Schizoanalytic performance practice at PERFO, Tampere, March 16, 2009.


Becoming something is exemplified in the story of Robert Alan Zimmerman as becoming-Bob-Dylan. It is not only an inclination to become a song-writer or simply imitating others, “soaking everything up” with “immense curiosity”. Similarly, it is not only the plasticity of giving new forms by “mixing up” or “adding up” but also through the annihilating side of plasticity and the shadow of becoming – the motorcycle accidents, addictions, exhaustion and despair – which produces Bob Dylan, an artist. (Hyde 2010, 199) It is all these aspects, which argue against a simple, relational nature of a sponge. Dylan is plasticity in process, Robert Zimmermann becoming-Dylan.

A sponge subject is an amateur. He or she absorbs refrains, mixes them and produces either repetition with the same, or with the new. The amateur is neither ignorant, nor specialist. Sponge subjectivity is an individuation process, but not a conscious one. It is a social transindivuation process. (Stiegler 2012) Individuation is never finished, but a becoming. Sponge in a modest form is a user watching a TV series, while his or her attention is divided between this and other, minor refrains. (de Certeau 1988, xii) Sponge is not a simple consumer, but a sponge of potentiality. However, it is only a potentiality, as long as sponge only receives form, in other words as long as his or her attention is captured, the refrain of the same is repeated. Stiegler writes on attention and the destruction of this, stating:

“the destruction of attention is both the destruction of the psychical apparatus and the destruction of the social apparatus (formed by collective individuation) to the extent that the latter constitutes a system of care, given that to pay attention is also to take care.” (Stiegler 2012, 1)

Sponge has no identity, but only distracted attention, following a repetition with the same, which in turn is considered an identical form. Sponge is not a metaphor, but actual matter and relations between other matters. Skin and brain are sponge-matter, while abstract relations of power and affection function like a sponge: following the cavities and fold of matter. Sponge functions through connections, references and attention to connections. With attention, sponge is potential and new: an amateur with a difference, as Dylan was. Amateur sponge absorbs a repetition with a possible difference and seeks for actualisation of potential. With distracted attention, sponge becomes ignorant, and loses the flexibility for potential.

Distracted sponge with no attention is an idiot [9], a simple user with no specific skills, but only flexibility – or in terms of Malabou, employability. (Malabou 2008, 68) An idiot sponge is on his or her own, spending life outside the social. In some sense he or she is like Bartleby (Melville1853/1997), but also he or she is opportunistic, and does not value the attention. He or she fails in the process of transindividuation. The idiot sponge is not stupid, but non-attentive and repetitive in his or her actions.

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[9] “In the ancient Greek sense, an idiot is someone who does not speak the Greek language and is therefore cut off from the civilized community. […]But Deleuze’s idiot, borrowed from Dostoievsky and turned into a conceptual character, is the one who always slows the others down, who resists the consensual way in which the situation is presented and in which emergencies mobilize thought or action. […] Don’t ask him why; the idiot will neither reply nor discuss the issue. The idiot is a presence or, as Whitehead would have put it, produces an interstice. There is no point in asking him “what is more important?”, for “he does not know.” But his role is not to produce abysmal perplexity, not to create the famous Hegelian night, when every cow is black. We know, knowledge there is, but the idiot demands that we slow down, that we don’t consider ourselves authorized to believe we possess the meaning of what we know.” (Stengers 2005, 994-995)