Network_Ecologies Symposium Teaser
The brilliant Stephanie Boluk will be delivering a talk titled “Symbolic Xchanges: Poetry, Money, ARGs” during our Saturday afternoon Symposium session. It will be a must-attend event!
Network_Ecologies Symposium Teaser
The brilliant Stephanie Boluk will be delivering a talk titled “Symbolic Xchanges: Poetry, Money, ARGs” during our Saturday afternoon Symposium session. It will be a must-attend event!
Drew S. Burk
“It still remains that there is writing and there is the what. The what, the contents of the book, what it will say, about what is written is obviously essential; what remains is to write which is Arachnean. You can gaze at 10,000–100,000 hands writing: they do the same thing. There are nonetheless several differences between the spider and this by which a hand, fingers, become legs and the palm becomes the written body; the thread of words does not shoot out from thread-shoots located at the beginning of the wrist; we had to learn to write.”
If Deligny’s writings found within The Arachnean and Other Texts continually oscillate between what he calls “the-man-that-we-are,” the human imbued with language and self-awareness (albeit false), and the so-called Arachnean, the (non)human being whose innate weaving and “acting” is pre-linguistic or at the least, does not take language as its “dwelling,” then unlike many of his contemporaries who embraced language as the dwelling of being and the narrative nature of existence, Deligny sees within our world dominated by language and perhaps now media of all sorts, a world where we are constantly confronted with an overarching yearning for sense making. Has the human that we are become arrogant in this undertaking of what Deligny names Se Voir, self seeing, (the being conscious of being) and not Ce Voir, a this seeing, which hesitates, and is uncertain about “self awareness” and claims of authoritative naming with which sense is made and where Deligny claims, we discover a violence of wanting?
However, by comparing 10,000–100,000 human hands writing to the becoming animal of the spider, Deligny is suggesting it is perhaps necessary to revaluate man’s relation to sense making, where writing should perhaps be viewed of a different poetic nature, where the human becomes a humane inhuman. Writing here is possibly an expression of the innate, and is thus not about “making” sense but is merely the innate ritual of “acting”, the mode of the Arachnean. It is what Deligny would call “a-conscious”, outside the conscious or subconscious. As the Brazilian philosopher and Deligny scholar, Peter Pàl Pelbart states,
“Deligny refers to the turtle traced by the aborigine in a tree’s bark, then abandoned–the essential there is the tracing, the movements of the hand that come and go, not being this “his” hand, just as the web is not this one spider’s…and our emotion comes from the fact that this drawing is common; a sense common to us, human, since the human has for common the hand in motion. Common, communism. When conscience is eclipsed it is worth looking, as if at a lunar eclipse, and what is seen, even if it is not visible, are the traces of the Arachnean.
To put it excessively abruptly, Deligny’s problem is not one of the assemblage of desire, but of the innate, of the pre-linguistic, of the a-conscious, of what he calls humane, and that Deleuze and Guattari would call inhumane. Conversely, one could say that the reticence in relation to language, to the significant, to interpretation, to structure, persist entirely, despite the different conceptions they have on the status of language.” 
Within the digital networks of millions of “hand(s), fingers, becomes legs, and the palms become the written body,” is perhaps where the utterances where digital social networks need to be evaluated as having more to do with an innate acting than a sense making, i.e. more to do with a poetics of being than any kind of self-aware truth claims of expression, where intention would be seen. Where wanting (to make sense) would emerge.
Instead of wanting, there can perhaps be found in the mode of the network, a position outside of language proper and outside of self (interest) that would strive to create a space for common shared existence where those involved had a profound detachment from the others, except for providing some sort of meal or necessary utility, coming every now and then to place on the stone table at the site of living in the Cevennes some sort of goods, those within the network were not concerned with any thought-out relation or project. It is within “acting” in an innate, unattached manner, keeping a distance from one another, that the network was spun
“[…] anyone who came from one of the distant collectives and passed by the silk farm would place, lettuce, blackberries or cheeses on the stone which were from another collective, and then would take back with them whatever had been placed by someone else on their own collective’s stone. For the most part, all of this took place without anyone else being present besides the passerby from the collective.”
A profound detachment to naming and to others at once proximate and distant. Wanting was left aside for innate gestures of exchange. But as the Arachnean web was spun, as the network continued to weave itself as mode of being, Deligny’s poetic recounting indicated that something nevertheless emerged, a ritual customary living that if told in the form of a narrative, in a precise manner, would not be so different than the relation the Aborginals had to their ritual practice of art creation. While they are mentioned briefly in Deligny’s text, the figure of the Aboriginal nevertheless plays an important role for Deligny concerning the Aboriginal’s reliance on art practice as “acting” and not as a thought-out project of “making”, engaged simply in a ritual creation of their artwork and turtle paintings: it was not about the finished painting but the customary process and ritual of the practice itself. For Deligny, the network as a mode of being was a similar innate practice of living. It was within the detached ritual of exchange of the network as mode of being that it gained its strength.
“And then the stones were replaced by the beam which had been the master-beam for a demolished house. The customary coming from the stones persisted upon the furrowed gray wood of this crudely squared beam, until the day came that when the customary ceased; the passersby would sit and talk and exchange information, something which a socio-ethno-psychologist would have concluded the network accessed at superior level.
However, several years later, I learned that when the beam was in use within the customary of the network, the legend had taken the form of language, the collectives preached that the network lived off the mode of exchange, an archaic mode and obsolete tradition considered to be in good taste by everyone of the network, all of whom had an engrained distrust of money; so it was that a rough solidarity was practiced to speak like those who speak of the painted turtle on bark somewhere in far off Arnhem Land.” 
 From Peter Pàl Pelbart’s afterward to the forthcoming, The Arachnean and Other Texts, by Fernand Deligny, trans. Drew S. Burk, Univocal: Minneapolis, 2013)
 The Arachnean and Other Texts, by Fernand Deligny, trans. Drew S. Burk, forthcoming, Univocal: Minneapolis. 2013)
Drew S. Burk
Translation Fieldwork and Birch re-appropriation from the museum soil: Or, how our translator came to perform his own translation.
While adapting the included Deligny excerpt from French to English, artist-theorist-translator Drew Burk found himself enacting not only the textual translation but indeed also the art/act featured within the text. He recreated an original Aboriginal relic – one seemingly similar to the one mentioned by Deligny – thus emplacing himself within the dynamic network of the text. What emerges then from this network(ed) reading is Burk’s own modern archaeological artifact. We attach its representation here, along with an anecdote of its creation, as an introduction to our second installment of this first official English translation of Deligny’s Arachnean.
– Amanda Starling Gould
You head out on a wander line… you have your daily, customary trajectories…. and then a task shows itself: you must do some translational fieldwork. You must get lost and wander. And you must get a sentiment for translating the aboriginal reiterated ritual of the turtle painting. You must find the proper bark and pigments to inscribe the turtle’s morphology.
And you find yourself in a nature reserve… A preserved block of nature amidst the concrete and metal speed vehicles.
You wander some more and realize that your reflections must be etched and inscribed on various surfaces. You mark and trace on ipad and iphone and birch bark and moleskine.
And somewhere in this acting, you encounter the dream space/time of the aboriginal who repeats the ritual of the turtle painting for the process itself… You wander some more and translate.
If Deligny rightfully claims there is no desire on the part of the Aboriginal to preserve or have need of the turtle painting, once completed, and that only “enlightened amateurs from another world” will find use of it, claim it and place it in a confined space of staring called a museum, then perhaps it is necessary to reverse this process… taking into consideration that I find myself within a place where nature, like art, is preserved and controlled by so many bureaucracies and legislators….
I encounter my materials: birch bark canvas on the grounds of the museum.
And so the birch bark, rising up in the form of a tree on the territory of such an institution of this legislative species is perhaps in need of being plucked from its place, lying on closely cropped grass at a local center of art.
The bark, like the museum space itself, is grown on the soil of ritualistic practice.
Working translation excerpts
(From section 45)
What happened took place and nothing more. What remains is this specific network that I see with the same eye that I use to look at the turtle painted on bark, with a different eye than those who look at it.
It was called an attempt and then a life raft; and now it is a network, quite simply because the life raft is not used that often outside of adventures like that of Kon-Tiki, whereas networks, if one believes the radio, newspapers, and books, are raining down, at least when the time is ripe, which is a way of saying: it is when “the times” no longer lend themselves to anything else that people want – and quite often it is a person that emerges and personifictivizes [personnagise] this wanting which is supposed to be that of all the others – that the networks weave themselves. And if it is true that what happened – in history – took place and nothing else, what could have happened persists but in forms that escape us, and quite often the network, as a kind of escape plan or way-out, inherits from these forms which have not taken place or which we could say took place “in time” which, truth be told, is quite a strange place.
To say that networks are like turtles – and more specifically those of Arnhem Land, which are aquatic and find themselves painted on pieces of bark that have lost their curved form – is true in more ways than one.
In regards to the bark paintings, André Breton speaks of the immediate pleasure, of the untrained eye that is left to wander, of rhythmic unity, of the organic respondent between the bark painting and the shells which exist on that coast, of a contact, of a current that flows, being seduced and subjugated, of elementary affects, of the emotional threshold that predominates on the pathways of knowledge, of the act of creation itself which is the only act that matters for the Aboriginals…
He thus privileges emotion, a word that, at its origin, is movement. And this introductory text, Breton wrote it on the basis of “first hand knowledge.”
This turtle is thus hand traces, the acting being first and then the making occurring as though on top of the traced line as though second hand. The witness of the Aboriginal grappling with the bark, the sympathetic person who watched him make it, is surprised by the casualness in which the Aboriginal treats what he has made.
The Aboriginal turns away from what he or she makes; the project does not reside there; it resides within the movements of the hand that reiterates the trajectories, that come and go according to where the hand must pass; and this hand is not his own. It is any hand whatsoever which is at his or her disposal in the same manner as the small chewed stick which he or she uses as a pencil; the human is at work and the traced turtle is as common as the spider’s web which we can quite easily see is not the web of a specific spider that would sign with its name, the work of the Arachnean.
And the excitement that can surprise us when we let the eye wander over the turtle is not due to the fact that we are contemplating a singular, exceptional, work, but precisely the contrary. It comes from the fact that the turtle is felt as being common; it is human; and not because a human being is represented by it – which could happen on top of it all – and this by way of some language interference which, when put into use, mixes with everything, adding its symbolic grain of salt, but simply because, for the human, the hand is primary and its traces are common, and common to the species.
Here a communism that can be called primitive appears, but primitive evokes a certain stage, a certain moment, a certain state in history; one would be better off saying a primordial communism, “that is the most ancient and serves as the origin”.
This is why I wrote that the Arachnean was a fossil.
But one must understand that this ancient origin, as much a fossil as it may be, persists at the origin of each of our current gestures, fossilized in the sense that this origin is buried under layers of sediment of what the human was capable of wanting and wanting to become, considering themselves to be their own project, eager to have what they might want and to want what they might have or what they could have if certain people were not outrageously privileged.
To abolish privilege, it is necessary to abandon the one who has decided to be a being apart and of such a superior level that he ended up believing himself detached.
With the return of someone who left to wander the coast of Arnhem Land, a turtle-relic appears, a turtle that could also be a crocodile, or ray or copulation or a female kangaroo and many other things as well. If I can make this small inventory it is because there is, on the bark, something represented and thus a certain wanting to make a female kangaroo rather than a manta ray.
Who could disagree? One would still have to distinguish the part of the reiterated in what is being represented.
Otherwise where would the surprise, the excitement, and all things considered, the art come from?
Art; another word that is a good excuse [avoir bon dos], an enormous turtle emerges from the depths of antiquity from which we can see quite well that – if only from reading André Breton who in regard to the paintings speaks of the close proximity to seashells – nothing proves that art waited for humans to arrive before showing itself in the light of day.
It is perhaps even the complete opposite; art is found everywhere in nature and what is surprising is that man still respects something that is no more useful than a spider’s web in the nook of a room.
Which still leaves a little hope as far as the persistence of primordial communism is concerned. One must believe it is just as coriaceous as the turtle faced with floods, or to put it another way, just as coriaceous as the lines on the palms of our hands.
If this specific network, very small, very precarious, had a vocation, it would be to weave at least some aspects of a primordial communism. We understand that this is the case, as concerns this work, only when it is about painting: the painting is in the canvas, in the web. Where else would you expect it to be? Inside heads, ideas, inside people’s hearts or who knows where?
Each living area is a canvas, a web, understanding that we are speaking of the canvas prior to the painting. There is nothing more than a stretched space. However a certain part of the artwork is already completed; some amongst us do not have access to the use of language; to act [agir] is customary to them whereas to make [faire] escapes them. We had to enter into a certain practice of not-wanting [non-vouloir]; if only out of respect for what seemed obvious: that all wanting was violent in the sense that wanting to take the other’s place, in the mode of interpretation, is a rape, in the same way that wanting to take the other’s thought is also a rape — to put oneself in the place, in taking the place, in occupying the place — a spider or a turtle or whatever for which our language is nothing more than a noise amongst others.
It is clear that primordial communism is not inscribed within the charter of human rights where the only relevant question is what the human can want; this charter must draft ‘the is’ [le soit] and thus this linguistic ‘is’ must moreover be written in a language that can be translated into all other languages.
It is obvious that, in the approach we are taking, if a paragraph of the said charter concerned us it would speak about the right of every human to language. But why is it that in every law there appears the necessity of separating the human from other species, understanding that this word species is common to everything that lives, that it evokes a kind of common good.
And this is true to such an extent that even that which can appear as being an appropriation by a specific species or by individuals of a species, when looking at it a bit more closely is, as with everything that is innate, always moving according to the circumstances; so it is that the famous idea of territoriality (the defense of the meticulously defined territory) is established, exasperated, or extinguished based on the overall locatable food sources within this territory which can at once take the form of a closed off field where dangerous competitions take place or the site of a peaceful gathering.
In the last lines of his book, Karel Kupka writes: “All art inevitably changes in its manifestations with the evolution of its creators, but it does this less than we think; it always maintains its simple and noble function that is indispensable to humans, which is to communicate […]. Man has always consciously and voluntarily used art, but via the thrust of his instinct to communicate.”
André Breton warns us: “The end that the Australian artist pursues has nothing to do with the completed work in as much as we can discern it in its spatial limits […] but, all in all, with the approach that results from it.”
But then how is this famous communication established if the completed artwork is of no interest to anyone, especially not to the author – the creator – him or herself? The only person interested will be the foreign collector who will attempt to communicate and find modalities of exchange to take the artwork to the destination of some museum or other.
Thus it appears that for the Aboriginal, it is not about making any kind of artwork whatsoever. Rather it would be more about acting upon the mode of acting or making itself where the reiterated prevails.
The drawn or traced and painted turtle is always the same one; Karel Kupka speaks of instinct regarding the necessity of art; the innate is the act, and to act without end, so that coincidences are produced between the “traces” of the act and some sort of utility that would be indispensable for survival.
Then, is to communicate, this master-word that inscribes itself endlessly on the temple wall of fashionable ideas?
As far as the turtle goes, the Aboriginal can speak about it; and moreover there are legends regarding this theme and others; the turtle is not taboo.
But where does the ‘instinctive necessity’ to trace-paint come from?
Amongst all the forms of the act – the innate- tracing continually returns.
Moreover, and Karel Kupka tells us this, sometimes the most remarkable modifications intervene in what emerges on the bark; all it takes, within the surroundings of the territory, is that a new material be introduced, even if it is merely some detritus from our industries; I don't know which battery residue provides a black that proves to be easy to manipulate though the Aboriginal will dip their pencil into it and copiously use this ‘color’, the turtle taking on a completely different appearance.
What becomes of the “mythic system of representations” in this case? Is it possible that a venerable swarm of mythic tales steps aside to open the way for a new and completely fresh tale that justifies the presence of this fated black? If I read this event – and not with another interpretation but without using the key, the symbolic catch-all – it is because I’ve often seen the tracing-painting of a child – an autistic child, who hitherto had been dominated by an apparently immutable reiterating, become significantly modified by the simple fact that the instrument for this “making” had been changed. If it is about communicating, then here we have an example of the message being reworked simply because the hand has found another material or other instruments in its grasp. If it is about communicating and if communication is subjected to this degree to the chance of what lingers in the corner, communication is truly aleatory. And moreover, no one really gives a damn about the turtle inscribed on the bark, apart from enlightened amateurs coming from another world where art has great signifying importance.
By this I understand, or rather this word as I understand it, doubles.
There is the mythic tale where the turtle’s name is evoked.
And there is this tracing-painting on bark.
One has to believe that the named turtle evoked in the repeated tale is not enough.
There is what can be said about the turtle.
And there is the tacit.
In order to make the tacit speak, one must want to do so, one must make violence and violate and this would not at all be a violation of a secret or whatever would refuse the saying.
The turtle is not tracing-painting in place of the said.
There is the place of the saying, and there is the other place that is not the saying, and has not much at all to do with (the) saying, putting aside precisely what the saying has just added on top of it all, profiting from coincidence, which here appears as being represented.
A coincidence becomes a confusion, the tracing-painting literally subjugated, domesticated, and made subservient to this approach to which the humans-that-we-are not only have the secret but the undying habit.
In the place of saying of saying, the Aboriginal paints.
In the place of painting, the Aboriginal says.
What they don’t say, we make them say, and not in torturing them, but in torturing the turtle or the manta ray or whatever because we want to see nothing but communication and representation.
Such relentlessness must have a precise aim, which is moreover easy to glimpse. It is quite simply the hegemony of the humans-that-we-are.
But in order to break with this propensity towards hegemony, thanks to which our privileged mode of living was founded, we must not honor everything and everyone, nor the aboriginal of Arnhem Land, treating them and considering them to be similar – and similar to what if not to us. One must perceive that in the place of saying, it is only about saying.
There is still the other place that remains where communicating – where the lineage of the commons can be seen. It evokes this primordial communism that exists and persists but which comes from such a distance that the human has difficulty rediscovering it, whereas it seems indeed that we do find it. This is what a letter from Cuernavaca I received today indicates to me, somewhere close to Mexico. In a pharmacy a 12 year-old child prepares the accounts of the customers with a Japanese made calculator while eventually the turtle painted on a piece of flattened bark will end up finding its place in one of the museums of his or her city or that of a neighboring capital. And we can see quite easily that fate has something inescapable about it.
Artist’s Note: The birch bark turtle painting imaged above is an original work by Drew Burk, completed Summer 2013. Its materials are black ink, walnut ink, and a salvaged piece of birch bark that Burk found on the soil of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN.
Forthcoming, Part 3. You can gaze at 10,000-100,000 hands writing: Fernand Deligny in the age of social networks
 It should be noted that metal speed vehicles, for thinkers like Paul Virilio, not only include the automobile, but with real-time technologies, cell phones, computers, and tablets. They are all vehicles of acceleration.
 My translation, See Karl Kupka’s and André Breton’s collaboration, Un Art à l’Etat Brut: Peintures et Sculptures Des Aborigènes d’Australie. Guilde de Livre, 1962
 The word for canvas in French, toile, is also the word for web. Deligny plays off this throughout the text.
 P. 193, Un Art à l’Etat Brut: Peintures et Sculptures Des Aborigènes d’Australie. Guilde de Livre, 1962
 Ibid., p. 11.
Following quite fluidly from the Fernand Deligny post presented to us by Drew Burk in our last installation, Jonathan Kroll here treats us to a piece on mentorship models based on developmental network theory. Kroll shows us that mentorship has long had a prime position in the developmental ecologies of both individuals and institutions. He suggests that the network of relationships we cultivate can increase our potential for learning and growth. Kroll reminds us that the developmental paradigm is a relational one; it takes a (networked) village to properly raise an individual and/or an institution. – Amanda Starling Gould
With the writing of Mentoring At Work: Developmental Relationships in Organizational Life, (1985) Kathy Kram proposed the ‘relationship constellation’ concept to describe the way individuals rely not on just one person, but instead engage multiple people—a village, if you will—for support and guidance. Later, Kram, working with Monica Higgins (2001), integrated research on mentoring with social network theory to establish the concept we in the pedagogical leadership field know as a developmental network.
Mentoring was part of our individual, organizational, and societal consciousness long before developmental network theory was written; with the writing of The Odyssey, Homer provided a language that is still utilized to describe such meaningful relationships and momentous experiences. Prior to leaving for battle, Odysseus requested that Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, assume the form of Mentor to look after his son. In that capacity, Mentor served as the wise and trusted guide for Telemachus. Mentor and Telemachus’ twenty-year relationship of discovery and development enabled Telemachus to grow into himself. It was through Mentor’s loving and supportive, guiding and nurturing, creative and insightful teaching that Telemachus smoothly journeyed into adulthood (Barrett-Hayes, 1999). The guidance provided by Mentor not only encouraged, but enabled Telemachus’ self-authorship (Kegan, 1982).
Like millennia ago, today we understand mentorship to be a developmentally rich, and educationally profound relational learning experience. However, only within the last four decades has it evolved into an academic research interest. Since the initial exploration of mentorship in the late 1970s, there has been no shortage of definitions and descriptions. In 2009, Crisp and Cruz assessed the state of mentorship noting that over 50 definitions existed varying in scale and scope. Although the quantity of definitions is robust, there are several prevailing common themes. Before diving into the network approach to mentorship, let me provide a brief overview of these common themes so that we are all on the same (web)page.
The Guiding Themes of Mentorship:
First, mentoring is distinct from and far more robust than supervising, coaching, assisting, guiding, advising, modeling, leading, and teaching (Hansman, 2002; Mullen, 2005)—concepts with which it is commonly interchanged and confused. Fundamental to mentorship is that the mentor and mentee understand that their relationship is a unique learning-filled relationship. Regardless if the mentorship experience is part of a formal program or originated out of spontaneity, the participants enter into the relationship with the intention that it will be growth-oriented and rich with personal/professional discovery.
Second, mentoring is a learning partnership. Mentors and mentees commit to one another and to the experience. Mentoring relationships are grounded in the conditions of trust without exploitation, candor coupled with compassion, and high expectations (Liddell, Cooper, Healy, and Lazarus Stewart, 2010). Mentorship, as a developmental relationship, is built upon a commitment to shared learning.
Third, mentorship itself is a process. Mentoring relationships are not cultivated overnight. They require sustained development, motivation, planning, and orchestration (Barrett-Hayes, 1999). Sufficient time, space, and intentionality are needed to allow the relationship to reach its full potential.
A Developmental Network Approach to Mentorship:
An individual’s developmental network is comprised of all those people who take an active interest in, and intentional actions toward the growth and development of the individual. As compared to traditional one-to-one mentoring relationships, a developmental network perspective includes multiple and concurrent dyadic-networked relationships. The philosophy behind a developmental network is simple—it is unlikely that any single mentor can provide all that a mentee deserves or desires in order to realize and reach her/his full potential.
Wrap-Up of Developmental Network Post #1
Mentorship continues to be an integral part of the developmental fabric of human, organizational, and communal life. It is my belief that the chance for self-authorship increases exponentially with a developmental network framework of mentorship rather than with the traditional one-to-one model. It is my hope that this post serves as an opening to greater and deeper explorations of developmental networks.
Barrett-Hayes, D. P. (1999). Coloring outside the lines: Portrait of a mentor-leader. In C. A. Mullen & D. W. Lick (Eds.), New directions in mentoring: Creating culture of synergy. New York, NY: Falmer Press.
Crisp, G., & Cruz, I. (2009). Mentoring college students: A critical review of the literature between 1990 and 2007. Research in Higher Education, 50(6), 525–545.
Hansman, C. A. (2002). Mentoring: From athena to the 21st century. In C. A. Hansman (Ed.), Critical perspectives on mentoring; Trends and issues (Information Series No. 388). ERIC Clearing House on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education.
Higgins, M. C., & Kram, K. E. (2001). Reconceptualizing mentoring at work: A developmental network perspective. Academy of Management Review, 26, 264–288.
Kegan, R. (1982). The evolving self: Problem and process in human development. Cambridge, Ma: Harvard University Press.
Kram, K. E. (1985). Mentoring at work. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
Liddell, D. L., Cooper, D. L., Healy, M. a., & Stewart, D. L. (2010). Ethical elders: Campus role models for moral development. About Campus, 15(1), 11–17.
Mullen, C. A. (2005). Mentorship Primer. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishers.
Drew S. Burk
The work of the French outsider thinker, Fernand Deligny (1913-1996) has yet to be truly explored in its full richness, peculiarity, and resistant novelty. Deligny was one of those unique individuals who strived to be part of the background, choosing to be an educator and social worker dealing with those ignored by institutions and marginalized by ordinary life. Deligny’s experimental non-works, his cartographic “wander lines,” became foundational to Deleuze and Guattari’s important concept of the rhizome. He would also inspire another of his contemporaries, Michel De Certeau’s work on The Practice of Everyday Life, and Deligny’s film, Le Moindre geste, closely depicting biographical narratives of young boys escaping from internment in asylum, garnered him attention at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971.
In the last 10 years, new researchers, artists, and writers have re-discovered the peculiar artifacts Deligny has left us. He provided a space for severely autistic, mostly mute children to work through their difficulties by teaching them to make and spin wander lines with no emphasis on reasons of meaning as such and to perform various open ended daily wanderings of “acting” and “doing”. This work can be seen not only as interesting early attempts at what we might call art therapy, but also sheds light on the human’s rapport with the world outside of naming, outside of words and language as such. In the following three-part project, I will provide various entry points in how the interested reader might begin to delve into Deligny’s universe by way of presenting and commenting on several lengthy excerpts from my forthcoming translation of his work, The Arachnean and Other Texts (Forthcoming, Univocal: Minneapolis, 2013).
In focusing on three principal ideas that were crucial for Deligny: the (non)human network as a mode of being (the mythic Arachnean); the art-without-art of acting and doing from which the cartographies of wander lines create themselves; and finally, the “primordial communism” of a shared commons of the immanent site of living, the reader will be provided a triptych glimpse into the universe of a thinker who defies categories and yet offers emerging Network (and) Ecological thinkers a provocative interlocutor.
Deligny is as much at home thinking with termites and spiders as he is with the Aboriginals who make their turtle paintings for no reason other than the necessary ritual inscribed in the making. And if today, we find ourselves criss-crossing various disciplines of the digital, from media studies to digital humanities to digital network ecologies within a world of cybernetic satellitic guided flows, Deligny’s oeuvre-sans-oeuvre can perhaps be seen as a poetic attempt at placing himself and the reader within such a universe, outside of language and outside intention, a site of living where the attempt at reducing violence and preserving “the commons” is of the utmost importance.
What I would like to do, what perhaps I have no other choice but to do in the end, is to spin the web of the Arachnean, to spin the network of cartographic tracings of Fernand Deligny: outsider thinker, experimental filmmaker and perhaps more aptly described as musical conductor of wander lines. And so, in the coming months, while completing the translation of Deligny’s singular oeuvre-sans-oeuvre, L’Arachnéen et autres textes, I will try to sketch cartographies, poetic webbings, network aphorisms of the human and the network as a mode of being in order to, shall we say, continue to the spin lost stories of the Arachnean, the mythic outsiders of the network.
For Fernand Deligny, there is a position of existence that exists in a kind of exo-sphere, the territory of the so-called Arachnean, a mythic nod to the spider who weaves her web not by reason or for meaning but merely to survive or perform the act of the network. Deligny was quite aware from an early age of the errant lines of the human network. And it is the network viewed simultaneously through a “human” lens and a “human” lens more akin to a becoming-animal in the work of Deleuze and Guattari that is of interest for him. For Deligny, the network is a mode of being.
As Deligny placed himself and his interests in what we call the outlands, in the marginalized exo-spheres of human existence, he found himself within a web of human networks, hovering around—and integrating himself into—a group that already found itself within an exo-sphere defined by the members’ autistic rapport with the outside.
In the three examples, above, of the tracings of mapped cartographies of the quotidian errant wanderings of the children under Deligny’s care, one is astonished by the suprising, simplistic beauty and similarity with today’s 21st century digital cartographies of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. One can perhaps begin to wonder to what extent our daily errant silent wanderings within the synchronized digital network landscape mirrors these early attempts at mapping a world outside of language, striving merely to mark the tracings of open gestures of everyday mobility.
But unlike most of the current discussions on networks in play within social media, mobile devices, wireless cybernetic webs of synchronized wandering, updating, and artificial intelligent satellitic navigation, we can and perhaps should, now more than ever, return to his cartographic sketches and listen to the aphorisms and poetic spun stories of Deligny’s network as a mode of being. For within the oeuvre of this ardent reader of Melville, Artaud, and former colleague of Guattari, we find the remnants of a poetic experimenter and forerunner of network culture providing a curious artifact and lost history for social-media ecology.
The pacifistic resistance to claiming Identity which Deligny always believed was used by power structures and which no one truly owns becomes a bit paradoxical when we begin to re-evaluate him as an author of texts. Deligny scholar, Sandra Alvarez De Toledo, notes quite well, it is somewhat counter-intuitive:
“To celebrate his name while he investigated a language without a subject, a language of the infinitive, which would have gotten rid of the “oneself”, of the “myself”, of the “he”. A language of the body and of the agir, both concrete and contorted, repetitive in a ritornello-like way, cultivating opacity for fear of being understood or poorly understood. Deligny’s work is precisely the image of a process of detachment from oneself and from the One, through the work of writing and the indefinitely began over and over again research on a specific commons, targeting the acts of violence of the course of history.”
Deligny’s universe is one in search of the world outside of language and violence. He chose to abandon psychoanalysis and the La Borde clinic where he worked with Felix Guattari in order take care of mostly-mute children with autism, at a time when no one wanted to give them a free place to wander. Deligny has left us with remnants of this time in the form philosophical inquiries into the possibility of a world outside of self, auto-biographical narratives and cartographies of what he will simultaneously name in French the SE voir and the CE voir—of SELF seeing and THIS seeing—a poetic attempt at seeing the radical immanence of existence outside of language and self. Accompanied by the help of mostly un-educated caretakers from the working class, he did not try to make those under his care conform to some sort of specified existence. He directed those around him to closely watch over the “lignes d’erres”, the “wander lines” and instructed them to carve, trace, and mark out cartographies that had no reason or meaning for being except to be woven. I now provide a small excerpt:
The hazards of existence have made it such that I have lived within a network rather than otherwise, by this I mean another mode.
The network is a mode of being.
It doesn’t take much, from the simple passage from the masculine to the feminine, for the mode to become the trend.  The word remains the same but what is evoked is something else
So I have lived the hazards of existence in a network rather than otherwise and at the hazards of what I gladly read, there always seems to be some sort of network there to be found.
It’s a bit like the story of the spider and the nook that end up encountering each other; if the spider indeed searched it out, one can also say that the nook was waiting for her.
And it is true that I am able to admit to myself that the network awaits me at every turn. This specific network is nearing its 15 year of life—which, for a network, is quite an advanced age—has as its project the proximal presence of autistic children.
These days I wonder if this project is not a pretext, the true project being the network itself, which is a mode of being.
In truth, it is raining networks and it indeed seems like this proliferation reaches its height in moments when historical events—which Friedrich Engels states are the product of an unconscious and blind form—are intolerable and it has to be said that historical events are endowed with the propensity for being intolerable.
Thus, there are these events that grow, that have grown, like we say a tree grows, or like in the raising of walls of a house, and there are networks that spin and weave themselves like so many spider webs, at the fork of tree branches and nooks; passing birds or the maid’s broom.
I have always had the utmost respect for spiders; today, I can admit to myself this had to do with some sort of intuition. There must be something erroneous in the signs of the zodiac where my sign ends up being Scorpio while I am convinced I was born under the sign of the spider
I was predestined for my work; from a very young age I have always had some network or another to weave.
But can we say the spider has as its project the weaving of its web? I don’t believe so. Better to say that the web's project is to be woven.
One should not take the history of this sign too lightly.
In good logic, the human species is the inheritor of all species beyond the animal and the vegetal, clouds emanating interstellar spaces who have made oceans the source of what we call life. In the human we appeared this barely noticed accent we call the consciousness of being, which nonetheless does not resolve the completely disparate mishmash of this heritage.
As for retracing the course of creation, for my part, I stop at the spider while a good number of others go no farther back than their ancestor.
For ages now I have found myself in abandoned dwellings. Each time, my companion was there before me. Expecting me. She has no more need of me than I of her, affording us genuine neighborly relations.
One will say that the dimension of exchange is lacking. What an error. I want nothing from her and she is expecting nothing from me, which protects us from resenting each other.
I am not going to attempt to enslave her, and it is obvious that my presence is of no use to her.
There exists a deeply moral aspect within this disinterest.
But, in looking a bit closer, I must admit I am a man and I benefit from her presence, while I genuinely have nothing to give her. Which shows how the last to arrive shamelessly profit from his predecessors.
What a pity that words grow old. In doing so, they do not grow more beautiful; if in old French, araignée (spider) is aragne, I see that araignée is aragne and that in growing old lost its beautiful and candidly open resonance from its two “a”s, and that this “gnée” contains nothing agreeable nor necessary.
Aragne was enough.
This being said, if the word has grown old, the spider has not suffered throughout centuries and millennia. Before the word existed, he spun his web without any worry of this shower of words which in no way deteriorates the arachnean web.
A word like Arachnean resonates a bit in the same manner as Magdalenian evokes the last period of the Upper Paleolithic (civilization of the reindeer). From the reindeer to the spider, it’s only a subtle leap.
In feeling somewhat Arachnean myself, I am not trying to insult the spider or man and, in the way that for a spider it is not necessary to have tasted a given prey to begin weaving its web. Whereas the first network I was the artisan of spun itself, I was radically unaware of the why of this doing, which nonetheless demanded some stubbornness.
I was 12 years old; I was attending school and it was in my neighborhood that the network was woven and not at school, which offered no suitable space at all. And if there is here some piece of chance to be found, it was rediscovered again each time.
If I wanted to indicate one of the constants of the network, I would note this outside as one of the necessary support frames.
Having said that when space becomes a concentration camp, the formation of a network creates a kind of outside which allows the human to survive.
This is merely the beginning of a poetic and candid reflection that is itself a “wander line”, like its author, it is an unclassifiable text striving for a vernacular for those who do not speak. Deligny’s work has found new life in recent projects from thinkers such as Erin Manning and Brian Massumi, as well as in political thinking found in the writers of the progressive French philosophy journal, Multitudes. Deligny never had what he called a “thought-out” project being more concerned with what he called “l’agir and le faire”. The acting and the doing were about the living practices of projects as process, where the vouloir, the desiring of some specific thought out project, was ignored for a way of living and creating that strived to reduce the violence of desiring and prescribed ways of living and controlling environments.
As Deligny reflects back at his life and his oeuvre-without-oeuvre, he acknowledges what he calls a “primordial communism” of a shared lived commons outside of language and outside the violence of language and naming as such, and he understands life as a network and the “network as a mode of being”.
End Part 1. Part 2 Forthcoming.
 Deligny scholar and his French publisher, Sandra Alvarez De Toledo, speaks very well about Deligny’s lack of trendiness or inactualité, in her lovely preface to a new massive archival length work, Fernand Deligny. Oeuvres. Editions Arachnéen, 2007.
 Preface, Fernand Deligny. Oeuvres. Editions Arachnéen, 2007
 The original French is “pour que le mode devienne la mode”. Deligny is playing off the various meanings of the word “mode” in French which can mean both “mode” and “fashion” or in this case I have chosen to render it as trend: The masculine form being “mode” and the feminine form of “mode” being fashion.
After an exciting conversation between Network Ecologies scholars Dr. Reagan Moore, Dr. Arcot Rajasekar, Amanda Starling Gould, Florian Wiencek, and Michael Tauschinger-Dempsey, the following set of notes emerged. We provide them here as content for comment, critique and question so that we may collectively arrive at more comprehensive conceptions of the network, network ecologies, and intelligent network(ed) systems.
Why publish notes? “Taken, made, jotted, foot, or head: Notes are necessary interventions between the things we read and the things we write.” (via Geoffrey Nunberg, Berkeley). Take Note, a recent Harvard conference on the past and future roles of note-taking across the university, highlighted how Pascal, Montesquieu, Leibniz, and Walter Benjamin raised academic note-taking from merely scribbled to artful, organized, and publishable. Digital collaborative note-taking processes extend the intervention from solitary to social, permitting a network of thought to emerge around a shared concept.
*Note: This conversation took place on December 19, 2012 at University if North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Amanda Starling Gould
On November 6, 2012, I met with Turan Duda and Jeff Paine of AIA NC’s 2012 Firm of the Year, Duda/Paine Architects, to talk about how they see networks at work in their work. We talked about networked working methods, about brain-body-building phenomenologies (how the brain and body read the spaces and buildings we construct), about designing global cities, and about emergent network ecologies in architectural practice.
“Your topic provokes a lot of ideas for me. And I say that because of the way we work, the way we think, the way we think about architecture, and particularly the way this firm thinks about how we make and how we communicate our architectures.”
A highlight of our conversation is here transcribed alongside photos of Wonders and video documentation of a newly-conceived Chinese city.
In 2007, Duda/Paine Architects devised seven design principles, called the Seven Wonders, which were to be the mobilizing design features for a library building concept. Inspired by the library’s themes of Emerging Technologies and Emerging Information, the Wonders – as speculative concept models – were to be the basis of their building construct. Since conceiving the Seven Wonders, Turan Duda says he is “finding now that these issues are pervasive in all the work we are doing now. They are ever-present.” Duda says these Wonders address the kind of phenomenology he finds in the work being done at Duda/Paine and in the work that, for him, can be done with architectural design.
By gazing into the mobilizing concepts for Duda/Paine, we glimpse emerging networks and networked emergence.
Turan Duda: “I wanted to walk into the competition with some issues and ideas that I found provocative and that could generate provocative architecture. So I came up with this idea of the Seven Wonders.
Each of these models address the kind of phenomenology that I find in the work that we were doing and in the work really all architecture deals with at some level. They address the ways you create architecture and the way you perceive it.”
Is it possible for two realms of experience to be connected and independent simultaneously?
Turan: “This one is called Connectivity”
Amanda: “That’s curious because the rings aren’t touching”
T: “Except for…?”
A: “The connections which bind them together…?”
T: “Exactly. So we came up with this model to say, these two realms are interconnected and don’t touch but what holds them together is a third element, which are these networks of cables. I handed this to them [the committee] and posed this question, In today’s world can we be connected and yet not in the same space? This was the first concept.”
Is our capacity for change as much mental as it is physical?
“This one is about the fact that I can change your perception physically. And about the power of scale, the power of my capacity to alter your perception…I can play with your sense of scale and that is a type of flexibility I can manipulate as an architect.”
Does your mind take fragments and create a whole?
“This one was inspired by Duchamp. It is about fragments and recognition…How little of something can I show you and have you still recognize the whole? So that is something that fascinates me [as a design concept].
What this is about for me is that as human beings we never experience the whole, we experience things in episodic ways, in cinematic ways, we see parts and pieces and fragments and we put them together in our heads to see what the whole is.
I did an experiment with this once. I taught a drawing class at Yale and one day told my students we were going to draw the British Art Gallery, we walked to the art gallery, walked around, walked through the gallery and around and then walked back. The students asked When are we going to draw? I said, now, I want you to draw what you remember.
What you remember is very different from what you see. We have to do this kind of mental mapping and say I saw this I saw that I saw these fragments and now I have to make a whole out of it. So that was the poignancy of this model, the power of memory.”
When is a bird not a bird? When is a bird a giraffe?
“…And how does this process of pixellating information allow me to do both?
So this is about abstraction, it gets back to the question, at what point do I begin to pixelate this image such that I realize it can be either a bird or a giraffe?
So ambiguity is another huge element of what architects think about. Am I in a room? Am I in a hallway, a passage way? Does that oval define the room [points to oval – picture] or am I in a larger room that has an oval as an object in it? Am I in a space or am I looking at an object? That is the type of ambiguity we deal with all the time …it’s something I love to use when I design buildings. It’s all about the way your spaces flow together and create ambiguity and tension to produce dynamic space.”
Does our increasingly transparent world become a reflection of ourselves?
“There is a bit of voyeurism here…that we encounter everywhere. It is like our phones where one can flip to either take a picture of yourself or a picture of the world. With technology, we are increasingly able to share experiences simultaneously.”
6. Duality: Group v Individual
When does a social setting become negated by iPods, Facebook, and Myspace?
T: “In this model, Who is the audience, who is the performer?”
A: “I am both”
T: “Exactly, you passed!”
T: “In today’s age when nothing is personal or private anymore, its that same sensation witnessed as a group…We ask, Is it real, When is it real? It is a performance or is it real?
In the world today when transparency exists everywhere reality becomes a performance. So I am always intrigued with that phenomenon [when designing]”
Isn’t the sustainability of the environment contingent upon the sustainability of ideas?
“How many times will the notion of sustainability come full circle? There is a paradox here where we embrace it and then move away from it and then embrace it. This model illustrates the misconceptions of the meaning of sustainability. The solar panels are wired to the tree for life.”
T: “These were some concepts that would begin to generate the ideas for the design of a building that would provoke inquiry.
I think this is why the process is so important because the process speaks to how we address these issues in/with the artifacts that we make.
Tying back into the network idea: I think the most profound element for me is frankly how the mind works. The idea of these nodes of things that are in your brain…and how they ‘read’ buildings…the idea that we read the physical environment and add this to our well-source of ideas that we draw from.”
A: “And how we interact with and act in that environment?”
T: “Exactly. Take the Duke Integrated Medicine building…
The Duke Integrated medicine building has been highly orchestrated in terms of thinking about what you see and when you see it and how you walk through it. We call it the path of wellness.”
A: “In this idea that networks are composed of nodes and edges, do you think about creating places and then creating connectors for them or do you think more about creating a <more ‘ambiguous’> whole?”
T: “It’s both. I think it’s about ambiguity. And we very self-consciously ask ourselves, are we making a destination, a room, or are we making a passage through/to the room? Modern architecture pretty much broke that apart and took the traditional concepts of rooms and passages and said we’re going to get rid of all that and think of universal space. I can create flow between walls and rooms [while still creating rooms].”
A: “Carrying this idea outward, how does your design process change when you move from single buildings to larger spaces of networked buildings like campuses and complexes, for instance? Do you think here about networks of nodes (passages) and edges (buildings)?”
T:” We’ve designed a city for 6 million people in China…”
A: “You’ve designed a city?!”
T: “Yes we did. (laughing…) In three weeks. For a competition.
This is where I think of the network. When you say network I can’t help but think a network of memory. For me memory is the key that ties everything together, even the neural network. For me to pull something out of one node in my brain, I need to have the fibers that connect to that one node. It’s all about memory and memory gives it significance. What we did in this city project where we were given a site – an empty bay that they were going to fill in – and we thought first about the history, and memory of cities.
We took patterns of cities that we know and evaluated what we know about them. We looked at the history of cities, the memory of cities. I looked at the way that cities have developed over time and typically they develop along a linear path. Someone decides what will be the center of the city, and you take the center and flank it with residential zones and industrial zones.
So that becomes the evolutionary cycle of the development of a city – a linear process of development. Invariably what happens is that cities become fragmented into industrial commercial and residential zones.
We asked: What if we took that [pattern] and compressed all of them? And compressed that linear evolution down, compressing it in such a way that it creates a new relationship that creates a mixed-used city.”
A: “You are changing the relationships between the nodes, then?”
T: “Correct. By compressing it, I am creating a new kind of city pattern but I am allowing the parts and pieces that were linear to overlap. I am creating edges, nodes, centers, but also a rich sense of overlap.
The new city then evolved with landmarks and centers. Then I learned something really powerful about the way the Chinese think and the way we think. We as designers, architects, planners have this omniscient point of view of world…that we can create an entire city with a sense of order. The Chinese typically believe the only time that that sort of purity and idealism occur is in the spiritual realm, and that everything else is chaotic and amorphous and episodic. It is a profoundly different way of thinking about the world. So we took that idea and created a series of wholes and complete pieces that are then internetworked by a system that is not repetitive. We wanted to bring chaos to the order.
Here’s the other kind of neural connection that we are going to make with memory: We are going to call this a city of cities because how was I going to generate ‘instant’ history [for the city] in 3 weeks [time he had to design the city for the competition]. So we used models of cities that we know and recognize throughout the world and [the city] will become an amalgam of cities…a city of cities. So we looked at places like Savannah, Chicago, NYC, San Francisco, Boston, Paris and created this hybrid city.
We were yearning to create meaning, we were inventing what we thought would be appropriate. We had to invent a world putting parts and pieces and layers together into a whole.
What I find compelling, though in this process, is that the issues of Seven Wonders emerged.”
We finished our conversation then circling back to designing digital architectures for scholarly communication: the very purpose of this Ecology of Networks project. In talking about this project putting diverse minds together to converge over a shared idea (network ecologies), we discussed the creative in(ter)vention that occurs when different minds – with diverse methods, unique vernaculars, and differing experiences – come together. For Turan, this diversity and interdisciplinarity are key to innovative creation: “Juxtaposition is a central part of the spontaneity of creativity.” And that, for him, is required for innovative architectural concepts to emerge. If we see the world differently, we can teach each other to see the world differently. When the literary scholar can converse with the network engineer and the award-winning architect about how they see networks at work in their own work, novel network ecologies emerge.
*Note: A special thanks is due to Lynn Dunn and Bethany Ratcliff of Duda/Paine Architects for all of their assistance.