Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Trading Freedom "To" for Freedom "From"...Temperance Now Outweighting Courage as a Virtue

For Žižek this is the predicament of Western civilization. Refusing higher causes or even an ability to imagine what one would fight for, modern man goes the way of Nietzsche’s Last Man who stands for nothing, takes no risks and seeks only security, daily pleasures and basic expressions of tolerance for one another. In this depoliticized realm, freedom becomes freedom from victimization or harassment and passion is mobilized primarily through moral indignation or fear (2009: 25, 36).
- Tina Managhan, "Krisis
"Stop criticizing me, you BULLY! Mom, censor him!" The new attack upon the First Amendment... in the name of the children.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fright of the Fenix

The acers sustain themselves through self-parody... that is more "flattery" of their fans desires than "reality". Not that it's bad, at times, to flatter one's fans. They're existence is not a complete vacuum.

“I think the whole point, the basic underlying premise of Laibach’s strategy is that… In this whole, not only for Slovenia but let’s say generally, for so-called late capitalism in general even, that (the) system itself has as its inherent condition of functioning that its own ideology must not be taken seriously”... ”the only way, I would even say, to be really subversive is not to develop critical potentials, ironic distance, but precisely to take the system more seriously than it takes itself.”
- Slavoj Zizek

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Is it Art?

...and just who is art for? The Patron? The Artist? The General Public? No One?

Life Is Like Riding A Bicycle. In Order To Keep Your Balance, You Must Keep Moving...

Are you "stuck" on stuckism? Or can art, even photography, be non-political?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Reflections on Reflections

The Mirror Stage has also a significant symbolic dimension. The Symbolic order is present in the figure of the adult who is carrying the infant: the moment after the subject has jubilantly assumed his image as his own, he turns his head toward this adult who represents the big Other, as if to call on him to ratify this image.
- Jacques Lacan, "Tenth Seminar, "L'angoisse", (1962–1963)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Compulsive Repetition

'the patient does not remember anything of what he has forgotten and repressed, he acts it out, without, of course, knowing that he is repeating it....For instance, the patient does not say that he remembers that he used to be defiant and critical toward his parents' authority; instead, he behaves in that way to the doctor'
- Freud, On Repetition Compulsion

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Liminal Gateways

Godecharle, "Pan poursuivant Syrinx" (1804)

Like the foghorn that’s all lung,
the wind chime that’s all percussion,
like the wind itself, that’s merely air
in a terrible fret, without so much
as a finger to articulate
what ails it, the aeolian
syrinx, that reed
in the throat of a bird,
when it comes to the shaping of
what we call consonants, is
too imprecise for consensus
about what it even seems to
be saying: is it o-ka-lee
or con-ka-ree, is it really jug jug,
is it cuckoo for that matter?—
much less whether a bird’s call
means anything in
particular, or at all.

Syntax comes last, there can be
no doubt of it: came last,
can be thought of (is
thought of by some) as a
higher form of expression:
is, in extremity, first to
be jettisoned: as the diva
onstage, all soaring
pectoral breathwork,
takes off, pure vowel
breaking free of the dry,
the merely fricative
husk of the particular, rises
past saving anything, any
more than the wind in
the trees, waves breaking,
or Homer’s gibbering
Thespesiae iachē:

those last-chance vestiges
above the threshold, the all-
but dispossessed of breath.
- Amy Clampitt

Arthur Hacker, "Syrinx"

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Into the Void...

"I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on."
Samuel Beckett, "The Unnamable"

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Then Jesus said unto them, "My time (kairos) is not yet come: but your time (kairos) is always ready." (John 7:6)

“The kairos has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel!’”
Mark 1: 14-15

On the third day there was a wedding* in Cana* in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” [And] Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour (kairos) has not yet come.
John 2:1-4

I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."

His disciples said, "Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God."

Jesus answered them, "Do you believe now? Behold, the hour (kairos) is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world."

When Jesus had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour (kairos) has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him.
John 16:28-33 and John 17:1-2

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Zeus' (Necessity's) Song

So I come to women not as I am,
But as they want me to be
Some want to me to be as graceful (as a swan)
others as passionate and exciting (as a bull)
others want me to be physical and powerful
and others want me to come with glory
like a shower of gold
They yearn for me
So I become what they need
-Yanitsaros, "Zeus and His Love for Women"

Friday, March 8, 2013

Un dessein si funeste, S'il n'est digne d'Atrée, est digne de Thyeste

It is because of the virtual character of the big Other that, as Lacan put it at the very end of his "Seminar on the Purloined Letter," a letter always arrives at its destination. One can even say that the only letter which fully and effectively arrives at its destination is the unsent letter - its true addressee are not flesh-and-blood others, but the big Other itself:

The preservation of the unsent letter is its arresting feature. Neither the writing nor the sending is remarkable (we often make drafts of letters and discard them), but the gesture of keeping the message when we have no intention of sending it. By saving the letter, we are in some sense 'sending' it after all. We are not relinquishing our idea or dismissing it as foolish or unworthy (as we do when we tear up a letter); on the contrary, we are giving it an extra vote of confidence. We are, in effect, saying that our idea is too precious to be entrusted to the gaze of the actual addressee, who may not grasp its worth, so we 'send' it to his equivalent in fantasy, on whom we can absolutely count for an understanding and appreciative reading. [2]

Is it not exactly the same with the symptom in the Freudian sense of the term? According to Freud, when I develop a symptom, I produce a ciphered message about my innermost secrets, my unconscious desires and traumas. The symptom's addressee is not another real human being: before an analyst deciphers my symptom, there is no one who can read its message. Who, then, is the symptom's addressee? The only remaining candidate is the virtual big Other. This virtual character of the big Other means that the symbolic order is not a kind of spiritual substance existing independently of individuals, but something that is sustained by their continuous activity. However, the provenance of the big Other is still unclear. How is it that, when individuals exchange symbols, they do not simply interact with each other, but always also refer to the virtual big Other? When I talk about other people's opinions, it is never only a matter of what me, you, or other individuals think, but also a matter of what the impersonal "one" thinks. When I violate a certain rule of decency, I never simply do something that the majority of others do not do - I do what "one" doesn't do.
- Slavoj Zizek, "How to Read Lacan"
"A letter always arrives at its destination since its destination is wherever it arrives." Its underlying mechanism was elaborated by Pêcheux apropos of jokes of the type: "Daddy was born in Manchester, Mummy in Bristol, and I in London: strange that the three of us should have met! In short, if we look at the process backwards, from its contingent result, the fact that events took precisely this turn could not but appear as uncanny, concealing some fateful meaning — as if some mysterious hand took care that the letter arrived at its destination, i.e., that my father and my mother met....

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Liminal Variations

SOCRATES: I am afraid, Meno, that you and I are not good for much, and that Gorgias has been as poor an educator of you as Prodicus has been of me. Certainly we shall have to look to ourselves, and try to find some one who will help in some way or other to improve us. This I say, because I observe that in the previous discussion none of us remarked that right and good action is possible to man under other guidance than that of knowledge (episteme);—and indeed if this be denied, there is no seeing how there can be any good men at all.

MENO: How do you mean, Socrates?

SOCRATES: I mean that good men are necessarily useful or profitable. Were we not right in admitting this? It must be so.

MENO: Yes.

SOCRATES: And in supposing that they will be useful only if they are true guides to us of action—there we were also right?

MENO: Yes.

SOCRATES: But when we said that a man cannot be a good guide unless he have knowledge (phrhonesis), this we were wrong.

MENO: What do you mean by the word 'right'?

SOCRATES: I will explain. If a man knew the way to Larisa, or anywhere else, and went to the place and led others thither, would he not be a right and good guide?

MENO: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And a person who had a right opinion about the way, but had never been and did not know, might be a good guide also, might he not?

MENO: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And while he has true opinion about that which the other knows, he will be just as good a guide if he thinks the truth, as he who knows the truth?

MENO: Exactly.

SOCRATES: Then true opinion is as good a guide to correct action as knowledge; and that was the point which we omitted in our speculation about the nature of virtue, when we said that knowledge only is the guide of right action; whereas there is also right opinion.

MENO: True.

SOCRATES: Then right opinion is not less useful than knowledge?
- Plato, "Meno"

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Interpassive Interactivity

Squeeze Me!
And what is a Chorus? You will be told that it’s you yourselves. Or perhaps that it isn’t you. But that’s not the point. Means are involved here, emotional means. In my view, the Chorus is people who are moved. Therefore, look closely before telling yourself that emotions are engaged in this purification. They are engaged, along with others, when at the end they have to be pacified by some artifice or other. But that doesn’t mean to say that they are directly engaged. On the one hand, they no doubt are, and you are there in the form of a material to be made use of; on the other hand, that material is also completely indifferent. When you go to the theatre in the evening, you are preoccupied by the affairs of the day, by the pen that you lost, by the check that you will have to sign the next day. You shouldn’t give yourselves too much credit. Your emotions are taken charge of by the healthy order displayed on the stage. The Chorus takes care of them. The emotional commentary is done for you.

Although the scene described here by Lacan is a very common one – people at a theatre enjoying the performance of a Greek tragedy – his reading of it makes it clear that something strange is going on: it is as if some figure of the other – in this case, the Chorus – can take over from us and experience for us our innermost and most spontaneous feelings and attitudes, inclusive of crying and laughing. In some societies, the same role is played by so-called “weepers” (women hired to cry at funerals): they can do the spectacle of morning for the relatives of the deceased, who can dedicate his time to more profitable endeavors (like taking care of how to split the inheritance). Similarly in the Tibetan praying wheels, I put a piece of paper with the prayer written on it into the wheel, turn it around mechanically (or, even more practically, let the wind turn it around), and the wheel is praying for me – as the Stalinists would have put it, “objectively” I am praying, even if my thoughts are occupied with the most obscene sexual fantasies. To dispel the illusion that such things can only happen in “primitive” societies, think about the canned laughter on a TV-screen (the reaction of laughter to a comic scene which is included into the soundtrack itself): even if I do not laugh, but simply stare at the screen, tired after a hard days work, I nonetheless feel relieved after the show, as if the TV did the laughing for me.

To grasp properly this strange process, one should supplement the fashionable notion of interactivity, with its uncanny double, interpassivity. It is commonplace to emphasize how, with new electronic media, the passive consumption of a text or a work of art is over: I no longer merely stare at the screen, I increasingly interact with it, entering into a dialogic relationship with it (from choosing the programs, through participating in debates in a Virtual Community, to directly determining the outcome of the plot in so-called “interactive narratives”). Those who praise the democratic potential of new media, generally focus on precisely these features: on how cyberspace opens up the possibility for the large majority of people to break out of the role of the passive observer following the spectacle staged by others, and to participate actively not only in the spectacle, but more and more in establishing the rules of the spectacle.

The other side of this interactivity is interpassivity. The obverse of interacting with the object (instead of just passively following the show) is the situation in which the object itself takes from me, deprives me of, my own passivity, so that it is the object itself which enjoys the show instead of me, relieving me of the duty to enjoy myself. Almost every VCR aficionado who compulsively records movies (myself among them), is well aware that the immediate effect of owning a VCR is that one effectively watches less films than in the good old days of a simple TV set. One never has time for TV, so, instead of losing a precious evening, one simply tapes the film and stores it for a future viewing (for which, of course, there is almost never time). Although I do not actually watch the films, the very awareness that the films I love are stored in my video library gives me a profound satisfaction and, occasionally, enables me to simply relax and indulge in the exquisite art of far’niente – as if the VCR is in a way watching them for me, in my place. VCR stands here for the big Other, the medium of symbolic registration. It seems that, today, even pornography functions more and more in an interpassive way: X-rated movies are no longer primarily the means destined to excite the user for his (or her) solitary masturbatory activity – just staring at the screen where “the action takes place” is sufficient, it is enough for me to observe how others enjoy in the place of me.
Zizek, "How to Read Lacan"

Friday, March 1, 2013

Lie to Me Again, Pinocchio!

Two topics determine today's liberal tolerant attitude towards others: the respect of otherness, openness towards it, and the obsessive fear of harassment. The other is OK insofar as his presence is not intrusive, insofar as the other is not really other. Tolerance coincides with its opposite: my duty to be tolerant towards the other effectively means that I should not get too close to him, not to intrude into his/her space - in short, that I should respect his/her intolerance towards my over-proximity. This is what is more and more emerging as the central 'human right' in late-capitalist society: the right not to be harassed, i.e., to be kept at a safe distance from the others.
Zizek, "How to Read Lacan"
The attraction of cybersex is that, since we are dealing only with virtual partners, there is no harassment. This aspect of cyberspace - the idea of a space in which, because we are not directly interacting with real people, nobody is harassed and we are free to let go our dirtiest fantasies - found its ultimate expression in a proposal which recently resurfaced in some circles in the US, a proposal to "rethink" the rights of necrophiliacs (those who desire to have sex with dead bodies). Why should they be deprived of it? The idea was formulated that, in the same way people sign permission for their organs to be use for medical purposes in the case of their sudden death, one should also allow them to sign permission for their bodies to be given to necrophiliacs. This proposal is the perfect exemplification of how the Politically Correct anti-harassment stance realizes Kierkegaard's old insight into how the only good neighbor is a dead neighbor. A dead neighbor - a corpse - is the ideal sexual partner of a "tolerant" subject trying to avoid any harassment: by definition, a corpse cannot be harassed; at the same time, a dead body does not enjoy, so the disturbing threat of the excess-enjoyment to the subject playing with the corpse is also eliminated.
- Zizek, ibid.