Regina and I – short hair with blond highlights, sweet bangs, bobby-pins on either side, a scarf around her neck and a challenge: maturing.
We enter the room where she sees patients. I pull an iPhone 3 out of my bag, get the recorder ready, and place the phone on a stool, next to Regina. She observes it with curiosity. I pull out another iPhone, this time from the fourth generation, and I get the camera ready. She looks at one, looks at the other. She asks what recorder I am using and I inform her that it is an application on the telephone itself. She gets excited. She then asks about the other one, and I explain that I am recording the audio with one and with the other I can record some short video and take pictures. “With Instagram?” she asks enthusiastically. At 71, Regina Favre is completely open to these technological devices, which have fostered valuable contributions to her work as a therapist and educator. Since the rise of video in Brazil, in the 1980s, the resource of video recording is a substantial element of her research and teaching processes. After a quick photo shoot – in which we take pictures of one another – fresh coffee arrives and, with this, the door is closed. Ready. We finally begin the interview… Or something else: we consider the possibility of living an event that is produced there, as the result of the encounter.
What is the HERE?
Nathalia – Well, I sort of have a map, but it’s not so rigid. So, let’s build it and feel where to go, ok? I would like to begin the way that you usually begin your encounters at the Seminar of Subjective Biodiversity, which is about the notion of ‘here’ … What is the ‘here,’ Regina?
Regina – Well, a lot of people think of the here as the ‘here-and-now’…
Nathalia – Yes, that is exactly why I raised this issue… People say: ‘ah, let’s live the here-and-now’…
Regina – These two bodies – we who just took pictures and are in the present as much as we can be, are immersed in the event. Event is the state of things contemporaneous to this intentional interaction between the two bodies that are now co-bodying. This idea of ‘here’ is a very ecological idea. It was within Guattari’s idea of ecologies that I took this feeling that we live in ecologies… physical and temporal… which are the event… with all the layers, be they physical, affective, cognitive, anthropological, layers of powers, values, technology, history, memory… Through this idea of ecologies it gets much easier for us to understand that bodies ‘are’ a part, and not that they ‘are’ placed… Bodies are part of ecologies. I learned with Stanley Keleman that life produces bodies in order to be able to continue in these bodies, through these bodies… Bodies have a duration, they are links of lineages, they are channels that filter, absorb, that ‘build with’ and are projected into the future, constituting these environments, in a continual process of becoming. So, “here” is simply a “place,” because bodies are just a “place” inside of the biosphere… a living place that makes all of these operations of maintenance, continuation, and production of the biosphere, and of any environment of which they are part. Period. I understand the Here this way…
Nathalia – And the now?
Regina – The now is what is simultaneous to the act of being present. To the act. Because that which allows us to grasp or live the now is identifying with our actions, because presence is an act, actions are the present. Presence is not an ‘epiphany’! (laughter) Producing presence is an act. And bodies are an aggregate of actions. Bodies are not furniture in space. They are a fabric of actions – genetically programmed, obviously, which doesn’t mean a ‘predictable destiny,’ but rather tendencies, mechanisms, dynamics, all inherited from the species, from the living streams… Feeling oneself as part of evolutionary anatomy is very important for one to have this quality of presence, knowing that the act of presence is anatomic. Bodies are an organization for a certain functioning in environments. This organization is what we call body.
Nathalia – What paradigm is this based on, this ‘here-and-now’ idea?
Regina – Philosophy is made of traditions. This idea of the ‘here-and-now’ that you mean is profoundly Heideggerian, existential… A way of thinking from when subject was seen in a monolithic mode, as an identitarian ‘subject’, a person… But it is what was possible to be understood with the paradigms of science at the time. Existence was very much based on a notion of individual processes. With changes in the paradigms of science, quantum physics, the notions of ecology, and the discoveries of molecular biology, we come to the evidence that we are a ‘molecular aggregate’ that maintains polarization for a certain time, which is the duration of a body in particular. With this notion of the biological process we can conceive bodies as a molecular aggregate that channels life, because what is important today for major science’s perspective is the biosphere, this very complex living layer that envelops this rock called Earth, and its destiny.
Capitalism and the production of subjective bodies
Nathalia – The beginning of your work involves political militancy…
Regina – It wasn’t really militancy… I was never militant. I was countercultural, a tropicalist youth, active participant in a struggle for transforming ways of living, of thinking, of behaving, of socializing… I participated in the whole mutation of subjectivity in the 1960s. At the same time that this struggle went on, there was another struggle, an armed struggle that directly confronted the military coup that occurred in Brazil, similar to those that happened in other Latin American countries so that multinational capitalism, today called global capitalism, could be installed.
Nathalia – Well, reformulating my question: how was this posture expressed, this rebellion against the standards of the time, and how was it updated up to the present? I mean, what did it mean to be ‘countercultural’ at that time and what is it like nowadays?
Regina – Thinking about what a ‘militancy’ of the body would be… Body, behavior, attitude, ways of relating, of narrating one’s life, this whole mutation of “modes” that happened by the end of the 1960s… What was to resist at that time and what is to resist today? What conception of body is necessary to be able to live in a ‘resistant’ manner today? At that time resistance was against the hardening of behaviors. Hardening and the ‘becoming conservative’ that happened in post-war America, with the consumption society. When the consumption society is installed, violently, it brings modeled behaviors, stereotypes, the family, ‘Father Knows Best’…
Nathalia – Domestic appliances…
Regina – Domestic appliances… modeling of lifestyles in an extremely rigid manner producing rigid bodies. Rigid bodies, which is the same as rigid moral behavior. And this spreads, because of the very nature of the consumption society and the type of capitalism that are installed in the United States after the war. This modeling of bodies – which had been taking place since the 19th century, as a consequence of lifestyle changes brought by the Industrial Revolution – broadens and popularizes enormously through the accelerated production of fast consumption goods and fast obsolescence goods, the development of advertising, easy credit, movies, and everything else.
Nathalia – And propelled by the United States.
Regina – Propelled by the United States who won the war and had to transform a war economy into a consumption society… The same machines that produced arms began to produce soap.
Nathalia – With the same machines…
Regina – All the same machines, the same capital, everything quickly directed toward the consumption industry. However, at the end of the fifties, an absolute mutation begins, a ‘thawing’ of these rigidified forms of behavior. That’s when all these struggles appear, struggles of youth, women, gay… All these needs for freedom and expression start to strengthen. And with these behavioral mutations, this new vision of a body becomes expressive through dance, poetry, rock and roll, film, and the activities of minoritarian groups.
Nathalia – The slogan was ‘to break.’
Regina – Breaking! No one wanted to repeat their parents’ behavior, the previous generation’s behavior. We can see the counterculture starting to grow. On the one hand there was the terrible fear of communism, the hegemony of capitalism exporting goods, behaviors, values… but at the same time, counterculture spinning in the opposite direction, also globally. In Brazil, we see the Tropicália movement teaching how to devour all that comes from outside, making Brazilian music with electric guitar, absorbing the influence of rock music, literature, cinema… At the time, we asked ourselves how to use all this international stuff, but in an inverse way? Dictatorships are installed, multinational corporations expand, they take over the entire planet, communication multiplies, technology multiplies, the entire global circulation of everything that has to do with the sphere of knowledge and communication. And with this enormous intensification, capitalism begins to pursue profit in another way, no longer interested in just producing consumer goods.
Capitalistic profit now comes from the very constitution of lifestyles. Capitalism terrorizes people with the threat of exclusion and at the same time offers existential contours which are behaviors that will include you, creating temporary boundaries for the anguish generated by the threat of body fragmentation. Capitalism then begins to offer massive formulas of life, goods, and services that are elements for the configuration of lives.
Capitalism’s acceleration has become absolute and in order to exist nowadays you need to consume signs of inclusion, which mobilize you and contain your anguish in this constant drifting that is our life. So, what is the issue today? It is bodies realizing that they can influence their own modeling, also being agents of self-production and self-differentiation. This power comes together with the new paradigm of molecular biology, with the feeling of ‘being part of the whole’ and being in continuous process of self-construction, of the environment, of the planet, of reality, of history, and everything. This generates another way of dealing with the body’s liberation. What matters today is producing difference and not “liberating one’s expression and personal energy” but rather producing difference, updating forms for connecting, and maintaining self-aggregation. The production of difference is extremely fine craftsmanship, very different from the expressive fuss in the ’60s. It’s the ‘less is more,’ minimalism, patient craftsmanship that is needed to establish a conversation between the body and its brain in the weaving of functional behaviors and, therefore, of body shapes and their worlds.
Nathalia – That’s the challenge.
Regina – That’s the challenge. Autopoiesis is a fundamental concept of contemporary biology. It is the process of self-production. Autopoiesis is founded on the very law of the living. Because the living is autopoietic.
Nathalia – So, these collective banners, these movements of groups and the ghettos… this is something that has been overcome?
Regina – The ghettos, yes.
Nathalia – Or the gay movement today?
Regina – But the gay movement has achieved so much! I think the gay movement today is the struggle for difference, not for ‘gay’ necessarily.
Nathalia – Not for a gay ‘identity.’
Regina – Not for an identity. It is for an understanding that human sexuality is multiple. That is the struggle! It’s not the ‘gay who wants to be gay’… It’s that human sexuality is multiple! The struggle for singularity, to find the unique composition of each body and each life.
Nathalia – And for recognition, for political legitimacy.
Regina – The recognition of this multiplicity is political! That has to be installed politically, the affirmation of this multiplicity of sexualities. That is the issue!
Reliable Environments and Formative Time
“We were born into a sea of words” – (M. Bakhtin)
Nathalia – I wanted to talk about an issue that has been very strong, which is about this conversation between the brain and the body, between my body and the environment…
Regina – Between ‘this’ body! Not ‘my’ body… This obsession with ‘my body’… what more besides the body? Who owns it?
Nathalia – Of course, this body! We still live based very much on that… ‘My body,’ as if there were someone or some soul that ‘possesses’ this body…
Regina – as if it were me and my dog.
Nathalia – But that is still very much a part of our common language, right?
Regina – Well… It is here… ‘Here’ is a pulsatory pump. This is a beautiful Keleman concept that I have amplified. Bodies pump the environments, they process environments, they move with this pumping, they assimilate environments continuously producing more layers of themselves, always out of the embriogenetic layers: the deep factory that produces elements for continuity, a strong and heavy structure (bone, muscle, and connective tissue) that sustains form and an informational network that gathers everything, processes what has been lived, creating ‘maps of the experience.’ The brain has innate maps, of course, which are maps of the species that mature along with the maturation of that particular organism. But at the same time behaviors differentiate and set themselves. Behaviors are selected by use and are installed as information pathways, interconnecting with the pre-existing pathways. This is how a body produces its mind. These maps keep up a ‘conversation’ with the ongoing production of the body, because, of course, bodies keep secreting body nonstop… the body is not a given, but rather a process… This ‘conversation’ between maps is what you might call ‘consciousness,’ or ‘thinking.’
Nathalia – Well, taking this phrase that is on the Laboratory’s post-card: “Bodies are always supported by somatic interactions, searching for reliable environments and formative time for them to mature their connective modes, so they can sustain connection and aggregation of themselves.” I wanted you to differentiate this search for ‘reliable environments’ from something like the search for ‘well-being,’ because there is still too much confusion in this regard.
Regina – Life needs conditions to grow. The organism has a timing that is fundamental in order to produce tissue, neural networks, and ensure that the functioning of a body keeps sustaining successive adaptations throughout life… Bodies require this time to carry out stabilization with the produced and organized tissues. This is the formative time. Even in very adverse conditions, bodies can find reliable environments that are the bonds between bodies. Bodies learn to trust by the practice with external bonds and then live this trust as a reliability on the body’s own processes, keeping internal cohesion. You see this speed that the planet has taken… People wake up answering their cell phones. The person wakes up, goes to the bathroom, turns on the phone and the computer. People are compelled to do two hundred thousand things at once, compelled by the feeling that they will miss the train, and will be excluded from networks, as we have already discussed. I had an experience recently at the Buenos Aires airport: a hundred people talking all at the same time on their cell phones, each with their gadget in line to board… It was a spectacular scene! Those people were everywhere at the same time… a thousand conversations, a thousand voices, a thousand subjects, making commitments, discussing projects, exchanging ideas, scheduling meetings… unbelievable! … And these bodies, somewhat like zombies, in the boarding line…
Nathalia – And what body is that, Regina?
Regina – It’s a maximization of neural power. We live this time. The nervous system is capable of extraordinary operations. The more trained it is, the more it does.
Nathalia – People suffer a lot from insomnia, because they can’t ‘disconnect.’
Regina – They can’t disconnect. Why? They do not understand that the nervous system and muscles work together. Because the muscles regulate time and spatialize bodies. So, the only possibility for you to learn is if you allow this conversation between muscles and nerves. The tissues need time to constitute themselves. There is a belief driven by the information market that everyone has to speak, everyone has to publish, everyone has to say and influence other peoples’ thinking.. And everyone thinks they will be heard! You look on the internet and see this bombardment of voices. It is really believed that people will actually read and listen to everything and change their life, their habits, their positions in this world’s networks of power. For change to happen, it is necessary that behaviors be implanted. And for that to happen it is necessary to follow the timing of tissue production. It takes a while in order to produce behavioral organization… for molecules to aggregate, layers to be made, connectivity of parts to be established. To really change behavior – and for us not to live in pure idealization – one has to have this sense of reality that what one grasps needs time to become tissue, to be stabilized as part of one’ own reality… This also applies to the dismantlement of behaviors that no longer enable our connection to events. Because this is all done through experiments upon biological time, everything depends on biological rules… One has to learn how to operate life in order to be part of life.
Nathalia – However, within this fast dynamic of how things are happening, how do you operate with it respecting biological time?
Regina – It is necessary knowledge. Not only philosophical knowledge but knowledge of how behaviors are produced and changed. Ethics is made of behaviors. In the same way that we learn to read more complex things, learn to understand film, learn this, learn that, we have to learn behaviors. Learn how to make ethically structured behavior! Because ethics is life!
Nathalia – Learning the language of this body in process?
Regina – The language of body production.
Nathalia – An attention upon oneself…
Regina – It is an attention upon oneself, upon the processes. Keep expressing, here and there, learning to give body to what you live… It’s a game. And networks keep forming between people who believe and function as such. There are the resonances, the production of networks, collaborations. The idea of collaborating is fundamental. Collaboration is not a moral rule, it is an effect of the maturing of subjective bodies. Because whoever doesn’t mature wants to dominate, wants to be recognized, wants to be applauded, wants to exploit, wants to depend. All these are immature connective aspects, somatically structured forms for functioning, behaving. So, connective maturing is very important for educational projects: education for collaboration, education of subjective bodies, of connective forms. Guattari launched a beautiful project called Chaosmosis in his day.
Nathalia – And, for you, does sustainability have something to do with this?
Regina – Sustainability is cultivating reliable environments and formative time so that the processes can be embodied. That is to contribute to the production of reality, of bodies, and actualizing environments. Actualizing means: producing tissues, connections, territories, and enduring, for as long as it is functional. What determines the durability of something is its functionality.
Nathalia – So it has to do with creating favorable conditions so that bodies can get updated? Are you talking about sustainability?
Regina – Yes, yes! Reliable environment and formative time for the production of difference. Because not working for the production of difference means an enormous impoverishment.
Nathalia – How does a subject begin to emerge in us, a subject which is reactive, that wants to protect itself, that wants to be secure, that wants guarantees, etc?
Regina – Man is a biped animal, without fur, weak but intelligent because of having a frontal brain that allows for seeing what comes from ahead and understand what will happen after. Man is able to foresee. The frontal brain is a leap! The erect posture of the human body is highly unstable. The experience of instability, unprotection, and risk is completely inherent to the conditions of human posture. However, at the same time, there is this enormous encephalic development that our species had and it has allowed for seeing ahead, observing, and organizing oneself ahead of time for what is to come.
Nathalia – And is that how language arises? With this neo-cortex?
Regina – Language is a complicated conversation. What interests us is not the ‘origins’ of things, but knowing that we are born into an ‘ocean.’ I work a lot with this idea that we are born in an ocean of behaviors, of words, of values, etc. But we can create ‘difference’ inside these oceans, an “own” with elements of these oceans. This is formative power. But we run the risk of sticking to what we find that is already ready in the environment. We just talked about this.
Nathalia – So, for you, the notion of force would be connected to this ability…
Regina – Of grasping, absorbing, assimilating…
Nathalia – Producing behaviors, tissues, walls…
Regina – Producing behavior, body walls, forms of oneself… Producing neural maps, muscularly structured expressions and bonds.
Nathalia – And the challenge of relating these intensities and these visceral flows, instinctive…
Regina – So… Weaving a subject is a task, subject is a fabric!
Nathalia – That’s right! And living all these processes intensively…
Regina – But weaving! Weaving! It’s not enough to just be traversed by events, being sensitive, only that is not what matters!
Nathalia – You have to create forms, right?
Regina – Weave forms, stabilize forms for doing actions… No, prudence is not enough. One has to know how to do. ‘How!’ Everything is ‘modes’ and ‘hows’ and nothing is stable. They are modes and hows… metastable…
Nathalia – So people who are drawn into anguish, and the emptiness of existential crisis of not knowing who he or she is, what he or she wants, doesn’t know how to update onself, how to deal with these multiple intensities that traverse him or her.
Regina – Well, multiple educations are needed nowadays. Education for subjectivation is very important, education for body production, critical education, connective, collaborative education, with the help of therapy when necessary.
Nathalia – Composing temporary zones…
Regina – Temporary… Because we live in a reality in process. We have to cultivate abilities: to enter, to leave, to learn, to practice.
Nathalia – And this is the ocean where we are born.
Regina – This is the ocean where we are born… We have to develop critique! And resort to the clinic…
Nathalia – And in order to finish, since we are talking about this ocean… I wanted to bring up the idea of ‘bricolage,’ that would be precisely how we move in this ocean, right?
Regina – Bricolage is these compositions of fragments. We have to learn how to fragment behaviors and how to set them up again.
Nathalia – And this resetting would be this field, this ‘here’ that we build up over time…
Regina – We are constructing a functional ‘here’… What makes the difference is what is ‘functional’!
Nathalia – Or rather, it never is what it ‘is’…
Regina – No, it is not what it ‘is’! The way the market generates profit is by continuously offering models of functionality. Do well, succeed, be rich, be beautiful, perpetuate safety, have eternal youth. This is a capturing of functionality. Functionality is to function! Function in life, bodying field. This idea of ‘bodying field’ is a very beautiful one, knowing that we are immersed in environments producing body together: ‘bodying field.’ This idea is wonderful. Keleman used this concept for a few years and then gave it up, because he did not have a political dimension of his work to sustain it. I took this idea from his garbage pail and recycled it.
Nathalia – So, you took this concept and went deeper.
Regina – I took it and went forward! The idea of the pulsatory pump, bodying field, cobodying…
Nathalia – That means, what you did with this and other authors was your bricolage?
Regina – Totally bricolage! Trusting, believing, doing, moving forward…
Nathalia – So, that’s pretty crazy, right, Regina? You had access to that, but other people also could have or had… What is different about you that gives you this tendency to not settle in one place?
Regina – Well, it’s a bunch of things… I think I’m a lucky person.
Nathalia – And brave, right…
Regina – Brave, lucky… Owning a considerable intelligence. It’s funny, people in my family are very intelligent.
Nathalia – Maybe that is your genetic map.
Regina – I don’t know… Or a way of functioning. A certain middle class with the ability for risk and critique. It’s funny.
Nathalia – And this was the environment you were born into…
Regina – It was the environment where I was born. Highly unstable but with a beauty, a beauty… Somewhat poetic. My family had something like that… A somewhat poetic feeling with regard to existence and instability. And there was a kind of intelligence, of them being able to use their own resources – which weren’t much, they were quite normal – for making very beautiful things.
Nathalia – That’s beautiful.
Regina – Yes… My mother died at 95, playing piano and reading the newspaper. My father was a good doctor, an excellent photographer, and an amateur actor. So, this is lucky… A set of forces and lots of rebellion! Rebellion, confrontation, fighting, socially relocating many times… An intense sense of survival, of jumping ship when things became too suffocating and this happened many times. A good dose of impulsiveness, a well cultivated physical strength… Friends from many places, many worlds…
Nathalia – Many environments.
Regina – Many environments, mixing many environments.
Nathalia – There are many elements that we are able to learn, to grasp…
Regina – And to keep polarized, in a metastable aggregation of fragments! My life story is quite fragmented! I changed schools a lot… Everything that always made me be a bit of an ‘outsider,’ you know? I never saw myself ‘really seated’ in a chair…
Nathalia – But didn’t you have anguish about that?
Regina – I did, of course I did. But I withstood it…
Nathalia – But anguish with regard to your family?
Regina – I did! About everything! I am a person who matured late… I am 71 years old! It has been hard to mature…
Nathalia – What a relief to hear that!!!
Regina – It was hard to mature, and to stabilize…
Nathalia – That’s why you did what you do, right? You had to deal with it!
Regina – Yes! A constant body-to-body with life…
Nathalia – Wow, I deeply identify with that.
Regina – But it’s the truth! The rest is deceitful propaganda, which puts people seated in chairs, in places… I’m not that person, I was never able to safely sit down.
Nathalia – It’s unbelievable, but when we do this action upon ourselves, we undergo this transformation, how much the environment changes together! So, we are afraid of doing it because, at bottom, we know that it involves a change of all the surrounding bodies also, right?
Regina – Absolutely… It sets a different composition of forces.