The rhizome is altogether different, a map and not a tracing. Make a map, not a tracing. The orchid does not reproduce the tracing of the wasp; it forms a map with the wasp, in a rhizome.

Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

Art is rhizomatic. That is a statement I have often made to my students. I encourage them to think about the systems of art as radiating outward from each point of tangency and overlap. As in a rhizome, knowledge, about art or other things, radiates out from each point of understanding; knowledge-making is a scaffolded process. One thing stacks on top of another to make meaning, but each stage of the scaffold must be stable enough to support the weight of history, culture, memory, and the tensions of differing ideas about what art is.

Here are some points that I ask students to consider:

  • Art is a story
  • Art is a system
  • Art is arrived at by force and by consensus
  • Art does not happen in a vacuum

These points lead to the following:

Deleuze and Guattari - A Thousand Plateaus

Deleuze and Guattari – Rhizome

The objects made by creative people are not necessarily art. Beautiful things are not necessarily art. Someone or some thing can be artistic, but still not be a part of the larger discourse about art. If all of these things are true, it is also true that people who strongly identify as artists constantly push back against such ideas.

Returning to Deleuze and Guattari’s quote at the top of this note, sometimes the map precedes the journey; we alter the map to reflect where we have been and to tell that story. As artists and educators we are constantly re-drawing the map and we do it with our students, in collaboration, in order to accurately represent the present.

I hope that you will seek more information on this post here.

Douglas Rosenberg
Chair, Art Department