INHABITING THE UNIVERSAL
TRANSCULTURE & TRANSCULTURAL WRITING
Transcultural condition & universal literary space
Grammars of creation
The lure of literacy
Reconstructing sublime eroticism
(forthcoming) "Proliferating names of love. Reconstruction of sublime eroticism"
Towards a shared sphere of post-secular reflection
TOPOLOGIES: ART & HUMANITIES
Battlements. Deleuze - Guattari - Araki
In this essay I try to establish a triangular relationship between some fragments of A Thousand Plateaus, some of Guattari's short texts on Japan (Machinic Eros: Writings on Japan, ed. by Gary Genosko and Jay Hetrick) and some photographs from Araki's cycle Tokyo Lucky Hole.
As an analytic tool to deal with this selection of textual and visual materials, I introduce an architectonic metaphor: that of battlements, forming a cyclophrenic rhythm of fullness and void. These battlements actually appear in Guattari's notes from Japan as “luminous cubes on top of the skyscrapers”, compared with “medieval towers of Bologna”. At the same time, the diagram of battlements organizes the vital experience of presence/absence of the body, put in evidence in some of Araki's photographs, as well as in Guattari's appreciation of the dance performed by the butoh master Min Tanaka, to whom Guattari dedicated a poem containing a significant line: “I dance not in the place but I dance the place”. The fullness of the body, its material presence, forms an oscillation on a threshold, evoking negativity, absence, and void – the abysmal aspect of the “lucky hole”.
This body-on-the-threshold remains inscribed in a particular ecology, a vital space of episodic, intermittent existence that I shall try to inscribe into my own concept of Eremos that stands for an emergent symbolic dimension situated beyond any particular culture, as it appears as the result of interference between heterogeneous cultural codes, languages, rituals, choreographies.
Emergent topologies: transcultural symbolic space and its architectural translations
The emergent topology of the symbolic space results from the interference of various cultural codes in the peculiar conditions brought about by the globalization. It is possible to translate this abstract concept of symbolic space into actual, i.e. urbanistic and architectonic spaces. What is more, such a translation is a crucial element in city planning dedicated to new global centres; it is also required while creating spaces dedicated to institutions inscribed in their tissue. I think in particular about the transcultural museum as an institution hosting and mediating the interference of various interpreting codes and systems of cultural memory.
The first part of this essay presents the basic problem, i.e. the emergence of a new level of symbolic complexity, beyond “cultures” as we understood them traditionally. This new complexity is due to the interference of various cultural codes in the individual consciousness of the inhabitant, in the interaction between the inhabitants, and finally, in the macro-space of the city, as well as its specific micro-spaces (such as museums). The concept of emergent symbolic complexity is referred, in the first place, to the "knots" in the globalized networks, emergent metropolises – I will use such examples as Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, the futuristic campus of Masdar, etc. I will also define idiomatically the concepts of “knots” and “voids” that I use in this context.
The topological inspiration may be used for creation of actual spaces (architecture for institutions such as transcultural museum, the space of transcultural city in which the museum is inscribed as a particular "knot" of the symbolic/real space). By topology I mean actual mathematical concepts, such as Möbius stripe and Klein bottle. Bringing those mathematical inspirations closer to humanities, I will quote some texts (Deleuze & Guattari, Slavoj Zizek) dealing with the proprieties of “Place” (empty space, exposition room, “the desert”).
The conclusive step is to stress the importance of the void in constructing “knotted” spaces. I sketch the idea of the “empty centre” and the “pin-wheel” as a model of whirling dynamics associated to the central emptiness. It is an example of a possible solution to the problem of translating the transcultural symbolic space.
Pin-wheels. Proliferating geometries of the textual space
In A Thousand Plateaus, the concept of multiplicity is referred to the textual space, as the book itself is a tentative of constructing a “smooth space” enabling nomadic exploration. In my opinion, the invitation to read it in any order, included in the initial Author's note, breaks not only with the habits of linear reading, proper to the western tradition, but also with a determined topology of the textual space (unidirectional flux of the text, divided into rectangular, movable pages as basic visual and topological units; further segmentation of this flux into chapters, that tend to coincide with those basic topological units – new chapter opens up a new page, etc.). My first aim is to go on with the Deleuzean reflection concerning the textual space. Can we imagine a different geometry of this textual space, enabling us to cope with more complex thoughts and ideas?
The necessity of multiplied textual space is dictated by the emergence of what Michail Epstein called “transculture”. The starting point of this reflection is given by the observation that, in the globalized conditions, the cultural orders form multiple, changing and unpredictable patterns of interference. This proliferation of symbolic configurations leads to the emergence of a new level of complexity and creates a new dimension of the symbolic space, situated beyond any locatable culture. My reflection on the topology of the textual space should lead to the proposal of a new modality of theory-building, enabling me to grasp this emergent complexity, to cope with it.
The challenge presented by the emergent patterns of cultural interference requires the final deconstruction of the linearity of the text as a primary medium of the theoretical discourse in the humanities. This paradigm of breaking with the linearity had already been implied in such texts as A Thousand Plateaux, but didn't become as yet a current practice in the humanities (we still write and read linear books). I would like to go further in this domain, confronting the European experiments with non-European tradition of non-linear text-making. I will bring about a visual example : a Malay manuscript in which a single key-concept, written in the middle of the page, is surrounded by triangular zones of writing, glossing simultaneously on various aspects of the central concept. Impossibility of a linear reading is implied in the very distribution of this text in the visual space of the page.
Confronting the Deleuzean notions of multiplicity and “smooth”, open-ended nomad space with the inspiration given by this Malay manuscript, I would like to present the idea of a plural “pin-wheel” text, growing from a given centre as a proliferation of argumentative lines and implying the potentiality of a whirling movement as its creative opening. This new pattern of textual organization is a visual and a conceptual experiment at the same time. New, complex topologies of the textual space – exemplified here in the model of the pin-wheel – may bring about new configurations of thought, processed simultaneously in parallel lines of reflection, corresponding roughly to the plurality of displaced cultural standpoints. Engaged into the transcultural “whirlpool”, those parallel lines of reflection are supposed to form a “smooth space” of Deleuzean nomadic reading. The utmost purpose of all this is to create a new type of artefact, a kind of “post-book” in which the topology of the blank space prepared for writing (actual pin-wheel shape of the sheets of paper) would be adequate to the kaleidoscopic character of the transcultural phenomena. The final result, as I believe, would be situated somewhere between cultural criticism and an art-work, “generating”, according to the statement included in the call for paper, “a new world”, i.e. preparing a new configuration of space for transcultural texts that are yet-to-come.