By Moacir dos Anjos
1. In one of his last texts, Gilles Deleuze produced a brief and dense analysis of the plays that, in the 1960s, Samuel Beckett wrote to be filmed and shown on television. In order to understand them – and extract new concepts from them – the French philosopher proposed, in his essay, the distinction between tired and exhausted, between tiredness and exhaustion. From the outset, there would be, between the two states, a difference in intensity: “The exhausted is much more than the tired”. But the exhausted would not be, however, only the extremely tired, with a difference between the two conditions, irreducible to quantification. The tired would be those who, anchored in their preferences and goals, exercise, to the limit of their (subjective) possibilities, the power to make choices to accomplish something. Choices – banal or complex, transient or lasting – made within what, at each time and place, is considered to be the realm of the possible. The tired would be the one, therefore, who stops when he is no longer able to accomplish something that exists as part of that field of (objective) possibilities, postponing his accomplishments until when he feels like he is tired. new able. The exhausted, in turn, would be the one who, renouncing preferences and precise objectives, experiences and combines all the possibilities of choices and their consequences, to the point of exhausting them. The exhausted would be, in this sense, the one that exhausts the possible, although it does not become inert for that reason.
2. In his close examination of each of Beckett's television plays, Deleuze points out four ways – not mutually exclusive – of promoting the exhaustion of the possible: Exhausting the things that can be named, stopping the flow of voices that speak them, exhausting the potentialities of the space where they exist and dissipate the power contained in their images. Extrapolating the original object of his text and making openly arbitrary use of the concepts dealt with in it, these conditions of exhaustion seem to be appropriate to capture, even if imprecisely (and perhaps for this reason adequately), the situation experienced in Brazil today. A place and a moment in which a health crisis, a political crisis and an economic crisis intertwine with consequences not yet fully known in their extent, although already known to be very serious. A situation in which words are no longer enough to describe the facts and evoke the affections they generate, in which the silencing of those who diverge from power is already openly demanded, in which institutional territories devoted to disagreement and dispute are deregulated and weakened. , finally, in which the sensitive equivalences that describe what happens on the streets are contested. For those who recognize and feel in their bodies the gravity of the crisis experienced in the country (in its various dimensions), it is increasingly common to feel exhausted. Or feel that Brazil is exhausted. That the possibilities of realizing another common life were spent before being explored, blocking a project of a minimally more inclusive and fair society, gestated, with slowness and difficulties, from the end of the military dictatorship in the country. That the death (of each victim of the pandemic and also of the public space of clashes) has shrunk what was still considered possible, hastening a process of exhaustion that, although it has long been underway, seemed to still take longer to manifest itself in Brazil . In particular, with the essive fury with which he presents himself now.
3. It is true that this exhaustion was gradual, reaching first the most vulnerable lives, those most susceptible to having the power to choose one decision or another about their existence blocked. Living bodies, after all, are unevenly distributed not only in physical space, but also in terms of the recognition of their rights and capabilities. They occupy places of leisure, housing, work and political representation that are also markers of how diverse are the possibilities to which each one has access. If some bodies are provided with an existence with material comfort and affective security, others are destined for a life traversed by fear and lack. If some have the power of movement and command, others are subject to a regime of regulated circulation and obedience – albeit also of resistance – to the orders given. For some, such as the indigenous peoples native to the lands that would become Brazil, the possible was abruptly diminished – almost ended, in fact – with the arrival of the European colonizer. Colonial violence exhausted this possibility, exhausting those peoples, suppressing their humanity. It took away from them the possibility of fatigue, a condition only reached by the exercise of an autonomous life. And it continues to want to deny them a place, albeit a subordinate one, in the unequal distribution of bodies that defines the country. colonial violence who, by enslaving black women and men from different corners of Africa, as well as their descendants, tired and exhausted them at the same time. That subjected their bodies to the limit of their capacity and, at the same time, curtailed what they kept as potency for a future time. Violence that, transformed and updated into different forms of racism, continues to be exercised in contemporary Brazil. For these bodies, the country's exhaustion was also felt for a long time. As were the dissident bodies of a social norm that is not only white, but also heterosexual and cisgender. As well as the poor bodies, which are sometimes also indigenous bodies. Who are sometimes also black. Who are sometimes also gays, lesbians, transvestites. Lives that have been feeling gradually exhausted, for whom the exhaustion of Brazil is a predictable fact. For whom burnout came first: centuries ago, for some; for decades, for many others. Exhaustion that was, here and there, stopped, as different futures seemed to have expanded what was possible as a result of long disputes. But that has been accelerated again in recent years, with a sequence of events – the emergence of fascism and, more recently, of the disease – which, due to the destructive power they embody, seems to have exhausted many of those bodies hitherto spared. Bodies that had the privilege of just being tired.
4. Tiredness demands rest so that the tired can again choose between the alternatives that the possible accepts, resuming stalled projects or redoing the dismantled ones. So that it can act as a subject that affirms positions and disputes possibilities. Possible that in Brazil 2020 it seems to have exhausted itself or to have been blocked. To exhaustion, in turn, rest is not enough, because rest does not restore the exhausted. Exhaustion requires imagining other possibilities so that the exhausted ceases to be. So that what was not considered a possibility among others, can be counted as such. So that new political subjects emerge and create what could not be thought of before. The end of exhaustion requires the subversion of the hegemonic distribution of probabilities, forcing the inclusion, in them, of unprecedented hypotheses of the future. For Deleuze, after all, the exhausted remains active, even if it does not have, in its activity, a certain objective. Giving direction and meaning to this guarded power is the political task of the exhausted.
Text originally published in n-1 editions
Moacir dos Anjos is a researcher at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation. He was curator of the 29th Bienal de São Paulo (2010) and the exhibitions Dogs without Feathers (2014) the fall from heaven (2015) Emergency (2017) and Anyone who doesn't fight is dead. art democracy utopia (2018). He is the author of the books Local/Global. Art in Transit (2005) ArteBra Critical (2010) and Contradictory. Art, Globalization and Belonging (2017)