Dépatouille (a game)

This text is an ENG ver­sion of PAM552 book­let. It has been trans­la­ted by Lot­to­Thies­sen, Joel Scott and Mar­ty Hiatt for Arti­choke 4.

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dépa­touiller qqch : to cope with sth, to manage sth
se dépa­touiller : to disen­tangle one­self

- Get up and walk. Dépa­touille is a game for two players, in which A gives B orders that should lead her to com­plete a simple action (stand, walk, drink a glass of water…). The constraint lies in the fact that B is enti­re­ly igno­rant of the ges­tu­ral reper­toire of social domes­ti­ca­tion : thus, nothing can be achie­ved by orde­ring B to “stand up, walk over there and drink that glass of water”, because the actions of stan­ding up, wal­king, drin­king, the deixes “over there” and “that”, and the prag­ma­tic “glass of water” are com­ple­te­ly unfa­mi­liar to her. B’s com­pe­tence refers exclu­si­ve­ly to parts of her body and to abso­lute posi­tions in rela­tion to these. So if B, slou­ched on a couch, must manage to stand up and drink a glass of water, “apply a 35° bend to your left arm along the floor” is a kind of accep­table start to set­ting her right. B is cal­led l’empatouillée ; A la dépa­touilleuse.

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- Star­ting Posi­tion. The empa­touillée chooses her star­ting posi­tion ; this involves the grea­test pos­sible relaxa­tion. This star­ting posi­tion is the empatouillée’s expres­sive moment, in which pos­si­bi­li­ties of sla­ck­ness, the fee­ling com­for­table and the make your­self com­for­table, are exten­ded beyond the boun­da­ries of hos­pi­ta­li­ty. The empa­touillée doesn’t only play the docile host of the dépa­touilleuse, she is also the guest who chooses where and how she loses conscious­ness, laying out the crime scene from which she will be rescued.

- Where does dépa­touille come from ? Dépa­touille was born in a moment of fai­lure, of frus­tra­tion, of latent conflict making rela­tions tense. Autho­ri­ta­rian sta­te­ments had repla­ced nego­tia­tion about what is to be done. On reflec­tion, it became clear that these sta­te­ments were model­led on the cop, the pimp, the gang­ster, the doc­tor, the parent – all of whose dis­courses are simul­ta­neous­ly calls to order in the form of preemp­tive threats (“you bet­ter take some time and be care­ful about that”), and the expres­sion of par­ti­cu­lar affects which, within that order, are bran­di­shed as cano­ni­cal attri­butes (“i’m not a violent man but you should be aware that…”).

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- In each one a racked one. The point of dépa­touille is not to lead a body from sta­sis to move­ment. What the dépa­touilleuse under­takes is a rescue ope­ra­tion that ite­mises the tran­si­tion from sla­ck­ness to sur­rec­tion. But the stan­ding posi­tion – a conven­tio­nal pro­ject whose ambit consists in pos­ture and rea­di­ness to walk – is nothing other than the triumph of the impo­tent, spi­ne­less ges­teur in each of us, whose impo­tence is main­tai­ned by a dupli­ci­ty of prac­tices. By sanc­ti­fying a sin­gu­lar reper­toire of ges­tures, he esta­blishes him­self against the back­drop of a cult, the effi­ca­cy of which inheres in nothing but the exhi­la­ra­tion of conven­tio­nal gaps ; but (at the same time), as a pon­tiff unsure of his infal­li­bi­li­ty, he sub­mits him­self to the the vica­riate of atti­tudes vali­da­ted by the ens­na­ring dra­ma­tur­gy of this cult. We call this racked-one-in-each-of-us, the empa­touillée.

- Dele­ga­ting puis­sance. For the dépa­touilleuse, the ques­tion of will is secon­da­ry to the ques­tion of power. During a dépa­touille, the dépa­touilleuse moda­lises both the empatouillée’s move­ment and her own release from the alie­na­ting rela­tions of domi­na­tion equal­ly : as demiurge of a pure­ly cau­sa­li­ta­rian phy­sics (she is the one whose orders pro­voke the acci­dents of a reac­tive sub­stance), within the confines of a game of dépa­touille, she can­not be but an infe­li­ci­tous demiurge, since the result is not the rea­dy­made pro­duct of her orders, but the res­ponse of an inde­ter­mi­nate puis­sance to a will of deter­mi­nate pou­voir 1. Dépa­touille is thus an agon (a game of pou­voir, of sub­mis­sion or domi­na­tion) only slight­ly ; first and fore­most it is an alea, a nego­tia­tion of impo­ten­cies around the moda­li­ties of puis­sance. So dépa­touille does not pro­vide ack­now­led­ge­ment of a cor­res­pon­dence bet­ween the orders and their exe­cu­tion, it just bares what a body can do when it dele­gates its dehis­cence to ano­ther intel­lect, ano­ther speed, ano­ther pat­tern of unfol­ding or unfur­ling.

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- An entan­gle­ment and a release. Dépa­touille is an entan­gle­ment and a release : it pro­gresses, labo­rious­ly, before the pros­pect of pul­ling one­self toge­ther, with the aim of straigh­te­ning up, but reveals a super­fi­cial social ago­ny (in that shal­low, per­cep­tible zone of the infra) and is hap­py to be hun­ted like others are hap­py to be pri­so­ners ; it thus addresses itself to socia­li­zed beings willing to depa­touiller them­selves, make good hun­ting of their bodies so that they may return to the ins­tru­men­tal usages of the quo­ti­dian.

- A prac­tice of eman­ci­pa­tion. Dépa­touille is an eman­ci­pa­to­ry prac­tice that seeks to step back rather than to go under­ground. It makes its way by volun­ta­ri­ly sub­mit­ting to a rescue ope­ra­tion that bor­rows at least as much from autho­ri­ta­rian for­mu­lae as from soo­thing tuto­rials for fol­ding bath towels.

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- The hie­ra­tic ele­ment to drive-based prac­tice. In decom­po­sing the action and ges­tures that form it, what dépa­touille exposes is the hie­ra­ti­cal ele­ment to drive-based prac­tices (Trieb). It is not a mat­ter of culti­va­ting an idea­lism accor­ding to which eman­ci­pa­tion under­goes the “unplug­ging of know­ledge”, but rather to prod the dra­ma­tur­gi­cal jel­ly in which many of our ges­tures are sus­pen­ded. That which is left stan­ding at the end of a dépa­touille is not addres­sed to artille­rists : the tra­jec­to­ry of a dépa­touille is that of a feck­less hero of the vali­di­ty to which will not take long to turn this triumph into the typi­cal pater­na­lism of the valids towards the inva­lids. To expe­rience that. To suf­fer it. To care about it.

- Cau­tion : to dépa­touille is not to yogue. The dépa­touilleuse is not a yoga tea­cher. She is a tem­po­ra­ry aid who, beyond the requi­re­ments of her role, is also a poten­tial empa­touillée. The empa­touillée is not, like the yogi, the gym­nic shif­ter of her own sen­sa­tions. She who offers her­self during a game of dépa­touille to the pre­cise and constrai­ning orders of a dépa­touilleuse tem­po­ra­ri­ly puts the res­pon­si­bi­li­ty of her rescue into another’s hands, dele­gates the care of her ani­ma­tion to some­bo­dy with more puis­sance ; a phy­sics of social idea­li­ties would not autho­rise this.

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- The scra­pheap under the par­king lot. Dépa­touille dis­closes the homi­nid pup­pet in the mise­ry of its arti­cu­la­to­ry gamut. The klut­zy, doin­gy, off-kil­ter exe­cu­tions of extre­me­ly pre­cise orders requi­ring tech­nique, as well as the ero­tic or comi­cal pre­ca­ri­ty of cer­tain cata­lep­sies reveal, under the par­king lot of lear­ned ges­tures and ins­tru­men­tal actions (to drink a glass of water, to undo one’s shoe­laces etc.), the whole anthro­po­lo­gi­cal scra­pheap.

- The risi­bi­li­ty of the unte­nable game. Dépa­touille points out two types of effort which lead to concen­tra­tions of the absurd : pre­ca­rious cata­lep­sies on the side of the empa­touillée who – strai­ned, red­de­ned, vei­ned, strug­gling – tries to res­pect the indi­ca­tions which she hears to the let­ter ; utte­rances aspi­ring for the utmost pre­ci­sion on the part of the dépa­touilleuse, not without blun­ders, redun­dan­cies, incom­pe­ten­cies (“bring your back­side fur­ther back”) which recall the incom­pe­tence of the empa­touillée.

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- //fucked up → bizarre contor­tions → unfu­cked up//. The stages of the empa­touillée’s pro­gress can resemble scènes de la dépa­touille quo­ti­dienne that are fami­liar to all (drug effects, sick­ness, han­di­caps, aging, sex). In this sense, the dépa­touillée is not a “libe­ra­ted” body. The dépa­touillée is just a body that can no lon­ger be consi­de­red as “out of it”. A “fini­shed”, “gra­dua­ted” body.

- She who dépa­touilles, slobs. Even if dépa­touille aims to orga­nise the crime scene, and pro­gresses from an utter shit­show to a posi­tion which is, all things consi­de­red, tenable, the players should sup­pose that they will pro­duce yet ano­ther, dif­ferent shit­toir (with the inevi­table pit­falls of the sur­rec­tion – kno­cking over fur­ni­ture etc.).

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  1. The dis­tinc­tion bet­ween pou­voir and puis­sance is dif­fi­cult to convey in English, both of which would typi­cal­ly be trans­la­ted as ‘power’. One could say, accor­ding to a Spi­no­zan pers­pec­tive, though not strict­ly Spi­no­zist, that puis­sance cha­rac­te­rises the beco­ming, is inter­es­ted in the effec­tua­tion, and the pou­voir is always alrea­dy effec­tua­ted (it is tran­si­tive in as much as it always sup­poses an object, believes to know it) – its exer­cise is that of a constraint of puis­sances.