No-end Book or under the dome of rhizome
Thesis written under the guidance of :
mgr Beata Wilczek
mgr Honza Zamojski
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.1. Rhizome by Deleuze and Guattari
1.2. Rhizome and society of control
2. Entering the rhizomatic world
2.1. Rhizome and Art
2.2. Rhizomatic Narratives
3. Posthumanism and rhizome
3.1. Becoming a posthuman
3.2. Post-digital confusion
4. No-end Book
4.1. Book as the model of the world
4.2. Project description
Rhizome is a philosophical concept created by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in “A Thousand Plateaus” in order to name the resistance of linear structures in time and in thinking. Today this definition has a significant meaning. Rhizome is highly related to a modern society, thus society is a field for its development. According to Deleuze, we have entered the epoch ruled by the society of control.
Concept of rhizome is described as an endless non-hierarchical structure, that can lead to any possible outcome, accessing already existing social institutions or creating new ones (the internet, for instance). In this way rhizome enters the art world, and then pop culture, which enables it to spread widely in the society.
Consequently, the concept of rhizome reaches human beings and transforms them into posthumans. A new kind of human perception emerges from this transformation, based on the desire to control and on post-anthropocentric ideas. In my paper, I analyze the consequences of the relations between rhizome and posthumans.
According to “A Thousand Plateaus”, a book is an image of the world. Therefore, in my final project and as an outcome of my research, I have created No-enBook, which represents an image of the rhizomatic world. Construction of the book enables endless reading, as well as reflects the principle of rhizome — non-linearity. During the design process, two possible solutions have been prepared. In the first one, the binding system of No-end Book consists of plastic modules that are strung together with a plastic rod and rotate freely around their own axis. The second construction is based on Atoma’s rings binding, which also allows pages to rotate endlessly. The lack of the cover, pagination and the absence of linear narratives are meant to demonstrate the perception of a human who lives in rhizome. No-end Book, an object situated somewhere between fine arts and graphic design, can serve both as an art work and an illustrated book.
During the time of my studies I had a feeling that the contemporary world is saturated. It is full of objects, events, ideas, projects, etc. Every day an individual sees around 300 logos of companies which have produced an infinite number of products. (1) This oversaturation results in seeking a new, minimalistic way of living and creating a certain minimalistic design. In my opinion, this is just a manner in which the following question manifests itself: how can we get rid of everything that we don’t find valuable? This means that people constantly have to make this selection and, perhaps, nowadays this is one of the main tasks for humans. The need of constant evaluation and curation of the reality that surrounds them as a tool for improved living and survival.
To me, the relation between humans and the world has always seemed fascinating. Human is a detail, one of numerous components of the world, and yet at the same time — the world is a reflection of human’s perception. This is an important correlation: everything, which exists outside — exists also inside, and vice versa. The life of western society resembles a labyrinth, with an infinite number of roads and choices; where a person is just a traveler, who is trying to take the right turn but without the full awareness of where he wants to get. As I follow the medias coverage on the current affairs, that are populated with anger and conflict , and planetary changes, such (2) as global warming or resource scarcity , and I can sense lack of awareness in humans (3) (4) actions and decisions.
However, at the same time, Steven Pinker, a Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, in his TED talk analyzed the current condition of the world from a (5) 30-year perspective and proposed and optimistic perspective. He specified the areas human well-being consists of: life, health, sustenance, prosperity, peace, freedom, safety, knowledge, leisure and happiness. According to Pinker, the global improvement in these areas stands for overall progress. As he noticed: “Yet the world has never been more democratic than it has been in the past decade,with two-thirds of the world's people living in democracies.” He also mentioned a global boost in happiness:“In 86 percent of the world's countries, happiness has increased in recent decades.” But why, regardless of the technological and medical progress, western societies seem unhappy? The percentage of people affected by depression is still growing. I have also noticed 6 that psychological self-help discourse became much stronger and asked myself, why did empathy and emotional education gained in importance? (7)
I was truly excited to explore the possible origins of contemporary human condition and I’ve found a promising answer in philosophy. Gilles Deleuze held an opinion that philosophy creates concepts, therefore it is similar to art . In my paper, I will try to analyze one of these concepts, rhizome, by looking into film and art. My aim is to indicate that there is something that not only surrounds us everywhere, but also forms a new system of reality. This concept, perhaps, constitutes an era of new perception, that can be described as a rhizomatic one.
This thesis consists of four chapters. The first chapter introduces rhizome as a philosophical concept created by Deleuze and Guattari and presents a Foucauldian theory of society of control, as it is an important basis for my further analysis. The second chapter, Entering the rhizomatic world, refers to the connection between rhizome and the modern world through art, pop culture and cinema. In this chapter my aim is to present the embodiment of rhizome in the contemporary world. In the third chapter I will analyze posthumanism and the processes that change human perception. Fourth chapter, No-end Book, includes the book’s analysis and project description. Here, I will reflect on the role of books and the changes they face in the new digital era. Then, I will describe the design process and present the gradual development of my final project.
1.1 Rhizome by Deleuze and Guattari
“Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on
its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The
part that appears above the ground lasts only a single summer.
Then it withers away–an ephemeral apparition. When we think
of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we
cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have
never lost the sense of something that lives and endures
beneath the eternal flux. What we see is blossom, which passes.
The rhizome remains.” Carl Jung.(9)
According to Oxford Dictionaries, in botany, rhizome is a: continuously growing horizontal underground stem which puts out lateral shoots and adventitious roots at intervals. Psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung was the first scientist who mentioned and (10) connected rhizome with the philosophy of life. In this context, Jung defined the collective unconsciousness which shapes the society, humans and existence. Jung noticed the similarity and compared the root system to the system of reality.
However, the term “rhizome”, which I will be referring to in my paper, was framed only in the 20th century, by two French philosophers: Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.
In 1969, the philosopher and professor of the University of Vincennes, Deleuze, met the self-taught psychoanalyst and activist, Guattari, through one of his students, who had worked for a long time in the experimental antipsychiatric clinic “La Borde”. Professor of the University of Paris, François Dosse, had depicted their biographies and collaboration in a book “Deleuze and Guattari” , published in 2011. Despite very (11) different backgrounds and different issues they had dealt with separately, Deleuze and Guattari found a common ground. Guattari’s wide knowledge of Lacanianism, since he had been a student of the famous psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, drew a great deal of attention from Deleuze. As a result, their collaboration had been very fruitful and they left a great legacy.
In the introduction of “The Thousand Plateau” , published in 1980, Deleuze (12) and Guattari begin the explanation of rhizome by comparing it to a book. “The book imitates the world, as art imitates nature” . They invent the term “root-book”- a (13) hierarchical and binary tree system, which represents a classic model of the western thought. Moving forward with this idea, they propose the opposite concept, which allows comprehending multiplicity — “rhizome”.
In other words, rhizome is depicted as a philosophical concept with its own properties (which later became one of the key concepts of the postmodern philosophy).
According to Deleuze and Guattari, the main role of rhizome is to oppose the unchanging linear structures in existence and in thinking. In "A Thousand Plateau" the authors confront the tree conception of knowledge with rhizome; since the tree is a symbol of vertical hierarchical relations and the rhizomatic system is horizontal. As a result, rhizome contradicts the hierarchy.
Among principles, specified by Deleuze and Guattari, we can find:
1 connection (any point of the rhizome must be connected to any other),
2 heterogeneity (presence of non-identical points),
3 multiplicity (decline and fall of the hierarchy, because of the absence of a central root),
4 asignifying rupture (rupture of two elements will not mean anything for the structure),
5 cartography (structure with plenty of outputs and inputs),
6 decalcomania (impossibility of copying).
According to the authors — the rhizome has no beginning, no end and no centre. All of its elements are related to each other and can lead to unpredictable results, therefore any break between the elements of the system is insignificant.
German philosopher and translator of Deleuze’s work, Joseph Vogl, depicts rhizome as a labyrinth and as a point of contact with the cases of unpredictability. He compares these cases to road accidents which can happen anytime and anywhere, leading to any result.(14)
1.2 Rhizome and Society of control
Although rhizome, as a philosophical term, has been created many years ago, it seems particularly interesting today, as it is relevant describes well today’s culture and the way of thinking.
In his lectures “What is the Creation Act?” , as well as in the article “Post Scriptum Society of Control” (15) , Deleuze referred to Michel Foucault’s concepts of the (16) society of discipline and control. According to Foucault, society of discipline had formed at the turn of XIX-XX centuries and was manifested in the organization of closed, isolated structures - spaces of enclosure. Among the spaces of enclosure were institutions like schools, prisons, hospitals and factories. In this kind of society, a person passed from one enclosed structure to another, each of them having its own strict rules and laws to obey. Subsequently, this model has been replaced by the society of control. In 1987 Deleuze explained why the crisis of close social structures had occurred. They had to undergo reformation because the isolated spaces were rejected by the society of control. The philosopher had also predicted some recent changes:
“It may be the old methods, borrowed from the former societies of sovereignty,
will return to the fore, but with the necessary modifications. What counts is that we are
at the beginning of something. In the prison system: the attempt to find penalties of
"substitution," at least for petty crimes, and the use of electronic collars that force the
convicted person to stay at home during certain hours” .
Electronic bracelets, enabling (17) tracking prisoners under house arrest, began to be used around 2007, mainly in the
Deleuze also noted that one of the most important principles of the society of control is the communication through passwords and digits. This pertains to digital (19) society, evolving in the digital age, living in and creating the cyberculture as a consequence of technological progress. It is easy to notice how this affects the communication design. The desire for control has changed some means of communication and has slowly been turning them into antiques. Posters, for instance,
are now mostly used to sustain the tradition of printing, not for advertising . These days almost every book is available to read online or as an eBook, so the current demand for book manufacturing is based on the desire to preserve old values. The further away, the more ad agencies see print design as an uncontrolled field of visual communication. This makes them want to replace it with digital design, which consists of digits shaped by algorithms. The algorithms allow them to collect users’ data and then analyse their activities for the purpose of gaining control.
Undoubtedly, the contemporary society of control is connected with the philosophy of rhizome. According to Deleuze, while a man living in the society of discipline had been moving from one enclosed structure to another where the endless
struggle started all over again (from school to university, from university to factory), the man in the society of control does not end his activities, because they are a metastable state and exist in combination with each other . In other words, in the society of (20) control, social institutions are starting to have a rhizomatic character.
Another connection between the rhizome and the society of control, which I have noticed, is freedom. I believe that contemporary people want to adapt reality to their needs and desire to have maximum control over their time and space. They strive for freedom from discipline formerly established in the society. As it has already been drawn from Deleuze’s and Guattari's texts about rhizome, each element of the system is connected to another. This means that it is always possible to move from one point to any other. In other words, the rhizome system enables the freedom of movement in time and space, which gives human beings a new kind of power they didn’t have before.
In this manner, paradoxically, the unpredictable and uncontrolled rhizome becomes the basis of the society of control, entering the social structures and human’s consciousness. Subsequently, may this mean that we become posthumans and gain a new kind of perception?
2. Entering the rhizomatic world
2.1 Rhizome and Art
In the previous chapter, I’ve traced the connection between rhizome and the society of control. Nowadays, since people live in the rhizomatic world, this relation and rhizome’s influence upon different areas of life seem so evident.
Firstly, we can draw parallels between rhizome and the global network. Emelin V.A., Russian Candidate of Philosophy, in his work “Global Networks in Cyberculture” explores this relation. According to him, the global network - the Internet - is a literal (21) illustration of the rhizome. The author compares their principles and finds similarities between the internet and rhizome in connection and heterogeneity. Despite an existence of servers, in the modern model of the Internet, each computer is a separate module containing information. Regardless of its location and size, it can transfer information to any other module and, therefore, web pages are lines of communication between these modules.
Returning to the idea that rhizome means free movement in time and space, Internet can be seen as an analogy, which has the same principles and shares them with its users.
Moreover, another Russian author and Candidate of cultural studies, Efimova T.V, perceives the internet as a new kind of specific social institution. My (22) interpretation of her words is that the rhizomatic system has first embodied itself in the
internet, but now, consequently, it is becoming the basis for shaping and reforming other social institutions. And thus, rhizome is entering human’s consciousness.
In this way, rhizome influences different aspects of reality, including the art world. It is striking how art relates to a specific time and culture. Personally, I believe that art is a reflection of society and its affairs. Ancient sculptures and paintings portray the culture, rules imposed on the society, psychology of making decisions, worldview and human relations. In this manner, paintings from Ancient Egypt present the rules of life and afterlife, reveal consequences of specific decisions and explain the state hierarchy. As it was acknowledged in Deleuze’s lecture “What is the creative act? : Art (23) is the only thing that resists death.
Mark Dery, an American author and cultural critic, wrote a book “Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century” that was published in 1996 by (24) Grove Press. Apart from his dystopian view on technological progress, Dery provided
examples of connections among art, technologies and bodies:
“..Renaissance humanism symbolized by Michelangelo’s David - an incarnation of the Neoplatonic notion that the flawless human body is evidence of man’s perfectibility..”
wrote Dery. And then: (25)
“Each person treats his body as an image of society”(26)
In his work, the author examines what exactly has changed since Michelangelo’s times and finds the answer in technology. According to Dery, the body, society (and to me, also art) are no longer natural and unchangeable. They have become something people need to shape every day.
“Morphing liquefies the human form, dissolves it into a running, flowing anima able to pour itself into any vessel.”(27)
Similarly to rhizome, technology also makes art what it is and facilitates developing new kinds of it, like tattooing. Among many different explanations why people need it, there is one which says that tattooing, being a ritual, is taking people back to the age of ceremonialism. “Tattooing is a mute plea for a return to human values” However, if Michelangelo’s sculptures were celebrating nature and the (28) perfection of human, what are we celebrating now through contemporary art? What is
the meaning of art nowadays?
As written by Priscilla Routh Bourne, graduate of the University of Sydney, in her dissertation “Making a personal Rhizome: Application, Exhibition and Dreams”, (29) rhizome as a system is creating the contemporary art. Artists around the world are
involved in the collective development of the same art structure. Undoubtedly, it is strongly associated with the existence of the Internet, which makes entering the rhizome system possible. Literally, artists are connected to a large non-hierarchical structure, which can be entered and exited anytime and anywhere. The structure consists of conditional modules, constantly transferring and receiving new information. Perhaps art is an eternal rhizomatic vacuum, full of knowledge and components serving as means to create something new. In this case, does this mean that the role of an artist has changed into a module of the system?
Canadian internet artist, Jon Rafman, explores the transformation of artists’ function in his works. He perceives the relation of the artist’s role with the oversaturation of information in the modern world and, at the same time, the inability of the society to own it. In the contemporary culture, cyberculture, an artist is no longer the one who creates new unique images or objects, but the one who, through analyzing the reality, selects the necessary materials - data from the vacuum - and skillfully combines them.
However, Rafman questions the ability to find necessary data in this vacuum. In his work - a short film called “You, The World and I” - a man tells a story, where he (30) tries to find a picture of his lover through Google Street View. Following a long search, he finally finds it. After investing enormous personal and emotional value in this image, one day he realizes that the picture has been deleted by Google and replaced with a more relevant photo of the same locality. The narrator loses the last memory of his beloved; though, is it possible to lose something one does not own? Thus, Rafman raises the issue of what cyberculture promised at the dawn of its development, which was the prospect of inhuman memory and the endless archive of information. But in reality, these endless stocks of data are doomed to be replaced by more relevant ones and, as a result, a man gets nothing more than the constantly updated version of data.
Nowadays, the situation of contemporary artists seems similar to the one of the aforementioned man. Since they are just modules in an enormous rhizomatic system, their job now is to capture new constantly transforming data, existing anytime and anywhere, and shape it (the same way they shape their bodies). Perhaps the relation between art and artists has also changed: the strongest connections now are the ones between a module and an artist, not between an artist and an idea.
2.2 Rhizomatic Narratives
Following the concept of art being a mirror of culture, I believe that cinema serves this role in an incomparable way, as it also reflects the internal human condition.
Professor of Visual and Environmental studies at Harvard University, Giuliana Bruno, in her article “Architecture and the Moving Image” expressed an opinion that cinema (31) should relate to a haptic sense rather than to optic one. The haptic sense is connected with our bodies’ ability to sense their own movement in space. Desire for a tactile sense lets human beings feel the movement of their body. That is to say, cinema helps us to identify and perceive our bodies. According to Bruno, this also means that people want to find a tangible space in the cinema and aim to express emotions connected with their movement. She noted that the word cinema originated from the Greek “kinema”, which stands for motion, but also emotion. Following her conception of haptic perception in cinema, I would like to mention Lev Manovich’s opinion based on Benjamin and Virilio views:
“Distance guaranteed by vision preserves the aura of an object, its position in
the world, while the desire “to brings things ‘closer’ ” destroys objects’ relations to
each other, ultimately obliterating the material order altogether and rendering the
notions of distance and space meaningless.”(32)
Relation between society and cinema genuinely starts from the beginning of the big screen era. Nicholas Mirzoeff, a visual culture theorist and professor at New York University, refers to it in a book about media culture, “How to see the world”. According to Mirzoeff, the dawn of the cinema in the XIX century is strongly linked to the development of railway. From the very first moment people sat in trains, their (33) vision and image perception have transformed. It was exactly this moment when people first saw moving pictures through the screens of train windows. The connection between this fact and first films seems fascinating. In 1896 the Lumiere brothers made a short film, “The arrival of a train at La Ciotat”, that literally shows an arrival of a train at a railway station. Perhaps, it could also be interpreted as the arrival of new media in people’s minds and the celebration of new perception. Nevertheless, cinema stood at the entry to the new media era.
As a reflection of media culture, cinematography has always been changing in parallel with society and humans. Filmmakers had begun to use sound and color, then afterwards — the visual effects, such as a computer simulation or a compositing. And recently, in the moment of entering the new digital era, the language of cinema has gained new means to tell the same stories. David Rudnick, British graphic designer, called this new way “The ultra-reality” .
He listed its principles : (34)
1. The end of linear time
2. The movement towards the infinite scroll
3. The freedom of movement.
These three principles are related to each other and reflect the experience of living online. The end of linear time means disappearing of chronological narratives and the fragmentation of time. This leads to the phenomena outlined in the second principle, the movement towards the infinite scroll. It is characterized by a lack of traditional montage, replaced with the ability to shoot an endless shot without any interruptions, which results in a video loop. According to Rudnick, these principles resemble an action of infinite scrolling through the social media feed, where news, events and articles are selected individually for a user in a fractured, rather than chronological, order. The last principle, the freedom of movement, is embodied in the camera’s motion, which ignores physical laws and, instead of showing one main perspective, transforms a viewer into an active participant of the scene.
A combination of these principles elicits a set of specific filmmaking decisions forming the ultra-reality. A contemporary spectator, through immersing in an ultra-real cinematic narrative, turns into an active partaker who gains powers or, as I would like to call them, ultra-powers. These ultra-powers give people freedom and control over their time and space. And, as it is already known from Deleuze’s “Postscript on the Societies of Control”, society of control longs for freedom. In his book “Language of new media” Lev Manovich wrote:
“Cinema pretends to be a single recording of an already existing reality - both to a viewer and to itself.” (35)
Relying on these words, we can assume that the rhizomatic movement, called above the ultra-reality, has already been creating the existing reality. As the internet is seen as a symbol of being everywhere everytime — filmmaking now, according to Manovich, means the same. The author believes that this situation definitely originates in the development of technologies and hence leads to consequences :
“Cinema becomes a slave to the computer ”(36)
But how did the cinematography made people believe in this ultra-reality? According to Manovich “Such transformations are motivated by the movie’s narrative” , and nowadays these narratives are called rhizomatic. (37)
In the work “Rhizomes and non-linear pathways”, filmmaker David Shaerf explains the role of rhizomatic narratives in cinematography through comparing the principles of the root system to the temporal montage (multiplicity, deterritorialization).
According to him, the narrative in films is an interaction between a spatio-form and a chrono-form (space and timeline). He provides a definition of films based on the rhizomatic narrative model : “Films where specific actions within time and space are non-sequential” . Manovich also uses the term “temporal montage”. In the society of (38) control, montage plays an important role, not solely in movies. Command copy, cut and paste have become specific keywords in the digital society, applied in many differentfields. In my opinion, temporal montage can also be seen as a result of the desire to control time.
Indeed, this model can be traced in many popular films. “Birdman” (2014), directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, remarkably presents a rhizomatic narrative, through applying the principle of infinite movement. During the film, the camera is continuously moving, without any pauses or changes of its position. In this case though, the viewer remains merely an observer of the spectacle. In “Matrix” (1999), however, the spectator transforms from a passive onlooker into an active participant of the action. In the montage of “Matrix”, the camera moves in an ultra-realistic pattern: through the unnatural transition from one frame to another, the camera gives the impression of flying in space.
Without doubt, the temporal montage is distinctly presented in indie-movies, e.g. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) by Michel Gondry or “Mr. Nobody” (2009) by Jaco Van Dormael. In these works, the spatio-form exists separately from the chrono-form. This kind of montage places the viewer in the centre of the rhizomatic root system and makes him deny chronology as a basis of reality.
It seems remarkable how cinema allows people to feel ultra-powers by positioning them in the centre of created reality, while, at the same time, the human body remains motionless in a dark room. Cinematography has always aspired to separate the mind from the body. Moreover, the need for temporal montage revealed the changes in the perception of linear time.
The future development of cinema is also strongly related to the reality of control. This relation embodies in a new genre of films - interactive movie-games, where the spectator plays a role of destiny and makes choices, which determine the plot.
One of the greatest examples of these interactive movies is “Bandersnatch” (2018), an episode of “Black Mirror”series. As the series are produced by online tv provider Netflix, they are usually watched on phone or computer screens. As the episode unfolds the viewer has an option to decide upon the main character action by clicking on of the windows. For example, when main character has to decide about accept or refuse a job offer. Moreover the concept of interactive participation of the viewer is reflected in the script of episode itself, as it talks about a young game designer who is trying to adapt a book based on labyrinth and choice into a video game. The philosophy behind it this complex and meta episode is best expressed by comment made by one of the characters:
“People think there is one reality, but there’s loads of them, all snaking off, like
roots. And what we do on one path affects what happens on the other paths. Time is a
construct. People think you can’t go back and change things, but you can, that’s what
flashbacks are, they’re invitations to go back and make different choices. When you
make a decision, you think it’s you doing it, but it’s not. It’s the spirit out there that’s
connected to our world that decides what we do and we just have to go along for the
This work could also serve as a metaphor of rhizome.
2. Posthumanism and Rhizome
3.1 Becoming a posthuman
It is possible to find many different terms, theories and approaches referring to the current condition of humanity and the way human beings have evolved, such as the techno-human(40) , superhuman or posthuman. To me, the concepts of posthumanism from the 1970’s science fiction, seem particularly relevant: “The idea that humanity can be transformed, transcended, or eliminated either by technological advances or the evolutionary process; artistic, scientific, or philosophical practice which reflects this belief” . In popular culture, posthumanism can be manifested through cyborgization, (41) which is understood as a process of augmentation of human beings, deriving from the connection between people and digital technology.
Recently, the idea of people evolving into cyborgs has become very popular. To support this claim, I would like to refer to “Cyborg Manifesto”, written by an American professor, Donna Haraway. According to her:“By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs.” Similar remarks can be found in a TED talk by Amber Case, an American cyborg anthropologist, who argues that ”all of us are cyborgs”. To prove her point, she recalls a traditional definition of a cyborg: “an organism to which exogenous components have been added for purpose of adapting to new environment”. This concept used to be linked with space travel, where people adapted to unknown territories and explored them. Case indicates that people mainly enhanced their physical abilities back then, and yet today the focus has shifted towards the extension of our mental selves.
Returning to sci-fi concepts, a cyborg possesses many strengths, skills and abilities unattainable for humans, thus the cyborgs are “More human than humans” . (42) Examples of human’s cyborgization can be traced in a sci-fi movie “Blade Runner” (1982), directed by Ridley Scott. The cult film raises an issue of creating artificial human beings and the consequences of this process. Personally, I believe that it can be read as a warning, preceding the new technological era, which can affect humans even further. The plot revolves around the main character, Rick Deckard, whose job is to track and exterminate androids wanting to escape slavery. Deckard is caught in dilemmas: human or robot, real or artificial? Although this symbolic matter had been shown in this work through literal actions involving humans and robots, in my view, it also reflected the state of people’s minds. Humans used to reject the idea of digital technology implanted in the body, as they wanted to protect their nature. However, it seems relevant to raise this issue again and rethink the contemporary people’s approach.
In the sequel, “Blade Runner 2049” (2017), directed by Denis Villeneuve, the story revolves around the search for a child conceived by a robot and a human. When found, the child is presented to a viewer as a “beautiful connection of something that can’t be connected”, a celebration of a perfect form emerging from the blend of nature and technology. This portrayal demonstrates how posthumanism is presented in today’s pop culture. At the same time, in line with the story, the child describes her existence as
“A life of freedom, so long as it’s behind glass”.
This scene, raising a point about the (43) delusion of freedom, calls for attention of modern society. According to Braidotti, philosopher and author of influential book “Posthuman”, people are now living in an era called “The scholarship of anxiety”, which implies (44) that crisis seems to be the crucial contemporary matter. The crisis of economy, the crisis of migration, anthropocene and the crisis related to climate change - all of these surround and affect humans in their everyday life. Moreover, as she noted, human stands on the threshold of the extinction of his own species. At the same time, technological progress and power gained by the machines question human strength and authority. As a result, human needs to resist the crises and prove his value again. This idea is also present in Alfred Jarry words, taken from “Escape Velocity”:
“In this age when metal and mechanics are all-powerful, man, in order to survive, must become stronger than the machine, just as he had to become stronger than the beasts.” (45)
Resuming the exploration of connections between rhizome and posthumanism, I I have also traced this relation in Braidotti’s work. She identifies the principles of posthuman, including the principle of non-linearity and the power of memory.
In my (46) opinion, these principles relate to free movement in time and space, which denies the physical laws of nature, and allows human’s simultaneous telepresence in several places. This can be linked to the ideas I’ve explored through the aforementioned art works by Jon Rafman, referring to the non-human memory gained through technological progress and the illusion of an infinite archive of information. It is also connected to David Rudnick’s concept of ultra-reality — a transformation of human perception through the flow of time and movement in space.
Moreover, Braidotti returns to Deleuze’s and Guattari’s view on multiplicity — as posthuman is used to living in a capitalistic world, he is used to multiplying things around him. He lives in the age of many contradictions — like the ideologies of mobility and individualism or the reality of control and capitalism :
“The perversity of the system is to connect that multiplication of sameness to a discourse about hyper individualism”. (47)
In her lecture given during the Posthumanism and Society Conference in 2015, Braidotti also points out that human, as a term which implies access to privileges, cannot be considered a general category. Being a posthuman, according to Braidotti, does not mean being post-power or post-gender. Nevertheless, I think, it stands for an onset of a new human era.
3.2 Post-digital confusion
The world, as we know it, is built by the community we are familiar with. In my view, similarly to a book depicted in “A Thousand Plateau” , human imitates the world. (48) Therefore, the human condition reflects the condition of the world.
The illustration below is a scheme demonstrating how rhizome causes changes in humans. These changes derive from the external world and are spread mostly through pop-culture. Contemporary human, living in the time of the scholarship of anxiety, has (49) to gain new kinds of power to endure all the crises. Rhizome, as a philosophical concept, offers a different perspective on how people see each other and reality. It conceives a thought that the world should no longer look like it used to. It raises new ethical issue of freedom — of bodies, of thought system. This conception is indeed based on Deleuze’s lecture : modern society of control aspires to be free from the rules (50) established by the former communities.
Technological progress combined with the popular ideas about future - the vision of beautiful artificial world and the colonization of Mars, for instance - made human think he can do everything. As I already mentioned in the previous chapter, the thoughts on cyborgization of humanity are conceived. Roughly speaking — rhizome turns human into a machine. This means that linear perception, which had always existed as a natural way of perception, changes into a mechanical one. This process may have unpredictable, chaotic consequences, since linearity starts to disappear from the way humans think. The mind becomes an endless rhizomatic structure, granting human with a power to imagine himself as anyone and anywhere, as it could be possible.
Since posthuman lives in the era of capitalism, one of the key terms determining their existence is a choice.
“Life is a matter of choice” (51)
Barry Schwartz is an American psychologist, whose work reflects on a problem of choice. According to him, people are surrounded by and face a lot of choices in their everyday life. They have to choose what to eat, what to wear, and, what is more, they have to choose who to become every day. People no longer inherit their identities, therefore, inventing and building oneself from scratches becomes an important issue. In his lecture, “Paradox of choice” , among other negative effects of too many choices, (52) Schwartz names paralysis, which makes choosing impossible. Furthermore, he examines the link between choice and depression: wide range of possibilities raises people’s expectations, which may lead to disappointment. In my opinion, choice itself is an illusory concept. The range of possibilities creates a boundary between what can happen and what seems impossible. As a result, the process of making a choice places human under the dome of
possible options. Literally “A life of freedom, so long as it’s behind glass”.
The discourse on rhizomatic changes of human perception refers also to the condition of human relationships.
“We use conversations with each other to learn how to have conversations with ourselves” (53)
Sherry Turkle, a professor of Social Studies of Science and Technology, in her TED talk in 2012, outlined the consequences of widespread technology for (54) relationships, which she called Being alone together. Turkle mentioned that people want to be with each other, but also elsewhere, connected to all the different places. In other (55) words — people aspire to rhizome. This desire makes them go online whenever possible, in order to control as many things as they notice. Consequently, since humans spend more time with electronic devices than with each other, it leads to a situation where they expect more from technology than from other people, as they recognize and trust the mechanical structure more. What is more, technology makes humans concentrate on themselves, which can also result in disappointment and loneliness.
This emotional state, manifested through disappointment and feeling lost, seems to be spreading in the society. Its portrayal can be found in pop-culture, for instance, in the aforementioned “Matrix”, where the main character’s feelings are depicted in the following way:
“What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”
And this is how the existing (56) reality is presented in the same movie :
“The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world, built to keep us under control in order to change a human being into this” (57)
According to the works mentioned above, the presence of rhizome in the external and internal human world results in more questions than answers. In my opinion, in this period of significant changes, human, being inspired by post-anthropocentric ideas and also in order to survive, tries to create a more powerful version of himself. It is a time of important comparisons and dilemmas regarding what is real or artificial. And yet, the society’s aspiration to control makes choosing the real unreasonable. After all, the nature of reality cannot be controlled.
4. No-end Book
4.1 Book as the model of the world
“The world has become chaos,but the book remains the image of the world:
radicle-chaosmos rather than root-cosmos. A strange mystification: a book all
the more total for being fragmented” Deleuze and Guattari (58)
“A Thousand Plateaus” by Deleuze and Guattari begins with a comparison of a book with the image of the world. A prototype of a book as we know it reflects a classic model of the western thought, that resembles a tree system through the principles of hierarchy and binary system. Similarly to tree branches, words are connecting into sentences, then chapters and pages, to build a well-ordered system. The main elements turning a book into an organized structure, include the pagination and the cover, which remind the reader of the linearity of time and the organization of space. Through its own shape, a book reveals its starting point, its middle and an end. Therefore, faced with changes in the image of the world, the model of a book has to transform accordingly.
In my research process, I have observed that the classic model of a book may not only represent the image of the world, but it can also mirror the image of human life.
I had created a questionnaire (see the attachments) for people from my close environment and my generation. I have interviewed 2 female people, age 19-25, in their homes. The interviews were recorded. The purpose of this tool was to help them express feelings and associations related to the keywords: internet, time, space, mind and art. I wanted to explore the possible connections among these terms, and discover what my peers had imagined when they thought about them. I was also curious if people compared their lives to the lives of superhumans. I was surprised by the answers, as some of them depicted the chaotic infinity, a desire for freedom and some contained a comparison of surfing the internet to using superpowers. I had chosen the most interesting answers and added them to the other quotations. It also allowed me to argument that even though people are not familiar with its definition, rhizome, as a concept, enters their lives from the external world and then changes their perception of this world.
After interviewing several individuals from my close environment and my generation, I have discovered that perhaps the most linear thing they had noticed was their own existence.
I would like to support this thesis with the following extracts from the interviews:
“Well, I think the first, and maybe it’s kind of depressing, beginning of my life and probably - the end. I’m sure in the future it’s gonna be the end of my life, yeah?”
“In fact, everyday, like, every day life is like linear: you start the day, you end the day, next day.”
“My life is so linear. I think about those people in South America, in like jungle, who don’t have linear time, and would like to have it. Like, you don’t see your life through years, but see it like, see it more by emotions. But it’s totally not me”
On the other hand, in the contemporary society, even a classic book is embedded in the issue of control. Books used to be intrinsically linked to the act of reading. However, according to David Rudnick’s ideas outlined in the previous chapter, the new generation of western population considers this act problematic. As stated in the aforementioned lecture by Amber Case, contemporary people aim to extend their mental selves. Therefore, even though they may still perceive their life in a linear way, this linearity seems limiting to them. Consequently, reading appears restrictive to a posthuman, as it limits the freedom of movement. Although the idea of controlling the physical object might seem appealing, its linearity paralyzes posthumans, hence the need to find other than reading, non-linear, visual and haptic ways of engaging the user.
According to the previously discussed article by Giuliana Bruno, we are surrounded by digital media and even our walls are transforming into screens: “Our walls are becoming more like light spaces, and they are at times even turning into screens.” I believe that books, similarly to cinema, may shift from an optic sense to a haptic one, embracing the perception of body movement. Bruno recalls the Greek etymology of the world haptic and defines it as the reciprocal contact between the environment and us.
In my opinion, there are several books that could be referred to as rhizomatic. The first one is “Black Cat” by a Swiss performance artist John Armleder. The book (59) was designed as a catalogue of wallpapers and carpets. Its form embodies the celebration and power of glitter and glamour. This book is not meant to be read, as it has been created not only with an optic, but also a haptic sense in mind, creating the contact between the object and its user.
A similar approach can be traced in a project “Fabulous Beasts” created by the (60) British artist Simon Fujiwara. Among other works, this project consists of a book made of an old fur coat produced after 1950. First, the coat had been deconstructed into pieces in order to show the process of its production: from dye marks to the manufacturers stamps. Then, it was sewn back into a book. Being an expression of Fujiwara’s sensuality, “Fabulous Beasts” tells a story without words and raises the question about the normality of the world as it is.
When referring to rhizomatic books, I believe I should also mention an antinovel “Hopscotch” (original Spanish title - “Rayuela”), by an Argentinian writer Julio (61) Cortazar. It serves as an example of a rhizomatic fragmented book, as it can be read in two different ways. The first way is the usual one, where the reader proceeds from the first chapter to the next one in a typical, linear order. In the second way, the reader follows a special sequence recommended by the author. The reading process resembles hopscotch: every chapter ends with an instruction leading to the next step. This book demonstrates that the rhizomatic transformation may not only shape the physical form of a book, but also the construction of its contents.
Living in a digital society overflowing with information, classic book no longer serves its former purpose. This function is taken over by other media, such as brochures and advertising posters, which become models of a modern book.
Provided that the book is an organized linear structure of information, its evolution determines changes in both the meaning and the value of information. This is reflected in the work of a New-York based artist Seth Price. “Model for a one page book” may be seen as a manifesto, a statement on the current role of books. What does (62) this one page mean confronted with a whole book? And yet, what does it mean confronted with the digital world? This page looks so large due to its dimension and shape, as if it could be filled with countless words. However, compared with the amount of information processed in the contemporary world - this page is empty.
All things considered, a classic book is a model of the world as it used to be, but it does not represent the rhizomatic world. At the same time, many modern art books have embodied the rhizomatic character. This is how I imagine the future of books. Inspired by these objects, in my final project, I have decided to create a rhizomatic book resembling the contemporary world.
4.2 Project description
No-end Book is the title of my final project and an outcome of my research. It is a book that is meant to reflect the contemporary human condition and perception. It represents a model of rhizomatic reality, a chaotic and comprehensive way of thinking that is inherent in the society.
Since the main desire of a posthuman is free movement in time and space, I focused on the principle of linearity and decided to get rid of it. No-end book can be leafed through an infinite number of times. In order to strip the book of its ending, I decided to skip the pagination and the cover. Each page can become a new beginning or a new end. Additionally, it shows a relation between the reader and the book, and it definitely deprives the reader of control, as he cannot stay on one page or another. Moreover, as the book aspires to be seen, the reader turns into a beholder. No-end book can serve as an art installation object exhibited and looked at, as well as it can function as a book for everyday use, which can be taken everywhere.
Considering its content, I was genuinely inspired by the book “Cent mille milliards de poèmes” made by a group OULIPO . The book consists of ten sonnets, the (63) lines of which were separated from each other. The construction of the book allows numerous ways of combining the sonnets.
In the end, I decided to make an illustrated book containing citations. I collected quotes from my research: interviews, academic texts as well as famous quotes from pop culture, in order to present the existence of rhizome in a broader context, not just on pages of a philosophy coursebook. The book contents consists of quotations by academics Sherry Turkle, Deleuze and Guattari, Barry Schwartz, Lev Manovich, Mark Dery, Donna Haraway; quotes from song lyrics by musician Peter Peter and the extracts from my research interviews.
I began the process of designing by thinking about the book construction, which would enable endless reading. As a result, I found two possible ways of creating this kind of binding system.
I started searching for an already existing construction letting a book turn around. I have discovered the work “Reduce to Improper Fraction” by artist Gabriel (64) Kuri, who used plastic rings to connect pages to each other.
This kind of binding seemed very interesting to me, therefore I have found the only producer of rings since 1948 — a Belgium Webshop ATOMA . Atoma rings not (65) only let the user turn the book around, but also allow the reader to take any page out and insert it into any other place in the book. Webshop ATOMA also produces a special tool, a hole puncher, which makes perfect holes for the rings. With these tools, the process of working on a book becomes easy and fast, compared to the other ways of binding.
Atoma rings binding enables the pages to rotate endlessly around their axis. For all the reasons mentioned above, I intended to use this system in my project. However, after ordering the products from Belgium, I faced problems with shipping outside the EU. The long delivery time caused me to think of alternative ways to achieve the desired effect – the rotation of pages – in a fast, easy and inexpensive way.
Inspired by a simple construction of a classic door, I created the first prototype of the binding system, which consisted of cardboard rings and an aluminium rod. A special cut was made in each ring, in order to insert pages.
After verifying this kind of construction, I decided to try stronger materials. The cardboard rings were replaced with plastic modules and the aluminium rod changed into a wooden one. I prepared a technical drawing and then laser-cut the modules out of a 2mm thick plexi.
The next step involved creating the second prototype. In the end, the construction consisted of two kinds of modules (one to hold pages, and the other one to keep the distance between them) and a connecting rod. This model allowed me to attach 12 pages.
In this prototype, since the book needs to be turned around and viewed from 360 degrees, the paper should be strong enough to support the construction of the installation. Therefore, I have decided to try plastic instead of paper.
I have found a plastic material available at a local market and sold by a local printing house. I have ordered color proofs of 0,3 mm thick plastic, with and without a matt lamination.
The color proofs pictured above were printed using a digital press HP INDIGO 5900. This machine enables printing on up to 0,4 mm thick plastic, and, at the same time, it is a lot cheaper than screen printing or UV printing.
Then, after receiving the materials from Atoma store, I started to test the Atoma puncher to check how it worked on plastic. Following these tests, I have made the third prototype based on the Atoma construction.
A society which desires control is condemned to a constant process of making decisions. Control and choice are interrelated phenomena, which cannot exist separately. As already mentioned in this paper, a choice is only an illusion, a dome, providing us with a set of options created in our own imagination. A system with a wide range of choices is a control system, but not under human’s influence. This is the paradox of control.
The desire of posthuman to claim his freedom only confirms that he lives in a rhizomatic infinite and chaotic structure of reality, which affects his system of thoughts as well as the external world. An individual feels lost under the dome of possibilities and this influences his idea of freedom - what exactly should this freedom look like?
Thus, the rhizome, although not in a direct way, controls the society of control. In my opinion, technology and its development play an equally important role in this matter. The Internet, as the first reviewed rhizomatic structure, absorbed people through its ultra-reality and endowed them with an idea of ultra-powers. Technology has also caused another issue — the acceptance of machines’ superiority over humanity. This pressure to be stronger led to a situation where people trust the machines more than themselves and connect their way of thinking with digits on screens.
Since the image of the world is undergoing this chaotic transformation, the role of books is changing accordingly. As a book represents the model of the world, it becomes rhizomatic. Therefore, the connection between the object and its user starts to acquire characteristics based on freedom and choice.
Due to mechanization of mind, empathy and feelings withdraw from the main circle of evolution. Nonetheless, the problem of value of the real and the artificial is still of interest to modern society, since the answer may act as a beacon for the further
human development. Therefore, the presence of this organic rhizomatic perception in an era of high technological progress, may be read as a sign of advantage of the natural part of human over the artificial one.
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