Black Swan: Cracked Porcelain and Becoming-Animal

Simone Bignall

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    The film Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky, provides a fruitful context for thinking about Deleuze's conceptualisation of structural transformation as a 'presubjective' process involving a critical and creative politics of engagement. Nina is a young dancer who has just secured the lead role in the New York Ballet's new production of Swan Lake. This role not only requires her to dance the pure and innocent character of the White Swan - a role that mirrors Nina's character in real life, and for which she is well suited - but also as the seductive and darkly erotic character of the Black Swan, a role quite alien to Nina. The film traces Nina's desperate efforts to meet the demands of this doubled characterisation. Through new forms of engagement with her peers, she enters into a 'becoming-swan' that frees her from the restraints and constraints imposed by her existing self. While this transformative process enables her to realise aesthetic perfection in her art, this comes at a heavy price: Nina not only is creatively destabilised, but ultimately is destroyed by the transformation she endures. By considering this work of cinema in light of Deleuze's writings on cinema, on 'becoming-animal', and on 'Porcelain and Volcano', this essay reflects upon a crucial question underlying much of Deleuze's political thought: how is it possible to privilege radical subjective and social transformation, without these structures of necessary coherence also 'cracking up' and being destroyed in the process?.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)121-138
    Number of pages18
    JournalCulture, Theory and Ccritique
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


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