THE INFRA-QUARK UNIVERSE
“Throughout a large part of the 1980s, Félix Guattari decides to shift his experimental work into a different medium of artistic and creative thought practice: the world of science-fiction. Part self-analysis, part cinematic expression of his theoretical work, Guattari’s screenplay merges his theoretical concepts with his passion for comic books, free radio movements, and film. So begins Guattari’s journey to write a screenplay wherein a group of squatters makes contact with a superior intelligence coming from the infinitely small Universe of the Infra-quark (UIQ). Guattari worked on his film, attempting to secure a budget, traveling to Hollywood, and enlisting the help of American screenwriter Robert Kramer. But the film would never see the light of day. Through the important archival work of artists, Silvia Maglioni and Graeme Thomson, Guattari’s script is now published for the first time.”
(University of Minnesota Press, 2016)
- UN AMOUR D’UIQ / A LOVE OF UIQ (a screenplay by Félix Guattari)
- IN SEARCH OF UIQ (a film by Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni)
- UIQ: the unmaking-of (a sound installation by Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni, with 75 voices)
- UN AMOUR D’UIQ / A LOVE OF UIQ (a screenplay by Félix Guattari)
UIQ: Towards an infra-quark cinema
A number of semioticians believe they can shed light on unconscious mechanisms through the techniques of cinema. But rarely have psychoanalysts had the chance to express themselves by helming a film production This is the experiment I wish to attempt, not merely at the level of the film’s narrative and psychological content but equally in the fabric of perceptions and affects that is woven at every stage of its production.
Félix Guattari, A Love of UIQ (PREAMBLE)
“We’re always wondering whether there might be life or intelligence on other planets, way up in the stars but we never ask ourselves about the infinitely small. Maybe it could come from there, from a universe that’s even smaller than protons, electrons, quarks…” This is how Axel, a young biologist in his early 20s, reveals to Janice (a student dropout of about the same age) the amazing discovery he has just made. But as soon as a device is installed to establish permanent contact with this mysterious entity, a major problem arises – a problem that led to the failure of Axel’s previous experiments: though infinitely small, this Universe is capable of causing grave disturbances to Hertzian communications systems! What follows is a series of spectacular convulsions all across the planet, a situation that only becomes stable once the inhabitants of the squat where Janice lives have managed to make verbal contact with the entity, which they have taken to calling UIQ (Univers Infra-quark / Infra-quark Universe). This leads to a phase of reciprocal learning and exchange between the two worlds. But if, for their part, the small band of squatters comes to acquire extraordinary knowledge and capacities for action, the Infra-Quark Universe, with its infinitely superior intelligence, gets very little out of its dealings with humanity. On the contrary, it undergoes a shock whose result will be catastrophic, its discovery of “love” in its evolving relationship with Janice – a discovery that will eventually overturn and reshape the entire planet […] While on the surface this screenplay may be read as a graphic novel, at another level it addresses questions of a philosophical, psychoanalytic or even psychiatric nature. Lastly, it gives visual form to a series of speculative hypotheses about the world we inhabit.
Félix Guattari, A Love of UIQ (SYNOPSIS)
The story of UIQ is pure science-fiction, beginning for us with a seemingly inert object, a file, buried in a remote archive, miles from anywhere yet harbouring strange powers, emanating an eerie fluorescent light, an energy field that will contaminate those who happen to lay eyes upon it, penetrating under the skin and working its way up into the brain, embedding itself into neural networks and taking hold of the decision-making apparatus through sheer force of will.
At least that’s how Guattari might have imagined it. This is no doubt the effect he would have liked the document to have when he presented it to the decision-makers at the Centre National de la Cinématographie in 1987, banking on the state funding that would enable him to produce A Love of UIQ.
Of course the idea that a militant thinker like Guattari might persuade a government funding body to bankroll a science-fiction movie, a film that Guattari, with no previous filmmaking experience (in lieu of a filmography, the CV he attached to the application contained references to his being under police investigation during the Algerian war, his involvement in the 1977 Bologna uprisings and his links with Italian Autonomists like Toni Negri and Franco Piperno), was proposing to direct himself, was surely in itself pure science-fiction.
To say nothing of the pitch for the film that he included in his director’s Preamble, which set out such goals as exploring cinema’s capacities as a tool for producing subjectivities or bringing to the screen the complex relation between individualized and machinic components, filming the various becomings (child, woman, animal, multiple, invisible) undergone by a group of characters who, despite their veneer of normality, were in fact to be considered “castaways of a new cosmic catastrophe.” A catastrophe that, Guattari specifies, “is at the same time present and potential, imaginary and real, and whose actual presence draws its strength solely from its ability to empty the future of all consistency.”
The funding commission might have been forgiven for confusing parts of the Preamble with dialogue from the script itself. As though, through a kind of semiotic seepage, Guattari the director had become one of the characters. The screenplay had reached out to engulf its inventor, retro-fictionalizing him and casting him in the role of visionary leader of this band of cosmic castaways.
But how are we to specifically locate Guattari’s own interests in, and approaches to, science-fiction? How might they relate to his other published writings and his multiple roles in post-68 French intellectual and political life? How can we contextualise his desire to be a filmmaker, his need to passer à l’acte? UIQ is immanently present in the folds of Chaosmosis. But Guattari describes the character as having no limits in time or space, so UIQ is logically also a latency in his earlier writings and practices, and most particularly in the dark matter of what fails to appear.
Extract from the introduction to Félix Guattari, A Love of UIQ, Univocal / Minnesota Press, 2016 (Silvia Maglioni & Graeme Thomson Eds.)
DOWNLOAD FULL INTRODUCTION (A Love of UIQ, Univocal / Minnesota Press, 2016)
DOWNLOAD FRENCH INTRODUCTION (Un Amour d’UIQ – Scénario pour un film qui manque, Ed. Amsterdam, 2012)
2. IN SEARCH OF UIQ (a film by Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni)
IN SEARCH OF UIQ
(Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni, HDV, 72′, F/IT/UK, 2013)
In Search of UIQ unfolds the story of Felix Guattari’s Un Amour d’UIQ both as a missing film and as a missed chance for cinema. Slipping between documentary, fiction and essay, through the deployment of video and sound archives, letters and other documents that are enmeshed in a series of fabulations and spectral re-enactments, In Search of UIQ explores what Guattari’s cinema of the Infra-quark might have been (and may still become) in relation to his thought and clinical practice, and considers its implications in terms of the wider social and political transformations both of its own time and of the present moment. Building a dynamic counterpoint between the unfilmed UIQ script and hypotheses of its possible manifestations, In Search of UIQ creates a phantom topography of this missing big-screen encounter involving science- fiction, schizoanalysis and molecular politics – virtually projecting UIQ towards present and future horizons.
DOWNLOAD INTERVIEW (Futurity Report, Sternberg Press 2020)
To receive a link to the film please contact the filmmakers:
3. UIQ: the unmaking-of (a sound installation by Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni, with 75 voices)
UIQ: the unmaking-of
(surround sound installation, 78′, 2015)
UIQ (the unmaking-of) is an electro-acoustic soundwork that we created together with 75 “envisionaries” around Guattari’s script Un Amour d’UIQ. Working with the paradoxical condition of the unmade as something both already and not yet present, a potential field of shifting forms and forces, the idea was to produce Guattari’s film through a collective experience of envisioning, without filming a single scene. Wondering how to give shape to the film and to the bodiless entity of its central character, UIQ (the Infra-Quark Universe) – that according to Guattari has no clear sense of identity nor spatial or temporal limits – we held a number of “seeances” in several different countries. We invited participants to become the receivers, hosts and transmitters of UIQ, contaminating each other with their own visions and ideas of Guattari’s film and of UIQ’s possible manifestations, both within and beyond the limits of the screenplay.
The soundwork recombines recorded fragments of these seeances in a composition of voices woven together with electronic signals and processed field-recordings, elements that circulate in the space, offering glimpses of a missing film and universe that, though invisible, can begin to affect the listener’s vision.
LISTEN TO EXTRACT