What a Body can Become: Dancing the Body-Score of Becoming

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This thesis does not explore what body is, but what a body can become. It explores the body as event-in-making throughout the concepts such as Body without Organs (Artaud, Deleuze and Guattari), bodying (Manning), body-in-making (Manning). What all of those concepts have in common is the same state – a state of becoming. Here, body becomes, and as such – it is a verb, an activity, a force. This thesis does not only explore the body as a force of becoming, but it also explores the becoming of that force – at the molecular, experiential and relational level. As Manning says, a body is always more-than one. Here, we are trying to approach the physical, experiential and relational becomings of a body in movement. That which moves the body from the state of being into the state of becoming is movement. This thesis is trying to show how movement never stops. We always move, therefore, there is a continuity of becoming. A body is never just a form, but a form-force. Movement is that which opens the body toward its becoming of force(s). A moving body is not a form of expression, but a force-field of expressivity. Movement connects the body to its very field of expressivity where the body starts to dance its capacities to do, create and become. The body is never predeterminated or finished – at the physical, experiential or relational level – it is an ongoing movement. Movement makes the body, therefore, the body itself is a movement. We are not dancing with the body, we are dancing the body itself. The body is a score, a body-score, of its own becoming. We are not interested in what, for example, a heart is, but we are interested in molecular, experiential and relational becomings of a heart; we are interested in what a heart can become. Organs are not expressions, but flows, intensities, fields of expressivity. This thesis is an attempt to map those flows – performative and conceptual ones – and to redirect them toward new becomings.

1. Onto-hetero-genesis of a moving body: from body to bodying

1.1 BwO: insufflation, evaporation, fluid transmission

The first concept I want to base this thesis on is Artaud’s concept of BwO (Body without Organs or the one that is being formless, unordered, transformative and always in a state of metamorphoses as opposed to the stratification and organization of static being. According to Artaud: “When you will have made him a body without organs / then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions / and restored him to his true freedom” (Artaud, 1976: 571). Through the concept of Body without Organs[1] I want to explore the onto-hetero-genesis of performer’s body or its becoming of divergent entities. Following Simondon’s ontogenetic theory of individuation, every individual body is immanent to the system of its own individuation. Therefore, the first step of this thesis is the re-conceptualisation of the moving body as a continuously self-individuating system, as opposed to the already individualised one. From that point of view, we can re-define an individual moving body, with its biological, anatomical and sensory structures, not as a pre-given performing entity but as a phase in its continuous becoming.

            The Body without Organs is not defined in terms of forms, organs, or functions, but kinetically, in terms of an infinite number of particles in relations of motion and rest, and dynamically, in terms of the capacity for affecting and being affected, “as an intensive determination” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1983: 123–4). “Considered apart from unifying and functional ‘organs’ or ‘organization’, bodies involve power, expression, and endurance; considering the body as an ‘organism’ suppresses those very capacities” (Young, Genosko, Watson, 2013: 51). The Body without Organs “is a whole non-organic life, for the organism is not life, it is what imprisons life. The body is completely living, and yet non-organic” (Deleuze, 1996: 45). In Deleuze’s and Guattari’s s reading of Artaud, Body without Organs is that which involves the confrontation with the limit(s) of subjectivity, stratification, and the organism[2]; it is that which unifies fragmented organs or parts of the body in order to produce an indeterminate organ or unactualized organs, rather than unifying those fragmented parts such that they form an organism with a predetermined functions. The result of an ongoing experimentation of the body that undoes the organic association that organs have with one another or with their predetermining functions is the condition for new physical associations and functions. More precisely, Body without Organs does not lack organs, it lacks the organism or the particular organization of the organs. It is defined by the indeterminate organs, whereas the organism is defined by determinate organs. Body without Organs follows the line of disengaging of the organs from the organism in favor of their indefinite or contingent determination as intensities. It is founded on an embryological conception of the body which recognizes only dynamic and kinetic, but not formal differences, as well as synthetic functioning of the organs or parts of a body such that they are appropriated to compose, relay, or direct flows that exceed or transverse the body itself. Body without Organs is (in) a state of quantitative and qualitative flux. Organs are no longer anything more than intensities that are produced – flows, thresholds, and gradients: “A stomach, an eye, a mouth: the indefinite article […] expresses the pure determination of intensity[3], intensive difference (Deleuze and Guattari, 1983: 182, 164). The BwO is the egg. […] you always carry it with you as your own milieu of experimentation, your associated milieu. You never reach the Body without organs, you can’t reach it, you are forever attaining it, it is a limit” (Deleuze; Guattari, 1983: 166, 150). According to Deleuze and Guattari, Body without Organs is an intense and intensive body; as previosly mentioned, it does not have organs, but thresholds or levels. Therefore, orientations, axes, speeds and rhythms become primary to the organization and structure of any body. The body without organs “operates entirely by insufflation, respiration, evaporation, and fluid transmission” (Deleuze, 2004: 100, 88). It is an unformed body, permeated by unformed, unstable matters, subatomic particles, pure intensities, prevital and prephysical singularities, by flows in all directions.

            Throughout his writings, Deleuze returns frequently to a remark by Spinoza that we do not yet know what a body can do[4], and hence, we do not know the extent of the body’s capabilities. In Spinoza: Practical Philosophy Deleuze points out how Spinoza defines the body in two ways: in terms of relations of slowness and speed between an infinite number of particles; and in terms of a body’s capacities for affecting and being affected. By characterizing the body in terms of differential speeds, Spinoza emphasizes the body’s participation in a single plane of immanence, a dimension of rhythms, movements, pauses, accelerations and decelerations, in which each body’s form and function emerge as secondary products of kinetic relations among particles. By approaching the body in terms of its capacities of affecting and being affected, Spinoza imbues the plane of immanence with a pervasive affectivity generated through interactions among multiple forces: “In short, if we are Spinozists, we will define something neither by its shape, nor by its organs or its functions, neither as a substance nor as a subject. To borrow medieval terms, or geographical ones, we will define it by longitude and latitude. A body can be anything; it can be an animal, an acoustic body, a soul, or an idea; it can be a linguistic corpus, a social body, a collectivity[5]. We call longitude of any given body the ensemble of relations of speed and slowness, of rest and movement, between particles that constitute it from this point of view, that is, between unformed elements. We call latitude the ensemble of affects that occupy a body at each moment, that is, the intensive states of an anonymous force (force to exist, capacity to be affected). Thus we establish the cartography of a body. The ensemble of longitudes and latitudes constitutes Nature, the plane of immanence or of consistency, always variable and never ceasing to be altered, constituted, reconstituted, by individuals and collectivities” (Deleuze, 1988: 142). Performer’s body is a multitude of different modes of becoming the body itself on a plane of immanence. The plane of immanence constitutes itself within the plane of assembling rather than organizing. Instead of shape, organs or functions, we bodily experience the relations of speed and slowness in-between the smallest particles of unformed organs, as well as organisms. The plane of immanence of performer’s body constitutes itself between the dynamic affective charges of movement and stillness.

1.2 Body-score

Another concept I would like to discuss is the concept of a body-score. The body itself can be perceived and performed as a score, body-score, or that which sets up its own relational modes of becoming a body. The body organizes itself through moving and developing each of its organs as polymorphic thinking tools, therefore, each organ becomes temporal, self-organizing tool-technique. Furthermore, body as a score does not represent a system of organs, but a system of relations (and relational becomings of organs, as well as the body itself). Therefore, body is a relational score – producing itself in and through movement. Performer’s body is not that which embodies a certain technique, but the body itself becomes its own singular tehnique; tehnique emerges through the exploration of an individual body, internally, and it is not imposed onto the body, externally. That is the moment when the body starts to direct, choreograph and perform itself – as bodying or as a singular event of force taking form.

            Erin Manning defined bodying as “a field of relation through which the body emerges as a multiplicity rather than a static, interactive self” (Manning, 2012: 38). Bodying also denotes a field of relation through which the body emerges as a becoming one. A body is not the one that is, but the one that takes form, the one that becomes. Movement does not only make a body, but it also makes a body its own score, or in another words, it alows the body to dance itself as its own score. Body is a score; body is a movement. Bodying is the act of meeting between the score and the movement, it is the way a body becomes – in movement, through movement and as movement. How to think the body as a multi-layered score; how do we choose and compose its layers; how are we being composed by them? How do we build and use score as an attractor? How do we create and co-create different attractors while moving? How to think the composition as a study of relations? How do we allow body to happen?

            Within the idea of a body-score every organ or part of the body is producing itself in movement. More precisely, it is producing itself within the processes of sensing, being in relation and becoming. Throughout those processes every organ or part of the body is producing its own relational field of becoming. William Forsythe has developed an approach of using skin surface as an organ of proprioception. The dancers are asked to activate their bodies through their skin, making the skin what Deleuze calls the surface of recording of the event: “Put the activation into every part. Think about where the movement starts and stops. If you raise your arm, where does your skin stretch? Activate the skin. Get feedback from the skin. Go further if it tells you something. What you feel is what you know. Look for the chain of sensations rather than the chain of positions” (Manning; Massumi, 2014: 50).

            According to Deleuze, sensations should not be considered as “givens” (data) but as an “encounters”. As an encounter, sensation acts on the nervous system, and not on the “brain” of the subject: beginning with Bergson, Deleuze links sensation to the contraction of matter and the imagination (it is thus “psycho-organic”). In Deleuze’s reading of Bergson, the vibration of matter, contracted by the senses results in perceived qualities (or “contraction-memory”): “What, in fact, is a sensation? It is the operation of contracting trillions of vibrations onto a receptive surface. Quality emerges from this, quality that is nothing other than contracted quantity. […] Sensation is extensive insofar as what it contracts is precisely the extended, the expanded (detendu) (Deleuze, 1990: 74). Sensation is “excitation itself, […] insofar as it is preserved or preserves its vibrations […]. Sensation is formed by contracting that which composes it […]. (Deleuze, 1994: 211). It is a characteristic of sensation to pass through different levels owing to the action of forces. But two sensations, each having their own level or zone, can also confront each other and make their respective levels communicate. […] The different levels through which this sensation passes already necessarily constitute couplings of sensation” (Deleuze, 1996: 47, 64).

            The experience of sensing expands the field of possiblity of what a certain organ can do, as well as become. In the case of William Forsythe, to activate the skin as the surface of recording of the event also means to activate it as an undeterminate, unactualized, as well as intense organ. Here, the skin becomes a score, skin-score. It does not matter what the skin is, but what it can become. The skin does not only record the event, but is, becomes and emerges as an event of skining or relational becoming of the skin. “Couplings of sensations” extend, as well as create new fields of becoming. Throughout the act of “chaining the sensations instead of positions” it is also possible to rethink the idea of the composition of a moving body. How can we think about the sensation as a new source of body’s composition, a composition-in-making or a composition-in-motion? How to think sensing as simultaneous process of composing, decomposing and co-composing? How is sensing changing the anatomy of movement and how is moving changing the anatomy of sense? How to think the sense the nucleus, as well as the pre-skin of movement?

1.3 Body-becoming

According to Deleuze, a body can become anything as long as it is considered in terms of its set of relations and affects. The capacity to affect and to be affected is what constitutes the singularity of performer’s body. Affects are also closely related to the question of what a body can become and what a body is capable of. Affects are becomings. “Affect passes directly through the body, coupling with the nervous system, making the interval felt. This feltness is often experienced as a becoming-with. This becoming-with is transformative. It is a force out of which a microperceptual body begins to emerge. This microperceptual body is the body of relation. While affect can never be separated from a body, it never takes hold on an individual body. Affect passes through, leaving intensive traces on a collective body-becoming. This body-becoming is not necessarily a human body. It is a conglomeration of forces that express a movement-with through which a relational individuation begins to make itself felt” (Manning, 2012:95).

            Singularity of performer’s body can be therefore understood as a capacity of the body to enter the relation, affect and be affected, move and be moved, a capacity to become. To become is to participate in movement, vibrations, thresholds; beings (mineral, vegetal, animal and human) are distinguished only by thresholds, vibrations: “there are lines which do not amount to the path of a point, which break free from structure – lines of flight, becomings, without future or past, without memory, which resist the binary machine – woman-becoming which is neither man nor woman, animal-becoming which is neither beast nor man, becomings are exactly that, producing the line and not the point (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988: 26)”. Choreo-singularity is a singularity of the body which emerges from and in moving, a capacity of the becoming-body in movement, a capacity of bodying in movement. Dancing the body itself includes the relation towards organs as relational techniques, and it provides an exploration of performativity and possibility of developing new dancing organs through moving. Another aim of this thesis is to explore the experience-dependent transformation of organs and if a particular organ is being changed by the experience of moving and how. According to Diderot, the consciousness is the product of moving and anatomy is the product of consciousness. How to think the anatomy as choreo-anatomy?

            Choreo-anatomy as relational anatomy studies the possibility of dancing our own organs, instead of dancing with them, as well as dancing our entire body instead of dancing with it (for example, hand is not considered as a hand, but only as one of the infinite actualizations[6] of the hand, therefore, moving becomes a process of exploring the potential of its becoming). Choreo-anatomy also addresses the process of producing new body, as well as its biological, anatomical and sensory structuresthrough movement. Within the idea of choreo-anatomy movement is defined as a relation, as well as the relational becoming (of a body). Moving is entering a relation, therefore, anatomy becomes danced. Body itself also becomes danced in relation to the other, as a relational body-with. According to Souriau, “modes of existence are always plural and relational; existence can be found not only in beings, but between them” (Souriau, 2009: 16). Following Souriau, modes of existence are intermodal. Bodying as a mode of existence is also intermodal or that which is not already constituted, but coming-to-existence through singular events as “body-in-making” (Manning). Anatomy is not only intermodal, it is also plural in relation to itself, containing the other as a compositional feature of its own becoming. How is it possible to think the anatomy of a moving body as an ongoing knotting of intermodal vibrations? How do we distinguish an exterior anatomy of materials, an interior anatomy of composing elements and composed substances, an intermediary anatomy of membranes and limits, and an annexed anatomy of energy sources and actions-perceptions? Is the notion of the anatomy unitary or does a body continually pass from one anatomy to another, do the anatomies pass into one another, as relational anatomies, bodying the line and not the point, and how?

            What also matters is how an individual body is being composed, because composition is an act of entering the relation, as well as sensation. According to Deleuze, a body’s structure is the composition of its relations. What a body can do (and what it can become) corresponds to the nature and limits of its capacity to be affected. Affects[7] are not only transitions between states of the body, but also a passage or transitions between different bodies. In that context, we can explore performer’s body as a composition of capacities for affecting and being affected, as well as a composition of continual becomings that compose different (potential) bodies within one body, and different anatomies within one anatomy. This thesis also puts into relation anatomy and dance, movement and molecular memory, in an attempt to investigate the molecular memory, not as a pattern, but as a score, score for dancing organs and body itself. How can we think about the molecules as scores for dancing the molecules themselves? Within the idea of choreo-anatomy moving itself becomes a score for the anatomy; moving is no longer conditioned by the anatomy, but moving itself creates performer’s new anatomy: “every part of the body is a knot of different potential stretches and retractions radiating from that point as ‘so many vectors’ (Forsythe 2011, Nov. 10). So many lines of movement, potentially passing through each point. Each starting point of movement holds these potential passings through in itself, together in their difference from each other. The move is less a point than a vectorial gestural nexus: a differential, dynamic knot of potential variations on itself. A milieu of movement potential synthetically including an infinity of disjunctions. The dancers are instructed to ‘take the movement as far as it will go’. In Forsythe’s vocabulary: transport the line, curve the motion, reorient and follow until your movement reaches a point where it can no longer develop. Capture the intensity! Redirect it, or let it go. Field residual movement. Prolong it! Extrude it! Fold it! Feel how it populates the interval. Use torsion to reclaim this residual movement, create a multiplicity. Play with what’s left over, share it. (Manning; Massumi,  2014: 26, 35)”. Movement anatomy becomes performer’s second anatomy or anatomy in Becoming. If every part of the body is a knot of dynamical and kinetic potentiality then the way we choose to dance the body-knot is also the way we are being danced by it.

            Moving itself becomes the context for creating the conditions for all possible becomings: becoming is not to imitate or identify with something or someone. Nor is it to proportion formal relations. Neither of these two figures of analogy is applicable to becoming. Starting from the forms one has, the subject one is, the organs one has, or the functions one fulfills, becoming is to extract particles between which one establishes the relations of movement and rest, speed and slowness that are closest to what one is becoming and through which one becomes (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 272). Becoming indicates being in the zone of flow, it indicates the movement in which all particles are retracted when they enter the zone. More precisely, when two or more types of particles enter the zone of flow, singular relations of movement and stillness create a new body and its new anatomies.

            For Deleuze and Guattari, flow denotes the matter, energy, or resources which have not yet been formed, overcoded, or territorialized: “There is always something that flows or flees, that escapes the binary organizations, the resonance apparatus, and the overcoding machine. Those aspects of the body, the psyche, and the socius precede orthe subject-object dichotomy. Flows of intensity, their fluids, their fibers, their continuums and conjunctions of affects, the wind, fine segmentation, microperceptions, have replaced the world of the subject (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 238, 216, 179, 162) with an “ongoing experimentation[8], ontologically unfinishable” (Lepecki, 2006: 40).

            In his solo, Self Unfinished (1998), Le Roy is “constantly disorganizing and reorganizing that fundamental question profoundly binding philosophy and dance: what can a body do”? (Lepecki, 2006: 40, 41). According to Lepecki, Le Roy proposes a different understanding of what a body is: not a stable, fleshy host for a subject, but a dynamic power, an ongoing experiment ready to achieve unforeseeable planes of immanence and consistency. Le Roy’s self is unfinished not because it has not been completed yet, but because it can never be finished or completed. This incompletion derives from Le Roy’s predication of ontology of radical incompleteness, on an ongoing process he calls “relation” (Le Roy 2002: 46). In order to explain his idea of relation, Le Roy invokes Paul Schilder’s notion of “body-image” (1964), and combines it with Deleuze and Guattari’s notions of becoming and of body without organs. In a Self-Interview (2000), Le Roy writes:

“X5: I don’t know. But very often I ask myself, why should our bodies end at the skin or include at best other beings, organisms or objects encapsulated by the skin?

Y5: I don’t know neither [sic] but you might talk about the fact that the body image is extremely fluid and dynamic. That its borders, edges, or contours are “osmotic” and that they have the remarkable power of incorporating and expelling outside and inside in an ongoing interchange?

X6: Yes. As you say, body images are capable of accommodating and incorporating an extremely wide range of objects and discourses. Anything that comes into contact with surfaces of the body and remains there long enough will be incorporated into the body image […]

Y6: So in other words what you say is that the body image is as much a function of the subject’s psychology and socio-historical context as of anatomy. And that there are all kinds of non-human influences woven into us.

X7: Exactly. So it [sic] must exist another alternative to the body image than the anatomical one.

X8: For example: I think about that the body could be perceived as space and time for trade, traffic and exchange…

X9: … following that idea, would mean that each individual would be perceived as an infinity of extensive parts. In other terms, there would be only composed individuals. An individual would be a notion completely devoid of sense” (Le Roy, 2002: 45–6).

            Departing from Xavier Le Roy, it is possible to replace the idea of individual with the idea of becoming(s). Taking inspiration from Nietzsche, ‘becoming’ is unlimited and unending, as it has no true point of origin or destination (the world is always in ‘flux’), and insofar as the past is itself considered infinite, the present counter-intuitively always occurs as the ‘return’ of recognizable and even foreseeable forms, but is irreducible to them because becoming can never be ‘given’: it is, as Deleuze says, always in between the past and future since ‘it moves in both directions at once’ and ‘always eludes the present’ (Deleuze, 2004: 3, 2). In this sense, becoming is not perceptible because its onset coincides with its immediate disappearance. Following Nietzsche’s cosmological theory of existence, appropriated from the ancient philosopher Heraclitus (‘I see nothing other than becoming’), being does not have a final state. In Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche, the form of repetition or state of being in eternal return[9], where being is never fixed (even when it appears to be so); any ‘sameness’ and ‘similarity’ (or link between cause and effect) is actually indicative of a continual process of change without an origin or destination. What is the being inseparable from that which is becoming? Return is the being of that which becomes. Return is the being of becoming itself, the being which is affirmed in becoming. Becoming does not regress toward an earlier state or progress towards a final state: “pure becoming […] is the paradox of infinite identity (the infinite identity of both directions or senses at the same time — of future and past, of the day before and the day after, of more and less, of too much and not enough, of active and passive, and of cause and effect) (Deleuze, 2004: 4, 2–3). Everything that exists is in an ongoing process of transformation and reorganization. Everything is in the process of constant change.

            There is no fixed idea of a world. There is only worlding. Or worldings. Processes of a world worlding itself. Processes of a world becoming itself. Everything there is – is an ongoing movement of perception. Perceptual texturings. Existing in textures. Existing through and between the textures. Existing as one texture becoming another texture. Even the chair I am sitting on while writing this thesis is not only quantitative, but also qualitative. It is in not just an object. It is a relation. The chairness of a chair reveals all the textual becomings of the chair. The chair is not finished. The chair is in the constant process of becoming that unfolds itself through the act of perceiving. There are no mental images, there are only textural becomings, sensations-in-the-becoming. There are no objects, only relations. The chair is a relation. The body is also a relation. Bodying is body’s becoming: unlimited and unending, always reaching towards the new planes of actualization, new bodyings. In Erin Manning’s words, being ‘always more than one’: “Being composed of a plurality of irreducible forces, the body is a multiple phenomenon” (Deleuze, 2006: 37).


What we can conclude from this thesis is that body is a multiple phenomenon. The right question is: which body? A physical, an experiential, a relational one? A body, as Manning shows, is always more-than one. Also, it is a verb, an activity, a dynamic process, a bodying, and furthermore, a force to exist (Spinoza) and a capacity to be affected (Spinoza). The very capacity of being affected is the capacity to become. We cannot say how body is. Body is that which becomes, it is a body-becoming (Manning). It is, therefore, necessary to raise the question of ontogenesis of a moving body, or, its very process of making. The body is never finished, therefore, it is in an ongoing state of becoming.

            How to think this body-becoming? It is a force-form, a relational field, an intensive determination, exfoliation, invagination, insufflation, evaporation, fluid transmission. The concepts such as Body without Organs (Artaud, Deleuze and Guattari), bodying (Manning), body-score, and body-in-making (Manning) question the process of making of a body, as well as its becoming. The body, as explored here – is undeterminate and emergent, it is an intensive body. The body, as such, as an event of emerging-with the world, it is the very act of worlding. Intensive body does not express anything, but it is the field of expressivity. Its organs are not preformed expressions, but forces of expressivity. Intensive body is made of edges, points, particles, degrees of intensity. This is, as Deleuze would say, a new cartography of the body.

            Who does this body belong to? Body-becoming is not a human body. More precisely, it is a more-than human body. Transgressing the notion of specie, the body becomes a dance of speciations. As demonstrated in this thesis, a moving body is not an individual body or a body belonging to an individual. Rather, it is a dance of individuation and furthermore – a dance of transindividuation. Once the body enters the relational field of its individuation, as well as transindividuation – it becomes populated by affective tones and affective attunements which are more-than human. The body never moves alone. The body always moves-with – at the molecular, experiential and relational level – as a transitory individuation.

            Movement is that which makes the body. Movement is also that which moves the body from its being into its becoming. We are not confronted with a fully formed body performing a phrase of movement from the point A to the point B. We are confronting bodying and not a displacement. We never start or stop moving. We move and as we move, we body (verb) and we become. When thinking about the moving body we need to think the body as a verb. To body means to become and that which activates this force of becoming within the body itself is movement. It is not possible to separate the body from the movement because body itself is a movement, a movement of becoming. This body is never fully formed because it never stops to move – molecularly, experientially, relationally, therefore, the body is never finished. What does this notion of the impossiblity of separation of body and movement produce? It produces the following: we don’t dance with the body. We dance the body itself, its capacities to move, to experience, to become. There is no body practicing an already existing technique. Body itself is an emerging technique, and furthermore, a field of technicity. Technique emerges-with the body – as the body moves – here and now. Technicity is the moment when the body starts to dance itself as a technique, or, when it starts to dance at the edges of its technique, moving across the edges, moving from the actual into the virtual. It is not, therefore, possible to say how we have our body. We are not subjects possessing a body as an object. We are our body. The only thing that matters, as Manning would say, is to go to what we think is the limit, and then go further. This is what it means to body, to become.


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[1] The Body without Organs (BwO) refers to a substrate that is also identified as the plane of consistency (as a non-formed, non-organised, non-stratified or destratified body). The term first emerged in Deleuze’s The Logic of Sense, and was further developed with Guattari in Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus. The Body without Organs does not exist in opposition to the organism or notions of subjectivity, and it is never completely free of the stratified exigencies of proper language, the State, family, or other institutions. It is, however, both everywhere and nowhere, disparate and homogeneous. There are two main points to note: firstly, that the BwO exists within stratified fields of organisation at the same time as it offers an alternative mode of being or experience (becoming); secondly, the BwO does not equate literally to an organless body. In relation to the first point, Deleuze and Guattari explain that although the BwO is a process that is directed toward a course of continual becoming, it cannot break away entirely from the system that it desires to escape from. While it seeks a mode of articulation that is free from the restrictive tropes of subjectification and signification, it must play a delicate game of maintaining some reference to these systems of stratification, or else risk obliteration or reterritorialisation back into these systems. Therefore, such subversion is an incomplete process. Rather, it is continuous and oriented only towards its process or movement rather than toward any teleological point of completion. Consistent with this, and in order to be affective it must exist, more or less, within the system that it aims to subvert.

[2] An “organism”, in the way that Deleuze and Guattari conceptualize it, is a centralised, hierarchised, self-directed body. The organism is akin to the “judgement of God” (who provides the model of such self-sufficiency); it is also a molarised and stratified life form. The organism stands for an emergent effect of organising organs in a particular way, a “One” added to the multiplicity of organs in a “supplementary dimension” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 21, 265). Another important thing is that an organ is a “desiring-machine”, that is, an emitter and breaker of flows, of which part is siphoned off to flow in the economy of the body. Organs make a body’s way of negotiating with the exterior milieu, appropriating and regulating a bit of matter-energy flow. The organism represents the unifying emergent effect of interlocking homeostatic mechanisms that quickly compensate for any non-average fluctuations below certain thresholds to return a body to its “normal” condition (as measured by species-wide norms; hence Deleuze and Guattari’s sense of “molar”). The organism as unifying emergent effect also represents a stratum on the Body without Organs (BwO); it is therefore a construction, a certain selection from the virtual multiplicity of what a body can be, and therefore a constraint imposed on the BwO: “The BwO howls: ‘They’ve made me an organism! They’ve wrongfully folded me! They’ve stolen my body!'” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 159). While all actual or intensive bodies are “ordered”, or more precisely, contain some probability structure to the passage of flows among their organs (only the virtual BwO, at “intensity = 0”, has removed all patterning among its organs), the organism is “organised”, that is, its habitual connections are centralised and hierarchical. The organs of an organism are patterned by “exclusive disjunctions”, or more precisely, series of virtual singularities actualised in such a way as to preclude the actualisation of other, alternative, patterns; in complexity theory terms, an organism is locked into a basin of attraction, or stereotyped set of such basins. As such a fixed habitual pattern locked onto normal functioning as determined by species-wide average values, the organism diminishes the creativity of life; it is “that which life sets against itself in order to limit itself” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 503). Like all stratification, the organism has a certain value: “staying stratified – organized, signified, subjected – is not the worst that can happen” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 161), although this utility is primarily as a resting point for further experimentation.

[3] Intensity is associated with the measurement of energy, or more simply, is another term for strength or force, and is not a common term in the history of philosophy (with the exception of Bergson and Kant). Deleuze uses it to characterize the dynamic of differential systems. In fact, Deleuze notes that the scientific field of energetics tends to subordinate the indivisible, quantitative nature of intensity to extensive qualities (for the purpose of measurement), and does not grasp the intensive itself. While the term can in fact be found in Bergson’s work, Deleuze does not emphasize it in Bergsonism, and, in Difference and Repetition, he offers a critique of Bergson’s use of the term for subordinating it to quality. The concept of intensity acquires incredible importance throughout Deleuze’s writings and is utilized to characterize affect both in Spinoza’s modes and in the Body without Organs. Intensity can be differentiated from force in that forces engender the relations that produce bodies, while intensities concern fluctuations or thresholds within bodies. In What is Philosophy? the term of intensity is differentiated from force in that intensity has to do with concepts that occupy the plane of immanence, while force has to do with the determinations or diagrams of chaos that construct the plane; in this case force concerns movement, while intensity concerns speed. However, in many ways, force can be considered in terms of that which puts series into communication, while intensity concerns the resulting difference. In Deleuze’s reading of Spinoza, intensity is that which stands in distinction from the extensive parts that form characteristic relations of existing modes (bodies). It is a transient modal essence. According to Deleuze: “[…] physical reality is an intensive reality, an intensive existence. One sees from this that essence does not endure” (Deleuze, 1992: 312).  Furthermore: “each finite being must be said to express the absolute, according to the intensive quantity that constitutes its essence. According, that is, to the degree of its power. Individuation is, in Spinoza, […] quantitative and intrinsic, intensive” (Deleuze, 1992: 197). Intensity stands for that which is engendered in the body (of the subject, socius, earth, etc.) by relations of force, which fluctuates as a result of the strength of those forces but is always positive.  Therefore: “It must not be thought that the intensities themselves are in opposition to one another, arriving at a state of balance around a neutral state. […] the opposition of the forces of attraction and repulsion produces an open series of intensive elements, all of them positive […] through which a subject passes” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1983: 20, 19). Intensity also stands, in varying degrees, for the lived experience of the Body without Organs (in waves or passages which lack extension, stratification, or form): “Sensation is not qualitative and qualified, but has only an intensive reality which no longer determines with itself representative elements, but allotropic variations” (Deleuze, 2003: 45).

[4] Deleuze is fond of quoting Baruch Spinoza’s saying that “no one knows what a body can do”. The more power a thing has, or the greater its power of existence, the greater number of ways in which it can affect and be affected. More precisely, bodies are affected by different things, and in different ways, each type of body being characterised by minimum and maximum thresholds for being affected by other bodies: what can and what cannot affect it, and to what degree. Furthermore, certain external bodies may prove insufficient to produce a reaction in a body, or fail to pass the minimum threshold, whereas in other cases, the body being affected may reach a maximum threshold, such that it is incapable of being affected any further, as in a tick that dies of engorgement. Therefore, a body being affected by another, such that the relations of its parts are the effect of other bodies acting on it, is a passive determination of the body, or passion. For example, if an external body is combined or “composed” with a body in a way that increases the affected body’s power of being affected, this transition to a higher state of activity is experienced as joy; if the combination decreases the affected body’s power of being affected, this is the affect of sadness. However, it is impossible to know in advance which bodies will compose with others in a way that is consonant with a body’s characteristic relation or ratio of its parts, or which bodies will decompose a body by causing its parts to enter into experimental relations. The effect of increasing or decreasing a body’s power of affecting and being affected, one body affecting another, or producing effects in it, results in reality as a combining and a mixing of the two bodies, and most often “bit by bit”, or part by part. A body is a relation of parts corresponding to an essence, or a degree of physical. Therefore, a body need not to have the hierarchical and dominating organisation of organs we call an “organism”. Instead, it is an intensive reality, differentiated by the maximum and minimum thresholds of its power of being affected.

[5] For Deleuze, “body” is defined as any whole composed of parts, where these parts stand in some definite relation to one another, and has a capacity for being affected by other bodies. The human body is just one example of such a body; the animal body is another, but a body can also be a body of work, a social body or collectivity, a linguistic corpus, a political party, or even an idea. Therefore, a body is not defined by either simple materiality, by its occupying space (“extension”), or by organic structure. Furthermore, it is defined by the relations of its parts (relations of relative motion and rest, speed and slowness), and by its actions and reactions with respect both to its environment or milieu and to its internal milieu. More precisely, the parts of a body vary depending on the kind of body: for a simple material object, such as a rock, its parts are minute particles of matter; for a social body, its parts are human individuals who stand in a certain relation to each other. The relations and interactions of the parts compound to form a dominant relation, expressing a power of existence of that body, a degree of physical intensity that is identical to its power of being affected. A body exists when a number of parts enter into the characteristic relation that defines it, and which corresponds to its power of existing. Nature as a whole contains all elements and relations, therefore, nature as a whole is a body, a system of relations among its parts, expressing the whole order of causal relations in all its combinations.

[6] The understanding of actuality is tied to the concept of possibility. Possibility is something that can be predicated of, or attributed to, a being, which remains the same. Against this understanding of actuality, Deleuze sets a different couple: actuality/potentiality. More precisely, if there is something actual it is not because it takes up time, nor because time is that which links or contains the changes of actual beings; rather, actuality is unfoldedfrom potentiality. It is important to see the actual not as that from which change and difference take place, but as that which has been effected from potentiality. Time does not represent the synthesis or continuity of actual terms, as in phenomenology where consciousness constitutes time by linking the past with the present and future. Instead, time is the potential for various lines of actuality. From any actual or unfolded term it should be possible (and, for Deleuze, desirable) to intuit the richer potentiality from which it has emerged. As empiricist Deleuze seems to be committed to the primacy of the actual: one should remain attentive to what appears, to what is, without invoking or imagining some condition outside experience. While it is true that Deleuze’s empiricism affirms life and experience, he refuses to restrict life to the actual. In this way he overturns a history of western metaphysics that defines the potential and virtual according to already present actualities. We should not, Deleuze argues, define what something is according to already actualised forms. For example, we should not establish what it is to think on the basis of what is usually, generally or actually thought. Furthermore, we should not think that the virtual is merely the possible: those things that, from the point of view of the actual world, may or may not happen. Deleuze’s empiricism is that of the Idea, and it is the essence of the Idea to actualise itself. Therefore, there is an Idea of thinking, the potential or power to think, which is then actualised in any single thought. Furthermore, we can only fully understand and appreciate the actual if we intuit its virtual condition, which is also a real condition. Real conditions are not those which must be presupposed by the actual – such as assuming that for any thought there must be a subject who thinks – instead, real conditions are, for Deleuze, the potentials of life from which conditions such as the brain, subjectivity or mind emerge.

[7] “Watch me: affection is the intensity of colour in a sunset on a dry and cold autumn evening. Kiss me: affect is that indescribable moment before the registration of the audible, visual, and tactile transformations produced in reaction to a certain situation, event, or thing. Run away from me: affected are the bodies of spectres when their space is disturbed” (Colman, in Parr, 2010: 11). In all these situations, affect stands for an independent thing; sometimes described in terms of the expression of an emotion or physiological effect. According to Deleuze, the affect is a transitory thought or thing that occurs prior to an idea or perception.  Furthermore, affect is the change, or variation, that occurs when bodies collide, or come into contact. As a body, affect is the transitional product of an encounter, specific in its ethical and lived dimensions. It is also as indefinite as the experience of transformation. In its largest sense, affect is part of the Deleuzian project of trying-to-understand, as well as express all of the incredible, wondrous, tragic, painful, and destructive configurations of things and bodies as temporally mediated, continuous events. More precisely, Deleuze uses the term “affection” to refer to the additive processes, forces, powers, and expressions of change – the mix of affects that produce a modification or transformation in the affected body. Affect is to be distinguished as a philosophical concept that indicates the result of the interaction of bodies; an affective product. In his study of contemporary society, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Brian Massumi makes the crucial distinction between affect and its synonym emotion, arguing that this is an inappropriate association, since “emotion and affect – if affect is intensity – follow different logics and pertain to different orders” (Massumi, 2002: 27). Describing Spinoza’s study of the transformation of a body, a thing, or a group of things over a period of space and time, Deleuze and Guattari write in A Thousand Plateaus: “Affects are becomings” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 256). Furthermore, affect expresses the modification of experiences as independent things of existence, when one produces or recognises the consequences of movement and time for (corporeal, spiritual, animal, mineral, vegetable, and, or conceptual) bodies. Therefore, affect is an experiential force or a power source, which, through encounters and mixes with other bodies (organic or inorganic), becomes enveloped by affection, becoming an idea, and as such, it can compel systems of knowledge, history, memory, and circuits of power.

[8] To experiment is to try new actions, methods, techniques and combinations, “without aim or end” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1983: 371). Therefore, we experiment when we do not know what the result will be and have no preconceptions concerning what it should be. As an open-ended process that explores what’s new and what’s coming into being rather than something already experienced and known, experimentation is inseparable from not knowing. Furthermore, the elements with which we experiment are desires, forces, powers and their combinations, not only to “see what happens”, but to determine what different entities (bodies, languages, social groupings, environments and so on) are capable of. Experimentation does not interpret what something “means”, but seeks to discover how it works or functions by uncovering an order of causes, namely, the characteristic relations among the parts of an assemblage – their structures, flows and connections – and the resulting tendencies. Therefore, experimentation is necessary to reveal “what a body or mind can do, in a given encounter”, arrangement or combination of the affects a body is capable of (Deleuze, 1988c: 125). Experimentation is also necessary to reveal the effects of combinations of different bodies and elements, and especially whether these combinations or encounters will increase the powers of acting of the elements combined into a greater whole, or whether the combination will destroy or “decompose” one or more of the elements. The compatibility or incompatibility of different elements and bodies, as well as the effect of their combination, can only be ascertained through experience; we have no a priori knowledge of them through principles or axioms. An experimental method of discovery through the experience of new combinations of things encountering each other is contrary to any deductive system or any system of judgement using transcendental criteria. Therefore, life-experimentation, through a set of practices effecting new combinations and relations and forming powers, is biological and political, and often involves experientially discovering how to dissolve the boundaries of self in order to open flows of intensity, “continuums and conjunctions of affect” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 162). Furthermore, active experimentation involves trying new procedures, combinations and their unpredictable effects to produce a “Body without Organs” (BwO) or a “field of immanence” or “plane of consistency”, in which desires, intensities, movements and flows pass unimpeded by the repressive mechanisms of judgement and interpretation. Experimental constructions proceed bit by bit and flow by flow, using different techniques and materials in different circumstances and under different conditions, without any pre-established rules or procedures. “One never knows in advance” (Deleuze, 1987: 47), and if one did, it would not be an experiment. Experimentation by its nature breaks free of the past and dismantles old assemblages (social formations, the Self), as well as constructs lines of flight or movements of deterritorialisation by effecting new and previously untried combinations of persons, forces and things, “the new, remarkable, and interesting” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1994: 111).

[9] The concept of eternal return, which Deleuze draws from Friedrich Nietzsche, is crucial for understanding of the philosophy of immanence and univocity. In Difference and Repetition Deleuze says that Duns Scotus, Baruch Spinoza and Nietzsche affirmed univocal being. According to Deleuze, it is only with Nietzsche that the joyful idea of univocity is thought adequately, and this is because Nietzsche imagines a world of “prepersonal singularities”. More precisely, there is not a “who” or “what” that then has various properties; nor is there someone or something that is. Each difference is and has a power to differ, with no event of difference being the ground or cause of any other. Furthermore, by going through this affirmation of difference, and by abandoning any ground or being before or beyond difference, both Nietzsche and Deleuze arrive at the eternal return. If difference occurred in order to arrive at some proper end – if there were a purpose or proper end to life – then the process of becoming would have some ideal end point. However, difference is an event that is joyful in itself; it is not the difference of this being or for this end. Therefore, with each event of difference life is transformed; life becomes other than itself because life is difference. The only “thing” that “is” is difference, with each repetition of difference being different. More precisely, only difference returns, and it returns eternally. Time is what follows from difference (time is difference); however, difference cannot be located in time. The idea of eternal return, developed most concertedly in Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, has proved controversial in philosophical circles where it has generally been interpreted as either an existential or inhuman vision of existence. From the point of view of the existential reading, the thought of eternal return compels us to consider how we ought properly to live. It is also possible to express this thought in the following way: were we suddenly to recognise that every aspect of our lives, both painful and joyous, was fated to return in the guise of a potentially infinite repetition, how would we need to live to justify the recurrence of even the most terrible and painful events? The inhuman or cosmological reading understands Nietzsche’s proposition as the fundamental axiom of a philosophy of forces in which active force separates itself from and supplants reactive force and ultimately locates itself as the motor principle of becoming. The perversity of this reading, Deleuze argues, is that it converts Nietzsche’s vision of being as the endless becoming of differential forces into a simple principle of identity. We fail to understand the eternal return if we conceive of it as the ceaseless return of the same; instead, eternal return inscribes difference and becoming at the very heart of being. It is not being that recurs in the eternal return; the principle of return constitutes the one thing shared by diversity and multiplicity. Furthermore, what is at stake is not the repetition of a universal sameness but the movement that produces everything that differs. Therefore, eternal return is properly understood as a synthesis of becoming and the being that is affirmed in becoming. To think the eternal return is to think the becoming-active of forces. The eternal return represents the movement of transvaluation: according to its double selection only action and affirmation return while the negative is willed out of being. The eternal return is that which eliminates every reactive force that resists it and furthermore, it affirms both the being of becoming and the becoming-active of forces.

Author Profile
Laura Potrović

Laura Potrovic, actress, director, dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, visual artist, theorist. Founder and director of film studio Corpossibilities. Currently working on several film projects exploring the following ideas: bodying, body-in-making, body-in-becoming, choreo-anatomy, singularity of the body, liquification, transfiguration, compossibility of the body, corpossibilities.