Donnez-moi donc un corps

Gilles Deleuze’s aesthetics of intensities and the possibilities of queer postrepresentations

Sarma 7 Nov 2002English

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Contextual note
This lecture was held during B-Visible at Arts centre Vooruit in Ghent.

Martin Duberman recently edited an anthology entitled Queer representations.(1) I don’t want to be detrimental to the quality of this anthology, but titles like this make me nervous and suspicious. In my opinion, the combination of these two terms, ‘queer’ and ‘representations’, gives rise to a paradox that essentially works at the cost of the queer-part in the title. Let me explain my nervousness and my suspicion.

Queer representations

The French philosopher Gilles Deleuze defines ‘representation’ as based on four elements; the identity of the concept, the opposition in the determination of the concept, the analogy in judgement and the resemblance of the object.(2) Representation in thought can then be defined as an act of classification in thought; a way of thinking that places singular beings – or bodies – in a conceptual and representational framework on the ground of their similarities in function, form or kind; black or white, male or female, heterosexual or homosexual,… . This way of binary thinking imposes a hierarchical and dualistic relation within the plane of immanence that preexists any representation. Following Deleuze, representation and representation in thought are thus a violent reduction and forgery of the multiplicity in real life, also as far as human bodies are concerned.

Queer, on the other hand, is precisely the odd, the uncommon, the peculiar, the unusual, the strange, the curious, the indefinite. Annamarie Jagose says that queer is “necessarily indeterminate” and that it possesses “neither a foundational logic nor a consistent set of characteristics.”(3) In this context, queer is the not-fitting-in-a-class. It occupies the ‘inter-space’ of binary oppositions (such as male or female, …) The queer body can only be ‘represented’ or made visible beyond representation (in thought), beyond a way of binary-oppositional, conceptual thinking that classifies on the ground of identities, oppositions, analogies and resemblances. The queer body is essentially “an open-ended constituency, whose shared characteristic is not identity itself but an anti-notmative positioning with regard to sexuality.”(4) To really render visible the queer body, one has to get away from the illusions of recognition, identity and representation in thought.

What is called a postrepresentation (in thought) exceeds this binary-oppositional thinking and encounters reality as a plane of immanence. To render visible the queer body, one needs a logic of the postrepresentative kind, such as Gilles Deleuze’s logic of ‘multiplicity’. This logic of ‘multiplicity’ is a logic “for thinking (…) not in terms of identities and oppositions, but rather of ‘differences’ over which we can’t quantify (…) of that which “is never completely ‘ontologically determined’ ”(5)
Within this Deleuzian logic of ‘multiplicity’, classification is mobile and different from the rigid dichotomy of binary oppositions. These mobile classifications are “retroactive and reworkable, unlimited. (…) In a classification it is always a matter of bringing together things which are apparently very different, and of seperating the very close.”(6)
The Deleuzian formula readdresses the binary tension between subjects and between concepts, not only in perpetual heterogeneity, but in heterogenesis; “on the one hand [a] recognition of an operative identity attached to the very fact of its nomination and which is sanctioned by its constancy; on the other variation, mutability, drift, relativisation, undecideability.”(7) In this way, Deleuze neither destroys difference nor valorises it, but multiplies and disperses differences, to move towards a world where differences would not be synonymous with exclusion. The negative connotation of queer as the ‘not-fitting-in-a-class’ gives way to a positive force, a kind of untamed, nomadic power or chance; “ a ‘freshness’ of what has not yet been made definite by habit or law.”(8)

The idea of difference should not be confused with oppositions, nor should the idea of ‘multiplicity’ be confused with traditional notions of ‘the many’ or ‘the manifold’, or ‘variety’; “(…) in contrast to the discrete ‘variety’ of a set, a [Deleuzian] multiplicity is a kind of potential for bifurcation and ‘variation’ in an open whole”, in a plane of immanence that is ceaslessly becoming instead of in a rigidly composed plan or architecture.(9)
Deleuze’s aim of his logic of multiplicity may then be said to investigate manners as “how to repeat ‘free differences’ in complex wholes that don’t reduce what makes them differences, how to connect ‘singularities’ in a ‘plan of consistency’ that preserves what makes them singular.”(10) To do so, he wants to render visible the invisible ‘difference’. This is not an easy thing to do. Deleuze realises that reality cannot be represented in its ‘difference’. Difference is, but cannot be described or represented as such. It disappears as soon as reason or language operate because these representational tools maintain a conceptual principle of arrangement. This does not mean, though, that difference and pure immanence can completely be left out. Deleuze calls differences “extra-beings (…), (…) rather than ‘existing’ (…) they ‘subsist and insist in things and ourselves.”(11) Difference precedes representation and identity.

On ne peut pas en conclure que la différence s’annule, du moins qu’elle s’annule en soi. Elle s’annule en tant qu’elle est mise hors de soi, dans l’étendue et dans la qualité qui remplit cette étendue. Mais cette qualité comme cette étendue, la différence les crée.(12)

On the other hand, Deleuzes logic of multiplicity does not mean that representation ceases to exist and that representation in thought should completely be abandoned. Deleuze is not radically opposed to every kind of representation. Representation is a necessary means to partially ‘grasp’ reality and to render it theoretically ‘visible’. Deleuze’s postrepresentative logic of multiplicity is rather a disobedience and insubordination to the co-ordinating and unifying mechanism of the logocentral paradigm and the representation in thought it regulates.(13)

Nous ne savons même pas ce que peut un corps

In his book on Spinoza, Deleuze quotes Spinoza’s statement that we don’t even know what the body is capable of. This declaration of ignorance is provocative and is in the first place a complaint against the reductive power of representation: “nous parlons de la conscience et de ses décrets, de la volonté et de ses effets, des mille moyens de mouvoir le corps, de dominer le corps et les passions – mais nous ne savons même pas ce que peut un corps”.(14)

Deleuze was inspired by the Spinozian concept that the body should not be defined by its form, its functions, nor its kind. The body should be described by the affects it is capable of. A postrepresentation in thought of the body does not focus on the recognition of the identical, of the analogies within social patterns and principles of classification; it should encounter and reconnoitre the immanent plane of difference in a the Body-without-Organs.

Chaque lecteur de Spinoza sait que le corps et les âmes ne sont pas pour Spinoza des substances ni des sujets, mais des modes. (…) un mode, c’est un rapport complexe de vitesse et de lenteur, dans le corps, mais aussi dans la pensée, et c’est un pouvoir d’affecter et d’être affecté, du corps ou de la pensée.(15)

Body-without-Organs (BwO) and desiring machines

One has to be careful not to put Deleuze’s concept of the Body-without-Organs on the same level as a dead or sex-less body. On the contrary, the BwO is very alive and kicking.

Un corps sans organes n’est pas un corps vide et dénué d’organes (…). C’est donc moins aux organes qu’il s’oppose, qu’à l’organisation des organes en tant qu’elle composerait un organisme. Le corps sans organes n’est pas un corps mort, mais un corps vivant, d’autant plus vivant, d’autant plus grouillant qu’il a fait sauter l’organisme et son organisation.(16)

The enemy of the Body-without-Organs is not the organs, but the organism; as this suggests “a synthesis of the heterogeneous multiplicity of elements constituting the body.”(17) Deleuze understands the organism as “the judgemental organization of the organs”.(18) The Body-without-Organs is rather a level zero, an immanent plane that precedes a representation in thought. Its connection with desiring machines has no model, nor a recurrent pattern. The Body-without-Organs represents nothing and – in contrast to the psychoanalytical view of the body – it does not classify the (sexual) organs following the classical, binary opposition between two sexes and thus creating a theoretical safe-conduct for the transcendental signifier of the phallus. The materiality of the Body-without-Organs is without image or symbol. It is a corps-sans-image; a body-without-image: “Le corps sans organes n’est pas le témoin d’un néant originel, pas plus que le reste d’une totalité perdue. Il n’est surtout pas une projection; rien à voir avec le corps propre, ou avec une image du corps. C’est le corps sans image”.(19)

The Deleuzian concept of the Body-without-Organs is very important in our search for tools to render visible the queer body, because to experiment ourselves a Body-without-Organs is to move beyond a conceptual thinking that classifies on the ground of identities, oppositions, analogies and resemblances. Deleuze’s statement that the body should not be defined by its form, function or kind is a defence of the individual experience of the body that is unchained from its symbolic and psychoanalytic predominations. To render visible the Body-without-Organs is thus to render visible the queer body. But how can we experiment ourselves a Body-without-Organs or a body-without-image (corps-sans-image)? And how can we render this Body-without-Organs visible? And is this just a matter of being visible?

To track this down, let me first guide you along Jacques Lacan’s concept of the mirror-stage, which is an example of a psychoanalytical image-sans-corps – an image-without-body – quite the opposite of Deleuze’s concept of the Body-without-Organs as a body-without-image, a corps-sans-image.(20) For to know the mechanisms of these symbolic constructions, and their theoretical touch-stones is to be one step closer to the possibilities of experimenting ourselves a Body-without-Organs, and to the possibilities of queer postrepresentations.

Lacan’s image sans corps

In calling his Body-without-Organs a corps-sans-image, a body-without-image, Deleuze explicitely questions Lacans theory of the mirror stage as it has been developed in his article The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I (Le stade du miroir comme formateur de la fonction du Je).(21) In this contribution, Lacans describes the mirror stage as a founding principle in the development of a child. The moment a baby looks into the mirror, it learns to distinguish its body from his/her mother’s body and thus develops his/her unity in motor, his/her sense of muscular movement. Until then, the baby’s experience of its body had been fragmented and incoherent. By means of a flat mirror, the baby is enabled to see a reflection of itself as a whole body or unity.
The founding process of the mirror stage precedes the assumption of the ‘I’ in language but Lacan stresses the fact that the mirror stage and its formative function of the ‘I’ is not restricted to that single moment that occurs in one’s years of childhood. The flat mirror remains an important tool in what Lacan indicates as the model of secundary processes of identification or imaginary identifications: “des identifications secondaires, dont nous [la psychanalyse] reconnaissons sous ce terme les fonctions de normalisation libidinale.”(22) The development of the (bodily) ego as an imaginary unity is in that sense a continuous, neverending process. After his/her entrance in the symbolic order, the subject is constantly engaged in imaginary identifications to develop a (seemingly) coherent image of him/herself.

Following Lacan, the flat mirror is a metaphor for the way in which a subject develops a body-image, an imaginary relation to our own body. Lacan’s imaginary has its origins in Freud’s theories of the Ego and of narcissism. He based his case on Freud’s theory of the ego-forming process as Gestalt, as pure exteriority.(23) Freud concept of the ego is at variance with Lacan, but both Freud and Lacan interpret the ‘embodied I’ as an exterior form. Lacan calls the ‘embodied I’ an imago (24) or an ‘imaginary anatomy’ (l’anatomie fantasmatique).(25)

In my opinion, Lacan’s concept of the imaginary anatomy is in a way similar to Aristotle’s logocentral belief that the human mind can get ideas of the world by grasping the form of things in the world. In Aristotle’s words, to perceive something is to incorporate its form into one’s mind. The mind is a container, understanding is grasping things by their form, not by their materiality. In his On the Soul, Aristotle declares that the senses are metaphorically like wax tablets. Things in the world impinge on the senses, leaving their impressions as a signet ring does in wax. “A sense faculty is that which has the power to receive into itself the sensible form of things without the matter, in the way in which a piece of wax takes on the impress of the signet ring without the iron or gold; what produces the impression is a signet of bronze or gold, but not qua bronze or gold (…).”(26) In Lacan’s mirror stage the mind similarly grasps an imaginary anatomy by perceiving an ‘exterior’ form or une extériorité in the mirror.(27) Following Lacan, subjectivity is an empty vessel that gets an imaginary content by means of a mental impringe of imago’s, imaginary identities, or bodily images.

In Aristotle’s words, the mirror stage means that, when the mind metaphorically grasps the form (the physical structure) of the body perceived in the mirror, it understands the body. For according to Aristotle, the cognitive vision of the form is not a reduction, but an essentialization of things. Since Ideas are Essences and Essence is Form, it follows that the human mind can grasp the forms of things in the world, the forms that make those things the kind of things they are. Lacan interprets the cognitive vision of the body as a reduction and not as an innocent essentialization, though. He is, in other words, fully aware of the loss of meaning in his concept of the imaginary anatomy. He observes that the mirror-stage contains a ‘loss’ of corporeality and materiality of the body insofar as the mirror regulates an exterior, seemingly coherent and even deformed body-image. “c’est-à-dire (…) une extériorité où certes cette forme [totale du corps] est-elle plus constituante que constituée, mais où surtout elle lui [le sujet] apparaît dans un relief de stature qui la fige et sous une symétrie qui l’inverse, en opposition à la turbulence de mouvements dont il s’éprouve l’animer. (…) son apparition symbolise la permanence mentale du je en même temps qu’elle préfigure sa destination aliénante.”(28)

It is obvious that Lacan distrusts the form/matter model insofar as the cognitive vision of the form is not a harmless essentialization, but a reduction of things. Lacan observed that the assumption of the ‘I’ in language as wel as in body-images, entails a loss of corporeality and materiality. The embrace by the symbolic order is at the same time a limitation and an exclusion – on a linguistic as well as on a visual level. You ‘are’ always more than what you say you are. You ‘are’ always more than the image one has to oneself, or that someone else has of you: “(…) il se trouve constitué comme ‘un’ par le signifiant. Mais cette unification est aussi disjonction. Si l’image unifie, elle sépare. (…) Ainsi l’image spéculaire, comme et en tant que signifiant, est-elle porteuse de mort.”(29)

This observation is no reason for Lacan, though, to question this reductive way of thinking and the resulting loss of meaning in his concept of the imaginary anatomy. In other words, Lacan nevertheless silences the corporeality and the materiality of the body by excluding it from the symbolic order and by pin-pointing it as meaning-less in the process of self-identification.

Many philosophers, such as Deleuze have shown that the flat mirror is not only a mostly distorting way of perceiving and understanding things, but also only one possible way at that. Lacan’s concept of the imaginary anatomy is a violent exclusion of the materiality of the body. It is a representation of the body as an empty mould, as pure exteriority, as a hollow form or model. Throughout her critical diagnosis of Lacan’s psychoanalytical writings, the French philosopher Luce Irigaray formulated a similar diagnosis of Lacan’s mirror stage; i.e. as a dominant metaphor that reduces the multiple ways in which a child develops a body-image, an imaginary relation to his/her own body.

Taking Lacan’s mirror as an image of representation, Irigaray uses a reversed pattern of thinking and interprets corporeality and materiality not as lost meanings, but as an abundance of meaning in undulatory motion, continuously bursting against the barrage, against the borders of the symbolic order. The flat surface of the mirror cuts away the bodily materiality and corporeality, but this does not mean that this bodily materiality and corporeality can be completely left out in the process of self-identification; they subsist and insist in things and ourselves, and remain an important element in our imaginary relation to our own body and thus in the process of self-identification.
As an alternative to Lacan’s concept of the imago as an imaginary anatomy, Irigaray introduces the concept of the imaginary morphology; as the imaginary unity one experiences in the physical form and in the multiplicity of sensations of one’s body.(30) Corporeality in the Irigarayan sense of the word concerns not only body-images or imago’s, but also body-experiences.

The tyranny of the eye

Irigaray’s critical diagnosis of Lacan’s mirror stage is inherently connected with her critique of the tyranny of the eye. She blaims Lacan for considering the eye to be the highest faculty of all senses. “Pour les imagos, en effet, dont c’est notre privilège que de voir se profiler, dans notre expérience quotidienne et la pénombre de l’efficacité symbolique, les visages voilés, – l’image spéculaire semble être le seuil du monde visible (…).”(31)

Lacan’s theory of the mirror stage is not the only psychoanalytical theory to treat the eye with marked preference. “Although psychoanalysis is actually a therapeutic practice of the ‘ear’ (the analyst’s task being mainly to listen to the words of the patient), (…) the underlying image of thought remains that of the eye and (different conceptions of) the gaze.”(32)
Freud’s concept of castration anxiety, for example, is completely based on the visual capacity of human beings; the fear that there is nothing to see. Opposed to the transcendental signifier of the phallus, the female sexe thus represents emptyness, nothingness; “Son sexe représente l’horreur du rien à voir. Défaut dans cette systématique de la représentation et du désir. ‘Trou’ dans son objectif scoptophilique.”(33) Irigaray questions this tyranny of the eye throughout her writings. In Speculum she asks herself: “D’où l’envie de la toute-puissance de ce regard, de ce savoir? Sur le sexe. L’envie, la jalousie de l’oeil-pénis, du regard phallique? (…) Qu’on n’oublie pas, en effet, ce que la ‘castration’, le savoir de/sur la castration, pour Freud en tous cas, doit au regard. Regard, en jeu de toujours…”.(34) In Sexes et parentés, she continues: “Freud s’intéresse surtout à la vue. (…) Ce corps [image de corps], lui, a rapport à la perception beaucoup plus qu’au pathos. Un corps respire, sent, goûte, voit, entend, touche ou est touché. Ces attributs corporels sont en voie de disparition. Mais comment vivre son corps? (...) nous ne pouvons ni vivre ni penser sans la médiation de nos sens.”(35)

This sentence echoes Deleuze’s statement that we don’t even know what the body is capable of and that we should experiment ourselves a Body-without-Organs, a body-without-image. To be able to describe the body by the affects it is capable of, we should then first of all get rid of the tyranny of the eye.

Irigaray suggests a dehierachisation of the gaze and of cognitive vision, in favour of other faculties and senses, also in the development of body-images. In her writings, the eye is really downcast, not by being made completely obtuse, but by finding its place among multiple other faculties and senses. Irigaray does not consider the eye to be hostile to the body, she considers the privileging of sight to be hostile to the body, especially to the female and the queer body. This does not mean though that sight should be downcast completely. She explores a positive role for vision and mirrors, one that finds itself among other faculties and senses that are considered as equal in value, one that does not exclude bodily experiences as meaningless. Irigaray admits that mirror images and imago’s – their imaginary variant – are an important aspect in the development of an ‘embodied I’, but they should not be considered as co-ordinating or all-embracing: “Le miroir devrait assister et non réduire mon incarnation.”(36)

We can conclude that Lacan’s image-sans-corps that remains theoretically visible through his concept of the mirror stage is nothing but a poor shadow of Deleuze’s Body-without-Organs as corps-sans-image. In tracking down his mirror-stage we uncovered the ‘mirror’ and ‘the eye’ as the self-evident and unquestioned foundations of the Lacanian empire.

It would then be a mistake to put the becoming of the ‘Body-without-Organs’ on one and the same level as the rendering visible of the Body-without-Organs. In restricting ourselves to the visual realm, one remains within the stranglehold of the eye. It is thus not just a matter of being visible, but also of being audible, being palbable, being readable and being thinkable. This attitude provides possibilities of encountering the queer body as such, of queer postrepresentations.

The tyranny of the eye: representation in thought

The tyranny of the eye does not only operate on a psychoanalytical level, but also on the level of representation. Studies about the ‘pictorial turn’ that succeeds the earlier ‘linguistic turn’ so loudly trumpeted by twentieth-century philosophers is also under the spell of the eye. Martin Jay defines the pictorial turn as a paradigm shift; “models of spectatorship and visuality (…) refuse to be redescribed in entirely linguistic terms. The figural is resisting subsumption under the rubric of discursivity; the image is demanding its own unique mode of analysis”(37) Contemporary investigations of the visual in various historical and cultural contexts have unveiled the hidden effects of visual metaphors and visual practices, they have investigated the entanglement of the political and the visual. Whole theories have been built on distinctions between ‘the gaze’, ‘the eye’, ‘the look’ and ‘the glance’, on distinctions between ‘panoptic’, ‘virtual’ and ‘mobilized’ gazes,…(38) But few scholars have wondered what happened to the other sense faculties in this visual culture. Vision is the central concern of scholars engaged in visual culture, but by focusing on the ‘pictorial turn’ they lost sight of the other senses. They failed to track down the tiranny of the eye, that works at the cost of the other senses. It is important to keep in mind that the linguistic and the discursive have not been simply replaced by the pictorial and the figural. They are rather in complicated ways infiltrated by them. It is obvious that the logocentral paradigm of representation is supported and backed by the power of the eye. To GRASP the meaning of something, to contemplate by appearances, by looking at external forms or exteriors is to give in to the all-embracing power of the eye, the eye that is trained to function within logocentral mechanisms of recognition.

Queer postrepresentations: Donnez-moi donc un corps

Representation in thought unites the different faculties of a subject (sensibility, imagination, memory, understanding, reason) in a logocentral, harmonious accord. In fact none of these faculties are fundamentally in harmony. They testify of a much more complicated network of faculties. Rather than a voluntary and harmonious accord, the faculties are in an involuntary discord. Each faculty constitutes a field on its own, even though it ceaslessly interferes with the other faculties. It is only through representation in thought and through its presupposition of both recognition and common sense that the different faculties are attuned to each other. Deleuze defines recognition as “the harmonious exercise of our faculties on an object that is supposedly identical for each of these faculties: it is the same object that can be seen, remembered, imagined, conceived, and so on”(39) From the point of view of recognition and common sense, the faculty of sensibility can only grasp what can also be grasped by the other faculties. From the postrepresentative point of view, “what can only be felt or sensed, that which is accessible only to the faculty of sensibility, “points to a pure aesthetic lying at the limit of sensibility: an immanent Idea or differential field beyond the norms of common sense and recognition.”(40)
The model of recognition implies a second presupposition, namely that the underlying harmony of the faculties is grounded in the unity of the thinking Subject. Following Descartes, it is the identity of the Self in the phrase Je pense, donc je suis which grounds the harmony of all the faculties, and which guaranties the co-ordinating principle of the cogito or reason.(41) Braidotti describes the Cartesian moment of recognition as an act of intellectual self-appropriation; “the subject – identified with his/her rationality – is represented as transparent and self-present consciousness”.(42) In other words, the harmonious exercise of our faculties and the belief in the unity of the thinking Subject prevents us to encounter a Body-without-Organs or a queer body in its difference.

Descartes also posited the ‘clear’ and ‘distinct’ as the highest principle of common sense; as “the light which renders thought possible in the common exercise of the faculties”.(43) A clear and distinct organisation of the signaletic material of a work of art or a transparant representation thus stimulates a transparant representation in thought. The clear, recognisable concepts that are represented reduce the communicative situation to a passive recognition and a ‘grasping’ of familiar concepts and identities. The faculty of sensibility is tuned to a cognitive vision, to the faculty of seeing and understanding. In tuning his body-experiences to the central and co-ordinating faculty of reason, the spectator identifies with the premised fictional characters, the ideas they propagate and their caricature experiences. The represented conflicts are conflicts between closed concepts, between fixed subjects that represent specific identities. The spectator is engaged in processes of territorialisation: in “the reassuring familiarity of encounters with the known”.(44)

Deleuze’s theory of sensation is an aesthetics of intensities. He pleads in favour of deterritorialising processes which force the spectator to think the yet unthought; to perform “the hesitant gestures which accompany our encounters with the unknown.”(45) Deleuze pleads in favour of an aesthetics of intensities that forces the subject to encounter in wonder what the body is capable of. “Donnez-moi donc un corps” should be the lamentation of every ‘healthy’ spectator-thinker.

In his L’image-temps, Deleuze wonders how film – or other art forms – can give the spectator a Body(-without-Organs); “la capacité qu’aurait le cinéma de donner un corps.”(46) Deleuze is convinced that the highest function of art is not to show, in the sense of literally rendering visible, but to show, through the means peculiar to it, what it is to think – what the body and the brain must be for it to be possible to think the unthought. Art then should attain the level in which a work of art testifies of multiplicity, when it makes vision or language stutter, as if speaking a foreign tongue saying “… and, and, and” rather than “or”.

To render visible the queer body has not only to do with representing a queer body, with putting a recognizable androgyn character on stage, nor an identifyable transvestite. For Deleuze, art may be said to ‘make sense’ before it acquires significations, references, or ‘intentions’ identified through a common sense or to clear and distinct ‘queer identities’. That’s why Deleuze is so fond of Paul Klee’s famous phrase not to render the visible, but to render visible; an artist should not reproduce what we can already see, but to make visible what we cannot. This rendering visible of the invisible has nothing to do with a mystical metaphysics of the Unsayable or the Invisible, with an unfathomable design in God’s mind or a theological plan, nor with the inscrutable depths of nature or the powers of society. It is rather the possibility of rendering visible in the aesthetic sense. A Deleuzian aesthetics of intensities is thus at some distance from the more traditional notion of art in as much as they suppose a transparant code or a clear and distinct language that refers to a preexisting subject, agent, or public. It stimulates a vital, multiple way of thinking, saying and becoming, also as far as the viewing subject is concerned. We ourselves – i.e. we as viewing Subjects - need to become ‘imperceptible’ in order to see. A Deleuzian aesthetics of intensities is concerned with the emergence of something new and singular, a queer body, let’s say, “which precedes us and requires us to ‘invent’ ourselves as another people”.(47)

Let me conclude this contribution with a Jan Fabre’s As Long as The World Needs a Warrior’s Soul and his attempt to discover such a non-illustrative violence of bodily space, prior to signification and subjectivity. After his trilogy of the body – the spiritual body in Sweet Temptations, the physical body in Universal Copyrights and the erotic body in Glowing Icons – Fabre investigated the possibilities of the body in revolt and rebellion. One the one hand, he shows the regulating processes of sexual discourses and their effect on disciplined and normalised bodies, bodies that are moulded and fixed to ‘fit’ into a class. The image of the barby-doll on stage, and the desperate exercises of the dancers/actors to imitate the idealised positions and physical structure or exterior appearances of these dolls, uncovers the manipulative power of the mirror, the reductive mechanism of the representation in thought, and the tyranny of the eye. It uncovers the hollowness of the ‘ideal’ imaginary anatomy that is highly valued in our contemporary mannequin-society.
On the other hand, Fabre traces countermovements of the body in revolt and rebellion. “The body presents its individuality and singularity against a process of dehumanization.”(48) The violence of the play does not result from a war that is waged on stage, but from a conceptual deterritorialisation, from the scouting and encountering of a new bodily space. “(…) there is a violence of what comes before the formation of codes and subjects, which is a condition in an expressive material of saying and seeing things in a new way.”(49) Warriors entails a postrepresentation of queer bodies in the sense that it stimulates the spectator to question his own binary-oppositional referential framework; not only on the level of male orfemale, but also on the level of black orwhite, young or old, victim or executioner, … It renders (theoretically) visible the invisible interspace op oppositions.

Warriors is not a reductive abstraction or a representation of the queer body. In fact, we don’t ge to see any queer bodies on stage. It is more a kind of minor or foreign visual idiom in what we have been accustomed to see as far as bodies is concerned. The performance does not represent a queer body, rather, it produces affects that provoke the viewer and makes him think about fixed gender-identities and constructed Subjects. A logocentral recognition of the signaletic material in Fabres Warriors is impossible. There is no linear plot line, no logical arrangement of the signaletic material into a unifying whole. The signaletic material renders us perplexed. It can only be felt or sensed, it cannot be recognised or explained through common sense. As Francis Bacon would put it, it acts directly on the nervous system, rather than passing through the detour of the brain.”(50) Affects and percepts do not grasp what can also be grasped by the other faculties (imagination, memory, understanding and reason). The spectator strives to comprehend theses sensations in their totality, but he/she is unable to do so. Common sense is confronted with its own limit. Rather than having all the faculties harmonioulsy united in an act of recognition, Fabre had each faculty confronted with its own differential limit. This ‘discordant accord’ between the demands of reason, the encountered signaletic matrial and the faculty of sensibility testifies of the ‘unrepresentable’, the ‘invisble’, the ‘inaccessible’, the ‘indescribeable’; it testifies of difference. Affects are in this Deleuzians sense “not te be confused with personal feelings, (…) [percepts] are not to be confused with objects given to a perceiving subject. (…) affects go beyond the subjects that pass through them, and they are impersonal, even inhuman; and percepts are not ways of presenting nature to the eye, but are rather like landscapes, urban as well as natural, in which one must lose oneself so as to see with new eyes.”(51) Fabre rescues the signaletic material from enclosure in representation, or its subordination to the subject of representation. We find ourselves in a kind of amorphous or unformed, ungrounded space, a landscape given through an asymmetrical synthesis of the sensible. By presenting this landscape to the spectator, Fabre extracts percepts and affects from habitual sensibilia – “from habits of perception, memory, recognition, agreement” – and causes us to see, feel and think in new or unforseen ways, especially as far as the human body is concerned. From this encounter with this landscape, the spectator emerges “refreshed as if endowed with a new optic or nervous system”.(52) Within this landscape, the queer body emerges, as the power or ‘freshness’, of what has not yet been made definite by habit or law.


(1) DUBERMAN, Martin (ed.); Queer Representations: Reading Lives, Reading Cultures, New York, New York University Press, 1997.
(2) “l’identité dans le concept, l’opposition dans la détermination du concept, l’analogie dans le jugement, la ressemblance dans l’objet.” (DELEUZE, Gilles (1968); o.c., p. 179-180.)
(3) JAGOSE, Annamarie; Queer Theory, Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 1996, p. 96-97.
(4) JAGOSE, Annamarie; o.c., p. 98.
(5) RAJCHMAN, John; The Deleuze Connections, Cambridge, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2000, p. 52.
(6) Gilles Deleuze in: TOUBIANA, Serge; ‘The Brain is the Screen: Interview with Gilles Deleuze on The Time-Image’, Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, vol. 20, nr. 3, Fall 1998, p. 50.
(7) BELLOUR, Raymond; ‘Thinking, Recounting: The Cinema of Gilles Deleuze’, Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, vol. 20, nr. 3, Fall 1998, p. 70.
(8) RAJCHMAN, John; o.c., p. 55.
(9) RAJCHMAN, John; o.c., p. 54.
(10) RAJCHMAN, John; o.c., p. 55.
(11) RAJCHMAN, John; o.c., p. 61.
(12) DELEUZE, Gilles (1968); o.c., p. 294.
(13) “On parle de la faillite des systèmes aujourd’hui, alors que c’est seulement le concept de système qui a changé.” (DELEUZE, Gilles, GUATTARI, Félix; Qu’est-ce que la philosophie?, Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 1991, p. 14.)
(14) DELEUZE, Gilles; Spinoza – philosophie pratique, Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 1981, p. 28.
(15) DELEUZE, Gilles (1981); o.c., p. 166.
(16) DELEUZE, Gilles, GUATTARI, Félix (1980); o.c., p. 43.
(17) MALABOU, Catherine; ‘Who’s Afraid of Hegelian Wolves?’ in: PATTON, Paul (ed.); Deleuze: a Critical Reader, Oxford, Blackwell Publishers, 2nd ed., (1996) 1997, p. 132-133.
(18) GATENS, Moira; ‘Through a Spinozist Lens: Ethology, Difference, Power’ in: PATTON, Paul (ed.); Deleuze: a Critical Reader, Oxford, Blackwell Publishers, 2nd ed., (1996) 1997, p. 167.
(19) DELEUZE, Gilles, GUATTARI, Félix (1972); o.c., p. 14.
(20) Stephen Melville rejects a notion of vision based on Lacan’s early work on the mirror stage. In overemphasizing Lacan’s early writings on the mirror stage, one misses the Lacanian point he makes in his later work, i.e. that the Symbolic is not radically apart from the Imaginary but in fact actually subtends or is at least equiprimordial with it. (MELVILLE, Stephen’Division of the Gaze, or, Remarks on the Color and Tenor of Contemporary ‘Theory’ in: BRENNAN, Teresa, JAY, Martin (eds.); Vision in Context: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Sight, New York, Routledge, 1996, p. 101-116.) Although one might argue that Lacans recasts the Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic Order in a less hierarchical relation in later ruminations, one cannot conclude from his later work that he weakens his arguments about the hegemony of vision in the ego formation of an individual.
(21) IRIGARAY, Luce; Parler n’est jamais neutre, Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 1985, p. 23. Zie LACAN, Jacques; ‘Le stade du miroir comme formateur de la fonction du Je’, Ecrits, Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1966, p. 93-100. (Lacan presented this text on the 16th Congrès international de psychanalyse de langue française (Brussels, May 1948). The text has been originally published in Revue française de psychanalyse, no. 4, octobre-décembre 1949, p. 449-455.)
(22) LACAN, Jacques; o.c., p. 94.
(23) Lacan explicitely refers to Freud’s concept of the Ideal Ich and his concept of Gestalt: “C’est que la forme totale du corps par quoi le sujet devance dans un mirage la maturation de sa puissance, ne lui est donné que comme Gestalt, c’est-à-dire dans une extériorité.” (LACAN, Jacques; o.c., p. 94-95.)
(24) LACAN, Jacques; o.c., p. 94.
(25) LACAN, Jacques; o.c., p. 97.
(26) Aristoteles quoted by LAKOFF, George, JOHNSON, Mark; o.c., p. 375-376. See also ARISTOTELES; On the soul (424a) in: McKeon, R. (ed.); The Basic Works of Aristotle, New York, Random House, 1941, p. 17-24.
(27) LACAN, Jacques; o.c., p. 95.
(28) LACAN, Jacques; o.c., p. 95.
(29) IRIGARAY, Luce (1985); o.c., p. 23.
(30) VAN DEN ENDE, Tonja (1999); o.c., p. 60.
(31) LACAN, Jacques; o.c., p. 95.
(32) PISTERS, Patricia; From Eye to Brain. Gilles Deleuze: Refiguring the Subject in Film Theory, Amsterdam, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 1998, p. 64.
(33) IRIGARAY, Luce (1977a); o.c., p. 25-26.
(34) IRIGARAY, Luce (1974); o.c., p. 53.
(35) IRIGARAY, Luce (1987); o.c., p. 212.
(36) IRIGARAY, Luce (1987); o.c., p. 78.
(37) JAY, Martin; ‘Vision in Context: Reflections and Refractions’ in: BRENNAN, Teresa, JAY, Martin (eds.); Vision in Context: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Sight, New York, Routledge, 1996, p. 3.
(38) BRYSON, Norman; Vision and Painting: the Logic of the Gaze, London, Macmillan, 1983.
(39) SMITH, Daniel W.; ‘Deleuze’s Theory of Sensation: Overcoming the Kantian Duality’ in: PATTON, Paul; o.c., p. 30.
(40) SMITH, Danbiel W.; o.c., p. 34.
(41) “Le Je pense est le principe le plus générale de la représentation, c’est-à-dire la source de ces éléments et l’unité de toutes ces facultés (…).” (DELEUZE, Gilles (1968); o.c., p. 180.)
(42) BRAIDOTTI, Rosi (1991); o.c., p. 51.
(43) SMITH, Daniel W; o.c., p. 39.
(44) PATTON, Paul; o.c., p. 8.
(45) PATTON, Paul; o.c., p. 8-9.
(46) DELEUZE, Gilles (1985); o.c., p. 248.
(47) RAJCHMAN, John; o.c., p. 123.
(48) As Long as the Worls Needs a Warrior’s Soul, premiered on Wednesday, 18 October 2000, De Singel, Antwerp.
(49) RAJCHMAN, John; o.c., p. 124.
(50) BACON, Francis; The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with David Sylvester, London, Thames and Huston, 1975, p. 18.
(51) RAJCHMAN, John; o.c., p. 134-135.
(52) RAJCHMAN, John; o.c., p. 135.


*Discussion afterwards*

The discussion took place in Dutch and was transcribed by Flore Opsomer

Publieksreactie: “Wat doen we met de invulling-terminologie van het woord ‘imaginary’ binnen deze lezing? Elke taal heeft er een andere connatie aan, het voelt anders aan. Ook binnen één taal blijft het problematisch om het woord in de juiste context te gebruiken?”

Christel Stalpaert

: “Juist. We kunnen het woord ‘imaginair’ (Nederlands) interpreteren en onderbrengen in het lijstje van symbolische, imaginaire orde zoals bij Lacan bijvoorbeeld. Ook kunnen we het linken aan het fantasmatische, het fantasma,… Zelfs het Franse woord ‘image’ zit vervat in het woord ‘imaginair’. Wat opnieuw aantoont hoe vast wij verankerd zitten in het visuele – het zichtbare, louter via het oog.
In deze lezing was het voornamelijk de bedoeling om ‘de imaginaire morfologie’ van Irigaray te plaatsen naast en tegen ‘anatomie’ waarbij anatomie verwijst naar het externe, de uiterlijke kenmerken. Irigaray wil verder gaan en ‘kijken’ naar andere manieren van zichtbaarheid (via verschillende zintuigen).

Publieksreactie: “Bestaat er dan zoiets als een ‘sensory-identity’?”

Stalpaert: “Nee, moeilijk, blijft een heel complex begrip. In de voorstelling van Jan Fabre zijn er duidelijk verschillende soorten van waarnemingen mogelijk, veel meer dan louter het visuele. Je ruikt, hoort, denkt,… Zijn werk maakt duidelijk gebruik van meer dan enkel ‘the eye’.”

Publieksreactie: “Ja oke, maar Fabre stopt daar. De toeschouwers blijven publiek en kunnen op dat moment zelf niet “b-visible” zijn.

Stalpaert: “Ja, als je dit vergelijkt met het werk van Lawrence Malstaff, gaat Malstaff toch een stap verder. Hij vertrekt vanuit het publiek. Hij werkt op een manier waarbij ‘the eye’ en de blik als tekengevend materiaal worden ingezet.