Tender Fluid Machines

Ania Chromik



Fluids are vagabond stuff: they travel easily and are difficult to stop. Engulfing, volatile and clingy – you can never be sure you have got rid of them for good as you might in the case of solids. Unlike solids which are cast once and for all and resist “separation of the atoms,” liquids, according to Zygmunt Bauman, “neither fix space nor bind time” (2000, p. 2). Liquidity threatens to annihilate the boundary between Self and Other. While the broad field of body and identity studies (including corporeal feminism, queer studies, psychoanalysis, cultural materialism, etc.) have always acknowledged the significance of bodily fluids, the actual “messy” experience of insecure boundaries, seepages, leakages and engulfment is rarely referred to outside a frame which reduces the materiality of bodies to systems of signification. If there is a potential for opening up a lateral and a more affirmative perspective on the liquidated subjectivity, it is, I believe, in experimenting on living organisms by appropriating and linking modes of experience that might seem radically speculative, yet capable of producing unexpected modes of affectivity. My paper therefore probes the juxtaposition of the Deleuzean-Guattarian concept of bodily assemblage with the metaphorical constructions of the pre-/anti-Cartesian fluid merger with the world represented by the humoural1 and grotesque body in order to speculate how it might affect the redefinition of becomings. The poetics which carries Deleuze’s refiguring of the ontology of subjectivity in terms of temporary linkages, intensities and flows, as well as his notion of the body as an assembly of organs, discontinuous series of processes, and exchanges of corporeal substances and energies coincides with the discourse of the humoural body/self as described by the materialist critique of early modern discourse. Both concepts deconstruct the self-contained, self-identical, cohesive subject and propose instead a mode of being that is open, fungible, trans-fluxible, permeable and volatile. The question is whether filtering the concept of the assemblage through the optics of another highly speculative theoretical construct would broaden the nomenclature of coming-together (rather than being), and thus whether assuming the volatile model has the power to render the experience of assemblage more palpable – palpable enough to move it to the realm of experience.


Keywords: the Deleuze, Guattari, bodily assemblage, liquidated subjectivity, humoural body/self