For all their intoxication by the narcotics of colonialism – from sugar to cocaine – Europeans have scarcely succeeded in anaesthetizing themselves from a reduction of the environment to a sensory nature cut off from spiritual truth.
This division between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ hardly manages to contain the violence of which it is both product and producer – evident in the consequences of addiction and anxiety. In this paper, I suggest that amongst the many effects manifest ‘between institution and intoxication’ (as between ‘means and ends’ in the spirit of capitalism), this relation between thought and environment, the body and the social, can be seen in symptoms as diverse as identification with management-speak (not least, in today’s universities) and in the destructiveness of the attention economy. As someone who suffered great anguish in his relations with institutions and who struggled with addictions his whole life, Artaud’s writings offer compelling testimony here. Besides his sense of what it means to be ‘suicided by society’, he also constantly warned his younger friends against the very drugs he demanded they help supply him with. His work offers an acute awareness of ‘institutions and intoxications’ in a world where signs of ‘bewitchment’ provide another key to understanding these same symptoms. As examples of thinking-interventions in this context, I will explore a dialogue between Artaud and David Graeber’s analyses (in ‘The Utopia of Rules’), where such signs are addressed in terms of realities to which they are not themselves reducible.
Dr Mischa Twitchin is a lecturer in the Theatre and Performance Dept., at Goldsmiths, University of London. His book, “The Theatre of Death –the Uncanny in Mimesis: Tadeusz Kantor, Aby Warburg and an Iconology of the Actor” is published by Palgrave Macmillan in their Performance Philosophy series; and examples of his own performance- and essay-films can be seen on Vimeo.
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