Luciana Parisi Interview

“Jungle laws, animals laws, seabed laws: what are you defending mate?”
Lee Scratch Perry

Matthew Fuller: Your use of the term ‘sex’ is used, in Lynn Margulis’
words, in the following way: ‘Sex in the biological sense has nothing to
do with copulation; neither is it intrinsically related to reproduction
or gender. Sex is a genetic mixing in organisms that operates at a
variety of levels; it occurs in some organisms at more than one level
simultaneously’. (Slanted Truths, p.285). Part of your research for
the book involved taking part in a study group run by Margulis. What
were the practices this group was involved in? How did the working life
of biologists intersect with your interests?

Luciana Parisi: First of all, I must say that Margulis’ definition of
sex is fascinating as it directly intervenes and cuts across fields of
study – the sciences and the humanities. The legacy of the notion of sex
as entangled with sexual coupling has been crucial for the definition of
gender. The endosymbiotic definition of sex has always struck me due to
its potential reopening of what constitutes sex and gender in biological
and cultural terms. Indeed, it shows a daring capacity to reinvent the
evolutionary history of the human on a vaster time scale traversed by
parallel phyla of transmission. In this sense, it enabled Abstract Sex
to follow a transversal path to the nature culture, sex and gender
dichotomies by investigating the becoming cultural of a non-given
nature.

Lynn Margulis’s laboratory introduced me to the parallel world of
bacteria. You can’t help but be captured by the complexity of such
diverse colonies of the underworld, their collective rhythms of
transmission, and their futuristic architectures. People working in the
laboratory also participated in the study groups. There were several
study groups but those I participated in had scientists from different
ages and scientific backgrounds – geologists, oceanographers, molecular
biologists etc. These were more like gatherings of people who shared
interests in the theory of endosymbiosis and that worked together to
sustain it from different angles – the geological research of fossils
for example carried out by Mark McMenanim’s through his hypothesis of
Hypersea. We also went for small expeditions in the woods, for night
viewing of stars with astronomers and so on. It was an amazing
experience. You could not help but being excited about this adventure in
the unnatural dimensions of the natural world. Indeed, rather than
feeling closer to a given nature, you actually felt closer to its
capacities to vary across scales, from the molecular world of bacterial
aquatic colonies to clusters of fungi and extraterrestrial life. Yet the
whole atmosphere of adventure had nothing to do with an attitude of
‘discovering’ nature or ‘revealing’ its secrets. It was much more
interesting and new for me compared to what I had been reading about
scientists in the main literature of science studies. I mean here the
attitude was closer to a passionate fabrication of what constituted
nature, and more specifically a daring fabrication that endosymbiosis
posed to the entire scientific community. Although there was a strong
sense of sharing a ‘minor’ science, or better a ‘minoritarian’
hypothesis in science, there was also a strong sense that the hypothesis
had a fundamental impact on what we take nature to be. And here I would
like to make a reference to Stengers, who reminds us of the collective
and passionate process that presupposes each innovative scientific
proposition that dares to ask “And if?”. Margulis’s hypothesis clearly
dares asking: “and if the history of bacteria was going on in the
history of multicellulars, and if we should understand ourselves on the
basis of symbiotic populations of bacteria?” (See I. Stengers, Power and
Invention, Situating Science, University of Minnesota Press,
1997:136.7). Retrospectively, I can say that the study group then was
first of all involved in the practice of daring scientific truths, which
for me explicitly questioned the Platonic, Aristotelian and Cartesian
ontological models and thus pointed to different ethical and political
questions. These practices were then an action towards the articulation
of a less given natural world. In this sense, the working life of
biologists also became relevant to my interest in minor sciences. Yet
before being able to see the importance of their practices, I had to
twist the critical head that I had inherited from the structuralist and
deconstructivist approaches to life sciences. For these approaches
scientific truths could not exist outside the text, the binarism of
nature and culture, mind and body, power and resistance. Hence, to put
it crudely, the object of science is always already inscribed upon,
limited from and controlled by the discourse of science, the
metaphysical legacy of patriarchy and colonialism – the presupposition
of the self to the other, male to female, white to black, sex to gender
and so on. On the other hand, however, I had always been suspicious of
the vitalist and existentialist belief in the spontaneity of the body –
ultimately free from the mechanics of discourse. From this standpoint,
the encounter with the work of Deleuze and Guattari and Spinoza has been
crucial for developing an approach to science and technology that
neither starts from an ontology of the given nor from an inherited
structure that cannot account from change beyond the mere shifting of
positions. For my work these critical approaches that have been
dominating academic research for the last 20-30 years – I refer to
structuralism and deconstructivism – did not enable an engagement with
the process of the modification of a body accounting for an entangled
nature-culture continuum. In other words, these approaches did not
highlight a way to take seriously a process of becoming cultural of
nature. On the contrary, I felt strongly at the time, nature was
cornered in the hands of a given ontology or in the discursive
disciplinary construction of science. In my work the crucial relation
between science and culture is defined by a key access to nature as a
process under construction. My interest in the practices of biologists
then became a question of understanding how they were participating
closely in the mutating fabric of life. In this sense, I agree with
Stengers who argues that before judgement and the establishment of
paradigmatic truth, there is a sea of events in which the object of
scientific enquiry participates in its own perception and construction
as an artefact. Thus, the working practices of biologists are themselves
practices of invention each time daring to reconstruct a given. Of
course the difference between these practices will lie less in the
scientific discipline per se than in the molecular and molar assemblages
that characterize them all.

MF: This is an extremely dense and rich text that works on a number of
levels to open up possibilities for thought about life, evolution,
politics, gender, and it is one that is also very optimistic. In a
sense you achieve this by articulating a new grounds for such optimism
in a vividly rendered way that also challenges the usual modalities of
human optimism. If optimism is the right word, of what kind of optimism
is the book an expression of?

LP: I see your point. Yet I would like to try and define this notion of
optimism in a more precise way. First of all I need to say that a
radical challenge to the modalities of human optimism involves an
engagement with the process of human stratification. I use this word in
the Deleuze-Guattari’s sense of collective organizations sedimenting one
upon the other across distinct layers, under certain pressures and
pointing to singular thresholds. Abstract Sex addresses human
stratification on three levels. The biophysical, the biocultural and the
biodigital amalgamation of layers composing a constellation of bodies
within bodies, each grappled within the previous and the next formation
– a sort of positive feedback upon each other cutting across specific
time scales. In other words, these levels of stratification constitute
for Abstract Sex the endosymbiotic dynamics of organization of matter –
a sort of antigenealogical process of becoming that suspends the
teleology of evolution and the anthropocentrism of life. From this
standpoint, the modalities of human optimism, rooted in the net
substantial distinction between the good and the evil and the distinct
belief in negative forces, fail to explain the continual collision and
coexistence of the distinct layers. Following the law of morality, human
optimism would never come to terms with its own paradoxes of
construction and destruction. And if it does it is soon turned into an
existential crisis giving in to the full force of negating power and
thus all becomes intolerable. Once we are forced to engage with the way
layers collide in the human species – the way some biophysical and
biocultural sedimentations rub against each other under certain
pressures and in their turn the way they are rubbed against by the
biodigital mutations of sensory perception for example – than the moral
stances of optimism and pessimism make no longer sense. Indeed we need
to leap towards a plane debunked of ultimate moral judgement. A plane
full of practice and contingent activities, where we find ourselves
plunged in a field of relation – interdependent ecologies of forces
(attractors, pressures, thresholds), which trigger in us modifications
that resonate across all scales of organization. Abstract Sex is not the
expression of the continual flow of life where everything is in
continual becoming in a world of continual interconnection that
ultimately makes everything redundant. It is not even expression of an
ultimate raw, bare or spontaneous force of life that is intrinsic to the
productive forces of the human and will therefore triumph over the
apparatuses of capture – good over evil. I think that to understand the
challenge that Abstract Sex poses to human optimism or pessimism it is
necessary to leap onto a different ontological plane and deal with the
abstract assemblages of desire in matter. This implies a radical move
from notions of spontaneity and blindness in nature. Every process has
then to be considered as the outcome of relations of forces increasing
and decreasing certain tendencies in matter. In this sense, Abstract Sex
points to a singular process of collision of strata undergoing the
biodigital reengineering of life that forces us to engage with what we
take a body, gender, and thus politics to be. For Abstract Sex to face –
rather than remaining dismissive of – the collision of strata implies a
cut from the running flow of life demanding taking a line of flight
towards destratification – a felt experience of change on a
nature-culture continuum. Abstract Sex is then not the expression of a
new kind of optimism, but an evolutionary construction of a sentient
modality of living attuned with the stratified and stratifying
assemblages of desire. This requires no spontaneous force or ultimate
optimism but an enormous capacity to engineer a collective striving: a
Spinozist task towards the generation of common notions that build up
modifications in living. It requires no longer an emotional as opposed
to a rational attitude to life, a positive or a negative tone, but, more
importantly, an investigation of the affective dimensions of the body
(i.e., its capacities to be affected and to affect other bodies). Thus,
it is a matter of changing the parameters of what counts as living and
death, constructive and destructive, nature and culture, sex and gender,
politics and power. It is a matter of not taking for granted the
biological and cultural stratification that compose each body of
relations insofar as these are not internally given or externally
constructed. They are rather in movement, under a metastable process
that goes back in time and forward in the future. Of course changing
parameters is not a recipe for happiness. For ultimate happiness is the
idealistic state for human optimism. On the contrary, joyful passions
are the real immanent engineers of new modifications requiring the
collective agreement of bodies-minds and their capacities to push the
agreement on a newly constituted level. In this sense, Abstract Sex
proposes a schizogenesis: ontology under continual construction
ceaselessly intervening in the ontology of giveness and lack. It is not
optimism that the book expresses. Abstract Sex only exposes a full
warning equipped with key weapons: do not dismiss the daily encounter
with black holes, strange attractors, and unexpected changes; cultivate
joyful passions and their capacities to become positive actions (the
collective intensive building up of new worlds). In particular, the
cultivation of joyful passions – i.e., passions that increase a
collective power of action – demands an active participation in the
mutations of matter.

MF: You mention affect and joy here as important guiding and productive
principles. Abstract Sex however uses the word ‘pleasure’ as something
whose logic or present configuration should be disturbed. What is the
relationship between, or how can we differentiate, the Spinozist
pleasures of potentiality and this other pleasure?

LP: Affect and joy have in common a certain passion or capacity of
being affected open to futurity – becoming. For Abstract Sex, affect and
joy involve a masochist assemblage of desire that as Deleuze explains is
not guided by the principle of pleasure: the economy of genital and
reproductive sex. On the contrary, such assemblage exposes the necessity
to be affected so as to produce the body anew in total independence from
Oedipal pleasure. The capacity of being affected then points to a
supersensorial suspension of pleasure, disavowal of sexuality,
expectation of pain, which is better understood as a rhythmic
combination of velocities: the coexistent tendencies to slow down
(waiting) and speed up (expecting) giving way to new bodily vibrations
that have nothing to do with climactic pleasure. The masochist
assemblage subtracts desire from its capture in the homeostatic circle
of pleasure, where the Oedipal order of heterosexuality and sexual
reproduction is there only to reinforce the sadistic tendency to
eradicate femininity all together as discussed by Klaus Theweleit in
Male Fantasies. For Abstract Sex, the capacity to be affected has in
germ the masochist potential of becoming woman – the destratification
from the biocultural regime of pleasure and the sadist desire to
accelerate the death of femininity. The capacity to be affected then
tends towards a veritable capacity of desiring assemblages to become: a
sort of parthenogenesis giving way to a genitaless sex, a nomadic
mutating cold (non-sentimental) affectivity.

The distinction between pleasure and affect concern the differentiation
between a climactic organization of assemblages of desire aiming towards
equilibrium versus a nonclimactic order tending towards becoming. Indeed
pleasure is here understood as singular aggregation of desiring machines
that under certain condition, according to certain tendencies and
thresholds lend themselves to the production of quick satisfaction,
which assumes the characteristics of transgression so as to return to
balance. Here desire is not understood in terms of lack, as the
Lacannians do, but in terms of full body of potentials tending towards
their actualizations. Once captured in a homoestatic circle that repeats
itself without differentiation by warding off its outside, then desire
lends itself to the state of pleasure. This state more than being
disturbed has to be destratified as it becomes the perfect shelter of
the organism, the individual, the signifier for the spreading of
sadness, paranoia, abolition, lack infecting all kinds of encounters.

Affect and joy on the contrary operate in total autonomy from pleasure
as they expose a distinctive assemblage of desire or singular
actualization of desiring potentials that emerge from encounters between
bodies that agree – i.e. their symbiotic combination enables the
production of a new body or a becoming that has pushed these bodies in a
new composition. In this sense, the new composition exposes the
schizophrenic coexistence of desiring potentials lending themselves to
the production of non-climactic or distributive desire fluctuating
across regions of intensity rather than enclosing itself in an interior
fighting against its outside. It is possible to argue that this
fluctuating movement only navigates on an outside of rhizomatically
connected regions, slightly changing their rhythm, their vibrations, and
thus catalyzing all sorts of microbecomings. In this case the
cultivation of joy entails entering in contact with the biophysical
dynamics of desire, the metastable ecology of relations that can tend to
the parthenogenic diffusion of microfemininity or that can be poisonous
and spread sadness – implying a decrease in the capacity to affect and
become. For Abstract Sex, the capacity to be affected has already in
germs a capacity to experience joyful encounters as an activity of
becoming that opens itself up to a futurity entering the present to
change a state of affairs.

MF: You use the word ‘engineering’ a number of times, as a process that
sorts things out, arranges, modifies and moves materials. But this is
done without the figure of the engineer, as something self-organising.
When you turn in the chapter on Biodigital Sex the figure of engineering
is somehow doubled. It occurs again in the guise of capital-intensive
military, pharmaceutical and medical organisations deploying engineers
who employ analytical and instrumental techniques in order to ensure
that matter does not self-organise but that it operates according to
plan, becomes a standard object. How do you see these two forms
interacting?

LP: Engineering as you say entails a process of selection, organization
and modification, which is not piloted by an ultimate designer. Its
self-organization however has not to be attributed to a sort of
autopoietic system, where distinct parts sustain the whole. To some
extent, I have a conceptual problem with autopoiesis as it still
presupposes a certain subjection of the parts to the whole with a
limited capacity for them to feedback on it. On the contrary, my use of
the word engineering entails a double or mutual process whereby each
actualized organization becomes a modifying dimension of the whole. Now
a key notion that may help to understand how I discriminate between
engineering dynamics and the intensive capitalist investment in the
engineering of molecular life is the notion of selection. In Darwinism
and neo-Darwinism the notion of selection has a negative attribute -
i.e. it entails elimination or negative force. The function of selection
employed by engineers in the manufacturing of genetic drugs, cells and
tissues indeed implies that ill-fitted genetic structures will not be
able to sustain themselves and will eventually – or naturally in their
jargon – die. In other cases, the selective function may also imply that
the ill-fitted traits are pre-established and therefore easy to
eliminate once they have emerged as it happens in the now acknowledged
realm of biocomputing where the recoding of genes, proteins and
sequences enables a rematerialization of molecular life in vitro. Indeed
this rematerialization together with the preselection of best and
ill-fitted traits will lead us to the conclusion that there is an
engineer, a designer of life in the world of biotechnologies or, even
more so nanotechnology. As I said the key point lies in the notion and
real (read virtual) function of selection. From Bergson to Simondon,
Nietzsche, Deleuze and Guattari the process of selection has been turned
in a dynamics of production of the new. Selection far from eliminating
deviances entails a mutual change of ecological relations (between the
organism, environment and pressures) unleashing a virtual force
impinging on the relation between the organism and its environment
whereby their mutual capacity to change remains indeterminate. In other
words, selection even when predeterminate cannot escape unleashing its
residual effects in the region of relations (at the threshold of
critical joint between one phase and the other) in which it has
operated. In this sense, the planning and standardization of an object
cannot exhaust the capacity of that object to catalyze a change in its
proximate environmental relations. Thus, I see engineering assemblages
and their use in the capital-intensive military, pharmaceutical and
medical organizations in direct contact as if undergoing a new symbiotic
merging. I mean that the use of engineering assemblages cannot occur
without ecological consequences on a planetary scale – and without
acknowledging the technoscientific capitalist responsibility of
accelerating unexpected mutations in an interdependent ecology of
relations. The work of engineers therefore is not independent from the
consequences of ecological self-organizations. On the contrary, it is as
if engineers were directly called in to experiment with the evolutionary
capacities of the body. From another point of view however, it is clear
that the investment in biotech and even more so in nanotech is linked to
a paradigm of control, adjustment and optimization of engineering
assemblages. Since the first wave of cybernetics, control remains the
most difficult of strategies to manage populations and their
environment. Control indeed cannot occur without the unexpected phase of
becoming. Its affective power cannot impinge without facing the
indeterminate capacities of a body of relations to change – to engineer
a new dimension of the whole modifying its conditions with the rest of
parts.

MF: Following from this, you substantially question the model of
capital’s subsumption of all life processes (a theoretical moment that
defines what might be a bleak telos in critical theory or the moment of
a possible total systemic phase-change in accounts such as those of
Hardt and Negri in Empire). What are the strata of energy-information
that you suggest resist real subsumption, in what manner does this
occur, and what are their interfaces to or boundaries against the
mechanisms of subsumption?

LP: Again I need to start by slightly changing the parameters of the
relation between capital and life. In the first place, I want to point
out that capitalism, as Deleuze and Guattari argue in the Anti-Oedipus,
drawing amongst others from Braudel, is the result of long term
contingencies and accidents and that modes of capitalization – exchange,
trading, commerce – existed before industrial capitalism. From this
standpoint, capitalism is not an end product of the human species. The
human species, in other words, cannot be considered as the agent
capitalism. It is no longer possible to dismiss the impact that sciences
such as endosymbiosis, chaos theory and cybernetics have had on the
notion of agency. I am trying to say that this agency is not entirely
anthropomorphic, but has to include assemblages of biocultural and
biotechnical stratification that feed on a kind of increasing social
subjection and machinic enslavement of the human species. Yet this
enslavement and subjection are not to be seen in moralist terms. Capital
is neither intrinsically good nor evil. In Spinozist terms, capital
interests above all seem to clash with those of the human species. Yet,
this clash cannot be understood without reference to desire –
assemblages of joyful and sad passions. It may be important here to
remind ourselves of Deleuze and Guattari’s question: why do humans
desire their own enslavement? That is, in Spinozist terms: how do we
account for human beings overtaken (read: possessed) by external forces
and reduced to servitude? This is why Abstract Sex appreciates the work
that Negri and Hardt do in Empire but at the same time distinguishes
itself from it. As you also remind us, Hardt and Negri’s emphasis on the
phase change of capital importantly points to an ultimate autonomy of
the forces of the multitude from the state and from the logic of
all-encompassing profit. At the same time however, they assign this
autonomy to the forces of life that do not succumb the economy of
exchange, alienation and commodity fetishism. For Abstract Sex, the
relation between the autonomy of force and its capitalization is not a
dialectic one – which accounts for two substances – but entails a
symbiotic process, the mutual coexistence of distinct assemblages of
desire on a manyfolded plane. In this sense, we need to reframe the
issue. It is not that life can resist capital’s subsumption. Life is not
to be confused with organic living energy as opposed to the inorganic
energy of death – e.g., the entropic drive of capital. The challenge
then is to change our understanding of energy lying at the core of our
definitions of life and death, organic and inorganic. This is why
endosymbiosis is so important for Abstract Sex as it forces us to
wonder: what if all multicellular organic life is instead a dimension of
colonies of anaerobic (nonrespiring oxygen) bacteria? This daring
hypothesis forces us to question the entire model of the evolution of
capital, based on the entropic selection of the most competitive, the
elimination of the ill-fitted and the ultimate tendency to death.
Similarly, it forces us to change our understanding of the processes of
life as indeed at the same time entangled and disentangled from capital.
To say that capital in its contemporary form – i.e., Empire – is a
cluster of parasites sucking life from the multitude is to say that
parasites are strictly distinguished from life. In other words, I am
suggesting that the relation between capital subsumption and life
processes is an endosymbiotic one – which points to a mutual host-guest
parasiting process accounting for the formation of new worlds,
neurocellular modifications of assemblages of desire. It is in this
sense that Abstract Sex opposes the capital logic of an all-encompassing
subsumption. From this standpoint, I suggest that the term that we are
looking for to account for the destratification or becoming of layers of
energy-information that are not subsumed is not resistance but lines of
flight – a turning towards the collective construction of worlds. This
is simply because the notion of resistance presupposes an entropic
notion of energy-information. One that has to be fought through negation
and warding off. At the same time, this notion may be not useful for
Abstract Sex because it presupposes the ontological omnipresence of a
given political model that has to be transgressed by exceeding its
limits – as in a closed entropic system that can only collapse by
running it out of equilibrium. The model of power that I have instead
engaged with at an ontological level is a far-from equilibrium cluster
of strata of energy-information. Here resistance will be ineffective, it
will only increase exponentially the power of that which resistance is
directed against insofar as the latter remains blind to vaster causes of
metastable changes. Far-from equilibrium dynamics of organization of
energy-information require dealing with a turbulent composition and
decomposition of causes and their effects. It then requires a leap – the
participation towards changing conditions rather than a resistance to
them. Such a leap is not a jump into the void. A change in the
conditions of life implies a destratification from sedimented states –
biological states, states of mind, economical states, sexual states and
so on. To embark in such a passage it is necessary to be equipped with
weapons that help to address the causes and changes of the mechanisms of
subsumption. For example, as we are confronting an endosymbiotic
relation – a double parasitism – between capital’s subsumption and life
where all life processes are being modulated, all its potential
activated for profit, we need to equip ourselves with practices that
decouple the instant satisfactory pleasure for accumulation from the
building up of collective joyful passions. The flight from real
subsumption entails the continual reengineering of encounters by means
of affective contagion – an anticlimactic practice or experiment of
change attuned with the hyperhythmic vibrations of matter. Thus the
interfaces to the mechanisms of subsumption are the transversal
amalgamation of energy-information falling out or in the middle of the
strata. It is here that that reengineering of the biophysical and
biocultural cluster of strata is happening. It is here that capital by
indifferently precipitating a rapid destratification may well encounter
its own monstrous and unrecognizable transformation.

MF: Deleuze and Guattari, and others whose work you use in the book,
have rendered visible in certain ways a whole host of compositional
dynamics operating through matter, culture, social formations, language,
and their own manifold inter-relation. One of their reasons for arguing
for such a vast bestiary of patternings is, by way of making a more
attentive and suggestive account of the world, to avoid or to supplant
Hegelian dialects. However, I wonder whether, once this work is begun
and underway, we no longer have the need to reject the possibility of
also recognising dialectical dynamics where they occur. Coming after,
with all its precedents, this vast supplement to ways of understanding
and inventing the ways in which things occur we can also find something
to recognise as useful in dialectics in which a non-teleological
dialectics can be seen as simply one kind of emergent patterning amongst
a myriad others. And, if this were so, in what terms might the
movements adopting a direct confrontation with those organisations –
largely certain companies and states – attempting to turn specific
biological processes (not ‘life’) into directly controllable,
restrictively engineered and commodified forms, be considered as part of
a wider vocabulary or active reservoir of patternings that can
recognised as productive in the terms of the discussion that you make in
Abstract Sex?

LP: I think that you are touching some important problematics here. I
think you are right about wondering whether once we supplement one mode
of analysis of power – and you refer specifically to Hegelian dialectics
- does it follow that dialectical dynamics no longer exist? Yet, I
wonder to extent to which dialectics – even when it may be considered as
a pattern, even when we subtract from it teleological synthesis – is the
right way to understand compositional dynamics. One immediate reason may
simply be that dialectics presupposes contradiction, negation and
opposition (or binary distinction), whilst compositional dynamics only
involve differential relations, paradoxes and togetherness: moments or
aspects of a process that mutually determine and presuppose each other.

Another problem with dialectics is synthesis: the reduction of two to
one in terms of quantifiable addition. Dialectics gives no account of
disjunctive connection between terms belonging to distinct scales for
example. It is monist in the sense that it reduces heterogeneities to
sameness. It erects a whole above the parts by negating their
differential con-partecipation. This negation lies at the very core of
the moral law: the necessity of erecting good over evil in order to
reach a purified subject position – a transcendent power that can
justify its own repression. Dialectics gives priority to judgement over
contingent experimentation, negating and suppressing all forces of
collective production. At the base of such dialectical moral stance lies
guilt: the homeostatic pleasure – the climactic satisfaction – of
maintaining sameness. For this reason dialectics is an all too human
account of the world, which assumes a master/slave hierarchy of
categories – a governing and governed force, the perpetuator and the
victim – negating all paradoxical dynamics of a relation.

I think that what we need to distinguish is not dialectic patterns from
non-dialectic ones, but molecular compositions from molar fascistic
assemblages of desire. In this sense, we do not need to reject the
possibility of recognising not dialectical patterns but the repressive
activity of molar organizations operating by means of binary
distinctions separating thought from the body and forbidding thought
from feeling itself. Molar organizations are specific layers of the
strata that unlike dialectics are always amodally or virtually linked to
lines of flights or deterritorialization that define society.

You ask how can movements can be considered as part of an active
reservoir of productive patterning – i.e. how they participate actively
in a dynamics of production – confronting those organizations – you
specifically refer to certain companies and states – attempting to turn
biological processes into directly controllable forms of
commodification. However, as it may be clear by now, I think we need to
locate this relation between movements and organizations away from
dialectics, and right into the dynamics of stratification and
bifurcation – or double articulation – on the strata. We need to engage
with the double pincer of content and expression that has nothing to do
with signification and meaning but, on the contrary, entails the process
of organization of forms and substances on parallel layers of
organization of matter (i.e., content and expression). Yet the double
pincer is in no way dialectical as it cannot be isolated from the
ecologies of lines of flights and deterritorializations participating in
the production of a new order. The double pincer then maps the continual
process of splitting intensities in the very process of order and
organization.

In this sense, we may understand the movements adopting a direct
confrontation with those organizations – such as companies and states –
as productive of new dynamics of deterritorialization of biological
processes but also of new power (or reterritorialization). However, I
may add that I think that we need to be aware that it is not easy to
identify companies and states with molar apparatuses of repression,
whilst thinking of movements as molecular dynamics. If we do so, we risk
reimparting dialectics onto intensive dynamics of compositions. Abstract
Sex exposes that each molar organization is composed of and cut across
by parallel dynamics of molecular production that define its paradoxical
nature. Simultaneously, each molecular dynamics under certain conditions
may arrange itself into a microfascist assemblage spreading through all
organizations –i.e. given the conditions it may become molar. In this
sense, the commodification of biological processes cannot be
disentangled from the wider dynamics of desiring assemblages act to
deterritorialize and reterritorialize the biological strata. This is
what I think we are confronting with biotech and nanotech, the
intersection of biodigital technologies with the composition of new
assemblages of desire.

Here, it may be relevant to point out that the Spinozist processes of
modifications – the asymmetrical conjunction of the planes of
stratification and destratification – at the core of Abstract Sex have
not to be confused with the evolutionary monism of dialectics. Movements
are not something that reacts to a given stability – structure – and
sociality is not something that reacts to individualism. Movements as
assemblages of desire are primary to the formation of structures,
organizations. For Spinoza, movements are modifications acquiring
certain dynamics according to certain pressures and under certain
conditions that affect – act back – all dynamics of movement itself. A
Spinozist monism here entails a belonging together to a process of
unpredictable modifications, which implies the necessity of engaging
with the very singularity of each compositional dynamics. In order to
grasp how movements are not just in dialectical opposition with
suppressive apparatuses or are tending towards the final resolution of a
conflict, such as erecting a newly born uncontaminated subjectivity, we
need to step sideways and try to give a more precise definition of
movements, especially social movements. It may be useful then to search
for such definitions in the exciting works of Gabriel Tarde and Alfred
N. Whitehead, where, in different ways but according to a common
concern, define social movements and relations act as primary to all
compositional dynamics encompassing all distinct scales and thus
physical, biological, cultural, technical (particles, cells, organisms,
technical machines and so on are indeed already social movements: i.e.,
they do not need to be socialised by human existence). From this
standpoint, movements cannot be disentangled from organisations.
Productive compositional dynamics do occur at all levels. Yet each
composition is extremely specific and will never resemble another. This
is the sense of grasping the relevance of continual variation in the
open feedback between virtual and actual matter.

MF: To go back to the way one inherits particular ‘writing heads’, and
how they need to be twisted, or decapitated, you stud each chapter with
references to science fiction texts such as those from Greg Bear and
Octavia Butler, writers who explore related themes of biology,
technology and culture. It strikes me however that much of Science
Fiction, particularly as it develops to think through alternate
perceptual universes (as well as those it more traditionally works on
such as the technical and social) might also take on the possibilities
of writing in a way which exemplifies and creates the worlds which it
otherwise only attempts to represent. How might you take the
compositional dynamics of, say bacterial informational behaviours, or
the intense morphological impacts described by Elaine Morgan in her work
on the Aquatic Ape theory, and use them to influence, or set up
resonances with the behaviour of text, of the info-matter of language in
a way which exemplifies the processes that Abstract Sex brings attention
to. Perhaps links might be made to the occasional parallel work you are
involved in with CCRU?

LP: This is the very question that we all need to pose ourselves if we
want to build war machines that construct realities and that open up
towards the activation of worlds rather than limiting our writing to a
representation of what is out there. The encounter with Science Fiction
writing with nomadic science (the Aquatic Ape and Symbiogenesis) is
indeed a key to access Abstract Sex. Haraway’s famous quote reciting
that the distinction between science fiction and science is optical
illusion has acquired a life of its own in the compositional dynamics of
Abstract Sex. This is not only because science fiction offers a
commentary on human anxiety and imagination about technology or a
critical understanding on how scientific discourses become is
popularized. Both of this view presupposes a binarism between the real
world and the one that is represented in science fiction books. On the
contrary, in the compositional dynamics of Abstract Sex science fiction
is already real; it is indeed a dimension of the real as everything
else. One that that produces reality. Like what happens in John
Carpenter’s film In The Mouth of Madness (1995) books have the power to
leak into the social because they are already part of social reality
germinating its affects. My fascination with the works of Greg Bear and
– especially – Octavia J.Butler relates precisely to this germination of
affective worlds that comes from the future to lay out the sensory
perception of edging present. In other words, these books enter not only
the actual compositional dynamics of Abstract Sex as a text but also its
virtual tendency to assemble a new entity holding together the
microdimensions of reality. Thus the continual intersection between
science fiction and science facts in Abstract Sex does not function in
terms of content or representation, but enters in the operational
dynamics of the writing itself, in the way the text or words become
bodies, affects and collective agents setting up a new fabrication of
the real. Last year I wrote a little story for Sandwich entitled
Abstract Sex: an extract, which has come out this fall (2004). Once the
editor received it, he wrote to me straight away asking: what is this?
Did what you wrote really happened or is it about to happen? Is this
real or is it invented? I thought these were the most exciting questions
I had had about my writing in ages.

I think that your question really brings out one of the most
schizoelements of my writing that have been intensively cultivated in
the CCRU machine. Writing is always a collective enterprise involving
the clashes of heads – the ecology of partial machines that connect and
disconnect across time and space, historical inheritances and
geographical locations, modes of thinking and behaving, feeling and
acting. Yet the encounter with the CCRU has most clearly for me
catalyzed the production of a collective brain geared towards the
activation of abstract yet real thought, training therefore the activity
of a certain thought that feels and is felt. All the writings and events
engineered by the CCRU entity have always been more than an occasional
parallel work for me. Actually I think of them as intensive
experimentations of the real and as intrinsically part of the production
of Abstract Sex. The CCRU emphasis on the production of concepts-actions
indeed is not only a practice of writing but an experimental or
affective intervention in the social, plugging itself directly on the
body without organs and transversally on the strata (i.e., between the
strata and the rest). In this sense, the CCRU thinks of words as living
bodies spreading like viruses, exposing the generation of unexpected
consequences in the social field. Thus, to each notion its capacity of
proliferation-intervention. This is why Abstract Sex cannot be accessed
exclusively on the level of philosophical enquiry, scientific theory,
feminist politics, technological advancements, science fiction. Abstract
Sex is above all an entity under construction. I think that affective
contagion is the best way to participate in its productive reality.