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November 25, 2008

What is the perfect apparatus, the model-apparatus that would eliminate all misunderstandings with regard to the very notion of apparatus? The perfect apparatus, it seems to me, is [the highway]. In it maxi­mum circulation coincides with maximum control. Nothing moves that isn’t both incontestably “free” and strictly classified, identified, individuated in exhaustive files of digitized registrations. A network endowed with its own fueling stations, its own police, its autonomous, neutral, empty, and abstract spaces, the highway system perfectly represents the territory, as if laid out in bands over the land, a heterotopia, the cybernetic heterotopia. Everything has been carefully parameterized so that nothing happens, ever. The undifferentiated daily flow is punctuated only by the statistical, foreseen, and foreseeable series of accidents, about which THEY keep us all the better informed as we never see them with our own eyes-accidents which are not experienced as events, as deaths, but as a passing disruption whose every trace is erased within the hour. In any case, THEY die a lot less on state high­ ways than on the interstates, as the DOT reminds us. And it is hardly as if the flattened animals, noticed only in the slight swerve they induce in passing cars, remind us what it means to LIVE WHERE OTHERS PASS. No atom ofthe molecularized flow, none ofthe imper­ vious monads of the apparatus needs us to remind it that it should get moving. The highway system was made-with its wide turns, its calculated, signalized uniformiry-solely in order to merge all types of behavior into a single one: the non-surprise, sensible and smooth, consistently steered toward a destination, the whole traveled at an average and  speed. Still, the slight sense ofabsence, spanning the distance from end to end, as ifone could stay in an apparatus only if struck by the prospect of getting OUt, without ever having really been in it, been there. In  end, the pure space of the highway captures the abstraction of all place more than of all distance. Nowhere have THEY so perfectly substituted places with names through their nominalist reduction. Nowhere is separation so mobile, so convincing, and armed with a vocabulary, road signs, less apt to subversion. T hus the highway: the concrete utopia of cybernetic Empire. And to think that some have heard of the “information superhighway” without sensing the total police surveillance to come.

☛ “A critical metaphysics could emerge as a science of apparatuses…” in This Is Not a Program by Tiqqun, tr. by Semiotext(e), Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2011, pp. 151-153. PDF: 3MB. Translation corrected.

First published in French as “Une métaphysique critique pourrait naître comme science des dispositifs…” in Tiqqun, issue no. 2, 2001, p. 136. See the end of this post for the original French text.

Compare with this comment by Gilles Deleuze, from his 1987 lecture “What is the Creative Act?”:

Control societies will no longer pass through places of confinement. Even the schools. We should closely watch the themes that develop over the next forty or fifty years. They will explain how wonderful it would be to pursue both school and a profession. It would be interesting to see what the identity of schools and professions will become with constant training, which is our future. It will no longer entail gathering children in a place of confinement. Control is not discipline. You do not confine people with a highway. But by making highways, you multiply the means of control. I am not saying this is the only aim of highways, but people can travel infinitely and “freely” without being confined while being perfectly controlled. That is our future. (Two Regimes of Madness, Texts and Interviews 1975-1995, ed. by David Lapoujade, tr. by Ames Hodges and Mike Taormina, MIT Press, item no. 44, p. 322).

The original lecture “Qu’est-ce qu’un acte de créaction?” was first given at the FEMIS on March 17, 1987. One can watch the lecture –with English subtitles– on YouTube and read the French transcript at WebDeleuze. For some reason, WebDeleuze dates the lecture on May 17, 1987 (the FEMIS video recording has March 17, 1987 for the date of the event).

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Original French text from Tiqqun no. 2:

Quel est le dispositif parfait, le dispositif-modèle à partir de quoi plus aucun malentendu ne pourrait subsister sur la notion même de dispositif? Le dispositif parfait, il me semble, c’est l’AUTOROUTE. Là, le maximum de la circulation coïncide avec le maximum de contrôle. Rien ne s’y meut qui ne soit à la fois incontestablement «libre» et strictement fiché, identifié, individué sur un fichier exhaustif des immatriculations. Organisé en réseau, doté de ses propres points de ravitaillement, de sa propre police, de ses espaces autonomes, neutres, vides, abstraits, le système autoroutier représente à même le territoire, comme déposé par bandes au travers du paysage, une hétérotopie, l’hétérotopie cybernétique. Tout y a été soigneusement paramétré pour que rien ne se passe, jamais. L’écoulement indifférencié du quotidien n’y est ponctué que par la série statistique, prévue et prévisible, des accidents dont on nous tient d’autant plus informés que nous n’en sommes jamais témoins, qui sont donc vécus non comme des événements, des morts, mais comme une perturbation passagère dont toute trace sera effacée dans l’heure. Au reste, ON meurt beaucoup moins sur les autoroutes que sur les nationales, rappelle la Sécurité Routière ; et c’est à peine si les cadavres d’animaux écrasés, qui se signalent par le léger décrochage qu’ils induisent dans la direction des voitures, nous rappellent ce que cela veut dire DE PRÉTENDRE VIVRE LÀ OÙ LES AUTRES PASSENT. Chaque atome du flux molécularisé, chacune des monades imperméables du dispositif n’a d’ailleurs nullement besoin qu’on lui rappelle qu’il est dans son intérêt de filer. L’autoroute est toute entière faite, avec ses larges virages, son uniformité calculée et signalétique, pour ramener toutes les conduites à une seule : le zéro-surprise, sage et lissé, finalisé à un lieu d’arrivée, le tout parcouru à une vitesse moyenne et régulière. Léger sentiment d’absence, tout de même, d’un bout à l’autre du trajet, comme si on ne pouvait demeurer dans un dispositif qu’happé par la perspective d’en sortir, sans jamais y avoir vraiment été . Au final, le pur espace de l’autoroute exprime l’abstraction de tout lieu plus que de toute distance. Nulle part on n’a si parfaitement réalisé la substitution des lieux par leur nom, par leur réduction nominaliste. Nulle part la séparation n’aura été si mobile, si convaincante, et armée d’un langage, la signalisation routière, moins susceptible de subversion. L’autoroute, donc, comme utopie concrète de l’Empire cybernétique. Et dire que certains ont pu entendre parler d’«autoroute de l’information» sans y pressentir la promesse d’un flicage total? (2001: 136).

• • •

The highway: image retrieved from Tiqqun, Issue 2, 2001, p. 136
The highway: image retrieved from Tiqqun, Issue 2, 2001, p. 136
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