study of a passion

Study of a passion would necessitate a study of masochism.

…the masochist assemblage: the organisation of humiliations and suffering in it appear less as a means of exorcising anguish and so attaining a supposedly forbidden pleasure, than as a procedure, a particularly convoluted one, to constitute a body without organs and develop a continuous process of desire, which pleasure, on the contrary, would come and interrupt.

– Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues II, p. 75

Pleasure, the above authors pleasantly write elsewhere, is a little rest. From desire. Desire, however, wants for nothing. Desire is not not sexuality. Out under the sun, stars and moon, in the middle of a desert, a desert which is a city, a green ghetto lapping at its edges, at the edges of a city which has suffered this desertification, on perhaps these islands, islands in a ghetto of bush and birds, desire uses sex rather opportunistically, every night-and-day’s a one-night stand… and still we’re walking, nowhere. This walk infuriates or excites the spirits, who rise under each footfall, like Mary Poppins’s staircase of smoke, except the intoxicating thing is that we are somewhere at every step, falling into a nowhere and caught by spirits, who are variously excited, infuriated, equally intoxicated, or simply toxic, dark spirits and light spirits, points in precession, precursively incited and invoked, catching us from falling, crushed into a somewhere which condemns them, rising from a nowhere to which we condemn ourselves.

Pain is a little rest too? No. Taking pleasure in pain, perhaps. Like the relationship between anorexia and gluttony. In anorexia we do not indulge. We have to rise to the occasion of the anorexic dinner party. We fall, and simply fall – there may be obstacles but complications do not intervene – into gluttony. The Hunger Artist can implode forever. Mr Creosote can only explode.

– Hieronymous Bosch, c1490, Musee des Beaux-Arts, Ghent

A passion has stations. Pain is love, quotes Virilio, the Catholic critic, essayist. People can get on or off at these stations. And perhaps have a little rest or get on for the leering, jeering, the spitting, the whole carrying a cross to calvary on Bosch’s bus business. A passion has levels of intensity. And, even more importantly for us, here, a passion has and shows degrees of intimacy. Bosch makes us intimates, intimates with intimacy. We feel this intimacy. In a passion, intensity becomes intimacy, or a passionate intensity.

The stations of the Christian Passion capture a sense of this ordinal series, through degrees of intimacy. In Christ’s, whose passion is it? Stated as a problem, the question becomes: How does Christ’s passion work? The stations actualise a passage from intensity to intensity. You could say they dramatise it and they cover up what is happening to the jeerers, leerers, spitters, hawkers, let alone the disciples, mothers, lovers and assorted friends and hangers-on, who are all, without exception, brought into the intimacy of a spectacle, a passion.

You could say that a passion is our chance to punish a god. A passion would have this in common with anorexia and with the construction of the plane on which desire sets out as it sets it out, the signed designed plane. The drama is the same: our chance to exorcise anguish and punish a god.