The Dance of The Body without Organs

The Dance of The Body without Organs
My current project employs the concept of the Body w/o Organs as a model of artistic process to undermine social, scientific, and political hierarchies used in organizing our states of consciousness and embodiment. By arriving at a location of stillness, or ?zero intensity? through this process of dislocating normative structures; new structures, configurations, and organizations will emerge that reflect local, emotional, or irrational consistencies. The project exists in several instantiations, including immersive virtual environments, networked art, 3-D modeling, and texts.Body w/o Organs, Deleuze and Guattari, Artaud, Virtual Reality, Virtual Environment, Irrationality, Surrealism, Visible Human Project

1.0 Situating Subjectivity

?My mind became a place of refuge, an sanctuary, a room I could enter with no fear of invasion. My mind became a site of resistance.? (hooks, 1991)

Located as a privileged subject relative to race and gender; I am at a transitional place regarding power relations. My upbringing as a white male of a middle class family in a line of Scottish farmers immigrating to the rural Midwestern US roots me in the blood-soaked soil of the Klu Klux Klan. I was born and raised 20 years after and 30 miles from Marion, Indiana, site of countless barbaric lynchings of African Americans. My sympathies betrayed the hegemonic classifications of my own body and color of flesh. I lined up with the victims, not with my kin. My desire to be done with the coding of the politics of identity in my flesh increased my sense of disembodiment. My own betrayal of skin and kin accompanied by the undeniable privilege afforded me by the embodied coding of race has created a bifurcation that has accompanied me through my circumnavigations in the world, leading me into much conflict, pain, remorse, and joy. I have access to the world and institutions of art, science, and technology; institutions that are bastions of privilege and potential sites of resistance. This project, ?The Dance of the Body w/o Organs?, is the result of my desire to build a new relationship to my flesh, ?The Flesh?(Merleau-Ponty, 1968), and to the body politic.

2.0 Destination

I have been developing The ?Dance of the Body w/o Organs? since 1998. By aspiring to a creative process that is complex and liquid I have created an emulsion of catalysts characterized by shifting emphases between artistic practice, scientific inquiry, teaching, reading, writing, and critical thinking. The process is a mobius strip where one discipline flows over another.

This essay serves a double function: 1). As a modest line of flight, a contribution to the total work, The Body w/o Organs; and 2). As an account of the project that this writing is a part of. In an attempt to answer the inevitable question, what is the body w/o organs?, I will discuss the development of the concept by Antonin Artaud, and refer to a few subsequent interpretations. I will then describe how I have worked toward building my own BwO.

2.1 the body without organs

?When you have made him a body without organs, then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions and restored him to his true freedom, then you will teach him again to dance wrong side out?? (Artaud, 1947)

The invocation of the ?body without organs? vibrates throughout twenty years of writing of the French dramatist, poet, actor, and artist Antonin Artaud. Artaud?s project, possibly the most comprehensive longitudinal self-study of subjective and first person consciousness; evolves from compulsive journaling to self-analysis, from self-analysis to self-immolation toward dissection and attempts at a reconstructed relationship between subjectivity, the body, and lived experience. The result is a heterogeneous body of activity that Artaud referred to as the ?Total Work?. Artaud (560) The ?Total Work? is an inexhaustive, minutely detailed description of an emergent transformation of artistic consciousness. Artaud?s corpus forms no recognized masterworks: the numerous plays, performances, film scripts, operas, drawings, essays, manifestos, hundreds of letters, fragments, aborted projects, and unfinished works form rather an excruciatingly fissured ?aesthetics of thought?phenomenology of suffering? (Sontag, 1973) that serves as Artaud?s medium or vehicle toward the emergence of an embodied state of technoetic consciousness.

Artaud denies any difference between art and thought or consciousness. He declares that works of art ?are worth only as much as the conceptions on which they are founded?. Artaud takes art as a trope for the emergence of consciousness. His project was not theatre, not drawing or radio, but a migration toward total consciousness through the failed, canceled, incomplete, and undone fusion of thought, body, and art. Artaud?s deliberately self-contradictory account of his own consciousness supports what has been described by Joseph Levine (1983) and others as the ?explanatory gap?: ?I am he who, in order to be, must whip his innateness.? (Artaud, The Nerve Meter, 1925 ) The ?explanatory gap? lies in the notion that there is some inherent ?gap? in our epistemological and ontological foundations that renders consciousness undecipherable or beyond our comprehension. Artaud understood, from first person experience, that implicit to understanding is consciousness of the thing understood: that one must be conscious to comprehend. Consciousness has no objectivity, no quantitative means to understand itself. Consciousness understanding itself is a reflexive argument: in ?minding the gap? there lies a conflict of interest.

2.2 rhizomatic morphine

Artaud frequently described that he felt consciousness in his body. Probably the greatest instantiation of this occurs during the production and eventual cancellation of his 1947 radio play ?To have done with the Judgment of God?. At the time of production, Artaud was recently released from an asylum where he was treated with electro-shock and drug therapies for his schizophrenic condition. He wrote that his biological body had failed him, that his fragmented, non-linear and illusive thought patterns were the result of his inferior, ?useless organs? leading him to conclude, like Stelarc forty years later, that ?man is badly constructed? (1947).

Artaud sought a post-biological construction of the body organized around emotion and consciousness. Through his radio play he sought an unconsumable body, one that could escape the therapeutic attempts to reconfigure his schizoid self into a normative, consumable state. In the script for ?To have done with?.? and the many letters that follow it?s last minute cancellation, Artaud?s line of flight reaches an unprecedented trajectory, a transcendent pitch of embodiment. An orgasmic context emerged from his raw shocked electronic flesh, one penetrated by a script of purely sonic, often sublingual screams. This final iteration of the BwO was entirely unmapped of ?organic organization? as organs morphed into undecipherable screams: ?kre kre pek kre e pte? (1947) as anatomy dissolved into emotional affect (Thacker 1998), and consciousness was a hot morphine rhizome melding his ?Total Work? into a visceral stasis of pain and pitch; soaring to a state of Gnostic transcendence:

Artaud?s body no longer contained consciousness; he was a recursively writhing mobius where consciousness was body was emergent consciousness.

2.3 2.3 outside artaud

For Deleuze and Guattari (D&G), the BwO refers to the destratification of the individual subject, resulting in a concentration of local singularities. The BwO is a process of dismantling the organization of structures, hierarchies, and systems that control a given ?entity?. In the case of the individual self, making a BwO would involve taking apart the ego and its assumptions, liberating the components of the ego, like qualia, memory, and learned behavior/response from hegemonic, transcendent, top-down ?planes of organization?. According to D&G, when this destratification has taken place, the body is in a state of ?zero intensity? or stasis. From this condition, the ?plane of consistency?, singularities can begin to mingle according to their individual internal states, not habitual patterns of organization, and form new emergent structures, or ?lines of flight? (D&G 1983) for connectivity and consciousness.

If we take ?organs? to mean not just living soft sentient tissue, but like De Landa, to include systems of organization at all levels:

?The BwO is that glacial reality where the alluviums, sedimentations, coagulations, foldings, and recoilings that compose an organism?and also a signification and a subject
?occur.? De Landa (1997)

then D&G?s process of destratification becomes potentially a larger project, one where ?body? becomes ?body politic?, ?body of knowledge?, and consciousness becomes an amalgam of the subjective, objective and social qualia. As Tomsin Lorraine writes of D&G:

?On their view, all of life (which includes ?inanimate? as well as animate objects) is a ceaseless flux of singularities that become organized into various forms which could always have been otherwise.? Lorraine (1999)

3.0 The Dance of The Body w/o Organs

I have taken the philosophical process, the Body w/o Organs, as a methodology for the production of an artistic project that foregrounds personal transformation and collective connection. I am constructing an immersive, interactive multimedia simulation that places participants in the context of fragmented, anatomically correct but scrambled human body.

3.1 anatomical datasets

Through the courtesy of Dr. Hongwei Hsiao at the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health I have obtained high-resolution 3-D laser scans of my body, producing an accurate, detailed digital skin. These scans allow me to escape the generic, stereotypically perfect white bodies offered by commercial 3D programs like Poser (MetaCreations), and allows me to achieve a self-referential subjectivity necessary to this piece.

The Visible Human Project is a U.S. government project that sponsored the creation of a universal, standardized set of anatomical images of a ?normal? (nih 1990) male and female body. The project is funded by the U.S. National Institute of Health, and is collaboration between the National Library of Medicine and the Center for Human Simulation at the University of Colorado. High-resolution polygonal models of organs and systems are being produced. by isolating contours of particular organs using image processing algorithms, and 3D modeling programs.

3.12 Deterritorialized Subjective Qualia

A netart work has been constructed as a gatherer of qualia. Visitors to the website are presented with a series of anatomical images and ask to offer a textual, visual, or sonic response. Responses are then gathered by the server and placed back into the webpiece in a cumulative fashion. These gatherings will form the collective database of unbound qualia that will subsequently become part of an immersive virtual environment.

The individual properties that construct the experience of a particular qualia, like sound, vision, motion, color, etc., will be separated out, unbound, or deterritorialized from one other and placed in parallel databases that are mapped to particular organs and locations within the virtual anatomical world. Qualia, a term common to discourses in Cognitive Psychology and Consciousness Studies, refers to the various properties of a given conscious experience, ?the way things seem to us at a particular moment?. (Dennett 1998). Thus any given instance of being could be said to be defined on a subjective level by a particular database, cluster or constellation of qualia. Deterritorializing, or unbinding qualia then, is a process of separating properties of a particular instance of being from each other and their temporality, so the properties remain, but the instance is no longer. Then the properties can be organized in other ways. Immersive, interactive technologies will be used to create the context for a philosophical process of bottom-up restratification of collected experiences of consciousness and embodiment that is partial, local, and relative to the nature of participation and the momentary state of the technologies employed, not my own authorial hierarchies of organization.

5.0 Toward Libratory Consciousness

Artistic process is no longer about the production of an artwork; the individual work of art is but a by-product of a much larger project, as in Artaud?s ?Total Work?. My Total Work is the result of my struggle to create a context for the emergence of a new condition of embodiment, consciousness, and being in the world. The interplay of technology and human consciousness forms my creative medium and gives me the context for this project. Through a palette of processes and raw materials of philosophy, science, and technology, libratory lines of flight potentially emerge into conscious experience. The creative process is a living process, a process of destruction, stasis, emergence, and transformation. It instructs me in the process of the reconstruction of a new relationship between embodiment and lived experience,of being ?bodily?. In this project I am reclaiming a contingent notion of self that transcends my previously held fear that to be embodied was to reside with the enemy: the executioners, oppressors, and purveyors of colonialism and genocide. This creative process places mind, knowledge, and art at the service of emergence and liberation.

The Dance of The Body without Organs 7.4 of 10 on the basis of 2618 Review.