Sunday, 22 February 2015

Assemblages of Desire

In his L'Abécédaire interview, Deleuze is asked about his concept of desire. He says that desire is never for a single object. I desire an assemblage. Not just the coffee, but the cafe facing the street, the notebook on the table, the clink of cups, the steam from the machine, the image of myself sat in the cafe writing, and these constellated doubtless with other images  - of other writers, sat in cafes; a way of life, bohemia. Desire is creative, in constructing these assemblages, in moving from object to object, spinning its web, weaving its world, blossoming and expanding. To say I desire a coffee is a metonym: it is to desire all of these things, and it's to desire a certain self, a certain world. Things, self and word are always triangulated.

I thought of this as I was reading the paper this morning, and saw an advert for haagen dazs ice cream. Black and white, a couple (of course) snuggled in a duvet eating the product. And the tag line: "Your heart knows when it's real, so do your taste buds". Then in smaller letters at the bottom of the page: "Nothing is better than real". Advertisers are in agreement with Deleuze in that they present us with assemblages: we are invited to desire not just the ice-cream, but the lazy Sunday morning, the ubiquitous ideal of The Couple - the measure of all things in much popular culture, the post-coital haze, indulgence (the indulgence of staying in bed and the 'indulgence' of a pot of ice cream are referred through one another), the elegance and sophistication vaguely connoted by black and white photography, and so on...  Our gaze is immediately deflected through the ice cream onto all these other things, so that the ice cream is only a sign and promise of these other things. In turn, this series of things only makes sense within the bigger language of advertsing, to which any individual advert must plug in, and which individual adverts perpetuate and legitimise. 

What advertising does is to confiscate for itself the creativity of desire, and to offer it back to us as a ready-made, as manufactured assemblage which it then invites us to consume. This locking down of desire into ready-made significances is, in fact, the opposite of desire.