Although I cannot say that I have been familiar with Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s conceptions of ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ space for a long time, or that I built with these terms in mind; when I eventually discovered their writings I did end up making connections - not only with my own building but with that of many fellow builders in virtual worlds.
On this page I will try to explain what these terms meant to Deleuze and Guattari and how they may (or may not) relate to the things that I build.
ShapeShifter, NGrid, OpenSim, 2016.
The Skybunkers are striated space. The fact that they are confusing, that their entry and exit points are not easily identifiable, or that they float in the sky does not change their striated nature - they are bounded spaces with walls and hierarchies. Very much like physical architecture, in fact.
Deleuze and Guattari call smoothing and striating as two antagonistic operations and interpretations of territory. Smooth spaces are the territory of the nomad, while striated spaces are created by the sedentary – by settled societies developed after the advent of agriculture.
Verdigris, OpenSim, 2016.
Array: The space is a hybrid of smooth and striated. Smooth since there are no compass points, no horizon, and no hierarchy of elements. Striated since there can be no such thing as man-made smooth space.
Instead of the metrical forms of striated space, smooth space is made up of a constantly changing orientation provided by a population of nomads who are actively entertaining tactile relations among themselves.
ShapeShifter, NGrid, OpenSim, 2014.
Bowie's Garden is probably more smooth than it is striated - although it is, of course, ultimately striated since it is man-made: The smoothness comes from the lack of entry and exit points and there is no clearly identifiable floor, although there is a path of sorts that lets avatars meander between the rocks and the plants. It is also a confusing garden since things look alike and repeat themselves. another confusion also comes about through the reflected nature of the plans - the garden is below us, as much as it is around us.
Their conflict is a confrontation movement and speed, arborescence and rhizome, royal science and nomad science.
Second Life, OpenSim, 2015.
The Bridge is an architecture that floats in the sky, made out of big glass platforms and paths that lead nowhere. Or rather they lead into the emptiness of the sky itself. In this sense, and also in the sense that there are no entrance and exit points, this is a smooth space. When it comes to the separator panels on the platforms however, we are back in striated space since these are the essence of "state" architecture in that they are walls that form boundaries and hierarchy.
‘Smooth space’ is occupied by intensities and events. It is haptic rather than optic, a vectorial space rather than a metrical one. The characteristic experience of 'smooth space' is short term, up close, with no visual points of reference or invariant distances.
Symmetry is a space that makes it rather difficult to know where you are exactly since everything is completely symmetrical, as is already implicit in the name. Another thing that makes the space confusing is that the entire structure is reflected, what you see at eye level repeats itself below you. In this sense of having no clear entry and exist points this can be seen to have elements of smoothness that create hybridity.
Although Deleuze and Guattari never mention it, the grid must stand as both the emblem and diagram of striated space. The effect of the grid was always to say of something that it was this, not that; it belonged here, not there.
Second Life, 2016.
From here on there be dragons is striated space, complete with walls, hierarchies, and a clear navigation route - and yet with a smidgen of smoothing that comes about mainly through the absence of a horizon line. (The entire "city" is suspended in mid air). Another thing that adds confusion is the reflection of the entire city in both directions - both upward into the sky, as well as downward into a ground level that is still invisible.
The fundamental opposition of these two space-states can probably best be understood in terms of travel, and movement: Striated travel is linear movement from point A to point B, while smooth space involves a meandering movement in which the objective is not so much the destination as it is the journey.
Azimuth is a tiny cosmogony that cannot seen with the bare avatar eye. The only way to look at this is with the usage of the zoom-in function of the metaverse viewer's camera. And even then this cannot seen be clearly since the camera shakes at such a micro level. Therefore one can only really see this by photographing it. I would therefore call this unequivocally smooth at a macro level. how can something that you cannot see be striated? On a micro level, however we have a high level of striation that comes about mainly through hierarchy, given that we are talking about a tiny solar system of planets revolving around a central sun.
Smooth and striated can also be distinguished through the inverse relations of the point and the line. Within striated space the line is between two points, while within the smooth, the point is between two lines.
This, again tiny, structure is called Cypher and it is the sequel to Azimuth. Since the tiny solar system did not really fit the concept that I was working with (Jorge Luis Borges's "Aleph") I ended up building something that was based on a link and node data visualisation diagram in order to represent code, combined with genomic codes which I used as floors and rotating panels. This little thing is far smoother than its forerunner Azimuth since it is decentralized. Yes, there are nodes, and some appear to be bigger and more centralized than others, but this is still not enough to create hierarchy and order.
‘Smooth space’ finds its counterpoint in ‘striated space’ which is defined by boundaries, walls, hierarchies, and easily identifiable entry/exit points. According to Deleuze and Guattari striation is negatively motivated by anxiety in the face of all that passes, flows, or varies and through this anxiety ends up erecting a constancy and an eternity of a state of being ‘in-itself.’
Second Life, 2015.
Homage to El Lissitzky: This project is what actually brought about my interest in this whole thing on smooth and striated. When I decided to write a paper on El Lissitzky's Proun 5A that I had built for the Russian Avantgarde exhibition in SL, I came across a discussion on Deleuze and Guattari in relation to El Lissitzky's prouns.
The Proun drawings are very strange indeed, as I found out when I set out to replicate one of them: The strangeness comes from perpetually shifting vantage and perspective points, from how El Lissitzky sees the constructs from many different sides - sometimes in separate drawings and sometimes even in one drawing, But the problem is that what he sees doesn't match up and thus ends up becoming very confusing. I do not know whether this would constitute smoothness in and of itself; but I do know that what I re-built (as accurately as I could, taking a median from all of the 5A drawings) became an extremely disorienting space for the avatars who visited it.
The content of the lower gallery is a maze made out of the leaves of the famous concrete poetry book 'For the Voice,' which was a major project for which El Lissitzky collaborated with Mayakovsky. Here, I do think that we have a hybrid state between smooth and striated in which smooth tends to take over since there is a lack of hierarchy and compass coordinates - everything almost looks the same, is equally large, equidistantly placed - albeit at differing heights and some at 90 degree angles to others.
Both projects have no clearly demarcated entry and exit points, both have no floors (the avatar walks on a transparent plane), both have no defined horizon line.
See more images and read more here: http://www.homage-to-el-lissitzky.com/
Thus, A Thousand Plateaus is actually a recount of an extended confrontation between the smooth and the striated in which the striated progressively takes hold over the smooth.
Museo del Metaverso: This was a very large scale project that was realized in order to house a huge and perpetually changing/added onto collection of metaverse art. I tried to resolve the design brief by building an ever skyward expanding triple set of towers made out of large spheres inside which the collection could be housed. No matter how abstract it may appear to be, this is definitely striated architecture. It has a very clear hierarchy, a navigation path that is clearly demarcated, and rigorously delineated boundaries.
See more images and read more here: http://cargocollective.com/elifayiter_MdM
Although such an opposition does exist, nevertheless these “two spaces in fact exist only in mixture: smooth space is constantly being translated, transversed into a striated space; striated space is constantly being reversed, returned to a smooth space. In the first case, one organizes even the desert; in the second, the desert gains and grows; and the two can happen simultaneously.” (Deleuze and Guattari 1987: 474-475)