1 janvier 2001
by Robert Lort
Incorporeal Part II: Fervent Machines
"There can be no art without pain, there can be no pain without art". - Alexandro Jodorowsky
Austrian born artist Gottfried Helnwein's work is also of exemplary value, beginning with bandage action events (documented by the artist appearing in cafe's and lying in the street with his "wounded" head and face bandaged). His work depicts physical injuries which are metaphors for far deeper existential, psychological and human tragedies. Medical injuries, facial deformities and abused children proliferate throughout his work evoking primary internal anxieties. The inhumane acts of violence (child abuse, war atrocities, state oppression) and frightening images of familial estrangement that are presented in his work, constitute events which are preferred forgotten, like the nazi era, or preferred left unspoken such as familial traumas like child abuse. Helnwein also conducts a probing analysis of the individual and the self through an abundance of self portraits, each obscured by hideous facial bandages, his facial muscles, lips and eyes are stretched apart, torturingly, by varied medical instruments, now made famous by the Rammstein covers. All his images in some way evoke associations with mutilation, anguish or internal alienation. The works (frequently paintings appearing remarkably like photographs), boldly put forward social unacceptabilities never before portrayed so lucidly and so confrontingly. The many intensities produced in the work are profoundly disturbing, the impressions - uncomfortably eerie, electrocuting the eyes with a rush of haunting spatiality.
Friedrich Nietzsche does not close the shutters when he hears the cries of "solitary and agitated minds", Nietzsche listens to the shrieks and bellows of madmen,"'Ah, give me madness, you heavenly powers! Madness, that I may at last believe in myself! Give deliriums and convulsions, sudden lights and darkness, terrify me with frost and fire such as no mortal has ever felt, with deafening din and prowling figures, make me howl and whine and crawl like a beast...'" No Nietzsche does not close his shutters, he knows that, "Almost everywhere it was madness which prepared the way for the new idea."
Nietzsche knows that traversings through destruction and tragedy seem almost always embedded in the lives of exemplary individuals. He knows how the madman turns on his squeaky heals, to merge with another circle, always widening and furthering his departure. But he knows also of the dangers, the threats - madness, depression, addiction, anorexia, sado-masochism. The dangers which he himself, Vincent Van Gogh, Antonin Artaud, Jackson Pollack, Charles Baudelaire and William Burroughs, to name only a few, have had to struggle against, which has been as much their source of brilliance as a threat to it. The pertinent question then is, how to avoid an impending collapse? This is the question that all fervent bodies face, how to destroy the wall that confines and trammels their desire, without simultaneously falling into a black hole and a hole of self-destruction, that is no longer productive.
This is what confronts the central character in Werner Herzog's Woyzeck, what makes this character exceptional is his oblivious incomprehension of any thing to do with marriage, money, fatherhood and the law. It is his insensible indifference to these social codes that is at the core of his rebellion. He is forced to endure the ridicule, from those that enforce them, so he instead continually scurries away on a line of flight, into a vast space. But those that taunt him, push his escape out too far, it becomes cornered, and blocked on all sides, it cannot be maintained, and so it reaches its collapse.
The fervent body, or as Deleuze and Guattari call it, "a full Body without Organs," is a body that is permeated with a deterritorializing force, a feverous and inflamed kind of desire, it is a cathartic body that utilises and engages with a very specific kind of intensified energy. Deleuze and Guattari describe this type of body in terms of individuals like Nietzsche, Artaud, Kafka and Van Gogh, but there are many different types of these bodies. Fervent bodies are also like the music-bodies of Jimi Hendrix, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Ian Curtis and Nick Cave, they are also the film-bodies like Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jean-Luc Godard, Jan Svankmajer and Andrei Tarkovsky. The fervent body exists by its degrees of movement and rest, speed and slowness. But all this only exists at a later point, the fervent body must be formed, from a body that is stationary and immobile. The fervent body is a deterritorialized surface, it is a line of flight, but what is important is what this body encounters, what its line of flight always intercepts, for it reaches a kind of wall, which determines its success or failure. What is critical is whether the fervent body succeeds in smashing apart this wall, both traversing it and undermining it. The task is to smash this wall, to break through it, to upturn the barricades. Smashing through this wall engenders the collapse of subjectivity; the face is shattered, leaving no longer a rigid "face" defining and categorising the subject politically, historically, sexually, familiarly and aesthetically. All these precepts become supple and fluid variables, unknown before, and unknown after. Smashing the wall engenders the collapse of the signifier; expression is no longer delimited by the rigidities of grammaticality, notation and signifiance. Intensities existing outside the wall engender spaces where the formations no longer abide by these imposed rigidities. The language system instead outsteps itself, it begins to stumble, and waver, the entire system gives way to allow movements of flux and deterritorialization, it becomes imbued by flows and continuums, and is no longer divided into discrete units of definition. The music-machine similarly overstrains itself, by reaching the limit that borders the outside, where it will confront intensities of silence, and brut noise. The image is no longer bounded by pictorial objectification, it moves into spaces outside; a minimalist space, a dada machine, a Pollack swirl. The artwork becomes no longer an objective representation but a frantic form, an abstraction that integrates disparate elements, joining and merging them together. The art work instead advances to a scream, a wail of despair, an accusation against the system.
The fervent body is always the furtherest, the outermost, it will succeed if it breaks through the wall, otherwise it fails and turns into a breakdown, wallowing in self destruction, suicide and overdose. But the breakthrough and the breakdown are not necessary opposite, indeed they seem almost inseparable, almost indistinguishable. In any case venturing beyond this wall is no simple task, few men or women have ventured beyond this limit. To pass outside or beyond this wall demands a certain disembodiment, a becoming incorporeal, an abstract metamorphosis. Venturing to intensities beyond this limit necessitates and consequences a careful and prolonged process, risking self destruction. But there are still other ways of conceiving this barrier to our line of flight. Antonin Artaud conceives of this wall as "a huge malleable sheet in osmosis with all the rest of reality."2 Reverse osmosis is a process which effectively filters a liquid by passing it through a semi-permeable membrane, it is commonly used to separate salt from sea water. For Artaud, this wall is then a filter on reality, situated at the interface between the body and reality, that allows only the passage of specific segments of reality to pass through, and blocks the passage of other segments. This wall is simultaneously the skin, the bodies sensors and the logic motors. Antonin Artaud is a body-sieve, all that he does is multiply the number of his little holes, or similarly alter their size - allowing the passing through of that externality, that meta-reality which was previously blocked. What we must do is to meddle with our filters, find and connect up those flows more subtle and anomalous, smash our walls, and connect with the alterity.
"Beauty will be convulsive or not at all" - Andre Breton

Body arts convulsive engrossment in castration, crucifixion, sexual perversion, suicide, state oppression and mental illness has been a long and insistent attack against the current institutions of authority. Many of the these artistic events have aimed at exposing and outwardly enacting the crisis of the individual, subjected to exploitation and organised and oppressed by prevailing authorities. Their methods employ unremitting and shocking depictions of pain. Of many performances perhaps some of the most notorious include; Chris Burden's Shoot (1971), where the artist had himself shot through the left arm by a friend facing him from a short distance; Vito Acconci's "semen(al)" public masturbation in Seedbed (1972); the infamous Rudolf Schwarzkogler, who in 1969 fabricated a spectacular simulation of castration; Otto Muehl's scathing attacks against the debilitating and alienating sensibilities embodied in bourgeoisie social and sexual aesthetics; and the dionysian animal sacrifices performed by Hermann Nitsch.
Peinlich (Embarrassing)
watercolor, colored pencil, pencil and ink on paper, 1971
The performance group Coum Transmissions, featuring members of Throbbing Gristle, brought into the art gallery the underground, in the same way that Warhol cinema had a decade earlier, but managed to once again challenge the previous subversions, with their explicit and confrontational approach to crime, prostitution, pornography and sado-masochism. Their performances seemed to draw straight out of the pages of a Marquis de Sade novel. Genesis gives a description of their performances, "Then I got a 10-inch nail and tried to swallow it, which made me vomit. Then I licked the vomit off the floor and Cosey helped me lick the vomit off the floor... And each day it got heavier, so that on Easter Sunday I was crucified on a wooden cross, whipped with 2 bullwhips, covered in human vomit and chicken wings and chicken legs... And then I urinated down Cosey's legs while she stuck a lighted candle up her vagina... Just ordinary everyday ways of avoiding the commercials on the television..."3 The work is innovative and commendable for its intentional disruption of authority, especially censorship and aesthetics; its stretching of, or redefining of the enclosing limit, a limit which defines specific activities outside or beyond it, as pornographic or obscene; and the performance of acts exposed to public view (as opposed to private view) which might otherwise bring police arrest. These masochist bodies are also releasing the surging, bellowing flows of schizo desire, flows of urine, wax, vomit, dismembered flesh and corporeal asignifying expressions. These are the flows that potentially exceed the socius own degrees or limits and thus threaten the equilibriums established by the system.
Jill Scott's early San Francisco performances, Taped (1975), Boxed (1975), Tied (1976) and Strung (1976) demonstrate aspects of the human condition and perhaps form a specific female condition. In Taped Jill Scott's body was constrained in an elevated position against the vertical exterior of a city building, precariously secured against the wall by lengths of adhesive tape stretching across her back and limbs. Tied involved the artist being gruesomely tied to a telephone pole, by reams of cord encircling her body from foot to head. Strung was again similar, wherein her body was confined against the Golden Gate Bridge. These works are not bound within the gallery space and for this reason enable the confronting of a public audience who may not normally encounter such artistic practices. The performances express the bodies incarceration within the city's architecture, alienated to it and oppressed by it. The organic body becomes immured within the cities inorganic structures: fences, parking spaces, walls, power lines, freeways that criss-cross like shadows over the body.
Stelarc is the frontiersman of the assimilation, hybridisation and connection of the body into the arrays of multiple and unfixed corporeal capacities facilitated by technological advances. The artist's previous ingenuity has involved sound amplifications of his body (muscle movements, bloodflow, heartbeat and brainwaves), the development of a robotic arm attached at his elbow, laser attachments to his eyes, and the filming of the interior of his stomach. With each machinic-attachment the body becomes further adaptable, extendable and mutable, merging with the tools and machinery, which become integral parts of the body.
It can be deliberated that the invention of the tool, disengaged the body from any conventional biological evolution. The forklift, the diving suit, the horseman's stirrup all enable the body to engage with, perform and move within its environment, in ways that the uncoupled, untooled body itself cannot. Development thus becomes independent of biological evolution and the tool becomes an extension, and component of the body. Originally, evolution transformed the human bodies two forward limbs effectively from feet to hands, developing the bodies bipedalism, or two legged upright movement. This effectively freed up the two forward limbs to be used as tools, feelers and mechanisms of interaction. Stelarc's own performances appear to extrapolate from our present evolutionary plane into post-evolutionary planes. A way of speeding and tangling things up. His suspension events where the body effectively floats, may then be described as a-pedal, states of zero gravity. His third robotic arm events similarly represent a further artificial extrapolation of evolution, the development of further multiple limbs of interaction. The characteristic significance of the third arm is the way that the body becomes unbalanced and asymmetrical. Stelarc's artistic practices can easily be described as processes which deterritorialize the body; too many arms become wings, that draw lines of flight.
The fixed organic bodies immersion and incorporation within expanding technological terrains, increasingly engenders the bodies obsolescence. The body, because of it's redundancy and ineffectiveness in comparison with machinic and robotic capabilities becomes substitued by machines. The body becomes idle. With the obsolescence of the body, the subjectivity of the individual is increasingly disengaged and moved to places outside the physicalities of the organic body. The "I" becomes uncontained by the body, separated from it. A still further consequence of the obsolescence of the body is an apparent imploding of the two poles of masculinity and femininity.
The technology-machine which engenders the obsolete body and the disembodiment of subjectivity, arises from outside the state apparatus and is continually reabsorbed and appropriated into the state, to neutralise its deterritorializing force. If the technology-machine remains external to the socius, it threatens to destabilise the system as a whole. A consequence of this effect, was the engendering of a technology race, which seeks to avoid the threat of superior technological advancement arising in a rival, which would threaten and potentially disrupt a socius's existing coagulations of power. Technology is therefore not generically a component of the state used against its citizens, as is commonly thought. It instead originates from outside and against the state. It is only found within the state apparatus, as a result of its appropriation and absorption. The deterritorializing effects of the technology-machine; relinquishing of the states absolute need for workers, surplus production and mass information and cultural exchange are then always reterritorialized through levels of bureaucracy, demands for full employment, internet regulation, monopolisation and regulation of the means of information exchange. The state is therefore forced to appropriate, and reterritorialize the technology machine, to minimise its propensity to disruption. We will not position technology onto an apocalypse/utopia styled dichotomy, technology is neither generically oppressive nor liberating, nor is it generically masculine, it is only under specific regimes and uses that it can become either. What is paramount is enabling individual manipulation and reconfiguring of its modes of production, engagement and activation. To elicit its capacities for multiplicity and to configure its deterritorializing effects in modes counter to the state.
Copyright © 2000 Robert Lort. All rights reserved

1. Hollingdale, R J (ed and Trans) referencing Nietzsche's "Daybreak": 14 in A Nietzsche Reader Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Penguin Books, 1977, pp. 88-90
2. Antonin Artaud, Artaud Anthology, ed. Jack Hirschman, San Francisco, City Lights Books, 1965, p. 33
3. Throbbing Gristle interviewed by Re/Search, "Throbbing Gristle," Re/Search Industrial Culture Handbook, issue #6/7, San Francisco, 1983, p. 17
4. Stelarc Interviewed by Martin Thomas: "Just Beaut to Have Three Hands," Continuum, Electronic Arts in Australia, Vol 8, No.1, Ed. Nicholas Zurbrugg, Perth, 1994, p. 383
5. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, p. 160
6. Graham Coulter-Smith and Jane Magon, "Mike Parr's Self Portraits: Unma(s)king the self" in Eyeline #5, Brisbane, p. 22
7. William Burroughs Naked Lunch, Hammersmith London, Paladin, 1992, p. 22 or New York, Grove Press, 1966, p. 8, quoted by Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus Capitalism and Schizophrenia p. 153
8. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus Capitalism and Schizophrenia p. 163
9. Felix Guattari, Chaosmosis, an Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm, Sydney, Power Publications, 1995, p. 84
10. Gilles Deleuze, "Three Questions About "Six Fois Deux,"" in Raymond Bellour and Mary Lea Bandy (Eds), Jean-Luc Godard, Son + Image 1974-1991, New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1992, p. 35
11. Vincent Van Gogh, "Letter of September 8, 1888", cited in Antonin Artaud, Artaud Anthology, ed. Jack Hirschman, San Francisco, City Lights Books, 1965, p. 150, and quoted by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari in Anti Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia p. 136.
12. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus Capitalism and Schizophrenia, p. 158
13. ibid p. 161

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