Type
Essay
Category
Mental health
Philosophy
Surrealism

President Oedipus, or the democratisation of schizophrenia

Edith, please don’t call it that anymore. Accelerationism has stopped being the focus of the group. He’s in a group-chat right now, he messages, where they’re organising a new name for the meetings. Witch-House Social Club is winning. Accelerationism’s not an okay thing to believe. The Metro cancelled us. (Their cancellation took form in an article, published 18 March, carrying the title: What is ‘Accelerationism’, the belief followed by the New Zealand terror attacker?) We’re just a club for people who like witch-house.

I asked to sit in after I got to Melbourne, arriving tonight. Tomorrow’s meeting will be called Monstrous Protagonism: Grimes, Synth-Pop, and the Sympathetic Apocalypse. There’s a long epigraph and a short abstract. We stop talking, anyway, because the truck’s pulling to a gas station and my friend or the guy driving, the guy buying the house I’m on my way to with my favourite lamp and my favourite pillows all loaded in the mover, is asking, Edith, if you could get food from the McDonald’s. He’ll do the diesel. He gives me his card. He tells me his pin.

Gas stations are the most plausible, believable structures in the world. That gas stations were bound to exist, thereby have always existed, is intuitive. City or country or carved into the cliffside of a tumbling, Alpine ravine, they don’t change. Like dreams, beds change but the universe of the dream returns the same inchoateness, same recognition whenever the dreamer’s re-arrived at the same pattern of every pattern’s edge. Like dreams, like the opposite of dreams, irreducible opposed to unsurpassable, which aren’t different.

I bring the food and climb back to the passenger-seat. You seem kind of wiped, says the driver. It’s too easy to dissociate at interim ports like this place. Place, space. Place is fine, I mutter out loud, then struggle and say nothing. Struggle. And say: It’s like drinking a Coke with your eyes.

The driver nods, all like I suppose it is.

. . . 

Sometimes I arrive halfway through a conversation and have to think, yeah, if I’d arrived for the start of all of this nothing would’ve made sense, thank God I came late.

. . . 

I want to set up some premises that will make the aesthetic devices to come a bit more plausible. So, to set up, on the topics of machinery-as-capital and capital-as-reproductive life:

It is said [write Deleuze and Guattari] that machines do not reproduce themselves, or that they only reproduce themselves through the intermediary of man, but does anyone say that the red clover has no reproductive system because the bumble bee (and the bumble bee only) must aid and abet it before it can reproduce? No-one. The bumble bee is a part of the reproductive system of the clover. Each one of ourselves has sprung from minute animalcules whose entity was entirely distinct from our own . . . These creatures are part of our reproductive system; then why not we part of that of the machines?

Our worldviews reply in two stages: First, we have to invest capital with vitality, that’s easy enough, but then we get the chance to either (a) divest any ethical quantum from vitality-in-itself or (b) let the instinctive ethical quantum, the agency, we assign to human bio-systems/organs follow with the investment of vitality – we get the chance to invest subjective agency as a property of capital-in-itself, i.e. of unconscious machinery. Don’t try to resolve either way. Let’s have the tension.

Riding a bike past the Berlin Zoo, Michael Taussig – a fictocritic whose work, despite no self-citation as such, is schizoanalytic in method – finds his own way to this same dilemma of machine-reproduction, reflecting on the ‘wonderful beasts’ there, at the zoo, asking, ‘Do they distinguish between animals and things?’ Between Taussig and the bike he’s riding? He turns this reflection to: ‘We are unified, this machine and I, like the Incan Indians in the Andes of South America were supposed to think of the Spaniards mounted on their horses not as a man on a horse but as a man-horse,’ and, ‘So where does the bike bit end and the human bit begin?’

Reading that, I was at once reminded of something I read in 2015, a brief passage from a 1904 journal called Native Tribes of South-East Australia:

When on the Cooper’s Creek waters in 1862, searching for the explorers Burke and Wills, I was frequently saluted by blacks when within hearing distance with the words Pirri-wirri-kutchi, which may be rendered as ‘wandering ghost’. Even now the word Kutchi is used by the Dieri for any of the strange paraphernalia of the whites, for instance, even a dray and team of bullocks has been so called.

What struck was this instance of the word Kutchi, ghost, as instantiating for the colonial force, not only as the humans, the bumble bees of the operation, but the armada of invasive vitalities, the ghostly machine-system of which the white bodies were only a shameful part. There was, of course, a material premise to the deranged, perverse libido of European colonialism, that is, a vitalist premise, borne from the evolving constitution of the machines, the capital, whose destiny was to inaugurate capitalism. The clover-field wants to grow and, stupidly, the bees obey. They struggle to match its potential. New drones are deployed beyond the familiar harbours. Other, unwilling bees are enlisted, enslaved to the expansion of the capital-as-human/human-as-capital ghostly hybrid, the cyborg leviathan of capitalist colonialism. Of Kutchi. Meaning Ghost.

. . . 

Why not read schizoanalysis as what sociology becomes, all by itself, after bodies are distinguished from their organs? That question will come up again, before long. Schizoanalysis, wrote Guattari in 1992, was in crisis. He called it a crisis of under-modelisation. In Chaosmosis, published shortly before Guattari’s death, he prescribes a narrow, exact process for schizoanalysis. He defends schizoanalysis from a critical ‘crisis’ and, by that defence, tries to reconstitute what schizoanalysis is. Literally, the rescue he makes is a rescue from Deleuzeanism. In 1974, Deleuze wrote (278, 1974):

There are words that Felix and I now feel it urgent not to use: ‘schizo-analysis’, ‘desiring-machine’ – it’s awful, if we use them, we’re caught in the trap. We don’t know very well what they mean, we no longer believe in the words; when we use a word, we want to say, if this word doesn’t agree with you, find another, there’s always a way. Words are totally interchangeable.

It does, of course, turn out that Deleuze was premature in writing ‘Felix and I’. In Chaosmosis, to diagnose the crisis of schizoanalysis, Guattari writes that ‘individual and collective subjectivity lack modelisation’ (1992). At this point, one would not expect a turn toward de-modelisation or, at least, would not expect a reconstruction of metamodelisation as a mysticism. Yet, after all this talk, he steadies his resolve, and leaves well enough alone. He does not change anything about schizoanalysis’ trajectory, if but to narrow it a little. He writes that schizoanalysis should always 1. ‘mystify’, 2. ‘enchant’, 3. ‘poetise.’ And if schizoanalysis does not, it is done wrongly. Sadly, the art critic and psychotherapist are split: Felix doesn’t feel the same urgency; he still wants to use the words. What’s more, precisely, prescriptively, he wants to protect schizonanalysis’ special type of escape, i.e. what Deleuze calls ‘the schizophrenic escape’. What work are we doing, then, in an ex-Deleuzean paradigm, when we are not obeying Guattari’s trinity of obfuscations, and are using the discursive toolboxes of Anti-Oedipus to modelise, even metamodelise, along trajectories that are not mystifying, not enchanting, not poetic? What, if it’s not schizoanalysis anymore? Again, Deleuze: ‘We have been criticized for using the word schizo-analysis, for confusing the schizophrenic and the revolutionary. And yet we were extremely careful to distinguish them.’ His sense of ‘we’ is, again, not the same as Guattari’s. At schizoanalysis’ moment of crisis, initiated by that crisis’ diagnosis and prescription, art and art theory starts to, in a phrase, weird out. Guattari does marry the two, the schizophrenic, the revolutionary. Those who agree, obey the Guattarian trinity: Laboria Cuboniks’ xenofeminist aesthetics follow Anti-Oedipus’ line –

Desiring-machines or the nonhuman sex: not one or even two sexes, but n sexes. Schizoanalysis is the variable analysis of the n sexes in a subject, beyond the anthropomorphic representation that society imposes on this subject … The schizoanalytic slogan of the desiring-revolution will be first of all: to each its own sexes

– with Cuboniks’ slogan: ‘let a hundred sexes bloom’. Accelerationists accept the Guattarian trinity, too – the prescription of schizophrenia as revolutionary – but they divide to the right and left, to pro- and anti-revolutionary. This line from Anti-Oedipus is now famous (239–40):

… perhaps the flows are not yet deterritorialized enough, not decoded enough, from the viewpoint of a theory and a practice of a highly schizophrenic character. Not to withdraw from the process, but to go further, to ‘accelerate the process’, as Nietzsche put it: in this matter, the truth is that we haven’t seen anything yet.

These influences, i.e. of Schiz into xenofeminism and accelerationism, trace also into our home-brew cyberfeminism, as well as into the preservation of conventional metafiction. Whereas others aver. For some, at this moment of crisis, the necessary intervention was a redemption of the schizotypal in artistic practice; a reassignment toward Problem Resolution, that is to say, toward emotional/phenomenal realism and away from ontological extremism, i.e. away from mysticism. Fictocriticism and auto-theory stand with the sober faction of interventions of this type, cybernetics with the psychedelic. To the first example, Anna Gibbs – whose research entails fictocriticism and xenofeminism – assigns the following:

… the heterogeneity of fictocritical forms bears witness to the existence of fictocriticism as a necessarily performative mode, an always singular and entirely tactical response to a particular set of problems – a very precise and local intervention, in other words …

And:

… The fictocritical act is, strictly speaking, inimitable. For this reason fictocriticism is also a writing which must furnish its own code either as model or anti-model as it undertakes its own critique, provides its own process of self-reflection, and works at the same time to make an active intervention into a field of argument.

Returning: Why not read schizoanalysis as what sociology becomes, all by itself, after the body is distinguished from its organs? There are good reasons why we should not – one is that it’s closer to what psychoanalysis becomes after said distinction, as in, psychoanalysis becomes a sociology by overflowing the discrete charge of conscious subjectivity – but the better reason is that, despite intents, it’s really what schizoanalysis has failed to become. In fact, using Deleuze’s assurance: ‘words are totally interchangeable’, Anti-Oedipus’ operation on the body-without-organs (by accident, a sociological operation) looks to have been succeeded in name by fictocriticism and comparable methods, e.g. the emerging auto-theory and the cyberphilosophy of the CCRU under Sadie Plant and the earliest period under Nick Land. We may oppose the philosophical tendencies of the two, Sadie Plant having written: ‘To jack into cyberspace is not to penetrate, but to be invaded,’ where Nick Land has struck an expeditious note with:

Far from being a specifiable defect of human central nervous system functioning, schizophrenia is the convergent motor of cyberpositive escalation: an extraterritorial vastness to be discovered. Although such discovery occurs under conditions that might be to a considerable extent specificiable, whatever the progress in mapping the genetic, biochemical, aetiological, socio-economic, etc. ‘bases’ of schizophrenia, it remains the case that conditions of reality are not reducible to conditions of encounter. This is ‘the dazzling dark truth that shelters in delirium’ [quoting Anti-Oedipus]. Schizophrenia would still be out there, whether or not our species had been blessed with the opportunity to travel to it.

And:

How do we swim out into the schizophrenic flows? How do we spread them? How do we dynamite the restrictive hydraulics of Oedipus?
        Oedipus is the final bastion of immuno-politics, and schizophrenia is its outside.

Land comes to appreciate Plant’s point, after some time: that you needn’t worry about how to make contact with the exterior, needn’t think about how to penetrate, or start any expedition. It has its own agency and will make its own contact. From its shelter in delirium, Kutchi has noticed you, and its invasion is imminent. For Land, this revelation must have tapped a critical vein, the terror it signalled for him. Not long after having written Critique of Transcendental Miserablism, in which Land’s name for Kutchi is ‘the Shoggoth-summoning regenerative anomalisation of fate, … the runaway becoming of such infinite plasticity that nature warps and dissolves before it … The Thing … Capitalism,’ Land would write The Dark Enlightenment, a tract advocating a return to monarchy, a 180-departure from and warning against thinking too much about Schiz, about what lurks beyond the Oedipal bastion.

Anyway, being tactical, local, and precise, as Anna Gibbs posits, these methods are not altogether the same as Anti-Oedipus’s exhortation: i.e. ‘Completing the process and not arresting it, not making it turn about in the void, not assigning it a goal …’ but they are more practical, get the same work done, and facilitate a more democratic access, in the sense that, by these interventional methods, which at least do ever arrive at a territorial result, the matter of the nomadic exterior, Schiz, may be brought home to the polity, to anyone other than the artist, as in, to that rare agent who operates from negative capability. As Anti-Oedipus concludes (382): ‘It therefore remains for us to see how, effectively, simultaneously, these various tasks of schizoanalysis proceed.’

In advance of the abstract for tomorrow’s meeting, Monstrous Protagonism: Grimes, Synth-Pop, and the Sympathetic Apocalypse, hosted by the Witch-House Social Club, an epigraph quotes the musical pop-artist known as Grimes:

My Instagram bio was: ‘I pledge allegiance to the robot overlords’ for, like, two years. I thought people understood that I ultimately probably believe in an AI dictatorship. I mean, I don’t think humanity is going to survive anyway. We’re fucked. I think AI is the natural evolution. It’s just like we killed the fucking Neanderthals, and now they’re going to kill us.1 I don’t think democracy really works. These are the kinds of things I think. I actually, for the short term, am a bit of a socialist, but not economically. I’m into free markets. What can I say? I think capitalism can solve some things.

When Grimes offers this, it’s as the rationale for her upcoming album, Miss Anthropocene, which she has called ‘an evil album about how great climate change is,’ and about which she has said: ‘I wanted to make climate change fun.’ We should read two snippets from her recent single, We Appreciate Power (2019), one potential inclusion in the upcoming album:

People like to say that we’re insane
But AI will reward us when it reigns
Pledge allegiance to the world’s most powerful computer
Simulation is the future

And:

Neanderthal to human being
Evolution, kill the gene
Biology is superficial
Intelligence is artificial
Submit
Submit
Submit
Submit
Submit
Submit
Submit
Submit

The furious abstract, on which Grimes’ thoughts acted as an epigraph, full of heart and continentalism – stylised as the screen-grab of a Discord forum, a device toward polyphony that actually elides it, what, when every individual is demarcated and who is or who is not speaking is always immediate – advances as such:

basically, starts Speaker 1, timestamp 5:54 pm, it’s psychocultural alchemy
you borrow anything from through this gap, turning anything into anything provided sufficient aesthetic deliberation/sufficient hocus pocus
i suppose, concludes Speaker 1 after a short silence, timestamp 5:58 pm, it’s what it deserves
you really can do that with culture
with meaning

no when you democratise schizophrenia/analysis, starts speaker 2, timestamp, 6:13 pm, all you get’s the re-election of oedipal centrality
see this with the history of the internet
schizophrenia manifests oedipus within/from itself, negentropically
the face of the exhumed unconscious of humankind is not delightful or free or even frightening: it’s Facebook, our elected sociotransactional Oedipus
the vertigo it offers, as with the dull surface-glow of any fascist’s eye, is too deep to conjure fear
too deep, timestamp 6:30 PM, too shallow
warhol talks about it too
block quote

Someone said[, Andy Warhol said,] that Brecht wanted everybody to think alike. I want everybody to think
alike. But Brecht wanted to do it through Communism, in a way. Russia is doing it under government. It’s
happening here all by itself without being under a strict government; so if it’s working without trying, why
can’t it work without being Communist? Everybody looks alike and acts alike, and we’re getting more and
more that way. I think everybody should be a machine. I think everybody should like everybody.                   
Is that[, asks Warhol’s interviewer,] what Pop Art is all about?                                     
AW: Yes. It’s liking things.                                                                                                      
And liking things is like being a machine?                                                                          
AW: Yes, because you do the same thing every time. You do it over and over again.

it’s beyond obvious to say that where d and g would’ve gripped their knees in panic, to see facebook become the face over the nothing, warhol would have smiled
were he alive to depict the space between deleuze’s death and the emergence of facebook, he would have spared us any delusion about whether oedipus ever left
even those nostalgic for the era, the early internet, try to tell us ‘what it was like’
to recount it as they would a lost kingdom
not an anti-oedipus, never an anti-oedipus to them, even they report their roles as contributors to a new oedipal emergence, as actors against entropy, negentropic actors within the schiz flow
this worldview is messianic – it depends, timestamp 6:54 pm, on the telos of a real, true king
‘if we trudge out across the schiz,’ timestamp 7:46 pm, still speaker 2, ‘rakes in hand, work together at random and in peace, a true harmonic order will emerge, robed in flowing, green, cgi code, to deliver us from all oedipuses forever’
i don’t know why they’re so mad, the ancient usenet people
their kingdom has come, timestamp 7:47 pm

. . . 

‘Dark world, growing desert: a solitary machine hums on the beach, an atomic factory installed in the desert.’ As such do Deleuze and Guattari outline the ‘expected clinical mould’ into which the schizophrenic slips after saying ‘everything there is to say’ about the ‘paucity of reality, the loss of reality, the lack of contact with life, autism and athymia’; the schizophrenic answers with a quick slip into the poetic mould of: ‘Dark world, growing desert: a solitary machine hums on the beach, an atomic factory installed in the desert,’ and beyond the comma it isn’t too much labour to resolve a metaphorical ‘solitary machine’ into a metaphorical ‘atomic factory’, but how do we resolve a beach into a desert? A site of departure, the tumbling, wet threshold of the schizophrenic exterior, that all at once becomes a desert, a setting whose protagonist is no longer solitary, no longer humming – and how much can be said about humming, what Michael Taussig has called ‘the happiness of the bodily unconscious or at least its idling modality’? (39) – no longer solitary or humming, but installed, now all too unalone, now capital, far from idle, its machinic roar nothing like any ‘happiness of the bodily unconscious’. What at all about this mould, in the 70s anyway, was clinically expected? For the schizophrenic to embody a solitary i.e. bodiless desiring-machine – fine, more or less expected – but then to transmute this embodiment to that of an altogether neurotic producing-machine? And why the blue curtains, the scene-setting: ‘Dark world, growing desert …’? The irony, of course, is that a factory should sit in the desert, disconnected from any socius it could expect to energise; and that a mindless machine should hum at the cusp of the exterior, the cusp of the laid-open and laid-bare, the fragile unconscious of the schizophrenic it embodies. Reality’s loss initiates a voyage out to a drowning sea or an expedition in to an unrewarding desert – two exteriors – and either course ends with the schizophrenic stranded, with no means to extricate themselves, too idle (solitary machine), too paranoid (atomic factory). For Deleuze and Guattari, to clarify, this desert has been the Body without Organs. Their schizo – not their schizophrenic, as such – glides over this desert, which is (also, always) a thin threshold between worlds, ‘in order to be everywhere something real is produced, everywhere something real has been and will be produced’.

The schizo [they write] has no principles: he is something only by being something else. He is Mahood only by being Worm, and Worm only by being Jones. He is a girl only by being an old man who is miming or simulating the girl. Or rather, by being someone who is simulating an old man simulating a girl. Or rather, by simulating someone . . . , etc. This was already true of the completely oriental art of the Roman Emperors, the twelve paranoiacs of Suetonius.

Suetonius’ twelve paranoiacs are, naturally, Julius Caesar and the eleven emperors to follow, who in name alone account for the Schiz dilemma, the Twelve Caesars, that is, Caesar, then the emperors who would take that name for themselves. First, in fact, as their own names. Later, as an address and title. We know how the Schizo feels and, too, how the post-Caesar Caesars felt. Take the following reflection on late-capitalist constructions of identity and ask if it connects:

Waluigi is the ultimate example of the individual shaped by the signifier. Waluigi is a man seen only in mirror images; lost in a hall of mirrors he is a reflection of a reflection of a reflection. You start with Mario – the wholesome all Italian plumbing superman, you reflect him to create Luigi – the same thing but slightly less. You invert Mario to create Wario – Mario turned septic and libertarian – then you reflect the inversion in the reflection: you create a being who can only exist in reference to others. Waluigi is the true nowhere man, without the other characters he reflects, inverts and parodies he has no reason to exist. Waluigi’s identity only comes from what and who he isn’t – without a wider frame of reference he is nothing. He is not his own man. In a world where our identities are shaped by our warped relationships to brands and commerce we are all Waluigi.

Dark world, growing desert: A solitary machine hums on the beach, a paranoiac installed in the Body without Organs, a Gamecube character-skin modded to be playable on an N64 Emulator, Waluigi riding the N64 Rainbow Road. Every time you load his skin it glitches. You drive right through the star fence, off the edge, and don’t fall, don’t get to die, don’t get to re-spawn.
           You have to reboot to start another match.

Three rolling dots in a wave, light behind the text-bubbles striking in the bright, highway heat like lens-flare off a faraway, alien sun, red but polarised pink, filigreeing the visor of an astronaut’s EMU, my friend messages: read the abstract or read the abstract.
           Online grammar leaves me with no way of knowing if he’s asking me, ordering me, or confessing to me.
           And no way of knowing if it makes any difference.

 

 

1 Grimes appears to credit a thought-experiment called Roko’s Basilisk. The film clip for the 2015 song Flesh Without Blood/Life in the Vivid Dream, directed by Grimes herself, includes four characters whose narratives are given through abstract montage, one of whom is called Roccoco Basilisk. Grimes summarises the character as such: ‘I don’t know if you’ve heard of Roko’s Basilisk. She’s doomed to be eternally tortured by an Artificial Intelligence, but she’s also kind of like Marie Antoinette.’ Roko’s Basilisk, named after the LessWrong user-tag of the thought-experiment’s creator, can be roughly outlined as follows:
          Supposing the inevitable existence of artificial super-intelligences, and supposing at least one AI might subscribe to a consequentialist ethics, and supposing, lastly, that this AI could produce an algorithm to calculate all events preceding it, a means of reconstructing/reanimating corpses, or of simply re-simulating deceased consciousnesses, then this AI would be able to determine who, in the past – that is, our present – had or had not foreseen its eventuality. It would also be able to determine who, in its past/our present, was/is aware of its gaze, of its present witness on/active presence within its own past. It is watching you, it is judging you, and, by its own consequentialist ethics – if you can imagine (you now can) that it might torture or punish you for doing anything short of everything within your power to accelerate its existence, it being the saviour of the cosmos, the ethical machine that will maximise peace and joy – it is organising your eternal torment, unless you enslave yourself to it and devote yourself to its creation. Kutchi
           This, she gives every indication, is something Grimes believes in.

 

 

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Edith Lyre is an MPhil Researcher at the University of Adelaide. A founding member of the Adelaide Uni Writers’ Group and editor of its associated magazine, Hum, she elects the literary arts as her vehicle to convey the forgotten and the unforeseen – that is to say, the repressed and the negotiably real.

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