Video Assemblages: ‘Machinic Animism’ and ‘Asignifying Semiotics’ in the Work of Melitopoulos and Lazzarato


  • Jay Hetrick



In this paper I will analyse the theoretical background of a single video installation – co-created by Angela Melitopoulos and Maurizio Lazzarato – in order to unpack Deleuze and Guattari’s important but somewhat elusive concepts of ‘machinic animism’ and ‘asignifying semiotics.’ Assemblages (2010) is a three channel audio-visual documentary about the French philosopher and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari. I will argue that, in order to fully understand this work, we must interrogate the incredibly dense theoretical context it inhabits. In particular, I will explore the juncture between Guattari’s ethico-aesthetic ideas concerning a potential ‘ecosophy’ – or theory of the different relations between humans and nature that depends upon a new semiotics – and Lazzarato’s conception of ‘videophilosophy,’ which is grounded upon a politicised Bergsonian onto-aesthetics. I will conclude by criticizing Nicolas Bourriaud’s misappropriation of Guattari in his book Relational Aesthetics and propose that Assemblages demands quite a different and more radical gesture of relationality: one that follows an ecosophical logic that envelopes and imbricates the different levels of nature, the individual, and the social in a way that we might qualify with the term ‘unnatural participation.’

Author Biography

Jay Hetrick

Jay Hetrick is an Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies at the American University in Dubai. He has published in the fields of 20th century art, continental aesthetics, and critical theory. He has edited and translated, with Gary Genosko, a book entitled Machinic Eros: Félix Guattari’s Writings on Japan. He is currently preparing his PhD thesis - entitled Cine-aesthetics: A Critique of Judgment after Deleuze and Michaux - for publication and is translating Maurizio Lazzarato’s book Videophilosophy into English.