La fabrique du bois

dispositif/performance @ Betonsalon – Paris, 19.07.2008

“ La fabrique du bois ” is a dispositif that places aspects of our research on Deleuze’s work with his students at the University of Vincennes during the 1970s in dialogue with the modus operandi of “ L’Abécédaire ”.

Inspired by the principles that govern (or ungovern) Francis Ponge’s La fabrique du pré (a text that attaches greater importance to the phases of preparation, elaboration and revision of a poem than to the finished product), we will engage the participants in a “virtual walk” around the Bois de Vincennes evoking through textual fragments, layered images, found sounds and bits of interviews Deleuze’s radical working methods, his own endless preparation of lessons, the way he outlines a concept, seeds it, lets it lie, comes back to it by another route, adds something here or there, sees what happens when he places it in proximity to something of an entirely different nature, borrowed from another field of study.

A google earth map of Vincennes will become an intensive cartography of multiplicities, a ground plan (or playground) for mnemonic conversational/conceptual itineraries and encounters.



La fabrique du bois
En cherchant
Une verité que soit verte
Le vertige dans la verité
Le vert du vertige
A clearing in the forest


1) MUSIC – Schumann, Scenes from the Forest (Entrée) 02.07

Nature – sometimes sears a Sapling –
Sometimes – scalps a Tree –
Her Green People recollect it
When they do not die –

Fainter Leaves – to Further Seasons –
Dumbly testify –
We – who have the Souls –
Die oftener –Not so vitally –

(Emily Dickinson)

from vertere – meaning to turn

If you go down to the woods today…

A dull day in June. We are with Patricia. It is the first day of shooting. We are trying to reconstruct, to restage our first meeting of January in the Bois de Vincennes. A winter prelude. A woman walking her dog by a stream. We ask her, as we ask many that day, if she knows the site of the old university. We tell her we are making a documentary around the lessons of Gilles Deleuze at Vincennes. She looks at us oddly for a minute, trying to hold back a smile.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
(HD Thoreau)


2) SOUND – Patricia 03.26

Moi, j’étais là…

She thinks for a minute before sending us off in the wrong direction. We proceed to get hopelessly lost. Instead of the university what we find along the way is:

SDF tents hidden under the trees
A racetrack
A woman from Croatia who comes to feed the birds
The sister of the composer Hector Zazou
An ornamental flower garden
A girl whose mother was in contact with the Black Panthers
A police academy
A detention centre for sans papiers


3) SOUND – Deleuze on Vincennes University 02.19


Today, as in January Patricia has brought her dog, Raga, along. Today as in January the sky is overcast but everything else is different. The trees’ dark branches are clothed in a riot of green


4) SOUND – Pascale 01.43

At first we film her walking along the Avenue de la Tourelle, throwing a plastic ball for Raga to chase. The dog enters the frame before her, a small dark, scurrying movement gradually diminishing to a black dot in the distance. At the side of the road, you can hear the sharp metallic crack of boules from a game of pétanque that has just got underway. Patricia comes into the shot. The camera watches her as she moves away, getting smaller and smaller until she comes to a forking path.

Two roads diverged in a wood and I….

We repeat the shot several times. But then something goes wrong. Somehow Raga has twisted her leg. P is worried. She carries her back to the car. We rush through the scene of our encounter by the stream. P is nervous about Raga and overacts the scene, exaggerating her surprise and enthusiasm at the encounter whose moment has gone and which we clumsily try to re-enact for the camera who wasn’t there.

Moi, j’etais là

The words are spaced out evenly like four trees, the gap between each is an entrance or exit, a threshold, a beckoning.


5) SOUND – Robert 01.26

That night looking at our rushes we are in the sequoia forest of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. P is Judy is Madeleine which rhymes with Vincennes. Carlotta Valdes by whom she was supposedly possessed. What are we attempting to resurrect? Carlotta continua.

At the end of the day we go with P to take Raga to the vet. The situation is more serious than we thought. With her twisted leg, she will have to stay in the house, more or less motionless, for up to two months.

In Sanskrit, “raga” refers primarily to a colour or mood, and often to a season or time of day.

Raga describes a generalized form of melodic practice. It also prescribes a set of rules for building the melody. It specifies the rules for movements up and down the scale. The result is a framework that can be used to compose or improvise melodies, allowing for endless variation within the set of notes.

After the accident, the melodic line of our raga is vakra – a bent or crooked, zigzag scale neither ascending nor descending but running hither and thither.

All the time we are thinking about Deleuze’s antipathy for dogs, for domestic animals in general.

5) SOUND – Deleuze/Animal 02.38

In Les très riches heures de Duc du Berry a hunt scene in the Bois de Vincennes depicts a pack of dogs savaging a wild boar, watched over by the Duc’s groundsmen. We are in Renoir’s La règle du jeu. Horreur de la chasse.

Comme dit Virilio, la guerre n’apparaît nullement lorsque l’homme applique à l’homme le rapport de chasseur qu’il avait avec l’animal, mais au contraire lorsqu’il capte la force de l’animal chassé pour entrer avec l’homme dans un tout autre rapport qui est celui de la guerre (ennemi et non plus proie). Il n’est donc pas étonnant que la machine de guerre soit l’invention des nomades éleveurs. L’économie de la violence n’est pas celle du chasseur dans l’éleveur, mais cela de l’animal chassé. Dans la monture on conserve l’energie cinétique, la vitesse du cheval et non plus les protéines. (MILLE PLATEAUX)

The boar is an animal renowned for its flair for digging up truffles and other rhizomes. When wounded it becomes ferocious and can rip a dog to pieces in minutes.

It took us three months to locate the actual site of the university of Vincennes. Virtually nothing remained to indicate there had ever been such a place.

6) SOUND – Passer-by 00.51

Finally it was the age of the trees around the central pré, their green sapling bark, that led us there. Trees had been planted over the site in 1980 when the buildings were demolished and then again replanted when the freak storm of 1999 uprooted more than half those in the bois. The tree of Deleuze and Guattari’s schema of arborescence, the tree of genealogy and filiation, the tree of cultural memory had paradoxically become a tree of wipe out, oblivion, deterritorialization.

7) SOUND – Bouazza 04.57

Principes de connexion et d’hétérogénéité : n’importe quel point d’un rhizome peut être connecté avec n’importe quell autre, et doit l’être. C’est très different de l’arbre ou de la racine qui fixent un point, un ordre. L’arbre linguistique à la manière de Chomsky commence encore à un point S et procède par dichotomie. Dans un rhizome au contraire, chaque trait ne renvoie pas nécessairement à un trait linguistique : des chaînons sémiotiques de toute nature y sont connectés à des modes d’encodage très divers, chaînons biologiques, politiques, économiques, etc., mettant en jeu non seulement des régimes de signes différents, mais aussi des status d’états de choses. Les agencements collectives d’énonciation fonctionnent en effet directement dans les agencements machiniques, et l’on ne peut pas établir de coupure radicale entre les régimes de signes et leurs objets. (Rhizome, MP)


All this time the pétanque players haven’t moved from where we left them at the side of the road. The game itself is based on the principle of not moving, keeping the feet planted on the ground. The heavy metal boules keep close to the ground, the players study the uneven contours of the terrain. Who knows how many years they have been coming here, holding their ground. Pointer, tirer, proximities and shatterings.

Prêté. Vincennes was built on borrowed land. Vincennes was living on borrowed time. Hastily assembled. Prefabricated. Like Ponge’s pré, a place of preparation, experimentation, a making of. Also of extreme proximity. But what was being prepared? To what end?

Et presque décidé à ne plus en bouger.

Even when the state of overcrowding in the tiny smoke-filled classroom had reached intolerable limits, even when the atmosphere had become almost unbreathable from the smoke, Deleuze still refused to move, to give up his nomad tent, his bit of steppe in the bois, go to an amphitheatre, use a microphone, communicate, lose the proximity of élevage. Capturing and elevating to a higher power the forces, the speeds, of the hunted, the marginal, the solitaries, those on the fringes.


Le nomade se distribue dans un espace lisse, il occupe, il habite, il tient cet espace, et c’est là son principe territorial. Aussi est-il faux de définir le nomade par le mouvement. Toynbee a profondément raison de suggérer que le nomade est plutôt celui qui ne bouge pas. Alors que le migrant quitte un milieu devenu amorphe ou ingrat, le nomade est celui qui ne part pas, ne veut pas partir, s’accroche à cet espace lisse où la forêt recule, où la steppe ou le desert croissent, e invente le nomadisme comme réponse à ce défi. Bien sûr, le nomade bouge, mais il est assis, il n’est jamais assis que quand il bouge […]. Le nomade sait attendre, et a une patience infinie. Immobilité et vitesse, catatonie et precipitation, « processus stationnaire », la station comme processus, ces traits de Kleist sont éminemment ceux du nomade. Aussi faut-il distinguer la vitesse et le mouvement : le mouvement peut être très rapide, il n’est pas pour cela vitesse ; la vitesse peut être très lente, ou même immobile, elle est pourtant vitesse. Le mouvement est extensif, et la vitesse intensive. Le mouvement désigne le caractère relatif d’un corps considéré comme « un », et qui va d’un point à un autre ; la vitesse au contraire constitue le caractère absolu d’un corps dont les parties irréductibles (atomes) occupent ou remplissent un espace lisse à la façon d’un tourbillon, avec possibilité de surgir en un point quelconque […] Bref, on dira par convention que seul le nomade a un mouvement absolu, c’est-à-dire une vitesse ; le mouvement tourbillonaire ou tournant appartient essentiellement à sa machine de guerre. (MP – Traité de Nomadologie)

9) SOUND – Pétanque philosophy 02.02

The mal that everyone feels in the class is like that which pertains to painting. The painter is a maler working in proximity, so close to the material he can no longer see properly, mal vu mal dit. The smooth space is this excess of proximity.

C’est le Lisse qui nous paraît à la fois l’objet d’une vision rapprochée par excellence et l’élément d’un espace haptique (qui peut être visuel, auditif autant que tactile). Au contraire, le Strié renverrait à une vision plus lointaine, et à un espace plus optique – même si l’œil à son tour n’est pas le seul organe à avoir cette capacité. Et encore, toujours, corriger par un coefficient de transformation où les passages entre strié et lisse sont à la fois nécessaires et incertains, d’autant plus bouleversants. C’est la loi du tableau d’être fait de près, bien qu’il soit vu de loin, relativement. On peut se reculer de la chose, mais ce n’est pas un bon peintre, celui qui se recule du tableau qu’il est en train de faire. Et même la « chose » : Cezanne parlait de la nécessité de ne plus voir le champ de blé, d’en être trop proche, se perdre, sans repère, en espace lisse. […] L’esapce lisse, haptique et de vision rapprochée, à un premier aspect : c’est la variation continue de ses orientations, de ses repères et de ses raccordements ; il opère de proche en proche. Ainsi le désert, la steppe, la glace ou la mer, espace local de pure connexion. (MP – Le lisse et le strié)

Going into the woods is like entering the zone, a tiny space that proximity renders vast. With one important difference.The paralysis of desire at the heart of Tarkovskij’s Stalker is the paralysis of origins, of archaeology, return, the unconscious wish as a buried secret, the soul, the tomb. But the zone may also be a kind of pré. Pré à Porter. It’s portable. You don’t need to go to Russia or even to the cinema to find it. You carry it with you, find a suitable place to set it up as though it were a tent (attente), a tentation and then wait for something to happen, to grow, for someone to arrive.

We are making a rhizone here in the bois, deterritorializing its arborescences, using its oblivion, we are looking for a way out of the opposition between trees and rhizomes. The bois is not a forest, it is a sous bois, it hovers on the margins, it includes a pré, a place of preparation, common ground, a teddy-bear’s picnic, borrowed time, proximity, readiness. There is something prefabricated about it, as there was at Vincennes. The materials are poor, makeshift, temporary. We use what is to hand. It won’t last.

The memory of what is important doesn’t need a monument.

We arrived at the bois through the videos of Deleuze’s lessons of 1975-76 at Vincennes, some 20 hours shown after hours (fuori orario) on Rai Tre, part of a project undertaken by a group of students to film philosophy (not only Deleuze, but also Lyotard, Scherer and Chatelet). The story and fate of these videos is intertwined with that of the university, deemed obsolete and demolished in 1980 when the site was replanted with trees, the landscape changed beyond all recognition).

Likewise the video material were considered too poor in quality to be worth saving and were consigned to the rubbish bin. Luckily half the material was saved, but exists only as rushes, inarchivé. This is the beginning of our film, this is middle of our film, a film already not yet trop tot… trop tard a becoming cinema to be continued.

10) SOUND – Marielle reading Deleuze’s letter 01.34

Green grow the rushes

We are looking for boissons, boiseaux, to prepare a drunken forest of inclinations, slidings and leanings, acacciatura and appoggiatura. Grace notes.

11a) MUSIC – Drunken Forest 04.25

We invite Robert for a walk in the bois. Though he’s spent a lot of time tripping in the woods during the 70s he has never been back since the fac was demolished. We ask him if he will be our guide for the day. We walk for hours, miles away from the university, finally ending up in a thickly wooded patch, quite close, where we wander in circles doing nothing in particular, watching shadows lengthen, the sun-mottled ground turn gold to green to turquoise, listening to distant bells, nearer birds until everything has been said, there is nothing further to accomplish and it is long past the time to leave, and still we stand or sit there in the latening hour like children who have decided not to go home.

Thinking is, or ought to be, a coolness and a calmness; and our poor hearts throb, and our poor brains beat too much for that. And yet, I’ve sometimes thought my brain was very calm — frozen calm, this old skull cracks so, like a glass in which the contents turned to ice, and shiver it. And still this hair is growing now; this moment growing, and heat must breed it; but no, it’s like that sort of common grass that will grow anywhere, between the earthy clefts of Greenland ice or in Vesuvius lava. (Hermann Melville – Moby Dick)

“Green grow the rushes” – is a counting song, and like most counting songs its origins are religious but amid all the counting and its biblical allusions is the ritournelle, the refrain: the rushes that continue to grow numberless and free.




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