(a simple introduction)

Félix Guattari was a psychiatrist, philosopher and militant. He collaborated with philosopher Gilles Deleuze. Together they developed the notion of ‘schizoanalysis’ as a radical piece of philosophical theory, which Guattari also applied in his clinical work with psychiatric patients. The point of schizoanalysis is to critique, challenge and reform Freud and Lacan’s clinical practice and theory of the mind called psychoanalysis. Both Deleuze and Guattari were perturbed by the singular focus on neurosis (rather than psychosis) in psychoanalysis, and Freud’s definition of desire as lack. Deleuze and Guattari also criticized Freud’s complete ignorance of any social or political context that may influence the person who is psychoanalysed. Such a person is called an ‘analysand’. We might imagine them to be subjected to Freudian or Lacanian psychoanalysis, lying on the infamous couch (sic.), and uttering repressed emotions and stories from their dreams, whilst Freud interprets whatever they say in terms of a ‘castration complex’ or the ‘Oedipus complex’, which is all about being frightened of losing your penis (or wishing you had one) and little boys desiring their mother.

Jokes aside… Deleuze and Guattari vehemently insist the psychoanalysis is problematic because it does not only affect the single analysand on the couch. Psychoanalysis is systematic. Anti-Oedipus (Deleuze and Guattari’s book, which has the subtitle ‘Capitalism and Schizophrenia’) opposes the authority and dominion of the mental health profession, as it is imposed in the psychiatric clinic (and on the couch), because its structure and power operate and affect the social field and our existence at large. This is why it is such a big deal to argue against psychoanalysis: its problematic logic and symbolic order relates to and affects all of us. So schizoanalysis apparently begins as a fervent critique of psychoanalysis, and develops (beyond Anti-Oedipus) into a reworking or, as Guattari discusses in his own, later work, a ‘metamodeling’ of its systematic malfunction in society (Guattari1996: 122; Guattari 1995: 58-76).

This idea of ‘metamodeling’ psychoanalysis, or modeling or creating or sculpting a practice after (‘meta’) psychoanalysis, brings to mind the dependence of art to realize schizoanalysis. Guattari metamodels to initiate his schizoanalytic practice. This means he remodels the model of psychoanalysis, reworking it, reforming it, so that it can address a new and updated clinical and political context. This process of remodeling (‘metamodeling’) is intrinsically artistic.

In Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari say that the psychiatric clinic actually causes rather than cures psychiatric illnesses. With their project of schizoanalysis they want to source an ethical ‘place of healing’ which will build a new world – not just for those who have a psychiatric illness (although they base their argument around these cases), but for us all. They intend to do this by engaging with the schizophrenic process obtained and liberated from the schizophrenic illness.

Deleuze and Guattari imply an ethics to their schizoanalytic project. As Mark Seem argues, Anti-Oedipus ‘develops an approach that is decidedly diagnostic […] and profoundly healing as well’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: xix). They are not looking for a cure for the schizophrenic, but a cure from the system that causes and detains this illness: ‘the schizophrenization that must cure us of the cure’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 76/80).

Their main frustration with Freud was his definition and categorization of desire as lack. Freud says we desire something because we don’t have it. We desire what we lack. This might seem like common sense – we want what we don’t already have. But it’s hugely problematic for Deleuze and Guattari because in Freud desire is the production of fantasies as a result of repressed (and so unconscious) desires. These desires pivot around the Oedipus complex. Castration complex. Etc. A long long way from reality later, in Freud, we never reach our desired object (which is only ever represented by our fantasy of it).

By contrast, in Deleuze and Guattari, desire is production. Desiring production. Incessant creation. A machine of creativity. Desiring machines. We desire, so we create. We are all artists, fuelled by our desiring-machines.

Deleuze and Guattari say that desiring-machines are activated by the schizophrenic process. Once separated and liberated from the illness, they operate as lines of escape from the system of psychoanalysis. The implications of schizoanalysis, from this point of view, as Foucault says, intend to ‘break the holds of power and institute research into a new collective subjectivity and a revolutionary healing of mankind’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: xxiii). Foucault accordingly calls this work a ‘book of ethics’ (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: xv)

According to the psychiatric systems Deleuze and Guattari are challenging, schizophrenia is a psychiatric disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions and impairment in the perception or expression of reality. People who find themselves in the position to be diagnosed as schizophrenic have trouble knowing how to differentiate the real from the imaginary, because the boundaries that demarcate the ego or self are distorted. They often experience multiple senses of self, which invade the mind through psychotic hallucinations of visions or voices. It often seems as though several different characters inhabit a schizophrenic individual’s mind. A person diagnosed with schizophrenia has paranoid or bizarre delusions, disorganized speech and thinking, with significant social dysfunction. Normal capacities of communication are severely impaired. These symptoms are involuntary and uncontrollable, so the schizophrenic’s subjectivity is defined by psychotic delirium.

The etymology of ‘schiz’ in schizophrenia and schizoanalysis comes from skhizein, meaning to split, break, separate, or divide. With schizophrenia, this refers to the ‘split’ in the mind, or the multiple, broken up experiences of reality that an individual with schizophrenia has during a psychotic episode. Schizoanalysis is trying to locate exactly where and how these breaks in reality arise, and then mobilize them to manufacture a new production of subjectivity. By contrast, Freudo-Lacanian psychoanalysis is concerned with dampening these breaks, to flatten or resolve any divide and eliminate any possible entry or exit points into the turmoil of this splitting. In this way the consequent mental health profession instills its hegemony onto the psyche, since, as Deleuze and Guattari argue, the psychoanalytic dam (with its singular oedipal constriction) curbs the mechanised flow of desire that defines subjectivity, thus detaining it. By contrast, they want to release and liberate the schizo’s split/multiple senses of subjectivity and the world.

Despite these constructivist, ethical intentions, in Anti-Oedipus schizoanalysis is more accurately described by the ongoing dynamic of ‘Destroy, destroy’ than anything that brings healing. As a self-described violent, brutal and ‘malevolent activity’, schizoanalysis seems to be waging war. This punitive dynamic is directed towards Freudian psychoanalysis, and its implications (that Deleuze and Guattari read) on the social field and subjectivity (Deleuze and Guattari 2004: 342, 417).

Guattari’s work (within collaboration with Suely Rolnik), in Molecular Revolution in Brazil, outlines a schizoanalytic practice that raises the same discussion of psychiatric disorders such as addiction or psychosis in relation to clinical detainment and the institution as we saw in Anti-Oedipus. But here Guattari is using schizoanalysis not to destroy the clinic, eradicate the institution, nor to endorse psychiatric illnesses or problems such as addiction or schizophrenia (‘that has never been among my intentions!’) (Guattari and Rolnik 2008: 375). Indeed, ‘There is not the slightest doubt that it is absolutely necessary that asylums and refuges should exist’ (Guattari and Rolnik 2008: 376). However, Guattari wants to expand and open the largely monadic, narrow and punitive process of institutionalization, so it can operate as a ‘polyphony’ that can bring into play ‘anthropological, social, and ethical dimensions that concern the whole of society’ (Guattari and Rolnik 2008: 376).

Guattari gives us examples of his own interventions (as an analyst at La Borde) with schizoanalytic case studies, to illustrate his new schizoanalytic vision. He talks about a young schizophrenic named Jean-Baptiste, who had been living in and out of a psychiatric hospital for about ten years, with multiple admissions and intermittent violent psychotic episodes. His life when outside of the clinic consisted of a sheltered living with his elderly parents, on whom he was entirely dependent. He would see Guattari for ‘analysis’ (or ‘therapy’) once a week. Guattari describes how these sessions would be largely repetitive and consist of the same rituals: Jean-Baptiste would always begin by giving Guattari some chewing gum. It seemed that not much happened during ‘analysis’, and yet the threat of another psychotic episode and hospitalisation was always present. Jean-Baptiste had a restricted life: ‘he lived in a kind of total apraxia’ (Guattari and Rolnik 2008: 357).

Guattari decided to conduct a radical, therapeutic experiment, by organising for Jean-Baptiste to have more independent living, some financial income, and ‘the suspension of the threats for hospitalisation’ (Guattari and Rolnik 2008: 358). There were severe risks involved in this process – throwing Jean-Baptiste out on a limb, so to speak: he would be much more susceptible to provocation for another episode, by being alone with his distorted perceptions and problems with social relations. How could he cope with the real world, after such a sheltered, interned existence?

But this schizoanalytic experiment was a tremendous success. Although difficulties and a series of problems were raised, Jean-Baptiste shone with his new independence. This was demonstrated during the changes that took place at his weekly sessions with Guattari. What is most important for our purposes is the way that Jean-Baptiste’s incorporation of art in his analysis and/or therapy sessions enabled him to continue his process of growth and making sense of his newfound existence. Guattari describes how Jean-Baptiste began making drawings. This simple activity involved describing and interpreting his new daily activities, achievements, failures, and relations with his family. This was possible because Jean-Baptiste was able to build a new kind of assemblage through the creative process of art making. This process provided a form of therapy that exceeded and replaced the restrictions posed by ‘treatment’ at the institution, in psychoanalysis, and even in Guattari’s individual sessions, because: ‘In this new solitary assemblage, he began to create a mode of expression and develop it, creating a kind of cartography of his own universe’ (Guattari and Rolnik 2008: 360).

We can see here how art making provides Jean-Baptiste with ‘the invention of new assemblages of enunciation and analysis’, which is ‘something that he couldn’t develop in the family territory, nor, of course, in the territory of a psychiatric hospital, nor even in his therapeutic relation’ with Guattari (Guattari and Rolnik 2008: 360). By operating as a machine that functions to express, interpret and evaluate one’s existential, inter-relational, situated presence in the world, art making offers a method of counter-actualising the difficulties or sufferings that this presence, and the world itself, raise. Guattari’s new, transformative process of schizoanalysis does not psychoanalyse Jean-Baptiste’s psychosis, but rather opens ‘the different modes of consistency of territories or different kinds of […] ‘machinic processes’ […] that could be set into operation’ to provide healing and a new way of living (Guattari and Rolnik 2008: 359). The motor of this process is fuelled by art-making.

We begin to see how schizoanalysis can be carried out by practicing art. Deleuze and Guattari say that the work of art, art’s work, art’s job, is to change perception. That is, art must change how we see the world and make sense of it. Art has agency that disrupts and transforms the structure and authority of society. Because of this, art is intrinsically political as well as aesthetic (a Greek word meaning ‘of the senses’). From a schizoanalytic viewpoint, we are all artists. This means that we all have the capacity to challenge and change the world around us. Making and perceiving art gives us the opportunity to activate this motion, which is intrinsically schizoanalytic.

Guattari would call this application of schizoanalysis to generate therapy a process of ‘metamodeling’. Guattari’s practice of ‘metamodeling’ helps us see how schizoanalysis is crucial for social therapy as art.

Guattari was analyzed by Lacan and worked with him or from his ideas (in an unorthodox way) throughout his career as a psychiatrist, schizoanalyst and militant.

Lacan used complex diagrams and ‘knots’ to illustrate his theories (such as the ‘mathemes of the unconscious’). Although he was critical of this, Guattari also used diagrams and models throughout his writings. As Deleuze said: ‘His ideas are drawings, or even diagrams’ (Deleuze, 2006: 238).

From this point of view we can call Guattari an artist or designer. He sees his ideas in images. His drawing practice and the consequent diagrams he creates, which illustrate and explain his theories, are then forms of life drawing. They helped Guattari to visualize what he was thinking about. Just so, looking at these diagrams can give us a different method of analyzing his thoughts and ideas.

Guattari’s singular books contain diagrammatic material from a huge eclectic range of sources, such as linguistics, ethnology, anthropology, chaos theory or thermodynamics. This process of diagramming can be called ‘metamodelling’ being put into practice; that is, the construction of aesthetic models for his different theories in the drawing he composed on paper. Guattari and Deleuze’s concept of the diagram, is defined as a mode of thought that avoids language.

Guattari later defined schizoanalysis as ‘metamodeling’ when he said that ‘Schizoanalysis, I repeat, is not an alternative modeling. It is metamodeling’ (Guattari, 1996: 122). It is ‘a discipline of reading other systems of modeling, not as a general model, but as instrument for deciphering modeling systems in various domains, or in other words, as a meta-model’ (Guattari, 1989: 27).

For Guattari ‘model’ (or ‘pattern’) is a taught pattern of behavior inherited from family, institutions, and society. This model consists of a preceding, prescribed norm that is imposed by a the powers that be in society. A model is also, from another viewpoint, a way of mapping and organizing a process or a structure (of society, of the family, of the body, or of desire, for example).

Guattari says that we all feel alienated at some time in our lives. We react to this alienation by building our own ‘existential territories’ out of whatever resources (social or semiotic) are available to us. We just about manage to hold everything together, despite our alienation from society. We do what we can to get by.

Guattari shows how schizophrenics, in particular, manage like this. They invent and build themselves a functional universe, even though they cannot by any means live by dominant social models. Guattari says: ‘Thus it’s not simply a matter of remodelling a patient’s subjectivity—as it existed before a psychotic crisis—but of a production sui generis’ (Guattari, 1995: 6). That is, remodeling your existential territory means making up your own way of being which is unique, just for you.

Here we can see how Guattari puts forward schizoanalysis as a process of metamodelling, which then has a therapeutic function. Guattari’s understanding and application of modeling is influenced by Lacan, who said: ‘Models are very important’ even though ‘they mean nothing’. Humans respond to models because ‘that’s the way we are—that’s our animal weakness—we need images’. Further still, Guattari says, the model does not signify, but rather, it ‘diagrams’.

We need images. Diagrams help us understand ideas where and when language cannot. This is why schizoanalysis (and metamodelling, its synonym) is so intrinsically linked to art. We have begun to see the therapeutic function and potential provided by Guattari’s schizoanalytic practice, whilst (I am sure) we all recognize the therapeutic function and potential made possible through art.


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