Sunday, September 06, 2009

All landscapes are populated by a loved or dreamed-of face

"All faces envelop an unknown, unexplored landscape; all landscapes are populated by a loved or dreamed-of face, develop a face to come or already past. What face has not called upon the landscapes it amalgamated, sea and hill; what landscape has not evoked the face that would have completed it, providing an unexpected complement for its lines and traits?" - Gilles Deleuze and FĂ©lix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (1980, trans. Brian Massumi)

In responding to a comment on an earlier posting I said I would try to get round to the subject of faciality and landscape, which Deleuze and Guattari discuss in the section of A Thousand Plateaus entitled 'Year Zero: Faciality'.  They describe the face as a surface and a map, 'overcoding' the head so that it is no longer simply part of the body, indeed this process of 'facialisation' can extend to the whole body. The face is to the body what the 'landscape' is to the world.  'Architecture positions its ensembles - houses, towns, or cities, monuments or factories - to function like faces in the landscape they transform.' The close-up in film treats the face as a landscape.  Painting positions landscape as face and vice versa. 

Landscape, as we know, is an artificial construct, whether political or aesthetic.  Deleuze and Guattari associate the face and landscape with 'certain social formations' - 'the face is not universal.  It is not even that of the white man; it is White Man himself, with his broad white cheeks and the black hole of the eyes.  The face is Christ.'  They therefore see the face in abstract terms as a white screen with black holes (after landscape painting, 'when painting becomes abstract, all it does is rediscover the black hole and the white wall').  And in medieval and Renaissance art, Christ presides over 'the facialisation of the entire body (his own) and the landscapification of all mileus (his own)'.

I was reminded of faciality last week, reading about the weeping ice cap photographed by Michael Nolan.  Here are black holes on a white surface apparently showing the face of a mother ('mother nature in tears').  The concept of faciality is linked to the image of the mother - Deleuze and Guattari trace the importance of the black eyes and white screen to the face perceived by breast feeding infants.  But they also warn that faciality is not just about resemblances and anthropomorphism.  The process of facialisation could therefore be seen to lie behind many artists' images of the arctic landscape.


MartininBroda said...

Seems I have found a treasure with your blog, now I have to improve my “English” again.

teddy said...

"Landscape is an artificial construct" So is faciality?
faciality is using facial features to represent a person. landscaping is outside forces creating a form (topography) for the (surface of the) earth. there is a face in every landscape, because just as we form faces to represent/reflect ourselves we form landscapes in the same way. so do i use faciality as a power assemblage to affect others? the person who has the face is authoritarian while the viewer of the face is despotic? do i only manipulate my own face and manipulate it in a way to affect others? or do others manipulate my face to?
Thanks for the blog post. it was super helpful!