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Notes on Masoch, Deleuze and Radical Fashion

Notes on Masoch, Deleuze and Radical Fashion
Forfatter: Mario Perniola
The recently deceased philosopher Mario Perniola touches on the masochistic relationship, the idea of ​​the body as cloth and radical fashion in this text from the anthology Deleuze in the west.


Of all the texts Gilles Deleuze has written, it is Presentation of the Sacher-Masoch which has had the most to say for my own work. Here masochism is presented not only as a different mental syndrome than sadism, but also as its characteristic contradiction. If Sade anticipated the de-sexualisation of the media and gaming community, Masoch followed an opposite cultural strategy (Perniola, 2004): to step out of consumer populism only through a retrieval of the high style that Nietzsche considered to be the highest and most perfect aesthetic model. A strategy that involves caring, respect and memory, in other words worship, but also the introduction of paradoxical strategies. Where sadism opens a horizon of excesses, masochism establishes a series of boundaries that surround and guarantee the subject's preconditions in the face of defeat. As Deleuze explains, the masochistic relationship is instituted by a free agreement, a covenant and contract in which the person who formulates and offers the contract should give himself as a slave to a partner who, as in Sacher-Masoch's novel Venus in fur, is always a ruler. For her part, she is committed to being an actor in scenes, ceremonies and sexual rites involving a degradation of the subject. The masochistic logic involves both subjects' interest in strengthening and maintaining the alliance. The slave, who unconditionally offers himself, treats the ruler like a doll in his own hands. The ruler, in turn, accepts to be a passive practitioner of representations created by the slave, knowing that she is always reserved for the role of the one who commands, disposes and owns the partner's body at her own discretion. Masochism is a finesse of subjectivity that seeks to avoid and remove the incurable conflict between man and woman.

Masochistic happiness

In Sacher-Masoch's novel we also find the protagonist Wanda's apt description of the riddle ("l'enigma") the feminine represents to the masculine: There is not a good woman or an evil woman, as her fighters and opponents would wish. The woman has no character [...] she remains as nature has shaped her. The woman is a knot of intertwined instincts. Virtue and virtue, mercy and brutality, selfishness and dedication are inextricably linked, and it is rare that an act performed by a woman is either completely good or evil […]. A serious and profound formation over millennia has had an impact on man, but not on woman, who always and exclusively obeys his instincts. In Deleuze's text, the opposition does not emerge in the same extreme way. What is captured is the mostly theatrical character of masochism that moves along a vertical axis from splendor and dignity to the lowest contempt. The masochistic relationship is a continuous ups and downs, rapidly alternating between the exalted and the humiliating. It derives its nourishment from a strong, invincible and uncontrollable pursuit of excellence, precedence and perfection: those who are easily satisfied, who are indulgent to themselves and to others, are thus alien to the rebellious and dizzying masochistic experience and its harsh mountain landscape. of peaks and abyss. One must have great ambition to know the brutal masochistic happiness since this happiness is attracted by the opposite, by the wild and animal life, which often carries self-destructive elements, such as in Knut Hamsun's Bread.

The body that dressed

When I read my novel again Tiresias, now rediscovered by an Argentine publisher for decades, I found several aspects of the masochistic sensibility Deleuze describes, and which I myself have later developed from a theoretical standpoint on several books: the attraction to statues, suspense, the recognition of oneself. as a thing that feels, language that avoids accurate descriptions of sexual acts if not through metaphors, the ritual repetition, the tendency to mythologize, the cultivation of coldness ...

A serious and profound formation over millennia has had an impact on man, but not on woman, who always and exclusively obeys his instincts.

At Deleuze we also find the idea of ​​the body as a cloth. It is not true that Western thinking is characterized by the dualism between soul and body; the soul and the body resemble each other far too much to be a true pair of opposites. Those who today defend bodily rights, imagine the body as something both living and the soul, as a soul that can both be seen and touched, licked and sucked, and not as a thing that feels. The spiritualistic sensuality we now find in the followers of the body is no different from the dedicated heartbeat of formerly virtuous souls; equally, they both ignore the feeling of a thing that feels, of the body as a cloth. The true contradiction is not between soul and body, but between life and garments. The German words "Leib" (from live – to live) and "Körper" (from corpus – body) illustrates well the difference.

anti Conformity

As known, "sex appeal of the inorganic" is Walter Benjamin's definition of fashion (Benjamin, 1982). And it is precisely here that we must return to find a visual representation of this kind of sensibility. Beginning in the 80s, a new provocative and anti-conformist tendency was developed within haute couture, "radical fashion", based on the punk movement of the late 70s and the advocates Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, who later became the most important person in English. Meeting. What is surprising is the similarity between "the radical designers" and "the radical thinkers" from the same period. McLaren / Westwood's Neologism Seditionaries (composed of sedition and seduction) coincide with the fate of the French thinker Georges Batailles (1897–1962) érotisme (1953), which has become a cult book for several students. Shortly after, Vivienne Westwood makes a turn towards the mannerism which in turn presents new surprising connections to what we see in the theoretical reflection on New Antiquity (Anthology 1995; Marroni 2014).

The masochistic relationship is a continuous ups and downs.

Several of the productions of Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Helmut Lang, Martin Margiela and Romeo Gigli are oxymorons, rhetorical figures consisting of opposite terms in deep contrast to each other, such as a cracked denim trousers with valuable embroidery or a red plastic underwear so transparent that it constitutes a kind of secondary skin. Similarly, philosophy produces enigmatic concepts with opposite concepts that create a new ambivalent meaning, such as body without organs (Deleuze / Guattari, 1980), interested disinterest (Bourdieu, 1994), the astonishment of reason (Pareyson, 1995), non-participatory participation (Perniola, 1995). "Radical fashion" provides images for a paradoxical thinking originating in the ancient philosopher Heraklit, who challenges Pytagoras, the aesthetic idea of ​​harmony and symmetry, and sees the aesthetic experience as an overcoming of disharmony, a converging discord. The aesthetic sensation understood as lightning (Heraklit), event and tone (the Stoics) has long remained in incubation with Western philosophy, with the exception of eccentric writers (such as Jakob Böhme) and the dominant currents rooted in Aristotelian logic and later Hegelian dialectics.

The one who, on the other hand, has again taken up the problem after thousands of years, is Nietzsche, by pointing out the inability of metaphysical thinking to think contradictions, and by embarking on the study of the violent contradiction that became during the 1990s. intended as a difference (from German "Differenz").


However, the real earthquake in the 80s fashion world is the work of Japanese designers, who add to the relationship between body and cloth aesthetic concepts of their own culture. For example, the term "ma" (interval, space, distance), which is the starting point for the poetry in the "piece of fabric" by designer Miyake Issey.

At Deleuze we find the idea of ​​the body as a cloth.

By looking at the garment as an undivided piece of fabric, "ma" allows for a personification of what is taken on, an excess of prêt-à-porter, since each individual has a different body. This image is related to the term "pli" (fold), which Deleuze studied. In other words, the garment has an autonomy in relation to the body: the Japanese vary a garment as a layer one can turn in many ways. One could talk about the Baroque reduced to the minimum, yet available in endless variations. Rey Kawakubo introduces "look boro" (worn, irregular, layered) according to a logic not unlike the one that characterizes the rhizome, which Deleuze defines as an open system, freely accessible and rich in significant "violations". Finally, Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe adhere to the baroque principle of imagination, which the English philosopher Francis Bacon defined as a practice of "marriage and illegal divorce between things" (Bacon 2000, II, 4).

Brand: Ny Tid has chosen with permission to publish the essay Notes on Masoch, Deleuze and Radical Fashion by Mario Perniola, from the recently released anthology Deleuze in the West, edited by Helge Pettersen, Terje Hellesen and Remi Nilsen.
The anthology invites rediscovering the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925–1995) through the dedicated work on the Delusional thinking that has been going on for several years in the philosophical environment in Bergen.
Today, Deleuze is perhaps best known for his collaboration with Félix Guttari, in which they construct a mechanical, desire-based understanding of human form, development and history that breaks with the metaphysical, structuralist and psychoanalytic conceptions.

See our obituary written by Carsten Juhl, published February 2018,
og An anti-fascist life
Perniola was a philosopher and died earlier this year.

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