Félix Guattari made a diagram, describing ”four domains of the Plane of Consistency or plane of immanence [for] mapping the unconscious and subjectivity, the four functors are mapping existence itself.” (Watson 2009, 123) The mapping of metamodelization is not a model for a system, but a meta-model or remapping; Guattari suggests making maps for each singular situation. (Watson 2009, 123)

The four domains, with four distinct functions are as follows: In the lower right, there is the existential territory (T) of subjectivity, which is the realm of dominant and minor refrains. This territory is the nondiscursive and real but only virtual; it is ‘life as it seems’ – my ‘apprehension’ of the world, with some respect to Lacan’s concept of the Imaginary. (Watson 2009, 133) In the lower left, there is the realm of material fluxes (F): intensities of play, joy, sadness and semiotics. These fluxes, which are actual and real, are reterritorializing by function. On top of them, there is the actual and potential Phylum (Φ) of abstract machines: blueprints, plans, rules, and regulations. These machines do not only regulate and organize the flows, but also: “Phyla are in essence creative, and also connect with the creativity of the artistic process.” (Watson 2009, 126) The most difficult to comprehend is the virtual possibility of the realm of incorporeal universes (U). It is non-signified and nondiscursive domain of virtual content, unformed matter and the realm of potentiality, as Watson writes:

”Universes [U] – concrete, oniric, pathological, or aesthetic. [...] A Universe is constellation of values, of nondiscursive references, of virtual possibility, not real and not actualized, and yet necessary to any process of actualization and realization. Crystals of singularization.” (Watson 2009, 124/129)


She defines the relationships between the different domains as such, that:

“the Phyla supply the plans and diagrams, which must be realized in the matter and energy of the Flows. [...] The full cycle of assemblages is not complete until the Universes and Territories also become involved, incorporating both machinic proto-subjectivity and human experience.” (Watson 2009, 131)

The question of nondiscursive matter is essential, aside from the discursive signification. In addition to the horizontal division between real, potential or reterritorializing and deterritorializing, Guattari’s map is divided vertically, as such that:

“Quantity belongs to scientific, method and the discursive, economic, rule-driven side of the Phyla and the Flows on the left side of the graph. Qualities are the concern of philosophy, aesthetics and subjectivity, which are located on the side of Territories and Universes on the right side of the graph.” (Watson 2009, 124)

The vertical division corresponds to the division between objective and subjective: the left side deals with the ‘given’ while right side is the domain of the ‘logic of body without organs’. (Watson 2009, 125) Artistic processes dealing only with semiotic significations and working with power and language, consequently produce more signification. However, without taking the right side of Universes and Territories into consideration – the virtual and potential – we are replicating already existing flows. In turn, artistic practice cannot reside only in the domain of potential Territories and Universes, since it requires some machines, in other words significations and material flows of the real. In order to produce changes and transformations both in the singular, existential territory or ‘how life seems’ and in the relationships between the organizing power of machines and material fluxes. Thus, practice ought to consider both signification and asignified potentials.

We could think of an affect, how it traverses from the potential and virtual Universe through signifying Machines, which utilize the Fluxes of the corporeal, linguistic or relational. Therefore, affect alters the existential territory without direct signification, but requires support in doing so, in other words some aesthetic formations and aesthetic machines. They give form to the material fluxes and enable changes in the existential territory.

With some differences, the four domains correspond to Aristotle’s’ four causes ensuing: causa materialis describes the Flows (F) of matter, libido, capital, signification, labour; causa formalis, the abstract machinic Phylum (Φ); causa finalis, the referential Universes (U); and causa efficiens existential Territories, which include selfhood (T). (Watson 2009, 128-129) Machines are not only abstract but also technological. Watson defines the difference between the Heidegger’s reading of four causes (1977, 289-291) and Guattari’s rather different take on them:

“he is always quick to point out that machines cannot attain existential consistency without the active involvement of Universes and Territories. In the final schema of the main text of Cartographies, Guattari maps his four ontological functors onto Aristotle’s four causes.” (Watson 2009, 128-129)

Instead of a silver chalice, which Heidegger uses to exemplify the relations between the four causes, Guattari demonstrates the incapacity of the ontology by giving the example of Concorde, the supersonic jet. (Watson 2009, 129-130) Concorde was a technological success, but an absolute failure commercially. In other words, the Concorde never reached its full existential potential. Guattari explains that the “ontological consistency” of the Concorde airplane depends not only on material Flows and the machinic Phyla of technology, but also on a number of Universes: diagrammatic (plans, theories, feasibility studies), technological (transposition into material terms), industrial (production capabilities), collective imaginary (sufficient desire to bring the project to fruition), political and economic (release of funds, etc.). These Universes comprise many more elements than the simple purpose of flying, or the classical causa finalis. In terms of Guattari’s model, the Concorde was never successful because its economic Universe lacked consistency. In another example from Guattari, the diagrams of Leonardo da Vinci will never lead to actualization, because of the lack of existential support or ‘collective enunciation’ – of pooled knowledge and desire. (Watson 2009, 130) A Universe is a constellation of values, of nondiscursive references, or virtual possibility, not real and not actualized, and yet necessary to any process of actualization and realization. Crystals of singularization and bifurcation points may serve as the point of emergence of new “mutant universes of reference” or in Guattari’s words of new “incorporeal Universes,” “Universes of reference,” or “Universes of enunciation,” which are constituted by “something that is repeated, that is affirmed, that is neither localized nor finite nor discursive, but which is singular, or better, irreversibly singularizing.” (Watson 2009, 129)

Mere recombination of material and immaterial fluxes by the machines does not produce the new, but only recombination of discourses: a repetitive rhythm with a difference. However, producing the new, a process bound to helping new refrains develop and probing potential, often appears fragile and difficult to capture in practice. The potentiality to alter the existential territory needs to go beyond simply remaining potential. It requires a form and alteration of the material fluxes. Transformations must consider all four domains of the diagram proposed by Guattari.

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