• Antonia Pont

This paper argues that gravity is often opposed to lightness in a conceptual manoeuvre reminiscent of the binaries of a metaphysics of presence (the latter as interrogated by Derrida; see generally 1997). In this paradigm, lightness operates akin to the ‘origin’ or presence, and is deemed to have been contaminated by the arrival of weight, the latter framed as threat to this (presence)/lightness. The paper challenges this conceptualisation, one that arguably dominates quotidian attitudes to the body and its movement capacities. It proposes instead that gravity can be read ‘deconstructively’—in other words, that lightness and weight emerge from and produce one another, and that weight always already operates, and therefore includes lightness. In order to inhabit this desiring-body (a body affected by gravity), particular framings of the body’s internal structures can permit a harnessing of gravity’s vectors of attraction, enabling what the author terms ‘a rigorous laziness’. The latter would involve both an initial attitude and a practice that eschews vocabularies of ‘force’ and ‘effort’, in favour of a ‘close reading’ of structural veracities, engaging strategically with, rather than against, them, in an approach akin to deconstruction’s reading along with a text. Drawing ekphrastically on the structural suggestiveness of Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomatic and arborescent lenses, the paper finally contends that both these models are at work in human bodies, and that they operate in mutually generative ways. Taken up, this thinking may extend what the human body can do, and, most importantly, its pleasure in such doings.


Keywords: gravity—deconstruction—movement—practice—laziness—rhizome—arborescent



Passivity is anything but resignation. I'm speaking of an almost ontological passivity, one that changes your being in a practice that depends on an absolute elsewhere.
                                                                                                Alain Badiou, The Century, 126


Rigorous laziness 101

One of the first things to learn as a neophyte movement-practitioner is that, despite what the wrinkle-cream advertisements say, gravity is your friend. Commonly experienced as that which drags the human body towards the ground, gravity can be alternatively framed as the ‘desire’ between all bodies. Many contemporary dancers, some yogis, and others researching at the interfaces of movement practices and articulations thereof, might be, to varying extents, practitioners of what I term in this paper ‘rigorous laziness’. This oxymoronic notion occurs in cooperation with, and is primarily facilitated by, gravity. The structure of its nomination hints already at something aporetic. I argue that it may be read metonymically, as a fertile model for wider inquiries and ontological intimations, perhaps reminiscent of what Badiou has termed an ‘ontological passivity’ (2007: 126).  Rather than resignation or a paralysed cynicism, this embodied attitude—which I will elaborate more below—might contribute to that which makes possible a faithful response to the evental, and may even constitute a preparatory training in sensitivity to it.1 Badiou himself, as the quote above shows, also calls it a ‘practice’.

In the discussion that follows here, I will argue that gravity has often been negatively framed and placed in opposition to certain notions of lightness in a simplistic binary akin to those tracked by deconstruction (see Johnson 1981). This ‘naturalised’ manoeuvre, I contend, must be read in the wake of Derrida’s critique of a metaphysics of presence and its relegating of absence/loss to the status of what ‘arrives from the outside’ to breach and contaminate presence. Instead I propose that gravity, rather than being a movement either towards origin or a force that interrupts natural lightness, might more accurately be framed as simply movement-towards. It would be the facticity with which bodies must come to terms, and with which they can come to terms, at once rigorously and pleasurably.

Taking up the thought of the arborescent and the rhizomatic as proposed by Deleuze and Guattari, I will work ekphrastically and attempt an unravelling of the respective opportunities that these notions might open for an engagement with the pragmatics of quotidian movement and posture. To do this, I will begin with an example from practice of the usefulness of an emphasis on bone. By mobilising certain architectural analogies, I will attempt to destabilise the paradigms of gravity-as-burden, and effort-as-solution, which arguably enact similar manoeuvres to those of a metaphysics of presence. Such manoeuvres, transplanted into movement habitudes, are prone to violences and misalignments analogous to those rife in the tenacious inheritance which Derrida has so painstakingly desedimented.

Tree body—the deconstruction of bone

In my experience as a movement practitioner, the field of architecture and some of its vocabularies have proven to be both an invaluable lens and poetically productive for investigating particular questions arising from movement and some of its habitual limitations. Architecture offers an example of a practice that addresses a preoccupation with both the sensible and the feasible. It often matters that architectural forms work, as structures that may be inhabited; however, this pragmatic preoccupation is accompanied by questions concerning value(s), aesthetics or the intersection perhaps between how shelters work, and the work that these do to that/those which they shelter. Applied to movement, this can translate to an interest in movement that works, but also in what broader implications for the sensibility of ‘living in/as a body’ that these kinds of movement establish and perpetuate.

Interestingly, some theorists in the field of architecture have borrowed from anatomy the notion of the ‘third skin’ (see Drake 2007) whereby, after the layer made up of a matrix of living cells and the second layer which is clothing, the structures and shelters commonly associated with architectural endeavours are designated as a tertiary and also-‘living’ membrane for human beings. Similarly, we may flip this analogy in order to speak of the internal scaffolding of bone as a ‘first architecture’. That is, before we inhabit any kind of building, we are firstly inhabited by an internal, rigid structuring—the skeleton.

Among the many ‘lenses’ that a movement practitioner can cast across his or her research into movement, a skeletal focus brings the ‘embodied thinker’ immediately into contact with structural questions, organisations and issues of connectivity. In this way the skeleton demands that the practitioner acknowledge certain fixities, but also invites the practitioner to re-evaluate the limitations assumed to accompany this facticity.

Perceived at this level, this rigid internal framing corresponds more obviously to an arborescent rather than a rhizomatic reading (see Deleuze & Guattari 1987). Bones do relate to each other in specific, ordered and very hierarchical ways, and do not explicitly call forth a thinking of the multiple, nor reflect the systemic capacity to connect contingently with unforeseen parts and other entities.

In addition to a general arborescent classification, the geometry of the human skeleton, or more specifically, its ‘nodal arithmetic’, reflects a pyramidal arrangement. This is relevant to the way gravity affects the structure—think an enormous cascade of champagne moving down through a pyramid of glasses. To the lay person, the limbs appear to be various versions of cylindrical; however, viewed from a structural perspective, the numbers of bones making up the various levels of the skeleton (foot level, lower leg, upper leg, etc) attest to a potential to distribute forces into greater and greater numbers of ‘nodes’, the closer the body part is to the ground (from standing).

The human foot contains 27 bones (if one includes the small sesamoid bone in the big toe). Doubled, we find a structural base for the whole body divided 54 times. Weight bearing down from above is distributed through these 54 nodes, and finally into the ground upon which the body stands (if upright).

At the next level of the structural hierarchy, the shins each have two bones—the tibia and fibula—and we see that from an initial multifarious base of 54, the skeleton has quickly simplified to a doubled-double.

Directly connected to the bones of the shin are the structures of the knee joint. Let us note here that the noun ‘joint’ translates to articulation (f) in the French. In Spectres of Marx (1994: 29-30), Derrida has reminded us of the curiosity of the notion of the joint or articulation. By its nature it is aporetic. It must be, at once, that which joins and that which separates. The aporia must not be resolved in either direction, or else the joint would no longer operate or work as itself. This is to say, it may not join completely, or bone would result, and it cannot separate too thoroughly, or the joint would fail in total dislocation.

Interestingly enough, in my experience of the vocabularies used in dance tuition, a number of teachers have chosen to describe the joints as a kind of non-space—a space across which energy leaps—in their attempts to help the student-dancer translate expert movement into their own bodies. These kinds of poetics are worth noting, in my opinion, born as they often are out of an emphasis on pragmatic outcomes (such as effective, unfettered, even beautiful movement) or as strategies for interrupting sedimented tendencies in posture and mobility.

In any case, then, as loci of articulation between limb-bones, joints are seen to be, or are poetically depicted as, areas of spacing through which energy moves. Force passing via and across these void spaces is affected or redirected depending on the relative angle of the surrounding bones. In this way, spacing comes to structure that which is more ‘concrete’ or fixed, and would subsequently determine the latter’s behaviour and possibilities. Resonances, in this way, with the cornerstone in Derrida’s architectural depiction of deconstructive choreographies (1989: 72), swiftly come to mind. Systems depend on an ‘excluded’ part of themselves, one that is concealed, or even ‘absent’, in order for the former to remain resilient, and to realise their potentials. In other words, it is the joints’ quality as nodes of emptiness, predicated on absence, that makes possible the body-ness of the body.

Now, directly above the structure divided four times at the level of the shin, past the spacing allowed by the framing of the knee-node, we encounter the single femur bone in each thigh. From a base of 54, the skeleton has, in two levels, reduced its multiplicity to that of the Two. Through the double node of the hips (particularly crucial loci of articulating space for the possibility of any larger movement) the body has gathered itself into the unicity of the central column, and now there will be a number of bones, but they will operate atop one another, in a flexible thread or chain of repeated Ones—the spine. This functions as the central scaffolding.

Above and on either side of the thoracic spine, the shoulder and arm structures mimic that of the lower appendages in an uncanny way. The upper bones in each arm are single, the lower arm bones are double, and each hand contains exactly 27 bones. The ratio of 27:2:1 remains consistent. This numerical ‘gradient’ might offer an explanation to why it is possible to stand on the hands for extended periods (unsupported), when otherwise, viewed from the outside of the skin, the base seems too small for this to be possible. Yet we know it is possible, and part of my interest is to see whether such a capacity is inherent to our shared quotidian structure (contained in many human bodies), rather than to the extraordinary talent or physique (of the endowed few).

I propose this metaphor since it is one that produces tangible results in practice.

A body that conceptualises itself as a column is a body that must constantly work to remain upright, supposedly against the workings of gravity. As well as being unpleasant, it is also wasteful. That is, energy is used up all the time. A metaphor of the body as pyramid, on the other hand, offers a far kinder conceptualisation. If a pyramid-arrangement typically functions as a very steady geometry due to the fact that the base, closest to the ground, spreads and dissipates the weight, thereby minimising stress higher up the structure, then perhaps a human body, perceived at the level of skeleton and approached numerically, as a constellation of nodes, might be a structure with more capacity for stability, balance and, thereby, requiring less effort to inhabit and to manoeuvre.

Weight, for example, can then be encouraged in its attraction to the ‘pyramid’s’ base. Designed for heaviness (with their 27 nodes each), the feet’s contact with surface indicates the direction of gravity’s desire, and is useful. The force needs to flow through the fast, rigid bone pathways to reach surface, where the weight (which might otherwise be a burden) metamorphoses and spreads. Vectors of this weight function here as potentials-seeking-connections, and subsequently further transformation. Rigorous laziness would consist, then, of a readjustment of relationship to the very conditions of movement. With this attitude, or technological intelligence, gravity—rather than being obstructive—is essential for movement, and indeed for the growth of the skeleton itself (as we know, for example, from doctors’ recommendations of ‘weight bearing’ exercise for osteoporosis). Gravity, therefore, when read anew, and beyond the tired framing of it as ‘problem’, would enable movement and facilitate ease.

Gravity and ontology—the pathways of the veracious

The ontological is arguably preoccupied with the nature of being; its questions (in my opinion) are better framed using ‘hows’ rather than ‘whats’. As I have presented it just now, gravity would be a condition of movement, inherent to it, almost an ontological condition for it. ‘How is movement possible?’ It is possible due to the fact that gravity operates, and bodies are attracted. Put simply, gravity is attraction between bodies and this attraction, if not unhelpfully distorted or obstacled, produces both stability and movement. The geometry of structures across which such attraction passes will effect changes in the lines of movement that are produced. In other words, our human bodies do not move themselves in isolation; they move themselves in conversation with other bodies, the most obvious and omnipresent of these being the ground.

An example

In certain schools of contemporary yoga2, asana practice emphasises notions of following the direction of weight through the bones in order to allow a falling into alignment that will facilitate broader, more effortless and at times so-called ‘gravity-defying’ movement. This conforms to a kind of ‘less is more’ practical wisdom, and also to the yogic precept of ahimsa—non-violence—which recognises that ‘more’ may lead, explicitly or implicitly, to the recruitment of coercive, physically damaging, and counter-productive strategies.

Take, as an example, Sirsasana I—the version of headstand where the hands are clasped behind the head. The posture begins with the elbows being placed to form the first two legs of a ‘three-legged stool’ and then the head is lowered into place as the third leg. The two feet then walk towards the head (from the side it looks like a triangle). The feet and elongated legs are together, and remain that way as the body moves into the full inversion. Executing this posture might be perceived as a ‘strenuous’ activity. In practice, however, it is primarily an exercise in weight shifting. The pelvis (here, the second-heaviest part, after the head-as-base) simply travels a horizontal pathway, parallel to the ground; the legs walk closer and the pelvis goes beyond the line of the head. Nothing lifts. With weight allowed to flow completely through to the head (which here operates as the base of the ‘three-legged’ structure—the hands with their 54 nodes, and the head, as a single, broad node), the legs fly up, once the ‘cantilever’ with the pelvis as fulcrum reaches its tipping point.

All this occurs without significant muscular exertion. Gravity finds an easy pathway through the hard skeleton. The muscles contribute, in effect, less to the movement and more to stabilising the rest of the body (namely, the upper back and neck) so that it doesn’t move, which would unhelpfully complicate the transfer of gravity along the pathways. The training of the practitioner has consisted, then, not of working the muscles to move more, but rather of identifying which muscles not to work; that is, not to obstruct this ‘attraction’ between the head-body and the ground-body. The desire of gravity, combined with a horizontal weight shift, takes the ‘heavy’ legs up, and the practitioner harnesses this veracity.

On one hand, movement practice may be read as a training in, and inquiry into, the possibility of subversion of accepted physical laws or assumptions of plausibility. In this way, its deconstructive potential would consist in challenging the norms of what most people perceive as the limits of the typical human body.

On the other hand, I am lending it the tag deconstructive also because it ‘reads’ the conditions of its situation, and then works along the trajectories of these, rather than fighting their grain. Without intelligent strategy (or ‘reading’, or ‘attention’), for example, a body will fold, collapse, suffer. No matter how many times one wilfully pulls one’s shoulders back, posture as sustainable resting position never results, only a contrived and temporary posing. That which initiates transformation does not occur through an uninterested and harried labour.

Gravity, we note, may only move through the shapes offered to it. Unaligned, the skeleton offers very fraught trajectories, and gravity will travel them if nothing else is on offer. When gravity is read closely, however, it can actually assist posture, but the body must learn a certain intelligent receptivity, and allow for a rewiring of its habitual pathways of effort. The term ‘subtractive’, as used by Badiou, might be a useful way to frame the operation of this kind of attitude.3

Deconstructing gravity

So, by receiving the force of gravity rather than refuting or refusing it, movement practice and its technologies could be said to enact a kind of pragmatic deconstructive reading of gravity’s proclivities. I am choosing the adjective ‘deconstructive’ here, since these kinds of movement strategies and techniques of enquiry closely resemble the de-sedimenting of a Derridean reading of certain texts. Never against them, rarely even contradicting them, it is preferably an exercise in reading again and reading more closely. Deconstruction as a fundamental adjustment in the attitude of reading is also, as intimated above, a departure from the attitude of the ‘problem’. In Memoirs for Paul de Man, for example, Derrida will be very clear that deconstruction cannot be a problematic (1989: 84). When we, as the so-called ‘I’’s living as ‘bodies’, conceptualise gravity as a problem, we refuse its nature and the opportunities this offers (thereby binding ourselves more closely still to its limitations). We do nothing except engage in a cyclic iteration of reaction and exhaustion. The shoulders fall back, we get annoyed, we pull them up for the fiftieth time. We dream of a weightless life, instead of seeing what kind of machine we are.

Deconstruction, I would claim, operates adjacently to ontology, but does not rely on an initial ontological statement (as Badiou, for other reasons, does), since it functions anyway (‘it works’), and in either one of the two following ways.

  1. Deconstruction is constituted by a working with the grain of the text. With apparent ease, this strategic operation, nevertheless, effectively drains the hegemonic force out of certain apparently gapless discourses. Politically effective, deconstruction’s approach of  ‘going along with’ in a very particular and rigorous way actually accompanies a discourse’s undoing of itself. OR
  2. After the movement of deconstruction and its undoings have been at work, certain things may remain undeconstructed (deconstruction being one of them, as movement itself). De-sedimented, that which remains may be tacitly read as intimating towards the realm of the ontological (without explicitly stating this as an intention), and may give some indication of what is unconditional. (This reading can be informed by a similar manoeuvre in Heidegger, where Angst and Furcht are distinguished along the lines of the former as response to an existential condition, and the latter as a response to mere intra-worldly factors; see Heidegger 1962: 180, 228.)

With this understanding, one can then adjust one’s attitude to ontological veracity, which means that one might waste less energy and time (or might be less easily seduced into diverting one’s energy and time) into trying to transform certain givens.

The pragmatic movement strategy outlined above (using the example of Sirsasana I) can be seen as an example of a human body’s relationship to gravity informed by the two-fold structure just described. Either, by accompanying the body in its gravity-bound experience, certain obstacles and physical hindrances will undo themselves; or with enough encounters with the ontological fact of gravity, the practitioner can accept that gravity is a veracity of movement for an earth-dwelling entity, and then instead of refusing it, subtly reconfigure her relationship to it, in order that it serve rather than undermine movement.

In summary, gravity for the movement practitioner may operate as a site of inquiry around the human’s capacity for movement. In addition, it may serve as metaphor for broader a prioris, or at least an indication of what these are. Ontologically informative, perhaps, gravity can function analogously and resonate with contemporary discussions around the consequences of ontological statements such as Badiou’s concerning mathematics and Being-as-void.

If one accepts Badiou’s proof that Being is void (2007: 23ff), then the void, or inconsistent multiplicity, cannot be posed as problem. The nomination ‘problem’ contains within it the implication that it is solvable. The void is not to be solved, it will not go away, and neither will gravity. Or to approach it via a Derridean lens, it is as if gravity has been framed as that ‘gap’ or ‘spacing’ that comes to interrupt original lightness (—this is the logic that typifies a metaphysics of presence). It is as if humans were meant to be angels, and therefore that our relationship to surface were the result of an accident of historical contingency within time. This would be contrary to my suggested reading of gravity as functioning like an ontological condition of human movement, itself enabling of the derivative possibility of ‘lightness’.

Interestingly enough, a pragmatic realisation that frequently comes to people when working ‘deconstructively’ with the body is that weight and lightness are in practice experienced as mutually generating. For example, while practising the corpse posture in yoga (Savasana), practitioners must surrender their bodies to an intense, almost orgasmically overwhelming, sense of weight. Some people speak of feeling as if they were stone, and almost paralysed from heaviness. This can last for varying amounts of clock-time, and on some occasions it may transform without warning into the sensation of being completely weightless. Weight, then, would manifest almost as the leading edge of lightness, which itself is the wake of what comes behind movement lead by the pleasure of gravity.

I am proposing here the pragmatic and conceptual worth of paralleling gravity / loss or absence and lightness / presence, and suggesting an analogous reading along the lines of deconstruction’s intervention. If we accept that the latter has had something to contribute to rigorous thinkings about origins and (by inference) ontology, then I would argue that a reframing of gravity instructed by Derrida’s lens has much to offer humans with bodies, dealing with the facticity of their weight (or their body’s attraction to other bodies).

Certain stubborn theologies and ideologies about body (resonant with a metaphysics of presence) continue to short-circuit any intelligent physical practice and relational schema that would be able to reframe weight as enabling and productive. Without this reframing, the embodied human remains bereft of a ‘grammar’ of movement, and human suffering in physical form is substantiated, and made flesh. The body, reduced to a site of dead-weight, is caught in an always-already lost struggle in the hostile physical.

Endless surface—the chimera of the z-axis

So if we stop fighting gravity, what happens? Do we lie down and never get up? The previous example of yoga relaxation would appear to suggest that we don’t, or at least that things never just move in one direction (i.e. we are heavy and light, not heavy or light), nor does either quality operate independently of its opposite. What, then, upon closer examination are the architectures of how a gravity-savvy body might occupy, and then navigate, the so-called three-dimensions?

Let me propose to you a certain spatial conceptualisation. It’s like a bedtime story, so get comfortable.

Let’s imagine that we inhabit a completely two-dimensional world. What would apparently be matter is but a plane, a surface across which vectors of directionality fly. Vectors intersect with one another, intensify, to give the impression of a node, and then their force shoots off across the plane (like a big air-hockey table) in another direction. It is like watching fireworks reflecting on the surface of glass. Colours appear purely due to the speed and intensity of the forces flying and shooting. This perfectly flat world has no depth. And there are no hierarchical laws of coupling, attraction or deceleration that influence what may happen across the surface. To apply a nominal analogy, the architecture of this world is almost a non-architecture, since it works more like a chaotic, marvellously flat net, like a kind of recombining contingency, or like a rhizome. Above this world, however, or apparently ‘above’ it, and as a strange effect of its workings, another realm hovers. It is as if the colours, reflections, light of the flat world threw up chimeras of a third dimension. It would appear that this world has a z-axis, but it is purely an effect, a kind of spectral trick. In this world, and due to the dimensional complexity introduced by the hallucination of the z-axis, ordering arises. Whereas the multiplicitous realm of the two dimensions is ruled only by connections, lines of flight and areas of probability, the third dimension enables levels of organisation to arise. The arborescent emerges as thinkable, but only as effect of the former, or to use a mathematical term, as a function of it. To recruit Badiou’s manoeuvre (at the start of Being and Event), there is a z-axis, but it is not. Movement might appear to be happening in three-dimensions, it might appear to be about ups and downs and outwards, but in fact, the only movement happening is flight across surface, connections forming and then disappearing, relative speed and acceleration. It’s a crazy world, in fact practically un-representable. It’s possibility for re-presentation lies only in the chimeric z-axis.

Far from any pedestrian understanding of either body, movement or the spatial, what I have playfully presented might not be such a far cry from a useful, pragmatic conceptualisation of movement for the bodies we are. As Deleuze and Guattari remind us about metaphor, this might not necessarily be something standing in—as if—for what constitutes the functioning of so-called depth. It may be what actually happens.4

One of the major obstacles to movement practice is a general ignorance on the part of the practitioner of where they are standing, or what they are standing on. The lay person is deceived, or very distracted, by the chimera of the z-axis, and forgets (in the paradigm we are entertaining) that this axis might be in conversation with what happens across surface, as an x-y relation. By redirecting one’s attention initially towards surface or ground, one opens possibilities of following, (and indeed even of influencing) movement phenomena closer to their mechanisms or so-called ‘origins’. (Think ‘closer’ here as a mathematical limit function, since there is obviously no origin to this movement; it is itself originary.5)

Walking, to take a simple example, might colloquially be viewed as picking up a foot, moving its weight through three-dimensional space using force, and then placing it further in front of the body. This way of approaching the matter is, obviously, tiring enough. To practice a ‘rigorously lazy’ walking would be rather to acknowledge the directional desire of particular vectors moving across the depthless surface of the ground. Weight pours itself only horizontally, then, and ‘pools’ in a place further from the initial site of foot-contact. The chimera of the ‘thick’ body in the z-axis then follows by necessity, and what we might call normal walking results.

If what we perceive and experience as body-with-substance were the possible after-effect of a play across surface, we might say that rhizomes enable arborescence. That is, the logically prior dimension might be x-y, and only then does the effect of this plane throw up the hierarchies that typify the structures, ‘levels’ and substantiality of the arborescent logic. As a final point I would like to imagine the complementary causality to this—namely, that of arborescence also engendering rhizomatic reactions/interactions.


Free destination - tree as rhizomatic synapse

Once a body practitioner has integrated the pragmatic repercussions of the bones’ relation to gravity, to weight moving horizontally and thereby producing an effect in the z-axis, another opportunity for speculation arises. The surface-orientated, and pyramidally-stable structure then has the capacity in fact to behave rhizomatically also in the z-axis. This was mentioned earlier as a simple movement-towards, not a movement-towards-origin. Unfettered thanks to its clarified relation to gravity and resultantly more stable, the chimeric body is available to a further dimension of rhizomatic connection. Generating from a centre, and simply moving-out-towards, synapses multiply: pores’ connection with air, head-crown with space, fingers lengthening towards sky, tympanic membrane flirting with molecules shunting, lung contents coupling with everything small enough to frolic. This is the pleasure that emerges from the basic practice of allowing gravity’s desire to move.

A very grave pleasure indeed, and a possible indication that although, as Deleuze and Guattari claim, we may be tired of trees (1987: 15), mostly we understand them and their potential poorly. By working deconstructively with an arborescent model, the rhizomatic incidentally emerges, and indeed, arguably, does so rhizomatically. Not only can gravity be translated vertically through the tree of hierarchised skeletal connections, it can also be read as the expression of directionality across pure surface. Not so grave at all if read rigorously, what was purportedly heavy metamorphoses through the thought and practice of a rigorous laziness into the possibility of a movement politics beyond re-appropriations, of a pleasure that is not marketable, and of a subtractive falling away of the fascisms we enact on our bodies.

As Deleuze and Guattari say, some people have trees in their heads. And, I would say, some bodies are only trees, some aren’t even yet trees, and some dream of being trees and rhizomes, as well as other constellatory possibilities that perhaps haven’t arrived to thought just yet.

  • 1. A thorough discussion of practice as training in evental sensitivity is beyond the scope of this paper, but forms part of the author’s broader project.
  • 2. I am specifically referring here to the style of Vijnana Yoga, and my thanks goes to teachers Orit Sen-Gupta, Odelia Weinberg and her husband Nitzan.
  • 3. In a lecture given for the European Graduate School, Badiou pithily summarises the notion of subtractive in the following way: 'We name subtraction this part of negation which is oriented by the possibility of something which exists absolutely apart from what exists under the laws of what negation negates.' (European Graduate School 2007, 'Badiou. Destruction, Negation, Subtraction', at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT61MzuAI28, accessed 10 August 2012, Video 2, 1:05)
  • 4. My thanks to discussion with Dr Hélène Frichot in relation to this point.
  • 5. This was something discussed by Zizek in a talk he gave in Berlin at the ICI (Institute for Cultural Inquiry) in early 2009. He read (as I understood it) this movement as a kind of Todestrieb [death drive], an originary movement within the void.
Works cited: 

Badiou, A 2007 Being and event (trans O Feltham), New York & London: Continuum

Badiou, A 2007 The century (trans A Toscano), Cambridge: Polity Press

Deleuze, G & F Guattari 1987 A thousand plateaus (trans B Massumi), Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Derrida, J 1989 Memoirs for Paul de Man (trans C Lindsay), New York: Columbia University Press

Derrida, J 1997 Of grammatology (trans GC Spivak), Baltimore & London: Johns Hopkins University Press

Derrida, J 1994 Spectres of Marx (trans P Kamuf), New York & London: Routledge

Drake, S 2007 The Third Skin—architecture, technology and environment, Sydney: UNSW Press

Heidegger, M 1962 Being and time (trans J Macquarie & E Robinson), New York: Harper One

Johnson, B 1981 ‘Introduction’, in J Derrida, Dissemination (trans B Johnson), Chicago: Chicago University Press, vi-xxxiii