Monday, November 24, 2014

Learning to Listen with Your Eyes

Pizarnik is arguably THE poet of subtraction, of minimal difference: the difference between nothing and something, between silence and a fragmented voice. The primordial fact is not Silence (waiting to be broken by the divine Word), but Noise, the confused murmur of the Real in which there is not yet any distinction between figure and its background. The first creative act is therefore to create silence-it is not that silence is broken, but that silence itself breaks, interrupts, the continuous murmur of the Real, thus opening up a clearing in which words can be spoken. There is no speech proper without this background of silence: as Heidegger already knew, all speech answers the "sound of silence". Hard work is needed to create silence, to encircle its place in the same way that a vase creates its central void. This is how death drive and sublimation are strictly correlative: death drive has first to erase the murmur of the Real and thus open up the space for sublime formations. With regard to poetry, this difference is not between poems, but between poem(s) and the song which, of course, has to remain unsung, unspoken, since it is the song of silence.

It is here that the visual dimension enters; recall Nietzsche's complaint in Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Prologue, 5): "Must one smash their ears before they learn to listen with their eyes"? Is this complaint about the difficulty of teaching people how to listen not ambiguous? Does it mean that it is difficult to learn to listen with one's eyes, or that it is simply difficult to learn to truly listen? In other words, if we follow Wagner's Tristan (who, while dying, shouts: "I see her /Isolde's/ voice"!) and accept, as one of the definitions of modern art, that one has to listen to it with eyes, does this mean that one can truly hear (hear the silence, the silent Message-Thing covered up by the chatter of words) only with one's eyes? Is, consequently, modern painting (as it is indicated already by Munch's "Scream") not a "sound of silence", the visual rendering of the point at which words break down? And, incidentally, this is also how the critique of ideology (whose Platonic origins one should unabashedly admit) functions: it endeavors to smash our ears (hypnotized by the ideology's siren song) so that we can start to hear with our eyes (in the mode of theoria).
- Slavoj Zizek, "Burned by the Thing"

No comments:

Post a Comment