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17. Body without organs

Yi-Jinkyung, Professor

Seoul National University of Technology


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The body without organs is literally the body that doesn’t have any organ. Artaud’s word, which Deleuze often quotes as the reference for this concept, expresses vividly: “No mouth No tongue No teeth No larynx No esophagus No stomach No intestine No anus I shall reconstruct the man that I am.”(Logic of Sense(LS) 342) The word 'body without organs' appears for the first time in The Logic of Sense with this Artaud's sentence. Anti-Oedipus makes even clearer what this sentence aims at by quoting Artaud's other writing: “the body is the body/it is all by itself/and has no need of organs/the body is never an organism/organisms are the enemies of the body.”(AO 9) The body that has organism as enemy, that is the body without organs.

As you know, our bodies are organisms into which digestive organs and locomotive organs, etc. are united as one. Do you think there really exist such bodies as body without organs or body whose enemy is an organism? Of course, things like stone, soil, water, and jars have bodies without any organs. But such things are not what Artaud means to say. It should be a concept that presupposes organisms because its enemies are organisms. Which of the organisms doesn't have organs? That’s right, it’s the ‘egg’ or the fertilized egg. The body that doesn’t yet have any differenciated organ, namely, the organism that is the matter or matrix of all the future organs, is the egg. Therefore, it is said "the BwO is the egg.”(A Thousand of Plateaus(TP) 164).

Deleuze/Guattari also put a picture of an egg of the Dogon tribe of Africa at the opening of the 6th plateau of A Thousand Plateaus which deals with the body without organs. The fertilized egg is the body without organs in that it is a body before it is differenciated into organs. Folds being created on the surface of the fertilized egg, each part is differenciated into organs as recorded in the gene. Of course, it is differenciated in a variety of modalities depending on the conditions of genesis. Depending on the external conditions such amniotic fluid or mother's physical condition and the intensity of the encounter with those conditions, the creation of folds and the modality of differenciations vary.

As such, the reason it can be differenciated differently is that the gene has the determinability open to various actualities. Therefore, the fertilized egg means the virtuality in contrast with the body as the result of differenciation. It can be differenciated in different paths and so become different bodies because of its virtuality. Artaud's word "I shall reconstruct the man that I am" explicitly shows what is intended to be done with the body without organs. It is to reconstruct a body different from the actual body.

But you may ask back: How can one make a different body by 'undoing' the body which has already been differenciated into an organ? Right, it is very difficult. Therefore, one believes that one can't help but accept and live with the given body, that is, the current state of the body as an organism which is the result of differenciation. As if it's the fate ordained by God, and as if it's the judgment of God. That's why Deleuze/Guattari say Artaud's statement is a declaration of war to be done with the judgment of God(TP 158). It is to fight against the judgment that one should accept the organic unity of the body and against the fate as the organ given to each part of the body. Therefore, in this war, the enemy is not the organ but the organism. "We come to the gradual realization that the BwO is not at all the opposite of the organs....The enemy is the organism.”(TP 158)

To create the body without organs is to reconstruct the body which has already become the fixed organ of an organism into a different body by returning it back into the virtuality. However, this reconstruction is not just about changing the entire body shape into something very different, like plastic surgery or transformation robot of <Transformers>. For example, converting the mouth that operates as an ‘eating machine’ by connecting to the esophagus and interrupting and drawing off the flow of nutrients into the ‘speaking machine’ that operates by connecting to the vocal cords and interrupting and drawing off the flow of sound is also one of these reconstructions. The same goes for walking on arms or converting arms into weapons like swords. In order for the mouth or arm to change from the state of the current machine to another, it should deviate from the state of the current machine. And it needs to connect to a certain condition that enables it to operate as a different machine. To do that, it must go through a body state in which it is not any organ, but can become another organ: the body state where it is a ‘mouth’ as it is, but no longer an eating machine, and so can become a speaking machine, a kissing machine, etc.

This can be said in a slightly different way. For an arm to be converted into a sword, the intensity of the force distributed in the arm muscles must be changed. The same goes for the mouth. To divide this process into two stages, the first thing to be done is resetting the distribution of the intensity of the current arm or mouth to zero; the next will be to move the arm or mouth by making a different distribution of the intensity. All the conversions for the different uses of the body are to approach the state of 'intensity=0' state and then make a new distribution of intensity. All conversions from one action to another, for example, from writing to using chopsticks, and then to playing piano, in fact, pass through these two stages of conversion. The same is true of all 'becomings' such as the 'becoming-animal', which means converting one's body into an animal-like body. Deleuze/Guattari say the state of 'intensity=0' precisely corresponds to the body without organs. Creating the body without organs does not mean regressing to the organless state, that is, egg-like state, but going through the state of 'intensity=0' to change the state of the actual body.

The body without organs is opposed not only to the organism but also to the desiring machine. The desire to eat produces our bodies as eating machines, and the desire to play ping pong produces them as ping pong machines, No matter how good eating and playing ping pong are, one will get in trouble if one does only those things. Even before a desire to do something else rises, one might say ‘I want to stop doing this now!’ “Desiring-machines make us an organism; but at the very heart of this production, within the very production of this production, the body suffers from being organized in this way, from not having some other sort of organization, or no organization at all.”(AO 8)

Therefore, in opposition to the desire to produce the actual state of the body, a desire to stop that production is triggered. “The automata stop dead and set free the unorganized mass they once served to articulate.” For this reason, Deleuze/Guattari say the body without organs is 'antiproduction' on the opposite side of the production of the desiring machine. “The full body without organs is the unproductive, the sterile, the unengendered, the unconsumable.”(AO 8)

Being produced is coming into being of something. Antiproduction as the cessation of production, therefore, can be said to correspond to ‘death.’ That the mouth stops being the ‘eating machine’ may well be said to be the death of the eating machine. This kind of death is linked to Blanchot’s 'impersonal death'(DR 148; AO 330-331). Impersonal death is not the biological and personal death, but an event in which, for example, when a poem comes to a poet, 'someone' inside the poet dies. 'Someone' who has been called 'I' dies after all, and a poem is written by moving the body emptied and deterritorialized by that death. Impersonal death is the process of 'returning back' to the state of the body without organs. It can be said that someone corresponding to the poem that came to the poet is born in the body of intensity=0. As Artaud said, it can be said 'it reconstruct the man who I am.' In this regard, it is a "[death] neither present nor past but always coming, as the source of an incessant multiple adventure"(DR 112).

The impersonal death comes upon the poet without the desire for death. It's a 'passive death.' The death of the desiring machine is usually the case. The conversion of the eating machine into the speaking machine or sex machine is not owing to 'the desire for killing' the eating machine but a certain condition that occurred in or near the body. Conditions that make you want to speak, conditions that drive sexual desire, etc. Of course, there are times when you want to say 'enough!'

However, the concept of death or body without organs also changes as Deleuze's thought on the 'death instinct' changes. Although he does not accept Freud's concept as it is, he actively accepts and uses the concept itself in Difference and Repetition(DR 111-112). On the other hand, this concept disappears and is not seen in A Thousand Plateaus. In Anti-Oedipus in between the two, conflicting descriptions are seen. For this reason, the body without organs can be easily misunderstood as corresponding to the death instinct. Referring to Artaud's discovery at the opening of this book, he writes: "the death instinct: that is its name, and death is not without a model. For desire desires death also,”(AO 8) However, this is explicitly reversed in the latter part of the same book: death is not desired”(AO 329); there is no death instinct”(AO 332). And criticism of Freud’s concept of death instinct follows for long.

To understand this conflicting narrative, one must closely look at the second half of the book where they put forth their argument against Freud. There they speak of ‘the model of death’ and ‘the experience of death’ in contrast to the death instinct or the desire for death(AO 329-330). The model of death is the body without organs with intensity=0. “The body without organs is the model of death.”(AO 329) ‘The experience of death’ is an experience where one approaches the state of intensity=0, invests in it, and gets it restarted from it. Therefore, there’s no death instinct, but just eternal return in which beings proceed from the model of death to the experience of death, and starting out again, return from the model to the experience(AO 331). This is what schizophrenizing death is about.

It is said that one can’t experience his/her own death because everything‘s over once one dies. However, if you know that the death, here, is not a biological-personal death but the concept of impersonal death, the term ’the experience of death’ will not be difficult to understand(this concept is first seen in Difference and Repetition(DR 112)) As the experience of death with intensity=0 as its model can be repeated many times and is the condition for the birth of a new machine, the experience of death is rather “the parts of the desiring–machine”(AO 332).

If so, how do we understand the above-mentioned description of the death instinct? According to Deleuze/Guattari, ‘instinct’ is not the innate tendency but the product of the condition that determines the production and antiproduction of desire. In a society where the social codes such as status are firmly established, like primitive society or even autocratic society, the desiring machine must conform to those codes. In this case, the death instinct, or the desire for death, is weakened(AO 336). This is because one accepts the established status or rule as the unalterable ‘fate.’ On the contrary, in a capitalistic society, the social codes such as status are destructed(decoded), and so the producer who used to exist as an appendage of the land is separated from the land and deterritorialized. In this sense, capitalism is a decoded and deterritorialized social machine. This means that the desire is free from the social code or the obligation of cultivating the land. Marx described this as 'double freedom,' which, in fact, means one became a proletariat who lost one's survival condition. Now, one becomes to do anything, but one is thrown into a situation where one can't do anything. Therefore, one has to sell one's body to make a living. One has to go to the factory. Whenever one goes to the factory, one has to become the organ-machine, which the capitalist requires one to become. As the desire became free because there's no established code, anyone can resist such a requirement not accepting it as a fate. However, because one can't do what one wants to do without being hired, one can't be converted into another machine only with the desire itself. Therefore, that resistance leads to the desire to deny all the organs and to the desire for death. This is how the death instinct appears. In the decoded system of capitalism, death becomes an instinct, losing its relationship to the model or experience(AO 337)

In short, the death instinct is the product of the capitalist machine. If so, can it be said that, in capitalism, the death instinct has a kind of 'universality?' It wouldn't be the case. Of course, like fascism, there appears the desire that runs up toward death with an passion of disgust against the existing world, but this kind of phenomenon appears under a particular condition even in capitalism. So they don't use concepts like death instinct or death impulse even when talking about fascism and death in A Thousand Plateaus. “We are not invoking any kind of death drive. There are no internal drives in desire, only assemblages. ”(1, 241; TP 229 Instead, they distinguish three kinds of bodies without organs to account for the situation in which the desire rejecting the fate of an organism runs up not toward 'the experience of death' or impersonal death but toward destruction, physical death. Those three are empty body without organs, cancerous body without organs, and full body without organs(TP 163).

The empty body without organs is the body that erased its organs like the body of a drug addict. The cancerous body without organs is the suicidal body that leads the organism itself to death loathing the fate of becoming organs in the organism. This is even worse and more dangerous. In the social machine, fascism belongs to this. The full body without organs is the body in process that keeps constructing a new body by carefully experimenting toward various determinabilities. It is a creative and positive body that keeps creating a new machine by repeatedly passing through the state of intensity=0. To bother to link this to the concepts in Anti-Oedipus, the former two are the machinic forms of the death instinct, whereas the full body without organs is the repetitive conversion of the desiring machine in the eternal return of the death model and the experience of death.

The conflicting description of the death instinct, in fact, is related to two conflicting directions implicated in the concept of the body without organs. This is because the body without organs is positioned in between organism and pure virtuality, between the fate of being stratified and the sky of determinability that 'the plane of consistency' is. What's important here is not the exclusive choice between this and that. Rather, as is the case with the model and experience of death, important is the smooth coming and going between the two. The risk of negative repulsion against the organism or the destruction of organ is, in fact, more dangerous than the organism. "The worst that can happen is if you throw the strata into demented or suicidal collapse, which brings them back down on us heavier than ever. (...)Lodge yourself on a stratum, experiment with the opportunities it offers, find an advantageous place on it, find potential movements of deterritorialization.”(TP 161)

Therefore, it is necessary to take a distance with conceptualizing the desiring machine and the body without organs in the 'oppositive' relation between production and antiproduction. In other words, although the opposition is real, it should be said it is nothing more than a superficial one. It is because all desiring-machines are produced on the body without organs and the body without organs is the ‘resource’ of all the desiring-machines. “The BwO is desire; it is that which one desires and by which one desires.”(TP 165) However, it is not a retrogressive desire for going back to the state of the egg(1, 172), but a desire for repetitive transformation into a different machine through repetitive ‘experience of death.’

For this reason, saying the great book on the body without organs is Spinoza’s Ethica, in A Thousand Plateaus they link the body without organs with the ‘attribute,’ and the 'machine' with the ‘mode’(1, 161). The flow of matter that is converted into a variety of modes is exactly the attribute. Although the attribute differs from the mode in that it is not a single mode, it is not opposed to the mode. Likewise, although the body without organs differs from the machine in that it is not a particular machine, it can't be said to be opposed to the machine. Therefore, we have to reverse what was mentioned above and say: "the body without organs is not the egg." We said it is the egg in that it is against the organism whose organs have been already differenciated, it, in fact, is a flow prior to the form of an egg. It is "an intense and destratified matter” which even got out of the form of the egg(TP 164).



translated by Jung Ki Lee

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