The new frame created by the act of suicide, I suggest, resembles what Aleksandr Rodchenko, in a 1930 lecture, called “foto-kadry”: an image that deliberately fragments, reduces, and reorients a scene, rather than trying to capture it “in its entirety.” Just as Rodchenko’s photographer employs fragmentation to achieve a sharper, contestatory perception of content, to disrupt the dismal and catastrophic continuity of everyday life, so the suicidal cut creates an oblique point of view directed toward an understanding that resides beyond the social maxim, and perhaps beyond narrative itself. The fragment becomes an index, which turns the spectator into an active participant in the production of meaning.’The gap thus opened up invites us to bridge it with new, or alternate, texts. Suicide provokes narrative, both a narrative inscribed by the actor as subject, and those stories devised around the suicide as enigmatic object of interpretation. For the gesture of self-destruction makes a person into both subject and object of the action. […] I want to argue that this kind of death does not close the sentence as a signifying totality. Instead, it generates multiple textual readings: legal investigations, explanatory suicide notes, allusions to other suicides.
Silence can take many shapes. Silence can be touched, sliced, it can be uncomfortable, if experienced for too long,… it can be used as a break to relax and enjoy the company of one’s selves living in one’s body. It very often embodies resistance itself… it can be used as a weapon to break someone’s spirit in a session of torture.
“Torture means severe pain,” they had warned me in our “training sessions” in my political party’s cell… no training session prepared me for this intense pain… my pain… the one I did not choose… all this alienation, this empty vacuum…, my body, my mind, my pain… this is not happening… I am a little speck in the universe… which universe?… the world is not anymore… I am… disintegrating… bit by bit… yell by yell… electrode by electrode…
You yell, you piss yourself and you are saying “it is hurting so much I cannot put it into f****** words!,” because the pain is deeper than flesh and bones; it travels beyond your physical body, into some space within yourself which cannot make meaning of what is happening outside. You say to yourself: “I am losing the only way I have known until now to describe what is going on inside me, I am losing my tongue, I am losing meaning.”
Political activist Consuelo Rivera-Fuentes on being tortured by the Pinochet regime. From Consuelo Rivera-Fuentes and Lynda Birke, ‘Talking With/In Pain: Reflections on Bodies under Torture’, Women’s Studies International Forum, 24:6 (2001), 653-668, pp. 665 and 661.
La cabina (1972)
Women of Color in America have grown up within a symphony of anger, at being silenced, at being unchosen, at knowing that when we survive, it is in spite of a world that takes for granted our lack of humanness, and which hates our very existence outside of its service. And I say symphony rather than cacophony because we have had to learn to orchestrate those furies so that they do not tear us apart. We have had to learn to move through them and use them for strength and force and insight within our daily lives. Those of us who did not learn this difficult lesson did not survive. And part of my anger is always libation for my fallen sisters.
‘The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism’, in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984), p. 129.
I am an idiot by the suppression of thought, by the malformation of thought; I am vacant by the stupefaction of my tongue. […]
All the terms in which I choose to think are for me TERMS in the literal sense of the word, that is, true terminations, borders of my mental , of all the states to which I have subjected my thinking. I am truly LOCALIZED by my terms, and if I say that I am LOCALIZED by my terms, I means that I do not recognize them as valid in my thought. I am truly paralyzed by my terms, by a series of terminations. And however ELSEWHERE my thought may be at these moments, I have no choice but to bring it out through these terms, however contradictory to itself, however parallel, however ambiguous they may be, or pay the penalty of no longer being able to think. […]
What I lack is words that correspond to each minute of my state of mind.
‘The Nerve Meter’, in Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, ed. by Susan Sontag, trans. by Helen Weaver (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 83-84.
Physical pain does not simply resist language but actively destroys it, bringing about an immediate reversion to a state anterior to language, to the sounds and cries a human being makes before language is learned.
The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 4.