“Year Zero: Faciality” – An Outline

From A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

For an upcoming episode of Acid Horizon, I decided to construct a robust outline of Deleuze and Guattari’s faciality plateau from A Thousand Plateaus. Here is a link to a more readable Word format of the outline. Feel free to use it as a way to quickly navigate the text. Enjoy!

“Year Zero: Faciality” – An Outline

From A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

I. Two axes: Significance and Subjectification

A. Two axes, or even strata

B. Significance - inscribes upon white walls signs and redundancies

C. Subjectification - involves black holes; lodges consciousness, passion, redundancies

D. What is the face? All semiotics are mixed strata - the face is their nexus

1. The clown head, the moon face, the holy shroud

2. Not an exterior envelope; maintains functions in the act of speaking and listening.

3. Various faces exhibit expressions which index to a variety of traits

E. The face forms a ‘locus of resonance’ which maintains a dialectic with the political reality to which conforms accordingly.

F. Two functions:

1. The face forms the white wall of the signifier

2. The force forms the black hole of subjectivity

G. A second approach to the face

1. Perhaps the face takes shape on the white wall

2. It appears ‘in’ the black hole

H. More on the ‘speculative ontology’:

1. The face as having two poles: reflecting light and engulfing shadows (cinematic close-ups)

2. Black holes distributing themselves on white walls

3. White walls unfolding around black holes

H. Concrete faces don’t come ready made

1. Engendered by the abstract machine of faciality

2. The abstract machine is the efficienct cause of the construction of the face

3. The abstract machine produces a multiplicity of combinations

4. The abstract machine does not ‘resemble’ what it produces

II. The abstract machine of faciality

A. Appears spontaneously in all milieus

1. Kafka’s novella ‘Blumfield’ - ping pong balls

2. The ballet of Debussy and Nijinsky - tennis balls

B. The abstraction of facial traits can be infinitely reconfigured in multiple combinations, never resembling a face but always alluding to the the face as a system.

i. A possible reading: the abstract machine of the face as the the abstract construction of the subjective dimension of experience; where subjectivity looms

III. The face in American psychology

A. The four eye machine of the mother and child (recognition?)

B. Isakower’s studies on sleep

C. Lewin’s and Spitz’s concept of the white screen

1. The face/mouth/breast assemblage; the face as a guide to finding the breast

IV. The face is a ‘holey-surface’

A. The face as distinct from the head; the head is part of the body—the face is not

B. The cavities of the head are facialized in virtue of the abstract machine

C. Other parts of the body can become facialized

1. They do not become faces, they are not made to resemble the face; facilaization operates by ‘order of reasons’

a. Earlier, ‘raisons’ was translated into foundations (epistemic and political tethers) - meaning and subjectivity are pegged to various intensities (resemblance is only a surface effect)

2. Everything remains ‘sexual’; no sublimation: the abstraction never transcends the field in which it operates, only the coordinates are reorganized

3. ‘The face is inhuman’. What does it mean? That which renders the human being into a kind of definite shape, that which saps our ability to become imperceptible.

4. The destiny of humankind is a destruction of the face

5. The face has its future in its being dismantled; the face giving way to the asignifying and asubjective.

V. The Body Without Organs and the Face: The body-head system vs. the face system

A. What is the basis of the facial ontology? It is the body without organs - the nonorganic body which organizes components in facial configuration.

B. Faciality does not presuppose a subject

1. Sartre’s ‘look’ or Lacan’s mirror stage

2. “the gaze is secondary” to the black hole of faciality

3. Moreover, the face is irreducible to a mere conglomeration of parts or ‘part-objects’; not a Frankenstein’s monster

C. The body without organs composes a strata of which the face is a part

1. the body is not a question of parts, but of a movement of differential speeds

D. Speeds, movements are movements of deterritorialization

1. Consider the paw becoming a hand; new articulations effectuate connections to different strata

a. Bataille’s “the Big Toe”

2. The face as an ‘absolute deterritorialization’

a. How? It removes the head from the body and puts it in the strata of significance and subjectification.

3. The face and landscape as important correlates

a. Landscape and architecture functioning as faces (The Three Ecologies)

b. The cinematic close-up as a landscape

4. The novel - a work defined by characters who no longer know their name. Amnesiacs, catatonic, etc. who traverse landscapes along a line of absolute deterritorialization, stopping and falling into black holes (Subjectification, aggregations of subjectifying intensities), before departing again on adventures, etc.

VI. Theorems of Deterritorialization (D), or Machine Propositions

A. First theorem

1. D always occurs along at least two-terms: mouth-breast, face-landscape

a. Reterritorialization (R) always involves one element losing its territoriality to another

B. Second theorem

1. The fastest of the two elements or movements of deterritorialization is not necessarily the most intense. (Ex. The mouth-breast movement is guided by its connection the facial plane.

C. Third Theorem

1. The least deterritorialized element reterritorializes on the most deterritorialized.

2. “As a general rule, relative deterritorializations (transcoding) reterritorialize on a deterritorialization that is in certain respects absolute (overcoding)”

a. Objects (tools, utensils, houses, etc.) can be taken up into the facializing processes, hence it can be said that objects can ‘watch’ someone.

b. The face overcodes by reasons not resemblances. What are ‘reasons’? The ordering of a face within and among various strata.

VII. When does the abstract machine of faciality (AMF) come into play?

A. Examples

1. The face of nursing mother presiding over a nursing child.

2. Institutions such as media which locate the source of their power in a face

3. The face of a dictator

4. The face of the prison guard and its overcoding of other faces in the prison: teachers, staff, snitches, etc.

5. “Certain assemblages of power (pouvoir) require the production of a face, others do not.”

6. On Pre-modern societies and the ‘absence of a face’

a. Social power is reproduced without the need for a face in pre-modern cultures

b. Pre-modern cultures express a polyvocality of the body

c. A mixture of oral, bodily semiotics

d. The use of the body for painting, marking, tattooing (reminiscent of the ‘system of cruelty’ elsewhere in D&G)

e. A privileging of corporeality, animality, and vegetality (perhaps not romanticizing the pre-modern but thinking in terms of modalities repressed by faciality)

VIII. “The Face is not a universal” (Nor does it exist a priori)

A. The emergence of the face IS The White Man, not a kind which instantiates an abstract notion of face

1. It is the face of Christ, the Eucharist, Savior, Redeemer

a. The face of Christ has spread everywhere

2. The black hole of subjectivity functions on the white wall, the figure of Christ moving across like a third eye, the eye of judgment, in a movement which binarizes or biunivocalizes

A. The face of Christ presides over dyads: teacher-student, boss-employee, etc.; ‘four-eye machines’

B. A face becomes a slot into which one slides into either side of a binarization

IX. Faces that Pass; Faces that Don’t

A. Faces fall under a system of validation which allows them to pass or not pass under the rule of binarized categories.

1. A yes/no system

2. Binarizations multiply to accommodate a proliferation of divergences

B. The faciality machine computes normalities across a succession of categorical deviation

1. Various chains of binarizations:

a. As racial difference: The face of Christ > White man > other races

b. Religious defiance’s, and so on.

c. The black hole absorbs or rejects

2. Successive divergences produce new binary relations

a. The case of trans persons

b. Can be used to delineate tolerable instantiations of the binary poles or to identify enemies

a. The white wall is expanding and new black holes are proliferating

2. Racism operates as degrees of deviation from the White Man (Claire Colebrook’s “Face Race” - The system of racial deviation undergirds the system humanism in general)

3. “Racism never detects the particles of the other; it propagates waves of sameness until those who resist identification have been wiped out (or those who only allow themselves to be identified at a given degree of divergence).”

a. Hence the faciality machine as it relates to race is an internal operation. It seeks to fill the slots that the faciality machine constructs.

X. Painting as a fine art and the Christ face

1. Christ’s Face is the leitmotif that traverses all ‘facial units’ and their connections to landscapes.

A. Consider how Christ appears in different stylizations and upon different landscapes (physical, cultural, etc.)

XI. Information theory and semiotics

A. What is the relationship between the faces, language, and subjectivity?

1. The transmission on information in information theory involves ready-made biunivocalizations.

2. The black holes of binarized transmissions presupposes the white wall or ‘screen’

3. The construction of an information grid involves ‘arborescences and dichotomies’

4. The construction of this grid suppresses polyvocality and the construction of nomadic lines

5. One can form a web of subjectivities if one possesses a central eye.

a. This is to say that biunivocal chains are presided over by an authoritative eye that not only communicates information but commands

b. Biunivocal chains (BUC) are constituted by a command structure

6. Facial BUC subtends linguistic BUC

7. The AMF ports content into the biunivocal chains and assigns them to the poles of the binary accordingly

8. “Faces choose subjects, subjects do not choose faces” - The figuration of AMF constructs slots into which content is input to form subjectivities

XII. Recapitulating the theory of faciality so far

A. Certain social formations need faces, others do not.

a. Pre-modern societies of polyvocal semiotic transmission typically do not

B. Linguistics tends to crush polyvocaility

a. Language makes enemies with ambiguity

b. Ex. Baudrillard: ‘anti-ambivalence is totalitarian’

c. The child expresses polyvocality through play; the semiotic system descends upon the play to subjugate it.

XIII. Some assemblages impose significance and subjectification

A. The despotic assemblage; the imperialist assemblage

1. Becomes the determine form of expression under the despotic regime of signs

2. A function: To do away with the body and corporeality

3. A deterritorialization of the body which implies a reterritorialization on the face

4. The body becomes facialized; the specks and features of the body and uniform are subordinated to the face

XIV. The historical contingency of the despotic/imperial face

A. The emergence of the face in history follows from a specific set of historical conditions

1. There exist various regimes of faces

a. Circular irradiating’

b. Segmentary linear

B. No apriori face in history

a. The face does not begin with Christ, the White Man, African Man, etc.

b. The specific facialized assemblages form a semiotic mixture

c. However, D&G claim the faciality machine begins at Year Zero with the death of Christ.

C. The semiotic of the white man (whiteness) is mixed with the semiotic of capital - interpenetrated elements of subjectivating forces

D. ‘Limit faces’: D&G seem to suggest that the proportions of the mixtures may change, which suggests that the dominant forms of faces or facializing components may also change over time.

a. Q: what are some examples of limit faces?

XV. The processes of facializing - Facial Diagrams

A. First part

1. Black holes are on white walls in constant movement, moving in successive binarizations

2. Multiple distributions; faciality is always a multiple distribution

3. Multiple circles around the eyes increase ‘bordering effects’

a. Ethiopian scrolls featuring white demons

b. Multiple circles increase bordering effects and the number of eyes

c. Frequency and redundancy in its proliferation

2. The closeup and the clock - in cinema instigate anticipation and foreshadowing (perhaps foreboding)

a. My note: the seriousness of the face is its deathliness, the deathliness of an order of time, it subordinates all arcs to a single linear arc (“Why so serious?” - read as an irony, a war against the law and the singular arc)

B. Second Part

1. The expansion of the white wall turns into its becoming a ‘silver thread’ which moves towards the black hole.

2. One black hole crests while the landscape becomes a thread

3. The ‘maritime’ face or landscape - the authoritarian face, seen in profile, that spins toward the black hole

a. Reiterating the function of the despotic assemblage in its creating anticipatory temporal value

4: “The terrestrial signifying despotic face, the maritime subjective passional authoritarian face (the desert can also be a sea of land). Two figures of destiny, two states of the faciality machine.”

5. Examples of the mixed semiotic: Duccio's Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew

1. The gold background projecting depth forward and the intersection of sidelong glances create an intensity which exemplify both aspect of the faciality machine, authoritarian and passional

C. Swann’s Love

1. Proust makes their face, landscape, painting, music all resonate together

2. Proust uses these elements in a demonstration of the functioning of mixed semiotics

3. The Madeline - “a black hole of involuntary memory

a. Consider the ways in which the spontaneous memories recuperate forms of subjectivity (jingles, etc.)

XVI. How do you get out of the black hole? How do you dismantle the face?

A. The French Novel vs. The American Novel

1. The former plots points/takes a critical stance versus the latter which partakes in lines of flight

a. D.H. Lawrence, Herman Melville, Henry Miller

2. American literature is aware of the trap of the black hole—and its allure.

a. Anglo-American authors: they know how to break the wall of the signifier.

B. Become imperceptible

1. “Make your body a beam of light at an ever-increasing speed”

2. Use all resources around you - picturality, musicality, etc.

C. Madness is a definite danger

1. Losing your sense of face to much or too quickly can spawn descent into madness

a. The schizophrenic

2. What is a tic? A trait escaping the face?

3. The face as a politics

a. ‘Know your faces’ - find your black holes and white walls; break the wall of the signifier

D. Practical Warnings

1. There’s no going back to a pre-facilaized pre-modern order (facial Marxism)

a. Don’t indulge in the idea of becoming African, Chinese, indigenous, etc.

2. There’s a critique of Eastern spirituality: these disciplines comprise exercises and regimens which are equally capable of subjecting people to an authority outside of themselves

3. Melville’s mistake was pining for Home and Mother: he attempted to turn back

4. Lawrence: deceivers attempt a regression—do not turn back

5. Free your facial traits from the codes into which they have been inscribed

XVII. Conclusion

A. The AMF has two very different states

1. Relative D

2. Absolute D

a. Retains the possibility of forming new abstract machines

b. The construction of rhizomes probe-heads capable of opening new lines of flight

i. Opposed to the arborescence which involve terminal closure

B. ‘The face, what a horror’

1. A summary of the preceding points

a. All of which points to ‘a nonhuman life to be created’

b. Recapitulating facial Marxism

i. Primitive heads, Christ-face, probe-heads.


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