Body without Organs
In 1947, the French artist Antonin Artaud wrote and produced a play for radio entitled Pour en finir avec le jugement de Dieu (To Have Done With the Judgment of God). Drawing on his concept of the Theatre of Cruelty (cruelty not in the sense of sadistic pain, rather a violent shattering of a false reality which inveigles our perceptions), Artaud developed the notion of a body without organs, writing:
Man is sick because he is badly constructed. We must make up our minds to strip him bare in order to scrape off that animalcule that itches him mortally, god, and with god his organs. For you can tie me up if you wish, but there is nothing more useless than an organ. When you will have made him a body without organs, then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions and restored him to his true freedom. Then you will teach him again to dance wrong side out as in the frenzy of dance halls and this wrong side out will be his real place (Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, 1976, p. 570-571).
For French theorists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, the body without organs describes the virtual dimension of the body. The two contend that there is actual body which expresses movements, affects, traits, etc., and a virtual body as well, which is a huge reservoir of potential connections, movements, affects, traits, etc. These potentialities operate as what Deleuze and Félix Guattari term the body without organs (often abbreviated as BwO). Like Artaud’s suggestion that the true condition of the body without organs is freed from a punishing and repressive God, Deleuze and Guattari remap the biological body into a space “permeated by unformed, unstable matters, by flows in all directions, by free intensities or nomadic singularities, by mad or transitory particles” (A Thousand Plateaus, 1987, p. 40).
In a debate setting, the body without organs illustrates both the shortcomings of psychoanalysis (due to its insistent focus on partial drives and objects) and a potential alternative. Deleuze and Guattari write:
The BwO is what remains when you take everything away. What you take away is precisely the phantasy, and signifiances and subjectifications as a whole. Psychoanalysis does the opposite: it translates everything into phantasies, it converts everything into phantasy, it retains the phantasy. It royally botches the real, because it botches the BwO (A Thousand Plateaus, 1987, p. 151).
In his recent book Organs without Bodies (2003), Slavoj Žižek takes issue with the concept, although several Deleuzian scholars strongly argue that Žižek royally botches his own understanding of the BwO.
Entry by Joey Battocletti, 19 June 2007
So we sometimes forget that the bWO was not an original of Deleuze but burrowed from the playwright Antonin . This comparison made between them helps me understand bWO from a different light