Rhizomes : OVNI 2009

Rhizomes : OVNI 2009

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OVNI Rhizomes lays bare the subterranean, rhizomatic points of contact between worlds and experiences that seem very different from each other. The remembered image is that of a rhizome (1), or rhizomes, it doesn't matter which because it is both at once, the singular and plural do not affect it.

“Advice, slogans: follow the plants” (2). In a world of concrete and asphalt we see different plant species living in cracks in the most unlikely places, gathering rain and seeking out soil that has been banished. At other times, these same plants, or the roots of trees, create the cracks and buckle the asphalt. We have also seen plants cover entire buildings, opening walls and destroying them; but so have we seen them holding together the ruins of immemorial knowledge, ancient temples in the jungle, in a strange union that seems to complete them. Like the cobra that saw Buddha meditating and instead of biting him, decided to cover him and shelter him from the rain. An image that perhaps renews a forgotten pact: to awaken to the smooth continuity between nature and human, between nature and knowledge, a continuum that hovers over words to remind us of the essential unity and manifest multiplicity of all things.

Plants also show us diverse systems. Along with the centralised and hierarchical organisation of the roots of trees, there are the spidery roots of shrubs and bushes, the rhizome of certain species (grass, reeds, ginger, mangroves...) creates "an acentred, nonhierarchical and nonsignifying system without a General and without an organizing memory or central automation, defined solely by a circulation of states" (3).

We screen videos like visions that connect and interrelate these states and realities, producing rhizome in space, but also in time, given that the first two principles of the rhizome are connection and heterogeneity: any of its points can and must be connected to anything else. This is not the case with trees and roots, which always fix a point, a particular order. Thus, like a violently smothered echo, the Black Panthers’ "all power to the people” resonates in the possibility of immigrant communities, in the “banlieues" of the world. The anti-Vietnam war protests and the underground that derived from them emit lines that break the sad, or even complicit, silence around the occupation of Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan... or around the wars "subcontracted" by big corporations in Africa. (4)

Indigenous peoples are part of a rhizome that includes the earth, plants and animals, forms of knowledge that derive from their forms of survival and celebration, and wakefulness and dreams. They see this multiplicity as a substantive, not an accumulation: another of the principles of rhizomes. They know that an attack against any one of their realities is unavoidably a prelude to other acts of violence. This is why a Yaqui Indian explains that those responsible for the genocide against his people also exterminated wild animals, domesticated others, imprisoned the survivors of his people in reserves. It is also like the indigenous community in Peru that dreams up a different kind of schools, and creates them with urgency on awakening; because they seen how the official educational system teaches their children to be enemies of their own traditions, of their own environment. They warn us, they are not isolated points on the outside of the “other”, they are lines of alert, for ourselves (5).

In Europe, the warning came from Exarchia, a neighbourhood in Athens. The death of 15 year old Alexis, shot by a policeman, triggered a new awareness, the occupying of spaces, the issuing of communiqués in which teenagers sorrowfully condemned the submissiveness of many of their parents, the conformism instilled by the schools of consumption and production;... the impossibility of imagining, together, another form of existence:

“We want a better world. Help us. We are not “terrorists”, nor “hooded ones", nor the "known-unknowns". We are your children, they are the known-unknowns... We have dreams, don’t destroy them We are alive, don’t stop us Remember, you were also young once Today you run after money, you only worry about “appearances” You’ve grown fat, you’re bald You’ve forgotten We hoped for your support We hoped for your concern We wanted you to make us proud for once. But it was in vain. You lives are nothing but lies, you have bowed down You’ve dropped your pants and you are waiting to die You don’t imagine, You don’t fall in love You don’t create You only buy and sell Materialism everywhere, Love nowhere, Truth nowhere (6).

Dark roots, prisons opposite factories, maps and imaginaries that don't include us as life, neighbourhoods in ruins, third-generation migrants – forever migrants? - bombed hospitals, hundreds of dead birds by a lake, torn rhizomes.

But unlike the cuts that isolate other kinds of structures, a rhizome can be torn and cut off at any part. Rhizomes can be broken or cut without causing any harm (7), because rhizomes are made up of ruptures, they can keep functioning and even thrive in spite of these “ruptures”. This is how other nomadic maps begin, inspired by roaming cats, in the non-useful areas of cities: where abandoned sites create space for communities of cats and, and room for the dreams of the people who feed them, humans adopted by feline tribes; in urban micro deserts, jungles and ruins. Where squatted abandoned buildings become hybrid, mingling with other distant memories, scorned by speculation. Liberated spaces that come back to life, that break the Totality (8).

“What is the Totality? It is the high residue of hazardous and potentially lethal chemicals inside your fat cells. It is you shopping when you are depressed. It is you sitting inside and turning on the television or computer on a beautiful day. It is feeling you get that something is missing. It is the headache that won't go away. It is the bleeding in your intestines from years of pain alleviating drug use. It is the drugs you have take when you need an escape. The bulldozer that destroyed the woods you might have known so well. It is the towering skyscraper that makes you feel forever tiny and powerless. It is your prison, sometimes with bars, sometimes without. It is all your fears. It is the thing that has categorised you. It is the ache in your back. It is your adrenaline. The tears that pour down your face after a sad movie. It is your longing for a dramatic romance with a happy ending. It is the extinct species. It is the dying world. It is polluted air. It is the farmer killing her/himself with the pesticides that were going to make life better. It is the feeling of superiority, which supplies the reason to destroy all else.” (9)

A Totality that is always aimed at the conquest of the other. And the result is a society based on competition, on commodification and global expansion. A society that doesn’t contemplate any logic other than growth (10). A society made up of masses of solitary individuals.

Dominant thought can be recognised in power that is directed outwards. But this outward-focus does not mean that this form of power is only exercised on material forms and surfaces. Rather, it causes and forces everything that is inwardly focused – anonymous, hidden, insignificant – to flow towards the surface, be reduced to the external, reveal itself, publicise itself, to end up becoming nothing more than the outside. This is the only way that it can impose its full cartography, group and produce its identities... so that it can allocate its experts and target its goods. This outwardly-directed power necessarily dominates and subjugates the other – whether beings, territories or forms of knowledge – but also to constantly produces it, through the exhibition of images and attitudes, the unceasing creation of political, sexual and personal scenarios, or even scenarios of exclusion... Which, through the power of the spectacle, become fictitious (but no less real) realities destined to administer pleasures and fears, dictate the visible and invisible, decree what is and what is not. The result is that anything that remains "outside" doesn’t exist or will soon stop existing, whether it be beings, landscapes or forms of knowledge...

Power urges people to live and die for it, in an attempt to keep it, and in an attempt to achieve or seize it. But it is easy to forget that you cannot posses power. By definition power is not passive, it is active: it possesses. Those who are possessed by it inhabit the illusion that they wield or fight for power. But in reality they are consumed by it.

But there are other forms of power that are extraneous to control: horizontal forms of power that lie outside the usual map of power, forms of power that derive from contemplation, from knowledge, from care and attention to others, from the communal, from what is considered humble or insignificant, from the anonymous: “Frugality and austerity are nameless; what is nameless is considered low and insignificant. Wealth is famed; what is famed is honoured and favoured. Poverty is nameless; what is nameless is despised and considered disgraceful. The masculine is famed; what is famed is distinguished. The feminine is nameless; what is anonymous is concealed. Lack is nameless; what is nameless is given a low status. But the named is born of the nameless; the nameless is the mother of the named..." (11). A Copernican turn in values recognises and achieves the freedom of the hidden, of everything that is not reduced to the external, to physical forms and names. Recognises, in lack, in the condition of need, our true status as separated beings. Values the feminine as that which came first. Loves the austere. Adopts the anonymous. This may be where a different kind of power lies; power that understands control as weakness, richness as poverty, and glory as demeaning to that which is truly important to us.

“In the face of the hardening identities that are fragmenting the global map and in the face of the strict process of identification and privatisation that we as individuals are subject to today, anonymity can be a door open to freedom (...) in many cases, learning to be anonymous can be a new form of collective resistance." (12)

To the outrage of many, Michel Foucault (13) mapped a sinister kinship between confession mechanisms of the past and modern freedom of expression, in the framework of a form of power that mutated from “no” to “yes”, from repression to motivation. A form of power that yearns to know all about us in order to exert itself, to publicise us and ultimately to produce us. But the culture we come from, even the culture of resistance, overvalues expression, the outward focus, exhibition, and fights over this external space, fights for labels. It is difficult for us to understand that there may be others who do not prioritise this, or may even reject it all together. We actually end up demanding that those "others" apply that same "liberation" and that they become visible. It is not easy for us to understand other cultures and experiences that move in opposite or tangential lines and that see inner space as the core, as the only real space, without duality, without an outward break, en exterior, “others”. Should freedom be sought inwardly or outwardly? Without an attempt at inner liberation from the mechanisms of power and microfascisms that dwell within us, any outwards focus will, sadly, entail their reproduction at the social level. Liberated inner spaces derive unbroken, like a flowing mountain stream, no longer exhibiting, no longer revealing, a continuum of differences and reflections, a liquid rhizome. Fortunately, it leaves no room and has no gaps for representation and representatives.

Ramana Maharashi (14) said that the will to achieve freedom is in itself an obstacle, because it renounces the here and now, and postpones that reality until a non present future. Also, it is a useless effort, because freedom is in fact our true nature. The idea would be to relinquish, rather than setting out towards new conquests and discoveries... The true obstacle lies in identifying with what we are not – with what we yearn to be, what we haven’t been allowed to be, or what we have been forced to be. This lays the foundations for a world that imprisons us within categories, genders, classes, races, ages, preference groups... the ideal targets for telemarketing and political control... Thus the sad litany of nationalities, sexual and social labels... that we use to identify ourselves or others use to identify us. It is all the same, sooner or later they come into conflict with each other or with ourselves. And here we are caught in the trap of a small and separate reality, exiled from truth, insofar as it refers not to a narrow horizon but to the absence of limits (16).

abu ali



1.DELEUZE, Gilles. GUATTARI, Félix. A Thousand Plateaus. Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
2.Idem.
3.Idem
4.These Images refer to the following videos in ovni 2009 rhizomes:
Black Panthers Newsreels: Off the Pigs. R. Lacatica, R.Machover, P. Shinoff. US 1960.
La Raison du Plus Fort. Patric Jean, France 2003
The Weather Underground. Sam Green, Bill Siegel, US 2007.
Kabul Transit. David Edwards. US 2006.
Occupation 101. Sufyan Omeish, Abdal.lah Omeish. Palestine 2008.
5.These images refer to the following videos in ovni 2009 rhizomes:
Rod Coronado: A Voice for Liberation. Mark Karbusicky. US 2000.
Iskay Yachay: Los dos Saberes. Rodrigo Otero et alt. Peru 2005.
6.Communiqué of students participating in the lock in at the technical collage. In the video: The Potenciality of Storming Heaven. Greece 2009.
7.Idem 1.
8.These images refer to the following videos in ovni 2009 rhizomes:
Chats Errants. Zone Temporaire du Inutilité. Yael André. Belgium 2007.
Necessaire(s) Territoire(s). Benoit Perraud, France 2006.
Existir es Resistir. Matias Lecocq, Venezuela 2008. Under Construction. Zhenchen Liu, China 2007.
9.Fragments from: TUCKER, Kevin. What is the Totality?. Sent by John Zerzan.
10.The subject of De growth collective presentation at ovni rhizomes.
11.WENT TZU. Wen Tzu: Understanding the Mysteries. Lao Tsu. Shambhala Dragon Editions, 1992. (our bold)
12.Quotes from ESPAI EN BLANC. La Fuerza del Anonimato. Barcelona 2009.
13.In several texts. Particularly in: FOUCAULT, Michel. The Will to Knowledge London: Penguin Books, 1998
. 14.MAHARSHI, Ramana. Sé lo que Eres. Ed. Olañeta. Mallorca 2005.
The Sage of Arunachala. The Life and Times of sri Ramana Maharshi. Dennis J. Hartel. India 1992
15.BATAILLE, George. The Cruel Practice of Art. Complete Works, 1949
16.Here, Btaille's atheological mysticism coincides with the Islamic notion of El Haqq, truth, reality.



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