“I have nothing to say”—John Cage, biopower, and the demilitarization of language
(2020) Journal of Modern Literature, 43 (3), pp. 98-115.
In 1975, John Cage read from his chance-generated piece, Empty Words, at the Schizo-Culture conference held at Columbia University. The conference connected Cage with post-1968 theorists like Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Félix Guattari. Cage’s experimental literary compositions are analogous to Foucault and Deleuze’s analysis of a new developing power that they name biopolitics and control. For both Foucault and Deleuze, this new power depends on clear communication in order to monitor and regulate populations. Cage’s attempts to “demilitarize language” with his chance-generated and rule-based writing, then, suggest a new weapon against this new power that demands constant communication and connection.
Biopolitics; Gilles Deleuze; John Cage; Michel Foucault; Schizo-Culture