Know-how with the other, La Rara Troupe or the power of the anomaly. Alfredo Aracil

 

“…we get intoxicated with familiarity, we anesthetize ourselves

to all sensation of the world, we harden ourselves.

At the other extreme – when we can not resist deterritorialization

and, dipped in its movement, we become pure intensity,

in pure emotion of the world-another danger lurks.

The fascination that deterritorialization exerts on us can be lethal:

instead of living it as a dimension

essential in the creation of territories,

we take it as an end in itself.

And completely devoid of territories we

Weaken ourselves until we are irremediably broken.”

Suely Rolnik: A new vulnerability?

 

“The inopportune, however, insists against its neutralisation.

Insists for the simple reason that life, precisely because it is life,

must carry its own ambivalence.

The real challenge is not to tear this dark force away,

but on the contrary, in trying to ride it.”

Santiago López Petit: Inopportune anomalies.

 

 

Introduction: the fragility of now

Mistreating the treated appears, at first sight, to be the motto of the medicalised society in which we move about. Although it now barely matters who is ill or the nature of the phenomena that produce (or affect) the discomfort with which we live. Faced the prevailing levels of personal and job insecurity, lack of empathy, lack of solidarity, isolation, inequality and other systematic violence, it is not unusual to suffer from anxiety, depression, stress or panic. The entirety of the social body, once it is transformed into a working body, is increasingly harassed by the shadow of the psychopathological; namely, a modelling of a political and non-biological nature, the result of certain governmental demands aimed at controlling the social space that entail, de facto, the exclusion of any right to be different. Power strives to combat by means of therapies and drugs those bodies that question what is normal and desirable. Or rather, it strives to bend them to an economic paradigm, the neoliberal one, which extrapolates the logic of what is productive to all the activities in human life, without distinguishing between work and leisure time, making lifestyles, information, subjectivity and availability a source of wealth for an elite. In short, this is effective and affective government that, thanks to an array of issues like “personality”, “skills”, “self-esteem” or “emotional intelligence”, has spread throughout popular culture, causing “increasingly more basic problems in daily life to encounter irrevocable intervention in the technical psychological demon.[1]

Behind the madhouses projected as prisons, today’s controlling societies have designed chemical straitjackets and increasingly sophisticated exclusions that have replaced the old disciplinary tools. As in the eighteenth century, when The Great Confinement was decreed, the premise remains to avoid any hint of interior dissidence. Although, in the twilight of psychiatry as a repressive institution -indeed, one commissioned to destroy the other-, we now see the spreading of a certain enjoyment of the subordination that several authors have identified in our way of fearing any onset of crisis. On the one hand, fear of lack of meaning, of the vacuum of power and of the absence of government. And on the other, its remedy: treatments, therapies and exercises in which the normative is the result of a psychotherapy that takes shape in a series of self-realisation and self-promotion processes, within a framework of personal economic development that is also related to health. In this way, neoliberal reason, more than a theoretical issue, and more than a question of prohibitions or regulations, represents an invitation to live within a particular regime of experience and sociability: a sensitivity fascinated by self-management, self-discipline and efficiency, where the sphere of rational calculation treats as a commodity anything we could not imagine being treated that way. Then, when being normal is imposed as the only model and any difference that slows the rate of production is regarded as a disease, this is when a project like La Rara Troupe, which questions what we understand by normality and claims the untimely potential of the anomalous, represents not a criticism or an ironic comment but a true betrayal of the system in which we live, a budding revolution that no longer involves the taking of power, a place of eternal sadness.

For a situated theory of affection

When encountering the practice of La Rara Troupe for the first time, it is surprising how the group avoids issues that directly have to do with mental health and its medical procedures. Thus, instead of emphasising what a priori seems to link them -the supposedly diseased state of its members or a joint diagnosis- the debates, workshops and artistic productions that they propose articulate other notions, less abstract and more common ones, that challenge both the group members as well as those who collaborate with them sporadically. These notions, we have said, are situated in the daily experience that, while building a community portrait, question mental disorder as a direct consequence of a supposed neurological or chemical disorder. From the medical sphere and its positivist endorsements, from biopolitics and the nationalisation of life, to the political work of taking decisions out of difference, negotiating each gesture, delaying the need for agreement and ultimately making out of the personal a political conflict that touches the different spaces that the group has been populating. These include museums, art centres and other public places where La Rara adopts the logic of the agency as a form of action: i.e. to weave a series of alliances between subjects, knowledge and practices, always multiple and heterogeneous, in a productive disorder that puts on hold the positions, hierarchies and rituals of the doctor and patient.

Thus, the logic of inclusion that most clinics and therapies employ for the mentally ill is revealed as a victimising practice aimed at disarming the know-how of the other. That is, its power of crisis, its strategic capacity to express how social contingencies entail the appearance of the symptom. This is in such a way that what seems to be an exclusively scientific question is projected on another more general plane but not made abstract. This is know-how as the space of resistance where the strange, the different, the rejected or the repressed are valued as the political strategies and sociability techniques of another: a different logic-, some would say one that is ill, which puts on hold the series of socio-economic violence that distress us. The crisis as an opportunity to think and live differently. A dissident subjectivity that, far from stereotyped perceptions and clichés, is produced from the immanence of a self-image.

So, what are the workings of this process of singularisation that is capable of making common that which affects us equally? Without doubt, working collectively, against the authorial tradition, is now a way of questioning the limitations of the Cartesian self, as well as the historical process of its construction. This is especially true in a field of action that, through mythologies, has built a self-conscious, omnipotent type of subject: the work of art as an emanation of personality. It is a conflict of a narcissistic nature that, in a certain manner, continues the postmodern tradition with that mantra of making a work from a life and a life from a work. This mandate has ended up functioning as a duty and not as a matter of openness to the world: all artistic production should be elevated, just as each authorial gesture must be transcendental and definitive. This is something that La Rara Troupe surely ignores, placing its gaze on the details and motives of intimate life that, because they are inconsequential and everyday, artistic tradition often leaves to one side. With the camera on one’s shoulder, or trembling in one’s hand, without a tripod or a mise en scène, this is about producing singular images and sounds, by oneself. These are narratives that, transcending the limits of the self, also account for the other. It is a way to interrogate oneself and, shoulder to shoulder, question the frameworks of an increasingly narrow reality. This has nothing to do, by the way, with the relational aesthetic of the 1990s, since La Rara’s work attempts to form relationships that are not only aesthetic but are of time and space through a process of taking care of each other and learning from each other. Although, according to Diego Stuzwak, subjectivation processes sometimes do not go beyond signifying an elegant form of personalisation, the case of La Rara Troupe is an example of how to transcend the subject, drawing a conjoined imagination from tentacular displacements where the self, located in the plane of the common, is always another.

With regard to what has been called care ethics, instead of hypotheses and objects of preliminary study, the practice of La Rara Troupe favours the process over the result. This operation calls up heterogeneous influences, from experimental art to radical politics and anti-psychiatry, putting on the table affective tools for the care of relationships and one’s own life. On the side of a type of pedagogy that makes a virtue of “not-knowing”, its search is framed in the horizontal relationship, between an action and a new image, probing different ways of organising-oneself, as well as proposing continuous crossovers; a way of sensitising what is change, transition, passage etc. Ultimately, it is traversed by a power that Spinoza called joy. In a text that is already over ten years old, Colectivo Situaciones reflected on the task of militant research, a know-how that bears some similarities with La Rara’s work: “In love, in friendship … there is no objectuality nor instrumentalism. No one is safe from what the bond is capable, nor do they emerge uncontaminated. Love and friendship are not fed innocently: we all emerge reconstructed from them. These powers – love, friendship and joy – have the power to construct, qualify and remake the subjects they catch hold of”[2].

An artistic practice capable of healing in a non-medical sense? Curing? Who? Why?

Could we, in any way, regard the artistic work of La Rara as a transformative practice capable of, beyond the medical parameters, healing in a political sense? What would it mean to heal in this sense? Is a political therapy possible (and desirable)? As Santiago López Petit says, “politics is the activity that, in principle, serves to organise society. Therapy, in turn, is a practice that is connected with the healing of a disease. But when we say “politics and therapy” it all gets complicated. On the one hand, this approach confirms that power becomes therapeutic in that it requires us to have a life. Living, therefore, becomes the loading with a life that we have to manage and turn into a project. Ultimately, to live is to be condemned to work on one’s own life. On the other hand, this approach also shows that if all politicisation is a process of self-transformation that makes us more free, there is necessarily something therapeutic in it. This is unsurprising, since politicisation implies an affected being [3]”. 

And yet, we have seen how La Rara Troupe is not recognised as a group of patients who perform a type of artistic therapy, but as a group of artists who seek to produce their own and different image (an echo, by the way, of the struggles, since 2011, in wondering how to transcend the idea of ​​representation). To recognise oneself in that category, not for nothing, would be a way of justifying those who think that treatment and healing is all one can do in the face of madness and psychic disorder, that is, normalising; those who are employed in maintaining us with the minimum of life to continue working, even when we are not doing so. What La Rara Troupe can do, however, involves its way of highlighting the vulnerability that we all feel at some point, and how in the face of discomfort all we can do is fight with one’s life itself. Putting one’s body in, as feminist collectives like Not one less say. Or politicising existence, which is not flirting with a desire for death of a romantic nature, nor is obsessed with the powers of the night and darkness. Then, we could consider a form of healing that, unlike the one proposed by bio-power, does not mean disciplining or correcting, but enabling the formation of different relationships, the production of affection.

Territorialisation and deterritorialisation, Suely Rolnik says, are two sides of the same coin. They are complementary dynamics that shape our way of feeling, perceiving and being in the world, sometimes in an ambivalent manner. The reason of madness. The madness of reason. A distance that is travelled and retraced. On the one hand, this is about making territory, adding oneself, putting down roots and inhabiting stable places, homes. This is what, over time, has enabled La Rara Troupe to host their meetings and general assemblies. And on the other, it is about experiencing the disaggregation and the incessant movement proposed by the exercise of deterritorialisation as a necessary evil, a shock force, a plasticity that is even delirious and capable of destroying certainties, developing a critical eye and amazement in the face of the untimely and the contingent nature of being alive. In a certain sense, we might say that the images and sounds produced by La Rara Troupe in their videos and sonic work are aimed at producing their own images that, displaced from the puerile sentimentality that usually confirms the image of that other that society calls excluded, create their own territory, a house in which to be recognised. This is not so much the certainty of what should be done as the question of how we do so. Indeed, an unstable territory, a mobile home, a machine that will not stop moving. Like when the group members are invited to assemble the films that, bit by bit, they have been building, each with his or her camera. It is a poetic of the epistolary, although expanded, embodied: a mosaic where letters are written in parallel with a multitude of hands holding a single pen.                 

[1]    Rodríguez, Roberto: Contra- psicología. Dado Ediciones, Madrid, 2016, Pg 6.

[2]    Colectivo situaciones: Por una investigación militantehttp://eipcp.net/transversal/0406/colectivosituaciones/es

[3]     López Petit, Santiago. Anomalías intempestivas. En Contra- psicología. Dado Ediciones, Madrid, 2016, p. 437.


Alfredo Aracil has been the Project Manager at the LABoral Centre for Art and Industrial Creation. He has curated a variety of exhibitions, activity programmes and seminars in galleries and institutions such as Reina Sofia National Museum and Art Centre, the Madrid School of Architects or Conde Duque, together with music and film festivals such as Villamauela or the Gijón International Film Festival. He has been the Editor of Experimenta magazine and a regular contributor to publications such as Nosotros, Tendencias, LUMIÈRE, Atlántica XII, El Estado Mental, etc. Visiting professor at the Iart curatorial course in Madrid and at the Faculty of Art History of the University of Oviedo. He is currently developing his doctoral thesis on the transformation of psychiatric care in the Spain of the late 1960s using various audiovisual documents.

In 2017, he curated the exhibition project Apuntes para una psiquiatría destructiva for the Arte Joven gallery in Madrid, in which La Rara Troupe participated.