The Subversive Image (Part 2)
This falling back is comical as well as critical, for example, in Bataille’s critical dictionary entry ‘Factory Chimney’ (EA, 50–1). The photograph accompanying Bataille’s commentary is of a demolished chimney falling like a penis in a state of detumescence. Bataille writes that for him, as a child, the ‘most fear-inspiring architectural form was by no means the church, however monstrous, but rather large factory chimneys, true channels of communication between the ominously dull, threatening sky and the muddy, stinking earth surrounding the textile and dye factories’ (EA, 51). The collapse of the demolished chimney releases Bataille’s childhood anger against it. He attacks the factory chimney because it imposes production on to the world (see Chapter 5 for further discussion of Bataille’s displacement of production). In the collapse of the chimney there is ‘the revelation of a state of violence for which one bears some responsibility’ (EA, 51). We are responsible for the violent imposition of production on the world, but as the chimney falls it reveals the weakness of this imposition.
As Bataille remarks in ‘The Big Toe’ (1929), although we may have ‘a head raised to the heavens’ (EA, 87, VE, 20) we have a ‘foot in the mud’ (EA, 87; VE, 20). The fall back is comic and drags us down in the mud. This emphasis on the fall and collapse also explains the violence of his pre-war break with the surrealists. For Bataille the surrealists had a ‘completely unhappy desire to turn to upper spiritual regions’ (VE, 41). Breton defined surrealism as the search for a superior reality: ‘I believe the future resolution of these two states – outwardly so contradictory – which are dream and reality, into a sort of absolute reality, a surreality, so to speak.’9 There is an irreducible difference between Bataille’s dragging of the image down into ‘base matter’ (VE, 45–52) and the surrealists turning upwards away from its sources in the ‘basest forms of agitation’ (VE, 42). Bataille is certainly close to the surrealists but his assimilation to the surrealists is impossible because of this difference. In fact, through Bataille a different heterogeneous reading of surrealism may be possible.
Bataille argued that the surrealists suffered from an ‘Icarian complex’ (VE, 37), the impossible desire to soar above base matter like the legendary flight of Icarus. Just like Icarus they would also fall back to earth; their ‘higher reality’ remained tied to the base agitation from which it emerged. Breton was right in saying that Bataille was an ‘excrement philosopher’ but Bataille could counter: ‘Did Breton think he could exist without excreting?’ The most sublime of surrealist flights could never exclude the bowel movements that pulled them down into the dirt. When Bataille wrote about Dali’s painting ‘The Lugubrious Game’, he said, ‘My only desire here – even if by pushing this bestial hilarity to its furthest point I must nauseate Dali – is to squeal like a pig before his canvases’ (VE, 28). Bataille’s squealing like a pig is a Dadaist act of provocation which drags the surrealist image into the dirt. By dragging down the image Bataille also rejected the surrealist model of the avant-garde. The surrealists remained an ultimately hierarchical group with Breton as the ‘pope of surrealism’ dispensing benedictions and excommunications. By dragging the artist down from his (and it is usually a man) role as visionary or seer of ‘higher reality’ Bataille also offers a new model of community as egalitarian, non-hierarchical and exposed to base irruptive forces (as we will see in Chapter 2).
Bataille exposed surrealism to the effects that it could not control in its own images. As we have seen he has followed this process of exposure from the most conventional images to the most extreme images. Now, I want to follow the next stage in Bataille’s subversion of the image. He is not only concerned with subverting specific images but also with a general subversion of vision itself. The impossible is widened in its effects to include an impossible moment in every act of vision. To accomplish this further subversion of the image Bataille turns to the eye as the organ of vision which allows us to comprehend any image. This disruption of vision can be found in the entry for ‘The Eye’ in the critical dictionary (EA, 43–8; VE, 17–19, translations differ slightly). Bataille turns the gaze of the eye back on itself through the photograph of Joan Crawford with bulging eyes which accompanies the article. In an exchange of looks we do not receive the reassuring image of the film star as object of desire or identification but a stare that forces our gaze away in shock, a violent contact between the eye and the eye of another.
This violent displacement of my eye disrupts its usual function: ‘It seems impossible, in fact, to describe the eye without employing the word seductive, nothing it seems, being more attractive in the bodies of animals and men. But this extreme seductiveness is probably at the very edge of horror’ (EA, 45). The seductive eye is the eye that meets another eye in the look of love, in the amorous look from one eye to another. This joining together of eyes in a look seeks out the truth of love in the eye of another, and in that eye is found either the confirmation of a returned love or the ruin of the refusal of love. The eye is the organ of truth through the clarity of the look, and we discover the truth or falsity of love in the look. What the photograph of Joan Crawford does is to turn our look away in shock and it threatens this model of truth with the eruption of an affect at ‘the very edge of horror’.
Bataille connects the seductive look of the eye, where the eye is open to the eye of another, to an extreme vulnerability. Everyday language talks of a piercing gaze and the amorous gaze exists on the edge of a piercing of the eye by the look of another, a metaphoric piercing that slides toward a literal piercing. Bataille recalls Buñuel and Dali’s film Un Chien Andalou where a razor is drawn across the eye of a young woman (EA, 45; VE, 17) in a scene that remains powerfully shocking. For Bataille the eye can be related to the edge of the razor (EA, 45; VE, 17), because the eye has a violence that threatens the moment of vision. The supposed clarity of the look of love is always a look of violence that is threatened by that violence. Again and again we can find examples in horror films and fiction which exploit our horror of the punctured eyeball, where our organ of clarity and sight is reduced to a flow of matter streaming from a sightless eye socket.
How do we explain our extreme horror of damage to the eye? For Freud this fear of damage to the eyes is the result of castration anxiety, with the eyes and the testicles being equivalent at the level of the unconscious.10 Bataille is interested in the psychoanalytic exploration of the process of equivalence and substitution around the eye but not in having this chain opened or closed by castration. Roland Barthes has analysed the Story of the Eye as a playing along a chain of signifiers by passing ‘from image to image’ (in SE, 119). In the novel the eye moves around, between eye (œil) and egg (œuf) by means of the white roundness they share, and then from the egg to the sun, through the egg’s yellow yolk, and on to the testicles (in SE, 121). As Barthes points out, Bataille differs from psychoanalysis because he does not ground this chain of images in castration (in SE, 122). In Bataille we find images circulating in a movement which blurs objects, causes them to run into each (both collide and become merged); by this blurring the original image is displaced, it is uprooted into the flows of base matter that flow through the eye.
If in Freud the horror of the punctured eye find its origin in the punctured testicle then Bataille is more literal. The horror of the punctured eye lies in the horror of damage to the eye, because the eye can shift rapidly from being caught in the gaze of love to being plucked out and eaten as a cannibal delicacy (EA, 45; VE, 17). The eye is both powerful and vulnerable at the same time. The very power we attribute to vision, its purity and clarity and its capacity for detecting truth make it vulnerable. This clarity is not only disturbed when we gaze at the unclear or impure, or when the amorous gaze is shaken, but it haunts every act of vision. Vision is possible only through the original violence of the aperture that opens the eye, an aperture which is also a blind spot. The blind spot is the part of the eye which makes vision possible and the part which makes that vision incomplete or impossible. It is the aperture which opens the possibility of vision but which vision cannot comprehend visually, and it is this part of vision which is not part of the vision with which the subversive image communicates.
In his later work Inner Experience (1943) Bataille used the blind spot metaphorically to indicate the moment of non-knowledge: ‘knowledge which loses itself in it’ (IE, 111). He uses it to indicate a point of non-knowledge that ruins Hegel’s attempts to assimilate the unknown to the known through action. Hegel cannot resist the effects of ‘desire, poetry, laughter’ (IE, 111) which take him back from the known to the unknown. As Bataille would put it in ‘Hegel, Death, and Sacrifice’ (1955): ‘On the one hand there is poetry, the destruction that has surged up and diluted itself, a bloodspattered head; on the other hand there is action, work, struggle’ (BR, 280). Hegel’s philosophy is a philosophy of action, work and struggle, but its blind spot is everything that cannot be assimilated to work. Action, work and struggle are disrupted by Bataille’s invocation of desire, poetry and laughter. For Bataille the blind spot is useful as a metaphor but ‘the blind spot of the eye is inconsequential’ (IE, 110). He misses the opportunity to relate the philosophical model of knowledge to vision, and so to relate his own subversion of the image with his subversion of philosophy. We can re-establish this connection by recognising that the blind spot is not only a blind spot of knowledge but also of vision, tracing the same movement of collapse in both domains. Neither philosophy nor the model of vision by which it is supported and which it supports can accept the impossibility of the blind spot.
This impossibility is not a negative fault of vision or of philosophy which could potentially be corrected, because the blindspot is also what makes vision possible. The blind spot is the dilatory opening that makes vision possible and also disrupts vision, making it impossible. In the same way non-knowledge is the opening that makes knowledge possible but knowledge also finds itself ‘completely absorbed in it’ (IE, 111). The impossible is not a secondary effect that comes to ruin a clear image but the very condition of that image itself. This means that it is impossible to get rid of the impossible, to clear up vision or philosophy. Moreover, the original opening of the blindspot explains why the eye existson the edge of horror. The event of horror of the pierced eye ball refers back to the fact that the eyeball is originally pierced, and it is this opening that makes vision possible. Our horror is a horror at the violence that makes vision possible and that the eye carries within it, and this does not lessen our horror of violence toward the eye but increases it. It is through recognition of the fragility of the eyeas it is, the fact that the eye is already damaged, violated and incomplete, that resistance to violence on the eye can originate.
Bataille subverts not only the image but also the eyeit self, ther eby subverting the possibility of any theory of the image. How could Bataille’s work have been read if it did not conform to theoretical demands? The tasks it sets and its practices of reading the image have disappeared into a silence that has rarely been broken, either in Bataille’s life time or since his death. Where Bataille’s writing on the image has had a subterranean influence is in its appropriation by his friend Lacan. Lacan’s theory of the image has had far more influence than Bataille’s precisely because it is a theory. Lacan has dominated Anglo-American film and art theory while Bataille has been left as the hidden burrowing ‘old mole’ (VE, 32–44) of the metaphor he borrows from Marx. While Lacan’s theory has enjoyed institutional success, incontrast Bataille’s resistance to theoretical limitations has left him without an institutional or theoretical home. Lacan has a theoretical master, Freud, and also plays the role of master-thinker himself. Bataille’s thought is more modest and subversive; it is a thought without mastery. The question of the appropriation of Bataille by Lacan is a difficult one because they shared a milieu, common formative intellectual experiences, and Lacan even lived with Bataille’s first wife Sylvia after she had separated from Bataille. Furthermore, Lacan’s ‘success’ in Anglo-American academia would need its own history of the misreading and misappropriations he has been subject to, which has yet to be written. It is possible that this history would require consideration of Lacan’s own concept of misrecognition (Méconnaissance) to explain his misreading. One of the strange elements of that ‘misrecognition’ is that Lacanian discussions of the image have tended to use the text ‘The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I’, which analyses the origin of the human subject through the ‘mirroring’ effect of the mother’s look.11 This ignores Lacan’s more detailed discussion of vision and the image in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, originally given as seminar XI (1964). Recently this account has begun to receive more attention from Lacanians,12 and it is striking how close it is to Bataille’s subversion of the image.
In the seminar Lacan distinguishes between the eye, which is broadly speaking ‘normal’ vision, and the gaze which is the object that resists the eye. This distinction becomes necessary because of the effect of desire on vision:
If one does not stress the dialectic of desire one does not understand why the gaze of others should disorganise the field of perception. It is because the subject in question is not that of reflexive consciousness, but that of desire. One thinks it is a question of the geometrical eye-point, whereas it is a question of a quite different eye – that which flies in the foreground of The Ambassadors.13
Lacan is referring to Holbein’s painting The Ambassadors, on which there is a strangely distorted smear which, if viewed from the correct angle, appears as a skull. This is an example of the technique of anamorphosis but Lacan is using it to stress the distortion of vision as an act of desire. The role of desire in vision brings an interruption to vision that eludes reflection, ‘the stain’14 that marks the image. In The Ambassadors this stain is the skull that interrupts the image and almost ‘sticks out’ from the frame.
On the one hand, Lacan understands the impossible element in vision as an effect of castration. Lacan’s impossible is the Real, a concept he introduces to explain the remainder of language and castration that resists symbolisation. The Real only appears in jouissance, leftover bits of enjoyment that remain at the edges of the body in what Freud called the ‘erotogenic zones’:15 the mouth, the anus and the sexual organs. Lacan adds to these a language that emerges from the lips and a vision from the eye, all that emerges at the edges of the body, from the structure of the rim.16 On the other hand, Bataille’s impossible has no conceptual identity and is not organised by castration or contained by psychoanalysis. Bataille’s thought of the impossible cannot be assimilated to a Lacanian reading of the Real, as Fred Botting has attempted to do.17 Although Lacan argues that the gaze has a ‘pulsatile, dazzling and spread out function’,18 it can never be detached from castration or from the body without making it something other than a psychoanalytic concept.
Unlike Lacan, Bataille did not set out to re-found psychoanalysis but instead he used Freud to articulate a reinvigorated and mobile materialism of ‘raw phenomena’ (VE, 16). The irruptive effects found by psychoanalysis in the unconscious could not be absorbed and organised by psychoanalysis as a discipline or institution. The schisms and splits that afflict the psychoanalytic institution could be understood as the signs of eruptions that psychoanalysis cannot control within itself. In his essay ‘The Psychological Structure of Fascism’ (1933–34) Bataille explored heterogeneity as a series of resistant phenomena that could not be dominated by the homogeneous organisations of knowledge and society. He drew on the Freudian unconscious but argued that ‘it would seem that the unconscious must be considered as one of the aspects of the heterogeneous’ (VE, 141; BR, 126). Psychoanalysis has exploited this heterogeneity to found itself as an institution and practice but it can never completely assimilate it.
Lacan’s own violent breaks with the psychoanalytic institution, including those that he founded himself,19 testify to the heterogeneity of his thought. The difficulty is that Lacan was still attached to psychoanalysis and still attached to castration. This difference might explain why Lacan’s theory of the image has had so much more success than Bataille. Despite the difficulty of Lacan’s language, far more difficult than Bataille’s, it is rooted in a conceptual apparatus familiar to many readers. Bataille argues that this conceptual apparatus cannot dominate heterogeneity. Lacan’s discussion was also organised around the philosophical references to Sartre and Merleau-Ponty at a seminar that attracted many important intellectual figures and which will go on to achieve wide translation and distribution. In comparison, Bataille’s work on the image was hardly read at the time and is now largely forgotten, although it has recently been rediscovered in the art criticism of Yves-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss. In Formless: A User’s Guide (1997) they use Bataille to argue their position ‘that the formless has its own legacy to fulfil, its own destiny – which is partly that of liberating our thinking from the semantic, the servitude to thematics, to which abject art seems so thoroughly indentured’.20 They use Bataille’s entry for the critical dictionary, ‘Formless’ (December 1929) (EA, 51–2; VE, 31) where Bataille takes the ‘formless’ (informe) as ‘not only an adjective having a given meaning, but a term that serves to bring things down in the world …’ (VE, 31). Bois and Krauss use the formless to bring down art practice and criticism from its dependence on meaning, especially an abject art that would seem to revel in the obscene and perverse.
Abject art is the art of the remainder, especially the bodily remainder: blood, urine, tears, sperm, excrement, etc. It has often justified itself by reference to Bataille, and especially to Bataille’s early writings which we have been discussing. In doing so it assimilates Bataille as part of the new counterculture art market, where modernist eruptions are now re-staged as postmodern commodities for art buyers. The assimilation of this ‘counter-culture’ abject art is evident in the way that it has become absorbed within the marketing of a new ‘national culture’, despite its ostensibly shocking content. Perhaps the best-known work of contemporary British art is Damien Hirst’s ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ (1991), which ‘is a fourteen foot tiger shark preserved in a tank of formaldehyde, a colourless liquid that resembles water so that, at first glance, the creature appears alive’.21 It is a work which plays with ideas of the abject: death, impossibility, violence, but at the same time it has become an accepted part of the cultural promotion of Britain. It presents itself as having a meaning, ‘“I want to access people’s fears,” says Hirst. “I like the idea of a thing to describe a feeling.”’22
Of course, Hirst is not to blame for the wider cultural exploitation of his work, but this is an example of how abject surrenders to meaning. Bois and Krauss oppose this, and they particularly oppose the theory of abjection proposed by Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror.23 Kristeva is indebted to Bataille but she provides a more Lacanian reading of abjection where the abject is ‘These body fluids, this defilement, this shit …’24 Although Bataille is concerned with the limits of the body this bodily reading of abjection ties it to the body and its waste products. Kristeva has provided a matrix for art criticism and practice which allows it to understand the abject as bodily waste, to confine and limit it within a meaning – no matter how ‘shocking’ that meaning is. In contrast Bataille’s formless is ‘like a spider or spit’ (VE, 31), mobile or fluid enough to evade classification and meaning, including as the abject. For Bois and Krauss it allows them to intervene against an abject art that has claimed Bataille as its patron saint and to offer an art criticism that is not oriented towards meaning.
The problem that their innovative reading confronts is that if they use formless as a word for what resists form aren’t they then giving it a form? Although they recognise that this is a problem they fail to deal with it, they realise that they ‘run the risk of transforming the formless into a figure, of stabilising it. That risk is perhaps unavoidable …’25 The ‘perhaps’ in this sentence is the sign that the problem of form is more intractable than Bois and Krauss are willing to admit. They have inserted it to hold open the possibility that they can avoid giving the formless form; it is a ‘risk’ which is only ‘perhaps unavoidable’. However, it is unavoidable, and this strikes at the heart of their use of Bataille. The formless (informe) is always in-form, and when they fail to recognise this they turn the formless into a new concept of art criticism and Bataille into the theorist of the formless.
The interpretations of the image by Lacan and Bois and Krauss’s interpretation are actually symmetrical and not simply opposed. Lacan anchors the impossible in the event of castration, the leftover pieces of the body and a ‘scientific’ concept of the Real giving the formless form. In doing so he becomes part of the philosophical project of ‘giving a frock coat to what is’ (VE, 31), as Bataille put it. On the other hand, the emphasis of Bois and Krauss on the formless as completely formless supplies it paradoxically with a form. In different ways these are gestures of reduction, either locating the formless within a frame or locating it as what is always outside the frame. The impossibility of the subversive image is that is does not fit into the frame but spills over it. The formless is always inform, but it is never absorbed by that form. The subversive image as the impossible is a reading that reads this mobile disruption of the frame of the image. Matter for Bataille is always ‘active’ (VE, 47; BR, 162), never settling within a frame or an image but always emerging from an image, a word or things.
It is this instability, this flowing out from the image, that makes Bataille’s images reach out to the reader and at the same time resist appropriation by either the reader or by Bataille’s own writings. These images are never formless as such, which would be to produce and form the formless, but they are formless in the derangement of form, like the spider or spit. It is the difficulty of appropriating the subversive image, of producing a theory of the image from Bataille that is no doubt why he is so little read on the image. The necessity of reading Bataille lies in this impossibility of the formation of a theory of the image as well, but it is a difficult demand to meet. This impossibility is never just a reflection of Bataille’s state of mind; it must be read in images and in the act of vision. While he wrote about images that communicated intensely to him, lightning-flash images that obsessed and moved him, what provoked him was that they produced an affect leading to communication. It was never a matter of personal contemplation but a sharing with others through the image, the image as the opening of the Other.
The image was a ‘lived experience’ of an impossible communication like the disturbing image recounted in ‘The Jesuve’ (1930): ‘It would have been impossible for me to speak explicitly of it, to express totally what I felt so violently in early 1927 (and it still happens that I bitterly feel it) in any other way than by speaking of the nudity of an ape’s anal projection, which on a day in July of the same year, in the Zoological Gardens of London, overwhelmed me to the point of throwing me into a kind of ecstatic brutishness’ (VE, 78). This image was the ‘origin’ of what Bataille himself described as the ‘excremental fantasy’ (VE, 78) of the pineal eye. The pineal eye is the fantasy of a blinding moment of vision at once ‘pure’ and ‘impure’. The pineal gland, which is located in the skull, is supposed by Bataille to be an atrophied eye which could explode through ‘the summit of the skull like a horrible erupting volcano’ (VE, 74). In the moment of vision this eye at the top of the head is connected both to the sun and the anus in a shattering movement of jouissance. Developed before the work of Documents the pineal eye fantasy prefigures its concerns with an impossible image and still tries to preserve an ecstatic vision, a ‘vision of excess’. Bataille’s subversion of the image will never let go of a ‘certain disorder’ (VE, 78) of lived experience and his desire for ‘the celestial eye’ (VE, 90) which we lack, but he will displace the fantasy of an unmediated vision of excess.
Bataille had suggested that before 1930, ‘I was not insane but I made too much of the necessity of leaving, in one way or another, the limits of our human experience …’ (VE, 74). Documents is a continuation of this self-criticism through an active intervention into images. Those who celebrate Georges Bataille often remain within this early fantasy of unmediated access to the impossible. Instead, by his self-criticism, Bataille is not retreating from a delirious thought of the image but deepening the delirium of thought. The pineal eye opens on to his later writings on vision and works with them as a subversion of vision. By giving up on the possibility of the purely impure vision of the pineal eye, Bataille can begin to read the image as subversive in its negotiation with the impossible. No longer confined to certain experiences, this delirium of images spreads its effects across all images and all acts of vision, deranging vision from its position of truth.
As technologies of the image have proliferated and increasingly dominated our lives since Bataille’s death, his thought is even more necessary. Guy Debord has argued that we are now living in a ‘society of the spectacle’.26 He worked within Marxist categories of the image as an alienation of human beings from their true desires. Bataille does not regard the image as necessarily inauthentic but as having the potential to form or deform real desires. The subversive image is an image which cannot be controlled by the society of the spectacle and which haunts every spectacle and every act of vision as an intractable impossible moment of instability. It is also an image which resists theorisation. Of course, it can be read theoretically, for example, the formless is always in-form, and it is possible to imagine institutes devoted to Georges Bataille (although not without a comic effect). Any reading of the formless has to negotiate with the way the formless takes on form, including an institutional form, or else it would leave the subversive image as a fantasy floating free of any relation to lived experience and so destroy the subversive image.
Bataille’s response to theoretical readings is a laughter that destabilises any theory built on his work. Whether Bataille intended the images he chose to be read seriously or not, and whether they are objects for a potential theory, these alternatives are dissolved in sovereign laughter (as we will see in Chapter 3). Sartre wrote about Bataille that ‘He tells us that he laughs, he does not make us laugh.’27 He is right in that Bataille can be very serious about laughter and is not a writer of jokes, but Sartre’s own philosophical ambitions mean that he cannot experience the laughter in Bataille. He does not recognise that Bataille can be funny, whether intentionally or otherwise. The subversion of the image is always a practice of joy in the face of death, a sovereign laughter. Sovereign laughter is unsettling and when we read Bataille we experience what Derrida describes when reading Heidegger: ‘It’s always horribly dangerous and wildly funny, certainly grave and a bit comical.’28 Bataille also provokes these contradictory tendencies of fear and laughter, a gravity and the lightness of the comical.
This is the difficulty of reading Bataille seriously, as BorchJacobsen notes (CR, 165). To read Bataille seriously is also funny, he makes us laugh, not least because we can always slip up on ‘all the banana peel-like passages of Bataille’ (Borch-Jacobsen, CR, 164). Bataille is constantly tripping us up, tripping up our desire to understand him, to make sense of him and to extract a theory from him. He constantly invites, and even demands, a theoretical reading, while never settling within the limits of the theoretical. In fact it is only in being tripped up by Bataille, falling down, collapsing like the factory chimney, that we could be reading him. Then the pain of the fall and the laughter of others at our tripping over the text stop our reading. When we fall we are liberated from theoretical constraints and the demands of seriousness, but only through the demand to trace the movement of that fall. The lack of seriousness is not an excuse for poor thinking, but rather an opening to the demands Bataille makes on us.
The subversion of the image communicates to us through the blind spot that we can see reflected in the image in an instant of impossibility that stops us short. Stopping short before Bataille is to stop as we are arrested by his formless images. Here we are forced to think and at the same time denied the order that thinking usually demands. When we stop short we also experience laughter: ‘Laughing at the universe liberated my life. I escape its weight by laughing. I refuse any intellectual translations of this laughter, since my slavery would commence from that point on’ (G, 16). Laughter is freedom and liberation from the imperatives of the universe, the demands of the world as it is. To translate this laughter into intellectual constructions would lead to the enslavement of thought, but that laughter cracks through intellectual constructions. It also leads us to ‘crack up’, to go mad or to laugh hysterically. We start laughing as the image rises up before us, the image of the ape’s anal protuberance, for example. Laughter is the result of the subversion of the image, a laughter that is impossible.
The Chapter 1 of the book Georges Bataille (A Critical Introduction) by Benjamin Noys is published in OnScenes with permission of Professor - Benjamin Noys
Benjamin Noys is Professor of Critical Theory and coordinator of the MA English Literature. His research focuses on critical and literary theory, with particular interest in the avant-garde, film, and the cultural politics of theory. His recent work includes the books The Persistence of the Negative (Edinburgh University Press 2010) and Malign Velocities: Accelerationism and Capitalism (Zero Books 2014), both dealing with the state of contemporary theory. Recent and forthcoming articles and chapters include ‘Happy like Neurotics: Roland Barthes, Ben Lerner, and the Neurosis of Writing’, College Literature 45.1 (2018), ‘Matter against Materialism: Bruno Latour and the Turn to Objects’, in Theory Matters: The Place of Theory in Literary and Cultural Studies Today (2016), and pieces on drones, libidinal economy, intoxication and accelerationism, the ontologies of life, American literature, and the philosophy of art. He is currently completing a book on contemporary politics and developing a future project on neurosis.
He is External Affiliate of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, Goldsmiths, University of London, contributing editor of Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, a member of the advisory editorial board of Film-Philosophy, and a corresponding editor of Historical Materialism.
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