"The assassin is one who bombards the existing people with molecular populations that are forever closing all of the assemblages, hurling them into an ever wider and deeper black hole. The poet, on the other hand, is one who lets loose molecular populations in hopes that this will sow the seeds of, or even engender, the people to come, that these populations will pass into a people to come, open a cosmos.....it may be that the sound molecules of pop music are at this very moment implanting here and there a people of a new type, singularly indifferent to the orders of the radio, to computer safeguards, to the threat of the atomic bomb."
From A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Giles Deleuze and Felix Guattari: 345-346.
We discussed this quote briefly in my reading group last Wednesday, and I can't seem to shake it. I've laid awake at night and thought about. As I read through various comic books, it kept poping up. When I listen to music, it's turning about in my mind with the lyrics.
At first, I bristled at it a bit. The same bristling that comes when I read Walter Benjamin. It's not that I don't like Benjamin because I do. It's just this idea of authentic. The idea that mass production somehow reduces something. Does my Picasso print mean less because it is a print? Does some kind of inherent value lie in authenicity? And I was suprized to read this in Deleuze. The man who calls animals artist. His idea of the assassin seems to hint at this. The bombardment of the masses with cheaply made mass produced things.
And then American Idol made it all clear. Yes American Idol. I'm not going to lie and say that I don't watch it. I do. I always get disgusted midway through and just stop watching. And while I am not one to malign popular culture (I think it is an important part of how we form identity and far be it for me to put myself on some pedestal in terms of culture), I can see what Deleuze means. AI bombards us. It purposefully creates people in the image of the popular. It smooths out all originality even as it pretends to demand it. And pop music does this as a whole. It's mindless bubble gum that does not open us to new worlds but rather closes off worlds. Someone I meet a few weeks ago, gave me his facebook address, and he said this about music "I like all music that I have to listen to. I like to listen engaged." What a wonderful way to see it. Because that's what good music does. It engages you. This is why I have such a hard time listening to music when I write. It distracts me.
And Deleuze goes on to talk about this. He talks about how "pop music" (remember this guy was writing in the 60s) plants seeds. And it's not just music that does it. Good comic books do this. Sci-Fi does this. All the genres we've tend to regulate to the lower realms of culture have the potential to open the cosmos. This idea challenges how we see things. I think of a show like Battlestar Galatica (which we're hopelessly addicted to) that raises important questions, and makes you think about things like government and what it means to be human. Or the Sandman comics which challenge how we see reality. Are these things entertaining? Yes but they also push our minds into new assemblages, new ideas, new ways of becoming.