Future Anterior : Art

“What is realised in my history is neither the past definite as what was, since it is no more, nor even the perfect as what has been in what I am, but the future anterior as what I will have been, given what I am in the process of becoming.” Jacques Lacan

In the presence of the sculpture of Phyllida Barlow at the Turner Gallery in Margate on Monday this quote by Lacan came into my mind because I had a moment of dropping down into a memory – these funny bits of found wood, cut into shapes, and stuck together and painted lovely colours took me into the demolition sites that my mum and dad would visit in the late 60’s to pick up various Victoriana to decorate their houses. However, with these sculptures I had this sense of how a memory can pull you back in time but at the same time project you into a new way of thinking because we have this concept that when we remember something, that we are viewing it from a static point in the present and viewing another static point in the past, but the fact is that we are always moving forward through time and modulating our past.20799059_1097504483716486_6242128884058668547_n

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Farage defence of Trump

Will you please excuse me while I get something off my chest in, no doubt, a chaotic and hysterical rant?

Isn’t racism not ultimately to do with race but to do with culture, a culture that privileges normality?

Listening to Farage defend Trump on LBC last night and hearing Faragers ringing in to agree with him was troubling. Farage is a smooth debater who smoothly wallpapers over a fundamental and important problem. NORMALITY is a condition of a conformist culture. Aren’t Faragists and Trumpists enunciated by a dangerous conformity in culture that renders us all victims of that culture and language?

Farage repeatedly referred to Trump’s delayed and somehow twisted speech as that of a normal, rational, misunderstood, misquoted person. The language in this speech probably sounds quite normal to Faragists and many that live in America:

“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.”

The manifest message of the speech is to criticised those groups but don’t the words and emphasis seem to retain the precise tone of the very groups that the speech criticises?

The problem with Faragism is the blind, uncriticised, unreflected assumption of a normal debate. Farage talks in terms of ‘real, sensible, NORMAL issues to get us back to a time when discussions on immigration is not shouted down or slated as ridiculous, but is part of a NORMAL discussion we have.’

*each … word … has … a … gap … be-tween … it … so …that … there … can … be … no … doubt … about … that … what … he … is … saying …is … utterly … normal … and …reasonable*

Isn’t NORMALITY precisely a conformist category and aren’t those who describe themselves as normal or who debate about normal issues dangerous because they have become blind to their abnormality?894

Is Love Island too real to be true?

 

Film directors have always known that the spectacle of couples falling in love and making love is in itself too intense for us to experience. It has to be mediated; staged and performed in a signified way – dramatised at a safe distance. In a similar way pornography needs also to be mediated through dramatic irony or even blatant slap stick … like for instance the cliche story line around a plumber entering into a scene to check out a sexy babes plumbing etc.

Why then, does Love Island seem like such a guilty pleasure? Is it because we might in some way feel like we are colluding in the selling out of what we know love to be?

Lacan had a very unusual idea of what love is. He said that love is giving what we don’t have – he was alluding to the idea that as a person we are incomplete, that there is a part of us that will never find satisfaction, it is our desire which can never be fulfilled and when we fall in love we offer that nothing of ourselves as a gift, and we are rendered vulnerable by the knowledge that the other can reject that nothing. And this nothing is something beyond what we possess; our body, our possessions, our knowledge, experience etc. It is the very horizon of our desire.

The big myth that is played out in courtly love is that the act is some kind of exchange, of the body, the personality or other kind of object thing. Maybe the big sellout in a show like Love Island is that it fetishes this myth that love is an exchange of something real and tangible?

Language and Gender Binary

I was interested by a video clip on the Guardian page called ‘Gender Beyond the Binary’ which was a series of interviews with transgender people and it led me to think about language and the idea of how language functions in relation to the gender binary logic. The interviewees shared thoughts like –

‘I don’t identify as male or female’  – ‘I really don’t get this thing about gender difference’

‘… it makes you criticise things which are seen as normal … I knew that I wasn’t a woman but I knew that I wasn’t a man and both of those words made me uncomfortable to be put on me.’ – ‘I am gender queer and transgender’  – ‘Ok how can we expand this biological thing to the max!’

Someone said that they felt that there was a problem with language itself, that they couldn’t fit themselves into language. They talked about the idea that gender for them could be something elastic, or that you could somehow take a ‘gender neutral’ position.

That might be the case but surely gender difference can only exist in language; even if that language is to do with the body and the way it is clothed and doesn’t language itself always boil down to a binary choice? After all language first starts to become apparent in simple distinctions like whether an object is here or not – a phenomena which the infant represents by a sign – and then that sign can signify whether it is something or isn’t something and then doesn’t the complexity of language develops out of these initial bifurcations?

What seemed to emerge from the people’s speech in the video was that in spite of their denial or not wanting to be pushed into binary distinctions, their language was still binary even if they were articulating the binary explicitly in the way they dressed rather than in words. A gay man with masculine face but with feminine made up eyes. A woman wearing a man’s suite and a boyish haircut but still very soft and feminine in her skin care and a voice which was low like a man but with the softness of a woman.

But the biggie – what all these discussions about gender seem to boil down to is which toilet to use? It seems almost absurd to bring such a complicated subject about identity down to the level of toilet but that is where it so often goes… When, a few years ago, I went through my London clubbing days, I took on the identity of a cross-dressing-heterosexual-man and the selfie above represented the kind of way I used to dress up … In the clubs I would most often than not have problems when it came to having a pee – “Hey love! You’re in the wrong toilet! The Ladies is on the other side!” When I was feeling confident would totter over in my platforms to the urinal and smile over my shoulder. I was mostly defiant – I was on a mission. I was going to stand outside the norms of what I saw to be the imposed gender roles. I wanted to take a position of being ‘other and not that’ … and so it was mostly a victory when I got such a response. Sometimes I felt less sure of myself – if for instance I wanted to redo my makeup I would go into the ladies and apply mascara and eyeliner alongside other ladies at the mirror.

The title of this video was ‘Beyond THE Binary’ and folk might be wanting to go beyond THE binary of male/female but beyond the gender binary aren’t there just more and more male/female binaries?

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Egon Schiele and the structure of desire

There was an extraordinary explosion of artistic creativity in Vienna in the early part of the 20th century – the very kernel of European culture with composers like Schoenberg and artists like Egon Schiele and it can’t be any coincidence that it was the birthplace of psychoanalysis – the discovery and work of Sigmund Freud. One of Freud’s insights was that we are motivated by two distinct psychic forces, drive and desire where drive is located in a psychic gap between the mind and the body and takes on the form of something that inhabits us, an omnipresent lack that Schiele evokes so directly and powerfully in his work.

Some people have been confronted by what they perceive to be explicit pornographic content, but pornography invites the viewer into the scene whereas the work of Schiele doesn’t offer that welcome – there is something troubling about his work.

Egon Schiele’s art explores the edge between the erotic and the aesthetic – a kind of anti-pornography and both Freud and Schiele challenge us to explore the edge between our anxiety and pleasure – both of them knew that they stem from the same source, a lack. Perhaps it wasn’t that Egon Schiele added something obscene to the work of art that makes his work troubling, but rather that he leaves something lacking in the work; the vortex that is drive and desire.

There is always a limitation in jouissance and desire guards that limitation: “For desire is a defence, a defence against going beyond a limit in jouissance” as Lacan states in The Subversion of the Subject and the Dialectic of Desire – and in his famous statement “There is no sexual relation” Lacan is talking about the void or the lack around which the sexual drive and desire in a sexual relationship circulates.20621328_1091865347613733_2579390164107035495_n

Is the enemy not capitalism but democracy?

Can democracy be the enemy of democracy itself?

When Alain Badiou was asked why he claimed that nowadays the enemy is not capitalism but democracy he responded:

“My thought about this topic is a little more complex. Not only I think that capitalism as a system is an enemy of human emancipation. I also think that there is no signification today in the idea of directly fighting against it, because capitalism is an abstract and objective system, a structural domination. So we have to fight the political expression of capitalism, and not directly its economic imaginary.”

When people come out to fight against capitalism, what are they fighting against? How can you fight against something that exists not just in the objects but in the very abstract idea of the objects?

And how can democracy be the enemy of democracy itself?

The problem with voting is that it doesn’t give the whole story. There is always an element that goes beyond the vote itself, something beyond the decision itself. A decision becomes more than the result of the decision and this something else, this remainder sometimes remains to haunt the decision.

When after a debate you come to an agreement or you “agree to disagree” you are left with more than just the thesis and antithesis. This is the heart or the kernel of a relationship, that “something” that can’t be put into words. But in some ways democracy doesn’t have the sophistication to incorporate this something else, this surplus.

If we continue to fetishise democracy as a thing itself, a self contained system, we will continue to be haunted by this extra dimension.

In some ways Karl Marx didn’t acknowledge the Karl Marx in Karl Marx. Yes you have this extra remainder called surplus value, but what about the surplus of the value itself?

In Writing

I am reading Adam Phillips’ latest book ‘In Writing’ where he is drawing links between reading/ writing and psychoanalysis and in the chapter around poetry Phillips quotes Lionel Trilling’s great essay ‘Freud and Literature’ where he writes that ‘the Freudian psychology is the one that makes poetry indigenous to the very constitution of the mind. Indeed the mind, as Freud sees it, is in the greater part of its tendency exactly a poetry-making organ.’

However the poetry that Freud is hearing (through the ‘most famous ears’) is not the kind of poetry that could be described as ‘good or bad’ poetry it is something particular to the attempt of the analysand to articulate the hieroglyphics; the signification of the unconscious, and so in Trilling’s later essay ‘Art and Neurosis’ – ‘Freud, by the whole tendency of his psychology, establishes the naturalness of artistic thought’ – seems more compelling because it is vaguer.

Phillips highlights three poets in this chapter who were influenced by psychoanalysis, one being the English American poet W. H. Auden who wrote a poetic elegy to the work of Freud, and Adam Phillips writes about the poem – ‘It is an extraordinary and wonderful idea that our personal pasts are a poem that we have to learn to recite. The poem has already happened – or rather, we must assume, has already been written; the question is whether we can recite it; and whether we can let ourselves falter.’20228255_1080795048720763_8377933380651317233_n

Death Drive on Social Media

 

 

Social-Media-People

 

Is anyone else staggered by the amount of political sharing on social media these days? Yesterday I scrolled though about 50 posts on Facebookand the only article that wasn’t political was one by the NY Times on whether reading could make you happier? Well reading these posts aren’t making me happier but I must be getting some satisfaction from reading them.

The truth is that I have developed an obsession for reading about politics and let’s face it, the political discourse is perfect fodder for a neurotic with it’s inherent failure and incompleteness – the failure of Labour to achieve government and the prime ministers failure to obtain her mandate for Brexit, the failure of any party to gain a ruling majority, feeds our drive for un unobtainable satisfaction.

Our totemic identification with leaders like May still strong and stable despite sailing virtually submerged Corbyn still upheld as honest and kind despite sacking his colleagues and being covert about running his parochial, socialist petty project under the guis of bridges not walls.

The lying and the fake news creating a desire for a utopian truth which must be out there somewhere… but truth just seems to generate untruth and satisfaction dissatisfaction with endless scrolling …

People assume that Freud came up with the name Death Drive (Todestrieb) because we unconsciously seek death as the only way of escaping this endless scrolling of un-satisfaction and failure but it’s something much worse. It’s actually a desire to be undead. Like a Zombie who is endlessly suspended between life and death, stuck in endless cycles of unsatisfiable anxiety, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling …

Is anyone else staggered by the amount of political sharing on Facebook these days? Yesterday I scrolled though about 50 posts and the only article that wasn’t political was one by the NY Times on whether reading could make you happier? Well reading these posts aren’t making me happier but I must be getting some satisfaction from reading them.

The truth is that I have developed an obsession for reading about politics and let’s face it, the political discourse is perfect fodder for a neurotic with it’s inherent failure and incompleteness – the failure of Labour to achieve government and the prime ministers failure to obtain her mandate for Brexit, the failure of any party to gain a ruling majority, feeds our drive for un unobtainable satisfaction.

Our totemic identification with leaders like May still strong and stable despite sailing virtually submerged Corbyn still upheld as honest and kind despite sacking his colleagues and being covert about running his parochial, socialist petty project under the guis of bridges not walls.

The lying and the fake news creating a desire for a utopian truth which must be out there somewhere… but truth just seems to generate untruth and satisfaction dissatisfaction with endless scrolling …

People assume that Freud came up with the name Death Drive (Todestrieb) because we unconsciously seek death as the only way of escaping this endless scrolling of un-satisfaction and failure but it’s something much worse. It’s actually a desire to be undead. Like a Zombie who is endlessly suspended between life and death, stuck in endless cycles of unsatisfiable anxiety, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling …

The Exterminating Angel

 

exterm_angel_cast

Last night I watched TheExterminating Angel by Luis Brunuel, the 1962 film which Thomas Ades based his most recent opera on and it is illuminating to watch both the film and the opera in light of these interesting times.

The story starts with guests arriving at a lavish dinner party, a scene that is repeated ‘cut and spliced’ exactly – included in the opera but cut from many film releases – and cutting it is a fundamental error as repetition plays a vital role in the work.

The guests move to the music room where one of them plays a piece on the piano. For some reason they are unable to move from the room and they remain in there for days and gradually lose all of their common customs of civility and an ugly side of their characters emerge. The reason why they can’t leave the room isn’t made clear and remains enigmatic.

After one of the guests has died, two lovers have committed suicide, the host announces that it is all his fault and that the answer is for him to kill himself. But suddenly a young angelic female guest takes the centre stage of the room and encourages them all to recreate in every detail the first evening when they moved into the music room. In the act of recreation they suddenly transform – return to the personalities that they had displayed on their arrival at the feast. Having reestablished their original characters they are able to leave the room and the house.

The end of the film is disjointed and left unclear and unresolved. The guests go to a church to give thanks and then become trapped once again, this time in the church and when they eventually come out there is an uprising with sounds of gun shots. It ends with sheep entering the church.

Bruñuel doesn’t give his own interpretation, but you can see that in the context of the Spanish civil war these guests could represent the bourgeoisie going up the cul-de-sac of their own cultural exploits; trapped by their decadent obsessions. And the work could also been seen as a psychological study of the use of repetition, the way the subject constructs and reconstructs and reinterprets constructions of their character and how easily these reconstructions can become traps. After the breakdown they manage to reconstruct their ego structure so that they can escape the room but are they just repeating the same imaginary identifications and captures? The fact that they subsequently become trapped in the church might imply that however much they change their context, they can’t move beyond their obsessional looping.

 

Jouissance and Lisa Yuskavage

What I find interesting about the art of Lisa Yuskavage in her current show at the David Zwirmer gallery 24 Grafton St (on until 28 July) is the way she portrays jouissance – a psychoanalytic hypothesis that defines both pleasure and anxiety and has to do with the body. There is an excess that distorts the subject’s psychic world and there is also something absurd and ridiculous about it. Here you can see how the artist caricatures form and exaggerates colour to evoke this idea of jouissance.

In this particular painting you could interpret her intention to contrast the two neurotic structures of the obsessional (typically male but could be female) with the hysteric (typical female but could be male) with the obsessional, in this painting depicted as kind of 70’s hippy fauns, leaning towards the question of death ‘am I dead or alive’ with the muted tones showing the life drained out by their continual looping. In contrast to this voluptuous hysteric bulging with jouissance – a kind of narcissistic pleasure from being loved; to be the love object, holding at bay the need for satisfaction19511260_1065202680280000_5623323649372950903_n