Friday, November 18, 2005

Betrayed by Philosophers!

I learned yesterday that Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari are wrong. At least, one of their most often employed "real world" examples of multiplicity (their concept of the Rhizome, or rhizomatic thought) is misleading.

The two philosophers famously claim that a blade of grass grows always from the middle out, and is therefore an embodiment of pluralistic, non-linear thinking. In fact, a blade of grass does not grow in this way. It grows from the base up!

Where the blade attaches to the plant stem, the intercalary meristem resides. (This meristem is distinct from the apical meristem, which is usually found at the tip of a stem or root.) The intercalary meristem generates new cell growth and, by doing so, extends the blade of grass from the bottom up, not from the middle out. Thus, when you cut grass, new growth occurs.

Damn it, Deleuze and Guattari! How many years have I been using this flawed analogy, thinking it was so exact? Well, the more you know...


Mikhail Capone said...

re: Grass

I'll have to check again, but I was under the impression that even grass that has been mechanically cut ended up having a pointed end. If grass grows from the base, how is that?

paddalumpakins said...

On a completely unrelated note we must talk about Burtynsky as some point. I notice he's on your links, and he seems to be very popular these days (especially given the Brooklyn Musuem show, and the show he had at Charles Cowles Gallery last month). I'd like to like the guy, especially given that he's Canadian, but I've never found his work to be more than aesthetically pleasing, but empty work. I've always thought it has a commercial look to it.

Hungry Hyaena said...


Please let me know what you find out. I'm not sure that is the case. I find it difficult to comprehend how such cellular growth and shaping would occur in grass blades. It seems highly unlikely, whether growing from apical meristems or intercalary meristems. Keep me posted.


Sounds good to me. Burtynsky just does it for me. I'm a sucker for unpopulated landscapes, particularly those that highlight decay, whether "natural" or industrial. His has an eye for composition and color and, as you admit, his work is aesthetically satisfying. There is also a meditative sadness in the work, though, at least for me, which I find very cathartic; the pictures are as much celebrations of humanity as they are condemnations.

paddalumpakins said...

Wow, that's really interesting. I hadn't seen the work like that...and now I can't unsee it.