The concept of schizoanalysis was developed by Félix Guattari and Jean Oury at the Clinique La Borde1. (For more details of La Borde see Genosko 1996, 8-12) Schizoanalysis has its origin in the heterogeneous and radical “anti-psychiatric” movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s in Italy, France and England, and the militant Marxist attitude against institutional psychiatry and namely (Lacanian) psychoanalysis. (Genosko 2002, 30-36) So far it has seldom been used in practice, but some recent examples include the appropriation of schizoanalysis by the Ueinzz Theatre Group in São Paulo and the performance group Plastique Fantastique initiated by Simon O’Sullivan and David Burrows2 in the UK. Even at the Clinique La Borde schizoanalysis was not the basic therapeutic practice, but used as an experiment for social organization. The attention in schizoanalytic practice is on the group, rather than the individual – for Guattari it was a politically necessary move away from ‘bourgeois’ Freudian and Lacanian analysis. In addition, in the development of schizoanalysis Guattari was influenced considerably by his collaborator and friend Gilles Deleuze. These links have been researched by Janell Watson in her book Guattari’s Diagrammatic Thought: Writing Between Lacan and Deleuze (2009). Both her book and the more recent book on subjectivity and diagrammatic thought by Simon O’Sullivan (2012) are excellent philosophical investigations on this topic, and provide thorough introductions to Guattari’s idea of metamodelization, therefore I will not go any deeper on these relations here. Moreover, I have written about the topic of appropriating schizoanalysis to artistic practice in my article in The Journal for Artistic Research 3 (2013), thus I will not do that here, neither.
Briefly, appropriation of schizoanalysis is a way to use these tools outside the therapeutic context. Therefore my research and artistic practice does not concern the clinical implications of schizoanalysis, for instance in relation with schizophrenia or psychosis. However, what is significantly similar between artistic practice and therapy is the production of subjectivity in both instances, and how this production can be approached by schizoanalysis. The event of performance is a site for potential possibilities to become actual. Schizoanalysis is not a manual for full potentiality, but an analysis of the subjectivization accommodated in the promise of infinity by late capitalism.
Another concept that I use in my research and which is related to this exposition is plasticity. Catherine Malabou has recently reworked this Hegelian concept first in her dissertation in 1996, and later in several of her books3. I have written about this concept in relation to my practice in the above-mentioned exposition in The Journal for Artistic Research, as well. Malabou uses this concept in order to connect psychic and cerebral plasticity in order to provide a comprehensive analysis of the connections between neurosciences, political thought and psychoanalysis. Malabou inventively distinguishes three aspects of plasticity in the following way:
"[Plasticity] means at once the capacity to receive form (clay is called 'plastic,' for example) and the capacity to give form (as in the plastic arts or in plastic surgery) […] plasticity is also the capacity to annihilate the very form it is able to receive or create […] to receive and to create his or her own form does not depend on any pre-established form; the original model or standard is, in a way, progressively erased." (Malabou 2008, 5-6)
The reason to consider plasticity as destructive force is a linguistic link from the French word plastique, which colloquially refers to plastic explosive substances, such as Semtex or verb plastiquer, to explode. (Malabou 2008, 5) Plastic explosives like Semtex have a feature of being malleable, transportable and difficult to detect. Plasticity is not only reserved for the ability to mould or stage oneself to perform well as types4, but it is the third aspect of “refusal to submit to a model,” as Malabou defines it - as a sort of resilience. (Malabou 2008, 6) Moreover, plastic sponge or explosive is not at all rigid – in contrast with marble or hardened clay – but flexible, adaptable and elastic.
Semtex is an explosive used by terrorists. Thus, plasticity as a concept may lead us to think about change and transformations as some form of revolutionary action. Moreover, it may lead us to consider annihilation as the “greatest work of Art”(Spinola 2001), a monster or “the mother of events” (Baudrillard 2001), as Stockhausen and Baudrillard controversially instantly defined the event of 9/11.
However, in my approach, aligned with Malabou, my focus is on contemporary subjectivity, which is not a revolutionary subject, but plastic. The ontology of such a subject is flexible, adaptable and mouldable to a degree, like a synthetic sponge. Sponge is a synthesized being and distinguished from the explosiveness of Semtex, which performs the place of the shadow of plastic. It is not the explosive event for the sake of rupture, the mouldability and flexibility of Semtex, which artistic practice aims to investigate. However, as it takes place in the performance, the magnitude is quite different, from major to minute. I am not talking about exploding buildings or nerves, but investigating the patterns, refrains and paths that this flexible subjectivity moulds; is being moulded by; and leaves in the shadow.
My proposal for an ideal cognitive worker is a sponge, which has synthetic and not organic ontology. As such, sponge is not following the concept of plasticity articulated by Hegel, at all, since it does not endure or maintain itself, nor does it face the negative5. Malabou argues that it is not the death, or the non-actuality, which is the most fearful thing, but that there is life after the terminable annihilation of subjectivity, as is the case in her example of Alzheimer. (Malabou 2012a)
Sponge subjectivity is flexible, employable, bland and indifferent. Sponge imitates normative forms, which direct the production of subjectivity with a superb employability, as Malabou translates the term flexibility (2008, 68). Sponge subjectivity without resilience imitates a path of employability, where imitative practices produce repetition without difference, but the same.
Sponge subjectivity has resilience, but also precarious and limited abilities. The performance of a sponge is limited in relation with the precarious working conditions. Capitalism has this function to organize individuation processes, in order to rewire what suits best for the productivity. The performance of subjectivity is a more or less successful balance between the rigid and supple flexibility. Capitalism is ontologically plastic, following all the three modulations of plasticity in its articulations, formation and ruptures.6
In this context, the performance practice does not function as a critical tool by holding on to redemptive acts or catharsis. Even the acts of empowerment reside in the field of ‘revolutionary’ performance. However, in the project Life in Bytom, in the context of neoliberal Poland, the situation was far too different from the revolutionary, cathartic or empowering. The reality of the subjectivity in that context was the near impossibility of the possible; how to be against the wall, and not knowing what is the existential presence. What can a body do? Or, what performance can do is to articulate this present context.
1 “Oury and Félix agreed on a general division of labour. The first was in charge of things medical and the psychoanalytic training of personnel, the second with the institutional properly so-called, financial management, administration, and external relations. During the period extending as far as 1968, the allegiance to Freudo-Lacanianism and the Marxist sociological reference, united in an ambient structuralist syncretism, supported the distinction between two distinct alienations, the one individual and psychopathological, the other social. They were both present in the place of care, but the treatment of illness supposed a permanent combat against the pathogenic, the pathoplastic effects of the trouble that affected both the establishment and the carers. One sees here already the dialectical hypothesis of a constant to and fro between the symptoms of psychotics and the modes of reception of those who look after them – neurotic, perverse (if one uses the classical division of Freud), or normopath (as Oury ironically puts it).” (Polack 2011, 59)
2 See http://www.plastiquefantastique.org
3 L’Avenir de Hegel, plasticité, temporalité, dialectique from 1996. It was published in English in 2005 titled The Future of Hegel: Plasticity, Temporality and Dialectic.
4 A type of totalitarian plasticity has been criticized by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy in their essay The Nazi Myth in the following way: “With the idea that the nature and the finality of myth, or of the dream, is to incarnate itself in a figure, or in a type. Myth and type are indissociable. For the type is the realization of the singular identity conveyed by the dream. It is both the model of identity and its present, effective, formed reality. One attains, in this way, an essential sequence in the construction of myth: [Alfred] Rosenberg declares: "Freedom of the soul . . . is always Gestalt." ("Gestalt" means form, figure, configuration, which is to say that this liberty has nothing abstract or general about it; it is the capacity to put-into-figure, to embody.) "The Gestalt is always plastically limited." (Its essence is to have a form, to differentiate itself; the "limit", here, is the limit that detaches a figure from a background, which isolates and distinguishes a type.) "This limitation is racially conditioned." (Thus one attains the content of the myth: a race is the identity of a formative power, of a singular type; a race is the bearer of a myth.) "Race is the outward image of a determined soul" (M[yth of the Twentieth Century], p. 331; p. 559). This last trait is a leitmotif in Rosenberg and is also found, more or less explicitly, throughout Hitler's writing: a race is a soul, and in certain cases, a genial soul, [Mein Kampf (1925/1940), translated by Alvin Johnson et al., New York, pp. 403-4] in the sense that German romanticism gave to the word, within which individual differences remain, as well as individual geniuses, who better express and form the type.” (Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy 1990, 306)
5 Hegel in the preface to The Phenomenology of Spirit. (Hegel 1807/2008, §32)
6 For the neoliberal capitalist functions the "valuable members of staff are those who succeed in working with very different people, prove themselves open and flexible when it comes to switching project, and always manage to adapt to new circumstances.” (Boltanski and Chiapello 2005, 92) “Here the reference to communication is clearly associated from the outset with the project of replacing essentialist ontologies with open spaces, without borders, centres or fixed points, where entities are constituted by the relations they enter into and alter in line with the flows, transfers, exchanges, permutations, and displacements that are the relevant events in this space. The ontological primacy accorded to the event of connection with respect to entities related to one another is much more radical than in American versions of the network paradigm, which we shall examine shortly. The moment of connection (the 'encounter' in Gilles Deleuze) is the moment of constitution of the identity of the entities that enter into a certain relation. In such a world, nothing is thus a priori reducible to anything else from a standpoint which would be that of an outside observer, since 'reduction' (one element assimilates, translates, or expresses another element with which it comes into contact) is precisely the operation whereby the links are created and stabilized within the network. To describe the network is to observe and report these operations of reduction which, in the open space of interconnections, create relative irreversibility." (Boltanski and Chiapello 2005, 145)