Exhausting Theory

Monday 29th May 2023 10.00 – 13.00
A Badge of Honour: The Dream of the Mind that Has to Be Fabricated 

Lecture & conversation with Morgan Quaintance

Professor Patricia Pisters (ASCA) 

Exhaustion is a limited experience. It happens the moment the possibilities of the physical presence (the actual) give way to something beyond our immediate perception (the virtual of the past or the future, the otherworldly). It may be a popping up of a memory, something barely perceptible, a feeling rather than an image. In ‘The Exhausted’ Deleuze argues: “The dream of the exhausted, insomniac, or abulic person is not like the dream of sleep, which is fashioned all alone in the depths of the body and of desire; it is a dream of the mind that has to be made, fabricated.”

In this lecture I will look at the ways in which artists fabricate such constructed minds by traveling to the limits of perception. One way of creating liminal images is by rendering the image completely abstract, strip them down to the bare minimum of the ‘Trio’ such as the numerous trios in Beckett plays (voice, space, music; man, woman, child; three doors in the mise-en-scene) etc. The other way of going to the limits of perception is by addressing too many levels of perception (reading, listening, seeing). Morgan Quaintance’s short film Surviving You, Always (2021) does both. And by creating in this way a mind in image, text and sound, he creates a space where things can be lost and saved at the same time, counter-actualising the wound of a loss in a moving artistic expression and thus wearing the event (what happens to us), as Quaintance suggests, “like a badge of honour”. 

Tuesday 30th May 2023 10.00 – 13.00  
CONVALESCING – thought, a matter of health? a proposition 


Dr. Halbe Kuipers (UvA) 

In the preface of Human, All Too Human (1908 [1878]), Friedrich Nietzsche advances a remarkable practical conception of convalescence. He speaks of just lying in the sun, of seeing the patches of sunlight on the wall during winter, of spinning out patience sitting sadly still… All this, for Nietzsche, is part of a process to become healthy, by which he means getting ‘healthier’. Convalescing is not only one of the most important elements of Nietzsche work, besides his doctrines of perspectivism, the will to power, and the eternal recurrence of the same, but it might just be that which all his work strives to: to become healthy is for Nietzsche a “fundamental cure for all pessimism”, which indeed incorporates all the other elements of his philosophy. 

In this proposition, I will first try to unfold the different dimensions to Nietzsche’s conception of convalescence. This involves first a survey of the practical examples he gives and a seeing of their nature; then it involves its understanding in terms of a process, a process of getting healthier; thirdly, it involves a perspectival dimension wherein this process is, as Nietzsche says, always ‘for me’ – a ‘me’ that is always the creation of this very process rather than a presupposed ‘I’ or ‘Self’; finally, it involves grasping how this is for Nietzsche nothing but the work of ‘free spirits’, which brings me to the essential qualities of convalescing: gratefulness and modesty. 

To make the proposition itself an exercise of practical wisdom, I then want to follow with a very simple question that follows Nietzsche’s line that there are some convalescents “who allow no day to pass without hanging a little song of praise on the hem of its departing robe.” My question in following is simple, what then is a day? What makes a day? Or rather, in Nietzschean fashion, which day? Can there be multiple days in a day, and how? With these questions, and accompanying examples, I want to open the floor to study the conception of a day as a process of convalescing.

Wednesday 31st May 2023 10.00 – 13.00  
Sleepwalking toward Immediate Sociality  

Performance Lecture

Dr. Toni Pape (UvA)  

This performance lecture proposes sleepwalking as a mode for social healing - and for fucking with it. The conceptual persona of the sleepwalker is also, perhaps, a good example of an “insomniac dreamer.” In contemporary media theory, the figure of the sleepwalker has been mobilised in largely pessimistic critiques of digital media. In his Sleepwalker’s Guide to Social Media, Tony D. Sampson suggests that social media induce a state of collective somnambulism in which individuals are neither fully conscious nor unconscious. Digital media favour the in-between state of sleepwalking to extract value from highly habitual or even automated behaviour like doomscrolling.

After presenting this approach, the talk will however try to redeem the notion of sleepwalking. Drawing on the work of early sociologist Gabriel Tarde, sleepwalking will be presented as the quintessential social state of mind in general. This means that somnambulism is not necessarily a deficient state and can be affirmed and redeemed for alternative projects of community-building. The question is how we can sleepwalk differently. How can we tap into and modulate our collective nonconscious toward a more lively engagement with media? Or better: How can sleepwalking help us go beyond social media towards practices of social immediation? While the performance lecture raises these questions, speculative answers will be developed in a guided workshop that activates the lecture’s conceptual concerns through a series of short exercises. 

Thursday 1st June 2023 10.00 – 13.00
How to Endure the Pain? On The Wounded Life   


Dr. Rick Dolphijn (Utrecht University and Sandberg Instituut)   

Both at the beginning of his career and at its end, Deleuze refers to the work of the poet Joe Bousquet. Starting from his phrase “my wound was there before me, I was born to embody it”, Dolphijn explores the ‘woundedness’ these authors are struggling with, and the relation this has to art and life. How to live life on the wound, and, how to live these lives beautifully? With examples from surrealists (from the 20th and the 21st centuries), we aim to explore what it means to endure the pain creatively, affirmatively. 

Friday 2nd June 2023 10.00 – 13.00
Refuse (“How do we rid ourselves of ourselves, and demolish ourselves?”)    


Dr. Hypatia Vourloumis (Dutch Art Institute)    

This seminar/lecture/workshop builds on Deleuze’s essay “The Exhausted” and my ongoing theoretical work on practices of anticolonial paralanguage in order to think through how exhausting communication’s ends can offer a turning towards, and attending to, communicability as means.  In Deleuze’s words: "[O]nly an exhausted person can exhaust the possible, because he has renounced all need, preference, goal, or signification.” Thinking of goals and signification as infrastructural logistics, (following Stefano Harney and Fred Moten in The Undercommons and All Incomplete), I understand Deleuze’s call to “exhaust the possible” as bound to a refusal of working towards a certain end. I argue that intentional paralinguistic performances reclaim the means, stay in mere means, and must do so, because the ends carried by the means are historically and ongoingly brutal. How can we think of incompletion and exhaustion together? As Deleuze writes: “the greatest exactitude and the most extreme dissolution; the indefinite exchange of mathematical formulations and the pursuit of the formless or the unformulated. These are the two meanings of exhaustion and both are necessary in order to abolish the real.” Our gathering will think of all the above by way of embracing exhaustion as operation, the question Deleuze poses (in Cinema 1: The Movement-Image) “how do we rid ourselves of ourselves,” and two meanings of the word “refuse”: debris and rejection.