Reconsidering Minor Cinema: René Laloux, Félix Guattari, and the Machinery of Signs

Henning Schmidgen
(Bauhaus University Weimar)

Following Deleuze and Guattari, the concept of minor cinema is often discussed with respect to questions of authorship and nationality. In this perspective, “minor cinema” comes to equal almost all movies created in economic independence of major US film companies and in connection to non-western discourses, in particular post colonialism. This talk highlights the specificity of Guattari’s contributions to defining “minor cinema,” by focusing on his emphasis concerning the transversal connections between technology and subjectivity. More concretely, it focuses on the movies that the French animator and film director René Laloux (1929-2004) realized in the psychiatric clinic of La Borde in the mid- and late 1950s – with the active participation of the clinic’s patients and of Guattari. Drawing on Tic-tac (1957) and Les dents du singe (1960), I argue that the technique and aesthetic of Laloux’s animations confront us with cinematography in its “minor” state, i.e. before becoming overloaded with faces, text, and meanings. As a result, Guattari’s plea for cinema as a “minor art” is conceived of as a plea for the heterogeneity of cinematographic signs.

Henning Schmidgen is Professor of Media Studies at Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany. Straddling the boundaries between media studies and the history of science, Schmidgen has worked extensively on Guattari’s machines, Canguilhem’s concepts, and the problem of living time in 19th century physiology and psychology. His research is published by journals such as Isis, Configurations, and Grey Room. Among his recent books are The Helmholtz-Curves. Tracing Lost Time (2014), Bruno Latour in Pieces. An Intellectual Biography (2015), and Die Guattari-Tapes. Gespräche mit Antonio Negri, Jean Oury, Paul Virilio und anderen (2019).