It has recently come to my attention that a quasi-economic study by Pierre Klossowski entitled Living Currency (La Monnaie Vivante) is in the process of being translated by Reena Spaulings, to be published by Reena Spaulings Fine Art. This is particularly noteworthy due to its author’s influence in the history of theory: Pierre Bal-Blanc praises the text for providing the missing link from Bataille to Baudrillard and from Lacan to Foucault and Deleuze. Living Currency was originally published in 1970, only two years prior to the publication of Deleuze & Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus and four years prior to the publication of Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy (in which the work of Klossowski plays a key role), so it will be most interesting to compare and contrast these authors’ respective theories of political economy.
Bal-Blanc (who has hosted a long-running art exhibition of the same name as the text) summarizes Living Currency as follows:
The book’s introduction posits very simply the initial perversion as the first manifestation in a human being of the distinction between reproductive instincts and voluptuous emotion. This first perversion distinguishes human from mechanism, and will later be found to be the definition of human thought. Then, ideology appropriates perversion as “false or foul thinking”—the industrial and capitalist system, in organizing the production processes towards specific and policed ends, closes them down in the same gesture as it expels everything that overruns for being perverse. For example, a tool is used for doing only one thing. It is perverse to exceed, to overrun. This is the limitation at the foundation of the capitalist division of labor. Thus the drive behind the “open form” or the “open work” becomes to explode and dismiss these limits, to multiply possibility. These practices, so typical of the 1970s, work to invert or reverse the industrial system, which borders on perversion, instrumentalizing it. One can also go back to Charles Fourier,…who tried to offer a theory of impulses be [sic] distributed in another organism, taking into account their necessary variety….
Likewise, the online poetry zine The Claudius Appbriefly describes the book in the following terms:
A magisterially paranoiac and prescient investigation of libidinal economy and economies of affect, Living Currency updates Fourier for a post-Fordist era: a para-cybernetic flowchart by Sade’s “neighbor” linking the processes and products of art and industry through their human, all too human medium of exchange. From the trade in bathos to spot-priced simulacra and the orgasms they unfailingly blow out like O-rings: enjoying your symptom means pricing your fantasm. Raise a glass with Juliette, to the open market—may it never close its legs.
The same zine has published the two last sections of the English translation, the latter excerpt serving as part of its introduction. (See above for the link.) It may be worthy of note that for the rest of his life following the publication of Living Currency, Klossowski’s efforts were near-exclusively devoted to painting, his artwork having since achieved some renown in the art world.
diagrams of intensities
at the intersection of all the scenes of the possible
choreography of desire’s throw of the dice
on a continuous line since birth
becoming irreversible of rhythms and refrains of a
I dance not in the place but I dance the place
the body weather
~Guattari, excerpt from ‘Présentation du programme de danse Buto de Min Tanaka’ (AH 159).
This and this group butoh dance are both interesting, however, if for no other reason than being sublimely fucked up. I’m not normally one to use strong language, but no other term will do. Both dances are by the troupe Sankai Juku. I’m totally pulling out these moves the next time I’m at a nightclub.
Above all I want to mention that the rays (nerves) of the upper God, when they are thrust down in consequence of my nerves’ power of attraction, often appear in my head in the image of a human shape. I am by coincidence in the fortunate position to be able to point to a really existing picture instead of having to describe these things in words; this picture is surprisingly like the picture I often see in my head. It is the painting “Liebesreigen” by Pradilla contained in the 5th volume of Modern Art (Berlin, published by Richard Bong); in the left hand upper corner of this picture a woman is seen, descending with arms stretched before her and folded hands. One has only to translate her into a male person to get a fairly accurate picture of what appears in my head when the nerves of the upper God come down. Head, chest and arms were distinct; the arms swung to one side, almost as if these nerves were trying to overcome an obstacle to their descent―the nerves of Flechsig’s soul crowding the heavenly vault… The rays of the lower God (Ariman) also quite frequently create in my head the picture of a human face which (as soon as soul-voluptuousness is present) starts to smack its tongue, like human beings when eating something they like, or in other words, if they have the impression of sensual enjoyment.
~Schreber, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, pg. 228_
The Schreber case seems to me a striking example of how language (i.e. in this case, reading the Memoirs as a book) is inadequate for depicting the real. The following are links to artworks inspired by Schreber, which help to capture the experience of his madness. Lacan hypothesizes that the fear provoked by horror movies is because they somehow express the inchoate, incomprehensible Real; it is far too easy to ignore the eeriness of Schreber by categorizing his book as ‘literature’, even when reading him for psychoanalytic reasons, and I feel that the following, particularly the films, capture nuances which allow for fuller comprehension of Schreber’s affliction. All of these works serve to underscore the one crucial fact that this actually happened, even if by no other method than creating ontologies (put more formally, diegeses; put less formally, fictional ‘worlds’) on lower planes of ‘reality’ than that of Schreber’s book, and hence make the Memoirs seem more real by comparison.
- Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (film; 2006) (trailer) (IMDb) (interview with director)
- Dark City (film; 1998) (trailer)
- Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (short film; 2006)
- Kippenberger, Martin – Portrait of Paul Schreber (abstract painting; 1994)
- Jason Thompson – Hyperborean Woman (Daniel Paul Schreber) (abstract painting; 2010)
- Nayland Blake – The Schreber Suite (mixed media; 1989)
- Radio Schreber, Soliloquies for Schizophonic Voices, by Richard Crow (audio, mostly German; 2011)
- Ärztliche Zimmergymnastik, a gymnastic art video based on the work of Schreber’s father, by Jesse Aron Green.
- Shock Head Soul: The Life and Work of Daniel Paul Schreber, a documentary/dramatization of Schreber’s experiences by Simon Pummell (in postproduction).
As Freud states in The Uncanny (1925):
[A]n uncanny effect is often and easily produced when the distinction between imagination and reality is effaced, as when something that we have hitherto regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality, or when a symbol takes over the full functions of the thing it symbolizes, and so on. It is this factor which contributes not a little to the uncanny effect attaching to magical practices.
It is not difficult to leave Schreber within the imaginary. This, however, is to miss the point.
I have lately, on a whim, been reading The Andy Warhol Diaries, and have been wanting to write a philosophical/psychoanalytic analysis of Andy Warhol, but it turns out that another fellow, Christopher Schmidt, has written it for me, and titled it “From A to B and Back Again: Warhol, Recycling, Writing.” From his references to numerous theoreticians (Austin, Barthes, Bataille, Kittler, Lacan, Wilde, Wittgenstein, even tacit traces of Bourdieu), the essay is gorgeous, and extremely well-thought out. It’s uncanny how Schmidt’s theoretical foci are so similar to my own (e.g. resisting intellectualist doxa; the way Warhol’s favored medium―the tape recorder―affected his thought; Warhol’s libidinal economy & fetishisms), similar enough that I’m obliged to shelve my hopes to analyze Warhol, at least for the time being.
My one major complaint about Schmidt’s essay is his conjecture that Warhol was illiterate; this is groundless speculation, and is flatly contradicted numerous times in The Andy Warhol Diaries, particularly when the editor points out that Warhol often (along with his autograph) wrote inscriptions dictated to him by fans; the editor’s inclusion of this fact likely was explicitly aimed at refuting accusations of Warhol’s illiteracy. From this mistaken conjecture it is clear that Schmidt has no extensive knowledge of McLuhan, who provides a much simpler explanation: Warhol was simply more attuned to the audial paradigm, and was uncomfortable with intense literariness. Besides the latter complaint, my only others are that there is an odd disjuncture between the initial part of the essay (a typical review) and the latter part (an intense theoretical analysis of Warhol), and that Schmidt’s ‘wild’ psychoanalysis gravitates toward ‘pop’ interpretations, seen acutely in his two-dimensional, cliché versions of the ‘anal’ personality and of narcissism.
To any theoretician even vaguely intrigued by Warhol, I highly recommend this essay. Schmidt does a magnificent job tying together seemingly disparate conceptual threads (particularly the bottom paragraph of pg.  with an earlier quotation by Warhol, which is not made explicit, but left for the reader to make on his/her own) and diverse theoretical perspectives. Schmidt has written a wonderfully ‘writerly’ text, the open-ended tangents of which provoke intellectual excitement and sparks of creativity in its readers.
Some of Christopher Schmidt’s Writings:
From A to B and Back Again: Warhol, Recycling, Writing
The Waste-Management Poetics of Kenneth Goldsmith
The Raw & The Cooked [a review of several books of poetry]
“Baby, I am the garbage”: James Schuyler’s Taste for Waste
**Note: To explain in brief why I think Warhol is worth taking seriously as a thinker: he exposes & sidesteps the flaws of literary intellectualism, foresees the vast implications of consumer society, and deftly uses a quasi-narcissist ethos to counteract his working class habitus.
P.S. Happy birthday, Andy. You would have been 83 today.