An everyday word for botanists, gardeners and new media artists, in 260 words.
In botany, rhizome refers to a particular form of stem-like propagating mechanism that behaves at any point like a seed. Unlike a seed, bulb or tuber, the rhizome itself grows and can potentially sprout anywhere along its length. Examples of rhizome plants include ginger, asparagus and iris. This botanical distinction is of interest to gardeners because a plant with a rhizome can be multiplied simply by removing a section of rhizome and transplanting. More theoretically any rhizome could be said to be a part of the same rhizome throughout the plants history.
Making the leap to the field of new media arts involves understanding the work of the philosophers Deleuze and Guattari who adopted the concept of the rhizome in their book ‘A Thousand Plateaus’.
They stated that the “old lineages (of) graphic arts, drawing or photography", are not appropriate to the cross fertilization of current ideas “that (are) always detatchable, connectable, reversable, modifiable, with multiple entranceways and exits”. “The rhizome is reducible to neither the One or the multiple. It is not the One that becomes Two or even directly three, four, five etc. It is comprised not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion. It has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows and which it overspills.”
Deleuze and Guattari’s useage was subsequently adopted as the name of a website that is central to the new media arts community, expressing the paradigm within which they work.
Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia University of Minnesota Press, 1987
Rhizome web site: http://rhizome.org/
why in 260 words? I didn't choose the title, this was an empty nodeshell when I got here.