Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Antonin Artaud and Cruelty

The other day, in Powell's Books, I bought a copy of A Shock to Thought: Expression After Deleuze and Guattari, edited by Brian Massumi. So far, it's really interesting. I particularly enjoyed Catherine Dale's article, Cruel: Antonin Artaud and Gilles Deleuze, which she begins with this quote by Artaud:

Everything in the order of the written word which abandons the field of clear, orderly perception, everything which aims at reversing appearances and introduces doubt about the position of mental images and their relationship to one another, everything which provokes confusion without destroying the strength of emergent thought, everything which disrupts the relationship between things by giving this agitated thought an even greater aspect of truth and violence - all these offer death a loophole and put us in touch with certain more acute states of mind in the throes of which death expresses itself.

According to Dale, "Deleuze follows Artaud's pursuit of 'the terrible revelation of a thought without image, and the conquest of a new principle which does not allow itself to be represented' ... [as] Artaud's theatre is not designed to represent or reproduce (describe) man but to create a being which moves ...

Recalling Artaud's idea that 'cruelty is nothing but determination as such', Deleuze writes, 'we should not be surprised that difference should appear accursed, that it should be error, sin, or the figure of evil for which there must be expiation. There is no sin other than raising the ground and dissolving the form' ... Artaud's cruelty is severity in thought, diligent and strict, 'Cruelty signifies rigor, implacable intention and decision, irreversible and absolute determination' ...

[And Deleuze writes that] the good that Artaud distinguishes from continuous evil is the good which 'knows how to transform itself, to metamorphose itself according to its encounters ... Of course there is no more truth in one life than in the other; there is only becoming, and becoming is the power of the false of life, is the will to power."

In other words, both Artaud and Deleuze associate cruelty with determination, stability and difference, and thereby favour contextual becoming, movement and metamorphosis (although not as simplistically as I make it sound).

As Artaud writes, "it would be a very great consolation for me to think that even though I am not all of myself, not as tall, not as dense, not as wide as myself, I can still be something."

I really like Artaud. Even though he was crazy. And more scientific theories of emergence could learn from this sense of becoming.

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