Today’s article, like the previous one, starts from a Deleuzian concept, but may drift apart from it. Someone who is hypochondriac is someone who keeps asking Why do I have? “Why do I have a spleen, why do I have a liver, why do I have organs?” (Abécédaire, J for Joy). In his seminar about Cinema in 1985 at the University of Vincennes, Deleuze evokes the microscopic death of thousands of cells that occurs at the same time and that the hypochondriac could theoretically feel. The state of hypochondria would be an acute perception of one’s body micro-deterioration. Of course, there are limits to conscious perception but, just like Deleuze explains the concept of micro-perception in Leibniz’s philosophy (see past article) by describing the macro-perception of the wave as the totality of micro-perceptions provoked by the quasi-infinity of water droplets, he seems to attribute the feeling of hypochondria to a macro-perception including the totality of micro-perceptions caused by the simultaneous death of all these cells.
Being a little bit of a hypochondriac myself (the luxury of the healthy man), I have the intuition that we should go further than this analysis Deleuze – who was far from being healthy himself – gives us. We experience our body on an absolutely continuous basis, and yet we are used not to conscientiously feel it. I can feel my legs crossing each other – such a gesture already provoke a conflict of perception if you pay attention to it – I can feel my nose scratching a little, I can feel the pressure of my fingers against my keyboard but, ultimately I don’t really feel my body and the trillions of microscopic operations that allows the maintaining of vitality. When I do feel something more, the “event” that it manifests makes me think that something “in me” is dysfuntionning. In those moments, I am wrong twice. Firstly, there is no “inside” of the body. The skin is not a wall protecting a fortress; it is fully part of an assemblage of matter that forms a body. Talking of an event “inside the body” is therefore one more way to dissociate our self from our body when these two things are only one. Secondly, and that is why hypochondriac are often mocked for the illusionary status of their pain, the feeling that one experiences is not the symptom of a dysfunction but rather, the acute perception of the body actually functioning.
Man at the Crossroads by Diego Rivera (1934)
The French word délire, turned into a concept by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in Anti-Oedipus (1972) has something that its English equivalent, delirium, does not have: its status to be simultaneously a noun and a verb. As we will see in this article, this is an important shade of difference and I will use the French verb délirer instead of its imperfect English version ‘to go into delirium”. Deleuze summarizes the argument of Anti-Oedipus as the fundamental distinction between the unconscious interpreted as a representative form (Sigmund Freud’s argument) and the unconscious interpreted as a production of desire. In other words, this distinction is the same there is between a theater and a factory. This changes anything as the realms of representation involves a phenomenology that activates itself through symbols and a sort of cultural semiotics whereas, the notion of production involves universal operations of material manipulation and transformation. This is why Freudian psychoanalysis tends to focus (or at least to start from) the familial realms as the Oedipus complex suggests and why an anti-oedipus argument starts from the universal. In the second part of Anti-Oedipus calls the Freudian totalitarian obsession for the family, familialism and talk about The Imperialism of Oedipus:
Oedipus restrained is the figure of the daddy-mommy-me triangle, the familial constellation in person. But when psychoanalysis makes of Oedipus its dogma, it is not unaware of the existence of relations said to be pre-oedipal in the child, exo-oedipal in the psychotic, para-oedipal in others.
The space beyond the walls: Defensive “a-legal” sanctuaries
(originally written for the Wheelwright Prize – failed)
Considered purely in the abstract, the law appears to be a tool which makes strict categorizations of human actions and behaviors as either legal or illegal, just or unjust. Concomitantly, the abstraction of the law corresponds with a similar spatial abstraction in which territories are defined diagrammatically. This is true as far as the sovereignty of states is concerned but also for all architectural plans; they diagrammatically organize space into distinct territories of jurisdiction. In each case, law and diagram are reduced to their abstract lines. Once manifested as physical architecture, however, such strict delineation becomes far more ambiguous. Which law is applied in the space of a wall, the space of a border or the space of a contested zone? These spaces are legal anomalies and may be understood as the architectural manifestation of what Legal Philosophy Professor Hans Lindahl calls a-legality. Such in-between spaces seem at once to underwrite the law as well as to contradict it. In this research project, I propose to investigate specific cases in which the architecture of such “a-legal zones” is strategically used as a space of sanctuary from coercive forces. My argument insists that an “a-legal architecture” is specifically a defensive one as it gives itself the means to preserve such a status.
The immanent domain (see third letter) – Dharavi in Mumbai / Photograph by Léopold Lambert (2009)
FIRST LETTER (New York on July 12th 2012) ///
I read your essay Archiving Burroughs: Interzone, Law, Self-Medication with attention and appreciated, as usual, the way you manage to link narrative, law and space all together. I do think however that we should keep this text for a little bit later in our conversation as its specificity might make us miss the bases of the discussion that we would like to have about law and architecture. In this regard, I would like to ingenuously start by stating some obvious facts which are always good to remember for such a discussion.
Law, understood as a human artifact, constitutes an ensemble of regulations which have been explicitly stated in order to categorize behaviors in two categories: legal and illegal. In order to do so, it expects from every individual subjected to its application a full knowledge of its content in order to moralize and held accountable attitudes that are either respectful or transgressive towards it.
Law is undeniably related to space as it requires a given territory with precise borders to be able to implement itself. Nothing easier to understand this fact than to observe in which space one is allowed to smoke and in which one is not. It also includes within this territory smaller zones of exclusion, from the corner of the class room to the penitentiary, in which another form of the law -supposedly a more restrictive one- is applied for individuals who, through an active refusal of specific parts of it, are to be separated from the rest of society. Those individuals, when captured by law enforcer instances, are brought within those zones of exclusion and are being held in them for a given period of time provisioned by law itself.
Destruction of the Glencairn Tower in Motherwell (near Glasgow) / Photograph by Sam Hardie
Explosions are so ubiquitous in Hollywood Cinema, and the emotion is so intense when one torn-down reality that we do not quite seem to realize what they really are. In 2007, Mike Davis was trying to historicize the car bomb and its urban consequences in his book Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb (Verso, 2007) but his analysis was legitimately anthropocentric, which I want to avoid in this specific article. “Leaving the human” can sometimes be risky as it potentially leads to the depoliticization of things – depolitics being a form of politics too and a rather totalitarian one – but it also allows to think of a better understanding of the material world in which we live, and from which we exist as a body.
What is an explosion at the pure physics level? A bomb is an apparatus that contains folded within itself the potential liberation of an important volume of energy in the form of an exothermic reaction. Such a volume of energy and the speed with which it gets released provoke a sudden disaggregation of the material bodies (animate or inanimate) that surrounds its center. Insisting on the suddenness or the violence of the explosion would be another anthropocentric way to consider it as it would necessarily associate the scale of time in which it occurs to the scale of time of human perception. In other words, the Big Bang could be considered as a sudden explosion at a certain scale of time even though, 14 billions years later, the universe is still affected by its original release of energy. In a materialist interpretation, the speed to which an explosion is effectuated is therefore irrelevant and such an “event” can be compared to any other modification of matter like erosion or entropy. If we define destruction by the operation in which physical bodies are being “broken down” into smaller material assemblages, we can however define an explosion as a destructive transformation of matter without being anthropocentric.
Antic Greek Statuette of a Hermaphrodite
I have been evoking the work of Beatriz Preciado a few times in the last year, the most notably reference being the wonderful text she wrote for LOG 25 (see past article), entitled Architecture as a Practice of Biopolitical Disobedience in which she was exposing the theoretical bases for a deep analysis of the society of control that she decided to call (and therefore orient) Pharmaco-pornographic society. The latter is implementing its control by the elaboration of apparatuses that modify and normalize sexuality within the context of biopolitics and capitalist strategies. The contraceptive pill is for her, the paradigmatic (designed) object of this society: a product elaborated by the pharmaceutic industry – which, for her, constitute the climax of capitalism – that is voluntarily ingested by millions of women (often in ignorance of their secondary effects) and that, by modifying their internal biology is able to construct a politics of demographic control as well as a normalization of sexuality by the hegemonic heterosexual imaginary that it implements.
Of course, just like Judith Butler (see recent article about this topic), Beatriz Preciado is not interested in merely bringing two more genders (gay and lesbians) to the level of normalization: there is a strong will to absolutely undo gender by subverting it through its very mechanisms of production. This is the topic of her book, Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era (already exists in Spanish and French, soon to be published in English). In it, B. Preciado articulates a theoretical time cartography of the formation of this pharmacopornographic society with autobiographical experiences including the main object of the book: her daily ingestion of doses of testosterone during eight months and the observation of her body getting modified by it. Along the chapters, she insists on the fact that she does not accomplish this experiment in the goal of changing her sex/gender but rather in order to develop a micropolitics of ambiguity, a zone in which she would be neither man nor woman, nor straight, nor gay, nor a lesbian, an unrecognizable body in a society that bases its control on principles of recognition.
The recent manhunt of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Boston was probably quite shocking to many non-Americans – and probably some Americans too -, for the anachronism it constituted. The latter was caused by the ability for a Police to empty an entire city and therefore implements a sort of state of emergency, as well as the “march of the heroes”, the multitude of police officers acclaimed by the crowd after they arrested their prey. There is a profound feudalism in such absoluteness and one has the right to wonder what motivates this disturbing joy.
Let us focus on the urban condition that contextualize this manhunt. I have been repeatedly writing in the past, each house through its impermeability due to the implementation of private property is susceptible to become a prison for the bodies living inside of it in the sudden legal implementation of a quarantine. For an important part of Boston, the quarantine was not implemented stricto sensu but it was highly recommend to each resident to stay inside and the context of fear created by the ubiquitous media made such a recommendation a quasi-order. In the areas of Boston where the police and army was actually deployed, the quarantine was very much effectuated as this article illustrates: Looking through the windows seems to have been prohibited and enforced through the threats of weapons.
While this event was unfolding I was thinking of the descriptions that Michel Foucault makes in his seminar Abnormal (Les Anormaux) at the College de France (1975) of a Medieval/Renaissance city when contaminated by the Plague. Foucault distinguishes two things historically: the negative reaction to cases of leprosy in the same city that consists in the effective exclusion of the sick bodies from it, to the point that they are declared socially dead; and the positive (in the sense that there is an inclusion) reaction to the Plague that provokes a state of emergency and the absolute reorganization of the city according to a quadrillage which has been not so well translated into partitioning. Quadrillage involves indeed a sort of physical or virtual partitioning of a space, but it also implies a detailed, systematic and extensive examination of this same space by a controlling entity. Such an action is thoroughly described by Foucault in his class of January 15th 1975 in this same seminar:
Passing Through by Saburo Murakami (1956) /// Photo by Léopold Lambert
A few days ago, I visited the exhibition Gutai: Splendid Playground at New York Guggenheim Museum. That gave me the opportunity to get to know an artistic movement I was not familiar with beforehand. Although I was not necessarily fascinated by all the artwork presented (the two reasons being that it is somehow odd to put in an institutionalized museum a movement that was frankly against the idea of institutionalization of art, and that rather than showing the artwork itself, we would have gained from having access to the creative process itself as it is the real artistic production of Gutai), some of them compelled me for their relation of the body to the matter.
First of all, let us look at the very name of Gutai in its original Japanese writing: 具体 (as currently learning how to write in Japanese, I became obsessed with characters!) associates 具, the tool with 体, the body/substance, forming together the idea of embodiment or concrete. Let us then look to the Gutai Manifesto written by Jirō Yoshihara in 1956. In it, he explicits this relationship of their art with the matter:
Gutai Art does not alter matter. Gutai Art imparts life to matter. Gutai Art does not distort matter.
In Gutai Art, the human spirit and matter shake hands with each other while keeping their distance. Matter never compromises itself with the spirit; the spirit never dominates matter. When matter remains intact and exposes its characteristics, it starts telling a story and even cries out. To make the fullest use of matter is to make use of the spirit. By enhancing the spirit, matter is brought to the height of the spirit.
We believe that by merging human qualities and material properties, we can concretely comprehend abstract space.
Utagawa Hiroshige – Ocean off Satta (1858) (detail)
I have recently visited the exhibition Edo Pop at New York’s Japan Society and so much beauty made me feel compelled to write something about it. This exhibit gathers about fifty ukiyo-e (浮世絵) prints from the Edo era including an important amount of works by Masters Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa (Ando) Hiroshige as well as others from 18th and 19th century. What fascinated me in them (and that will certainly not fully translate through the images here unfortunately) and made me stay several minutes in front of each of them consists mostly in the fact that each of the line traced on them seems to be absolutely necessary. What I mean by that is that there seems to be a purity of the gesture tracing the lines, a form of confidence, a breath which at the end, gives the impression that the print does not miss a line nor should necessitate an additional one. This could have something to do with the fact that, on the contrary of Western art, tracing those lines is a similar assignment than the one of calligraphy which is also part of these prints. As my readers would know, the art of tracing lines is how I usually define design as well: lines of space, lines of power, lines of flight, symbolical lines, conceiving architecture (building it is a very different story) is closer to calligraphy than what we might think.
One way to perpetuate my fascination for these ukiyo-e prints is to insist on one question that seems to have obsessed the Japanese artists of that time. How can one represents the formlessness we see in water, mud, lava, wind, rain, snow with the use of lines which intrinsically carry a circumscribing power, and therefore a tendency to form things rather than unform them. The various responses to this questions involve various processes that manage (sometimes without even the help of color) to represent formlessness through lines. The strength of their expressive representations carries the ones of the elements they represent and the fragility of humans who can, at best, compose with them (that is often the case for the boats in the waves, although they never seem to be perfectly comfortable with it!). Formlessness is feared at many level of consciousness, precisely for the reason that it cannot be circumscribed and therefore controlled and understood (for a political reading of it, see my essay Abject Matter). Humans in Edo prints are certainly not the Cartezian ones “masters and possessors of the nature”; on the contrary, they are surrounded and subjected to the power of these formless phenomena and, for the most skillful of them, they try to compose harmonious relations with them.
We see them so many times every day that we barely pay attention to them anymore. However, those little symbols of gender differentiation constitute the operative symbol of a society that was built upon the strict separation of the male and female genders. Of course, we could start by the obvious, observing that the typical and ubiquitous bathrooms’ doors symbols shows, for the sake of immediate understanding, a woman wearing a dress and a man wearing pants. The very fact that anybody is able to understand the universality of this symbol is symptomatic of the problem here. But let us go further; the observation that women can wear pants and men dresses could be said to be the degree zero of the awareness of a gender issue. This degree zero is what lead us to fight for the equality of gender and the basic recognition of several sexualities, none of which should be stigmatized. The next degree of awareness of the problem is that the very fact of posing the latter with the terms of women and men as I just did contributes to its perpetuation. In other words, we should not content ourselves with a sort of elementary feminism and elementary counter-homophobia, even if those are still actively needed. The hideous manifestations of homophobia from the Christian right wing in France (who precisely use stereotypical symbols of a classic heterosexual family) against gay marriage and adoption prove it. The contentment of these struggles would contributes to a form of equality, that is true; however, this equality would be between the same two genders, or between four categorical genders (men, women, gay men, gay women). This would simply make the norm evolves and through it, reproduce phenomena of power from the normative bodies to the “pathological” bodies (I am currently re-reading Canguilhem’s Normal and Pathological, hence this terminology). In order not to fall in this “trap”, reading and re-reading Judith Butler‘s work is fundamental as her cautiousness for internal problems in the struggle seems to always equal her participation to the struggle for equality itself as I have been pointing out in a previous article about the processes of normalization.
Ubiquitous Site – Nagi Ryoanji by Arakawa + Gins (1994)
“If persons are sited, why do philosophers inquiring into what constitutes a person, or, for that matter, into the nature of mind, rarely, if ever, factor this in?”
“Philosophers considering persons as sites would be obliged to develop a person architectonics. They would, I am afraid, have to turn themselves into architects of sorts.” Page 5
Some of my readers are maybe surprised to see the editorial line of the blog shrinking day by day to something more and more (too?) precise. The reason for it is partially temporary as part of a strategy towards the completion of a project that I will be happy to unveil in the coming weeks. Until then, I would like to present one more article about the work of the Reversible Destiny Foundation (Arakawa + Madeline Gins) for a more acute understanding of their theoretical and design work (which are not really discernible one from another).
The title Architecture of the Conatus I chose in reference to their book Architectural Body (University of Alabama Press, 2002) is a direct reference to Spinozist philosophy (once again!) and can therefore be put in dialogue with the recent series of article dedicated to the latter. For Spinoza, each assemblage of substance i.e. body, “as far as it lies in itself, strives to persevere in its being” (Ethics, part 3, prop. 6). In other words, each thing will be continuously involved in a process of effort to keep the integrity of the material assemblage that constitutes it. Any animal (humans included), for example, will keep its body together as long as the latter is involved within the vital process. When this animal dies, however, its body will decompose and its matter will be reassembled in other bodies (soil etc.). Arakawa and Madeline Gins present a similar concept in their book, but before coming to that, I should probably introduce the latter.
Architecture of the Sky (Milan Trade Fair Building by Massimiliano & Doriana Fuksas) versus Architecture of the Earth (Japanese playground photographed by Munemi Natsu)
This article will be somehow similar to the text Architectures of Joy I wrote in 2010 and to which I often referred this week; however, this time, I would like to oppose a Spinozist architecture to its antagonist. It is important to observe that attributing the status of ‘Spinozist’ to an architecture is a relatively artificial and subjective assignment as all architectures are, to some extents, celebrating the composition of material assemblages that will interact with the bodies they host. Nevertheless, just like I did for the cinema of Kurosawa yesterday, we can distinguish some architectures that express the essence of Spinoza’s philosophy with more intensity (another Spinozist term) than others. Moreover, some others seem to express an essence that can be interpreted as an opposition to such a philosophy. This antagonism is here gathered under the title Architecture of the Sky vs. Architecture of the Earth as a form of simplification of what opposes them. One could argue that the sky is fully part of Spinoza’s philosophy, at the same level than the ground itself; however, the sky has to be understood through two attributes here: a symbolic one that understands the sky in a theological way, and a “practical” one in the sense that what is called “architectures of the sky” here, would not challenge the body in a direct physical manner. We could therefore used two other antagonist notions to define this conflict: the transcendental. versus the immanent.
Screenshot from 悪い奴ほどよく眠る (The Bad Sleep Well) by A. Kurosawa (1960)
To be honest, I am not fully sure where I am going with this first of two articles on potential Applied Spinozism; the possibility to read the bodies depicted in the cinema of Akira Kurosawa through the philosophy of Spinoza is not necessarily obvious (he is usually more associated with authors like Dostoevsky or Shakespeare) and my interpretation of it might be somehow shallow and incomplete. I suppose however that good ideas are based on intuitions and, for this reason, the latter should be explored!
Having watched an important amount of films made by Kurosawa these last four years, I noticed that we often see in them one or two characters who are struggling to climb up an earth slope. That is the case in The Bad Sleep Well (see above), The Hidden Fortress (1958), Rashomon (1950), High and Low (1963) and probably in more that I forgot or did not watch. The almost obsessive care that Kurosawa takes to film those scenes that vary in their length, lead us to think that there might be something important to be observed in them. These scenes do not bring anything to the plot in terms of additional information and an inattentive reading of them could let us think that a flat land would pretty much depict the same action but again the slope seems to be a crucial element in Kurosawa’s cinematographic (and therefore conceptual) toolbox.
The ‘Spinoza Week” continues with its Deleuzian terminology to address the philosophy of Spinoza. The “scream” evoked in the title refers indeed to the concept of philosophical scream that Deleuze invents to define a phrase written or pronounced by a philosopher that contains the essence of his life work. The scream has to be understood in two senses here (at least, that is the way I interpret it): the absolute, almost physical, necessity for a philosopher to “scream” this phrase, and the trouble caused within the normative way of thinking by this same phrase. In the case of Spinoza, according to Deleuze, this scream is expressed in the Proposition II of the Part III of the Ethics:
However, no one has hitherto laid down the limits to the powers of the body, that is, no one has as yet been taught by experience what the body can accomplish solely by the laws of nature, in so far as she is regarded as extension. No one hitherto has gained such an accurate knowledge of the bodily mechanism, that he can explain all its functions; nor need I call attention to the fact that many actions are observed in the lower animals, which far transcend human sagacity, and that somnambulists do many things in their sleep, which they would not venture to do when awake: these instances are enough to show, that the body can by the sole laws of its nature do many things which the mind wonders at.
Again, no one knows how or by what means the mind moves the body, nor how many various degrees of motion it can impart to the body, nor how quickly it can move it.
Today is the fourth episode of the ‘Spinoza week’ (which will last a bit longer than a week as you probably already understood) and the third article dedicated to the exploration of Spinoza’s conceptology. Today’s text will be (once again) very influenced by the interpretation that Gilles Deleuze makes of Spinoza’s writings. In this regard, it might be important to observe that Deleuze spent the first part of his life by creating his own philosophy through the interpretations of others (Hume, Nietzsche, Bergson etc.) and that each of those interpretations he makes are very personal. There are therefore other way of approaching the philosophy of Spinoza but I am not as familiar with them as I am with the Deleuzian one.
During this week, we have not explored so much the concept of substance which is for Spinoza the only and necessarily perfect thing that exists and that can be considered as a whole under the name ‘God’. Expressed in a very simple way (maybe too much), and to somehow borrow Leibniz’s concept of monad, we need to see the world as a gigantic assemblage of infinitely small pieces of matter (calling them atoms would be erroneous but useful to make it understandable) that are all involved in more or less fast movement. These small elements of matter composes bodies that are perpetually striv[ing] to persevere in its being (Ethics, part 3, prop. 6). This property is called conatus and we will explore it in the final episode of this week. Those bodies are continuously interacting with each other and thus systematically affect each other. What it means in a very simple way, is that when you cut a piece of butter with a knife, of course, the knife affects the butter since you can see that the latter is being cut; however, the knife as well is affected by the butter and has to ‘resist’ the butter’s characteristics that attempt to make it persevering in its being.
First of all, I would like to share with my readers the story of this article that first took me three hours to write and disappeared when I pressed ‘publish’! According to yesterday’s article however, it did occurred as the result of the ensemble of circumstances that preceded it in world history, so I suppose that I should not regret it!
Let’s continue to explore the Spinozist ‘conceptology’ with, today, a contrast that is difficult to be made in English as the word power includes two meanings whose difference is fundamental in the philosophy of Spinoza. For the purpose of this article I will therefore differentiate the two latin terms of potentia and potestas both contained in the English word of power (in French we would use the notion of puissance for the former and pouvoir for the latter). The referent and complex book examining this question is the Savage Anomaly written by Antonio Negri in 1981 when he was in prison. The original subtitle of this book is saggio su potere e potenza in Baruch Spinoza (essay on the potestas and potential in Baruch Spinoza’s work). Unfortunately, Michael Hardt, Negri’s friend and translator of the English version did not find a way to reconcile this problem and added a different subtitle, The Power of Spinoza’s Metaphysics and Politics.
I might first try to explain the difference between potestas and potentia in a simple way by defining the former as a relationship to another body while the latter as a capacity or an intensity to use a Deleuzian terminology. The potestas needs indeed a referent to dominate or to be dominated by to effectuate itself. On the contrary, the potentia is a relationship to the whole world (Spinoza might say God but since his god is immanent, this is the same thing) in the composition of a form of “harmony”. In the Abécédaire (J for Joy), Gilles Deleuze helps us to understand this difference while explaining the concept of joy and sadness (my translation, the original French transcript is at the end of the article):
I am intending to conclude this ‘Spinoza week’ with some architectural applications of this philosophy; however, it is probably useful to dedicate the first articles to compose a sort of Spinozist ‘toolbox’ in order to understand those examples with more accuracy. This is obviously an assignment that I can do only with clear limitations as I am neither a philosopher nor a specialist of Spinoza (or anything else for that matter!); nevertheless, I will try to do my best to explain the bases of a few of his major concepts.
The first of these concepts is the one of determinism, although it would be an anachronism to attribute this word to the Spinozist terminology as it appeared later in history. The idea behind the word is however the same, as Spinoza is convinced that nothing that happens could have possibly happen differently as each of these events, as ‘minor’ it might be, constitutes the result of the sum of circumstances that occurred in the world since the latter started. There is no theology in this philosophy, or at least, not a transcendental one in which destiny or God have planned a path for the world; this vision has more to do with a logical holistic chain of events. We can say that this chain is following the law of physics, although the latter are of course an incomplete human interpretation (one might say decoding) of the former.
Today, I am starting a series of articles about 17th century Portuguese-Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza and thus dedicates to his work a ‘week’ like I did two years ago for Gilles Deleuze and last year for Michel Foucault.
The first article of this week will attempt to examine how Spinoza can supply a terminology, or rather, a conceptology to extend the sharp analysis of capitalism made by Karl Marx in the 19th century to a its neo-liberal version we have been experiencing for the last thirty years. In order to do so, I would use a particular chapter from the book Capitalisme, désir et servitude: Marx et Spinoza (Capitalism, desire and servitude, Marx and Spinoza) written by Frédéric Lordon and published by the always excellent publisher La Fabrique in 2010.
Through this book, F. Lordon depicts, among other things, the two important shifts of paradigms in capitalism that occurred since the publication of Das Kapital, in order for it to survive against the potentiality of a revolution prophetized by Marx when he was observing the continuous production of a discontented working class. The first shift of paradigm, often known as Fordism, occurred in the first part of the 20th century and consisted in a neat amplification of the production rhythm associated with the integration of the working class itself in the mass consumption of their own product. The second shift of paradigm, closer to us, examined how the working class (which also shifted for a big part of it, from the industry to the realms of services) could gain in productivity by integrating it to an ideology of “self-accomplishment” that could apparently relate to the Spinozist idea of joyful affect (for a very basic introduction to his concepts, you can read my text Architectures of Joy from 2010). For Spinoza, the servitude is anyway universal as all our acts are determined by the sum of circumstances that caused it (much more about that in a upcoming article), but we can nevertheless increase our power (potentia in latin, more on that soon too) by acquiring the knowledge of the causes of our behavior. As we know too well, strategies of inducing do not allow the subject to understand the context of his decisions better than an assembly line worker in the beginning of the 20th century and therefore force it to remain within the sad affects.
The interior domestic terrain of the Bioscleave House by Arakawa + Gins
As I recently started a whole section of the blog’s archives dedicated to the work of Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins, I will be regularly writing new articles for it in order to present their radical architectural work in articulation with their lifework of poetical philosophy (or their philosophical poetry). A whole issue of the Canada based journal iNFLeXions (including a playful and beautiful digital interface) was recently dedicated to their work, thus giving access to about thirty texts written by various intellectual figures interested in the production of the Reversible Destiny Foundation. Among them, there is Stanley Shostak who is a professor in the Department of Biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of two books about death and immortality at the biological level (Becoming Immortal, 2002 & The Evolution of Death, 2006). In his text, Bioscleave: Shaping our Biological Niches, he examines Arakawa and Gins’ manifesto ‘We Have Decided Not To Die” and one of its architectural embodiment, the Bioscleave House (see my own pictures of the house here and here) as a form of resistance against biopolitics (such a topic makes it compatible with Russel Hughes’s guest writer essay for The Funambulist).
Stanley Shostak, who is decided to consider Arakawa and Gins’ thesis with the scientific rigor that his background implies, starts his text with the process that the Bioscleave House should follow if it had to be recognized by the medical industry and its institutions (EMEA for Europe, FDA for the United States) as an operative drug to extend life expectancy. His narrative therefore involves various steps of experiments on bodies that would be subjected to a daily life in the house. The precise care put by Arakawa and Gins in the resolution of every architectural details as serving their manifesto (not only the terrain itself but also all the other creatures procedures involved, color, furnitures etc.), could then serve its purpose and be experimented as actually operative or not.
The following text is something I wrote few weeks ago, after two years of quasi-beatitude in front of the beautiful work developed by young French fashion designer Yiqing Yin. Many of my readers won’t miss the strong Deleuzian influence in that text both in the content and in the style. Probably for that reason, I first wrote the text in French (read it at the end of the article), then translated into English as follows:
The Dresses of Yiqing Yin
by Léopold Lambert
The proper characteristics of a work of art is to enter into a universal relationship with the world. What it means is that this work exists as itself, independently, or rather beyond the intentions of its author. As far as Yiqing Yin’s dresses are concerned, that would not be diminishing them than to say that they are beautiful, beautiful in the deep sense of the word. Nevertheless, the vertigo I feel when I see them deserves to be questioned about its existence. What is this turmoil? My answer to this question is located in the thousands of folds of Yiqing Yin’s dresses.
Each of these folds seems to correspond to a small perception of the wearer’s body. The body is dressed, yet it seems somehow stripped and offering an epidermic relationship to the world surrounding it. The latter, in its softness and its violence, would then imprint itself in the negative space of each of those sensitive folds, and thus acting on the body in its whole intensity. Through these folds, the body invented by Yiqing Yin is a body whose skin saw its surface – and through it, its sensitive perceptions – get multiplied by a thousand. The body is a fragile and delicate receptacle of the microscopic world. But the body is not only receiving; it also reacts to the world. Here again, the almost infinite multiplication of the epidermic surface allows the body to irradiate its emotions and its desires as expressed at a molecular level.