McKenzie Wark on Tue, 31 Dec 96 03:00 MET

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nettime: the plane of immanence

Its the holiday season, so i'm reading a lot. Trying to
understand something about Deleuze and Guattari. Andreas
Broekmann suggested there may be an appropriate aesthetic
for net art in the old D+G, and i think he's right. Only
i think there might be a lot more, too. The kind of
'deterritorialised' relations of desire that D+G wanted
to be close to, perhaps its on the net that one 
occasionally glimpses them. D+G wrote of a desire yet
to come, something very literally 'outlandish'. The net
is just the kind of outlandish (non) place to go looking
for such a thing.

One of the more abstract, but also more tangible images
of their ontology of desire, is when Guattari speaks of
the relation between chaos and the plane of immanence.

This image of chaos is not of something indeterminate, but
rather an image of the becoming of being itself, as pure
difference itself. As Philip Goodchild says "it can be
considered a vast 'memory' of the future, a repository of
seeds of desires." 

The importance of this image, this concept of being-as-becoming,
lies less in whether or not it is true, but what it might
oblige us to conceive as an appropriate practice of philosophy
if it were. What if being were pure difference, differentiating
itself from itself? Then it would be pointless to go looking
for the law, the limit, or the lack legislated by being. One
can never know what virtual futures lurk in chaos. The future
is uncertain, but rather than a cause for anxiety, D+G make this
a cause for joy.

The being-as-becoming, the 'chaosmosis', as Guattari calls it,
is a world of potentials, which can only be articulated and
developed on a plane of immanence. This is any place that acts
as a screen of chaos, where a few of the 'seeds' of pure
difference are selected, related, developed. A (non) place where
some moments of pure difference are repeated, becoming a refrain,
so that they might grow, so that complexity might emerge. A
plane of immanence is the never quite knowable ground of the
selection and articulation of difference. It is itself only ever
partial, particular, rather than absolute. It is the zone 
where difference in its pure form becomes the material means for
the production of desire.

Let's take 'the net' as a plane of immanence, where a quite 
particular set of flows of pure difference articulate. Flows of
electricity, of copper, of code, of language -- we can image
these things as they might exist in a pure state, and then
imagine the way the net selects, relates and articulates these
flows in a certain way, as a certain kind of consistency. Out
of that consistency arises the production of certain kinds of

Lets just think of those that flow through language, as language
comes to flow across the net, made to flow by the coordination
of all of the nets other flows. We can think of at least two
kinds of production of desire, flowing across the net. D+G call
them autoproduction and antiproduction. The autoproduction of
desire produces itself out of itself, always differentiating
itself from itself. This, i think is the aesthetics of the net.
Its no different from the aesthetic as it might appear on any
plane of consistency -- the dice throw where something returns,
again and again, within certain material forms, but nevertheless
always differntiating itself from itself, across the plane of
consistency. Like the 'trapped bang' of Boulez's music, or
of Nietzsche's aphorisms, simple little material structures,
supporting sudden bursts of slowness or speed, in sould, in

Now, for D+G, antiproduction is a secondary kind of desire that
works on and against autoproduction, that seeks to limit it,
direct it, contain it, repress it. The lack, the law and the
limit, in other words, are not desire itself, but desire
turned against itself. They see this turning of desire against
itself as an inevitable part of the institution of state, 
society, identity. 

One could, as a consequence, turn against antiproduction, declaring
oneself a voluntary schizo -- but perhaps only at the price of
repressing one's own desire for order. The irony is that a lot
of art and writing (and music) inspired by D+G seem to me to
do just that, rather than looking for those moments, those forms,
those planes of consistency where autoproduction emerges of its
own accord. Or rather, constructing such zones, watching and
waiting for it to happen -- the way it can happen on the dance
floor, or on a listserver. Not pure chaos, which tends in the
end to be rather uninteresting, but chaos articulated on a
plane of consistency, selected and articulated, so that complexity
arises of its own self organising accord. 

Guattari tended sometimes to sound rather romantic about chaos, but
I think Deleuze was, by temperement, a little more cautious. In
his first book on Hume, he quite explicitly recommends the creation
of 'institutions', which, in the latter language of D+G i would
understand as: a little antiproduction goes a long way to producing
highly complex and elaborated forms of autoproduction. Desire needs
to produce itself out of itself, but also to limit and form itself
on itself. The key thing is not to let this secondary process
overtake the first, hardening it into repressive forms, not of desire,
but of *power*. The key thing is not that autoproduction is always
on the side of the angels. D+G give enough warnings about its
dangers. The key point is that their whole philosophy proceeds,
from the point of view of the 'western tradition', as if the minor
terms came first. There is not first 'being', then becoming. There
is not first identity, then difference. There is *only* becoming and
difference. This is what makes Deleuze's philosophy so radical --
that it is not yet another critique of western metaphysics. It is,
as Michael Hardt says, a whole other metaphysics. A way of thinking
differently, so that we might become otherwise.

I think there's something useful in D+G for thinking about the
'libertarian question'. D+G belong to a libertarian tradition (and so
do i, for that matter) but not the one most commonly associated
with the net. D+G are interested in the way the 'free' market is
taking over the earth -- but they don't see that as liberating.
"What if we have not become abstract *enough*?" they ask. What if
thelibertarianism of the market were a plane of consistency that
always returns the autoproduction it creates to the antiproduction
of the limit of profit? The problem with the net-libertarians is
that they are not libertarian enough. When they talk about liberty--
point to its limit -- the limit of the market itself. As if the
market were the only plane of consistency where difference might
organise itself as desire.

I think D+G might also be useful here for thinking about the way
textual exchanges on the net can result in both chaos and complexity,
and what the conditions are where one might achieve complexity.
A good listserver or majordomo discussion, for example, does tend
to be a plane of consistency that selects and repeats some things but
not others. Where any and everything passes into it, what results
is usually chaos, followed by a whole bunch of people pulling out
of the list, leaving sheer repetition, where a few obsessives
argue about the same things, over and over. The magic moment, as i'm
sure we've all experienced it, lies somewhere in between -- where
compexity becomes actual. Where new things appear in the flux. A 
good list is a delezuian institution, selecting and organising
some particles of difference, but not all of them. And it will
work for a while, but maybe not forever. Everything has its speed.

"There is no truth, other than the creation of the new." -- Gilles Deleuze.

McKenzie Wark
netletter #4
New Year's eve 1996-7

"We no longer have roots, we have aerials."
 -- McKenzie Wark 

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