Documentation from a collaborative project with sound-artist and visual artist Mark Bain. Amsterdam, 2000 and 2001


Mess has a different intensity in its periphery than in its centre. Mess is not a thicket from the midst of which you can make your way out, but more a milieu consisting of intensities or affects. Mess is not constant static, but run through with variations and modulations of varying intensity. When the Japanese noise band Astro Twin creates an environment of mess, it is very often quiet and almost inaudible. Utah Kawasaki’s electro-acoustic noise, static, clicks and hiss and the vocal bustle, moan and snarls of female vocalist Ami Yoshida produce an atmosphere of deflation. My main impression of their concert at the Avanto festival in Helsinki in 2004, was of the lack of a clearing - aletheia - from which I could observe the performance. I was so immersed in the affects and subdued intensities. The grunts and vocal snarls made by Yoshida, felt like they were leaking by accident through her vocal chords. Yoshida and Kawasaki write that Astro Twin is interested in:

“[The] boring sounds / unevolving sounds / unproductive sounds / lazy sounds / garbagelike sounds [...] these infinitely divided sounds are scattered everywhere. Each sound is junk, but some sounds may be important. They are for you to seek. We want you to find them — that is Astro Twin's request.” (Astro Twin, 2003)

This is the strategy of a whole generation of noise and contemporary improvised music. Similarly to earlier avant-garde movements such as DADA, Fluxus and Punk, they cherish junk, waste and the creative potentiality of boredom. Intensities produce mess, which is neither overwhelming nor discursive. If The Ramones, Lydia Lunch, DNA, Mars, Debbie Harry and James Chance despised art in the favour of No Wave and Punk, then Astro Twin and Finnish noise bands such as Kemialliset Ystävät, Launau or Islaja value naiveté, inventiveness and transient ethereality. In this way, these experiments locate themselves in the continuum of the avant-garde. However, the apparatus of digital media has introduced an aesthetics of contemporary noise practice with a different range of possibilities to the early 1980s noise bands in New York. One such example is the aesthetic development of the drummer of DNA, Ikue Mori and her journey from a 1980s No Wave band to her contemporary, digital drum machine experimentations. [17]

In contrast to this, in schizoanalytic performance practice there are rarely any digital devices used, but I would argue that the mental milieu has certain affinities with the above mentioned practices. To put it simply, schizoanalytic performance practice is about intensity, affects, repetitions, rhythms and refrains. All three aspects of plasticity; of giving form, taking form and annihilating form are taking place, and yet the only material is the body of the performer. The audience is often silently involved not as a witness of an authentic event, as it would be in the case of authentic movement (AM), where the witnesses (both inner and the others) have become conscious of the act of witnessing, (Stover Schmitt and McKeever 2013) but as sympathisers. However different my approach may be from AM, the ‘crowd’ affects me as a performer in my journey. I experience the panic of being on stage, being in the position of an object, as Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen writes:

“panic is precisely uncontrollable breaching by the ego by (the affects), since panic is breaching by the ego (the affects of) others, or […] a mimetic, contagious, suggested narcissism, [and it is the] sympathetic relationship with others [which] is simultaneously the ultimate nonrelationship with others: each imitates the “every man for himself” of the others. [18]” (Leys 2000, 35)

Schizoanalytic performance practice saturates the audience with an excess of ‘noise’ or mess of signals. The physical act of schizoanalytic performance is a mapping and metamodelization of a contaminated subjectivity. Jacques Attali writes about the political aspect of such noise being a process of:

“Inventing new codes, inventing the message at the same time as the language. Playing for one's own pleasure, which alone can create the conditions for new communication […] Alienation is not born of production and exchange, nor of property, but of usage: the moment labour has a goal, an aim, a program set out in advance in a code-even if this is by the producer's choice-the producer becomes a stranger to what he produces.” (Attali 2002, 134-135)

My repetitive and spastic movements on stage, or gurgling syllables are not just meaningless and infantile static, but fractions of the mess the subjectivity is in – and, as such, shared intersubjectively. Schizoanalytic performance practice is a production of subjectivity in the post-industrial era. Grunting, moaning and repetitious movements in front of the witnesses seem not to be able to find a direction. Such practice is not contemplation of a collapse, but investigation of the intensities and fraction of contagions residing in the performer. It is a performance of the sponge subjectivity unfolding. The performance of sponge subjectivity has diffused the performer’s decisive abilities. However, the internalized and externalized judgement is ever present, as it is in the case of AM, and it appears as a form of repetition, in other words in the need to produce some meaning out of noise.

Schizoanalytic performance practice unfolds the shadow of a sponge – the plastic, polymeric rhizome of its subject. In this mess, both unlimited apeiron and preindividual [19]  ground are taking place. In the digital noise of Astro Twin, Ikue Mori or Kemialliset Ystävät, the product bears the imprints of the shadow of technology itself. In schizoanalytic performance practice similar imprints of contagion also appear. The fallacy of technological transparency can be found in the claim that in each digital act, fragments of shadows can be found embedded on the recording. Pristine digital background — music, images, movement — is not blank, but saturated with digital memory. It is the dark background of digital silence and the shadow of a sponge subject, which is infinitely present, nondiscursive and potential. (O’Sullivan 2012, 41-42) Ami Yoshida’s barely audible, violent grunts steal away from their identical aletheia, and give way to the excess of probabilities.

Sponge subjectivity is not a digital robot or android: it will not collapse from a repetitive glitch. Sponge is embedded in the digital milieu through technological devices. Any device will enhance or obstruct perception and decode relationship with experienced reality in a specific way. “There is not subject opposing other subjects, but the transversal flows of imagination, technology, desire: they can produce vision or concealment, collective happiness or depression, wealth or misery,” writes Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi about the present context of cognitive capitalism (Berardi 2009, 120). Production in neoliberal capitalism is substantially based on immaterial labour, capitalization of relationships and digitalization of communication. It requires a compartmentalization and cohabitation of heterogeneous objects, which in turn are interdependent and transindividuating [20].

Production requires a network of asignified, nondiscursive mental networks, where the meaning is produced with sort of plug-ins, in other words, with the means that the sponge subjectivity uses to distil meaning from the mess. However, negative plasticity travels in the network, as well.

Schizoanalytic performance practice is probing the nondiscursive matter of the mess and the intensity of singular milieus. This probing investigates the tension of a mess, a taut and nervy process, but not one of disclosure. It examines the group transversality or, in other words, the transindividuating operations at play.

Kukkia (The Flowers or To Bloom) was a performance collaboration between myself and Karolina Kucia. We worked together from autumn 2004 to summer 2008. (Kucia and Nauha 2010) The aim of this work was to find out why and how to practice performance. Simultaneously it was a process of ‘clearing’, but also a site for shoots of confusion and contradictory thoughts to propagate. In a tense situation between producing a ‘piece’ and experimenting with the mess, we encountered numerous instances of fighting, quarrelling, indecisiveness and hesitation. It seemed that Kukkia performances were often still not ‘cleared enough’, or they were ‘too obscure’ to gain recognition as truthful. In the rigorous terms of Heidegger, these works were not art, if art is seen as the “truth of beings setting itself to work”: giving form to a mess. (Heidegger 2001, 35) We felt distracted and far from happy about the outcomes we created. Art practice ought to be representative of mess, but not a mess itself. To work with the mess itself, is counteractive to the other attributes of art in cognitive capitalism, namely compatibility and performance itself. A messy performance does not perform the production of meaning well.

Next section: Schizoanalytic practice in Tomar, Portugal on May 2010

Previous section: The mess of contamination


[18] Borch-Jacobsen, Mikkel. 1993. The Emotional Tie: Psychoanalysis, Mimesis, and affect. Standord: The Stanford University Press,  9.

[19] Preindividual is a term used by Gilbert Simondon, and later on by Bernard Stiegler to describe the process of individuation, a continuous process of using the potentiality. Simondon writes that, ”that individuation does not exhaust all of the preindividual reality, […] that the constituted individual transports with itself a certain associated charge of preindividual reality […] a certain level of potential remains, and further individuations are still possible. This preindividual nature that remains linked to the individual is a source for future metastable states from which new individuations can emerge.” (Simondon 2009, 8)

[20] “Now, transindividuation is the way psychical individuations are metastablized as collective individuation: transindividuation is the operation of the fully effective socialization of the psychical. With the social networks the question of attentional technologies becomes manifestly and explicitly the question of the technologies of transindividuation.” (Stiegler 2012, 3)