. It is language that depends on the abstract machine, not on the reverse. The same can be said for Hjelmslev’s purport. The absolutely deterritorrialized diagram is pure matter-function, meaning it belongs to the amorphous matter upon which the real is projected. For example, when a language-function conjugates the planes of content and expression by projecting its net in two directions. Foucault provides us with an architectural example of just such a diagram when he discusses the Panopticon, Jeremy Bentham’s ideal prison form of 1791. This is a unidirectional optical device in the form of a circular building, consisting of a well-lit, one-celldeep, perimeter wall centered around a shaded observation tower within which the warden sees all (pan-optic) without himself being seen, thus guaranteeing an air of constant surveillance despite his periodic absences. “A brutal dissymetry of visibility,” writes Jacques-Alain Miller.15 One could call this the architectural expression-form that corresponds to the semiotic content-form: power through the asymmetrical subjection of gazes, or vice versa (Hjelmslev tells us that these terms are arbitrary and therefore interchangeable). But, as Foucault observes, the Panopticon form is not a symbol of power. It has no hidden meanings. The mechanism is itself a neutral and universal diagram of power reduced to its simplest form as an architectural/ optical system. Yet it is not a utopian ideal located nowhere, as a critique of society, either. It is a specific and concrete mechanism for the operation of power in space. It is as a diagram on a plane of consistency that Foucault himself makes use of Bentham’s Panopticon. As an abstract machine it forms: 1. interstratum assemblages of concrete machines on the stratified planes of expression and content (homes, schools, barracks, clinics, and prisons as techniques of control, and delinquents, deserters, the sick, and the criminal as needing continuous and anonymous control. 2. metastratum assemblages with other potential diagrams, each with their own interstratum expressions and contents. A destratifying line of flight creating new abstract machines, no less real for being newly created. A continuum running from the asymmetrical gazes of the Panopticon to the reversed gaze of a mirror as the diagram for heterotopia. Foucault chooses the mirror as the diagram of his concept of heterotopia because it makes the real and the mythic simultaneous in the space in which we live, and because the mirror is itself real. Its interstratum concrete machines are cinemas, honeymoons, vacations, museums, libraries, gardens, and ships, and their contents are the curious state of being in another place or in another time, stepping outside of all the flows of time and space, and exposure to the infinite. “The ship is the heterotopia par excellence,” writes Foucault. “In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the polices take the


place of pirates.”16 The second example of the destratified, deterritorialized diagram comes from Guattari´s Molecular Revolution, where he writes: “diagrammatic redundancies... put the deterritorialized elements of sign machines to work on reality itself. An example of this would be the blueprints- the physical and mathematical specifications- for the Concorde.” The blueprints for the Concorde form a set of essential becomings, specifications, and articulations of the materials of expression (aluminum, titanium, electrical and semiotic fluxes), and form assemblages with the reterritorialized and restratified contents of power formations; concrete machines such as specific territories, specific factories,, and specific facilities; draughtsperson, researcher, engineer, scientist, manager, and so on. “They relate to a mixed semiotics,” says Guattari. “They activate a negotiation between different semiotic and material registers. At the level of the plane of consistency. that negotiation is made possible by abstract machines; at the level of real forces, it is organized by concrete machines.... Abstract machines exist not in some transcendent reality, but only at the level of the ever-present possibility that they may reappear. They represent the essence of the possible.”17 Not only is the work of Deleuze and Guattari liberally illustrated with diagrams of their own invention, but their work also relies heavily upon recurring images such as music scores, rhizomes, and trees, Artaud’s body without organs, nomads, the wasp and the orchid, Balinese plateaus of intensity, a bird’s refrain, war machines, and specific works of literature, music, painting, and architecture. Each one of these signifying images should also be taken as being mixed with elements of the asignifying diagram, as concrete machines that have the potential to become lines of flight continuous with a string of abstract machines. All semiotics are mixed semiotics. Therefore, all images are mixed with diagrams. All that is needed to prove this is for us to find articulations in the image/ diagram that are absolutely deterritorialized (thus joining articulations that transcend the limits of the image forming a single block of material becoming). For example, the images associated with the Panopticon and the drawings of the Concorde, mixed with their more diagrammatically pure physical and mathematical specifications. A diagram captures the relationship between parts, the essence of the real, with a minimum of redundancy, so that new connections and new potentials are revealed already within the real. A pure diagram is simply an interface. All it can do on its own is buzz. It can only have degrees of intensity, resistance or conductivity, speed or tardiness. It is what Deleuze and Guattari have called a pure matter-function, where matter pertains to the unformed potential of hjelmslev’s purport and function pertains to his definition of the sign as a language-function, only here they are speaking in trans-semiotic terms that include the asignifying semiotic of diagram. Michael Heim has defined interface as the face-to-face meeting of two or more information sources. Interface, he adds, is a buzzword that cues conversations, momentarily gaining our attention. But it also strikes a deeper resonance that cuts across the entire spectrum of life; “the word buzzes, we push on it, and suddenly a magic door swings open to who we are and where we stand in history.” Clearly the expression interface is mixed with a powerful diagram, because the diagram of interface is a diagram of the diagram itself, the expression interface being the very image of diagram. The diagram defined as pure matter-function is nothing but the meeting of two or more matter sources. in other words, a plane of consistency consisting of nothing but relationships between heterogenous unformed matters. How does Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of diagram relate to architecture? We have already seen how Foucault isolates an architectural work as a powerful diagrammatization of vast fields of social control, and how Guattari focuses on the blueprints of the Concorde as the diagrammatic correspondence of deterritorialized articulations in various zones of action. Since architecture also depends on blueprints for its existence, Guattari’s example can be made to include architectural plans. but we can supplement these examples with those of many contemporary architects for whom Deleuze and Guattari, and their concepts, have entered the very production of expression, in their theoretical writings. This fact virtually guarantees that there must be some element of the Deleuze-Guattarian diagram already in their purely architectural production, because the plane of consistency (the deterritorializing diagram) is always immanent to the strata of expression (their architectural discourse) and content (their architectural production). “Absolute deterritorialization is there from the beginning, and the strata are spin-offs, thickenings on a plane of consistency that is everywhere, always primary and always immanent.”18 So those architects who give recognition to Deleuze and Guattari in their writings do so because they recognize something in Deleuze and Guattari that is already in thir own work. Namely, the deterritorializing diagram.


1. Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce v.1, 1931, p. 23-24 2. Ibid, p. 383 3.. Ibid, v.4, 1933, p. 411-414 4. Ibid, p. 203 5. A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1993, p.531 (#39) 6. Ibid., p. 526 (#22) 7. Ibid. p. 142 8. Ibid, p. 69 9. Ibid, p. 119 10. Ibid, p. 141 11. Smilla’s Sense of Snow, 1994, p.162 12. Prolegomena to a Theory of language, 1961, p. 58 13. Ibid 14. Ibid, p.127 15. Jeremy Bentham´s Panoptic Device, 1987, p. 4 16. The Eye of Power, p. 27 17. Molecular Revolution, Psychiatry and Politics, p. 156 18. A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1993, p.70

Diagrams of Interface  

A review of the ways in which the theory/ philosophy of Gilles Deleuze could be applied to the fields of architecture and urbanism. Today, w...

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