Ross Brighton on Guyotat

by on Aug.18, 2013

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[Here’s the first part of an excellent essay by Ross Brighton about the the great French writer Pierre Guyotat. I think it relates quite a bit to the recent discussion about Johan Jonsson…]

Pierre Guyotat’s Eden Eden Eden as Deleuzian War Machine

Pierre Guyotat is the quintessential outsider, profoundly other to the conventional idea of the writer or novelist. His progenitors are Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade and Jean Genet – De Sade’s dispassionate, literal descriptions of sexual depravity; Genet’s ambiguous morality and dream-like traversals of places with real names, yet which seem to be no place at all. Both of these precursors were also outsiders, who spent large periods of time incarcerated, and Guyotat’s experience mirrors this in his experience during the Algerian War, where, after inciting Algerian conscripts to desert, he was imprisoned in a hole in the ground for three months, during which he survived on scraps and scribbled on an illicit piece of paper he managed to hide. As Roger Clarke says, “the link with De Sade, scribbling away in the Bastille, is unavoidable”. Clarke also points out the African connection with Genet and Arthur Rimbaud.

The network produced by and containing both Guyotat and his writing can be conceptualised (though not territorialised) using the framework of Deleuze and Guattari. Guyotat is (as are all bodies) a desiring machine, and a writing machine, but also a war machine operating outside of and in opposition to ‘the state of the novel’, utilising writing as a weapon for the production of radical affective experience. The flows that pass between writer and text, through its production, and from text to reader can be mapped. The parts of this assemblage can be characterised as machines, and described in terms of functionality, culminating in the reader as textual consumer and thus affective machine.

Everything is machines. The machine is something that produces things. It is an organ, and its production is the interaction of the machine with flows of materials, which the machine interrupts and processes, thus producing something that differentiates itself both from the original material, and from the organ of production. Within the Deleuzian paradigm, the body is primarily a desiring machine. “It breathes, it heats. It shits and fucks. What a mistake to have ever said the id”. The desiring-production of the Guyotat machine is in and of itself plugged into the writing process, to the point where they are inextricable from one another. This includes the sexual libido – Guyotat is infamous for his constant masturbation while writing, and his befouled manuscripts are regularly displayed in art galleries, for example the Cabinet Gallery in London. The combination of Guyotat, his pen, his penis, and an obsessive mind affected deeply by his experiences in Algeria channel libidinal energy into a string of writing – a 165 page sentence uninterrupted by a single full stop.

Guyotat’s writing body functions as a war machine, an assemblage that produces war. War, as an ultimately deterritorializing force, cannot be territorialized by a definition that is anything more than contingent. Within this context though, it can be conceived of as the active realisation of destructive tension between differing an excusive forces, such as the forces of literary normalcy and the arbitration of taste and decency, in opposition to Guyotat’s production of textual physicality and abomination. Deleuze and Guattari state that the war machine is irreducible to a functioning of a regulatory body, as it is always “outside and prior to [such] law: it comes from elsewhere”. Both coming from and operating outside the literary state, and without vested interest in the generic constructs of linguistic or text-based art, Guyotat pulls them apart in order to create the book-and-word machine anew, operating toward radical and new ends. It is “a pure and immeasurable multiplicity, the pack, an irruption of the ephemeral and the power of metamorphosis. […] He brings a furor to bear against sovereignty, a celerity against gravity, secrecy against the public, […] a machine against the apparatus”.

Guyotat operates both outside literary convention and in antagonism against it. He states that Literature is concerned with plot and character. Its intention is to be ‘well-written’ and ‘comprehensible’. It’s a very commonplace activity. Then there is the progression towards writing . . . writing as writing . . . I mean simple textual writing.. . . It is that desire to do something new which compels one to move from literature to writing and from writing to matière écrite . . . brutal matter”.

In such a way Guyotat embodies the potential of the Avant-Garde as a war machine against institutionalised cultural production to create peripheral spaces outside the delineated territory of Art As Such. War, the product of the war machine, “maintains the dispersal of segmentary groups” and interrogates the compulsory nature of, (in this case analogous) citizenship or state-derived identity.

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