Note: The contribution by Suely Rolnik took place in an online video call. She addressed the politics of desire and how the uncanny sense of fragility and unease is central to the ability to delineate from the repetition of always the same cultural references. The following text is a transcription from her contribution at The Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, Ljubljana on 13 December 2014, which was part of a two-day seminar on Subjectivisation.
This experience I call it aesthetical, relational experience. Why aesthetical? Because I am taking out aesthetics from sensible experience, and I put in the aesthetics as a force experience, the living being experience. This other kind of experience is always there, if you want or if you don’t want, it is always there, and it makes a kind of tension with our sensible, psychological, cultural experience. And the relation, and what is very important about that, is that this experience, percaptions of the effect is a new way of being and feeling is a consequence of the world in our body, which is not a metaphor. It is totally real, and this is the real. The effect of the world as a living being in our body – or you can say, the fact of otherness in our body – is the real, and it is there. And we can also make a link between this experience and the concept of → common, because a lot of shit has been said about common. The common for me is the present, the real presence of the world, the real effect of the world in our body, the world inhabits our body. And so, this tension, the relation between this experience and the sensible, psychological, cultural experience is a relation of tension, and it is a paradoxical relation. It is not a dialectical relation, because one experience is not the opposite of the other experience, the negative of the other experience. It is a total other logic of experience. And this tension is very very very important because this tension produces our subjectivity. Because we are → the subject and at the same time we are a living being, we are this aesthetical relational experience, and the paradox of this tension produces a kind of unease in our subjectivity, a kind of disquietude, strangeness. Because all the sensible-psychological-cultural experience is totally familiar for us. But this other kind of experience of the world is not familiar, is what brings a strangeness, and this convolved desire, this tension convolves our desires in order to construct a new equilibrium, because this kind of tension put us in a kind of → fragility, in a kind of unease because something doesn’t make sense anymore. And the work of desire, the task of desire is to construct something in order to → reconstruct an equilibrium, ephemeral equilibrium. And both experiences are there all the time. And then, in this point, the question for me is exactly about the politics of desire in relation to this tension, because this tension produces a kind of question mark. And we become a kind of question mark, we become this problem, and we must find something in order to re-accommodate sense. If desire tries to construct something in order to perform this question mark, this new way of seeing and feeling, if you create something (a work of art, or a mode of existence, a text or a poetic text or a theoretical text, all kind of things) if you invent something in order to perform, to make sensible this new wave of seeing and feeling, and when it makes it sensible in something, it begins to belong to the actual cartography, cultural cartography, and it produces a different displacement in the actual, current cultural cartography. It produces change. But this is one kind of politics of desire, and politics of thoughts, of thinking, when thinking is creating (it’s not explaining, it’s creating). So, but there are other politics of desire involved in this tension, involved in this experience of → fragility, which is a very important experience this fragility. If our capacity to deal with the world as living beings is under repression, is suppressed, is suffocated, if it is not activated, when we are in this fragility and we do something in order to re-accommodate and to make sense and to bring a new equilibrium, we only have our cultural references in order to build, to construct something. So our movement is action, it will be an action of → repetition, if you only re-accommodate what we have already, the subject we have already, in order to produce this new equilibrium. And all this experience of otherness of the world, which is inhabiting our body is totally sterile, it doesn’t allow us to invent anything. And for me, what is very important, why it is totally political the question of subjectivity, is because modern Western culture is, from a micro-political point of view, subjectivity is totally reduced to→ the subject. And all our capacity of body-wise is totally deactivated and this makes a real problem because, first of all, the world that exists in our body does not produce anything but this is not a worse thing, it is totally sterile. The fact is what it is worse in this kind of micropolitical, is that we are totally submitted to the cultural references, the actual cultural references. So, we are totally submitted to ideology, we are totally submitted to anyway, we are totally consumers because we must consume something that is always there, in order to recreate an equilibrium. For instance, if I am a woman and I am in this fragile state and I don’t have my body-wise in order to situate what is going on… So for instance, if I am a woman and I am in this fragile state when a new way of seeing and feeling is always there, the way I am a woman, the way I behave as a woman, the figure of the woman through which I live does not make sense anymore, this fragility I will always if I don’t have my body-wise, I will always attempt to interpret it as something negative, as inferiority, an incapacity to be desired, or something that I am not so beautiful, I am not so desirable I don’t know what, and I consume a lot of cosmetics, I consume a lot of dresses and things, that I imagine that are good things, the prestigious way so impressing etcetera and I consume all that in order to recreate my image. This is one example.
If I am an intellectual and I am in this strangeness, in this uncanny... because I am at the same time at the familiar and in the strangeness, this is the concept of uncanny – etrange familié en Francais – if I am in this state and I am an intellectual and I feel that needs and I don’t have my body-wise which is the 99% of the cases of Western intellectuals, academics intellectuals, what I will do? I will choose an author if I am very shit, I will choose Deleuze in order to recompose a sense. But through the Deleuze discourse as a rhetoric. Not as something that can help me to elaborate on what is going on and to create something. And also, because this suppression of body-wise there is another problem, it is that all the psychiatry feeds itself with that, because when we are in this kind of fragile state (when we don’t have body-wise activated) we immediately interpret it as a disease, as a mental disease, psychological → pathology and then all the pharmacology industry feeds itself with that also. So I even heard in Brazil psychiatrist at a conference said that artists are bipolar because when the artist is going, this moment when you find something (an image or a word) to perform this question mark, to perform this new wave of seeing and feeling in our cultural cartography, it’s a kind of total joy and then, when it is finished, there’s a moment of total silence, a kind of void but it is not a void, something new is coming. But the psychiatrists they interpret this as mania and depression. And it is totally stupid, but it’s not only stupid, but it’s also much worse than that, it’s grave. Because from a micro-political point of view, as I said at the beginning, this suppression of body-wise is the main characteristic of modern Western culture. So this is the main characteristic of a kind of politics of thinking which I call “anthropophalloegocentric”, so anthropocentric, phallocentric, logocentric, egocentric. This is → the subject, the modern subject. From a micro-political point of view if we don’t work subjectivity in order to reactivate body-wise – thank you, Lisette, I love this word – we are just repeating the same logic, the same principles of Western modern culture that means capitalist, colonial, bourgeois etcetera and the logocentric thinking. So, it’s the main main main main question to the work to reactivate body-wise but it’s not only that. To reactivate body-wise, to develop a subjective capacity to deal with this unease, with those moments of fragility, because the most important experience we have is the experience of uncanny because this experience is what unleashes the transformation of reality, the creation of ways to change what not make sense anymore to reality. And if we only do (from a political point of view) with macro-politics we only resist against social justice (or economical justice etcetera). Necessarily we will build something that just repeat the same logic. That’s it. For me, subjectivity is a major issue because if you don’t develop this body-wise today and the capacity to habit this unease and this fragility instead of interpreting something you feel negative, we will always rebuild the same bullshit! And I think that the fantastic revolution that we had in the 20th century, that only dealt with civil rights and social injustice, it was fantastic but the legacy they left to us which is very important is to discover that now we must develop a micro-political intelligence, in order to → discontinue from that point of view. That’s all!