Study Guide

Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari - The Schizos

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The Schizos

D&G briefly formed a rock band during their visit to Columbia University in 1975. They gave nightly performances in the lobby of the Chelsea Hotel were they were staying, and they were a big hit. Anyone was allowed on stage to express their desires in whatever musical way they felt appropriate. D&G wanted many voices singing inside a communal brain, and hey, they loved them some American hippies.

The themes in these songs ranged from the standard odd sexual fetish to the need for a good back rub. An apology was made to a talking typewriter (a sweet torch song delivered by William Burroughs). Any improvised lyric referencing ids, egos, or penis envy was quickly booed, and the offending Freudian graduate student was asked to leave the stage.

William Burroughs

Burroughs cut up text from Ladies Home Journal and rearranged it as lyrics for The Schizos' songs. This took feminine language away from its home territory where it could be, you know, deterritorialized—that is, adapted and transformed.

One line from an article giving advice on how to help plan a dinner party read: A pleasant dinner of cheese, wine, and light conversation. Burroughs cut it up and turned the line into: Cheese lined the pheasant diner as winos and convicts dined on themselves. The crowd went crazy, and Félix Guattari did a jump split. Gilles Deleuze, however, was overwhelmed by the event and had to excuse himself to his room.

John Cage

John enlisted the help of a young backpacker to bang on empty bottles with wooden spoons. This young nomad had been travelling the world; she combined rhythms from many different cultures, and soon there were new, exciting sounds coming from the glass. Cage enlisted the help of others in the room, asking them to drum on radiators and old floorboards. A drag queen dragged a fingernail against the front window, and things came to a screeching halt.

Then Cage, the nomad backpacker, and the drag queen embraced, worked out a musical arrangement together, and filled the night with the sound of wooden spoons and fingernails on glass bottles.

Sylvère Lotringer

Sylvère organized the "Schizo-Culture" conference at Columbia in 1975, and D&G asked if he would be the manager of the rock band. He said yes and went about gathering the radicals of New York to attend both the conference and the lobby performances.

Radical gay activists manned the doors in dresses and black leather. Members of the Black Panthers played tambourines and air guitars. Lotringer, who wanted very much to blend French and American postmodern philosophy, thought it would make a wonderful statement to have Black Panther members dressed as French mimes.

The Schizos proved short-lived (three days to be precise), due to Gilles Deleuze's fear of crowds and Félix Guattari's lack of sleep. But the party did produce a schizo-type experience as desire circulated and flowed in spontaneous cross-cultural associations. Social codes rearranged themselves as these minority groups challenged old ways of speech and behavior.

All except the French mime thing. That odd cultural expression remained intact and, inexplicably, continues in France unchanged to this day.

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