Saturday, April 18, 2009

David Bohm: On Dialogue

Freedom makes possible a creative perception of new orders of necessity. If you can't do that, you're not really free. You may say you're doing whatever you like and that's your impulse, but I think we've seen that your impulses can come from your thoughts. [...] So doing what you like is seldom freedom, because what you like is determined by what you think and that is often a pattern which is fixed. Therefore we have a creative necessity which we discover--you can discover individually or we can do so collectively in the group--of how to operate in a group in a new way. Any group which has problems really has got to solve them creatively if they're serious problems. It can't just be by trade-offs and negotiations of the old ways. (p. 27)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Manifesto In A Clear Language

By Antonin Artaud
December 1925

If I believe neither in Evil nor in Good, if I feel such a strong inclination to destroy, if there is nothing in the order of principles to which I can reasonably accede, the underlying reason is in my flesh.
I destroy because for me everything that proceeds from reason is untrustworthy. I believe only in the evidence of what stirs my marrow, not in the evidence of what addresses itself to my reason. I have found levels in the realm of the nerve.
I now feel capable of evaluating the evidence. There is for me an evidence in the realm of pure flesh which has nothing to do with the evidence of reason. The eternal conflict between reason and the heart is decided in my very flesh, but in my flesh irrigated by nerves. In the realm of the affective imponderable, the image provided by my nerves takes the form of the highest intellectuality, which I refuse to strip of its quality of intellectuality. And so it is that I watch the formation of a concept which carries within it the actual fulguration of things, a concept which arrives upon me with a sound of creation. No image satisfies me unless it is at the same time Knowledge, unless it carries with it its substance as well as its lucidity. My mind, exausted by discursive reason, wants to be caught up in the wheels of a new, an absolute gravitation. For me it is like a supreme reorganization in which only the laws of illogic participate, and in which there triumphs the discovery of a new Meaning. This Meaning which has been lost in the disorder of drugs and which presents the appearance of a profound intelligence to the contradictory phantasms of the sleep. This Meaning is a victory of the mind over itself, and although it is irreducible by reason, it exists, but only inside the mind. It is order, it is intelligence, it is the signification of chaos. But it does not accept this chaos as such, it interprets it, and because it interprets it, it loses it. It is the logic of illogic. And this is all one can say. My lucid unreason is not afraid of chaos.
I renounce nothing of that which is the Mind. I want only to transport my mind elsewhere with its laws and organs. I do not surrender myself to the sexual mechanism of the mind, but on the contrary within this mechanism I seek to isolate those discoveries which lucid reason does not provide. I surrender to the fever of dreams, but only in order to derive from them new laws. I seek multiplication, subtlety, the intellectual eye in delirium, not rash vaticination. There is a knife which I do not forget.
But it is a knife which is halfway into dreams, which I keep inside myself, which I do not allow to come to the frontier of the lucid senses.
That which belongs to the realm of the image is irreducible by reason and must remain within the image or be annihilated.
Nevertheless, there is a reason in images, there are images which are clearer in the world of image-filled vitality.
There is in the immediate teeming of the mind a multiform and dazzling insinuation of animals. This insensible and thinking dust is organized according to laws which it derives from within itself, outside the domain of clear reason or of thwarted consciousness or reason.
In the exalted realm of images, illusion properly speaking, or material error, does not exist, much less the illusion of knowledge: but this is all the more reason why the meaning of a new knowledge can and must descend into the reality of life.
The truth of life lies in the impulsiveness of matter. The mind of man has been poisoned by concepts. Do not ask him to be content, ask him only to be calm, to believe that he has found his place. But only the madman is really calm.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Antonin Artaud's The Theatre and Culture

PREFACE: The Theater and Culture

Never before, when it is life itself that is in question, has there been so much talk of civilization and culture. And there is a curious parallel between this generalized collapse of life at the root of our present demoralization and our concern for a culture which has never been coincident with life, which in fact has been devised to tyrannize over life.

Before speaking further about culture, I must remark that the world is hungry and not concerned with culture, and that the attempt to orient toward culture thoughts turned only toward hunger is a purely artificial expedient.

What is most important, it seems to me, is not so much to defend a culture whose existence has never kept a man from going hungry, as to extract, from what is called culture, ideas whose compelling force is identical with that of hunger.

We need to live first of all; to believe in what makes us live and that something makes us live-to believe that whatever is produced from the mysterious depths of ourselves need not forever haunt us as an exclusively digestive concern.

I mean that if it is important for us to eat first of all, it is even more important for us not to waste in the sole concern for eating our simple power of being hungry.

If confusion is the sign of the times, I see at the root of this confusion a rupture between things and words, between things and the ideas and signs that are their representation.

Not, of course, for lack of philosophical systems; their number and contradictions characterize our old French and European culture: but where can it be shown that life, our life, has ever been affected by these systems? I will not say that philosophical systems must be applied directly and immediately: but of the following alternatives, one must be true: .

Either these systems are within us and permeate our being to the point of supporting life itself (and if this is the case, what use are books?), or they do not permeate us and therefore do not have the capacity to support life (and in this case what does their disappearance matter?).

We must insist upon the idea of culture-in-action, of culture growing within us like a new organ, a sort of second breath; and on civilization as an applied culture controlling even our subtlest actions, a presence of mind; the distinction between culture and civilization is an artificial one, providing two words to signify an identical function.

A civilized man judges and is judged according to his behavior, but even the term "civilized" leads to confusion: a cultivated "civilized" man is regarded as a person instructed in systems, a person who thinks in forms, signs, representations--a monster whose faculty of deriving thoughts from acts, instead of identifying acts with thoughts, is developed to an absurdity.

If our life lacks brimstone, Le., a constant magic, it is because we choose to observe our acts and lose ourselves in considerations of their imagined form instead of being impelled by their force.

And this faculty is an exclusively human one. I would even say that it is this infection-of the human which contaminates ideas that should have remained divine; for far from believing that man invented the supernatural and the divine, I think it is man's age-old intervention which has ultimately corrupted the divine within him.

All our ideas about life must be revised in a period when nothing any longer adheres to life; it is this painful cleavagewhich is responsible for the revenge of things; the poetry which is no longer within us and which we no longer succeed

in finding in things suddenly appears on their wrong side: consider the unprecedented number of crimes whose perverse gratuitousness is explained only by our powerlessness to take complete possession of life.

If the theater has been created as an outlet for our repressions, the agonized poetry expressed in its bizarre corruptions of the facts of life demonstrates that life's intensity is still intact and asks only to be better directed.

But no matter how loudly we clamor for magic in our lives, we are really afraid of pursuing an existence entirely under its influence and sign.

Hence our confirmed lack of culture is astonished by certain grandiose anomalies; for example, on an island without any contact with modem civilization, the mere passage of a ship carrying only healthy passengers may provoke the sudden outbreak of diseases unknown on that island but a specialty of nations like our own: shingles, influenza, grippe, rheumatism, sinusitis, polyneuritis, etc.

Similarly, if we think Negroes smell bad, we are ignorant of the fact that anywhere but in Europe it is we whites who "smell bad." And I 'would even say that we give off an odor as white as the gathering of pus in an infected wound.

As iron can be heated until it turns white, so it can be said that everything excessive is white; for Asiatics white has become the mark of extreme decomposition.

This said, we can begin to form an idea of culture, an idea which is first of all a protest.

A protest against the senseless constraint imposed upon the idea of culture by reducing it to a sort of inconceivable Pantheon, producing an idolatry no different from the image worship of those religions which relegate their gods to Pantheons.

10 The Theater and Its Double

A protest against the idea of culture as distinct from life as if there were culture on one side and life on the other, as if true culture were not a refined means of understanding and exercising life.

The library at Alexandria can be burnt down. There are forces above and beyond papyrus: we may temporarily be deprived of our ability to discover these forces, but their energy will not be suppressed. It is good that our excessive facilities are no longer available, that forms fall into oblivion: a culture without space or time, restrained only by the capacity of our own nerves, will reappear with all the more energy. It is right that from time to time cataclysms occur which compel us to return to nature, i.e., to rediscover life. The old totemism of animals, stones, objects capable of discharging thunderbolts, costumes impregnated with bestial essences-everything, in short, that might determine, disclose, and direct the secret forces of the universe-is for us a dead thing, from which we derive nothing but static and aesthetic profit, the profit of an audience, not of an actor.

Yet totemism is an actor, for it moves, and has been created in behalf of actors; all true culture relies upon the barbaric and primitive means of totemism whose savage, i.e., entirely spontaneous, life I wish to worship.

What has lost us culture is our Occidental idea of art and the profits we seek to derive from it. Art and culture cannot be considered together, contrary to the treatment universally accorded them!

True culture operates by exaltation and force, while the European ideal of art attempts to cast the mind into an attitude distinct from force but addicted to exaltation. It is a lazy, unserviceable notion which engenders an imminent death. If the Serpent Quetzalcoatl's multiple twists and turns are harmonious, it is because they express the equilibrium and fluctuations of a sleeping force; the intensity of the forms is there

only to seduce and direct a force which, in music, would

produce an insupportable range of sound.

The gods that sleep in museums: the god of fire with his incense burner that resembles an Inquisition tripod; Tlaloc, one of the manifold Gods of the Waters, on his wall of green granite; the Mother Goddess of Waters, the Mother Goddess of Flowers; the immutable expression, echoing from beneath many layers of water, of the Goddess robed in green jade; the enraptured, blissful expression, features crackling with incense, where atoms of sunlight circle--the countenance of the Mother Goddess of Flowers; this world of obligatory servitude in which a stone comes alive when it has been properly carved, the world of organically civilized men whose vital organs too awaken from their slumber, this human world enters into us, participating in the dance of the gods without turning round or looking back, on pain of becoming, like ourselves, crumbled pillars of salt.

In Mexico, since we are talking about Mexico, there is no art: things are made for use. And the world is in perpetual exaltation.

To our disinterested and inert idea of art an authentic culture opposes a violently egoistic and magical, i.e., interested idea. For the Mexicans seek contact with the Manas, forces latent in every form, unreleased by contemplation of the forms for themselves, but springing to life by magic identification with these forms. And the old Totems are there to hasten the communication.

How hard it is, when everything encourages us to sleep, though we may look about us with conscious, clinging eyes, to wake and yet look about us as in a dream, with eyes that no longer know their function and whose gaze is turned inward.

This is how our strange idea of disinterested action originated, though it is action nonetheless, and all the more violent for skirting the temptation of repose.

Every real effigy has a shadow which is its double; and art must falter and fail from the moment the sculptor believes he has liberated the kind of shadow whose very existence will destroy his repose.

Like all magic cultures expressed by appropriate hieroglyphs, the true theater has its shadows too, and, of all languages and all arts, the theater is the only one left whose shadows have shattered their limitations. From the beginning, one might say its shadows did not tolerate limitations.

Our petrified idea of the theater is connected with our petrified idea of a culture without shadows, where, no matter which way it turns, our mind (esprit) encounters only emptiness, though space is full.

But the true theater, because it moves and makes use of living instruments, continues to stir up shadows where life has never ceased to grope its way. The actor does not make the same gestures twice, but he makes gestures, he moves; and although he brutalizes forms, nevertheless behind them and through their destruction he rejoins that which outlives forms and produces their continuation.

The theater, which is in no thing, but makes use of everything--gestures, sounds, words, screams, light, darkness-rediscovers itself at precisely the point where the mind requires a language to express its manifestations.

And the fixation of the theater in one language--written words, music, lights, noises--betokens its imminent ruin, the choice of anyone language betraying a taste for the special effects of that language; and the dessication of the language accompanies its limitation.

For the theater as for culture, it remains a question of naming and directing shadows: and the theater, not confined to a fixed language and form, not only destroys false shadows but prepares the way for a new generation of shadows, around which assembles the true spectacle of life.

To break through language in order to touch life is to create or recreate the theater; the essential thing is not to believe that this act must remain sacred, Le., set apart--the essential thing is to believe that not just anyone can create it, and that there must be a preparation.

This leads to the rejection of the usual limitations of man and man's powers, and infinitely extends the frontiers of what is called reality.

We must believe in a sense of life renewed by the theater, a sense of life in which man fearlessly makes himself master of what does not yet exist, and brings it into being. And everything that has not been born can still be brought to life if we are not satisfied to remain mere recording organisms.

Furthermore, when we speak the word "life," it must be understood we are not referring to life as we know it from its surface of fact, but to that fragile, fluctuating center which forms never reach. And if there is still one hellish, truly accursed thing in our time, it is our artistic dallying with forms, instead of being like victims burnt at the stake, signaling through the flames.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Art as Philosophy

In the Name of Us.

In the Name of God. Would it be ‘silly’ to add this phrase at a beginning of a text by Nietzsche, Derrida or Marx? What does it mean to start ‘in the name of’*?

It is the result of its greatness that Nietzschean thought has provoked such mayhem; that every thought about a modern subject has to orient itself ‘in relation to’ Nietzsche*.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. This would be most absurd when Nietzsche is concerned. We are confronted with a merciless philosopher who objects compassion. He is merciless for not only he has declared a war on Christianity he has defined it as a ‘project’, one which he will not abandon. He has no mercy for a bleeding opponent, yet, in much of his philosophy he evokes this impression that his God is not dead.

What we shall try to do is to keep on thinking. Not to stop moving forward. We might start each time from very different points; we might change direction or surfaces; we might confront obstacles and go back and regress.* Turning back without regression: that’s what we shall allow to enter our arguments.

The western philosophy begins with the declaration of I and continues with it. The Greek had a multiplicity of not only thought but philosophies. (In comparison, one can speak of a Persian literature hovering above all the poets that constitute it.) We.* We intend to form a philosophy that has ‘we’ at its centre. Can there be such philosophy? Words exist as long as there is somebody to hear them. We exist although we might be unthinkable. We shall try to create tools for thinking ‘us’. Thus, once again, in the name of us.

We shall try to produce it for a myriad of reasons. To see the history of what has happened to us. Before the revolution, everybody was into politics and ideology. After it, there was a time that psychology and psychoanalysis was ‘in’. Those who thought, apparently refrained from the collective. The problems were to be solved in an internal world. Today it seems philosophy has got the upper hand. The situation is amazing: every publisher will accept a translated book on philosophy. You are here for the sake of it; a session like this is not easy to hold in any other part of the world. I cherish this chance of talking to you. You’re the ones who extract the words. It’s because of you that we have the right to say ‘us’.

In this first session I will try to mark not the lines of thought that we shall follow, rather the rules of thinking, ‘our’ axioms, our methodology and certain concepts that we shall concentrate upon. We shall.* This is a key concept in our methodology for instance. [Key concepts shall be marked with an asterisk in writing.] We shall try to incorporate ‘shall we?’ in every statement we make. There are reasons for this. In English, we can use in first person either will or shall in statements about the future. Now:

1. We cherish the fact that shall is oriented towards future. This marks the fact that our philosophy is a philosophy in progress, not a retrospect.

2. Shall is close to, but in certain respects different from, will. Happily enough, this celebrates our distance from Nietzsche.

3. Shall is not normally used with other subjects apart from the first person. It marks the fact that our philosophy is one concentrated on us: a philosophy of a certain number of people in a specific historical situation. It refrains from universals and does not seek solutions for everybody. [From time to time, we might have recourse to universals, yet they will be ‘our’ universals: universally true for us.]

4. Will often expresses the future as fact, something we cannot control. It expresses a prediction, a definite opinion about the future. On the contrary, when we can’t decide, we use shall to ask for advice or suggestions. What shall we do? The British use shall in suggestions and offers. Every statement in these sessions will be presented as a suggestion or offer to you. We can redraw our approval of any truth at any time.

5. The tag question of let’s is shall we? We shall imbed it in every statement we make. I shall be asking you to ‘allow me’ to move forward with every statement that I make. Although I shall act more or less as agent here, you can always feel free to object to, redirect or stop any statement at any time. As you will see, ‘regression’, ‘erasure’, ‘mistake’, ‘stopping’ etc. are among our key concepts.

To say ‘shall’ is to move (with) others with their permission. When one asks ‘Shall we?’ he is no longer a wanderer in Deleuzian sense. He is not passive either. It is to consider that my moving moves you. Please feel free to stop me to suggest a different direction or to ‘turn’ us ‘back’.

Another key concept is to consider art as a kind of philosophy. As such, our philosophy has to be new. There is no art without the new.

And a new philosophy needs a new way of writing. More than that, it needs a new method of discussion. We cherish it as our parting with Derrida as well. As we shall see, I will object to the deficiencies of the printed text. This—valuing speech above writing—might be thought of as a ‘regression’ in Derridean discussion, yet we shall cherish regression too as a key concept. This will be clearly seen in our concept of ‘forms of life’*.

Philosophy is not only the domain of answers.

Art as Philosophy. Art procedures as ways of life. Art.* Life.*

The problem with Nietzsche is that he does not speak ‘in the name’ of life. The name of his philosophy is ‘will’. The will as existence is to betray life in many respects. It leaves no space for the wisdom of letting go. It has to ignore the definite weakness of human beings as far as willing is their only opportunity for changing their environment. It is not just a matter of abandoning ‘pity’ as a tragic strategy, it is also about ‘not forgiving’. The notion of sin becomes central to Nietzsche with eternal recurrence. This is the stupid part of his philosophy, the part ‘in vain’ where he tries to make will measurable, to give rigidity to life, for if it happens ‘once’ it cannot be as rigid and ‘hard’ as he desires. It is this classical desire of Nietzsche that betrays life. Thank God he is not as consistent as he could be.

Where does the power of man rely? To let go in time. To change and resist. To obey and disobey. The power to implement the right change at the right time, as well as resisting change when necessary. It is obvious that Nietzsche fails in saying a full yes to life. One has to let go of power as a measure, if one has a criteria for his choice of form of life.

What is wrong with using words such as capitalism, post-modernism, multiculturalism and the like, to think our situation? Nothing apart from the fact that one cannot analyse specificity with notions that result form global abstraction that prevent forms of life from appearing and recurrence.

Is Capitalism not in favour of change? Not in favour of creation and re-creation of forms of life?

The problem is not Capitalism as such, but what an economic system (or any system whatsoever) can impose that disrupts the procedures with which one constructs his/her form of life.

Our situation is unthinkable. This is because the words used for thinking our situation are insufficient. And what happens if we don’t think our situation? Our main axiom will be a belief in what thought is capable of, even in a situation such as ours.

Should philosophy of us be ambiguous? Should it be fragmentary? Should it have a zip?

Zip.* We need a philosophy that you can zip and unzip. A philosophy that can expand. This is not a philosophy that can be continued on a straight line. It is not one that has no line of thought at all. It is a philosophy that jumps, that returns and fills in what is written. It is a philosophy that fills, that builds. A zip allows different bits to fit in place on a supple trajectory. A slight disorder can derail the zipper. It can return back to its path after a while.

Let us leave aside this lengthy jargon of rupture, break and gap. Let us forget about Lacan and Nietzsche. They are not meant for the destructed. He did not dare to be what we need.

Aphorism? Far from it. We have no intention of stabbing deep and hard.

Of One

Descartes wrote, ‘Cogito Ergo Sum.’ He should have said, ‘Cogito Ergo Sumus.’ For the existence of thought, of language proves the existence of human being as a kind. Language is a band. Thus, we shall say: ‘Cogitamus Ergo Sumus.’

There is deep selfishness in philosophy. The selfishness of the ‘I’. One usually does not say ‘philosophy’, but the ‘philosophy of’. The philosophy of a name. The philosophy of Kant, of Hegel, of. And these are those who have dedicated themselves to truth-seeking, to understand how things are and how one is. They have considered mind as a judging machine. A sorting machine. And no matter what they say, they are after universals. As such there is no place for ‘mistake’. For a philosopher, practically there is nothing more important to ‘inscribe’ his thought, and thus himself, in philosophy. As such, he will make it such that it is not easily refuted. In his ambition, he is very similar to an artist. In his methods for approaching it, it might seem that he is not.


Eraser is what is left out in the act of writing. The truth of writing is not only the binary opposition between text and margin, but also that it tries to be ‘precise’. This happens most of the time when a text is printed. To print, usually means to make a private text public. A printed text is essentially different from its manuscript. The greatest difference being the omission of mistakes.

What is our objection to a Nietzschean or Derridean philosophy in terms of their method? That they integrate in their method what they leave out in their thought. Derrida’s objection to Foucault should be returned to him: if it is impossible to write the History of Madness with sanity, then one shouldn’t print what is to explain deconstruction. No philosopher in the history of philosophy allows for mistakes. Even Socrates, who believed he is just moving forward without first ‘locating’ the truth, would not accept to ‘turn back’.* Anything settled in a previous discussion was a ‘foundation’ to him. Is anything wrong with that? Is philosophy not a kind, or shall we say, the most profound way of ‘truth-seeking’? We shall.* This is what we will try to incorporate in every sentence. Shall we? To ask this is to move forward with the permission of other’s who will share a thought. Ultimately, we arrive at this question once again: is thought a single or a collective act? What will a collective philosophy look like? What shall be its methods?

Way of thinking. Methodology. Is there a ‘way’ that can escape ‘methodology’? Is ‘plurality of methods’ an alternative to this? As usual, we shall find our answer in art. Shall we? An artist is someone who can tackle the problem of ‘style’. In art, style is an issue that cannot be left out. Every artwork defines a new style. Yet, if we accept styles as the only existing common modes of expression, to say something common in a new style appears, theoretically, impossible. But in art, the possibility of the new* is an axiom. We shall look for a new way of thinking which is, at the same time, very common. We shall talk and gather what we say. We shall examine, search and probe; we shall have ‘subjects’ and points of reference, rendezvous as it were. We shall design a plan, one that we might not refrain to be faithful to. This is a philosophy that should be able to ‘stop’.* We shall stop, not at the point of non-sense*, but were continuing is ‘worse’ than stopping or changing direction. And this is a very common procedure in art.

In Critique of Judgment, Kant considers three maxims for an enlightened way of thinking: (1) to think for oneself; (2) to think from the standpoint of everyone else; and (3) to think always consistently.[1] Although we might find ourselves closer to the 18th century philosopher than to the so-called post-moderns, we shall make certain changes to his statement. Our maxims would be: (a) to think for ourselves; (2) to think in terms of our situation; (c) to think continuously in a productive way in the face of whatever threatens the lively flow of our life, i.e. our way of life. This would be to change our way of life as a result of a change in our thought. We substitute the term ‘consistently’ with artistic, as a check for philosophic thought.

A common act of a painter is to step ‘back’ and look at what he has done. This is not only to judge different part in comparison to one another, but also to compare it with (or rather, to see how it functions in the context of) what is common, which is not to say, to check if it conforms. Rather to see what you have done. To see is always to see ‘in the light of’. What we shall try to see here, is in the light of us.

What is ‘bad’? Can we do away with ‘badness’? Can we go beyond the good and evil, as Nietzsche supposed? Yes and no. More accurately, why should we? What would be left of art, if nothing is different? One the other hand, how can art happen in a system of fixed values? In other words, how can art exist with beings and without becomings? Every subjective becoming has to pass through good and bad.

We shall try to experience the joy of creating a philosophy.

[1] Immanuel Kant (1987) Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett), p. 160.