Modes of re-existence: another possible world, mayhapness

Revised versions 2014 and 2011; original version 2010

Translation by Paula Caspão

For to cite this text:

2014. (versão revista; original de 2010). Manifesto. Dos modos da re-existência: um outro mundo possível, a secalharidade [on-line]. Disponível em: AND DOC | Acervo Digital do AND Lab.

The regime of the “is”: Modernity and existence as a scission of entities

We often imagine existence as something that unfolds within the contours that separate and differentiate the I from the world, inaugurating it – the very existence – as an infinite mobilization[1] engaged in the inexhaustible task of extracting meaning from “reality”.

This operating mode – the one of the modern subject in search of an explanation for the object-reality, or the one of the artist-subject “inventing reality” for object-spectators – is entirely based upon an entitarian presupposition, according to which the substance or being (the univocal “is” of each thing, given as a subject or an object) precede and determine relations. In short, the assumption that “reality” is an object “of truth”, with functional laws and intrinsic senses, and the assumption that we ourselves as human beings also have a reason (even if hidden) to be alive in this “reality”.

No doubt this is a mode of existing. But a poor and resigned one, for it immediately and voluntarily forgets itself in exchange of some sensation of safety (“There is a reason for all this, there has to be one”), forgetting this is an image of the world, taking it for the world itself. It sets the terms of the relation as scission and complementary – the subject and the object – and commits to reproducing them ad nauseum in series of binary oppositions, mutually exclusive and yet perversely symbiotic: the only conceivable form of relation then, is the one where the other becomes more and more the other, and the I the I, each time they are confronted. The certainty of existence is designed as a scission, not as a relation. A scission between subject and object, but also between truth and fiction, form and content, reason and emotion, thought and action, body and mind, scientist and artist, artist and spectator, master and apprentice, etc.

The regime of the “or”: Post modernity and resistance as a changing scission

This operating regime of existence, however prevailing in Western modernity, never worked all alone: it was from the start disturbed by a disruptive competition with another working mode. Since we often resist to that image of the world and doubt (“Is there really a reason for all this? Aren’t there much more than only one reason? Or none?”).

The counter-discourses that introduce interpretative changes in the explanations – the ones supposed to merely translate or unveil the “is” of the aprioristic content of all entities and things within the modern distribution of the sensible – get under way practically at the same time. Based upon the same entitarian presupposition according to which the terms of a relation possess contours that precede it, such discourses rise up against the hierarchical organisation – against the coagulation of the contents “wrapped up” in each contour: they suggest the possibility of change – they suggest the symmetrisation of the terms, namely by making the exchangeability of their contents thinkable. Against the vicious prison of complementarity, which lulls what we call Modernity in a dogmatic sleep, we very often imagine, in many spheres of Modernity, a world where the positive “is” has rather been thought as an oscillating “or”.

A wide movement that emerged here and there, then and now, in the arts and sciences, a discourse that coexisted with the modern “Logos Planet” since its foundation, in the role of its “Romantic Moon”, becoming resoundingly visible (as it was named: Post-modernity) from the mid-20th century on. A world where existence is experimented as “resistance”, but that only makes the disciplined “content-based” binaries of the modern regime proliferate as a crowd of uncertain certainties. Proliferation of the “I”, proliferation of “artists, resulting from the pretension to cross out the hierarchic relation “subject versus object” through the proclamation of its symmetrisation – and even, sometimes, through the mandatory order to symmetrise it.

This is the way in which the “subject versus object” scission is supposedly suppressed, i.e. not by suppressing the scission itself, but by deliberating that it rather separates “subjects versus subjects”. In other words, what happens is merely a swap between the elements divided by the scission – keeping the scission as such. The object, the given fact or reality are suppressed as certainties, to be replaced by interpretation and by the changing randomness of contents, by the play with liberated senses, by the once again ad nauseum equalitarianism that proliferates in the or, or, or.

While in the modern sensorial regime the action, intentionality, existence are enclosed in the list of attributes exclusive to the subject, in the regime of the “or” any object or entity is elevated to the condition of “equal” identitarian agent. But in this distribution of the sensorium we are doomed to the arbitrary of intentionalities that can only tolerate the equitable existence of the others on the unavoidable condition that they can do as if they were deaf to one another. “Anything goes”, a sad celebration of the supposed death of binarism and hierarchies, yet based on the unchanged binarism that can only see the opposed alternatives either of the rigidity or the compassless spontaneist “liberty” of the thousand little tyrants that each of us would be – the “common” people now “author-ised” to intervene, each with her own opinion, caringly sacralised by the prevailing relativism.

The rigidity of a safe though impoverished existence is thus replaced by the not less impoverished liberalism of resistance, of the desire for alternatives, which can only establish a generalised “never mind”. If there is, in the first regime, a devotion to the certainty of “initial conditions” (a reality that “is already” there from the start), in the second one there is a devotion to its degradation into no matter what reality. Indeed, mobility increases, in the sense that the univocal explanation gets fragmented in the polyphony of an interpretative “diversity” of world perspectives. But the representation breach soon finds itself stitched up: interpretation enters the authorship drain with far more pressure than the explanation it intended to criticise. In that living mode, that “autonomous” and misgoverned existence is achieved at the expense of perpetuating, and even worsening, the logic of the entitarian scission. Whereas in the modern complementarity some kind of relation is practiced, as symbiotic as it may be – obstinate in its looping reiteration of the I and the other, the subject and the object – in the postmodern image of the world emerges the anti-relational acetic face of relativism: a world of generalised symmetry; a world that is more and more our world, in these times of multiculturalism and politically correct inclusion.

The regime of the “and, and, and…”: de-scission and re-existence

But… what if we imagined another possible world? A third sensorial regime, neither complementary nor symmetric? A world where existing wouldn’t be reproducing or rebelling, and where resisting wouldn’t consist in the closure of relations? A living mode where the whole thing wouldn’t amount to certainty or changeover, to the dream of consensual agreement or to indifferent omission?

A world where difference wouldn’t be frozen according to identities, as in the modern regime, but that wouldn’t be erased by the indifference of the postmodern “anything goes” either. A world where difference could spread in its infinitesimal asymmetry without having to be sacrificed in the name of encounters, and where encounters wouldn’t have to be sacrificed in the name of symmetry either? A dissensual world[2], where living together would be made of the microscopic chromatics of singular rhythms? A fantasy of ideorhythms[3], of community, a minoritarian-becoming[4] that has circulated and still circulates between the two other regimes, activating itself here and there, usually in a fleeting, bacterial, and invisible way. The fantasy of making it into a dwelling, of visualising it according to an ethics of sufficiency (not of the necessary, and even less of the compulsory) distant from the proclamation of the I. A world that is not inaugurated from the point of view of scission, but in the effort to perpetuate the relation or “de-scission”, producing the Event as a common plan of action.

Here is a third image of thought – and of action, which in this case do not oppose: an image of reciprocity. A third image that is not based upon the assumption of entity, of species, of a contour prior to encounters, but in which we risk to experiment with the varieties of a relation, with the differencialities of difference: and, and, and… a living mode in which we don’t have to choose between a resigned existence and the resistance of tyrant libertarianisms; in which we have to commit to a rigorous (though not rigid) work of re-materialisation[5] of both movements of the “de-scission” operation: a decision to de-scissor, to do without entitarism, without the certainty (or without the desperate search for the postmodern lost certainty) that “I am” as a condition for encounters. To re-exist in each encounter, be the consequence, and not the cause of the relation.

For it seems to us that resisting, if it is not re-existing, has no effect on relativity: it dies within relativism. It does not affect the relation; it dies in the becoming compulsory of interactivity or in the trench of bitter denial. If the affirmative purpose is vital continuity, let us rather talk about re-existence, about resilience: the flexible force of adaptable fragility, which lies in molecular clarification and in re-inventive acceptance, in dealing with “what we have”, rather than in rigid insistence of denial or in indifferent desistence of consent.

This is a problem that crosses both artistic practices and life in community. The fact of activating it and dealing with it places us beyond the segregating logic that fences in knowledge domains and artistic fields, and gives us back an ethical and political awareness that we make our own facts as much as they make us[6] – so that we can and ought to take responsibility both for our modes of living together and for our modes of creating worlds. There are no spectators; there are no artists: we are all (whether we assume that responsibility or not) makers of our own co-existence.

Research on another possible world: the emergence of mayhapness

It is in this question-place that the current research project will situate itself: in the modes of “making problems” to contemporary anthropology and to the sociality of living together raised by Ethnography as Situated Performance and the AND Logic as proposed by Fernanda Eugenio.

The project (just like this text) takes up the form of a metalogue[7] – of the one’s own thinking-making through the exposion to otherness, a cross contamination and re-invention of issues, questions and working modes. The metalogue: dislocate in order to exist (here is re-existence), engagement in spreading-maintaining openings and dissensus; refusal of the desirably conclusive agreement of dialogue. A research on existence/resistance understood and experienced as re-existence. That is to say, not as an act of “situating oneself against”, but as an act of “situating oneself with”. Thus the crucial relevance of widening the understanding of what a composition might be: very clearly a “placing oneself with” the other, the position of each agent being given by the relation with the others, the consequent position, the “com-position”. It will be a proposal of collaborative inhabitation: that of the research on modes of activating a world other than the one of the infinite mobilisation of modern and postmodern kinetics. This demands, before anything else, a huge effort to step back from the Action and the I; an effort to interrupt the impulsive immediatism to know and recognise “what that is”. A “subtractive” effort: subtraction[8] of the I and the Why (of the fixation on meaning, on its explicative or interpretative form) in order to extract a way back to the simplicity of “the right to go on”, i.e. sense understood solely as an emerging non-teleological direction. An effort then, to pose the prior question about the clarification of what “we have” to offer to each other, each time considered as a matter of the relation we are in.

What guides this project is the engagement to reformulate the question, trusting that a new world cannot be inaugurated when we find the answers, but when we change the questions. Not to ask about Being (“what is this?”), but about Having[9] (“what does this have?”). Working in order to make affordances[10] (the properties-possibilities that invite us to a contingent relational fitting) visible is therefore also an effort to operate not inductively or deductively, but abductively. [11] An effort to step back from what is clairvoyant (the evident) and to open an interval, so that what is obscured (or “obviated”) by clairvoyance can regain the surface. Hence, the “motor” of this working mode is the pause: not the tireless kinetics contained in the imperative “to understand”, but its inhibition, the challenge of remaining in the delay of action, in the interval of a “stand”.

At this speed, which is not a movement, creation meets an entirely new territory to set its sense on: neither creation in the biblical sense (making the “is” from zero), nor in the romantic sense (making the “zero” from the “is” of the artist, for her own pleasure). Rather, creation as stigmergy: collective work with no subject or object; unlimited work of re- materialisation of what emerges from relations; each time working with what one has and with what remains, with the tracks and traces of living together. A work that consists only in distracting oneself enough from the I in order to activate attention to the environment and to a non-manipulative handling of possible fittings, to the delicate grading between persisting and desisting in order to – then – re-exist.

A creation that emerges because we abstain from control and protagonism, becoming available as “minor” tools, as gamekeepers[12] of the Event’s “blind design”. Creation then, as autopoiesis[13] of the common. As serendipity – finding what we were not searching for, didn’t know, didn’t desire, that was not created by any particular author, but is made of encounters within a network of unlimited anonymous contributions (with no name, no I). Encountering whatever “could be” or happen.

This is therefore a research on another possible world, neither the world of modernity nor the one of post modernity. Maybe, who knows, the one of Mayhapness.

Tetralemma: the project as iterative process

This post-doctoral proposal will branch out into a 9 months collaborative research (between the tools I’ve been developing to perform with AND Logic and the real time composition method proposed by the Portuguese choreographer João Fiadeiro: hosted by his structure, RE.Al, this research will take place between September 2011 and June 2012, including different shared situations of teaching/transmission, creation/presentation and writing/publishing – three dimensions of the same effort to think and operate reciprocity (both within daily life and artistic creation). It will also work as a pilot-project for the creation of a research centre on politics for the living together.

As we activate apparatus such as a course, a creation, and a book, we are aware that this movement is loaded with something that is both indispensable and dangerous. On the one hand, exteriorising and uttering – taking position, leaving behind the becoming-imperceptible to which the rigorous and delicate exploration of reciprocity could lead – is fundamental to “set the pirate flag” of the mayhapness way of life, activating it as a disturbing event, enough to make it emerge on the level of the visible and thus restore the clarity of its dissensual texture. The ambition will be to reopen, in a serious way, the debate that postmodern relativism has managed to anesthetise under the interactive form of mere aseptic tolerance between indifference and celebration, for the most part merely discursive.

Yet if in order to affect the visible we have to give in and go around with its modes of operation, then it should be a minimal concession, no more than enough. For there is a whole series of dangers to be disabled, in order to restore those apparatus of power, hierarchy, distinction, legitimating and taming that are the pedagogic, artistic, and scientific tools: old modern strategies of (re)production of truth, certainty, definition, command. How to turn them into “minor use” tools, transform them into a place of encounter, knowing how much they are engaged in an almost irresistible and already rather automated vocation for recognition, for the fixation of reiterative meaning? [14]

How to appeal both to reiteration and interaction? For it is not enough to break up the reiterative circle of the modern hierarchic distribution master/apprentice, artist/spectator, scientist/layman (that are all modalities of the opposition subject versus object, or subject versus subjected), proclaiming, “shouting out loud” the postmodern pseudo-relation of equalitarian interactivity.

We think that in order to face and deal with these “monsters” at their own homes (the school, the theatre or the book) we will have to develop forms of availability to open the closed places of transmission, of creation and writing through the reciprocal contamination of their modes of operation. Availability to betray them[15] with one another; to be always between them. To work on iteraction, a spiral relation mode, which is neither an interaction (that returns to zero at each relational cycle) nor a reiteration (whose cycles are circles, or mere confirmations). To dislocate, in this way, each of those scission apparatus that are the class, the show, and the concept, and use them in a displaced way in order to disturb their pacific unfolding, to propose inquiries, to open up possibilities, to change their regimes and expose their tacit pacts. In order to disfigure and disorganise[16] their demarcations and keep the uncomfortable alive. Perhaps the uncomfortable will be the only antibody that is able to prevent the metalogue from succumbing both to the monologue of reiteration and to the dialogue of interaction.

This project of crossed immunology of the apparatus of the course, the creation, and the book thus activates them under the condition (once again) of de-scissoring them. Its design takes the form of the tetralemma[17]: the course is only a course to the extent that at the same time it is not a course; it is a creation and a book, and it is neither a creation nor a book. The creation is only a creation to the extent that at the same time it is not a creation; it is a course and a book, and it is neither a course nor a book. And the book is only a book to the extent that at the same time it is not a book; it is a course and a creation, and it is neither a course nor a creation.

In this way we have a minimal environment made of all those varieties, as a place of encounter. Here is our research programme[18] : a set of questions but not a subject matter; a purpose but not a motive; availability but not a cause. A rigorous departure point precisely meant to allow the flexibility of opening the way to something we do not know yet (…that we know).


[1] Sloterdjik, Peter. La mobilisation infinie. Paris: Christian Bourgeois Éditeurs, 2000.

[2] Rancière, Jacques. O espectador emancipado. Lisboa: Orfeu Negro, 2010; Rancière, Jacques. “A comunidade como dissentimento”. In: Dias, Bruno Peixe & Neves, José (coord.) A política dos muitos. Lisboa: Fundação EDP e Edições Tinta da China, 2010.

[3] Barthes, Roland. Como viver junto. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2003.

[4] Deleuze, Gilles e Guattari, Felix. Milles plateaux. Paris: Minuit, 1980.

[5] Latour, Bruno. Reassembling the social: an introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. UK: Oxford University Press, 2005; Latour, Bruno. “A cautious Prometheus? A few steps towards a philosophy of design (with a special attention to Peter Sloterdijk)”. Keynote lecture, Seminário Networks of Design. Cornwall, 2008.

[6] Latour, Bruno. Reflexão sobre o culto moderno dos deuses fe(i)tiches. Bauru, SP: Edusc, 2002.

[7] Bateson, Gregory. Steps to an ecology of mind. London/Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1972.

[8] Deleuze, Gilles. “Um manifesto de menos”. In: Sobre o teatro. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2010.

[9] Tarde, Gabriel. Monadologia e Sociologia. Petrópolis: Vozes, 2003.

[10] Gibson, James. “The Theory of Affordances”. In Shaw, Robert & Bransford, John (eds.) Perceiving, Acting, and Knowing. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1977; Gibson, James. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.

[11] Ginzsburg, Carlo. “Sinais: raízes de um paradigma indiciário”. In: Mitos, emblemas, sinais. Morfologia e História. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1999.

[12] Urry, John. Sociology beyond societies. Mobilities for the twenty-first century. London/New York: Routledge, 2000.

[13] Maturana, Humberto & Varela, Francisco. Autopoiesis and cognition. Boston: D. Reidel, 1980.

[14] Deleuze, Gilles & Parnet, Claire. Diálogos. Lisboa: Relógio d’Água, 2004.

[15] Idem.

[16] Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Félix. “Comment se faire un Corps sans Organes?”. In: Milles plateaux. Paris: Minuit, 1980.

[17] Berque, Augustin. “Éloge du tetralémme”. In: Contes de Palaiseau, c. 2011.

[18] Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari, Félix. op.cit.

[19] Ingold, Tim. The perception of the environment. London and New York: Routledge, 2000

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Fernanda Eugenio, 2018

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