Never-before-published lectures, Q&As, and squabbles from the conference that introduced French theory into America, with a facsimile of the journal issue that emerged from it.
I think “schizo-culture” here is being used rather in a special sense. Not referring to clinical schizophrenia, but to the fact that the culture is divided up into all sorts of classes and groups, etc., and that some of the old lines are breaking down. And that this is a healthy sign. —William Burroughs, from Schizo-Culture
The legendary 1975 “Schizo-Culture” conference, conceived by the early Semiotext(e) collective, began as an attempt to introduce the then-unknown radical philosophies of post-'68 France to the American avant-garde. The event featured a series of seminal papers, from Deleuze's first presentation of the concept of the “rhizome” to Foucault's introduction of his History of Sexuality project. The conference was equally important on a political level, and brought together a diverse group of activists, thinkers, patients, and ex-cons in order to address the challenge of penal and psychiatric institutions. The combination proved to be explosive, but amid the fighting and confusion “Schizo-Culture” revealed deep ruptures in left politics, French thought, and American culture.
The “Schizo-Culture” issue of the Semiotext(e) journal came three years later. Designed by a group of artists and filmmakers including Kathryn Bigelow and Denise Green, it documented the chaotic creativity of an emerging downtown New York scene, and offered interviews with artists, theorists, writers, and No Wave and pre-punk musicians together with new texts from Deleuze, Foucault, R. D. Laing, and other conference participants.
This slip-cased edition includes The Book: 1978, a facsimile reproduction of the original Schizo-Culture publication; and The Event: 1975, a previously unpublished and comprehensive record of the conference that set it all off. It assembles many previously unpublished texts, including a detailed selection of interviews reconstructing the events, and features Félix Guattari, William Burroughs, Kathy Acker, Michel Foucault, Sylvère Lotringer, Guy Hocquenghem, Gilles Deleuze, John Rajchman, Robert Wilson, Joel Kovel, Jack Smith, Jean-François Lyotard, Ti-Grace Atkinson, François Peraldi, and John Cage.
Sylvère Lotringer is Jean Baudrillard Chair at the European Graduate School, Switzerland, and Professor Emeritus of French literature and philosophy at Columbia University.
David Morris is a writer, researcher and teacher. He is an editor at Afterall and a lecturer at University of the Arts, London.
The Event is a book, a made thing. It reminds me of Plato's Symposium, written entirely in dialogue form (perhaps due to Socrates's contempt for books), which opens with one person imploring another to tell everything that happened and everything that was said at a certain drinking party some thirty years earlier. It's not enough to know the gist of it. The story stays ahead of its own significance, and stays alive that way. Undigested. And the things said by the protagonists often reach quite outside the frame. The book called Schizo-Culture: The Event can be taken as this kind of story work. The tidy box that it comes in is funny—a schizo-box. And the schizo is in and out of its box.