[ISEA2009] Paper: Audrone Zukauskaite – The Body without Organs: Deleuze and Guattari meet Romeo Castellucci


In my paper I would like to discuss the disarticulation of the notion of the body with reference to the theory of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari and the performances of Italian theatre director Romeo Castellucci. In A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari introduce the notion of the ‘Body without Organs’ (‘BwO’) which can be contrasted with the organized body which is the object of phenomenology and psychoanalysis. The task of psychoanalysis is to create the image of a whole self, whereas the ‘anti-psychiatric programme’ which Deleuze and Guattari introduce, refers to the body as the platform of experimentation. Deleuze and Guattari say:

“Let us consider the three great strata concerning us, in other words, the ones that most directly bind us: the organism, signifiance, and subjectification. (…) To the strata as a whole, the BwO opposes disarticulation (or n articulations), experimentation as the operation on that plane (no signifier, never interpret!), and nomadism as the movement (keep moving, even in place, never stop moving… desubjectification)”. _Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. Brian Massumi. London, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987: 177.

As Elisabeth Grosz points out, ‘the notion of the BwO is Deleuze and Guattari’s attempt to denaturalise human bodies and to place them in direct relations with the flows and particles of other bodies and things. (…) The BwO invokes a conception of the body that is disinvested of fantasy, images, projections, representations, a body without a psychical or secret interior, without internal cohesion and latent significance.’ (Elisabeth Grosz, “Intensities and Flows”, In Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994: 168-169)

Of course, a researcher should raise a simple question: why do we need this programme of the BwO, why can’t we stay where we are? What does it mean to disarticulate, to cease to be an organism? Deleuze and Guattari reply in this way: ‘You invent self-destructions that have nothing to do with the death drive. Dismantling the organism has never meant killing yourself, but rather opening the body to connections that presuppose an entire assemblage, circuits, conjunctions, levels and thresholds, passages and distributions of intensity… ( Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus. Trans. Brian Massumi. London, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987: 177). It is precisely these connections which let us evade subjection, let us ‘unhook  ourselves from the points of subjectification that (…) nail us down to a dominant reality.’ (Ibid.) Here I would like to make a connection between Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the BwO with the performative strategies of Tragedia Endogonidia by Castellucci. In my paper I will concentrate on these specific issues: 1) the disarticulation of the body; 2) experimentation as the destruction of signification and sense; 3) desubjectification.

Castellucci destroys the organic unity of the body and rearranges it as an assemblage collected from different surfaces, prosthetic devices, machines and mechanisms. In this sense we can say that Castellucci invents the Body without Organs, in other words, a body which isn‘t organized into a whole but functions as a platform for producing different connections and distributing variable intensities.

  • Audronė Žukauskaitė is a Head of Research at the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute.