Art and the Political Minor Literature, the War Machine and the Production of Subjectivity

  • Simon O’Sullivan
Part of the Renewing Philosophy book series


In this chapter I want to think through the possibilities of utilising Deleuze and Guattari’s writings for theorising what we might call the political effectivity of art, and specifically that of contemporary practices. The chapter is broken down into three self-contained sections. In the first I address Deleuze and Guattari’s important concept of the minor, understood as a kind of operational tool, a way of thinking through what political or artistic strategy might involve. The concept of the minor has been touched on in the previous two chapters (albeit generally without naming it) in terms of the way in which art can produce a break with habitual formations and dominant signifying regimes. Here I want to attend to the actual mechanisms involved in such a break, and also to the way in which such a break involves the concomitant affirmation of something new. This first section then involves a working through of the characteristics of a ‘minor literature’ as laid out in Deleuze and Guattari’s book on Kafka, and some thoughts on how these might be usefully brought to bear on art practice and art theory.


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  1. 1.
    As Hardt and Negri themselves remark in a footnote to the Preface of Empire: ‘Two interdisciplinary texts served as models for us throughout the writing of this book: Marx’s Capital and Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus’ (£ 415, n4).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    We might also think about ‘mythic language’ as involving the production of ‘possible worlds’. Depending on their trajectory these mythic reterritorialisa-tions might be transcendent or specifically immanent in character. I will be returning to this in my conclusion.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    This ‘community-effect’ can also be understood as a becoming autonomous. As Deleuze and Guattari remark elsewhere:Google Scholar
  4. Becoming Minoritarian as the universal figure of consciousness is called autonomy. It is certainly not by using a minor language as dialect, by regionalising or ghettoising, that one becomes revolutionary: rather by using a number of minority elements, by connecting, conjugating them, one invents a specific, unforeseen, autonomous becoming. (LMM 151)Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    In the plateau ‘November 20, 1923: Postulates of Linguistics’ Deleuze and Guattari refer to minorities as ‘crystals of becoming’ that precisely trigger ‘uncontrollable movements’ (ATP 106).Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    To take just two examples in relation to art history, we have Griselda Pollock’s feminist critique of T. J. Clarke’s own critical attitude towards modernist critics such as Michael Fried (see Pollock, ‘The “View from Elsewhere”: Extracts from a Semi-public Correspondence about the Visibility of Desire’, in Twelve Views of Manet’s Bar (1993) (Ed. B.R. Collins) (New Jersey: Princeton University Press), pp. 278–315) and we have Irit Rogoffs ‘deterritorialisation’ of typical feminist art histories in her turn to post colonial subjectivities and practices (see Rogoff, Terra Infirma: Geography’s Visual Cultures (2000) (London: Routledge).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    For example, Paul Wood’s essay ‘Truth and Beauty: The Ruined Abstraction of Gerhard Richter’, in Art has No History: The Making and Unmaking of Modern Art (1994) (Ed. J. Roberts) (London: Verso), pp. 180–99, calling for a return to the aesthetic as a strategy for moving beyond the impasses of postmodern theory. As Wood remarks: ‘When management comes to conceive of itself as radical, extreme and paradoxical counter-strategies may be required’ (1994, 91).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    And in which case we might make the argument that The Communist Manifesto is an exemplar of minor literature.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Francis Bacon, at least as Deleuze portrays him, would be a specifically minor painter in this sense. See especially the chapter on ‘The Diagram’ in Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (2003) (Trans. D. W. Smith) (London: Continuum), and especially pp. 99–110. See also the second section of my Chapter 2.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    Hirschorn’s Bataille monument was a kind of ‘self-producing community site’ involving the use of a whole variety of non-artistic materials and the involvement of the inhabitants of the housing scheme in who’s public area the monument was built. See Fietzek (Ed.) Documenta XI: The Catalogue (2002) (London: Art Books International), pp. 334–7.Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    A case study of such an affirmative violence is the practice of the London based art collective Bank. Bank, as part of their practice, curated a series of open and anarchic group shows occupying disused and derelict spaces. They also produced papers and proclamations intended specifically to poke fun at, and provoke, the art establishment, to show up its pretensions and affectations (a certain indifference to the art world was crucial here). It is also worth remarking that Bank were as much a scene as a collaboration, a scene involving a certain dynamic, a kind of energetics, as opposed to anything specifically concrete (and thus inevitably in opposition and irreducible to any institutional framing). Thanks to Robert Garnett for his conversations on Bank. For more on Bank see their catalogue, Bank (2000) (London: Black Dog Publications).Google Scholar
  12. 11.
    For details of Superflex’s practice see their website at Superflex talk about their socially and economically engaged practice in an interview with Âsa Nacking. See Nacking, ‘Interview with Superflex’, Afterall (1999), O, 52–61. nS5’s website is at Scholar
  13. 12.
    A case study of the latter is the art collective COUM Transmissions. COUM involved themselves in the production of new types of subjectivity through performances, through exploring the limits and possibilities of ‘acceptable’ sexuality, through experimenting with collective living, and through generally being involved in processes and practices outside the mainstream. Indeed, COUM were involved in what we might call the exploration of ludic practice and in the possibilities of improvisation that this implies. We might add that a group such as COUM found themselves inevitably and constantly at odds with the state machine, whether it be in a soft form (the difficulty of securing funding grants, exhibition spaces and so on), or in a harder one (arrests and general harassment by the police). Throbbing Gristle, the band that emerged from COUM, expanded the accessibility of the group’s activities, their ‘music’ reaching a far wider audience than performance art ever could. It also extended their critique of ‘art’ to the music industry. In relation to this, we might note Throbbing Gristle’s interest in noise as a form of ‘warfare’, as precisely counteracting the functioning of ‘order-words’. See Simon Ford’s book, Wreckers of Civilisation: The Story of COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle (2000) (London: Black Dog Publications).Google Scholar
  14. 13.
    It is interesting to note in this context that artistic collaborations, in the 1970s and 1980s, often involved bands: Art and Language collaborating with Red Crayola for example, or as was mentioned above, COUM Transmissions morphing into Throbbing Gristle.Google Scholar
  15. 14.
    Dance music would be a particularly good example of ‘becoming minor’, involving as it does the neutralisation of sense, the foregrounding of the intensive and affective (a becoming music) and also the production of new communities (club culture). Indeed, the real indicator of dance music’s status as minor comes from the state’s attitude towards it when the former is in its most deterritorialised form: the illegal raves of the 1980s, the free party sound systems of the 1990s. Both of these might be understood as Deleuzian ‘war machines’. See later in the chapter and also Hemment, ‘E is for Ekstasis’, New Formations (1997), 31, 23–38.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    We might note that such collectivities often involve a particular idiosyncratic language and style of communication. We might also note here the way in which jokes and humour can often be involved in the formation of a community in this sense.Google Scholar
  17. 16.
    The collective and expanded practice oí Atelier Van Lieshout for example, which in 1991 involved the production of whole alternative settlement, or ‘free state’, in Rotterdam (‘AVL-ville’). For details of Atelier van Lieshoufs expanded practice see the website: The group Transnational Republic ( have a similar, if less ‘realised’ Utopian aspect. For a whole selection of practices involved in this area see the ‘Utopia Station’ exhibition at the 50th Venice Biennale (Bonami and Frisa, ‘Utopia Station’, Dreams and Conflicts: The Dictatorship of the Viewer (50th Venice Biennale) (2003) (Venice: Marsilio), pp. 319–345). We might extend this notion of artistic community further to include the production of artistic scenes. In the UK for example there was the yba ‘phenomena’ in London, or the various scenes that emerged in Glasgow in the 1990s. In all these cases a kind of ‘ambient creativity’ and an all-important ‘self-referentiality’ is produced through a complexity of factors, which include a relative isolation (on the yba’s — and the ‘Glasgow scene’ — see Michael Bracewell’s ‘New Image Glasgow to Young British Art: Introducing the 1990s’, New Formations (2003), no. 50, 22–7. For the generation of Scottish artists — and their ‘scene’ — after this moment see Neil Mulholland’s ‘Learning from Glasvegas: Scottish Art after “the 90” ‘, Journal of the Scottish Society for Aesthetics (2002), vol. 7, 61–9. For a social history of both these moments (in Glasgow) see Sarah Lowndes’ Social Sculpture: Art, Performance and Music in Glasgow: A Social History of Independent Practice, Exhibitions and Events since 1971 (2003) (Glasgow: Stopstop).Google Scholar
  18. 17.
    A case study of this might be the utilisation of the ‘collective name’ within art practice — and wider culture in general. For example the use of the name ‘Monty Cantor’ or ‘Luther Blissett’. This also has political implications: any individual can operate as Luther Blissett, thus plugging into any operational benefits that the name has assumed. Thanks to Jim Backhouse, and his unpublished manuscript, ‘The Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds: Networking and Cultural Resistance‘ from The Sigma Project to Luther Blissett (2004), Goldsmiths College, University of London, for this point. Backhouse also alerts us to the political implications of the Luther Blissett project understood as a kind of counter mythology:Google Scholar
  19. Mythopoesis is a literary term for the exploration of myth as a social process, and the constitution of myth into social reality is ‘central’ to the Luther Blissett project. Luther Blissett enacts information warfare against the dominant myths that underwrite the concrete power of capital. By disseminating transformative counter-mythologies, articulated in the appropriate rhetoric, capitalist institutions can be seduced into acting as replication-machines distributing semiotic viruses into the collective imagination. (Backhouse 2004)Google Scholar
  20. I will be returning to a notion of mythopoeisis in my conclusion.Google Scholar
  21. 18.
    We might note here the similarities with Hardt and Negri’s reading of Spinoza in Empire: ‘Perhaps we need to reinvent the notion of the materialist teleology that Spinoza proclaimed at the dawn of modernity when he claimed that the prophet produces its own people’ [my italics] (£ 65). Hardt and Negri also make an interesting distinction between the people and the multitude, the former in fact being a ‘representation’ of the latter, who are then represented in the nation, itself represented in the state (£ 34). ‘Representation in each case means a further step of abstraction and control’ (E 34).Google Scholar
  22. 19.
    To take just two examples of this ‘future orientation’ from the field of contemporary art: Mike Nelson, who’s work we might say stages, and indeed relies on, a missing people (see especially The Amnesiacs art work in Nelson, Extinction Beckons (2000) (London: Matt’s Gallery)); and Cathy Wilkes, whose work seems precisely to call an audience into being inasmuch as it seems to contain a ‘language’ albeit one that it is difficult to ‘read’ (see Chapter 2, note 53). See also my ‘Conclusion’ that makes an argument for Matthew Barney’s myth-making films as future orientated.Google Scholar
  23. 20.
    This is to reinstate the imagination as crucial to the working of art. It is in this sense that I ultimately part company with Nicolas Bourriaud’s ‘relational aesthetics’, inasmuch as he differentiates and champions the latter, to do with ‘the realm of human interactions and its social context’ over the ‘assertion of an independent and private symbolic space’ (Bourriaud 1998,14). I do not see the two as mutually exclusive, and indeed one might argue that the latter is intrinsic to any effective art practice. In fact for Deleuze, as we shall see in Chapter 6, art might be characterised as precisely the assertion, or rather expression, of an independent and private symbolic space, that is to say, the production of a ‘possible world’.Google Scholar
  24. 21.
    It is this that gives minor practices a certain lightness. An example of this kind of oblique practice is Francis Alys’ walking projects, for example Narcotourism, in which the artist spent a number of days wandering city streets under the influence of different drugs. See Alys’ Walking Distance from the Studio (2005) (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz Publishers) for an account of this and Alys’ other ‘walking’ practices.Google Scholar
  25. 22.
    See the section ‘Two Europes, Two Modernities’ (£ 69–90).Google Scholar
  26. 23.
    For an interesting counter-argument to this, and from the same historical moment as Negri, see Paolo Virno’s A Grammar of the Multitude (2004) (Trans. I. Bertoletti, J. Cascaito and A. Casson) (New York: Semiotext(e)). As Sylveire Lotringer remarks in his foreword to the above (pp. 7–19), Virno’s notion is that capitalism is revolutionary in and of itself, hence producing a kind of communism (the ‘Communism of Capital’) (2004, 11). In fact, Virno’s position is, as Lotringer also remarks, close to Deleuze and Guattari’s own position on capitalism as ‘fluid, inventive and adaptive’ (2004, 11). Indeed, the question here becomes one of ‘beating capital at its own game’, ‘decoding its flows even further, or constantly displacing oneself in relation to them’ (Lotringer 2004, 11–12). We might say that creative practices are involved in exactly this latter strategy.Google Scholar
  27. 24.
    I am thinking here of Bergson’s gap, or hesitation, between stimulus and reaction which in itself allows creativity to arise. See Bergson’s Matter and Memory, and especially chapter 3 ‘On the Survival of Images’ (MM 133–77). See also my Chapter 4.Google Scholar
  28. 25.
    It is in this sense, paradoxically, that the minor does not necessarily denote the weaker, or rather it is the minor’s apparent weakness — its flexibility, fluidity, openness — as well as its ontological prior status (to that of the major) that makes it always a force that must be controlled by the major.Google Scholar
  29. 26.
    Alain Badiou, in his paper presented at the Return(s)to Marx Conference (2002), London, Tate Modern Gallery. In fact Hardt and Negri have a slightly different take on this point. They ‘understand the concept “proletariat”’ as referring ‘not just to the industrial working class but to all those who are subordinated to, exploited by, and produce under the rule of capital’ (E 256). That is to say the proletariat is less a people-to-come than the state of those already here.Google Scholar
  30. 27.
    As Spinoza remarks in ‘A Political Treatise’, Works of Spinoza: Volume One (1951) (Trans. R.H.M. Elwes) (New York: Dover Publications): ‘If two come together and unite their strength, they have jointly more power, and consequently more right over nature than both of them separately, and the more there are that have so joined in alliance, the more right they all collectively will possess’ (1951, 296). For Negri’s own take on Spinoza, that at least in part theoretically underpins his collaboration with Hardt, see The Savage Anomaly: Power of Spinoza’s Metaphysics and Politics (1991) (Trans. M. Hardt) (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), and the more recent collection of essays Subversive Spinoza: (Un)contemporary Variations (2004a) (Ed. T. S. Murphy) (Manchester: Manchester University Press).Google Scholar
  31. 28.
    Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly, right at the end of Empire we get another manifesto of affirmation and friendship in the figure of St Francis of Assisi. This was an individual who discovered ‘the ontological power of a new society’ by ‘adopting the common condition’, who refused the ‘instrumental discipline’ of a ‘nascent capitalism’, instead celebrating a joyous life based on friendship and on a ‘community of friendships which includes all beings’ (£412). We might say then that this friendship is to be understood as operating between men, but also with the world in general. It is here, as perhaps Guattari would say, that politics joins hands with ecology.Google Scholar
  32. 29.
    Another way of thinking this immanent formation is as a community of Giorgio Agamben’s ‘whatever singularities’, the latter understood as those beings ‘devoid of any representable identity’, irrelevant to, and disposable by, the state — and yet also a threat to that very same mechanism of capture (Agamben, The Coming Community (1993) (Trans. M. Hardt) (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press), p. 86.7). Such ‘whatever singularities’ pose a threat because they do not obey the rules of the state — even as a negative formation; they do not have transcendent coordination points (such a community is in this sense self-organising in nature). For Agamben the coming politics will be precisely a struggle between this non-State or common humanity and the State (Agamben 1993, 86.7). We might say between a state constituted by sad passions (by hatred and by guilt) and a community constituted by joy (by friendship and by self-affirmation).Google Scholar
  33. 30.
    This is as true for modern art as it is for contemporary art. Mondrian’s paintings for example that were intended for future subjects — or at least to call this future subject forth (see Read, A Concise History of Modern Painting (1974) (London: Thames and Hudson), pp. 196–203).Google Scholar
  34. 31.
    To quote Deleuze and Guattari:Google Scholar
  35. We are trying, then, to make a distinction between a paranoid, signifying, despotic regime of signs and a passional or subjective, postsignifying authoritarian regime. Authoritarian is assuredly not the same as despotic, passional is not the same as paranoid, and subjective is not the same as signifying. What happens in the second regime, with comparison with the signifying regime as we have already defined it? In the first place, a sign or packet of signs detaches from the irradiating circular network and sets to work on its own account, starts running a straight line, as though swept into a narrow, open passage. (ATP 121)Google Scholar
  36. It is a people who follow this line, ‘a people effectuates the assemblage that assures the relative dominance of that regime under certain historical conditions’ (ATP 121). Deleuze and Guattari give the example of the Jews, detaching themselves from the imperial network of Egypt (the flight into the desert). Here the most ‘authoritarian’ of subjectivities is pitted against ‘despotic signifiance’ (ATP 122).Google Scholar
  37. 32.
    In relation to this confusion between war and the war machine, and between the war machine as it is popularly understood (i.e. the military-industrial complex) and war machine in the Deleuzian sense, Paul Patton has suggested another name for the latter: ‘metamorphosis machine’. To quote Patton: ‘The real object of Deleuze and Guattari’s War machine concept is not war but the conditions of creative mutation and change’ (2000, 110).Google Scholar
  38. 33.
    Nick Land addresses precisely this issue — the repression of desire — in his compelling article, ‘Making it with Death: Remarks on Thanatos and Desiring-Production’, Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology (1993), vol. 24, no. 1, 66–76. As Land says (referring to Anti-Oedipus) :Google Scholar
  39. The revolutionary/fascist disjunction is used to discriminate between the broad tendencies of deterrtorialisation and reterritorialisation: between the dissolution and reinstitution of social order. Revolutionary desire allies itself with molecular death that repels the organism, facilitating uninhibited productive flows, whilst fascist desire invests the molar death that is distributed by the signifier; rigidly segmenting the production process according to the borders of transcendent identities. (1993, 72)Google Scholar
  40. 34.
    In what follows I am attending to the first generation RAF, specifically the grouping of Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof, Gudrun Ensslin, Horst Mahler and Jan Karl Raspe. For an exhaustive account of this moment see Stefan Aust’s The Baader-Meinhof Group: The Inside Story of a Phenomenon (1987) (Trans. A. Bell) (London: The Bodley Head). Two alternative histories, each at either end of the political spectrum (and ten years apart), are Julian Becker’s Hitler’s Children: The Story of the Baader-Meinhof Gang (1978) (London: Panther Books), and Tom Vague’s Televisionaries: The Red Army Taction Story 1963–1993 (1994) (Edinburgh: AK Press).Google Scholar
  41. 35.
    Capitalism-imperialism also ‘produced’ the RAF in the sense that it produced the conditions for the latter’s emergence in the form of a subjectivity ‘brain washed through the media, consumerism, physical punishment and the ideology of non-violence’, suffering from ‘depression, sickness, declassification, insult and humiliation’ (Meinhof 2001b, 276). Capitalism had produced an exploited third world but also an alienated ‘métropole individual’: ‘He or she comes from the process of decay, the false, alienated surroundings of living in the system — factory, office, school, university, revisionist group, apprenticeship and temporary jobs’ (Meinhof 2001b, 275). In such a situation the Westerner is doomed, as Debord might say, to be a spectator on his or her own life. Hence, according to Meinhof, the ‘shock’ of the RAF’s first action, which was nothing other than the shock of people acting ‘without being determined by the pressure of the system, without seeing themselves with the eyes of the media, without fear’ (Meinhof 2001b, 278).Google Scholar
  42. 36.
    hit Rogoff has written an essay, ‘Engendering Terror’, in Geography and the Politics of Mobility (2003) (Ed. U. Bieman) (Wien: Generali Foundation), pp. 48–63, that attempts a similar recuperation, or rereading, of the RAF, albeit from a different direction. Rogoff’s argument is that so-called terror groups (the RAF included) might constitute an alternative, or counter cartography to that of nation states. Rogoff terms this new kind of mapping, that occurs throughout time and space (the linking of European groups with African liberation movements), ‘relational geography’: ‘we have a map that is composed of aggregates of intensities, of insurgences that link and empathise and spark off each other’ (Rogoff 2003, 56).Google Scholar
  43. 37.
    For a vivid display of this ‘use’ of language by the RAF see the film Stammheim: the Trial of the RAF (1985) directed by R. Hauff, distributed by Bioskop.Google Scholar
  44. 38.
    Guattari in fact wrote on the actions of the RAF as a mirror-image of the very thing they fought against, albeit for Guattari this was their failing: ‘the altogether absurd confrontation between a monstrous state-power and pitiful politico-military machines’ (Guattari, Soft Subversions (1996) (Trans. D.L. Sweet and C. Wiener) (New York: Semiotext (e)), p. 187). Indeed, Guattari felt the actions, especially of the later RAF, were misguided — mimicking and reproducing the very structures of domination they sort to attack:Google Scholar
  45. the real drama is not that a man was killed [the assassination of Schleyer], but that these actions were conducted in a way that simply does not break free of the repressive bourgeois system, fascist assassinations, or kidnappings carried out by unofficial police gangs, and that in the final account, their only result will have been to echo the collective melancholy that has present-day Germany in its grip. (SS 185)Google Scholar
  46. For Guattari this was especially the case with the RAF’s attempted ‘use’ of the media, specifically the dissemination of images of Schleyer with placards across his chest announcing his capture (To Claim to lead a revolutionary movement without attacking these phenomena of mass manipulation is an absurdity’ (SS 185)). Guattari’s critique is then that the particular axis of violence and the media which was one of the key tropes of the RAF was also a key trope of that which they attacked:Google Scholar
  47. Like it or not, in today’s world, violence and the media work hand in glove. And when a revolutionary group plays the game of the most reactive media, the game of collective guilt, then it has been mistaken: mistaken in its targets, mistaken in its method, mistaken in its strategy, mistaken in its theory, mistaken in its dreams. (SS 186)Google Scholar
  48. We might note that for Guattari revolution must involve a break with any and all of these systems of repression, hence Guattari’s thesis on the production of subjectivity. At stake here is the theorisation of the war machine and whether a guerrilla cell such as the RAF was a war machine, whether it contained, or connected with a war machine, or merely operated, as Guattari argues, as a mini state machine (was, if you like, the formation of a state machine from within a war machine).Google Scholar
  49. 39.
    To quote from an RAF communiqué in 1972 (quoted in In Love With Terror (2000) directed by B. Lewis, produced by A-C Schroder, distributed by BBC/Mentorn): ‘The American Air Force has dropped more bombs on Vietnam in the last seven weeks than they have dropped on Germany and Japan combined during the whole of world war two. That is the final solution. That is Auschwitz’.Google Scholar
  50. 40.
    As Gudrun Ensslin remarked in 1967 following the police shooting of Benno Ohnesorg during a Berlin demonstration:Google Scholar
  51. They will kill us all. You know what kinds of Pigs we’re up against. This is the generation of Auschwitz we’ve got against us. You can’t argue with people who made Auschwitz. They have weapons and we haven’t. We must arm ourselves, (quoted in In Love With Terror (2000))Google Scholar
  52. 41.
    This is Walter Benjamin’s divine violence (law destroying) that opposes itself to the mythical violence (law making) of the state. Benjamin’s example is the proletarian general strike over and above the political strike, which is to say revolution as not a mean to ends but as an end in itself. See Walter Benjamin’s ‘Critique of Violence’, in One Way Street (1997b) (Trans. E. Jephcott and K. Shorter) (London: Verso), pp. 132–54.Google Scholar
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    Alain Badiou makes a similar point about fraternity and violence in a recent article, ‘Seven Variations of the Century’, Parallax (2003), vol. 9, no. 27, 72–80:Google Scholar
  54. fraternity is the real manifestation of the new world, and thus of the new man. What is experimented — in the Party, in action, in the subversive artistic group, in the egalitarian couple — is the real violence of fraternity. And what is the content of this fraternity, if not the acceptance that the infinite ‘we’ prevails over the finitude of the individual? This is what is named by the word ‘comrade’, which today, for all intents and purposes, has fallen into disuse. My comrade is one who, like myself, is only subject by belonging to a process of truth that authorises him or her to say ‘we’. (2003, 74)Google Scholar
  55. 43.
    Antonio Negri, in Negri on Negri: Antonio Negri in Conversation with Anne Dufourmantelle (2004b) (Trans. M.B. DeBevoise) (London: Routledge), has something similar to say when asked in interview about the Red Brigades in Italy:Google Scholar
  56. One must be careful not to think of the Red Brigades as making up the whole of the movement of the 1970s, and of this movement as a historical parenthesis, an absolutely isolated, singular, separate term; in reality, the movement was a path in life, one taken by a great many of my generation. (2004b, 31)Google Scholar
  57. 44.
    Thanks to Ola Stahl, and his ‘Die Meinhof hat Alies Verraten: Ulrike Meinhof: Memories, Forgettings, Remembrances’ (2001), dissertation, University of Leeds (unpublished), for this point, hit Rogoff also attends to the figure of Ulrike Meinhof in her essay ‘Engendering Terror’, where the ‘enduring artistic circulation’, as image, of Meinhof (as terrorist and woman) is explored and seen as ‘an attempt at recovering an ethical and political complexity in which it is possible to entertain sympathy, rather than echo the binary opposites of terrorism versus the state’ (Rogoff 2003, 52).Google Scholar
  58. 45.
    Meinhofs prison letters are especially revealing about how this isolation produced self-criticism. Meinhof ended up questioning her own relationship to Baader and Ensslin: she saw herself as ‘toadying’ — or ‘treating them like cops’ — and thus, in her words, becoming a kind of cop herself (See the film Stammheim, Aust 1985).Google Scholar
  59. 46.
    Hardt and Negri also attend to this joyous aspect of the militant. Indeed, for Hardt and Negri the template for the modern day ‘communist’ is not the ‘sad, ascetic agent of the Third International whose soul was deeply permeated by Soviet state reason, the same way the will of the pope was embedded in the hearts of the knights of the Society of Jesus’ (E 411–2), which is to say, not a sad communist, but rather the libratory and anti-fascist fighters of the twentieth century.Google Scholar
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    We might note here the mass media’s general fascination with ‘rebels’ and ‘revolutionaries’. The glamorisation of such figures, from Che Guevera through to the fictional heroes of Hollywood blockbusters, evidences a contradictory adoration and castigation of the ‘outsider’. Brett Easton Ellis’ novel Glamourama (1998) (London: Picador) explicitly stages this scenario organised as it is around characters who are models and terrorists. We might also note here the parallel strategy of Julian Becker’s Hitler’s Children in which the RAF are characterised as ‘gangsters’ (rather than guerrilla fighters). To quote Becker: ‘Outside the court and the prison, the gang continued to demand attention with acts of violence and destruction. It has the romantic, aesthetic, and even erotic fascination for many people which bandit gangs have always had — especially and predictably, though not exclusively, for the young’ (1978, 17).Google Scholar
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    As Deleuze and Guattari remark (in relation to Heidegger): ‘is there anything worse, said Nietzsche, than to find oneself facing a German when one was expecting a Greek?’ (WP 108–9). It is in this ‘grey zone and indiscernability where for a moment the combatants on the ground are confused’, that ‘the thinker’s tired eyes mistakes one for the other — not only the German for a Greek but the fascist for a creator of existence and freedom’ (WP 109). I will return to this point, and this quotation, in my conclusion.Google Scholar
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    Simon Tormey’s unpublished paper, ‘Difference, “Creative Power” and Contemporary Political Praxis: The Case of the Zapatistas’, presented at the Experimenting with Intensities: Science, Philosophy, Politics, the Arts Conference (2004), Trent University, is a good example of this kind of project. Utilising Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition Tormey makes a convincing argument for the Zapatistas being involved in an ‘immanent’ politics beyond representation.Google Scholar
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    And this mapping would have to attend to the relations between any guerrilla, or indeed avant-garde group, and the multitude as a whole (democracy).Google Scholar
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    This essay is an earlier version of ‘On the Production of Subjectivity’, Chaosmosis: An Ethico-aesthetic Paradigm (1995b), pp. 1–32. For an exhaustive account of Guattari’s solo project, and an impressive bibliography of his writings, see Gary Genosko, Felix Guattari: An Aberrant Introduction (2002) (London: Continuum). See also Stephen J. Arnott’s informative essay on Guattari which involves a transversal connection to the writings on ritual by Victor Turner (Arnott, ‘Liminal Subjectivity and the Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm of Felix Guattari’ at html), and also Paul Bains’ exploration of the importance of Raymond Ruyer’s writings for Deleuze and Guattari’s ethico-aesthetic conception of subjectivity in his essay, ‘Subjectless Subjectivities’, A Shock to Thought: Expression after Deleuze and Guattari (2002) (Ed. B. Massumi) (London: Routledge), pp. 101–16.Google Scholar
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    Deleuze’s text is one of the appendices to The Logic of Sense (1990) (Trans. M. Lester and C. Stivale) (Ed. C. V. Boundas) (New York: Columbia University Press).Google Scholar
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    This is of course to critique Marx — or rather to critique those Marxists that insist on a crude economic determinism.Google Scholar
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    These being two of The Three Ecologies (2000) (Trans. I. Pindar and P. Sutton) (London: Athlone Press) of Guattari’s last work.Google Scholar
  68. 55.
    In a sense ‘The History of Art’ has often involved itself in foregrounding this type of Western-centred subjectivity (namely the artist genius). To follow Guattari is not to disavow the work that has been done in decentring such artist-centred models (precisely reactionary models), indeed it might be to explore the specific production of subjectivity involved in various representations of artists — and understand how these are complicit with wider sociopolitical factors.Google Scholar
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    We might add further, along with Guattari, that with the end of the cold war the issue of subjectivity — and of the production of subjectivity — is becoming increasingly important in the West itself, as is the need to think the latter through in terms of the three ecologies of the environment, society and the psyche. Again, this is the subject of Guattari’s last book, The Three Ecologies, in which he points out that solutions to certain global problems can only come about by addressing questions of Western lifestyle, and of creating a new style of living (Guattari 2000). In this, the possibility of environmental disaster or the possibility of nuclear devastation (two of the possibilities produced by capitalism), as with so many other pressing problems, are intimately tied to questions to do with the production of subjectivity.Google Scholar
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    Hardt and Negri also devote a significant portion of Empire to this issue. See the section on ‘The Sociology of Immaterial Labour’ (E 289–94).Google Scholar
  71. 58.
    This Janus faced nature of technology is nothing new. Adorno and Horkheimer, in The Dialectic of the Enlightenment (1979) (Trans. J. Cumming) (London: Verso), make a similar, if more extreme argument, put simply, that the advances in technology have given us the tools to ease much of the world’s suffering, and yet that very technology is used precisely to inflict extreme suffering.Google Scholar
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    And this collectivisation of subjectivity is not just to do with external relations, but also internal ones as it were. As Guattari remarks:Google Scholar
  73. the term ‘collective’ should be understood here in the sense of a multiplicity that develops beyond the individual, on the side of the socius, as well as on this side (so to speak) of the person, that is, on the side of pre-verbal intensities that arise more from a logic of the affects than from a well-circumscribed, comprehensive logic. (S 196)Google Scholar
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    Alain Badiou attends to this rupturing quality of the event, and of a continuing fidelity to this event, in his book, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil (2001) (Trans. P. Hallward) (London: Verso). For Badiou, an event is always a supplement to a given historical situation, and is indeed an experience that lifts the human from animal to subject (Badiou 2001, 41). As Badiou remarks:Google Scholar
  75. To be faithful to an event is to move within the situation that this event has supplemented, by thinking … the situation ‘according to’ the event. And this, of course — since the event was excluded by all the regular laws of the situation — compels the subject to invent a new way of being and acting in the situation. (2001, 42)Google Scholar
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    See for example Guattari’s analysis of three paintings by Balthus, ‘Cracks in the Street’ (Trans. A. Gibault and J. Johnson), Flash Art (1987), 135, 82–5, in which the paintings — in their organisation and style (the mobilisation of a variety of expressive components and multiple signifying/asignifying registers) — produce what Guattari calls a ‘fractalization, processualization and existential recomposition’ leading to ‘modalities of individual and/or collective subjectivation which stand in the way of dominant subjective formations’ (CS 85).Google Scholar
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    Christopher Gray makes a similar point in relation to the Situationists:Google Scholar
  78. What was basically wrong with the SI was that it focussed exclusively on the intellectual critique of society. There was no concern whatsoever with either the emotions or the body… What needs understanding is the state of paralysis everyone is in. Certainly all conditioning comes from society but it is anchored in the body and mind of the individual, and that is where it must be dissolved. Ultimately the problem is an emotional, not an intellectual one. (1989, 75)Google Scholar
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    Although there is not space to develop this line of enquiry here we might note that this fear can also be characterised as a fear (and hence avoidance) of death. Eugene Holland in Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to Schizoanalysis (1999) (London: Routledge) attends briefly to this, in relation to capitalist development (see pp. 8–9).Google Scholar
  80. 64.
    For a more sober account of the possibilities of moving beyond typical subjectivity see the title essay of Deleuze’s Desert Islands, and Other Texts 1953–1974 (2004) (Trans. M. Taormina) (Ed. D. Lapoujade) (New York: Semiotext(e)). In this essay it is unclear to Deleuze whether Guattari’s ontological curtain between people and things can ever be drawn, and indeed that any possibilities will need to mobilise more than just the individual but precisely collective imagining, or simply myth. I quote Deleuze here at length:Google Scholar
  81. To that question so dear to the old explorers — ‘which creatures live on deserted islands?’ — one could only answer: human beings live there already, but uncommon humans, they are absolutely separate, absolute creators, in short, an Idea of humanity, a prototype, a man who would almost be a god, a woman who would be a goddess, a great Amnesiac, a pure Artist, a consciousness of Earth and Ocean, an enormous hurricane, a beautiful witch, a statue from Easter island. There you have a human being who precedes itself. Such a creature on a desert island would be a desert island itself, insofar as it imagines and reflects itself in its first moment. A consciousness of the earth and ocean, such is the desert island, ready to begin the world anew. But since human beings, even voluntarily, are not identical to the movement that puts them on the island, they are unable to join with the élan that produces the island; they always encounter it from an outside, and their presence in fact spoils its desertedness. The unity of the deserted island and its inhabitant is thus not actual, only imaginary, like the idea of looking behind the curtain when one is not behind it. More importantly, it is doubtful whether the individual imagination, unaided, could rise itself up to such an admirable identity; it would require the collective imagination, what is most profound in it, i.e. rites and mythology. (DES 11)Google Scholar

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