Dee Glazer

Artists Without Organs

  • Mar


    Posted In: Writings

    Dee Glazer


    Artists Without Organs

    Can the process of art making allow one to gain access to the Real, or at least, brush up against it? I will be focusing on Slavoj Zizek?s reformulation of Jaques Lacan?s conception of the Real, as well as Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari?s concept of the body without organs. The focus of this paper will be to explore the possibility that in the artistic process, one can be in a position to access the Real. That the artist in the act of making could be in a position where he could reach from the Real, i.e. interact with it, and have it flow through him. Let us begin this process of exploration by exemplifying some key terms.

    According to Lacan, the Real can be understood as undifferentiated materiality. It is that which lurks beneath the symbolic realm, i.e. beneath the realm of our perceptions and processes of signification, such as language. In Zizek?s reframing of Lacan, the real is expressed as a ?starting point.?[1] Which is to say that it is what exists before the processes of signification and symbolization. Furthermore, ?nothing is lacking in the Real?it is a signifier which introduces a void, an absence in the Real. But at the same time the Real is in itself a hole, a gap, an opening in the middle of the symbolic order ? it is the lack around which the symbolic order is structured.?[2] 

    In other words, the Lacanian Real is that which exists underneath our perceptions, significations, and conceptions of reality that we experience in our every day lives. Our phenomenal world is built around it, yet our perceptions cannot access it. Everything exists within it, i.e. everything finds its origin from it, yet it itself represents a lack, a void that cannot be adequately grasped or described in its representation. The most rudimentary example that Zizek provides is the experience where one cannot express what they really mean (Zizek, 2008:198). This experience represents a fundamental lack.There is something beyond the ability of language, beyond the systems that subjects use to experience, act, and exist in the world. And this failure of representation, or of signification, represents the void of the Real (as well as the inner lack found within the subject).  We will return to the idea of representing the Real later.

    For now, let us turn to Deleuze and Guattari?s brainchild[3] of the body without organs. They describe the body without organs a smooth and slippery surface where waves of intensities interact. These intensities, or flows, can freely connect and disconnect according to their own chaotic nature. The term is taken from the writings of Antonin Artaud. As he states, ?No mouth. No tongue. No teeth. No larynx. No esophagus. No belly. No anus.? And as Deleuze continues, ?It is a whole nonorganic life, for the organism is not life, it is what imprisons life. The body is completely living, and yet nonorganic.?[4] The organization of organs is the redirecting of these flows of intensities that exist on the smooth and slippery organless surface. To put it simply, to be organless in this sense is to be unorgan-ized. Thus, it is not the absence of organs but the absence of an organ-ized structure of them.

    For example, the construction of a system, such as a system of language or representation, would be the redirecting and reorgan-ization of these intensive sensations that underlie our perceptive realities. Which, according to Deleuze and Guattari, imprisons the life of the body; imprisons the flowy, wet, and meaty sensational movements and possible connections. Thus, flows would be channeled in this way or that, rather than moving, connecting, and spewing on their own accord. Like the formulation of a subject in society, we learn where and when to shit and eat. So just as our possible actions become redirected and dictated by the social organism, this process of mapping, i.e. territorialization, inhibits our perceptive and expressive potentials. So the question becomes whether we can disorgan-ize ourselves to such a state where we can connect, chew, and spew on our own fleshy accord.

    Like the Lacanian Real, the BwO is that which exists underneath the organ-ized structures, i.e. beneath the territorialized. The BwO is raw, intensive, materiality. A sort of fleshy meatiness that can be shaped in this way or that. As Deleuze and Guattari state,

    The BwO is the egg. But the egg is not regressive; on the contrary, it is perfectly contemporary, you always carry it with you as your own milieu of experimentation, your associated milieu. The egg is the milieu of pure intensity?the egg always designates this intensive reality, which is not undifferentiated, but is where things and organs are distinguished solely by gradients, migrations, zones of proximity.[5]

    The egg represents a potential of becoming or of formation.[6] A pocket-sized world inhabited only by intensities. This is the body without organs, yet it cannot fit in your pocket. For were you to become a BwO, you would no longer have pockets per se, because you would no longer have the proper organ-ization necessary for pants. That is, the buttocks and anus you once knew to inhabit your pants are now one in the same hole where you eat and shit from. ?Instead of a mouth and an anus to get out of order why not have one all-purpose hole to eat and eliminate.?[7] It is the body disorgan-ized, where forms are ephemeral yet accessible.

    The BwO is the area of potentials, of fluid sensations that allow for the formulation of our experiential realities.  It is the substratum, the fluid slippery under belly. The egg before the growth of the strata. The egg that if cracked open would reveal only its gooey potential. The wet, slippery, meaty, organless body. Lying flat, bare-assed on the plane of immanence, waiting for the worms to come. To come and organ-ize, disorgan-ize, and reorgan-ize it according to the potentials at hand.

    Yet this does not need to paint an ugly picture. Being able to shit and eat out of the same hole is in fact a positive, and far more practical, characteristic; so do not worry if you experience these side effects in becoming a body without organs.[8]  Let us focus now on the artistic process as a way to access this wet underbelly of the Real as conceived of as the BwO.

    Deleuze claims that it is a mistake to think that the artist works from a white surface. But rather, all the information already exists upon it before the artist begins (Deleuze, 2002: 71). Like the flows existing upon the BwO, the intensive gradients exist on this surface, and like the Lacanian Real, it is both a full and empty void. As Deleuze states,

    It is like the emergence of another world. For these marks, these traits, are irrational, involuntary, accidental, free, random. They are nonrepresentative, nonillustrative, nonnarritave. They are no longer traits of sensation, but of confused sensations?It is as if the hand assumed an independence, and began to be guided by other forces, making marks that no longer depend on either our will or our sight.[9]

    The act of painting, or more broadly the process of art making, exposes the possibility of existing in a state defined solely by sensations. When making, one can enter a situation where they simply flow. Ideas, feelings, information and so on are not being pulled solely from signified, symbolized, or territorialized material. But there is something raw at work in the process. Something meaty and confused. The meat that causes the hunger of the artist to make.

    A certain phenomenal state of existence is made possible by the act of making. It is like the painter inside the egg, where existence mimics that of the BwO. The act allows for a sort of free association, a sort of assembling and disassembling which surpasses that allotted by systems of signification. Deleuze describes the BwO as an area where ?sex organs sprout anywhere,?[10] since forms themselves exist in a fluid and unfixed state.  Art making is an act that can allow for the possibility of a similar experience.[11] In painting, forms grow in the act of applying paint to the surface. It is a sort of germination before static formation. The artist can exist in a state where he just makes, moves, acts. Where he simply creates. And in this state of creation he can exist on the periphery. Dancing between the boundaries of the Real and the symbolic. But not in a fantastic or imaginary sense. Rather, in a way that is phenomenally real and sensationally phenomenal.

    It is important to emphasize that the focus must be on the act, i.e. the process of the artist. For as brushed upon earlier, it is not possible to successfully represent -or in this case mimic- the Real, the representation will always be lacking and result in failure. As Zizek explains,

    The sublime object is an object which cannot be approached too closely: if we get too near it, it loses its sublime features and becomes an ordinary vulgar object ? it can persist only in an interspace, in an intermediate state, viewed from a certain perspective, half-seen. If we want to see it in the light of day, it changes into an everyday object, it dissipates itself, precisely because in itself it is nothing at all.[12]

    Think of the sublime object mentioned here as the flows existing upon the BwO. Upon approaching them too closely or directly, the fluid intensities are solidified. They become directed, hardened, channeled and territorialized into concrete processes rather than malleable variations. As a result the process of art making must not be mistaken with representing the Real itself. That is, representing the forces of the BwO. For one does not gain access to the Real by depicting it, but rather by interacting with its forces.

    Thus it is the process of art making that I want us to focus on rather than the product of art making. The act itself could gain access to the flows of the BwO. But once directed, once approached too closely, the BwO ? understood as the Real - dissipates and the sensations are no longer sensational and sublime, but mere marks on a canvas. Marks that act as a piece of evidence, a monument, to the life forces that were expended and that have now retracted.  A monument to the lack, or the failure, of the process of representation.

                But if the processes of representation were always lacking, would not the artistic process itself also represent a failed attempt? Not necessarily. For although the Real is this impossibility of representation or inscription, this impossibility, or this necessary lack, is a positive condition of its existence (Zizek, 2008: 195). The failure itself is an adequate representation of the existence of the Real. A change in perspective, a shift of focus from product to process, exemplifies how the BwO, understood as the Real, is a positive model for artists.

    The organless artist is the artist who opens himself up to the possible flows of creation. Where he is cracked open, exposed to the moist underbelly of intensive zones and connections to play with. To allow the fluid, raw, meatiness to slither over, around, and through him. To connect, disconnect, and reconnect himself to odd and bizarre information and physical sensations. To penetrate, release and squeeze raw meat into intensified and formalized holes. To stay wet and fluid and to not dry up. To dance the dance of creation, the dance of reality. Like Dionysus in a drunken dance of creation and destruction. Erect with legs spread in ecstasy. The consent to let flows touch and tickle, chew and spew. To allow oneself to exist as a BwO, a smooth and slippery surface where connections take place without organ-ization.

    ?One must still have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star.?[13] One must be like a body without organs to give birth to creations. To be like the body unorgan-ized, so that one can throw off their organs and dance. To be unorgan-ized is to be open, to lay spread-eagled waiting for possible fornications and permutations. To be rhizomatic and open to possible connections. This is the model I am proposing for the artist. The model of being open and wet. The model of being chaotic and unorgan-ized. The model of dancing on the boarder between Reality and systematization. The result of such a model is simply being more open to possible compositions and formations. Of hybridizations that would not be possible with the barrier of organ-ization, with the weight and expectation of having organs. The artist who acts like the body without organs is at bottom the artist who opens himself up to the act of creation in all of its weird formations.

    Like Nietzsche?s conception of the Dionysian artist, the free spirited being who dances to the beat of his own chaotic cosmos; the cosmos of the Real. The Real, which could also be understood as the natural or the earth, is fluid. It has no overarching structure other than the multiplicity that it is- the unifying characteristic is the fact that all the sporadic forces belong to the same entity.

    But what happens when the body of organs is used as a model for artists? It could be helpful here to reframe these thoughts through the gaze of Jean Baudrillard. The action is one of simulation - of simulating the processes of the Real. In being like a BwO we replicate the processes of the Real, and what?s more, we replicate them as we understand or conceive them to be. We simulate our own representations of the Real ? i.e. our flawed representations? and then these flawed representations are simulated, perpetuating the cycle of representation. So are these simulations foundationally flawed?

    Furthermore in our current media driven society, where we arguably live in a state of hyperreality, where the simulacra replaces the simulation, would our representation of the Real replace these simulacrum? That is, in simulating the processes of the Real itself, i.e. the processes of the BwO, in a realm of hyperreality where the Real is already replaced, what exactly are we simulating anymore? Have we entered a new realm of simulation? A new realm of hyperreality? And what does this imply for the artworks that result from these processes?

    And so what? Do these questions change anything for us in using the BwO as a model for creative processes? The makers still get to make, and the viewers still get to view. And at the end of the day, everyone (other than the ones driven mad by these processes of questioning) enjoys a nice scotch, a snack, and some reality TV programming.

    At bottom, the model is only a model and so should be treated accordingly. It is a model for action and of process, and perhaps one to even live by. To be more open to possible connections, to be a bit more unorgan-ized. To flow and to not over evaluate. Where the artist can pull from the raw meatiness of the organless Real and cook up some raw meaty art. 












    Baudrillard, Jean. ?Simulations.? Continental Aesthetics: Romanticism to Post Modernism. Ed. Richard Kearney. Ed. David Rasmussen. MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2001. Print.

    Baudrillard, Jean. ?The Hyper-realism of Simulation.? Art in Theory: 1900-2000, An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Ed. Charles Harrison. Ed. Paul Wood. MA: Blacwell Publishing Ltd, 2003. Print.

    Borch-Jacobsen, Mikkel. Lacan: The Absolute Master. Trans. Douglas Brick. Stanford University Press, Stanford: 1991

    Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.

    Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: The Logic Of Sensation. University of Minnesota Press, 2002.

    Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. Anti Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Penguin, NY: 2009

    Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concept of Psycho-Analysis. Trans. Sheridan. W.W. Norton & Company, NY: 1978.

    Levine, Steven Z. Lacan Reframed. 2008.

    Zizek, Slavoj. Sublime Object of Ideology. Verso, NY: 2008

    Zizek, Slavoj. For They Know Not What They Do: Enjoyment as a political factor. Verso, NY: 2008

    Zizek, Slavoj. Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through popular Culture. MIT: 1992.

    Zizek, Slavoj. Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11 and related Dates (Radical Thinkers). 2002

    Zizek, Slavoj. ?Organs Without Bodies ? Gilles Deleuze? Pt. 1 ?The Reality of The Virtual.? Slavoj Zizek. <>

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    [1] Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology, p.191

    [2] ibid

    [3] Or perhaps the term brain-less child is more appropriate here?

    [4] Deleuze The Logic of Sensation p. 39-40.

    [5] Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, p. 190.

    [6] The metaphor is taken from Marcel Griaule?s conception of the Dogon egg.

    [7] Burroughs, Naked Lunch, p.9, New York: Grove Press, 1959

    [8] There is no guarantee that in reading this paper you will gain this ability.

    [9] Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, p82

    [10] ibid

    [11] Note, not all art making results in the spontaneous ?sprouting? of sex organs.

    [12] Zizek, The Sublime Object of Ideology, p. 192

    [13] Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, prologue 5, P25.