A Cartographic Creativity: Deleuze, Guattari and Deligny Towards New Means of Philosophical Expression

Mapping has become a popular and much commented on practice in social sciences, humanities, and art history. Although mapping is often used to furnish a global view of an idea or to clarify a situation, I would like to argue that it can be a much more complex activity—a “dark precursor” —which escapes usual representation and touches the core of creative processes whether they are of artistic or conceptual orders. In A Thousand Plateaus, maps play a discreet though important part as rhizomatic ways of escaping representation: maps are oriented toward experimentation; they do not reproduce but construct the unconscious; they have multiple entryways; they are open and connectable, detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 12). In Schizoanalytic Cartographies, Félix Guattari (1989, 18, 32) goes further by defining maps as “existential circumscriptions” and by suggesting that mapping calls for an aesthetic account of our experiences. Maps in the frame of this paper thus perform as a means of experimentation toward an encounter between art and philosophy.

To understand how mapping can give us such an access to an impersonal plane of creativity, this paper will focus on one of the most important influences on Deleuze and Guattari on this topic: Fernand Deligny’s work with autistic children. Deligny (1913–96) was a French educator who promoted an approach to autistic children through the wander lines they trace in space. Deligny’s mapping of the children’s journeys didn’t aim to carry any therapeutic, “normalising” purpose; in fact, it was not aimed at all. Through the maps, Deligny wanted to escape our linguistically- and symbolically-shaped reality in order to bring to light the pre-personal “common” (le commun) we share with autistic people (see Álvarez de Toledo, 2013; Deligny 2007).

The main questions structuring this paper will thus concern the “aimless” and the “common” characteristics of those maps and what they can teach us of creative processes. In the preface to Difference and Repetition, Deleuze (1994, xxi) writes on the search for new means of philosophical expression. Could Deligny’s maps be one of those means? How would that affect our views on the formation of subjectivity? What would it tell us about the political production of a common space? How do the maps relate to what Deleuze calls “the virtual”? Would the performativity of those maps affect the very way we tell stories about the creation of art and the creation of concepts?

References

Álvarez de Toledo, Sandra, ed. 2013. Cartes et lignes d’erre/Maps and Wander Lines: Traces du réseau de Fernand Deligny, 1969–1979. Paris: L’Arachnéen.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1994. Difference and Repetition. Translated by Paul Patton. New York: Columbia University Press.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Deligny, Fernand. 2007. Œuvres. Edited by Sandra Álvarez de Toledo. Paris: L’Arachnéen.

Guattari, Félix. 2012. Schizoanalytic Cartographies. Translated by Andrew Goffey. New York: Bloomsbury.

Art and Schizo Society

Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of art is surprisingly asocial—it treats creativity almost as an instinct, as something that people possess as an innate capacity. But even if this were true, it would tell us nothing about the way creativity is expressed. There is a need, I think, to situate Deleuze and Guattari’s work on art within the context of their work on culture and society and think more clearly about the relationship between the two. In this paper I will explore Deleuze and Guattari’s hypothesis that we live in a schizo society and examine its implications for thinking about art in the twenty-first century.