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Cornelius CastoriadiS NOMOS/PHUSIS OPPOSITION Slavoj ŽIŽek ECOLOGY AGAINST NATURE

Robert Pfaller THE ORDER OF APPEARANCE Martin Durkin On environmentalism

Nick davies propaganda in the media

barbara falender - PAWEŁ LESZKOWICZ ariane pauls john latham esther teichmann michael withey apostolos doxiadis antonia spiegel OKWUI ENWEZOR THE INDETERMINATE STRUCTURE OF THINGS NOW


2 Bedeutung


Bedeutung Magazine

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Nature & Culture 3


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4 - Bedeutung


CONTENTS

P. 1 image from “Inward Bound” by Esther Teichmann

4 10

Masthead Editorial

Cornelius Castoriadis Robert Pfaller

14 20

Nomos/Phusis Opposition Materialism’s Comedy

Ariane Pauls

29

Slavoj Žižek Alex Stavrakas Nick Davies

40 58 66

Unbehagen in der Natur Interview - Martin Durkin Environmentalism in the Media

Esther Teichman Okwui Enwezor Paweł Leszkowicz Richard Saltoun

73 80 100 112

The Indeterminate Structure of Things Now Barbara Falender - Politics / Erotics John Latham’s Lost Works

Michael Withey Apostolos Doxiadis Antonia Spiegel

120 126 132

Book Review - Violence 17th Night The Affair Schneider

136 146

Calendars Contacts


MASTHEAD

Editor-in-Chief & Creative Director Alexandros Stavrakas editor@bedeutung.co.uk Editor Michael Withey mw@bedeutung.co.uk Editor Thomas Presskorn-Thygessen tp@bedeutung.co.uk Art Editor John Slyce js@bedeutung.co.uk Design Xavier Encinas contact@peter-wendy.com

Publisher Bedeutung Publishing Ltd publishing@bedeutung.co.uk Head Office Bedeutung 19 Duchess Mews London W1G 9DX info@bedeutung.co.uk F: +44 (0) 20 7183 7193 www.bedeutung.co.uk Printing The Colourhouse Arklow Road Trading Estate Arklow Road London SE14 6EB with thanks to David Crowe

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Bedeutung Subscriptions: www.bedeutung.co.uk Institutional Subscriptions: subs@bedeutung.co.uk Advertisement Enquiries: ads@bedeutung.co.uk Distribution and selling points: distribution@bedeutung.co.uk We welcome unsolicited material and letters from our readers. Please address such enquiries and contributions to: editor@bedeutung.co.uk Bedeutung is published quarterly in the UK by Bedeutung Publishing Ltd. It is not affiliated with any institution and has no political, financial or other dependencies. Although the views expressed in Bedeutung are those of their authors, the editorship endorses and supports their publication. We would like to thank the following people, without whose support, mentoring, contribution and advice, this publication would have not been possible: Michael Odukoya, Zoe Castoriadis, John Slyce, Constantinos Tsoukalas, Pandias Scaramangas, Grant Deudney, Franziska Stalleicken, Therese Schwabe, and, finally, MP, DS, AS and JCC. We would also like to express our unreserved gratitude to this issue’s contributors for placing their confidence and entrusting their work to our new publication. Copyright Bedeutung Š 2008 the authors and the photographers

ISSN 1756-8153


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5*$,&54 XXXSPZBMBDBEFNZPSHVL Ilya Repin, 0DUPCFS,   (detail), 1907, 1911. Oil on canvas, 184 x 323 cm. The State Russian Museum, St Petersburg. Photo Š The State Russian Museum, St Petersburg Lucas Cranach the Elder, 7FOVT(detail), 1532. Oil and tempera on red beechwood, 37.7 x 24.5 cm. Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.


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This exhibition has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London and the Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

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Sarah Bridgland Joe Duggan Eames Demetrios Jack Kettlewell Ben Long Sam Messenger Larissa Nowicki Ryan Ras Kim Schoen Henrietta Simson Helga Steppan Esther Teichmann Michael Whittle 131 Kennington Park Rd London SE11 4JJ +44 (0)20 7582 7861 info@manandeve.co.uk www.manandeve.co.uk Open Wednesday Saturday 12 - 6pm, or at other times by prior appointment Image: ‘Untitled’ from Stillend Gespiegelt, Esther Teichmann

Man&Eve 10 Bedeutung


Nick Davies writes for the Guardian, and has been named Journalist of the Year, Reporter of the Year and Feature Writer of the Year in British Press awards. Apostolos Doxiadis is a Greek writer, mathematiciam and theatre and film director. His international best-seller “Uncle Petros and the Goldblach Conjecture” helped start the ‘mathematical fiction’ trend. Okwui Enwezor is Dean of Academic Affairs and Senior Vice President at the San Fransisco Art Institute. He is a prolific writer, critic and contributor to many exhibition catalogues, anthologies and journals as well as curator of numerous exhibitions in some of the most distinguished museums around the world. Paweł Leszkowicz is an art historian and a lecturer specializing in contemporary art/visual culture and sexuality studies. He is a lecturer at the Department of Art History, Adam Mickiewicz University, and Department of Intermedia of the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, Poland. Ariane Pauls was born in Athens, Greece and currently lives and works in Berlin. She has participated in a number of solo and group exhibitions. Robert Pfaller is Professor of Philosophy and Cultural Studies at the University of Art and Industrial Design, Linz and at the Technical University of Vienna. Antonia Spiegel has studied Sociology at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge and Modern Art at Christie’s Education. She is working in the art market and is finishing her first novel, “The Affair Schneider”. Esther Teichmann has been listed as one of Britain’s top 25 emerging artists by Art Review. Her work has been extensively shown and published internationally, with recent group shows in Los Angeles, Berlin and Dubrovnik. Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian Marxist philosopher and cultural critic. He has written over forty books and is the international director at the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at Birkbeck College.

Contributors 11


Alexandros Stavrakas Editor-in-Chief

U

nderlying every contemporary notion of change is the unmovable and stubborn conviction to the opposite, namely, the preservation of our economic, social and natural reality the way we know it. Our post-political liberal projects have an unprecedented capacity for incorporating and processing any dissenting attempt, producing models of behaviour that, whilst retaining the claim of progress, function only to reinforce and strengthen the current cultural, political and social conditions. The triumph of capitalism lies precisely in this phenomenal ability to absorb any oppositional voice and rephrase it in its own terms. Our contemporary obsession with preserving our way of life originates in the conviction that this world is the best possible one, which naturally follows from the lack of any realistic, consistent or desirable alternative. The imperative for preservation resides on the self-assurance of the prevailing cultural and ideological coordinates; any centrifugal tendency is eagerly absorbed. Instead of negotiating our conditions altogether, we resort to impotent adjustments within the pre-existing structure, thus reinforcing and perpetuating it. We seem to be given the freedom to move, but it is always only within the limits of this structure and always taking great care not to disturb it. The post-modern liberal fear of seaming or sounding in favour of any particular opinion, stance or attitude has produced an imbecilic leveling off, a refusal to analyse and to criticize. Our notion of equality has degenerated into a culture of equivalence, thus closing off all possibilities for understanding, exploration, discussion. Our obsession with retaining a face of pseudo-civility has resulted in refraining from coming too close to anything or anyone, in fear of actually experiencing their immense complexity and having to in one way or an other, 'engage' with it or them. What we are left then to do is just to tolerate. Tolerance is not acceptance - it is withdrawal What many still refuse to understand is that the opposite of tolerance is not dismissal, rejection, condemnation. The opposite of tolerance is active engagement. And although engagement may, potentially, result to dismissal -as much as it may, in fact lead to acceptance-, it is still infinitely better than the patronising charity of tolerance. The double blow to both notions is to launch an enquiry that, on the one hand exposes and interrogates the intuitive certainty of our world, re-phrases our reality in terms that renegotiate not only our place within this given world, but the very principles of this world itself and, on the other, it does that by taking clear and concrete stances, by not being afraid to take sides, to comit, to go all the way. The first principle concerns the contenct, the second concerns the ethos. We believe that both are equally important in decathecting ourselves from our cur-


EDITORIAL

rent promiscuous ideological abstinence. It is time we accepted full responsibility for the consequences of our decisions. It is time we regained faith to dedication and stopped outsourcing our liability. It is time we acquired knowledge and consciousness of our actions. It is time we assumed the full weight of our existence, personal and political. It is time to reposition action to the locus it belongs to: ideology. It is time we reconsidered our unwillingness to be ideologically committed and we opposed the vulgarism of disclaimers. The aim of Bedeutung is to inspire this reinvestment of our life with meaningful and deliberate political activity. Bedeutung’s themed issues will take a stance on major contemporary issues ranging from man’s relation to nature to the role of the intelligentsia, the concept of humans rights, the belief in the transcendental. We will approach these matters from a rounded perspective that combines abstract analytical thought, reference to current political and social affairs and artistic creation. Bedeutung will occupy the space between thought-without-action and action-without-thought. It will stand in the middle of the area that separates endless analytical discourse and direct inflexible inarticulate action. During the course of this publication, we will invite prominent thinkers, public intellectuals, academics, artists, and writers to contribute to the emergence of a discourse that favours ideas, opinions, criticism and analysis, reflection and thinking. In this spirit, our first issue is dedicated to the notions of nature and culture. Drawing from the current environmentalist hype, we set out to reiterate the coordinates of this duality: what do we perceive as nature, what we consider to be culture, what their relation is and how our perceptions of this relationship which, ultimately, dictates the relationship between ourselves and our world, lead to the adherence to or repudiation of contemporary political and activist movements. This issue's purpose is not only to analyse the distinction of nature and culture in abstract philosophical terms, but, also, to provide a concrete analysis of our contemporary perception of nature and the place of human activity and creation. We examine this primordial relationship that always oscillates between dependency and dominance and we asses the merits of our necessary interaction with both our natural and our cultural environment. We are hopeful that this publication will contribute to a more thoughtful, more responsible and more critical approach and understanding of our position, our role and our world, thus reinstating our status as citizens and not subjects, both terms in the larger, ethical sense.


14 Bedeutung


Image: courtesy of Zoe Castoriadis

NOMOS/PHUSIS Human Law & Nature

Cornelius Castoriadis

In his lecture, Castoriadis talks about Democritus’s location of language in the dichotomy of law (nomos) and nature (phusis). The emergence of philosophy is contextualised by the historical role of the demos in asking the question as to which actor sets the nomos of the city. This question gives a new flavour to the distinction of appearance and reality, allowing us to distinguish between law and the natural order. This contention naturally gives rise to the question of the position of language in this dichotomy. Castoriadis examines the view held by Democritus, that words are arbitrary tags given to objects, and the view of Pythagoras, who holds that there exists, beyond the arbitrary conventions of language, a true language which gives objects their real name. He finds in Democritus the argument that the nature of language makes it impossible to be an institution of natural origin. Castoriadis raises the question as to the nature of the dichotomy of nomos and phusis itself – is this a distinction which comes about through nature, or human activity? He finds, not only in the philosophers of Ancient Greece, but also its poets, the express belief that the distinction of nomos and phusis is an explicitly human creation; and this distinction, for Castoriadis, attains its prominence precisely because of the space opened up by Ancient Greek politics and the questioning of the status of the law.

16 Bedeutung


L

et’s come to the opposition nomos/ phusis. First remark: we talked about the birth of philosophy as an explicit activity; we must not, nonetheless, forget that it is, indeed, a double birth of philosophy. And, also, that in Greek cities, definitely since the seventh century -even before Thales himself- we see philosophy emerge not only in words (logō), but in action (ergō), as a political struggle within a community. ‘Philosophy as action’ means a struggle not concerned with the acquisition of some sort of privilege -it’s not about demanding a pay rise or a lowering of retirement age- but, instead, with questioning the institutionalized order. Who sets the nomos of the city? And with what criteria? This is a question to which the dēmos (the people) begins to give an answer by having established itself as the source of law and by fighting for this role - something it may not have achieved, however, at this first historical phase. In any case, with the issue of nomos as a starting point, which is put in practice through political activity, the oppositions being/appearance and truth/assumption acquire in Greece their specific acuity and profundity. The aforementioned oppositions themselves, as I have already stated, existed everywhere and always, since they are concurrent with every human language’s attempt to reify the distinction between “this is how it really is” and “this is how it appears to me”. What is not, however, embedded in language is the distinction between nature and nomos (because nomos, as well as speech -logos- present us with a wide spectrum of meanings), where nomos is regarded as a concrete constituted rule, and, simultaneously, instituting, constituting the community. Second remark: we must distinguish the two aspects of the opposition phusis/nomos; first, the philosophical side, explicitly thematized and recognized as a philological point of reference and, second, the opposition as presented in action. Its first, thematized notion appears in a phrase attributed to Archelaus, the first well-known Athenian philosopher, for whom we know but few details, like that he is supposed to have been Socrates’s tutor - the latter’s birth in 469 allows us to place Archelaus and his teaching around 450. As mentioned by Diogenes Laertius, the phrase reads “the just and the unjust, to dikaion kai to aisckhron, exist not in nature, phusei, but in law, nomō”1. Both words are in the dative, a brilliant grammatical formulation, subject of many a doctoral thesis, because of the plurality of its signification, which is impossible to render in French2. I would translate it, thus: “not within and through nature, but within and through law” or “through law, thanks to law, in accordance with law” etc. We, also, have another extract from Archelaus, transmitted to us from Hippolytus3, according to which “men distinguished themselves from other animals/beings by the fact that they instituted, constituted leaders, laws, arts, cities…”. Even if the order and the enumeration is Hipollytus’s and not Archelaus’s, this phrase contains, practically, everything: leaders -power-, laws -the fact that this power is never arbitrary-, arts and

cities. We could, also, mention here an excerpt from the Hippocratic treatise On Airs, Waters and Places, in which this contrast between nature and law first appears. The treatise is, nevertheless, most likely contemporary with Herodotus and, therefore, posterior to Archelaus. Beyond the thematization of terms, the opposition phusis/nomos, present in the context of collective political activity, responds implicitly not only to the pre-Socratics, but even to Hesiod - for example, in the passage from Works and Days4, where it is claimed that Zeus set a nomos for people. Animals can very well slaughter each other, since there is no dikē (justice) amongst them; humans, on the other hand, were given dikē, “the primordial good”. The term nomos is here not juxtaposed to phusis; it nevertheless appears as an object of institution, even if it is not man-made - it comes from the divine. But, regarding it as imposed means dikē for the humans, leaving animals, who lack justice, free to devour each other. In turn, Xenophanes, in criticizing doxa5, is, in fact, attacking nomos in the sense of a social institution, by using terms such as nomizomena (from the verb nomizō6 ) - namely, ideas that a group, a society or, even all people believe, stand for or embrace. The distinction, however, of phusis/nomos will end up being the object of an in-depth analysis within the context of a critique of language. And here, again, the story begins with Xenophanes who, in extract 32 -which we have already talked about7- accuses humans of giving the name of the goddess Iris to rainbows, which, for him, were just another natural phenomenon like, say, clouds. And we are also likely to find similar propositions in Anaxagoras, as well as in Empedocles, when the latter says, for example, that people call death ‘potmos’, when it is nothing more than a mere separation of elements. But these words are used by conventions and institutions -as a matter of course, if you’d like- and Empedocles tells us that he himself obeys these conventional usages. That is because he is well aware that, in order for the members of a community to talk, they cannot use any word or come up with personal vocabularies. Words are imposed, and language is a law. We, also, saw that Heraclitus is often critical of language, for language separates conventional things that should remain united. Let’s not forget also the case of Parmenides, which we shall not discuss presently. Diogenes Laertius, II, 16 (= DK 60 A 1). See also KRS, p. 417 2 Or in English for that matter. Datives, which are found, amongst other languages, in Greek, Latin and German, are used in denoting a case of nouns and pronouns, and words in grammatical agreement with them, indicating an indirect object or recipient (Translator’s Note) 3 Hippolytus, Refutation Omnium Hearesium I, 9 (DK 60 A 4) 4 Hesiod, Travaux, 276-280 5 Doxa = popular belief, opinion (Translator’s Note) 6 Nomizō = to assume, to hypothetize (Translator’s Note) 7 It refers to a previous seminar of this series (Translator’s Note) 1

Philosophy 17


"In the nucleus of the Greek conception, is the early comprehension that there is a separation between humans and nature; it is not a natural given, but a result, a product of human acts, which poses, which constitutes this separation"


In the midst of the 5th century, and based on this very critical rationale, the infamous question arises and expands: is language phusei, a natural, or thesei, a conventional/institutionalized thing? Surely, its maturation must have started well before Archelaus’s and Hippocrates’s texts. That is because any critique would necessarily lead to the issue of its conventional or natural character. When a philosopher would say, “this name is attributed to this thing, but, really, it should not be called thus”, the implication is that there is a true name for every thing, alluding then to a natural correspondence. Nevertheless, at least as early as the 8th century, Greeks travelled and knew well that other people called, for example, ‘itou’ what Greeks called ‘table’. How could they pretend that Greek was the only true language? Even within the Greek mainland, there were variations between different dialects that were not limited to pronunciation, but even extended to lexical characteristics. This discussion has, thus, started already from the sixth century and, in my opinion, the best proof of this would be the clear and definite answer in favour of nomō that the great Democritus gives in an extract that we shall briefly comment on. Democritus is almost contemporaneous with Socrates; we can, in fact, place his peak around 450-440. The extract that we will first focus on comes from Proclus who mentions that, according to some -Pythagoras included-, names have a natural correspondence to the objects they designate. Pythagoras, on the other hand, maintained that names are manmade constructions that are imposed upon things. Is this an irresolvable contradiction? No, because the only one who could name things, he claimed, is the wise man, someone who knows through his intuition of their true nature. There is, then, a man/law-maker, who bestows every being with an appropriate name. It’s an idea that can’t easily be overlooked. Let us think of some quotes written of the poet’s privilege to name things - Mallarmé, for example, in Tombeau d’Edgar Poe: “to give a clearer meaning to the tribe’s words” and Rilke: a “poet gives things their name…”. Having exposed in this way the Pythagoreian notion of natural language, phusei, Proclus goes on to present the opposite argument, Democritus’s. I would advise you, at this point, to read again Plato’s Cratylus, a dialogue dedicated to the conventionality or naturality of language, exposing and criticizing both stances, without reaching a conclusion. It is a dialogue on Plato’s maturity, not a mere exercise, although it remains a problematic and aporetic text. The same also goes for Theaetetus -a dialogue about epistēmē, true knowledgewhich, after reviewing different definitions, it refutes them all and concludes by saying that “we shall try to do better next time”. On the contrary -as presented by Proclus-, Democritus’s demonstration is exhaustive and conclusive. The four arguments he puts forth regarding the conventionality of language seem to me, in passing, richer and more fertile than those of Saussure who, in his Cours de Linguistique Generale, in order to introduce the principle of “the arbitrary nature of the sign”, he contends

that whatever is called ‘boeuf’ in France, is named ‘Ochs’ beyond the Rhine. Democritus’s ultimate argument is, after all, an anticipatory refutation of structuralism. Let’s take things slowly. He begins with homonymy: if different things share the same name, how could, then, a name be thought of as natural? If language was phusei -natural- there would have to be at least a distinct name for every thing. And it would have to be only one: it is the second argument, synonymy, which Democritus (or maybe Proclus) calls polyonymy. In this case, language’s naturality would prohibit the giving of more than one name to the same thing. We observe, then, the fertility of these two first arguments that concern the lack of bi-univocal or term-to-term correspondence between things and their names which can, nonetheless, be generalized for every language; one and the same description can very well be applied to a plurality of processes and, also, a single sequence of events can be described in many ways. After all, without this universality of language, it would be impossible to talk. If the same word, the same description could not be applied to an infinite number of occasions, we would have to invent every time a new set of complex words, in order to describe a new event or the same event in a new way. The sophistic digression of this argument, mentioned in the Megaricals, could here be noted: today’s seminar of the 9th of March 1983 is, of course, not the seminar of the 2nd of March; it is, however, also not the same seminar as the one that happened fifteen minutes ago while, in ten minutes something entirely different will be taking place. Wanting to define it, introducing it to the universality of the term ‘seminar’, we effaced its reality, namely the seminar itself. The conclusion for those philosophers interested in the essence of things -not in the art of argumentative debates, though this is not mere controversyis that, since it is only possible to speak in universal terms, we must admit that the individual is ineffable and can never be conclusively articulated. The third argument against language’s naturality which Democritus (or Proclus) calls metathesis onomatōn, the displacements of names, is, nowadays, very ordinary: it refers to our ability to change the name of a thing, without at all affecting the thing itself. So we can call Aristocles, Plato and Tyrtamus, Theophrastus -two examples which cannot have been be mentioned by Democritus, as both Plato and Theophrastus lived in the 4th century- without changing their nature, since it is only a convention we are dealing with. The fourth argument, which is entitled -modestlyek tes ton homoiōn elleipseos, of lack of semblance, goes well beyond what it seems. How is it possible, asks Democritus, that to the noun phronesis -rationality, judgement, prudence etc.-, the verb phronein -being just, sensible etc.- corresponds, whereas from the word dikaiosunē -justice- no verb derives? In the first case we have a logical, organic link -inherent to both the thought and the thing itself- between a process, an act and a categorical attribute, while in the second we have none. Where is Philosophy 19


the logic in that? Nowhere. These kinds of asymmetries and anomalies cannot but be human decisions and interventions. You see clearly, then, why this argument goes further than it seems; that it is, in fact, a precursory refutation of structuralism and all sorts of logicism, because it can be applied to almost all the levels of language and, certainly, to the elementary level of phonology. Phonology teaches us that in language there are concatenations of phonemes that are allowed and others that are not, that cannot form lexemes, words. This logic -which Jacobson, appropriately, called totalitarian: everything that is not forbidden is compulsary- would impose that all permitted concatenations would occur, forming an equal number of lexemes in the particular language. But that is not the case. ‘Veche’ would be, for example, a totally legitimate word in French but it, nonetheless, doesn’t exist. You could, thus, construct innumerable words, much more than those currently admitted to the French vocabulary which, phonologically speaking, would be entirely legitima... And on a lexicological level, word formation and word derivatives are not exclusively done through an internal logic that would, in each case, impose this or the other way of composing words but they, in fact, exhibit an arbitrariness, a sort of dependency from both historicity as well as a connotative and, ultimately, magmatic aspect of signification that Democritus had already mentioned in the disequilibrium between phronein-phronēsis and (nil)-dikaiosunē. Furthermore, I would like to briefly comment on another extract from Democritus that refers to Diogenes Laertius8: nomo thermon, nomo psuchron; hot and cold existing through nomos, through conventioninstitution. This sentence does not, of course, refer to language: it’s not the words thermon and psuchron that are being questioned; not also just the relativity of sensory impressions, not even what were later termed in philosophy ‘secondary attributes’ of things: taste, colour, etc., which depend on the sensory organization of humans, as opposed to shape and volume, which are ‘primary attributes’. What Democritus means by nomo is, in my opinion, that there exists a social constitution of hot and cold and, by extension, of the sensory qualities in general, such as of colour, sweetness, sourness etc. This does not refer to a social construction of elementary sensation, but to an incorporation of this elementary sensation into a wider organized apparatus outside which it could not exist - because, as you know, there is no such thing as an isolated elementary sensation; it is always part of a flow of sensations and it is primarily constructed by the subject. Immediately after these four words, Diogenes Laertius sites another extraordinary phrase by Democritus: etei de atoma kai kenon, in reality there are only atoms and void, etei de ouden idmen, and we know nothing, en butho gar he alētheia, as truth is always in the bottom of the sea, in unreachable depths. Galen, who repeats the same extract, comple20 Bedeutung

ments it by demonstrating how Democritus views the balance between phenomena and sensation on the one hand, and thought on the other. First, he tells us, Democritus diebale ta phainomena, he accused experiences of being deceptive: colour, sweetness, bitterness exist only by convention, nomō. After which, the senses give their answer: “Thought is impoverished (or: miserable), having accepted from us tas pisteis (what you can believe, rely on and which is, at the same time, the proof of your beliefs), you now try to destroy us; your victory, however, will be your own downfall”9. We shall risk an analogy: Kant, in his Preface to the Critique of Pure Reason writes: “concepts without sensory material are empty; sensations without concepts are blind”. For Democritus, sensations are sources of error; but they say to thought: “from us you get what allows you to believe, as well as the control and proofs of those beliefs. And if you try to abolish us, this will mean your end as well”. There is no contradiction here, but an ability to see both sides of the issue. My last remark on the opposition phusis/nomos concerns only the word nomos and can be summed up, in my view, in what I call ‘Greek human creation’. Everything is connected with the infamous issue of circular time, of eternal return, of ignorance of progress; issues that, as I have already alluded, are not typically Greek, at least not in the way that they are presented. One could, in fact, find many testimonies that prove that Greeks had no circular perception of time at all, the most substantial of which -appearing also very early- is the idea of humanity as separated from the animal kingdom and, then, constructed by its own activity and creations. Many historians of philosophy (the remarkable Guthrie for example, author of six volumes of a very useful history of Greek philosophy up to Aristotle, very comprehensive, albeit slightly insipid) speak, in this case, of an anthropocentric theory of progress. And I am quite in agreement with this formulation, with the condition of explicitly distinguishing the term ‘progress' from the meaning it acquired in the 19th century. In the nucleus of the Greek conception is the early comprehension that there is a separation between humans and nature, for example, animals; it is not a natural given, but a result, a product of human acts, which poses this separation, which constitutes it; acts that are of the order of nomos. The word is not yet used and the term ‘creation’, poiesis in ancient Greek, an ambiguous term after all, is not ever mentioned in this context. This view, however, exists already in Xenophanes, in this extract that describes people as initially being in utter ignorance but that, through searching “they find, in time, something better”. We also find the same view in Protagoras, according to what we know about his work, or even through what he himself says in the platonic dialogue which bares his name. It can, also, be found in several other prose writers, such as an anonymous mentioned in the Protreptic by Iamblichus. The main testimonies, however, for our issue are to be found in


three remarkable passages from the tragic poets. First, in the verses 442-468 and 278-506 of Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus, the precise date of which we don’t exactly know10. What we do know, however, is that it is one of the last works by this author, who died in 456. In this tragedy, we have a clear separation between a pre-human and a veritably human condition, even if the perpetrator of this rupture is a god, Prometheus, who delivers arts and nomoi, institutions (one can, after all, find a similar order of themes in the verses 201-213 of Euripides’s The Suppliants, dated around 420). Nonetheless, less than a generation after Aeschylus, around 440, in Sophocles’s Antigone (verses 332375), into which this marvellous hymn, which praises the creative force of human beings who institute cities, legislate, create language, arts etc. is inserted - the infamous stasimon beginning with “Wonders are many, and none is more wonderful than man”11. But terrible in this context has the same meaning as Rilke’s “Every angel is terrible”12. It does not describe terror, horror, escape, but the existence of an insatiable force which, when it appears, it changes the quotidian, the everyday. We will later find in Critias and in the Hippocratic writings, any texts that insist on this separation between man and natural condition - what I call self-institution of humanity. If the three tragic poets appear to me, once again, privileged witnesses from this perspective, it is because their genius is constituted on the fact that they expressed with excellent clarity what we could call topoi, ideas, issues of their time, as we would call them nowadays. In this precise point rests the relation of a great poet with his time. Think of John Donne or Shakespeare; I am not saying that they copied newspaper articles, but that they were capable of taking contemporary issues and giving them a form and intensity that rendered them projectable beyond the limits of their time. I think, therefore, that the position of nomos, law, as equivalent of the selfinstitution of humanity is an idea that starts being realized in the turn of the 6th to the 5th century, between 500 and 450 BC. It will be explicitly explored later by Protagoras, the Sophists etc. and, eventually, acquire a pivotal position in Pericles’s Epitaph, in the second book of Thucydides - but we shall see all that later, when we speak of Athenian democracy and its self-conscience. I wish to add, however, that this understanding of nomos, law, as a self-creation of man, was necessarily fuelled by the political struggles in the cities, which, after the 7th century, had lead to the modification and, occasionally, overthrow of nomoi. Although this political creation was effectuated on a much less radical level, taking into consideration the fact that the statutory context was always protected, it also contributed to the philosophical radicalisation of the idea that humanity is separated from the animal kingdom by imposing its nomos.

This extract is from the thirteenth lecture given by Cornelius Castoriadis at the École des Haute Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris on the 9th of March 1983. Castoriadis’s lectures between 1982 and 1984 focused on his study of ‘the emergence of societies that begin to question their own institution’. The extract is taken from Ce qui Fait la Grèce, the second volume of La Creation Humaine, a series of publications that include all of Castoriadis’s lectures at the EHESS between 1980 and 1995. Cornelius Castoriadis (1922 – 1997), Greek-French philosopher, economist and psychoanalyst, former Director of Studies at the École des Haute Études en Sciences Sociales. Translation Alexandros Stavrakas

8 Diogenes

Laertius, IX, 72 (DK 68 B117). la medicine empirique, XV, 8 (=DK 68 B 125) 10 See: Seminar V 11 Wonderful, here, is used instead of terrible, which would be the literal translation of deinon (Translator’s note) 12 Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich – (Translator’s note) 9 Galen, De

Philosophy 21


Image: Robert Pfaller by Albert Waaijenberg - courtesy of Robert Pfaller


THE ORDER OF APPEARANCE Materialism’s Comedy

Robert Pfaller This article elucidates the opposition between the philosophical theses of materialism and idealism as primarily an ethical, not an epistemological one. The first principle of materialism, that there is no other world than this one, implies the concomitant imperative that one must endeavour to find a good life in this world. The second principle is that ‘appearance counts’ - that is, appearance is not opposed to truth, but already instantiates truth. These implications of materialism thus defined are seen to be exemplified in the genre of comedy, with their negation being exemplified in the genre of tragedy. Comedy exemplifies the ‘one world’ thesis by showing that the truly great is able to appear in this world without shame, making its truth a happy one; as opposed to tragedy which, postulating the base nature of this world, believes that nothing truly great can be of this world, making truth inherently melancholic. Comedy exemplifies the ‘appearance counts’ principle by privileging the beliefs of others, as opposed to tragedy, which focuses on the hero’s self belief. The tragic focus on self-belief is shown to be part of the neo-liberal hegemony’s imperative to ‘be yourself ’ and ‘tell your story’. Pfaller opposes this principle of ego-libido to that of objectlibido, which privileges the subject’s appearance to others over his self-belief. Pfaller argues that the shift from ego-libido to object-libido is the primary task of materialist thought; only by doing this can we oppose the neoliberal ideology and reinvigorate public life. The most useful tool which materialism has to do this is comedy, which is predicated on the privileging of the beliefs of others over self-belief.

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A

significant feature of materialism has been its laconic attitude towards philosophy. Materialism has always tried to be as philosophically succinct as possible, as is exemplified in Louis Althusser’s claim that ‘materialism’s arguments must be succinct enough so as to fit into the palm of your hand’. This laconic attitude, itself, exemplifies a materialist thesis about the enterprise of philosophy - an enterprise which is distinct from that of science. Whereas science achieves sharpness through refinement, philosophy aims at achieving sharpness through roughness - through being as rough as possible and still as sharp as possible. Incidentally, this renders the task of philosophy akin to the task of art, which could be described as endeavouring to be as intelligent as possible by being as naive as possible. I will present the materialist programme in a classical manner, by articulating it in terms of two theses; and to keep this sharp -which means: critical with regard to today’s ruling philosophical ideology-, I will take the help of an ally which materialism finds on the stage and in everyday life - comedy. Comedy is the representative of materialism on stage and on screen. Furthermore, comedy does not simply fulfil a philosophical programme; like a good trooper; it clarifies what this philosophical programme consists of, in the first place. Comedy does, after all, give a most precise account of philosophical materialism. The two related theses, exemplified and elaborated by comedy, can be termed as ‘The One World Argument’, and ‘The Appearance Counts Principle’. Part I The One-World-Argument “Bring on the Good Life!” Philosophical Materialism is often summed up in statements claiming that things ‘out there’ exist independently of our consciousness; that objects are still there, even if we do not think of them. Thus presented, this thesis appears to be an epistemological one. Comedy, however, teaches us to give this argument a different thrust, and to see it as a primarily ethical thesis. As an ethical principle, the argument should be formulated to state that this is the only world that exists, making it the best world that we can ever have. Given this ethical formulation, the argument’s practical consequences become immediately clear. Those who believe that this world is the only and best world that they can have will behave very differently from those who speculate of

24 Bedeutung

a different, better world. The statement ‘this world is the best one we can have’, of course, does not mean that everything is in order in this world - it does not claim that we are living in the best of all possible worlds. It only says that we have no other world; that, if there is a good life, this good life must be happening here and now. “Is there life before death?”: this question, asked in Wolf Biermann’s song is the question of materialism. Comedy answers this in the affirmative, advocating materialism by suggesting that everything that is wonderful is also a product of this world. For this reason, the predominant paradigm of comedy is that of success. The most unlikely of endeavours and the most daring swindlings come to success; the lovers come together, even triangular relationships and other polygamous relations which comedy finds as sympathetic - everything comes together in the end. The end, although estranged from what one might call ‘accepted standards’, is a happy one. Nothing can prevent the happy ending, since (as the last line in Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot” puts it) ‘nobody’s perfect’. In contrast, tragedy sees the paradigm of failure prevail. The superficial sadness of tragedy derives from the assumption that nothing truly great can be of this world, meaning that every great thing in this world is destined to fail. Tragedy thus alludes to the opposite consequence - namely, that everything that fails is thereby great. This sadness, however, transforms itself into a superficial one - after all, it is perfectly legitimate to persuade oneself that one has witnessed something great by watching something fail. This can explain why people choose to watch tragedies. (What Freud called “the libidinal-economic paradox” would thus be resolved.) The fact that comedy revolves around the success of something great, whereas tragedy postulates its inevitable failure, can be traced back to the history of religion. The “spirit of comedy” corresponds to a pagan world view. It is, indeed, a pagan worldview which assumes that everything great will succeed. There, it is possible for the divine, the holy, the great to become visible - and not to appear once, or in a rare moment, but to appear again and again, and in many places; often laughing, as the pagan gods have a sense of humour. This worldview allows the divine to be depicted, making Olympic champions or notorious beauties suited to serving as models for their statues of Apollo or Aphrodite. The divine could appear, because appearing in this world would not be regarded as a stigma, a reduction, a loss. It is the pagan view of the world that teaches us to grasp the world as something great,


to show our gratitude towards it, to assess it as the best thing that we can ever have. The pagan worldview is orientated towards the world - it is physical. It is this position that philosophical materialism has learned from. In contrast, the fear of and contempt for the baseness of this world, the sense of living in a “vale of tears”, the yearning for a better and more truly ideal world behind the semblance of this world, are all features of a transcendental metaphysical worldview. Inevitably, the conclusions drawn from this perspective could be but tragic. Religions like Christianity assume that the world is imperfect, meaning that the divine cannot appear, or can appear only in exceptional circumstances. What’s more, the divine cannot be adequately depicted in its divinity. The baseness of this world means that the very good or great in this world can only fail; as such, the god of this world is not a venerated diva or an Olympic champion, but a tragic loser with little humour, whose first great appearance on the scene is not as a victor, but as a man sentenced to death. Sadness for Fighters? An interesting question arises against this backdrop. Which of the two worldviews would be more suitable as a means to motivate its believers to struggle? Who is willing to fight with greater commitment - the materialists of comedy or the idealists of tragedy? The physicians or the metaphysicians? Those who are life-affirming, or those who negate the world? In antiquity, the heathens are said -according to the Christian writer Tertullian- to have been bewildered by the courageous contempt with which Christians clung to their religious conviction. Only those who did not put everything at stake for this world and for this life could so fearlessly confront suffering in the face of death. The same thought resurfaces in contemporary ideology. To give the most obvious instance, the advocates of Islamic fundamentalism attack the West for its alleged decadence and impotence by stating “you love life - we love death”. However, the metaphysicians are not the only ones capable of militancy, even of contempt of death. The idea that those who love life are incapable of putting it at risk is misleading. One does not need to expect something beyond this life in order to risk losing it. It can, indeed, suffice that this life, which, according to materialists is the best one we can have, appears unbearable in its present form. This is reflected in Bertolt Brecht’s poem, “Resolution of the Communards”:

“Considering that you are now threatening us with guns and cannons we have now decided to fear bad life more than death” Mit Gewehren und Kanonen droht Haben wir beschlossen, nunmehr schlechtes Leben Mehr zu fürchten als den Tod.” (Brecht 1984: 653) The strongest and most reliable impetus behind the materialist’s readiness to struggle consists in the fear of a bad life in this, best of all available worlds. This fear makes even the fear of death appear vain by comparison. The materialists do not lag behind the metaphysicians in their contempt of death; they are, in fact, ahead of them in many respects. Most notably, the materialists have an idea as to what they want to achieve. This seems to be something lacking in the transcendental-minded metaphysicians. They can hardly say what would constitute success, they do not have a clue what the world is supposed to look like after their victory, nor do they know what their place in it would be. The usual failure of their hopes thus reveals a hope for failure. Their contempt for death is, in truth, a contempt for life. Accordingly, the militant and tragic spirits who can fight, but cannot picture a desirable state of the world, are the reflection of those politically abstinent post-modernists who believe that nothing in this world is seriously worth fighting for. There is a fundamental complicity between metaphysical asceticism and the culture of entertainment - the so-called Spasskultur. The cultural theorist Johann Huizinga has already pointed this out, emphasizing that the supposedly hedonist idea that there is no truth and that the entire world is merely a game, theatre or, indeed, literature, is a shared assumption of the darkest ascetic Christian metaphysicians. The basic metaphysical operation we find in both ideas is the placement of truth and freedom somewhere outside this world and its happiness. All variants of metaphysics -that is, of philosophical idealism- are based on the assumption of such a rift. They differ among each other only in their preference for one side or another (for example, for freedom as opposed to happiness, for happiness as opposed to truth et cetera). The post-modern culture of amusement which seeks to reduce everything to something ridiculous, deconstructive or uncertain is, by no means, an idea of comedy, as it would sometimes like to present itself. On the contrary,

Philosophy 25


this entertainment-oriented culture is deeply metaphysical. It is thus entirely anticipated that an epoch which took up the cause of fun -as post-modernism did- produced so few good comedies in comparison to the epoch of the ‘60s and ‘70s, which considered itself much more serious. For political theory, one could come to the conclusion that Christianity as militant asceticism cannot act as a remedy to post-modern arbitrariness and hedonism. Instead of serving as its opposite, Christian asceticism is only its reflection, its epistemological double, in Gaston Bachelard’s sense. Breaking with post-modern culture requires breaking with the tragic paradigm of the Christian worldview. The Awful Truth? Comedy’s materialist thesis that this world is the best one we can have and that everything great in the world can only be great in this world, also produces an epistemological position. Like any real materialism, comedy has an unproblematic relation to truth. Comedy shows us that it is possible for one to recognize truth. This is seen in the simplest forms of comedy of mistaken identity, where, because of, for example, a costume, somebody believes somebody else to be a third person. Parenthetically, this reveals precisely the elementary principle of theatre. Comedy is full of such self-reflexive moments and (Brechtian) “estranging effects”, moments of truth and pleasure at the same time. The ability to see the truth in the fun and to avoid perceiving fun as just fun is a deeply materialist attitude. Truth is also subject to the principle of success in comedy. For comedy, truth is not typified in the tragic hero who must succumb to the bad world. In keeping with its materialist militancy, comedy contradicts a number of positions on this issue. To begin with, it does not accept that truth is something exceptionally rare, something too precious for this world, exemplified in the typical anxious interrogatory gestures of the deconstructivists, such as “do we even know what it means to speak?”. Likewise, the hedonist yuppie variant of this position, according to which it would be better to enjoy ourselves than to invest our energy into something serious -since we will never experience the truth-, is combated by comedy’s love of truth. Finally, comedy renounces the principle of ‘sad, but true’. Truth is by no means always sad for comedy, and, even less so does it accept the thesis that sadness is the final truth. Not everything that is true is sad, and, certainly, not everything that is sad is, thus, also true.

26 Bedeutung

Comedy is, therefore, opposed to those dark seekers of truth who, by the glum face they make, claim to have discovered something significant about the world. This polemic stance of various fronts takes the credit for comedy. For what comedy makes visible is the profound complicity between three apparently different post-modern figures first, those who hold truth in such high esteem that it is impossible for them to attain it; second, those who hope never to have to encounter truth, because they see their pleasures as endangered by truth; and, finally, those who claim for themselves a truth beyond pleasure and, therefore, beyond the world. Comedy, thus, reveals the three seemingly so different figures - the obsessively sceptical deconstructivists, the desperately cheerful hedonist relativists, and the driven, humourless, ascetic seekers of truth - to be accomplices, belonging to one and the same tragic paradigm that is hostile to comedy’s concept of the cheerful and worldly nature of truth. Part II The Appearance Counts Principle “Don’t tell yourself any stories!” Philosophical materialism has traditionally been formulated under the concept of atomism, as is found in the theses of Democritus and Epicurus. It would be correct to underline the ethical dimension of this atomism which is not, primarily, a cosmological theory, but is, as is the case with all materialism, an ethical position first and foremost. Althusser, in his later writings, has given atomism a new emphasis by summing it up in the principle that one should not tell oneself stories. The meaning of this imperative is exemplified in comedy, in its use of mistaken identity. Of course, mistaken identity also occurs in tragedy. Oedipus, for example, takes his father for an unknown aggressive cart-driver and he confuses his mother for an unknown queen. The decisive difference separating comedy and tragedy is thus not the mistaken identity but, rather, the direction in which mistaken identity takes place. Comedy always takes someone who happens to come along for someone specific in its cases of mistaken identity. It shows: regardless of who he is, he can be seen as the person whose place he assumes. Tragedy, by contrast, proceeds the opposite way. It lets a specific character suffer the fate of being taken for anyone. The whole appeal of tragedy is based on its basic position, namely that the truth is on the side of the characters and not on the side of a fate that is completely indifferent to them. Comedy always reduces the character to the effect


of a structure - everyone is taken to be the one whose place he assumes. It says: you are much more mistakable than you would like to think. This is the “aleatoric” atomism of comedy. In this sense it is materialist and structuralist. It agrees with the objectivity of semblance and of symbolic structure, of the order of places in society as opposed to the imaginary self-image of individuals. Tragedy, by contrast, says: in reality you are all more than everyone believes. Thus tragedy clearly propagates an imaginary self-image, an ideal-ego. Thus characterised, we can see that idealist philosophies - which, from Kant to Judith Butler, keep telling people that they are much more free than they believe - are to be identified with tragedy. Idealists encourage people to believe in themselves, and they seek human bondage only in the fact that people do not sufficiently see themselves as free subjects. This leads to the assumption that the individuals themselves are to be blamed for their bondage, because of not sufficiently recognizing themselves as subjects. In contrast, comedy, and philosophical materialism -such as Spinoza’s philosophy- tell the opposite story, namely that people are not free precisely where they feel themselves to be free (i.e. where they believe in themselves). People insert the idea of their freedom precisely where knowledge of the true cause is missing. Breaking with such misrecognition and producing the knowledge of the true causes is a scientific component of materialism. The two levels of materialist struggle: knowledge of the true causes of action and ideology of alterity But the opposition between materialism and idealism does not only concern the relationship of misrecognition and truth or knowledge. The struggle is not only the struggle between ideology and science. On the contrary, we should take very seriously Spinoza’s point, that something can only be limited by another thing of the same nature and, thus, oppose idealist ideology by materialist ideology. Materialism -especially when reinforced by its ally, comedy- also pronounces a materialist ideology. This ideology is a crucial arm against the ruling neo-liberal ideology which wants people to be subjects. “Appropriate your subjectivity” - this injunction is, in a way, the categorical imperative of the ruling neo-liberal ideology, totally in agreement with the idealist philosophies of Kant or Butler. Materialist philosophy, and the materialist programmes of ideology reside on the principle that appearance counts. Comedy always insists on this point. Which explains, for example, characters in a comedy who, for some reason, have to pretend they

love each other, and, of course, they end up truly loving each other, even if they are the last ones to realize it. In Hitchcock’s '39 Steps’, for example, you have a couple who hate each other throughout the film, but the fact that they always stand so close to each other and appear to love each other make it obvious that there is something more to their relationship - and, in the end, their apparent love becomes real. When we claim that comedy provides a different culture of the imaginary, what we are claiming is that comedy provides a way to deal with illusions in a different manner than the one formulated in the imperative ‘be a subject’. This has been pointed out by Karl Marx. Marx made use of the notion of comedy when he declared that “the German regime, as opposed to the French one, only imagines that it believes in itself, and it asks the world to imagine this also” (Marx 1844: 134). He maintained that the German regime of his time is a comedian, whereas the French regime was a tragic hero. France had reasons to believe in itself - Germany only needed to make the world believe in believing in itself. What is interesting here is the level at which Marx situates the distinction between comedy and tragedy. Marx’s theory is different from the classical theory of, for example, Aristotle, who situates the difference between comedy and tragedy at the sociological level of its heroes. Aristotle’s definition states that comedy seeks to imitate an inferior individual, whereas tragedy aims at painting an individual who is superior to those who exist in life, making, thus, the difference between the genres a sociological one. Marx, on the contrary, locates this difference on the level of the imaginary of the heroes. Tragedy deals, as Marx shows, with belief in oneself. Comedy, on the contrary, is about what other people are supposed to believe. The Two Forms of the Imaginary This distinction coincides with the crucial distinction made by the French psychoanalyst Octave Mannoni between two forms of illusion: faith and belief. Faith concerns an illusion which we proudly claim for ourselves. By contrast, belief concerns illusions which are never claimed for ourselves, illusions which must, therefore, appear as illusions held by other people. A carefully reflected political conviction, for instance, will constitute part of our self-respect as “faith“. A favourable horoscope that we happen to read in a daily paper will by contrast reinforce our

Philosophy 27


alacrity in our daily endeavours and prompt us -perhaps in the awareness that we do not believe in such a thing- to smile. Faith produces pride; beliefs, on the contrary, provide us with pleasure. In the terms of Sigmund Freud, this can be formulated as follows: faith accumulates ego-libido; beliefs decathect object-libido. Reinforcing the side of object-libido is the most basic task of materialist ideology - a program which is clearly formulated, for example, in many poems of Bertolt Brecht. This materialist program fights against idealist attempts to seduce the individuals by the lures of ego-libido, as can be seen, for example, in the reactionary imperative “Be yourself!” that resonates in every second Hip Hop song. How much times have changed in this respect can be seen by the fact that three decades ago pop music still formulated claims which were much more progressive and less modest - from time to time even highly idealist bands like the Doors provided a thoroughly materialist line, for example when they sung “We want the world, and we want it now!” It is at this precise point that we see the importance of Althusser’s formulation of materialism in the principle ‘do not tell yourself stories’. ‘Do not tell yourself stories’ means, in the first place, do not only strive for those stories with which you fully identify. This is, of course, opposed to the post-modern principle of tolerance, which states that everybody should be allowed to tell his or her story. We see this realised in TV talk shows where everybody is able to tell his or her story - the more bizarre, the better. Materialism would counter this with a different principle, which could be formulated as follows - ‘everybody should be able to sympathize with a story that is not his own’, or: ‘everybody should be given the necessary means in order not to be restricted just to his or her story’, or, better: ‘everybody should be enabled to sympathise with a story which is, maybe, nobody’s own story’. In other words, with an illusion which is not a subjective illusion, which is not the faith of anybody, but an illusion which is in the nature of what Mannoni calls a belief; that is to say, an objective illusion, an illusion without owners. So, instead of saying ‘believe in yourself! Tell your story!’, materialism would say - ‘tell something others may believe in’. Against the imaginary self-image of individuals -the self-respect based on ego-libido- comedy takes the side of appearance. In comedy, what counts is not what you believe of yourself, but what others could have believed. Comedy -which exemplifies not only the objectivity of truth, but also the objectivity as appearance- is the most important materialist instru-

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ment of our times, the most critical position against contemporary ideology. As Richard Sennett has remarked, “Western societies since the ‘60s have changed from being outside-governed to being inside-governed” (Sennett [1974]). Therefore, the crucial question to which any individual or social process is submitted to is the question ‘what does this mean to me?’. People, for example, do not ask: ‘am I getting enough money for this job?’. They ask: ‘what does this work mean to me? Can I really identify with this job?’. In asking these questions, they are ready to undergo short-cuts in terms of payment to remarkable extents. The subjectivization corresponding to the postmodern imperative ‘be yourself’ makes possible a total retreat of individuals from the public sphere - a retreat most welcome to neo-liberal capitalist interests. Post-modern individuals spontaneously renounce any dimension of public life because they mistake the stake of the struggle for the enemy. The goods which are at stake in the struggle are condemned, as they now pertain to the enemy in the struggle. But, in renouncing them, one only ensures that this will continue to be the case - that they will continue to pertain to the enemy. Renouncing any public dimension of life, renouncing public appearance -as neo-liberal ideology encourages us to do- means that we renounce happiness. Because, as Octave Mannoni has demonstrated, happiness is precisely linked to public appearance, to the sphere of what other people could have believed. The French philosopher Alain has shown this nicely in his studies on happiness, where he claimed that you create happiness by acting as if you are happy. Appearing in public, making other people believe that you are happy seems to be the most reliable source of true happiness - everything that provides pleasure depends on the dimension of what other people could, potentially, believe. This is the dimension of comedy. Insisting on this dimension of everyday life, comedy, public appearance, is therefore the contemporary mode of the materialist’s most basic claim: the claim for happiness in this only world that we have.


Bibliography - References Alain [1989] On Happiness. Chicago: Northwestern Univ. Press Althusser, Louis [1975] Is it Simple to be a Marxist in Philosophy?, in: id., Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists & Other Essays, Ed. with an introduction by G. Elliott, London/New York: Verso, 1990: 203-240. [1982] Le courant souterrain du matérialisme de la rencontre, in: ders., Écrits Philosophiques et Politiques, Tome I, Paris: Stock/ Imec, 1994: 539-580. [1986] Portrait du philosophe matérialiste, in: ders., Écrits Philosophiques et Politiques, Tome I, Paris: Stock/ Imec, 1994: 581-2. Brecht, Bertolt [1984] Die Gedichte von Bertolt Brecht in einem Band, 3. Aufl. Fft./ M.: Suhrkamp Critchley, Simon [1999]Comedy and Finitude: Displacing the Tragic-Heroic Paradigm in Philosophy and Psychoanalysis, in: id., Ethics-Politics-Subjectivity. Essays on Derrida, Levinas and Contemporary French Thought, London/ New York: Verso, 1999: 217-238 Dolar, Mladen [1991] The Aesthetics of the Uncanny, in: Mesotes. Zeitschrift für philosophischen Ost-West-Dialog, Nr. 3/1991: 51-66. [2005] Comedy and Ist Double. In: Pfaller (ed.) 2005: 181-210. Huizinga, Johan [1956] Homo Ludens. Vom Ursprung der Kultur im Spiel, Reinbek: Rowohlt Lange, Friedrich Albert [1902] Geschichte des Materialismus. Und Kritik seiner Bedeutung in der Gegenwart, 2 Bde., 7. Aufl., Leipzig: Baedeker Mannoni, Octave [1985] Clefs pour l’Imaginaire ou l’Autre Scène, Mayenne: Seuil [1985] La désidentification, in: J. Dor (éd.), Le Moi et l’Autre, Paris: Denoel, 1985: 61-79. Marx, Karl [1841]Doktordissertation: Differenz der demokritischen und epikureischen Naturphilosophie nebst einem Anhange, in: Karl Marx/ Friedrich Engels, Werke (MEW), Ergänzungsband, Berlin: Dietz, 1974: 257-373. [1844] Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie. Einleitung, in: Karl Marx/ Friedrich Engels, Werke (MEW), Bd. 1, Berlin: Dietz, 1970: 378-391. Pfaller, Robert (ed.) [2005] Stop That Comedy! On the Subtle Hegemony of the Tragic in Our Culture, (In English and German), Vienna: Sonderzahl Profitlich, Ulrich (ed.) [1998] Komödientheorie. Texte und Kommentare. Vom Barock bis zur Gegenwart, Reinbek: Rowohlt Sennett, Richard [1974] The Fall of Public Man. New York: Knopf, 1977 Žižek, Slavoj [2001] Die Gnadenlose Liebe, Frankfurt/M.: Suhrkamp [2004] “I am a Fighting Atheist: Interview with Slavoj Zizek”, Interview by Doug Henwood, Intro by Charlie Bertsch, in: Bad Subjects, Issue #59, February 2002 (http://eserver.org/bs/59/zizek. html)


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Recall Marx’s and Engels’s famous description of the capitalist dynamics in The Communist Manifesto: “Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions are swept away, all newformed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind. […] In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so, also, in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.” (Marx and Engels, 1985: 83-4) Does this not, more than ever, describe our contemporary reality? Ericsson phones are no longer Swedish, Toyota cars are manufactured 60% in the USA, Hollywood culture pervades the remotest parts of the globe. Furthermore, does the same not also go for all forms of ethnic and sexual identities? Should we not supplement Marx’s description in this sense, adding that also sexual ‘one-sidedness and narrowmindedness become more and more impossible’, that also concerning sexual practices ‘all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned’, so that capitalism tends to replace the standard normative heterosexuality with a proliferation of unstable shifting identities and/or orientations? Today, with the latest biogenetic developments, we are entering a new phase in which it is simply nature itself that melts into air: the main consequence of the scientific breakthroughs in biogenetics is the end of nature. Once we know the rules of their construction, natural organisms are transformed into objects amenable to manipulation. Nature -human and inhuman- is, thus, ‘desubstantialized’, deprived of its impenetrable density, of what Heidegger called ‘earth’. This development compels us to give a new twist to Freud’s title Unbehagen in der Kultur - discontent, uneasiness, in culture. With the latest developments, the discontent shifts from culture to nature itself: nature is no longer ‘natural’, the reliable ‘dense’ background of our lives; it now appears as a fragile mechanism, which, at any point, can explode in a catastrophic direction. Biogenetics, with its reduction of the human psyche itself to an object of technological manipulation is, therefore, effectively, a kind of empirical instantiation of what Heidegger perceived as the ‘danger’ inherent to modern technology. What is crucial here is the interdependence of man and nature: by reducing man to just another natural object whose properties can be manipulated, what we lose is not (only) humanity but nature itself. In this sense, Francis Fukuyama is right: humanity itself relies on some notion of ‘human nature’ as what we simply inherited, namely, the impenetrable dimension in/of ourselves into which we are born/thrown. The paradox is, thus, that there is man only insofar as there is impenetrable inhuman nature. With the prospect, however, of biogenetic interventions opened up by the access to the genome, the species is able to freely change/redefine itself, its own coordinates; this prospect effectively emancipates humankind from the constraints of a finite species, from its enslavement to the ‘selfish genes’. However, there is a price for this emancipation: “With interventions into man’s genetic inheritance, the domination over nature reverts into an act of taking-control-over-oneself, which changes our generic-ethical self-understanding and can disturb the necessary conditions for an autonomous way of life and universalistic understanding of morals.” (Jantschek, 2001: 26) How, then, do we react to this threat? Habermas argues that, since the results of science pose a threat

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to our (predominant notion of) autonomy and freedom, one should curtail science. The price we pay for this solution is the fetishist split between science and ethics (“I know very well what science claims, but, nonetheless, in order to retain (the appearance of) my autonomy, I choose to ignore it and act as if I don’t know it”). This attitude is what prevents us from confronting the true question: how do these new conditions compel us to transform and reinvent the very notions of freedom, autonomy, and ethical responsibility? Science and technology today no longer aim only at understanding and reproducing natural processes, but at generating new forms of life that will surprise us; the goal is no longer just to dominate nature (the way it is), but to generate something new, greater, stronger than ordinary nature. Man himself is part of this goal - the exemplar of this process is the obsession with artificial intelligence, which aims at producing a brain stronger than human brain. Sustaining the scientific-technological endeavor is the dream of the singularity - of triggering a process with no return, a process that would exponentially reproduce itself on its own accord. The notion of ‘second nature’ is, therefore, today more pertinent than ever, in both its main meanings. The first, literal meaning, takes it to refer to artificially generated new nature: monsters of nature, deformed cows and trees, or -a more positive dream- genetically manipulated organisms, ‘enhanced’ in the direction that serves us. Secondly, we may take the notion of ‘second nature’ in the more standard sense, as referring to the autonomization of the results of our own activity: the way our acts elude us in their consequences, the way they generate a monster with a life on its own. It is this horror at the unforeseen results of our own acts that causes shock and awe, not the power of nature over which we have no control; it is this horror that religion tries to domesticate. What is new today is the short-circuit between these two senses of ‘second nature’: ‘second nature’, in the sense of objective Fate, of the autonomized social process, generates ‘second nature’ in the sense of artificially created nature, of natural monsters. The process that threatens to run out of control is no longer just the social process of economic and political development, but new forms of natural processes themselves - from the unforeseen nuclear catastrophe to global warming and the unforeseen consequences of biogenetic manipulations. Can one even imagine what might be the unforeseen result of nanotechnological experiments? New life forms, reproducing themselves out of control in a cancer-like way, as articulated here, in this standard description of this fear: “Within fifty to a hundred years, a new class of organisms is likely to emerge. These organisms will be artificial in the sense that they will originally be designed by humans. However, they will reproduce, and will ‘evolve’into something other than their original form; they will be ‘alive’ under any reasonable definition of the word. […] the pace of evolutionary change will be extremely rapid. […] The impact on humanity and the biosphere could be enormous, larger than the industrial revolution, nuclear weapons, or environmental pollution.” (Farmer and Belin, 1992:815) This fear also has its clear libidinal dimension: it is the fear of the asexual reproduction of Life, the fear of an ‘undead’ life that is indestructible, constantly expanding, reproducing itself through self-division. And, as always in the history of the last two millenniums, the greatest master of exploiting this fear is the Catholic Church. Its predominant strategy today is that of trying to contain the scientific Real within the confines of meaning - it is as an answer to the scientific Real (materialized in the biogenetic threats), that religion has found its new raison d’être: “Far from being effaced by science, religion, and even the syndicate of religions, in the process of formation, is progressing every day. Lacan said that ecumenism was for the poor of spirit. There is a marvelous agreement on these questions between the secular and all the religious authorities, in which they tell themselves they should agree somewhere in order to make echoes equally marvelous, even saying that finally the secular is a religion like the others. We see this because it is revealed in effect that the

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discourse of science has partly connected with the death drive. Religion is planted in the position of unconditional defense of the living, of life in mankind, as guardian of life, making life an absolute. And that extends to the protection of human nature. […] This is […] what gives a future to religion through meaning, namely by erecting barriers -to cloning, to the exploitation of human cells- and to inscribe science in a tempered progress. We see a marvelous effort, a new youthful vigor of religion in its effort to flood the real with meaning.” (Miller, 2004: 8-19) The Church’s message of hope thus relies on the pre-existing fear: it evokes and formulates the fear against which it then offers a solution of hope and faith. The Life that it promises in its defense of the ‘culture of life’ is not a positive life, but a reactive life, a defense against death. The same goes for ecology; its by far predominant version is the ecology of fear: the fear of a catastrophe -human-made or natural- that may deeply perturb, destroy even, the human civilization, a fear that pushes us to plan measures that would protect our safety. This ecology of fear has all the chances of developing into the predominant form of ideology of global capitalism, a new opium for the masses, replacing the declining religion: it can assume an unquestionable authority which can impose limits, a function it takes over from religion. The fundamental message propagated by this ecology is a constant reminder of our finitude: we are not Cartesian subjects extracted from reality; we are finite beings embedded in a biosphere which vastly transgresses our horizon. In our exploitation of natural resources, we are borrowing from the future, so one should treat our Earth with respect, as something ultimately Sacred, something that should not be unveiled totally, that should and will forever remain a Mystery, a power we should trust, not dominate. While we cannot gain full mastery over our biosphere, it is within our power to derail it, to disturb its balance, so that it will run amok, swiping us away in the process. This is why, although ecologists are constantly demanding that we change radically our way of life, underlying this demand is its opposite, a deep distrust of change, of development, of progress: every radical change can have the unintended consequence of triggering a catastrophe. This distrust is what makes ecology the ideal candidate for hegemonic ideology, since it echoes the anti-totalitarian post-political distrust of large collective acts. And the same distrust has been given a new impetus by today’s biogenetics, which is on the verge of a crucial break-through (see the report "Life 2.0" in Newsweek, June 4 2007, p.37-43). Until now, geneticists were confined to “tinkering and tweaking what nature has already produced – taking a gene from a bacterium, say, and inserting it into the chromosome of corn or pigs. What we are talking about now, is producing life that is wholly new not in any way a genetic descendant of the primordial Mother Cell. The initial members of each newly created breed will have no ancestors at all.” This will allow the artificial creation of the organism’s very genome: first, individual biological building blocks are to be fabricated; then, they are to be combined into an entirely new synthetic, self-replicating organism. Scientists have designated this new life form as ‘Life 2.0’, and what is so unsettling about it, is that the ‘natural’ life itself, becomes thereby ‘Life 1.0’ - it retroactively loses its spontaneous-natural character, turning into one in a series of synthetic projects. This is what the ‘end of nature’ means: synthetic life is not just supplementing natural life; it turns natural life itself into a (confused, imperfect) species of synthetic life. The prospects of this breakthrough are, of course, breathtaking: from microorganisms that detect and eliminate cancer cells, to entire ‘factories’ that transform solar energy into usable fuel. However, the main limitation of this endeavour is no less obvious: the DNA of existing natural organisms is “a mess of overlapping segments and junk that has no purpose scientists can fathom”. So, when geneticists tinker with this mess, they cannot ever be sure not only of the outcome, but also of how, exactly, this outcome was generated. The logical conclusion is, thus, to try to “build new biological systems; systems that are easier to understand because we made them that way”. However, this project will work only if we accept the thesis that “at least 90 percent of the human genome is ‘junk DNA’ that has no clear

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function” (the main function envisaged by scientists is that they serve a guarantee against the danger of copying-mistakes, a kind of back-up copy). Only in this case can we expect a project of getting rid of the repetitious ‘junk’ and generating the organism only from its ‘pure’ genetic formula work. What if, however, this ‘junk’ does play a crucial role, unknown to us because we are unable to grasp all the higher-level complexity of the interaction of genes which can only account for how, out of a limited (finite) set of elements, an ‘infinite’ (self-relating) organic structure arises as an ‘emergent property’? Those who oppose most ferociously this prospect are religious leaders and environmentalists - for both, the idea of creating a new form of life from scratch involves a transgression, an entrance into a forbidden domain. And this brings us back to the notion of ecology as the new opium for the masses. The underlying message is, again, a deeply conservative one: any change can only be a change for the worse: “Behind much of the resistance to the notion of synthetic life is the intuition that nature (or God) created the best of possible worlds. Charles Darwin believed that the myriad designs of nature’s creations are perfectly honed to do whatever they are meant to do - be it animals that see, hear, sing, swim or fly, or plants that feed on the sun’s rays, exuding bright floral colours to attract pollinators.” (Newseek, 2007: 41) This reference to Darwin is deeply misleading: the ultimate lesson of Darwinism is the exact opposite, namely that nature tinkers and improvises, with great losses and catastrophes accompanying every limited success. Is the fact that 90 percent of the human genomeis ‘junk DNA’, with no clear function, not the ultimate proof of it? Consequently, the important realization to be made, is the one repeatedly argued by Stephen Jay Gould: the utter contingency of our existence. There is no Evolution: catastrophes, broken equilibriums, are all part of natural history; at numerous points in the past, life could have turned towards an entirely different direction. Even the main source of our energy (oil) is the result of a past catastrophe of unimaginable dimensions. Along these lines, ‘terror’ means accepting the fact of the utter groundlessness of our existence: there is no firm foundation, a place of retreat, on which one can safely count. It means fully accepting that ‘nature’ does not exist. It means fully consummating the gap that separates the life-world notion of nature and the scientific notion of natural reality: ‘nature’ qua the domain of balanced reproduction, of organic deployment into which humanity intervenes with its hubris, brutally throwing off the rails its circular motion is man’s fantasy; nature is already in itself ‘second nature’. Its balance is always secondary, an attempt to negotiate a ‘habit’ that would restore some order after catastrophic interruptions. The lesson to be fully endorsed is that of an environmental scientist who came to the result that, while one cannot be sure what the ultimate result of humanity’s interventions into geo-sphere will be, one thing is sure: if humanity were to stop abruptly its immense industrial activity and allow nature on Earth to take its balanced course, the result would be a total breakdown, an unimaginable catastrophe. ‘Nature’ on Earth is already to such an extent ‘adapted’ to human interventions; human ‘pollutions’ are already to such an extent included into the shaky and fragile balance of the ‘natural’ reproduction on Earth, that their cessation would cause a catastrophic imbalance. This is what it means to claim that humanity has nowhere to retreat: not only there is no big Other (self-contained symbolic order as the ultimate guarantee of Meaning); there is also no Nature qua balanced order of self-reproduction whose homeostasis is disturbed, thrown off the rails by the imbalanced human interventions. Not only the big Other is ‘barred’, Nature is also ‘barred’. One should, thus, become aware not only of the limitation of the ideology of progress, but also of the limitation of the Benjaminian notion of the revolution as the move to put on brakes on the runaway train of progress: it is too late for that, since the cessation of activity can trigger an even greater catastrophe.

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“The ultimate lesson of Darwinism is that nature tinkers and improvises, with great losses and catastrophes accompanying every limited success. There is no Evolution: catastrophes, broken equilibriums, are all part of natural history; at numerous points in the past, life could have turned towards an entirely different direction.�


With regard to this inherent instability of nature, the most consequent was the proposal of a German ecological scientist back in 1970s: since nature is changing constantly and the conditions on Earth will render the survival of humanity impossible in a couple of centuries, the collective goal of humanity should be not to adapt itself to nature, but to intervene into the Earth’s ecology even more forcefully with the aim to freeze the Earth’s change, so that its ecology will remain basically the same, thus enabling humanity’s survival. This extreme proposal renders visible the truth of ecology. In his Reflections at the Edge of Askja, Pall Skullason reports how he was affected by Askja, a volcanic lake and valley in the middle of Iceland, surrounded by snow-covered mountains: “Askja is the symbol of objective reality, independent of all thought, belief and expression, independent of human existence. It is a unique natural system, within which mountains, lakes and sky converge ina volcanic crater. Askja, in short, symbolizes the earth itself; it is the earth as it was, is, and will be, for as long as this planet continues to orbit in space, whatever we do and whether or not we are here on this earth. […] Coming to Askja is like coming to the earth itself for the first time; finding one’s earthly grounding.” (Skullason, 2005:21) Gilles Deleuze often varies the motif of how, in becoming post-human, we should learn to practice a perception “as it was before (or after) men […] released from their human coordinates” [Deleuze. 1986:122]. Skullason seems to be describing just such an experience; the experience of subtracting oneself from the immediate immersion into the surrounding world of objects which are ‘ready-at-hand’ moments of our engaged relationship with reality - or is he? Let us take a closer look at what kind of experience he is rendering: “[…] the world suddenly strikes us in such a way that reality presents itself as a seamless whole. The question that then arises concerns the world itself and the reality that it orders into a totality. Is the world really a unified totality? Isn’t reality just an infinitely variegated manifold of particular phenomena?” (Skullason, 2005:11) One should be Hegelian here: what if this very experience of reality as a seamless Whole is a violent imposition of ours, something we ‘project onto it’ (to use this old, inappropriate term) in order to avoid directly confronting the totally meaningless, ‘infinitely variegated manifold of particular phenomena’ (what Alain Badiou calls ‘the primordial multiplicity of Being’)? Should we not apply here the fundamental lesson of Kant’s transcendental idealism: the world as a Whole is not a Thing-in-itself, it is merely a regulative Idea of our mind, something our mind imposes onto the raw multitude of sensations in order to be able to experience it as a well-ordered meaningful Whole? The paradox is that the very ‘In-itself’ of Nature, as a Whole independent of us, is the result of our (subjective) ‘synthetic activity’ - do Skulason’s own words, if we read them closely (i.e. literally), not already point in this direction? “Askja is used in this text as the symbol of a unique and important experience of the world and its inhabitants. There are numerous other symbols which men use to talk about the things that matter most.” (Skullason, 2005:19) So, exactly as is the case with the Kantian Sublime, the unfathomable presence of the raw Nature-in-itself is reduced to a material pretext (replaceable with others) for ‘a unique and important experience’. The obvious question arising is: Why is this experience necessary? “To live, to be able to exist, the mind must connect itself with some kind of order. It must apprehend reality as an independent whole […] and must bind itself in a stable fashion to certain features of what we call reality. It cannot bind itself to the ordinary world of everyday experience, except by taking it on faith that reality forms an objective whole, a whole which exists independently of the mind. The mind lives, and we live, in a relationship of faith with reality itself. This relationship is likewise one of

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confidence in a detached reality, a reality that is different and other than the mind. We live and exist in this relationship of confidence, which is always by its nature uncertain and insecure. […] the relationship of confidence […] is originally, and truly, always a relationship with reality as a natural totality: as Nature.” (Skullason, 2005:31-33) One should note here the refined analysis of the tension between the inhabitable and the uninhabitable: in order to inhabit a small part of reality that appears within our horizon of meaning, we have to presuppose that the Reality-in-itself, ‘different and other than the mind’, which sustains our ordered world, is part of reality in an ordered and seamless Whole. In short, we have to have faith and confidence in Reality: nature-in-itself is not merely a meaningless composite of multiples; it is Nature. What if, however, this relationship of faith in Nature, in the primordial harmony between mind and reality, is the most elementary form of idealism, of the reliance onto the big Other? What if the true materialist position starts (and, in a way, ends) with the acceptance of the In-itself as a meaningless chaotic manifold? One is tempted here to turn again to Iceland’s unique natural landscape: the magnificent misty-green coast plains in the south, full of big rocks covered with wet green-brown moss, cannot but appear as nature run amok, full of pathological cancerous protuberances – what if this is much closer to ‘nature-in-itself’ than the sublime images of seamless Wholes? Indeed, what we need is ecology without nature: the ultimate obstacle to protecting nature is the very notion of nature we rely on (see: Morton, 2007).

The Uses and Misuses of Heidegger

Today, with the prospect of the biogenetic manipulation of human physical and mental features, the notion of danger inscribed into modern technology elaborated by Heidegger turned into a common currency. Heidegger emphasizes how the true danger is not the physical self-destruction of humanity, the threat that something will go terribly wrong with biogenetic interventions, but, precisely, that nothing will go wrong, that genetic manipulations will function smoothly. At this point, the circle will, in a way, be closed and the specific openness that characterizes being-human abolished. That is to say, is not the Heideggerian danger (Gefahr) precisely the danger that the ontic will ‘swallow’ the ontological (with the reduction of man, the Da (here) of Being, to just another object of science)? Do we not encounter here, again, the formula of fearing the impossible? What we fear is, that what cannot happen (since the ontological dimension is irreducible to the ontic) will, nonetheless, happen… The same point is made, in more common terms, by cultural critics from Fukuyama and Habermas to Bill McKibben, who are all worried about how the latest techno-scientific developments (which potentially made the human species able to redesign and redefine itself) will affect our being-human; the call we hear is best encapsulated by the title of McKibben’s book: Enough. Humanity, as a collective subject, has to put a limit and freely renounce further ‘progress’ in this direction. McKibben endeavors to empirically specify this limit: somatic genetic therapy is still this side of the ‘enough’ point, one can practice it without leaving behind the world as we’ve known it, since we just intervene into a body formed in the old ‘natural’ way; germline manipulations lie on the other side, in the world beyond meaning (McKibben, 2004:127). When we manipulate psychic and bodily properties of individuals before they are even conceived, we pass the threshold into full-fledged planning, turning individuals into products, preventing them from experiencing themselves as responsible agents who have to educate/form themselves by the effort of focusing their will, thus obtaining the satisfaction of achievement. This has the result that such individuals supposedly no longer relate to themselves as responsible agents. In short, they are not able to engage within the horizon of meaning that renders possible their status as ethical beings. The insufficiency of this reasoning is twofold. First, as Heidegger would have put it, the survival of the being-human of humans cannot depend on an ontic decision of humans. Even if we try to define

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the limit of the permissible in this way, the true catastrophe has already occurred: we already experience ourselves as manipulable in principle, we only freely renounce to fully deploy these potentials. Consider, for instance, the view that “in the technological age, what matters to us most is getting the ‘greatest possible use’ out of everything” (Wrathall, 2005:102). Does this not throw a new light on how ecological concerns, at least in their predominant mode, remain within the horizon of technology? Is the point of using the resources sparingly, of recycling, etc., not precisely to maximize the use of everything? The crucial point, however, is that, not only will with biogenetic planning our universe of meaning disappear (i.e. not only are the utopian descriptions of the digital paradise wrong, since they imply that meaning will persist), but, the opposite, negative description of the “meaningless” universe of technological self-manipulation is also the victim of a perspective fallacy; it, also, measures the future with inadequate present standards. That is to say, the future of technological self-manipulation only appears as deprived of meaning if measured by (or, rather, from within the horizon of) the traditional notion of what a meaningful universe is. Who knows what this post-human universe will reveal itself to be ‘in itself’? What if there is no singular and simple answer, what if the contemporary trends (digitalization, biogenetic self-manipulation) open themselves up to a multitude of possible symbolizations? What if the utopia -the pervert dream of the passage from hardware to a software of subjectivity freely floating between different embodiment- and the dystopia -the nightmare of humans voluntarily transforming themselves into programmed beings- are just the positive and the negative of the same ideological fantasy? What if it is only, and precisely, this technological prospect that fully confronts us with the most radical dimension of our finitude? Heidegger himself remains ambiguous here. It is true that Heidegger’s answer to technology “is not nostalgic longing for ‘former objects which perhaps were once on the way to becoming things and even to actually presenting themselves as things’ (‘The Thing’), but, rather, allowing ourselves to be conditioned by our world, and then learning to ‘keep the fourfold in things’ by building and nurturing things peculiarly suited to our fourfold. When our practices incorporate this fourfold, our lives and everything around us will have importance far exceeding that of our resources, because they, and only they, will be geared to our way of inhabiting the world” (Wrathall, 2005: 117). However, all examples Heidegger provides of ‘keeping the fourfold in things’ -from the Greek temple and van Gogh’s shoes, to numerous examples from his Schwarzwald mountains)- are nostalgic, i.e., belonging to a world which is passed, no longer ours. For example, he opposes the traditional farming practices to modern technologized agriculture, the Black Forrest farmer’s house to a modern apartment block. So, what would be examples appropriate to our technological times? Perhaps, one should take very seriously Fredric Jameson’s idea to read Raymond Chandler’s “California” as a Heideggerian world, with Phillip Marlowe caught in a tension between heaven and earth, between his mortality and the divine shining through in the pathetic longing of his characters, etc. And did Ruth Rendell not accomplish the same for the UK suburbia, with its decaying backyards, grey shopping malls, etc.? This is also why Hubert Dreyfuss’s notion, that the way to be prepared for the upcoming Kehre, for the arrival of new gods, is to participate in practices which function as sites of resistance to the technological total mobilization, is all too short: “Heidegger explores a kind of gathering that would enable us to resist post-modern technological practices. […] He turns from the cultural gathering he explored in The Origin of the Work of Art (that sets up shared meaningful differences and thereby unifies an entire culture) to local gatherings that set up local worlds. Such local worldsoccur around some everyday thing that temporarily brings into their own both the thing itself and those involved in the typical activity concerning the use of the thing. Heidegger calls this event a thing thinging and the tendency in the practices to bring things and people into their own, appropriation. […] Heidegger’s examples of things that focus such local gathering are a wine jug and an old stone bridge. Such things gather Black Forest peasant practices, […] the family meal acts as a focal thing when it draws on the culinary and social skills of family members and solicits

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“Since culture is, for us humans, our ‘second nature’, since we dwell in a living culture, experiencing it as our natural habitat, the re-naturalization of cultural artifacts equals to their de-naturalization: deprived of their function within a living totality of meaning, they dwell in an inter-space between nature and culture, between life and death, leading a ghost-like existence, belonging neither to nature nor to culture”


fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, children, familiar warmth, good humour, and loyalty to come to the fore in their excellence, or in, as Heidegger would say, their ownmost.” (Dreyfus) From a strict Heideggerian position, such practices can -and, as a rule, do- function as the very opposite of resistance, as something that is already included in the smooth functioning of the technological mobilization (like the courses in transcendental meditation which make you more efficient in your job). The path to salvation, therefore, only leads through the full engagement in technological mobilization. The aftermath of the constant innovation of capitalism is, of course, the permanent production of piles of leftover waste: “The main production of the modern and postmodern capitalist industry is precisely waste. We are postmodern beings because we realize that all our aesthetically appealing consumption artifacts will eventually end as leftover, to the point that it will transform the earth into a vast wasteland. You lose the sense of tragedy, you perceive progress as derisive” (Miller, 1999:19). The obverse of the incessant capitalist drive to produce new and new objects is, thus, the growing piles of useless waste; piled mountains of used cars, computers, etc. In these ever-growing piles of inert, dysfunctional ‘stuff’, which cannot but strike us with their useless, inert presence, one can, as it were, perceive the capitalist drive at rest. Therein resides the interest of Andrei Tarkovsky’s films, exemplified by his masterpiece Stalker, with its post-industrial wasteland filled with wild vegetation growing over abandoned factories, concrete tunnels and railroads full of stale water and wild overgrowth, in which stray cats and dogs wander. Nature and industrial civilization are here, again, overlapping, but through a common decay - civilization in decay is in the process of againbeing reclaimed (not by idealized harmonious Nature, but) by nature in decomposition. The ultimate Tarkovskian landscape is that of a humid nature, river or pool close to some forest, full of the debris of human artifices (old concrete blocks or pieces of rotten metal). The postindustrial wasteland of the second World effectively is the privileged ‘evental site’, the symptomal point out of which one can undermine the totality of today’s global capitalism. One should love this world, up to its grey decaying buildings and sulphuric smell - all this stands for History, threatened with erasure between the post-historical First World and pre-historical Third World. As for Benjamin’s notion of ‘natural history’ as re-naturalized history: it takes place when historical artifacts lose their meaningful vitality and are perceived as dead objects reclaimed by nature or, in the best case, as monuments of a past dead culture. For Benjamin, it was in confronting such dead monuments of human history reclaimed by nature, that we experience history at its purest. The paradox here, is that this re-naturalization overlaps with its opposite, with de-naturalization: since culture is, for us humans, our ‘second nature’, since we dwell in a living culture, experiencing it as our natural habitat, the re-naturalization of cultural artifacts equals to their de-naturalization: deprived of their function within a living totality of meaning, they dwell in an inter-space between nature and culture, between life and death, leading a ghost-like existence, belonging neither to nature nor to culture, appearing as something akin to the monstrosity of natural freaks, like a cow with two heads and three legs. The challenge of technology is, thus, not that we should (re)discover how all our activity has to rely on our unsurpassable (unhintergebar) embeddedness in our life-world, but, on the contrary, that one has to cut off this embeddedness and accept the radical abyss of one’s existence. This is the terror that even Heidegger did not dare to confront. To put it in the terms of a problematic comparison, are we, insofar as we remain humans embedded in a pre-reflexive symbolic life-world, not something like ‘symbolic plants’? Hegel writes in his Philosophy of Nature that a plant’s roots are its entrails which, in contrast to an animal, are outside itself, in the earth, and which prevent it from cutting its roots and freely roam around; for it, cutting its roots is death. Is then our symbolic life-world, in which we are always-already pre-reflexively embedded, not something like our symbolic entrails outside ourselves? And, is it not the true challenge of technology that of repeating the passage from plants to animals, also

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at the symbolic level, cutting off our symbolic roots and accepting the abyss of freedom? In this very precise sense, one can accept the formula that humanity will/should pass into post-humanity: being embedded in a symbolic world is a definition of being-human. And in this sense, also, technology is a promise of liberation through terror. The subject that emerges in and through this experience of terror is, ultimately, the cogito itself, the abyss of self-relating negativity that forms the core of transcendental subjectivity, the acephalous subject of (the death-)drive. It is the properly in-human subject.

What Is to Be Done?

What triggers this terror is the awareness of how we are in the midst of a radical change. Although individual acts can, in a direct short-circuit of levels, affect the ‘higher-level’ social constellation, their effect upon it is unpredictable. The constellation is properly frustrating: although we (individual or collective agents) know that it all depends on us, we cannot ever predict the consequences of our acts – we are not impotent, but, quite on the contrary, omnipotent, without being able to determine the scope of our powers. The gap between causes and effects is irreducible, and there is no big Other to guarantee the harmony between the levels, to guarantee that the overall outcome of our interactions will be satisfactory. guarantee that the overall outcome of our interactions will be satisfactory. The deadlock is here deeper than it may appear (as was repeatedly developed by Dupuy - see Dupuy, 2006): the problem is that the big Other continues to function in the guise of the ‘second nature’, of the minimally-reified social system which is perceived as an In-itself. Each individual perceives market as an objective system confronting him, although there is no objective market but just the interaction of the multitude of individuals - so that, although each individual knows very well that there is no objective market, just the interaction of individuals, the specter of ‘objective’ market is this same individual’s factof-experience, determining his beliefs and acts. Not only market, but our entire social life is determined by such reified mechanisms. Scientists and technologists who keep the scientific/technological progress alive with their incessant activity, nonetheless experience this Progress as an objective constraint that determines and runs their lives: this constraint is perceived as ‘systemic’, no one is personally responsible for it, all just feel the need to accommodate themselves to it. And the same goes for capitalism as such: no one is responsible for its machinations, everyone is caught in the objectivized urge to compete and profit, to keep moving the circulation of the Capital. Prosopopoeia is usually perceived as a mystification to which naïve consciousness is prone, i.e., as something to be demystified. At the beginning of Monteverdi’s Orfeo, the goddess of music introduces herself with the words “Io sono la musica...” - is this not something which, soon afterwards, when ‘psychological’ subjects had invaded the stage, became unthinkable, or, rather, unrepresentable? It is therefore all the more surprising to see ‘objective’ social scientists practicing the ‘primitive’ art of prosopopoeia. Dupuy recalls how sociologists interpret electoral results: for example, when the government retains its majority, but barely does so, the result is read as ‘the voters prolonged their trust into the government, but with a warning that it should do its work better’, as if the electoral result was the outcome of the decision of a single meta-Subject (voters) who wanted to deliver a ‘message’ to those in power. Although Hegel is often dismissed as the very model of the idealist prosopopoeia (the Spirit is talking through us, finite mortals, or, in the inversion of the Materialist Critique of Hegel, we, mortal humans, project/transpose the results of our activity into autonomous Spirit), his notion of ‘objective Spirit’ precisely undermines such prosopopoeian mystification: ‘objective spirit’ is not a meta-subject who runs history. It is crucial not to confuse Hegel’s ‘objective spirit’ with the Diltheyan notion of a life-form, a concrete historical world, as the ‘objectivized spirit’, the product of a people, its collective genius. The moment we do this, we miss the point of Hegel’s ‘objective spirit’, which is precisely spirit in its objective form, experienced by individuals as an externalimposition, constraint even. There is no collective or spiritual super-Subject that would be the author of ‘objective spirit’, whose ‘objectivization’

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this spirit would have been. There is, for Hegel, no collective Subject, no Subject-Spirit beyond and above individual humans. Therein resides the paradox of ‘objective spirit’: it is independent of individuals, encountered by them as given, pre-existing them, as the presupposition of their activity; yet it is, nonetheless, spirit, i.e., something that exists only insofar as individuals relate their activity to it, only as their (pre)supposition (see Bienenstock, 2005) So, what is the problem today? The problem is that, although our (sometimes even individual) acts can have catastrophic (ecological, etc.) consequences, we continue to perceive such consequences as anonymous/systemic; as something for which we are not responsible, for which there is no clear agent. More precisely -and here we are back at the logic of the madman who knew he is not a grain, but the chicken didn’t know it- we know we are responsible, but the chicken (the big Other) doesn’t know it. Or -insofar as knowledge is the function of the ‘I’, and belief the function of the ‘Other’- we know it very well, but we do not believe it - the big Other prevents us from believing in it, from assuming this knowledge and responsibility: “Contrary to what the promoters of the principle of precaution think, the cause of our non-action is not the scientific uncertainty. We know it, but we cannot make ourselves believe in what we know” (Dupuy, 2006:147). Take, for example, global warming: with all the data about it, the problem is not the uncertainty about facts (as those who caution us against panic claim), but our inability to believe that it can really happen: look through the window, the grass and blue sky are there, life is going on, nature follows its rhythm. This situation confronts us with the deadlock of the contemporary ‘society of choice’ at its most radical: in the standard situation of the forced choice (a situation in which I am free to choose on condition that I make the right choice, so that the only thing left for me to do is the empty gesture of pretending to accomplish freely what is, in fact, imposed on me). Here, on the contrary, the choice really is free and is, for this very reason, experienced as even more frustrating: we find ourselves constantly in the position of having to decide about matters that will fundamentally affect our lives, but without a proper foundation in knowledge: “We have been thrown into a time in which everything is provisional. New technologies alter our lives daily. The traditions of the past cannot be retrieved. At the same time, we have little idea of what the future will bring. We are forced to live as if we were free.” (Gray, 2003:110) It is, thus, not enough to vary the standard motif of the Marxist critique: “although we allegedly live in a society of choices, the choices effectively left to us are trivial, and their proliferation masks the absence of true choices, choices that would affect the basic features of our lives…” While this is true, the problem is, rather, that we are forced to choose without having at our disposal the knowledge that would enable a qualified choice. Here, perhaps, Dupuy is too short when he attributes our disbelief in the catastrophe to the impregnation of our mind by scientific ideology, which leads us to dismiss the sane concerns of our common reason, i.e., the gut sense that tells us that something is fundamentally wrong with the scientifictechnological attitude. The problem is much deeper, it resides in the unreliability of our common sense itself, which, habituated as it is to our ordinary life-world, finds it difficult to really accept that the flow of everyday reality can be perturbed. The problem is, thus, that we can rely neither on the scientific mind nor on our common sense - they both mutually reinforce each other’s blindness. The scientific mind advocates a cold objective appraisal of dangers and risks involved where no such appraisal is effectively possible, while common sense finds it hard to accept that a catastrophe can really occur. The difficult ethical task is thus to ‘un-learn’ the most basic coordinates of our immersion into our life-world: what usually served as the recourse to Wisdom (the basic trust in the background-coordinates of our world) is now the source of danger. We should really ‘grow up’ and learn to cut this ultimate umbilical cord to our life Sphere. The problem with the science-and-technology attitude is not its detachment from our

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life-world, but the abstract character of this detachment, which compels the science-and-technology attitude to combine itself with the worst of our life-world immersion. Scientists perceive themselves as rational, able to appraise objectively potential risks; for them, the only unpredictable-irrational elements are the panic reactions of the uneducated crowd: with ordinary people, a small and controllable risk can spread all around and trigger global panic, since they project into the situation their disavowed fears and fantasies. What scientists are unable to perceive is the “irrational”, inadequate, nature of their own cold, distanced appraisal. Dupuy refers to the theory of complex systems that accounts for the two opposite features of such systems: their robust stable character and their extreme vulnerability. These systems can accommodate themselves to great disturbances, integrate them and find new balance and stability - up to a certain threshold (a ‘tipping point’), above which a small disturbance can cause a total catastrophe and lead to the establishment of a totally different order. For long centuries, humanity did not have to worry about the impact on the environs of its activity productive activity - nature was able to accommodate itself to deforestation, to the use of coal and oil, etc. However, one cannot be sure if, today, we are not approaching a tipping point – one really cannot be sure, since such points can be clearly perceived only once it is already too late. We touch here the paradoxical nerve of morality, baptized by Bernard Williams ‘moral luck’ (see Williams, 1981). Williams evokes the case of a painter, ironically called Gauguin, who left his wife and children and moved to Tahiti in order to fully develop his artistic genius. Was he morally justified in doing this or not? Williams’s answer is that we can only answer this question in retrospect, after we learn the final outcome of his risky decision: did he develop into a painting genius or not? As Dupuy pointed out (Dupuy, 2002:124-126), we encounter the same dilemma apropos of the urgency to do something about today’s threat of different ecological catastrophies: either we take this threat seriously and decide today to do things which, if the catastrophy will not occur, will appear ridiculous, or we do nothing and lose everything in the case of the catastrophe. The worst choice which can be made here is the choice on a middle ground, of taking a limited amount of measures: in this case, we will fail whatever will occur (that is to say, the problem is that there is no middle ground with regard to the ecological catastrophe: either it will occur or it will not occur). In such a situation, the talk about anticipation, precaution and risk control tends to become meaningless, since we are dealing with what, in the terms of Rumsfeldian theory of knowledge, one should call the ‘unknown unknowns’: we not only do not know where the tipping point is, we even do not know exactly what we do not know. The most unsettling aspect of the ecological crisis concerns the so-called ‘knowledge in the real’ which can run amok: when Winter is too warm, plants and animals misread the hot weather in February as the signal that Spring already began and start to behave accordingly, thus not only rendering themselves vulnerable to late onslaughts of cold, but also perturbing the entire rhythm of natural reproduction. This is, maybe, how one should, if at all, imagine a possible catastrophe: a small-level interruption with devastating global consequences. One can learn even more from the Rumsfeldian theory of knowledge. If Rumsfeld thinks that the main dangers in the confrontation with Iraq are the ‘unknown unknowns’, i.e. the threats from Saddam, about which we do not even suspect what they may be, what we should reply is that the main dangers are, on the contrary, the ‘unknown knowns’, namely the disavowed beliefs and suppositions we are not even aware ouselves of adhering to ourselves. In the case of ecology, these disavowed beliefs and suppositions, combined with the ‘unknown unknowns’, are the ones that prevent us from really believing in the possibility of the catastrophe. Our blindness for the results of the ‘systemic evil’ is perhaps most clearly perceptible apropos debates about Communist crimes. There, responsibility is easy to allocate, we are dealing with subjective evil, with agents who did it, and we can even identify the ideological sources of the crimes (totalitarian ideology, Communist Manifesto, Rousseau…). When one draws attention to the millions who died as the result of capitalist globalization, from the tragedy of Mexico in the 16th century through the

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Belgian Congo holocaust a century ago, etc., responsibility is denied: this just happened as the result of an ‘objective’ process, nobody planned and executed it, there was no Capitalist Manifesto (the one who came closest to writing it is Ayn Rand). And therein resides also the limitation of the ‘ethical committees’ which pop up all around to counteract the dangers of the unbridled scientific-technological development: with all their good intentions, ethical considerations, etc., they ignore the more basic, ‘systemic’ violence. The fact that the Belgian king Leopold who presided over the Congo holocaust was a great humanitarian, proclaimed a saint by the Pope, cannot be dismissed as a mere case of ideological hypocrisy and cynicism: one can argue that, subjectively, he probably really was a sincere humanitarian, even modestly counter-acting the catastrophic consequences of the vast economic project of the ruthless exploitation of the natural resources of Congo over which he presided (Congo was his personal fiefdom!) - the ultimate irony is that even most of the profits from this endeavor went for the benefit of the Belgian people, for public works, museums, etc. Back in the early 17th century, after the establishment of the shogun regime, Japan made a unique collective decision to isolate itself from foreign culture and to pursue its own path of contained life of balanced reproduction, focused on cultural refinement, avoiding wild expansion. Was the ensuing period that lasted until the middle of the 19th century really just an isolationist dream from which Japan was cruelly awakened by Commodore Perry on the American warship? What if the dream is that we can go on indefinitely in our expansionism? What if we all need to repeat, mutatis mutandis, the Japanese decision, and collectively decide to intervene into our pseudo-natural development, to change its direction? The tragedy is that the very idea of such a collective decision is discredited today. Apropos of the disintegration of State Socialism two decades ago, one should not forget that, at approximately the same time, the Western Social Democratic welfare state ideology was also dealt a crucial blow, it also ceased to function as the imaginary able to arouse a collective passionate following. The notion that ‘the time of the welfare state has passed’ is today a piece of commonly accepted wisdom. What these two defeated ideologies shared, is the notion that humanity, as a collective subject, has the capacity to somehow limit impersonal and anonymous socio-historic development, to steer it in a desired direction. Today, such a notion is quickly dismissed as ‘ideological’ and/or ‘totalitarian’: the social process is again perceived as dominated by an anonymous Fate beyond social control. The rise of global capitalism is presented to us as such a Fate, against which one cannot fight - one adapts oneself to it, or one falls out of step with History and one is crushed. The only thing one can do is to make global capitalism as human as possible, to fight for ‘global capitalism with a human face’ (this is what, ultimately, the Third Way is -or, rather, was- about). The sound barrier will have to be broken here; the risk will have to be taken to endorse again large collective decisions.

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Bibliography

Bienenstock, Myriam “Qu’est-ce que ‘l’esprit objectif ’ selon Hegel?” in Lectures de Hegel, edited by Olivier Tinland, Paris: Le livre de Poche 2005 Deleuze, Gilles Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1986 Dreyfus, Hubert L. “Highway Bridges and Feasts,” available online at http://www.focusing.org/apm_papers/dreyfus.html. Dupuy, Jean-Pierre Pour un catastrophisme eclaire, Paris: Editions du Seuil 2002 Dupuy, Jean-Pierre Retour de Tchernobyl, Paris: Editions du Seuil 2006 Farmer, Doyne and Belin, Aletta “Artificial Life: The Coming Evolution” in Artificial Life, ed. by C.G. Langton, C. Taylor, J.D. Farmer and S. Rasmussen, Redwood City: Addison-Wesley 1992 Gray, John Straw Dogs, Granta: 2003 Jantschek, Thorsten “Ein ausgezehrter Hase” Die Zeit 5 July 2001, Feuilleton Marx, Karl and Engels, Frederick The Communist Manifesto Harmondsworth: Penguin Books 1985 Miller, Jacques-Alain “The Desire of Lacan,” in Lacanian Ink 14, Spring 1999 Miller, Jacques-Alain. “Religion, Psychoanalysis” Lacanian Ink 23, New York 2004 “Life 2.0” in Newsweek, June 4 2007 McKibben, Bill Enough. Staying Human in an Engineered Age, New York: Henry Holt and Company 2004 Morton, Timothy Ecology Without Nature, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2007 Rasmussen, Redwood City: Addison-Wesley 1992, Skulason, Pall Reflections at the Edge of Askja, Reykjavik: The University of Iceland Press 2005 Williams, Bernard Moral Luck, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1981 Wrathall, Mark How to Read Heidegger, London, Granta Books 2005

Portrait on p.48 by Schiffman - Courtesy of Slavoj Žižek

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MENTAL MEN IN VISOR MOVER IN MENTAL SIN MALE VERMIN IN SNOT ENSLAVE MINOR MINT MINERAL VENOM TINS TERMINALS MOVE INN MOM’S INTERNAL VEIN RENT VENIAL MONISM NO IMMANENT SILVER MEAL INVENTS MINOR NON-NATIVE SLIMMER MAILMEN INVENTORS VIOLENT MANNERISM ENVIRONMENTALISM


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talks to Bedeutung


I

n March 2007, Channel 4 broadcast ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’, a documentary produced by Martin Durkin, managing director of Wag TV. Martin Durkin, with a long history of producing controversial films about commonly held beliefs, has been listed in Broadcast magazine as one of the top ten executive producers in British TV and is on the special advisory committee of the World Congress of Science Producers. His documentaries have received numerous awards, such as Best Science Documentary of the Year by the British Medical Association for ‘Storm in a D-Cup’, which discredits the alleged harmful health implications of breast implants. 'The Great Global Warming Swindle' questions the fundamental claims put forth by environmentalists who believe that global warming is attributed to human activity. The documentary’s central claim, substantiated by interviews with eminent scientists, researchers and activists (such as one of the co-founders of Greenpeace), is that, although the planet is certainly warming-up, there is no credible scientific data that can prove that this rise in temperature is a result of human activity. Even more, according to the documentary, there is mounting scientific evidence that CO2 is not a temperature driver, showing, then, that the entire man-made global warming campaign is based on flawed premises. The documentary caused a wave of controversy and reaction both in the British media and in the scientific community. After months of ongoing debate, including a scientist’s claim that he was misrepresented and the subsequent acquittal of the film of the accusation, ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ has managed to pass most of the immense scrutiny it was subjected to with its credibility virtually unscathed. The documentary is shortlisted for Best Documentary award at the 2008 Broadcast Awards. In one of his rare interviews, Martin Durkin speaks to Bedeutung’s Editor-in-Chief about environmentalism, the scientific community, and the current state of the political debate. Interview by Alexandros Stavrakas

Alex Stavrakas: There is an almost religious element in environmentalism: the idea that humans were living peacefully in nature until they decided to break up this relationship for the sake of civilization, thus setting off their own downfall. Environmentalism invokes belief in the transcendental – nature. It stands for the primordial rather than the manmade, and it is, in that sense, pregnant with metaphysical concerns. Do you think that this is where its dynamic and huge popular success resides, or do you believe that it is actually a realistic anxiety? Martin Durkin: I would tend to unpack that a bit. I think there is certainly a religious component in it, but I also think that if you look at paganism or neopaganism, it’s quite a distinct philosophical/theological trend than, say, Judeo-Christianity. I consider the Greens to be conceptually very much at odds with Christianity. I remember Cardinal Ratzinger, before he became Pope, talking about the dangers of neopaganism, and I do think that there is something that jars there. I’ve noticed that environmental philosophers criticise Christianity an awful lot, and I think that’s 62 Bedeutung

because Christianity tends to put humans at the centre of things, whereas the neo-paganism of the environmental movement is rather anti-human in that regard. So, I’m not sure how useful the analogy between religion and environmentalism is. The analogy tends to be used by atheists – for them, everything that is religious is irrational and they regard environmentalism as irrational. I, too, think that environmentalism is irrational, but I also think that there are clear distinctions between the Judeo-Christian tradition and environmentalism. A.S.: Is there a 'spiritual' element in environmentalism in the sense that it unites people beyond their materialistic concerns; although it is presented as a materialistic concern, one that has directly to do with our material existence and our lives; is there, at the same time, a return to an all-encompassing identity which is the idea of ‘humanity’, the idea that we ultimately all are part of the same universe? The analogy may be a bit exaggerated – but does it resemble religion in the sense that both say ‘we were all living happily and peacefully in nature and now we decided to live in civilization and we


ruined it all’. M.D.: Well, as I said, I think that environmentalism is profoundly misanthropic, and in that sense it is different to established religions, because I don’t consider them to be misanthropic. I’m reminded of Hitler and Wagner, in their attempts to re-invent mythical Germany – their love for all that ‘Lord of the Rings’, Tolkien, mythical past stuff, mixing up with the fairies – that irrational, romantic trend in Western thought, from Rousseau through Nietzsche, through -I think- a certain trend in existentialism as well. I agree with you that there is a transcendental element; especially if you look at the way they list their concerns. The way you would think about environmentalists these days is as having just another ‘shopping list’ – they don’t like cars, they don’t like long-haul holidays, they don’t like supermarkets, they want to clean up the rivers, they like conserving animals – it’s a collection of things. But what is rarely thought about, is looking for what links all these together, because if you find someone who’s keen on one issue, he is almost guaranteed to agree with also all the other things. I think the interesting thing about global warming, as a theory, is that, although they didn’t realise it at first, it facilitates an apocalyptic scenario that ties everything together and gives it a moral imperative. So, it stopped being an incoherent bundle of prejudices and started having this greater rationale. Because, in fact, if you break them down, a lot of what they say doesn’t make very much sense - they are against landfill, but if you look at landfill, there isn’t a very big problem you dig a hole in the ground, you put some rubbish in, you cover it up - it doesn’t create big problems. But, somehow, they need to make it into something grander than just a gripe. Looking back at what their philosophy is, I think there is something different to traditional religion; in fact, something which is at odds with it, because there is a kind of humanism; people who describe themselves as humanists regard themselves as being against Christianity and organized religion, but the Judeo-Christian tradition is actually very humanistic, putting humans at the centre of things. For example, in Africa, where the Greens will moan horribly that the blacks are having too many children, the Christians think that this is not a bad thing, and most Africans think it’s not a bad thing either. So I think there is a division there. A.S.: You touched on two interesting subjects. A main aspect of current environmental hype is the idea of preserving the world as we know it. It seems that many environmental concerns are not about changing our practices, or even imagining an alternative to them but, rather, adjusting the consequences that they have. To take a simple example, carbon offsetting is not about


altering our habits – going on holiday, or printing magazines, or driving cars – but about how we can make these habits less burdensome to the environment. In this sense, environmentalism is a ‘feel-good’ policy: it does not ask from people to question their practices, it offers them redemption - at a price. How do you relate to that? M.D.: There are a few inter-related things there. I think that the great tragedy of the environmental movement is that it comes after the defeat of socialism, because it makes it very difficult for them to paint an alternative world - what would that world look like? Because, short of saying ‘it will be like the Middle Ages, only with a bit more technology’, it’s hard to say more. From my view, the fundamental basis of environmentalism is unhappiness with modernity, a fear of progress, fear of change. If you look historically into that, in Rousseau and other early writings, if you see the process of industrialisation, the breakdown of the ancient regime, you’ll realise that the people who are most fearful of change are the people who are going to be losing out from that change. If you are bourgeois and there is a bourgeois revolution you’re going to be very positive about it; if you’re an industrialist and everything’s industrialising, then that’s a very good thing for you; if you’re in the working class and you’re becoming richer and richer thanks to mass production, you’re obviously going to be less inclined to think badly of it. However, I think that certain sections of the middle class have lost out horribly with the advance of capitalism. A teacher or a doctor in England one hundred years ago would be highly regarded, they would be proper members of the middle class living in a reality that exhibits pronounced social distinctions. Now, we live in a very different world, a world where taxi drivers could earn more than teachers, where doctors might only earn as much as a plumber. There is a way in which being middle class is very much different - the middle class looks at costume dramas on the television and they see EM Forster unfolding before their eyes, they see the Agatha Christie books, they see the proper middle class people going with their leather suitcases on trips to Egypt, and they have an unconscious feeling of historical ennui. If you look at the royal family, they must yearn for the day when kings were kings - the aristocracy, the people in the Mayfair set have a certain nostalgia, and they haven’t won out by industrialisation - it’s the working classes and the real bourgeoisie who have won out by modernity, and I think there is a certain historic change which has reflections in culture. You can read a lot of the confusions of the environmentalist movement in Nietzsche, who protests against the masses, and protests against the tawdry vulgarity of democracy, and against the awfulness of mass production because it defiles his 64 Bedeutung

individual heroism. But nowhere in Nietzsche is there a passage ‘this is the kind of society that I would like to see’. The Nazis were in the same tradition of romantic irrationalism, but there was no proposed alternative. If you read Heidegger, it’s the awfulness of damming the Rhine: what a cruel, awful imposition on this great ancient mythical force, to put a hydroelectric dam in the middle if it! The Nazis would adore traditional peasant farming against capitalist agriculture, and hate the big Jewish industries and so on and so forth. At the same time though, when they went to war, they needed the big factories. The early attempts to return to peasant agriculture were soon abandoned when they realised that they needed to feed the troops. Likewise, you get this contradiction in modern environmentalism - people will regard technology as being a bit Frankensteinian, but, at the same time, they will have their sleek laptops, and if something goes wrong with them, they will avail themselves of the latest cancer drugs and everything else that science coming out of the same labs as GM came out of can offer. You can’t imagine that they would really want to live in Cuba. So, there is no genuine alternative, it’s just a horrible set of prejudices, and theyoffer a kind of redemption - but it’s a discontented redemption. As soon as you invent a scheme for carbon offsetting, they will attack it, they will proclaim ‘Ah, it’s been despoiled’. As soon as one of their solutions takes a tangible form, they will attack it on the basis that it’s been ‘hegemonised’ by the capitalist system. So, their discontent must find new areas. As soon as we start recycling, they will attack recycling because, they’ll claim, it’s not really good enough, or, it’s not doing the right thing. We know about the moral perspective which comes with environmentalism: you’re wicked for throwing a bottle out the window but there’s no mention of the other insidious things which are going on in society. A.S.: I remember one of the co-founders of Greenpeace who stated in ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ that the environmental movement needs to be constantly confrontational – as soon as it wins on one front, another one will be invented just to keep things constantly ‘heated up’. Since you spoke of philosophy, I’d like to ask you: a philosopher once said that ‘the duty of philosophy is to show that what we perceive as a problem is a false problem. If what we perceive as a problem is a true problem, we don’t need philosophy – we need good science’. As philosophers discussing environmentalism, are we barking up the wrong tree? Should we leave it to science as the problem is a real one, or is the engagement itself an indication that the problem is a false problem?


M.D.: The difficulty is that science has lots of members who are themselves susceptible to the prejudices and the worldview of the age they live in – they are not above the prejudices of their time and their social class. The phenomenon that we have over global warming is that you have a group of scientists, who want to believe in global warming. The people I’m referring to are not relieved when you say ‘the evidence is not there for anthropogenic global warming’, they don’t reply ‘what a relief!’. Instead, they get cross with you. They don’t articulate this themselves, but they need global warming in order to tie everything together. You can see in their literature that they are, in fact, desperate to prove this to be true, and they get very irritated with those who point to the evidence -very good evidence as such- which suggests that it is not. They build models that, on many levels, do not correlate with observed data. And this is a huge problem within science, since there is an a priori desire in science for it to be true. Furthermore, on a more vulgar level, there is also a lot of money in this; there is now as much money being spent on global warming research as there is on cancer research and if someone would pull the plug on that, the consequences for a vast amount of people would be grave. Personally, I think that an even greater issue is the political/ideological aspect. Scientists tend to be employed in the public sector, they tend to be leftwing or mildly leftwing, and they share the prejudices of people in the media who are friendly to the idea of global warming. But the important question still hangs

above: Is there a problem at all? A.S.: So, scientific discourse is pre-determined, defined by historically, socially, politically, ideologically suggested concerns. Your claim seems to be that it is not independent at all from its cultural and social context. M.D.: I’ve made many science documentaries which have championed science and reason against irrationalism and prejudice. I’ve made films about genetically modified food, proving that this is just a prejudice and that, rationally, we should be in favour of GM food. After all, plant breeding is all about mixing genes, and there’s no such thing as a banana gene or a tree gene, there are just different combinations of genes, and we’ve been mixing them ever since we started selecting food, since the dawn of the agricultural revolution. I’ve been fighting the battle for science and against irrationalism for some time. But this -global warming- has been a shock to me because, normally, I’m patted on the back for being so pro-science. Scientists love me, they love my films and, suddenly, I’ve stepped into this very difficult area where, as far as I see, I am led by the evidence and yet am attacked for it. A few years ago, I would have said that, besides the point that science is an intricate part of a particular historical moment and is, therefore, socially determined, there is a strong independent spine of science; the science that will make the bridge stand up or fall down. Talk won’t

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keep the bridge up, talk won’t cure cancer - there is the cold realism, the cold shower of the real world, which science has to deal with, and which doesn’t exist in sociology departments. But, the phenomenon of global warming is completely new to me. I’ve never witnessed anything like it in all the years of my work with science and scientists. Environmentalism has changed the nature of science in the Western world and I think that when we will be writing the history of contemporary thought this will be a turning point where we stopped regarding science as this cold, logical discourse which we could rely on to be above prejudices. Global warming has very worryingly revealed that science is, in fact, not independent from social prejudices or social views. A.S.: Well, I’m not entirely sure about the novelty of this reproach to science: science has many times before fallen victim of social prejudices. Was science not, for example, in the past, employed and keen to ‘prove’ that the white race is genetically superior to other races? But, anyway, do you think that objectivity and truth is a value in itself, or do you think that even if the data is questionable, it is, sometimes, better to have people believing in something, it is more socially profitable to create an ideological coherence, even if it is based on shaky grounds, than to lack it altogether? M.D.: Absolutely not. I think that’s a horrific prospect. I am aware that truth isn’t a solid, objective, static thing we can ever arrive at; that truth is, to a large extent, a vision, something that we must constantly search for and will only partially discover. But it’s, nevertheless, a strive which we must not give up - we must never catch ourselves abandoning the desire to get an insight into the workings of the world. I think being committed to finding truth is a difficult and uncomfortable enterprise if not for the fact that truth doesn’t always please us. It can sometimes be inconvenient and it can be a difficult thing to face up to or, even more, live up to. But it is the sincerity and decency of the strive itself that is at question here. The idea that it’s acceptable if we fudge it a bit because there is some perceived social good to be had from tampering with it, is a ghastly, corrupt idea. A.S.: So, how would you describe your own research in terms of provocation? Do you think that if there were objective facts which would potentially make your claims weaker, you would nonetheless engage in a more polemic style, if only to get a reaction which would eventually lead to a debate? M.D.: No, I have declined to do programmes, simply because I didn’t believe their fundamentals claims to be true. I’m a firm believer in only doing work on what I think is true. What is interesting about global warming -interesting in a dark, unpleasant sense- is that there is 66 Bedeutung


so much evidence which runs counter to perceived opinion. On breast implants, for example, there’s no solid evidence that breast implants cause the diseases many people think they do. That made it an interesting thing to make a film about. But I would not even dream of doing a film which would make claims of which I would not be convinced personally. I made ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’ because I believe that there is overwhelmingly good evidence that suggests that human-led global warming is absolute rubbish. The interesting thing is that the weight of evidence is against CO2-led global warming. So, why on earth do we all think it’s true? And that brings in what we’re talking about – how can it be that in the modern age, which we perceive as the epitome of rationality, where we can get people to the moon and build enormously clever microchips, how can it be that something which isn’t true can get a grip, not only on the public imagination but also public policy and the scientific community? That was an extraordinary question. A.S.: Is there an element of science, technological innovation and progress which makes them appear antihuman, in spite of all the good, positive steps they has offered towards making people’s lives better? In many respects we live in a better world now than people did one hundred years ago, and we have science to thank for that to a very large extent. People in the West live longer lives, in healthier conditions, are better nourished. Yet, to many people, science appears to be an impersonal, inhuman mechanistic enterprise. There is a profound contemporary trend to romanticize about the times when vegetables where seasonal, when commuting was done on foot or bicycle, when there were no plastic bags and supermarkets but only hand-woven baskets and local markets. Fine, but let’s not forget that these were also the times when the average life expectancy was 55 and women would, frequently, give birth at home. M.D.: I consider people who hate science to also hate humans. Thanks to IKEA, people of low incomes who are setting up a flat can afford to put furniture in their flat. So I will disagree: people actually feel that technology is very human, science is very human. Science is curing us of diseases, it makes things more affordable for us, it makes it easier for people to go on holiday. I am confident that people have a very positive view of science. I think it facilitates a more democratic world. We are now more sensitive and generous than we have ever been in all of human history and I believe this to be because of the material progress we’ve made. These days, when nations go to war we can be horrified when people die thanks to having 42” televisions

in our living room that show us what happens. I think technology is an enormously human thing. It is very misanthropic to hate science. But, on your other point, I agree: you know, Greens, by and large, don’t live in the middle of the country and sow their own porridge - they live in urban areas and have central heating. Sometimes, it even gets farcical: Sienna Miller was saying recently that she was so concerned about the planet that, in order to do ‘her bit’, every time she makes a cup of tea, she only puts a cup of tea’s worth of water in the kettle. You know, we used to talk about world revolution, and now it comes down to Sienna Miller, who when is not in a limousine or flying to film festivals, only puts a cup of water in the kettle! And it really works on people. The reporter was taking it very seriously, saying ‘well done Sienna!’. A.S.: To close, nine months after the documentary, where are we now in terms of the debate it sparked off? M.D.: The controversy has waned, it’s now further away, and I don’t see any signs that anything has moved on. No channel is asking to make a follow up, so that we can explore this in more detail. I’m feeling very pessimistic about things. I think that a lot of very irrational laws will be passed. The politicians are, as always, in a difficult position; if you’re a politician and you think it’s all rubbish, do you stand up and say so? The media will murder you, and there’s lots of other important policies to think about - schools and hospitals. So there is, really, no advantage to a politician saying ‘this is junk science’, because, after all, the working class won’t thank you for it, the industrialists won’t thank you for it. In the end, the people you will offend are teachers and journalists and other media people, all these people who you don’t want to offend. So I don’t think there’s any political momentum in saying environmentalism is wrong - sadly.

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Environmentalism in the Media

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Nick Davies

The facts of climate change have become the site of a three-cornered battle in which truth, as ever, has been an immediate casualty. In one corner are companies like Exxon fighting a head-to-head war of attrition, denying that global warming is occurring and/or that it is a man-made problem for which they have any responsibility. Against them are groups like Greenpeace, ‘cranking up the anxiety’ with highly emotive messages about the scale of the threat. The third corner is occupied by companies like BP, who have broken away from Exxon and adopted a strategy of camouflage, radically redrawing their image to cloak their businesses in green credentials. For all three forces, the newly vulnerable mass media have become a weapon of convenience, constantly available to fire off their messages for them. And, in the background, rather like the civilian population of a war zone, the billions of people who rely on the mass media for information have suffered the worst injuries of all under a bombardment of falsehood, distortion and propaganda. It was the Exxon strategy which led the way. Within months of the UN producing its first report endorsing the idea of man-made climate change, in 1989, Exxon and other big corporations started setting up pseudo-groups. The first and biggest was the Global Climate Coalition which was soon lobbying in the corridors of power and exploiting one of the news factory’s most powerful rules of production to give ‘the other side of the story’ - in order to get through the media door. As a single example of its activities, the coalition made a classic appeal to the subconscious feelings of its American audience before the Kyoto conference in December 1997, when it spent $13 million on TV advertising, aimed at reining in the Clinton administration. It pitched the whole issue as a matter of freedom and patriotism. “America has signed many treaties ... but never a treaty of surrender”, was the key line in one advertisement, over a photograph of the Japanese surrender at the end of the Second World War. When Kyoto nevertheless produced an agreement to cut emissions, Exxon, in early 1998, helped to

set up a new front group, the Global Climate Science Team. A leaked memo, written by a PR executive at the American Petroleum Institute, echoes precisely the work of the old tobacco pseudo-groups in aiming to focus public thinking on doubt. The memo looked forward to a time when “recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the conventional wisdom”. In order to reshape the global consensus, the memo proposed “a national media relations programme to inform the media about uncertainties in climate science”. It needs to be said that the uncertainties were real. The mass of scientists who feared that human activity was raising the temperature of the planet necessarily acknowledged that they could not be sure: there were limits to their knowledge of past temperature patterns, limits to their ability to quantify the impact of human activity on the observed changes, limits to their ability to predict future changes. But even though there was a reality to the doubt, the effect of the Exxon-led campaign was to distort public perception of the truth by giving this doubt disproportionate weight. The leaked memo from the new Global Climate Science Team proposed a budget of $5 million to establish “co-operative relationships with all major scientists whose research in this field supports our position”. The campaign would produce “simple fact sheets that present scientific uncertainties in language that the media and public can understand”; set up briefings for science journalists; supply their own scientists for radio talk shows; and produce “a steady stream of op-ed columns and letters to the editor authored by scientists.” The stated objective was “to raise such questions about the Kyoto treaty’s scientific underpinnings that American policy-makers not only will refuse to endorse it, they will seek to prevent progress towards implementation”. But the GCST was only the beginning of the post-Kyoto blitz of media-manipulation. The same leaked memo anticipated the funding of astroturf groups to give the impression of popular support for their campaign (“organise, promote and conduct through grassroots organisations a series of campus/ community workshops/debates on climate science”).

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This took off. Between 1998 and 2005, ExxonMobil alone spent $15.8 million on 43 different front groups, according to research published in January 2007 by the Union of Concerned Scientists, who described this as “the most sophisticated and successful disinformation campaign since Big Tobacco misled the public”. Some were well-established right-wing think tanks, like the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Others were fringe groups, like the Congress of Racial Equality, which created a pseudo-incident at an Exxon shareholders meeting by staging a protest against environmental protests. The effect of these groups was to create the illusion of widespread doubt about global warming, when the reality was that they were generally recycling the work of only a dozen or more ‘contrarian’ scientists. The research published by the Union of Concerned Scientists named, for example, Sallie Baliunas, whose work was promoted through nine different groups in the Exxon-supported network; Patrick J Michaels, with eleven groups; and S Fred Singer, also with eleven. Some of the work of these scientists ran into considerable controversy. Two of them, Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon, published a paper in the Climate Research journal, suggesting that the 20th century was not unusually warm, and provoked the resignation of three of the journal’s editors and the criticism of 13 other scientists who complained that the paper misrepresented their work. A petition which claimed to carry the signatures of 18,000 scientists who disputed the theory of global warming, turned out to have been signed by numerous students with no special qualification as well as the fictional TV detective Perry Mason and somebody claiming to be one of the Spice Girls. A research briefing from the Competitive Enterprise Institute suggested that “the likeliest global climate change is the creation of a milder, greener, more prosperous world”. It all found its way into the unprotected media. While this was happening, two of the biggest oil companies - BP and Shell - had seen how the attack by environmental groups was damaging their brands and had resigned from the original Global Climate Coalition. BP, in particular, from 1997 performed the PR equivalent of a sex-change, transforming their image from that of a ruthless, profit-seeking predator into a caring, green giant. The move was engineered by the company’s new chief executive, John Browne, on the advice of a specialist in issue management, Simon Bryceson, a PR professional who had formerly been national administrator of Friends of the Earth. It was launched when Bryceson wrote a key speech for John Browne

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“Greenpeace is particu pseudo-incidents. Like designed to open the of claims which, in the statements, appear to be at

to deliver at Stamford University in May 1997, accepting that action must be taken to deal with the possibility of climate change and pledging BP to lead the way. The speech was the beginning of a carefully orchestrated sequence of pseudo-events which saw BP investing in solar energy and marketing itself as an energy company, not an oil company; Bryceson persuading Greenpeace to issue a statement welcoming BP’s shift; BP running a huge training scheme for staff to teach them the new line; Browne speaking at a Greenpeace conference (and opening with a joke from Bryceson, that he was happy to be on their platform instead of their protestors occupying his); BP running a campaign of ‘TV branding’ and hiring the PR network of Burson-Marsteller to target the message into selected quality media which influence ‘leg and reg’, legislation and regulation. As an attempt to reduce global warming, this had only the most marginal of impacts. John Browne announced plans for the company to cut the emissions from its own activities by 10% but, according to one of those closely involved, BP deliberately avoided suggesting specific policies to reduce the immeasurably more significant emissions from the global customers who bought its oil. Browne’s line on climate change always put hydrocarbons, particularly oil and natural gas, at the centre of energy policy and argued for cutting emissions by tackling waste and inefficiency without making any kind of cut in global oil consumption. However, as a commercial manoeuvre to defend the company’s market, the new image was highly successful. According to the source who was directly involved, the truth is that the new image was designed: to improve the BP brand with women drivers whose forecourt trade they wanted; to recruit and retain better staff, some of whom had objected to its hard line on global warming; to win round liberal US opponents of its plan to merge with Amoco and Arco; and, above all, to get the company inside the debate on climate change where it could influence the outcome. And indeed the result, as Bryceson recorded


larly skilled at creating all PR, [their] stunts are media door for the supply case of some Greenpeace best highly contentious.”

in an item on his website (since removed), was that BP “moved itself from being a potential victim of the political debate to a participant in that debate.” Soon after the Stamford speech, Browne was in the White House with President Clinton and became the only non-US oilman on Clinton’s board on climate change. Clinton’s team went into Kyoto with an idea which had been heavily backed by Browne, to allow nations to buy and sell their cuts in emissions, which meant effectively that rich nations could maintain a higher level of emissions by paying poorer nations to cut their levels. There were further commercial benefits for the company. They succeeded in selling their merger with Amoco and Arco, and, as the BP source put it: “If you want less tax on North Sea oil, it certainly helps if a programme like this is giving you better access to ministers.” As this battle unfolded, the scientific consensus lined up behind the environmental groups and yet, under hostile fire from the oil lobby, some of these groups began to throw back what looks very much like exaggeration and distortion. For example, for years they had argued against global dependence on fossil fuels such as oil and coal on the grounds that supplies would soon run out (“Due to lack of interest, tomorrow has been cancelled”, in the words of an early green slogan). But, as they moved to push climate change up the agenda, the same groups reversed their position, arguing that governments must stop oil companies opening new fields because the potential reserves were so great. Greenpeace is particularly skilled at creating pseudo-incidents: its supporters are up Nelson’s Column with a banner, they’re abseiling onto an oil platform with their own camera crew to film it, they’re raiding Exxon’s headquarters dressed as tigers. Like all PR, these stunts are designed to open the media door for the supply of claims which, in the case of some Greenpeace statements, appear to be at best highly contentious. We took four high-profile statements about climate change from the Greenpeace website, asked them to tell us their source for each one and then went to each source to try to establish the accuracy of the Greenpeace version. Here are the

results. Greenpeace claim: “Climate change kills 160,000 people a year.” Source: Greenpeace referred us to a July 2005 World Health Organisation report. Accuracy: the report does not contain the statement made by Greenpeace. It does warn that global warning presents “substantial risks to human health” and it suggests that it “may have caused 150,000 deaths in 2000”. One of the authors of the report, Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, told us that that figure was qualified by “a very wide range of uncertainty” - so wide that it was not even possible to say whether the estimate of 150,000 was too high or too low. He added that Greenpeace were not alone in misreporting their findings; the media had done the same. Greenpeace claim: “Within the lifetime of a child being born today, (climate change) may challenge our survival as a species.” Source: Greenpeace told us they could not remember the source for this. We asked the Tyndall Centre, which is the world’s leading centre for climate change research, if they knew of any evidence to support the claim. They replied: “Where is the evidence that climate change will extinguish the entire human race? That is clear politics of fear.” Greenpeace claim: “By the end of this century, if current trends continue, the temperature will likely climb higher than it has been in the past two million years. The consequences are likely to be catastrophic: mass extinctions, droughts, hundreds of millions of refugees.” Source: Greenpeace pointed us to the reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Accuracy: Greenpeace are right to say that there are scientific papers, quoted by the UN panel or by other sources, which support the key elements of this claim. However, the Tyndall Centre pointed out that by describing all this as ‘likely’, the claim failed to reflect the inherent uncertainty of these unpredictions. Greenpeace claim: “Without radical action now, we’ll face a dire global emergency in the 2020s.” Source: Greenpeace referred us to the conclusion of a conference on “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change”, held in Exeter in 2005, which found that “even delays of five years could be significant in terms of cost.” Accuracy: the report of the conference steering committee does indeed say that “different models suggest that delaying action would require greater action later for the same temperature target and that even a delay of five years could be significant.” It is not clear how that supports the prediction of a global emergency in the 2020s. Greenpeace is not alone. A BBC Radio Four

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Pp.75-78: Extract from Flat Earth News – an Award-Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media published by Chatto and Windus, London 2008 72 Bedeutung

programme, Overselling Climate Change, in April 2000 recorded the advocacy director of Tearfund, Andy Atkins, claiming that global warming is allowing mosquitos for the first time to inhabit the highlands of Ethiopia where they are spreading malaria among farmers. And yet Tearfund’s own representative in Ethiopia suggested the highland farmers might be developing malaria because of poor nutrition; or increased resistance to anti-malaria drugs; or a new mobility which meant the highland farmers now visit the valleys where malaria has always been a risk. Scientists who personally believe in man-made climate change complained on the programme of environmentalists making unproved links between global warming and the severity of hurricanes and the extinction of species. They cited, in particular, the case of the golden toad which, according to environmental groups, was the first casualty of global warming, killed off by a fungus which had flourished as a result of higher temperatures. However, the fungus kills toads at low temperatures. And a toad specialist, Dr Cindy Carey, who herself believes in climate change, complained that no causal link had been established. She pointed out that they might as well argue that global warming had caused an increase in child obesity or an increase in the number of Walmart supermarkets since they too had occurred while global temperatures were rising. One scientist, Dr Hans von Storch, who has spent years arguing that the climate is changing, told the Radio Four programme: “The alarmists think that climate change is something extremely dangerous, extremely bad, and that overselling it a little bit, if it serves a good purpose, is not that bad.” In the midst of this three-cornered battle, the mass media (and their consumers) have been left in a state of some chaos. Newsrooms themselves have been divided under the impact of conflicting PR. At an early stage in the battle, the then news editor of the Guardian, Melanie Phillips, instructed the paper’s environment correspondent, Paul Brown, to stop using Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace for source material. Brown continued to quote them. Phillips wrote a memo to the then editor, Peter Preston, asking for Brown to be sacked. Preston compromised by sending Brown away on a long trip, ironically with Greenpeace in the Marshall Islands. Brown returned, and the internal clashes continued. The right-wing press was suffering similar confusion. In her new role as a columnist at the Daily Mail, the same Melanie Phillips went on to write a series of outspoken columns denouncing the whole concept of man-made climate change. “Global

warming is a scam”, she wrote in February 2002. “The latest evidence is provided in a report published today by the European Science And Environment Forum, in which a group of the most eminent scientists from Britain and America shred the theory.” However, the forum whose work she was quoting was, in truth, yet another pseudo-group, created with the help of two PR agencies (APCO Worldwide and Burson-Marsteller) with the specific intent of campaigning against restrictions on corporate activity; and the report to which Phillips referred in such glowing terms was recycled work which had been funded by Exxon. A similar column, in January 2005, claimed that: “Far from being proved, the claim of man-made global warming is a global fraud.” This column, too, drew on research from Exxon-funded groups and cited the controversial petition by 18,000 ‘scientists’ to show that the claim of scientific consensus also was ‘bogus’. The result was that the Mail was attacked by the Royal Society, the UK’s academy of science, for “its faithful reproduction of the propaganda put together by the denial lobby in the US.” The Royal Society’s president, Lord May, complained bitterly about misinformation from the oil lobby and, citing in particular the Mail’s coverage, concluded: “There is no danger this lobby will influence the scientists. But they don’t need to. It is the influence on the media that is so poisonous.” The scoreline in the battle thus far reflects real tactical victories for the oil lobby. Even though the environmental groups, backed by the UN and the consensus of scientific opinion, appear to have won the bulk of public opinion, the twin strategies of the oil companies have clearly won favour in government. In 2001, President Bush formally withdrew the United States from the Kyoto process (and the Global Climate Coalition, claiming victory, shut up shop). From the point of view of media consumers, the chaos continues. In February 2007, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the evidence of climate change was ‘unequivocal’ and that the chances of its being man-made were as high as 90%. The Fraser Institute of Canada, which has received $120,000 from Exxon, replied within 48 hours by publishing a paper claiming that “there is no compelling evidence that dangerous or unprecedented changes are under way”. And Greenpeace sent 40 volunteers up the Eiffel Tower with a banner; dumped four tonnes of coal on the doorstep of the British government’s environment department, DEFRA; and claimed on its website that “within 50 years, one third of species could face extinction.”


Opposite page: “Inward Bound” 40x30 inch, C-Type, 2006 P.74: “EXUBERANT SKIN” 30X40 inch, C-TYPE, 2007 P.75: “LOVE LIES BLEEDING” 30X40 inch, C-TYPE, 2007 P.76/77: “HE SITS ON MY CHEST” 40X30 inch each (diptych), C-TYPE, 2007 P.78-79: “MYTHOLOGIES” 40X50 inch, C-TYPE HAND TINTED, 2008

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ESTHER TEICHMANN


THE INDETERMINATE STRUCTURE OF THINGS NOW NOTES ON COTEMPORARY SOUTH AFRICAN PHOTOGRAPHY OKWUI ENWEZOR


Guy Tillim Nomasanto’s room, Jeanwell House, Nugget Street, archival pigment inks on 300g coated cotton paper, 2005

The Indeterminate Structure of Things Now: Notes on Comtemporary South African Photography OKWUI ENWEZOR

In 1998 David Goldblatt published South Africa: The Structure of Things Then, a series of black-and-white photographs depicting and reflecting the South African landscape, architecture and other formal elements of the built environment. At the time South Africa was barely four years into the formal end of apartheid, making the book less a view into the past, and more a part of reckoning with the shifting shape of the contemporary realities of place. With the sweeping views of mountainous vistas, arid, scraggy, rock-strewn expanses of the Karoo Desert, desolate farmsteads, ponderous and portentous postmodern-style Dutch Reform churches, war memorials and apartheid monuments, walls scrawled with anti-apartheid graffiti, desolate townships, squatter camps, etc, the images in the book inscribed pictures of a society whose stark racial contrasts were not only marked by the brutal politics of segregation, but were etched into the very rock and fabric of the structures of the entire country. It is difficult to reduce the

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searching, analytical photographs through which Goldblatt illumined the dark contours of his country’s politics of dispossession to an image, not least because each image is a fragment of a larger aggregate which exposes, in both the subtlety of evocation and directness of observation, the building materials that make up the sum out of which a system was constituted. South Africa looks much different –in the superficial sense of present architectural ethos –than it did during the austere and bleak years of apartheid. Yet the aftermath of apartheid in the 1990s remains bracketed by the social forces of that era. The fledgling post-apartheid transformation that continues to reshape the entire system of more than 300 years of white domination has yet to eradicate the stark distinction between black and white social lives. In the post-apartheid era new narratives have been deployed to address these distinctions; different accounts and modes of testimony have been employed to explore the legacy


of apartheid. The most dominant of these is the protracted Truth and Reconciliation process. Artists, writers, social historians, civic groups, business lobbies, trades unions, legislators and churches have all in one form or another addressed the nature of the post-apartheid transition and its cultures. But there was something unique about Goldblatt’s book at the moment it appeared, which cast a kind of grey light on the half life of the apartheid topography still visible everywhere around the country. By referencing South Africa and its structures, he was more than setting the terms on which a view of the nation’s architectural archive could be inventoried, he was suggesting that South Africa as we know it, despite inhabiting one of the most breathtaking natural environments, was the most unnatural of places. He was proposing that the legacy of its structures was purposefully engineered, ideologically conjured into the state of unnatural stasis that had overtaken the built environment through attempts by both colonial and apartheid ideologues to use the architecture and the architectonics of civil engineering to construct a limit world, a boundary constituting the shear face of the separation between the white and black world, between superior Europe and inferior Africa. Everything known to the world as South African was defined by the simple Manichaean scheme of the emblematic division wall, the cut line of irreconcilable apartness, separateness and radical difference. To segregate is to deny recognition. It is also to define and illuminate an existential insecurity that builds from the lack of a desire to recognise the sovereignty of the other. Logically then, the foundational issue which apartheid sought to inscribe and which Goldblatt’s photographs expose frame by frame was the European’s existential insecurity in the attempt to settle Africa. The Afrikaans usage of the compound Dutch terms apart (separate) and heid (hood) is a device engineered not merely to keep two neighbourhoods apart, to bifurcate the cultural worlds that link them, but to answer white anxiety and insecurity towards otherness. Examining the fabulist notion of apartness, the idea that the white and black worlds were fundamentally separate spheres of social, spiritual and civilisational existence, is at the core of Goldblatt’s search for the inscrutable meaning of his country’s social identity. South Africa: The Structure of Things Then draws from a collection of photographic images of the most intense, piercing, analytical examinations of the legacy of colonial and apartheid spatial practices, as they are literally carved into the limed and mortared structures of the nation’s architecture. This architecture was as much about unbuilding as it was about building, literally using the law to expropriate and destroy countless neighbourhoods deemed ‘black spots’ in the mapping scheme of segregationist policies. Set against land and sky are the various structures: towering, edifying, postmodern Dutch Reform churches, Hindu temples, Jewish synagogues, Muslim mosques, make-shift temporary altars of the African Pentecostal Church of Zion, cemeteries, the karamat (tomb) of a Muslim leader exiled to Robben Island in the eighteenth century. Many of these structures sit restlessly on rutted land-

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scapes littered with broken memories of past dwellings and settlements. The ugliness of some of the built forms becomes even more clear in the squat, cramped, miserable township architecture; or the informal settlements of the dispossessed cobbled together with nothing more than sheets of plastic, scraps of corrugated metal and rough planks pounded into loamy soil; or the thatched¬roof rondavels set in scraggy bushveld that designate a Zulu village or Xhosa homestead. This overview is extended to impressions of purpose-built white suburban housing and cultivated lawns that are unnaturally manicured; a detail of a carved, whitewashed stairway -perhaps the handiwork of slaves in the Cape- that forms part of an exclusive estate; the skylines of the modern city industriously filled with skyscrapers suggesting the utopian realisation of a modernist fantasy. In addition are sheep farms in an unforgiving desert environment where white farmers eek out a living, and desolate roads traversed by bands of semi-nomadic Khoi; houses destroyed under the Group Areas Act and such other places where the brutal practice of segregation was manifested through violent expulsions and seizures of property. Of these, the most exemplary reveal two photographic takes, spanning ten years -1976 and 1986- of a former Islamic butchery in Johannesburg and the razed District Six neighbourhood in Cape Town. But the most pronounced and compelling of the structures is the surfeit of colonial and apartheid monuments: from the impressive towers of the Voortrekker Monument on the outskirts of Pretoria, to gigantic sculptures, busts and other statuary commemorating important Afrikaners and British settlers. One depicts a gridlock of ox-drawn wagons and cannon representing a spot where the Boers defeated a Zulu army in the nineteenth century. The triumphalism of the monuments is both impressive and distortive. The sheer ubiquity of these forms can only begin to suggest the extent to which colonial and apartheid structures sought to invent a wholly new social memory for South Africa. Goldblatt describes the basis of his inquiry: ‘I am mainly concerned here with structures of public life. That most of the photographs relating to the lives of black people come from the private rather than the public domain reflects circumstances during the Era of Baasskap. It was in black homes that the struggle to retain values and traditions, to survive and transcend dispersion, dispossession, humiliation and brutality was mostly evidenced. The public structures of African polities were destroyed by the conquerors. Public structures in contemporary Black communities were generally put there by the state or by missionaries, or were those of which the state approved – any expressing ideas the state did not approve of were invariably attacked.’1 Goldblatt’s seminal book can be used to frame the larger agenda that has been pervasive in the work of a number of South African artists, such as William Kentridge, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Jo Ractliffe, Santu Mofokeng and Guy Tillim, whose contemporary concerns about South African space and landscape owe a great deal to the legacy of his photographic output. Understanding Goldblatt’s current pictures and those

David Goldblatt, South Africa: The Structure of Things Then (New York: The Monacelli Press, 1998) p.15

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David Goldblatt Miriam Mazibuko watering the garden of her new RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) house, Extension 8, Far East Alexandra Township. It has one room. For lack of space, her four children live with her parents-in-law. Johannesburg. 12 September 2006


of the two artists who I will be discussing later -Mofokeng and Tillim- requires examination of this singularly illuminating collection of images, because it is only through the deliberate scansion of the South African topography that the crop of recent work on landscape and architecture associated with, say, Mthethwa’s series on workers in sugarcane plantations in KwaZulu-Natal, Mofokeng’s haunting Chasing Shadows series, Tillim’s nervous Jo’burg series and Ractliffe’s foreboding Vlakplaas as scenes of historical incident can be productively described and analysed. However, though the marks of Goldblatt’s influence suffuse the work of these artists and photographers, his photographic vision differs from theirs in one significant way: for the most part, Goldblatt’s images tend to veer towards the eventless, a feeling that sometimes may suggest a state of inertia, as if the landscape and things and people in it are suddenly fixed and immobilised. The reason for this is his fundamental avoidance of incident. Like a geographer, the lines of his images are precise. Yet his principal interest in any subject matter is basically humanist not scientific. The recent turn towards colour, after 40 years of avoiding it in his personal work2, may seem to detract from the dry, eventlessness of the early black and whites, but the images are not incompatible, they merely reflect the changed conditions both in the country and in the medium of photography. Until the late 1990s Goldblatt had avoided colour except for magazine assignments because he felt it was too sweet, too mechanical, and lacked the sharpness and modulation of black-and-white images. He also preferred the latter because he produced and processed his own prints in such a way so as to come as close as possible to the prevailing conditions under which a given image was made. The shift to colour occurred as changes in photographic technology entered the South African market. At this time the making of colour photographs allowed him to find a printer with whom he could work, but also permitted him to retain control of the decision-making process on how the colour spectrum fits into each image. This ability to mediate the experience of his messages convinced him that there was something worthwhile to explore through the medium. While the colour work may seem more relaxed, the photographs, like his black and whites, still appear compressed within a clear and controlled intellectual logic. They may have a certain warmth and less austerity, but they remain emotionally fugitive. There is a quality of melancholy that can be described as an aura of silence that pervades Goldblatt’s highly reflexive images. The titles of the pictures continue his methodology, tending to incorporate lengthy captions that not only set explanatory contexts for each image, but also define the eerie sense of emotional devastation deeply imbricated in the prevailing conditions of each site. In the group of images shown here, the way colour is literally drained from them serves as a kind of surrogate for some of the crises that mark the settings. These are images of bleak moments, reflecting times of mourning, loss, the Aids pandemic, the deferment of the promise of the post-apartheid sunshine. Here, instead, the sunshine that falls

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on the landscape seems to illuminate scenes of catastrophe. One such scene can be found in the diagonal composition of a grouping of brownish boulders arranged against a bare rock peak and clear blue sky, with a memorial outlined in a white drawn shape on the largest of them. The photograph, BHJ in the time of AIDS, Richtersveld National Park, Northern Cape. 25 December 2003, is Goldblatt’s method of addressing the state of post¬apartheid landscape not as an Edenic endless open space, but as spaces blighted by the presence of human suffering. The image of a blooming green field littered with the remains of pit toilets and a cluster of children playing beneath a canopyless tree shows us the merging of apartheid and post¬apartheid landscapes. The lengthy caption provides the contrast between the scene and the events that preceded it: Remains of long-drop lavatories built for the ‘closer settlement camp’ of Frankfort, Eastern Cape. The 5,000 members of the black farming community of Mgwali were to have been forcibly moved and resettled here after their land was declared a ‘black spot’ by the apartheid government in 1983. However, the people of Mgwali resisted strongly and in 1986 the removal scheme was dropped. The lavatories were gradually stripped of their usable building materials by people in the area and all that is left now are concrete bases over some 1,500 anatomically shaped holes in the veld. 22 February 2006. Entrance to Lategan’s Truck Inn, Laingsburg, Western Cape. 14 November 2004 or the pitted site shown in Remains of households in a children’s game called onopopi, and the shells of incomplete houses in a housing scheme that stalled, Kwezinaledi, Lady Grey, Eastern Cape. 5 August 2006 focus our attention on the starkness of contemporary spatial practices. The other landscape images carry the same charge, a feeling of harshness that resolutely avoids the sentimental. These are views of unforgiving judgment, images of doubt and circumspection. The later photographs reveal the extent to which Goldblatt has assumed a rather surprising, intimate mode of working rather than the detachment of his previous analytical approach. They are neither ambiguous nor are their social reflections ambivalent. But at the same time traces of his earlier approach in The Structures of Things Then remain: the images do not represent statements of the given -an approach that most describes the documentary- rather in the counter¬documentary mode which Goldblatt favours, his photographs are more emblematic of states of things, a process of accretion that builds towards a more encompassing meaning than the reduction of a picture into an autonomous iconic image. In reflecting on these new colour images, I am still intrigued by why Goldblatt subtitled his book The Structure of Things Then, given his predilection towards keeping his photographic options open. Was the title a way to mark a closure, which may betray an aspect of the euphoria that swept through the country after the official end of the brutal institutions of apartheid? This way of placing in remand, in the past tense (The Structure of Things Then), seems to me antithetical to the kind of frank, naked scepticism that otherwise ruled

This is an important distinction because Goldblatt did make photographs in color that were generally for commissioned work or the occasional magazine assignment. He stringently distinguishes between those kind of work and the ones that he makes based on his own personal interest.

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much of his dry, direct and luminous colour photographs. He is usually given in his photographs to a kind of ascetic but modulated formal description, a mode of working that produces images that tend to seem detached and isolated. Despite the appearance of detachment, he is anything but distanced from his subjects, as these new works clearly show. These photographs have an emotional clarity, and a formidable sense of intellectual forethought, different from the complicated moral narrative that gave J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace -a novel set in the tension between farm and city, the country and the urban- its creepy, enervating sense of brutal realism. Goldblatt is notorious for studying a subject for years before making up his mind on whether it merits photographic scrutiny. The photographs are never ahistorical. The consistent quality of all his work is its historicity. In every image, he begins with a single challenge: how does one produce an image that allows both photographer and viewer to think historically about a given subject? Despite the fatigue of post¬apartheid chronicles, Goldblatt’s photographic choices are never overarching, generalising, or moralising. He pinpoints and isolates inchoate moments, dissociating the critical gaze from the dependency on the apartheid past. While his photographic vision always apprehends a constantly shifting, evolving landscape, it nevertheless seeks to remind the viewer that even when constructed in the present tense, that landscape has memory. Shacks and the Helen Joseph Women’s Hostel, which was built during apartheid to house female workers, Alexandra Township, Johannesburg. 11 September 2006 is one such image in which the new situation refers back to an earlier situation depicted in The Structure of Things Then of the same hostel without the surrounding shacks. The mode of ceaseless return is not a photographic habit, but instead a method of comparative analysis. Thus, he writes that his work is the apprehension of the South African topography as a kind of magma ‘congealed in the particulars of innumerable structures and not a few ruins… our land is evidence of much of this. Like geological accretions in the cooling crust of the earth, they tell of the long era out of which we have come.’3 This current work poses similar challenges, and thus demands always fresh perspectives in reckoning with the South African environment as an entirely unique specimen of the historical failure of moral imagination. Ecology of fear A city such as Johannesburg exemplifies the brutal asymmetry of the social condition of urban architecture. Its urban environment is marked by sharp contrasts: in the outlying northern suburbs, for example, pleasure palaces are hidden from view by high, electrified fences, a device employed less for privacy than for security. Johannesburg is a microcosm of South Africa as a fortress society. Though apartheid is officially over, social segregation is just as deeply resilient. This is revealed in Johannesburg as a city framed by palpable fear of violence. In the northern suburbs, some streets feel like the Green Zone in Baghdad, with checkpoints ringing neighbourhoods and public roads while private armies and uniformed guards are posted

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everywhere. In Johannesburg, the universal issue that bedevils everyday life centres around issues of safety and security. This feeling of insecurity has spurred its own lexicon of architectural and spatial distortions that have become naturalised within the iconography and structures of urban design, transforming the spatial context of the city into one under siege, what Mike Davis describes as an ecology of fear with regards to Los Angeles. The obverse of this sense of fear, at a superficial glance, obtains in the image of the bustling downtown area which frames the old business district and the surrounding neighbourhood of modernist high rises between Braamfontein and Joubert Park. If the northern suburbs display in their architecture a fortress sensibility, downtown Johannesburg exhibits all the evidence of precariousness and vulnerability. The overcrowded streets are filled with hawkers and hucksters, with petty criminals and violent gangs, and choked with traffic, with minibuses and taxis. Hardly any whites can be found downtown anymore, except those in transit, barricaded in cars for fear of carjacking. The quality of domestic living conditions appears to have lapsed into an almost apocalyptic zone of urgency and desperation. Entire families often share a onebedroom apartment, sometimes subdivided further to accommodate tenants. There is hardly any sense of privacy in these overcrowded buildings. Peopled by poor migrants from the rural areas and economic refugees from surrounding countries such as Mozambique, Congo and Zimbabwe, downtown Johannesburg is marked by its large deficits of social and economic amenities. In the heyday of apartheid, this part of the city was a bustling cosmopolitan hub of activities for white inhabitants. However, since the end of apartheid, after all the juridical constraints of segregation were outlawed, the area was marked by rapid decline in the early 1990s, and by the end of the decade whites had moved out, while poor black migrants without housing moved in. In the ensuing exodus, services normally found in these neighbourhoods began disappearing, as landlords abdicated their responsibility to tenants. The spiral of neglect and apathy accelerated into decay. Riddled with crime, and with an uncontrollable influx of new residents seeking work and shelter, the fine modernist post-war apartment architecture has all been overtaken by both civic neglect and absence of economic investment. This canyon of high rises is the epicentre and subject of Guy Tillim’s mesmerising Jo’Burg photographs. The series takes the approach of a photographer constantly on the move, darting between buildings and apartment complexes, between degraded domestic spaces that reveal the depths of privation: makeshift barbershops and illicit bars where one wall’s surface is papered over with a carpet of tabloid newspaper headlines declaiming on the city as the very landscape of hell and infamy. In the grid of images brought together here, colour photographs full of chiaroscuro effects, the photographer seems to revel, in almost lurid delight, in recording the decrepitude and the primitive conditions of the miserable high-rise towers, many of them with blown out windows, burned out rooms, habita-

TK

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David Goldblatt Shacks and the Helen Joseph Women’s Hostel, which was built during apartheid to house black female workers, Alexandra Township, Johannesburg. 11 September 2006

tions filled with still-life compositions of garbage, mildewed walls, shattered crockery, or displaying apartments cordoned off with metal gates from which frightened tenants peer out as if from a prison cell. Shots of spaces between buildings either reveal vertiginous views as the camera descends down alleyways damp with putrefaction, or otherwise iconic shots of skyscrapers photographed from below in haunting, looming fashion. Even the traces of small-scale economic activity -a barbershop, a shebeen, for example- do not alleviate the sense of lurking danger, the misery one feels when glancing down long, deserted corridors, or watching young men sleeping on the roof of a building. The contrast is striking as the camera turns from details of dingy apartments to panoramic views of the city looking towards a skyline that gives an artificial impression of modern architecture. What the images actually show in intimate clarity is merely the mutation of the high rises into a planet of slums in the sky, a veritable architecture of entrapment and dystopia. However, what is generally lacking are views of what is on the ground, outside the apartments, the street, the very possibility that there is air somewhere beyond the frame. In viewing many of these images taken by Tillim over the

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course of a six-month sojourn in an apartment of one of the towers, one is tempted to reflect on the ethical nature of this type of documentary practice such as has been the hallmark of his roving photographic style over the past decade. Is it possible to read these images as a measure of Tillim’s immersive style, or merely as a product manifesting the sensationalistic frisson inherent in living dangerously, but only temporarily, in situations where the odds of social visibility are largely elusive for the inhabitants? Do these images exploit the subjects? Is the photographer taking ethnographic liberties with the state of the communities embedded in this context? Is the photographer, through his cosmopolitan access, exploiting the situation? In asking these questions, it is worth observing that one striking thing about even some of the portraits is that they tell us precious little about the inner lives of the individuals; instead, many come across as merely specimens in a larger social landscape. Questions such as these tend to be asked of images that make us uncomfortable, images that do not depict their subjects in faux heroic style, or employ manufactured empathy to paper over the photographer’s ambivalence. Tillim’s images do not appear to me to be motivated by attempts at exploitation, nor does he employ his access to stigmatise his


subjects. This group of works falls into the tradition of the long arc of photographic inquiry detailed in Goldblatt’s book. The difference between them is that Tillim’s takes a more subjective, microcosmic view of things, while Goldblatt’s is fundamentally macroscopic. In this sense, it is necessary to examine the stated motivation of Tillim’s project as part of an unfolding narrative and documentary mode being used by South African photographers and artists to capture the current moment of urban transition. Tillim in this project is not only interested in documenting the fascinating politics between tenants and landlords and their surrogates, he is concerned with the hidden mechanism behind the relationship between the city council and developers, and the looming future battle on the fate of the city. Jo’burg is therefore a study both of the aftermath of apartheid and the impending reversal of the post-apartheid hopes of displaced communities existing in the shadow of social amnesia. The outcome of the future arrangements between the tenants, developers, landlords and the city council does not favour those who have both resisted eviction and persevered to maintain a semblance of normalcy in these buildings. What Tillim shows us is literally the forces assembled together to remake the face of this African metropolis. Will it be a city that reverts back to old exclusions of the past as a ‘whites only’ enclave of luxury social amenities, or will the future Jo’burg finally fulfil its unrealised cosmopolitan appeal as a city of multicultural mixture? As Tillim writes in a short introduction to the project: ‘White residents fled Johannesburg’s inner-city in the 1990s. The removal of the Group Areas Act foreshadowed a flow into the city of black residents and owners of small businesses seeking opportunities and better lives. Former denizens looked back in self-righteous justification at a city that was given over to plunder and mayhem. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy, backed up by eyewitness reports and statistics. Everyone had their horror stories… In between the needs of city council and the aspirations of developers anticipating the bloom of an African city lies the fate of Jo’burg residents. The outcome will decide whether or not Johannesburg becomes, again, a city of exclusion.’4 Geographer of the margins Santu Mofokeng began in the 1970s as a street photographer working on the sidewalks and corners of apartheid South Africa, specifically in the crowded neighbourhoods of black townships. His early images generated a mode of working that extended beyond the everyday clichés of deprivation and poverty commonly found in pictures of black South Africans by photojournalists. He wished to explore the normality of the everyday, because there were other stories and images on the streets of the townships which he believed worth capturing. Mofokeng was by no means denying the impossible situation of township existence. Rather, he was concerned with how to represent the humanity of the brutalised black community. However, to work as a street photographer under apartheid was to traverse the interstices and crevices of South Africa’s

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complicated moral geography, one whose lethality for black subjects all but contested the notion of the street as public space. Pass laws which prohibited travel by blacks beyond certain parts of the city and country were a de jure document that confined millions of subjects to spaces of literal incarceration, thus mitigating the extent of the black street photographer’s geographic coverage. In the mid-1960s, the black South African photographer Ernest Cole, in order to circumvent the draconian pass laws, invented a wholly new social and racial identity by changing his name and having himself racially reclassified as ‘coloured’. This gave him minimal rights and freedom of movement normally denied blacks, enabling him to work on the streets and sidewalks of downtown Johannesburg without being harassed or expelled. The result of Cole’s legal subterfuge became the celebrated book House of Bondage, a publication containing images that were literally located on the streets of the apartheid city. The drastic measure taken by Cole is important to recall, not least because it illuminates the obstacles that lay in the path of a young street photographer such as Mofokeng, working under the exclusionary pass laws of apartheid. The same laws that limited the movements of blacks and blocked access to social amenities available only to whites, also restricted the range of what the street photographer could hope to document beyond the legal boundaries of his confinement. The street photographer under apartheid was thus a geographer of the margins, of the in-between and the fugitive. Against the edicts of the apartheid state, two important projects by Mofokeng, Train Church in 1986 and Chasing Shadows in the mid1990s, underscore the critical stakes involved in making radical photographic work under the shadows of exile and confinement. Train churches were a phenomenon that developed at the height of the state of emergency imposed throughout South Africa in the 1980s. Millions of black workers travelled long distances between home and places of employment, and churches on the trains were both a response to constant harassment by the authorities and a way of occupying a zone impossible to police. As Bronwyn Law-Viljoen noted, the liminal spaces of the commuter churches ‘may also be seen as an attempt to appropriate the in-between of the journey to and from work, to recast the repetitive hardship of commuting’5, and thus transform these itinerant moments into powerful examples of sovereignty. Mofokeng’s Train Church is analogous to Goldblatt’s The Transported of Kwa Ndebele, a photographic project focused on the arduous commuting culture of black workers. The powerful restraint of Mofokeng’s approach to imagemaking, his refusal to photograph the sensational events of turmoil under the state of emergency, even after joining the photographic collective Afrapix, reveals both a political and photographic choice. Chasing Shadows is the most insistently non-documentary of his projects. Because he was literally chasing shadows -presences that are hard to capture photographically, but are seen to be revealed in the spirit of the subjects- the pursuit of the real is always thwarted by the acknowl-

Guy Tillim, Jo’Burg (Trézélan: Filigranes Éditions and Johannesburg: STE Publishers, 2005) unpaginated. Bronwyn Law-Viljoen, “Sacred and Profane Ground: The Work of Santu Mofokeng” Artthrob, www.artthrob.co.za, June 2004

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David Goldblatt Shoemaker on Raleigh Street, Yeoviulle, Johannesburg. 14 September 2006


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edgment that the image is never fixed, that the subject is in a state of perpetual transformation. Thus, the fugitive elements are constantly the signature elements of his pictorial analysis, an indirect, non-invasive way of signalling important markers on the landscape, streets and interiors of black South African subjectivity against the prohibitions of citizenship and belonging placed on Africans during the heyday of apartheid. The shift from apartheid to post-apartheid culture requires negotiating anew spaces of interaction between the socially dispossessed and the politically empowered. Post-apartheid transition, as is clear in Goldblatt and Tillim’s works, continues to be bedevilled by all sorts problems -healthcare, crime, inequality, joblessness, poverty, homelessness- to which few answers have been adequate. In his recent series on billboards, Mofokeng takes a wry, ironic look at the media emblems -mostly images of billboard advertisements- that almost obviate the difficult trajectory of transition. In these photographs the line between euphoric consumerism and the dark shadow of the pestilence of Aids stalking the depths of black townships are juxtaposed, almost as if asking viewers to weigh the tradeoff between the two zones. Mofokeng sees the billboards as sites of power and coercion, as a medium of communication between the state and black subjects. The billboard in his view cannot be dissociated from the township landscape as a tool of coercive indoctrination, a space both for the manufacture of desire and announcing the threatening presence of the law. In one image, Democracy is forever (2003), the billboard on the right towers over a street vendor pushing a cart of goods past the looming message of a glittering diamond proclaiming ‘Democracy is Forever’. The correlation between democracy and flashy diamonds is hardly clear, but as with the billboard on the left displaying Coca-Cola’s message that the beverage makes a meal real, the idea is to equate consumerism with freedom. However, Mofokeng tends to photograph the township denizens traversing the spaces where the billboards are fixed at intersections and on highways, from which they can be easily seen through commuter bus windows, in the shadow, as phantoms making only a fleeting appearance on the landscape before retiring back into anonymity. The figures display their featurelessness, defined only by their hulking outline against the well-lit backdrop of the billboards. Some of the images are shot at night on high¬speed film from commuter minivans travelling between the city and townships. They capture the traces of other speeding cars against the dense, black background of the darkness that contrasts the bright orbs of street lights that illuminate the roads. The billboards carry various messages: from caution against unsafe sex, to the beckoning enticement of Robben Island as a tourist destination, to mobile phones as synonymous with freedom. To Mofokeng, the newly acquired black power may remain the political base for the foreseeable future, but just as obvious is what accompanies the prosperity of the post¬apartheid nation: the growth of black poverty and dispossession sitting cheek by jowl with spectacular forms

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of wealth and primitive accumulation. This observation is detailed in the way he has photographed the scenes, where the black figure is always receding, disappearing from view, cast into the deepest darkest shadows, almost into invisibility. The metaphor of invisibility lends a political charge to these images, confronting us not with products of desire, democracy and freedom, but with spectres that haunt the difficult journey between apartheid and post-apartheid cultures. Conclusion In preparation for this essay I wanted to reassess the foundational claims to locality and place in the work of Goldblatt, Mofokeng and Tillim through the specific discourse displayed by these two generations of South African photographers, whose common themes around the built environment and spatial practices overlap in telling ways. Yet they depart from each other in many others. If I began with what Goldblatt sought to inscribe in his book as marking the end of the 1990s in South Africa, we may need to ask the question of what he might have meant when he subtitled his book The Structures of Things Then. Does he mean that these structures belong only to the past, and can be read only as part of the twilight of a terrible inheritance? Why then? I can’t imagine that what he meant by that adverb was about putting the past in the past. Nor do I think he was framing the object of his photographic practice in purely historical terms, in which the architecture, monuments and other vestiges of the built environment are bracketed outside the purview of the contemporary moral imagination. Tillim and Mofokeng’s works open up new avenues for reconsidering the historical past and the contemporary present, not only in how the structures of the past remain resilient markers of identity in the politics of dwelling in the present, but how the residues of the past remain visibly inscribed in spatial practices. Given the history of strife in South Africa, a great deal of the nation’s art traffics in the examination of the pathos surrounding the immediate historical experience. Some critics would even claim that the artists wallow in it. Coetzee’s Disgrace for some was a form of antidote to that kind of ‘craven’ attitude. The novel was literally designed as a narrative whose ethical dimension was premised on stalking the South African landscape, with the patchy Western Cape farm as the brutal terrain on which its meaning is worked out. For some, Coetzee’s unforgiving, almost sadistic novel poured cold water on any idea that post-apartheid culture has produced a normal society. His treatment of the land after apartheid is surmounted by a lethal revanchism. It describes a scenario that could be interpreted as the end of the holiday surrounding Mandela’s Rainbow Nation. This is the direction Mofokeng’s billboard imagery points us towards. And the novel, likewise, is a view into how deep-seated social pathologies give rise to everyday brutality and depravity. Here, the moral environment is darkened by the coarse instincts of the victim’s revenge and the settler’s shameless attempt at survival. That this tale plays out between the city and farm is no accident, as is the


case between black townships and white suburbia, the two modes being the opposite of each other in South Africa’s politics of settlement, dwelling and dispossession. Goldblatt’s and Mofokeng’s sense of this shift are less graphic than, say, Coetzee’s and Tillim’s. They are all social analysers, however. Unlike Coetzee, Goldblatt, Tillim and Mofokeng do not occupy a judgment seat when they peer into the landscape. Rather like archaeologists, they excavate the sedimented terrains of the South African landscape from urban to rural, between the pictorial and the documentary, to reveal the deeply embedded structures lying beneath, all the more to make us aware that their analyses are part of an inquiry into the moral imagination of space and its related ideological dependencies. It is in this sense that the formidable yet radical simplicity and directness of the images speaks. Regarding the structure of things now, post-apartheid South Africa is today no less a contradiction than apartheid South Africa was then. Contemporary South Africa is ringed by congeries of prosperity and calamity. Spectacular economic growth has spurred monstrosities such as shown in the gaudy architecture in Goldblatt’s On Fifth Avenue, Sandton, Johannesburg. 26 December 2006, and in the shadow of this new architecture of prosperity lies On Freedom Square, Kliptown, Soweto, Johannesburg. 10 December 2003, a dusty patch of territory that bears no semblance to the opulence being celebrated on Fifth Avenue. Though a successful economy has enriched some, the workforce supporting the economy is in crisis, as is shown in the picture of a woman standing in front of her one-room government development housing against the backdrop of a sprawling cemetery. Goldblatt in his inimitable descriptive style uses the lengthy caption to distil the scene: Miriam Mazibuko watering the garden of her new RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) house, Extension 8, Far East Alexandra Township. It has one room. For lack of space, her four children live with her parents¬in¬law. Johannesburg. 12 September 2006. Against this backdrop, the sharp, steely grey tonalities of Mofokeng’s black¬and¬white prints of highways lit up with flashy pronouncements have given way to a saturated, dusky series of digital colour prints by Tillim that reveal the desperate status of urban citizens and the looming struggle for a place in the democratic city that is just beyond the horizon. These changes and their various aporias expose the current state of spatial forms as predicated on the indeterminate structure of things now.

Photographs: pp. 80-81: Guy Tillim Al’s Tower, a block of flats on Harrow Road, Berea, overlooking the Ponte building, archival pigment inks on 300g coated cotton paper, 2005 pp. 82-83: Guy Tillim View of Hillbrow looking north from the roof of the Mariston Hotel, archival pigment inks on 300g coated cotton paper, 2005 pp. 84-85: Guy Tillim, Members of Wozani Security, known as the Red Ants, enter the Chelsea Hotel in Hillbrow during a clean-up operation, archival pigment inks on 300g coated cotton paper, 2005 p. 86 top: Guy Tillim A map of central Johannesburg at the Inner City Regeneration Project office, City Council, Loveday Street, archival pigment inks on 300g coated cotton paper, 2005 p. 86 bottom: Guy Tillim Yonela Kwaza, Grafton Road, Yeoville”, archival pigment inks on 300g coated cotton paper, 2005 p. 87 top: Guy Tillim Tayob Towers, Pritchard Street, Tayob Towers, Pritchard Street”, archival pigment inks on 300g coated cotton paper, 2005 p. 87 bottom: Guy Tillim Ntokozo (right) and his brother Vusi Tshabalala at Ntokozo’s place, Milton Court, Pritchard Street, archival pigment inks on 300g coated cotton paper, 2005

All Guy Tilim images (c) and courtesy of Michael Stevenson Gallery, South Africa All David Goldblatt images courtesy of Haunch of Venison Gallery, London

Haunch of Venison-London gallery will be presenting the group exhibition “Home Lands - Land Marks” (29 May -5 July 2008), a group show of contemporary South African artists, curated by renowned art historian Tamar Garb. Artists included in the exhibition are David Goldblatt (photographs), William Kentridge (film and drawings), Vivienne Koorland (paintings), Berni Searle (film) and Guy Tillim. For contact details, please check the ‘Contacts’ section, p. 148.

Art 101


BARBARA FALENDER PaweŁ Leszkowicz

POLITICS / EROTICS

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T

he series of sculptures Erotic Pillows I-VI (1973-1976) show the interpenetrating male and female sexual organs in an almost abstract sculptural form; the coalescing phallic and vaginal shapes portray the primal scene of total desire and fulfillment. Executed in many versions in marmur, epoxide, porcelain and bronze. the small Erotic Pillows by Polish sculptress Barbara Falender depict the six close up scenes of sexual intercourse. The bodies are attached only by the lovers’ genitalia and reduced to them. The sculptures are not at all naturalistic, but classical and precious, shining with the perfection of the polished surface. These unique erotic works carry a charge from the unconscious and a strange political undertone. The Erotic Pillows were executed in Poland under Communism, against the erotic prudery and censorship aimed at sexually explicit art. Banned in the 70s behind the Iron Curtain, they are now a hidden treasure from the other history of late modernism. It is the otherness of feminine art and Eastern Europe; gender meets geography, history and great sculptural tradition. In Barbara Falender’s sculptures one finds something that is rare in Polish art of the 1960s and 1970s, yet strongly present in Western art of this period: it is the artistic evidence for the cultural and sexual revolution that has transformed and liberated contemporary culture. Whereas this revolution has completely changed the Western culture, in Poland and the Eastern Block it played a marginal role, once suppressed, and today requiring the work of discovery and reconstruction. The art of Barbara Falender constitutes one of the unique traces of the breakthrough and, thus, belongs to the not yet discovered developments in the history of European art. It is no coincidence that the first works by Barbara Falender bear the date of the famous revolutionary year of 1968, when she was still a student at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts in Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz’s studio. Her diploma was a figurative hyperrealistic sculpture entitled People from Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street commemorating the students riot on the street of Warsaw in March 68. Since then, the spirit of the 60s permeated her art and was combined with the fragmented neoclassical sculpture and pagan sensuality. Barbara Falender’s entire work is devoted to the human body, which she materializes in fragments or combinations of figures. Her sculptures of the 1970s and 1980s are beautiful marbles and bronzes, yielding sensuous male and female bodies represented as fragments and emerging from the

stones. They have an erotic bliss of living and loving. As the artist herself states she just “happened to say something about two bodies”! The quality of the sculptures results from the artist’s virtuoso handling and transforming of traditional techniques and materials. She makes use of structures and colours of multifarious stones, sometimes combining them with bronze casts. The artists works with traditional materials - marble, alabaster, granite and polished bronze. She employs the effect of polish of a smooth, glimmering surface. There are two major interpretations of Barbara Falender’s art, dating from the 1970s. Firstly, the artist is identified with erotic art and working from a model whom she draws, photographs and then sculpts. Secondly, her work is identified with the figurative, even academic tradition and materials. Let us begin with the erotic. The originality of Falender’s eroticism consists in her ability to fully and openly express the complexity of sexuality. In the socialist Poland of the 1970s and 1980s and the Catholic Poland of today, there has been a marginal ideology around sex, and not many artists have dared depict sexuality that admits different expressions of male and female eroticism. The sculptures of Barbara Falender told diverse stories of love and erotic relationships. The liberating potential of the artist’s eroticism was based not only on the sensuality of male and female bodies, but, above all, on a vision of pluralistic sexuality. In a sense, her sculptures tell psychosexual stories. It is striking to see how this liberal philosophy of eroticism, stemming from humanist ideas and the spirit of freedom of love in the 1960s and 1970s is connected with traditional skills, for which the artist is famous. It is not only the masterly manual handling of traditional materials and sculpting techniques, including the most noble and difficult one of cutting in marble. It is, above all, drawing from the great history of sculpture and psychology of the senses in line with the tradition of Auguste Rodin’s merging embraces unifying two figures and Michelangelo’s sensuous male nudes emerging from blocks of stone. Barbara Falender found her own way of transforming the figuration in modern sculpture, similar to the 1970s biomorphic erotic sculptures of Louise Bourgeois. The bodily and hermaphroditic sculptures of Bourgeois from the 1960s and 1970s suggest sexual organs turning into one another; breasts becoming penises, penises becoming mouths or vaginas, or whole groups of organs. This is the filed of part-objects and sex drives that we encountered in Falender’s Erotic Pillows.

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Art - 105

Erotic Pillows, marble, 23x22x13cm, 1973/1976


Dream, marble, 17x49x29, 1976 (Carrara)

Falender’s sculptures are extraordinarily aesthetic and sensual. When touched, their smooth surface sends a thrill down the spectator’s spine. The precision and quality of their execution are truly intriguing. This sense of touch plays a crucial role in these sculptures that have come into being as the result of creative touch. The sensual feel of gloss invites the spectator to touch. Falender makes the surface so sensuous that the whole sculpture becomes a sensitive epidermis inviting to be caressed. Dream (1976), made of white and black marble, is quite telling in this respect: a pair of female legs straddles a pedestal of white undulating marble, while an elongated shiny black marble form, almost an autonomous sculpture, suggests a female torso. The sensuality of the marble surface, the fragmented body and phallic overtones create the atmosphere of an erotic dream. The piece, as a whole, resembles the female erogenous zone. The role of the erotic body fragments can be understood in the context of a certain sexual unconscious, defined as a field of part-objects, where the body is an infinitely complicated and divided phenomenon, torn apart and then reconstituted by contradictory drives, a space where male and female elements coalesce. This art is not only corporeal, but also psychosexual, as the matter and form of the sculptures bears the impression of desire itself. With this kind of work, Barbara Falender, together with her famous predecessor the Polish sculptress Alina Szapocznikow, has created the feminine and feminist tradition in late modern European sculpture. These artists have developed a unique idiom of organic, corporeal, erotic sculptures, which allow the viewer to trace, not only the history of transformed figuration,

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but also that of the modern mentality. Ultimately, the subject matter of the work of these female sculptors is the psychic processes that mark it. The body, and in particular the female body, is transfigured or crushed by both pleasure and pain, subjected to extreme sensual and existential experience. The sculptures of Alina Szapocznikow and Barbara Falender provide an excellent example of the material and sensual idiom of gendered sculpture. The feminist work intervenes, as it were, in the male tradition of the nude, and, by the same token, into the patriarchal culture, especially in the communist and, now, fundamentalist Poland. In Falender’s art, the sensual combines the mythological and classical tradition. Yet, there is another important erotic track leading back to Michelangelo. Falender, a female artist in Poland, behind the iron curtain, created a homoerotic male nude. Her many versions of Narcissus (1979) and Ganymede (1984-2002) introduce this Mediterranean aesthetic, as well as the new liberated look on masculinity. Ganymede is a portrait of the two male figures merged in loving embrace. She put the emphasis on the sensual beauty of the male body, including genitals, and it is in this respect that she is one of the pioneers of the trend of representation of the male nude in contemporary art. The break of the representation of the male body took place in Western art at the turn of the sixties and seventies; at that point, for the first time in the history of art, women artists started - on a bigger scale - to boldly create erotic male nudes. Until that time, the sensual male nude was part of the tradition of the homoerotic art created by men.


Ganymede, sketch model for Ganymede, bronze, 30Art cm, 107 1984


He and She, epoxide, 66cm, 1973/1974

Now women started to take part in the creation of masculinity, drawing as much as they could from the homosexual conventions of representation rooted in classical art and looking for their own, new ways of representation. The works of Barbara Falender have played a crucial role in this process taking place in European art. The emblematic, full male nudes of the American feminist painters who were discarding the fig leaf in a programmatic way, come from the early 1970s. The shockingly phallic He of the Polish artist was made in 1973/74. It is the sculpture of a crude, muscular male torso which bears a swollen glans penis where his head was supposed to be standing! The sculpture is a pair with the vaginal form She. One should remember that the representation of a male nude in full view was a taboo in the art of communist Poland. Representing male genitals was considered pornography, thus being censored. The officially accepted convention of the male nude was formed then, derived not from the antiquity but rather from the Middle Ages and the Christian tradition of the deformation, humiliation and embarrassment of the body. The few male nudes in Polish art of the time were purposefully ugly and deprived of their sexuality. The admiration for eroticism and the beauty of the male body present in Falender’s art was entirely foreign to the communist decorum, making it her private act of artistic revolt. Krzystof Jung, the Polish gay performance artist from the 1970s and 1980s, who was using the beauty of his body as an art material, was posing for the homoerotic mythological sculptures by Barbara Falender. He was her nude model for such erotic carvings as Narcissus and Ganymede. Falender was inspired by the energy and beauty of her model’s body, thus immortalizing it in her sculpture as well as photographs and preliminary drawings she took and made for her work. There are several versions of Narcissus (1979) made in plaster, bronze and marble, all based on the same photographs of the naked body of Krzysztof Jung, crouching with half-opened thighs and a dropping head. One sculpture in bronze represents the whole figure realistically; an other version, cast in bronze and carved in marble, shows a partial figure, expressively emerging from stone. The muscles of the thorax, thighs and the back of Narcissus were sculpted in pink marble, the head is still imprisoned in the rough surface of the stone. To this mass of marble made flesh, the other leg of the figure is added, perfectly cast in bronze, its surface as smooth as a mirror. Thus the myth has been converted into form and the viewer can see his/her shape reflected in the bronze body of the young man. This experience of the narcissistic reflection has also been enhanced with one bronze foot leaning on the other, which is its mirror reflection. Between the opening thighs of the legs - one in marble and one in bronze - a massive penis emerges out of the stone. Krzystof Jung used performance to express homoerotic relations between men, himself being the main actor. In this very way the artist “entered” one of the most important series of Barbara Falender’s sculptures, Ganymede (1984-2002). Jung was posing for the sculpture embracing with his lover, both naked.

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Narcissus, marble/bronze, 55x52x34, 1979

Art 109


Ganymede is a mysterious and complex sculpture that evolved in the course of time. Ganymede I (1984) was cast in bronze, Ganymede II (1987) carved in white marble, Ganymede III (2002) was made in marble and chromium plated bronze. The height and the size of the sculptures vary in the subsequent versions, ranging between 29 and 62 cm. Falender’s sculptures dealing with intimate subjects are of intimate scale, the representations of the human body are smaller than the real body itself. All the Ganymedes revolve around a similar ambiguous form. It is a figure of a naked man, passing through a massive curtain, or emerging from the mass. The man, however, is not alone, he seems to be embraced by arms that emerge from the surrounding undulating mass. When we notice a third leg between the legs of the standing man it becomes clear that what we see is a group representing the embrace of two male figures. Again, Falender has represented the act of embracing, almost to the point of merging, of becoming one. This time in the place of the genitals from Erotic Pillows we see two fragmentary male bodies. Like the best erotic sculptures of the artist, Ganymede borders on abstraction and figuration and works its way through the dynamic tension between them. We are slowly discovering the shapes of the bodies, they reveal themselves in the process of being watched, released from the sculpted matter. The sexuality of the male figure is clearly marked; in the front there are clearly realistic genitals, at the back the ideal roundness of the bottoms the representation of a violent love relationship. Barbara Falender was fascinated by the homosexual relationship between Krzysztof Jung and his lover, and she converted this feeling into sculpture by commemorating real bodies in stone and bronze. Yet, choosing the titles and subjects, both for Narcissus and Ganymede, she reached for Greek myths and characters which for centuries have been charged with homoerotic symbolism. In the same way in which, through fragmentation and strong expression, she transforms the classical figuration of the body, she also manages to use the Greek idealization to express and cherish the contemporary reality of the gay couple in the homophobic Poland. The language of the Mediterranean culture was the only one, in those repressive times, in which it was possible to speak about such a relationship in an affirmative manner. In these

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sculptures, the subject of homosexual relations in Polish art emerges like a figure freeing itself from a block of stone. This is art that emancipates sexuality in a repressive political system. Thus, the whole series is so important not only for the history of sculpture but, also, the history of sexuality. In Polish art, the male nudes of Barbara Falender are unique and groundbreaking, not only in regard to the discovery of eroticism and the aesthetics of male body, but, above all, because they have brought out the manifold expressions of masculinity, including its excluded homoerotic dimension. Even though the language of her work was very traditional in the context of the artistic neo-avantgarde, one may say almost academic, she was, nonetheless censored in the 1970s because of the expression of sexuality. However, the sensual feminine ecstasy and homoerotic beauty which she sought in her work shattered the initial neoclassical form and resulted in the experimental and, basically, contemporary partial figure and subversive politics. If on the other hand, we look from another perspective, it will turn out that the artist’s exploration of the body and sexuality ran parallel to the most radical developments in performance art and feminist art, initiating a cultural and social change. Using her chisel, Falender defied the oppressive canon of representing sexuality and masculinity, and paved the way for the next generations of artists. This is her greatest contribution, placing Polish art in the international culture on a deeper level of freedom than the patriarchal neo-avant-garde and conceptualism predominant at that time. What is more, the experimental exploration of women’s eroticism locates her sculpture in the mainstream of feminist art. Her position as a Polish artist out from the centre, deepens the otherness by marginal geographic context and political borders. That is the way we deal here with the other in the other history of late modernism, still waiting to be discovered.

All images courtesy of Barbara Falender


Ganymede II, marble, 60x40x45 cm, 1987

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Art 113


RICHARD SALTOUN presents lost works by JOHN LATHAM

I have been interested in John Latham ever since I heard that he had chewed up and spat out a seminal art historical text that I knew well. It was, of course, because he rejected all the things it stood for and didn’t intend to follow its precepts. I made contact with Latham in 2002. He lived at Flat Time House, a Victorian terrace in Peckham with a massive steel book sculpture projecting from the front window into the street outside and we worked on a print project together. In fact, these were the first print works he ever produced. And I bought up any work of his that I could find. I knew that a number of very early works had been sold at an extraordinary auction that took place in the Six Bells pub in the King’s Road, Chelsea. This had been a haunt of artists for many years – it is near the Chelsea art school, and the landlord at the time sold a group of important early works by Latham - and others by artists like Sandra Blow and Mark Boyle. The Lathams were very significant ones, because they were the first ones where he had used the spray gun, which became highly important to him. The trouble was that, due to the ad hoc nature of the proceedings, no one had any record of who had bought them or where they had ended up. I talked to people familiar with the art scene at the time, but made little headway. Finally I came across a reference to one of the paintings belonging to a private collector in Germany. After much chasing and tracking, I found this person, who was able to tell me how she had acquired it. I was then finally able to track down an Engish art dealer who had bought some of the Lathams in the Chelsea pub but later emigrated to Germany. It was a matter of further detective work to find the people to whom he had subsequently sold the works, one of whom was a German who had settled in Turkey. I am delighted to have been able - finally - to bring these fantastically creative works back to the UK. R.S.

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All images courtesy of Delaye Saltoun Gallery, London

Untitled, 1954, oil on unprimed canvas, 77 x 63 cm


Two Figures, 1957, spray paint, emulsion and plaster on unprimed hardboard, 158 x 89 cm


Untitled, 1955, spray paint and emulsion on unprimed canvas, 77 x 51 cm


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Art 119

Untitled, 1955, spray paint and emulsion on unprimed canvas, 76 x 101 cm


VIOLENCE Slavoj Žižek

Profile Books London, 2008

Reviewed by Michael Withey We live in a world whose hegemonic ideology is one of respect for human rights, of the preservation of freedom and deference to the mores of the other; and, yet, this is a world which is routinely disturbed by acts of violence by agents the state (witness Gitmo) and by non-state actors (such as acts of rioting and terrorism). It is Žižek’s wager that this violence cannot be seen as mere contingent disruptions of the otherwise idyllic world of liberal capitalism - rather, we must see the all-too visible violence of terrorism, rioting and repression, as a reflection of the greater violence inherent to the system itself. The relation between this subjective violence (violence perpetrated by an agent to whom the act can be rendered accountable) and objective violence (violence inherent to the system) is not analysed by Žižek as a merely causal relation - that is, the explosions of violence we witness daily in the media are the result of the inequalities perpetrated by capitalism. Žižek seeks, rather, to analyse the two as related to each other in parallax. Parallax, for Žižek, refers to the fact that an alteration of the subject’s position results in a shift of the position of the object itself. The object shifts epistemically in relation to the background, since the gaze of the subject ontologically constitutes the object. However, the part of the object constituted by the gaze is precisely the part that returns the subject’s gaze (that is, the point of view of the observer himself). There is, therefore, a theoretical impossibility in grasping ‘reality’ as a whole - to grasp reality means grasping the object from the perspective of the subject, or vice versa; however, the object itself is constituted by the subject’s inclusion, which cannot be grasped from the perspective of the subject; similarly, to grasp the subject from the perspective of the object is to ignore the very dimension of subjectivity constitutive of the object. How, then, are we to analyse reality, taken as this disjunction? The 122 Bedeutung


only way in which this can be done is the insistence of its parallax nature - to take as our starting point the very fact of the irreducibility of subject and object. We must insist, along with Hegel, on the incommensurability of reality itself - that is to say, that reality itself is constituted by its exception, making reality inherently non-All. The ultimate difference is to be located within reality, not between (as Kant believed) the phenomenal reality of objectivity and the noumenal reality of subjectivity. This impossibility of grasping the whole of reality is characterised as an antagonism constitutive of reality that is, reality is both the object which resists an objective analysis, but also the object which distorts this analysis; more fundamentally, it is the very distortion effected by the object which is constitutive of the object, meaning that the very gap separating the multiple perspectives which can be conferred upon the object is constitutive of the object itself. The object is characterised by an object that renders impossible truly objective knowledge of the object itself, rendering it knowable only by a multiplicity of appearance. The purpose of the Parallax View is the analysis of this non-substantial object, and the analysis of objectivity as characterised by this non-objectivity, and this method of analysis is the method of On Violence. According to Žižek’s ‘parallaxic’ method, the analysis of violence then touch upon the two formal aspects of violence, the subjective and objective. These two aspects cannot however be mediated into a higher order; and hence we should, rather, take the very irreconcilable nature of the two perspectives to be the object of our analysis. One cannot, for example, analyse their relation in the standard manner in which objective violence bears a purely causal relationship to subjective violence. To do so would be to ignore the very subjective dimension of violence, ignoring the very trauma that is at the heart of violence; furthermore, this ‘coldly objective’ analysis of violence would itself be, through its dismissal of the subjective trauma, constitutive of violence, an example of systematic violence. Conversely, however, to treat the subjective element of violence as the cornerstone of our analysis would render analysis of objective violence impossible, as subjective violence can appear as such only against a background of a non-violent objective order. Hence, the only way in which we can analyse the phenomenon of violence would be to take as our starting point the problematic nature of the subject’s relationship with objectivity, and the object’s problematic relation with subjectivity. Objective Violence Žižek wishes to analyse two forms of violence that are inherent to our liberal-capitalist ideology. The first is the systematic violence that is engendered by the economic activity sustaining our system. The violence here, is that of the ceaseless economic expansion of capital, with its endless drive to utilise itself in self-replication. This violence does not show itself merely in the all-tooobvious effects of this process - the widening divide between the rich and the poor, the creation of monopolies and the undermining of traditional ways of life. This violence is, also, seen in the retexturing of social reality - it is no longer the case that

economic and social reality can be understood by considering relations of power, material resources and human need; rather, this social reality can only be understood by the speculations of capital which underpin it. The relation of production to need no longer provide the normative underpinnings of economics - instead, this is given by the very circulation of capital itself, which provides its own normative framework. The ‘violence’ in this process is, precisely, the removal of relations of production from the needs that give rise to and confer value upon them, and into a process that removes these needs as a means of conferring this value. Symbolic Violence The next stage in the explication of objective violence that must be drawn, is that of symbolic violence - that is, the violence inherent to the hegemonic forms of discourse. Again, Žižek’s object in this analysis is not merely the racism, sexism etc. that is present in contemporary discourse, but rather the violence inherent in language. The analysis of this form of violence makes up far more of the book than the analysis of systematic violence. For Žižek, following Hegel, there is a certain violence that is inherent to discourse itself. The very process of naming an object is to shift the object into a domain of meaning external to it. This new universe of discourse can itself only be sustained by another violence - that of the Master-Signifier, the founding gesture of the social order itself. The imposition of a new field of meaning by the Master-Signifier is the imposition of an inherent inequality through language, the Master-Signifier functioning as a terminus for the space of reasons - ultimately, any field of discourse (including the discourse of reason) founded by the Master-Signifier is ultimately grounded in an arbitrary, irrational act, which renders those who engage in the discourse inherently unequal. Although this domain of discourse involves the possibility of transgression, the ultimate transgression is effected by this very discourse. Let us now be more specific, and ask ourselves what is the ground of our current discursive practices. This question may be asked in the following manner - who is the subject that engages in contemporary discourse, and to whom does he speak? A casual reader of On Violence may be mistaken into believing that current discourse is distinguished by the fact that it is not grounded in any Master-Signifier. In the first chapter, SOS Violence, Žižek analyses a rather pathetic ‘event’ that took place in London in 2006 - the ‘masturbate-o-thon’, whereby individuals gathered together to masturbate. We do not see here the mutual engagement of two embodied subjectivities the precondition of any satisfying sexual encounter - rather, we see two subjects sharing their very isolation, breaking down the very shame of this isolated act. The subject engaging in this act is a subject of stupid, arbitrary whims, unable to engage with another subject proper, but merely interacting with the simulacrum of another subject. Does this analysis not point to the fact that this interaction is not guided by any Master-Signifier? Our post-modern society is said by Žižek to be ‘atonal’ - that is, it is a world whose complexity cannot be overcome by the decision of a MasterLiterature 123


Signifier in imposing a field of discourse, but is a world whose complexity must be asserted at face-value. The masturbate-othon is an exemplary figure of this process, being an engagement that brooks no unification of two subjects into sexual congress, but, rather, asserts the irreducible complexity of the desires of each subject whose very irreducible complexity renders them incommensurable. The contradiction of the assertion that contemporary society is ‘atonal’ and Žižek’s analysis of contemporary politics as being sustained by rational discourse is, on closer analysis, only apparent. If we analyse the subject of contemporary ideology, we see that he is post-political (that is to say, does not believe in any ‘higher’ cause in politics other than the efficient administration of resources) and bio-political (that is to say, sees the goal of politics being the security and welfare of life). Let us ask - how does the contemporary subject relate to himself and to others? As we have seen in the above chapter, each individual’s highest goal in life is the satisfaction of his own pleasures; his relation to others is one of tolerance, where he leaves his neighbour alone to indulge in his own stupid pleasure – and, as we have seen, this precludes any real engagement with him, since to properly engage with another is to be over-proximate to him, to demand that our pleasures be commensurable, to demand the mutual sacrifice of our isolated pleasures to the higher unity of the relationship. To give pleasure this central role to the subject’s selfidentity opens up the space for these pleasures - and their correlate, pain - to be considered as entities whose value can be considered primary, rather than the subjectivity to which they are attached. This, of course, is the good old doctrine of utilitarianism, and this doctrine implies the possibility of acts of violence against the subject. What is the use of torture - the causing of temporary pain to one subject - when it can help protect us against the greater pain of, for example, terrorism? ‘After all, we, the administrators of bio-politics, can precisely calculate the payoff between one man’s pain and many peoples’ pleasure…and you may have a sympathy with the pathetic victim of torture, but do not be deceived - this is a merely irrational prejudice on your part…’. We see here the relationship between our culture of pleasure and its abhorrent phenomenon of Guantanamo Bay - the latter is not an inexplicable deviation from the former, but is a necessary consequent of it. Our apparently atonal world is shown to have a very definite Master-Signifier, that of science, which generates a field of social discourse which reduces the subject to an object of scientific analysis, motivated by pleasure and pain, which has the authority to arbitrate between these claims, unhindered by any greater ethical obligation. The social status of science is, as we can see, sustained by and is generative of violence, but we can also see violence very clearly in its quilting of the social field - of reducing any true engagement with the neighbour as being ‘irrational’, of removing old ethical norms and ways of engaging with the world. There is a clear parallel here, between the social function of science and capitalism - both have the ultimate effect of undermining the relationship between man and world, reducing him (by one) to an agent of the transmission of capital and (by the other) reducing him to being motivated by pleasure alone. The ‘de-worlding’ function of both could serve 124 Bedeutung

as a succinct summary of the ‘objective violence’ discussed in the book, and it is the images of the ‘smooth running of capital’ and Fukuyama’s notion of a liberal-democratic ‘end of history’ which serve as the apparently ‘neutral’ background against which this violence seems such an aberration. Subjective Violence It is against this background that we must understand Žižek’s discussion of subjective violence one example of which, the apparently weird practice of torture by supposedly liberal governments - is discussed above. Let us now look at Žižek’s analysis of three all-too-visible acts of subjective violence - terrorism, the New Orleans lootings, and the riots of Paris, 2005. First, terrorism, which is most visible in the form of Islamic terrorism. What is so problematic about the relation of Islam to the West to bring about such evil acts of terrorism as we see today? The first thing which should note about the evil of this terrorism is that it is not the classic evil of egoism, nor is it a claim of two irreconcilable ways of life and their competing claims of sovereignty - rather the resentment displayed by Muslim fanatics is to be seen as their internalisation of Western standards, against which they measure themselves and find themselves wanting. Other fundamentalist religions take no interest in the spiritually deficient life of the West, since the attitudes of others towards them do not share their own normative standards. The explosion of rage we witness from Islam is therefore best explained by Žižek as being an example of envy at its purest - unable to live up to the standards set by the West, the Muslim terrorist is precisely unable to meet its claims, and wishes to destroy the object able to do so. But, what exactly is the object of this envy and disgust, and how does Islam fail to meet up with it? Žižek provides an example of the Muslim riots against the infamous Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, which is a perfect example of the symbolic violence discussed earlier. We should note, firstly, that the globalisation of communication has a clear counterexample of the liberal claim that more discussion leads to less war - instead, we are seeing something like the figure of the Babel-fish in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a small fish inserted in the ear which is capable of perfectly translating the language of the interlocutor to the listener. Readers of Adams’ book will know that this fish is the greatest cause of war in the universe. However, we must ask - why do mere cartoons provoke rioting? The answer is the violence caused by discourse - the rioters in question were not just reacting to ink on paper, nor were they reacting to a specific publication’s offensive remarks, but they transplanted these remarks from its contingent context into a new one, whereby they symbolised the entirety of Western imperialism. But, again - why the explosion of rage? Why not confront Western imperialism itself, rather against a few cartoons? For Žižek, these protests must be seen precisely as signs of the impotence of the Islamic world and an expression of their resentment towards the West - it is a symbolic violence that is a response to an all-too present systematic violence. It is, furthermore, a reaction to the de-worlding character of capitalism and liberalism discussed above - the advent of modernity in the West took several centuries to establish,


leading to new social narratives being constructed gradually over this time to allow Western society to adjust to this shock. Islamic societies, however, saw this shift take place suddenly, making its members retreat to the absolute certainties provided by fundamentalist religion. There is a further paradox here. Insofar as the Muslim protesters are reacting against a blasphemous image, they are acting within a frame of religious discourse; however, insofar as they are demanding respect for their beliefs, they are surely acting within a liberal mode of discourse. The violence engendered by liberalism’s ideology of respect of the other’ is shown at its purest here; as Žižek points out, the deadlock between liberalism and fundamentalism, if not resolved, can only lead to a liberalism which preaches with increasingly panicked urgency about the need for tolerance of a fundamentalism whose hatred is directed against this very tolerance… Let us now look at the riots of Paris, 2005. What is distinctive about this act of violence is its sheer meaninglessness - a protest where the protesters demanded precisely nothing, and merely asserted their presence. Such a protest, contends Žižek, can only take place in a world where no alternative to the prevailing system can be properly articulated, meaning that opposition to it can only take the form of a blind and, ultimately, impotent rage. But at what, precisely, was their rage directed? It was, contends Žižek, their invisibility to power. This is why the protests should not be perceived as having a deeper meaning or a message - the rage of the protesters was directed against their invisibility, and the protests had the effect of making themselves very visible indeed. Again, the ‘worldless’ character of post-modern society should be taken into account here - in a world that is dominated by the discourse of science, which not only hegemonises meaning, but renders meaningless any alternative to its discourse, the only response against this meaning can be an assertion which is absolutely meaningless. The third example is the chaos in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, which saw a breakdown of social order or, at least, that was how the matter was reported in the media, with many of these reports later being shown to be false. These reports painted the picture of a city in breakdown, with the result that the city was deprived of much of the help it so desperately needed. So why were reports such as this allowed to be displayed? For Žižek, they displayed a pathological character of racism - the disavowed racism of the commentators being transmitted onto the figures who engaged in loot and plunder, allowing them to say ‘beneath the black man’s civilised veneer is the heart of darkness…’. A parallel is drawn between this racism and the racism of William Bennett’s contention that aborting every black foetus in the country would result in a reduction in the rate of crime, which, for Žižek, shows a character of pathological racism disguised in a censored form. Žižek’s analysis of Islamic violence is unconvincing. Firstly, it is simply not the case, as any historian would know, that the scientific and economic aspects of modernity are really a shock to Islamic culture. After all, was this not the culture that produced the cheque, which established trade routes along the Silk Road, which saw the scientific contributions of such figures as Avicenna, and Averroes? And was this not a

culture whose history is precisely one of liberalism - after all, the astonishingly fast growth of the Islamic empire is largely explicable by the fact that Islam was not imposed as a state religion in the regions it annexed, its rulers leaving believers largely free to practice their religion as they pleased. Secondly, must such sudden shifts to modernity always result in a traumatic inability to adjust to modernity? It is evident that China and Japan faced sudden adjustments to modernity particularly traumatically in the case of Mao’s China; however, both are now major players in the world economy, with no fundamentalist upsurge in the name of Confucianism or Shinto. Žižek’s analysis of the reports on the New Orleans riots fail to develop what is truly interesting about his argument namely, that the disavowed libidinal investment projected onto the figure of the rioter was not concerned with racism, but rather the multitude of tensions which exist in America - of class, as well as race, as well as the tension which is inherent to the nature of capitalism to which, as he points out, the New Orleans riots provided an obscene mirror. It is this aspect of the analysis, and what it is to achieve - to help the commentators ignore the very systematic and symbolic violence inherent to the American system of capitalism and its social structure - which is underdeveloped in this section, much to its detriment. What is to be done? The one thing that we must not do in response to this violence is shown very clearly by Žižek in the first chapter, SOS Violence. This chapter consists of a wonderfully incisive critique of one of today’s standard responses to violence - that of liberal communism, a position exemplified in the philanthropic activities of such figures as George Soros and Bill Gates. These figures are concerned with the elimination of violence as displayed in its public forms, explicitly renouncing any abstract ideological engagement - after all, what matters is surely that poverty is eliminated here and now, by whatever means possible, and if that does not follow some out-dated Marxist dogma, so much worse for the dogma! Of course, the figures who engage in this sort of activity have profited very nicely from capitalism, and continue to engage in its destructive economic activities - but is there a problem here, as long as people are able to utilise its resources to combat its destructive results? And if we can do this, surely the struggle to combat capitalism becomes ineffective - surely the effects of globalization allow us to bring about the justice demanded by the communist? For Žižek, such an attitude is more than rank hypocrisy. The deficiency is in the first place ideological, since it analyses subjective violence as something which can be understood and combated without having to consider the objective violence which is inherent to its subjective correlate. More concretely, we need to look at the function performed by this philanthropic attitude as inherent to the system of capital. The philanthropic attitude can be exposed for what it is by performing a parallax shift - instead of looking at capitalism as a means to combat the violence it generates, we should look at this ‘solution’ as a means of curbing the violence inherent to capitalism itself. The function of these solutions is merely to postpone the crisis that is inherent to capitalism, by allowing more and more people to Literature 125


have a stake in the wealth generated by the system. The liberal response to capitalism, which has the imperatives of using capital to generate a space outside of the system, is precisely an effect of the system itself, whose function must be seen as a means by which the system is able to perpetuate itself. The ‘neutral space’ carved outside of capitalism - the ethic of the philanthropist, the consumer purchasing organic goods - is the highest expression of capitalist ideology. The greatest excesses of contemporary violence are to be seen as identical to the liberal tolerance. This chapter paints very clearly the inadequacies of the approach that would analyse subjective violence apart from objective violence, showing that this very approach is part of the objective violence that needs to be combated. But the question remains - how are we to combat this objective violence? Žižek’s response here is classically Hegelian, in asserting that the very character of this violence is its solution. The liberal subject of today’s ideology is one who relates to his culture as a matter of a contingent satisfaction of his desires; his opponent is the fundamentalist who is ruled exclusively by his cultural mores. The nature of the liberal individual, however, is one that can properly be said to be universal - a society whose major feature is that of economic exchange is one where its individuals can relate to their life-world in a merely contingent manner, as a manifold of objects which have a merely contingent relation to the satisfaction of their desires. This, of course, sees the individual define himself merely in terms of his ability to think and to work - that is, his selfrelation is one of contingency. We see here, again, the identity of subjective and objective violence - the objective violence of capitalism, stripping away any organic life-world and leaving its subjects forever ‘out of joint’ with the world, precisely mirrors the ‘wretched of the earth’ who are deprived of any place, whatsoever, in liberal democracy, be they Palestinians, Parisian rioters, or what have you. The ‘formal’ equality underpinning capitalism takes on a causal efficiency of its own, allowing a true universality and equality to emerge. The defence of particular cultures against the capitalist dynamic is, as we have seen in our discussion of Islamic fundamentalism, a defence formulated within the horizon of this universality; however, what is being reacted against is precisely the universality inherent in any contingent culture - protests against the constraints of a particular culture are formulated from the perspective of universality, from the perspective which sees any particular identity as inadequate. The very worldless character of capitalism provides the dimension of universality - the universality of negativity - which allows a truly universal struggle to emerge. Divine Violence The final question we must ask is therefore the following - what will the struggle look like? What will its meaning be? Žižek addresses this question in his final chapter, Divine Violence, which addresses two apparently contradictory aspects of ‘divine interventions beyond the law’. First, its aspect as the locus of all meaning (as is seen in Benjamin’s conception of the divine intervention being a vengeance for every wrong history has committed); second, its aspect as utterly meaningless (as in the tribulations of Job, 126 Bedeutung

whose refusal to accept any greater meaning for his sufferings marks him out as a truly holy individual). However, the two aspects of divine violence hold a deeper identity. Let us ask - how can the wretched of the earth avenge their wrongs, and bring the world back into joint? Through punishment? The problem with punishment is that the wrong is never properly avenged. The criminal, after punishment, is seen to be purged of his crime, bringing him back into the fold of humanity. However, this attitude does not work in a world that cannot be ordered by any Master-Signifier - the criminal is not brought back into an ordered world of meaning, since the world is shown to be characterised by meaningless disorder. What of the attitude of forgiving and forgetting? This is of course a far harsher attitude to take to the criminal, since his undeserved forgiveness renders him forever indebted to the victim of crime, and this is a debt that cannot ever be fully paid. However, Žižek points out the absolutely blasphemous character of this attitude - only a God or king can have the authority to forgive. Žižek puts forward a fourth term to these attitudes resentment. Readers of Nietzsche will know his critique of universal Christian morality as motivated by contingent attitudes of resentment - however, what if we can turn this attitude around, and find a universal ethical position in pathological motivation? What if the explosions of meaningless resentment we see in the Parisian rioters are, in fact, a truly universal act, whose universality is possible precisely because of the meaningless character of their life-world? The perpetrator of divine violence does not act out of pathology, nor punishment, nor sacrifice - the object of his violence is fully guilty, his guilt being attached to the very fact that his life has meaning. This violence is one that extends beyond the domain of law and meaning, and merely strikes against life itself from the perspective of pure drive. The man who commits divine violence is, very simply, beyond any notions of guilt and morality - these categories apply to life in its aspect of meaning, which the perpetrator of divine violence transcends. The bourgeois reader of this section may feel uneasy has Žižek really just justified pure violence? However, we may happily say that he has not. Žižek points out that there is precisely no big Other who can confer the character of ‘divine violence’ to the act, there are no objective characteristics which may distinguish it from other forms of violence - it can only have this appearance to those engaged in the act. So, let us ask - what of the Holocaust? Could we distinguish this as divine violence? Ah, says Žižek, we can recognise a difference between the Holocaust and the ‘divine violence’ we speak of the first is an act of power by the state, the latter by the people. But this criterion does not wash - after all, how can Žižek give the Revolutionary Terror its character of divine violence in the very same chapter? Can we say that the character of the Holocaust had the meaning of establishing state law, but divine violence lacks this meaning? But this analysis does not work - if the Holocaust is conceived, as Arendt believed, as the reduction of its victims to mere units which could be disposed like an inanimate object, or if it is conceived as an act which was in fact detrimental to the German war effort,


an act of pure hatred toward the Jews, we again fail to show that the Holocaust was not an example of divine violence. In any case, how can any objective criterion be brought to bear on whether a particular act - including the Holocaust - is an act of divine violence or not, since divine violence is distinguished by its position outside the realm of meaning? We are left with a dilemma - either divine violence has no objective criteria which can distinguish it from ordinary violence, in which case we may end up justifying the Holocaust, or else we do have these objective criteria to identify divine violence, in which case divine violence is a priori impossible. Conclusion This review has only been able to do justice to some of the book - there is much which is excluded, partly because, as with so many of his works, the work is characterised by digressions which resist the integration into any greater field of meaning. Many of Žižek’s old tropes are present here - the peasant stealing the wheelbarrow, the chocolate laxative (which has to be one of the most curious images in his work - as far as I am aware, eating chocolate has no adverse affects on one’s bowel function), the man who believes himself to be a piece of grain. What distinguishes this work from many of his others is its sheer rhetorical effectiveness - the chapter SOS Violence, especially, is a brilliantly written piece of invective against the liberal communist. As I have argued, the conclusion of the book and its advocacy of ‘divine violence’ is a slapdash attitude to the details of the examples of violence analysed render them impotent. The chapters SOS Violence and Antinomies of Tolerant Reason are brilliant critiques of liberal solutions to the problems faced by the world today, and the solution of ‘more discourse’ is very precisely rebutted in his analysis of the violence inherent to language. Žižek’s strength -critiquing contemporary ideologyis much in display here; sadly, his weakness -proposing any alternative solution- is all too present.

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APOSTOLOS DOXIADIS 17th NIGHT

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T

he extract that follows is part of a transcription of a long dialogue that took place between the Greek writer, mathematician and film and theatre director, Apostolos Doxiadis and his friend, G.E. It forms the second part of a book entitled "From Insanity to Algorithms", published in Athens in 2006 by Ikaros Publishing. The first part of the book is a play fictionalising the last days of the great logician Kurt Gödel. The entire journey into the relation between logic, mathematicians and insanity was inspired when, few years back, Doxiadis read in an introduction to an article about the logician Alonzo Church by Gian-Carlo Rota, that five of the main actors of the creation of modern logic spent a part of their life in psychiatric asylums. Trying to disentangle the apparently inconsistent connection between the very epitome of logic, algorithms, and its diametric opposite, insanity, Doxiadis visits the personalities of some of the greatest minds of modern mathematics, the principles that govern logical reasoning and the potentially necessary trade-off between absolute proffesional order and logic and personal psyhological malady and deviance.

[...] Barry Mazur has written somewhere that the Dutch have the most accurate word for mathematics: ‘wiskunde’. It’s made up of two words, ‘wis’, which means certainty and ‘kunde’, which means ‘area of knowledge’. Mathematics is, then, referred to as sureology, namely, the science of absolute certainty - a definition most mathematicians would endorse. Sureology… I like that! Now look: whenever, in this world of sureology, you wish to insert a truth so original and, as it was later revealed, so precarious as the one Cantor introduced, a truth that has exceptional powers and produces almost unbelievable proofs -theorems, in other words, that even their author finds it hard to believe- you need to be equipped with a certain mental apparatus, you need to be ready to deal with great emotional strain. Think for a minute: it can’t be easy having Poincaré referring to your theory as a “disease” from which mathematics will, eventually, be cured.


Without, however, calling it ‘wrong’. Yes, because Poincaré does not judge Cantor’s proofs, which were themselves impeccable, but the introduction of a new construction based on completely novel foundations. In such a situation, the terms ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ become meaningless, in the same way that between Euclidean, Hyperbolic and Elliptic geometries, you cannot speak of one being ‘more correct’ than the others. Notice, again, Poincaré’s description: disease. It’s not at all common for mathematicians to hear such cruel words for their work. And you’re saying that Cantor had the kind of resistance needed to withstand the criticism… My claim is even more specific: that the creation/inspiration of set theory was facilitated by the psychological courage of its creator. Look... on the one hand we know that insanity is an ability to see causal links where they don’t exist. The insane person can interpret simple glances as signs of being followed, detect in others’ whisperings innuendos against himself, see encrypted messages aimed against him in otherwise innocuous newspaper articles. We call these readings insane because we, ‘sane’ people, consider them unfounded. Nonetheless, they are not in themselves, necessarily, devoid of logical coherency. Every insane reading forms a theory, a model that explains reality in a particular way. And these models are, by and large, very logical - sometimes, even more logical than other, less insane readings, because they formalize, they ‘clean up’ and simplify reality. They explain it in a very organized way. But, nonetheless, wrong. Definitely as wrong -in its exaggeration- as it is logically neat. It’s what we often hear, that ‘this great artist found refuge in insanity’. It’s an escape from inner chaos to an absolutely organized, logical representation of reality. It is, in a way, the same certainty that some people find in political ideologies. Yes, especially when the ideologies are Manichean or when they are fanatically embraced. This kind of addiction is, for example, typically found in the extreme form of worshiping of football teams or similar concepts. In any case, what is important here is that the shortcomings of insane models do not reside in their internal logic, which is flawless, but in their inability to comprehensively describe the world out there. And does this happen because of false axioms? You could say that. The problem is not the internal logic, but the starting points, the points on which theory relates to reality. But -and this I want to stress- this method of fabricating insane explanatory models of the universe can, sometimes, actually get it right! It’s like an American joke from the sixties: “If you think people are after you, it’s usually because they are”. Indeed. Or, to put it differently, being insanely paranoid and actually being persecuted, at the same time, is not impossible; likewise a hypochondriac can, in fact, be sick. Here’s a story about the great American scientist Archibald Wheeler, who has a very eccentric form of genius. Someone said about him that “during his lifetime he formulated three hundred entirely crazy theories, two of which happened to be true!” And it is to these two that he owes his eminence. Precisely. In other words, no one is especially bothered about the two hundred and ninety eight wrong ones -of course, the numbers are only random- and Wheeler is regarded as a great physicist thanks to the two right ones. The rest were, in a way, the price he had to pay for an imagination so vivid and creative, so extraordinarily productive. This mode of creative imagination is something we know well from artistic creation. In some historical periods, certain painters, composers or poets create within the 130 Bedeutung


frames of the ruling lege artis -same as the scientists in periods of normal science, to use Kuhn’s term. At other times -much more rarely- some daring individuals lead the way to something entirely new, breaking all links with the past. They pave new roads and, at the same time -these two things usually go together- burn the bridges to the past. This is what the first painters who thought ‘let’s do away with representation’ did, or the first composers who decided to defy the rules of tonality. Like Jackson Polock who, suddenly, puts his canvases on the floor and drips paint on them… …And he calls this painting. This last bit is crucial: many others before him had done something similar, but they called this ‘doodling’. But beware. While for an artist, to try something new, unusual, weird, and be successful -which, by the way, means to be recognised- seems to us nowadays, at a time when originality is a value in itself, entirely normal, this should not make us blind to the fact that a similar thing happens also in science. That is why I mentioned Wheeler’s example. The gradual acceptance of a scientist’s work, the regulating effect of the constraints of empirical verificationism, and the subsequent implementation of the scientist’s work in the canonical science makes us forget the innovative element -or, many a time, the seeming insanity- of new ideas. This kind of insanity is noticeable only if we examine them in the context of the time they appeared. Which is why I said that historical perspective is so important. Is this what happened with Cantor? He said something ’crazy’ that ended up ‘working out’? Not entirely. Because, mind you, in mathematics we don’t speak in terms of experimental verification, we have proof -so, it’s not possible for anyone to say anything without facing up to the consequences. The mental resilience of Cantor, like I prefer to call it, has to do with his persistence, in spite of difficulties; with his sincerity in exclaiming about one of his proofs ‘I see it but I don’t believe it’ and with his determination to go straight ahead, subjecting his theory, along with himself, to grave consequences and continuing his career attempting to prove the so-called ‘Continuum Hypothesis’ on infinite sets. Someone else in his place would have stopped? Quite possibly. In the history of ideas, apart from genealogy, preparation or environment and fact, to which we have already referred, there is also another substantial factor: the ‘carrier’ of an idea, the particular individual who receives the effects of genealogy and preparation, who lives the event and, finally, contributes his or her own part and brings out to the open the final idea. We could refer to him or her as a good gardener, who makes the plant blossom. So, at some point in our conversation we had better leave aside mathematics and talk about the ‘carrier’ of mathematical ideas, mathematicians themselves. Because who these people were, played an important role in the final form that their ideas took. Do you know the joke about an astronomer, a physicist and a mathematician sitting in a train? No. Well, the three of them are sitting in a train car and the train crosses the border between two countries, say from Germany to France. And, in the first pasture they cross on their way, they see a brown cow. So, the astronomer says: “Aha! In France cows are brown”. The physicist corrects him: “No, that’s not right. In France, some cows are brown”. And then the mathematician puts things in place: “No, my friends. All we know is that in France there is at least one pasture in which at least one side of at least one cow is brown”. This describes brilliantly the psychological type of a mathematician. This is the stance taken by an entirely logical person, who does not unwarrantedly generalize, does not exaggerate, does not claim anything more than what he can logically establish. We know well, however, that in life there is also the other side of a coin; that for everything you gain, you lose something else. And here, in this type of extremely ‘mathematical’ view on the world that this anecdote shows us, the price is not but a compromised ability to handle complicated situations. What do you mean by that?

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I mean that, if someone wishes to be precise to such an extent, like the mathematician in the story, if he wants, in other words, to always be right, there is no other way to achieve this but by reducing, confining, oversimplifying reality. The world is infinitely complex and so, to handle it absolutely logically you must, in each case, reduce it, simplify it. But, as the simplification process continues, you gradually cease to refer to the real world and you start moving on to another world which is, in a sense, imaginary, namely not the real one but a simplified version of it. And, as per the common saying, half a truth is, usually, a great lie. Are you referring here to the world as defined by mathematical axioms? Yes. But, of course, in mathematics, this is acceptable. Even more, oversimplification, namely absolute axiomatization, is mathematics’ greatest advantage. The moment, however, that you attempt to apply these models outside mathematical discourse, you begin to flirt with insanity, especially if you go to extreme simplifications. Nonetheless, let me get to my main subject. I said earlier that in the history of mathematics we rarely find cases of serious mental disease. In fact, if we compare mathematicians to poets or composers, the occurrences are extremely rare. We will have a very hard time to find in the biographies of great mathematicians instances of real psychosis. We will, of course, encounter more or less attractively weird people -some who forget their appointments, some who are incapable to walk to their local newsagent without getting lost- people, in other words, who exhibit eccentricities or absentmindedness, both being the side effects of an increased capacity for concentration. But we are not likely to find serious psychological deviance… What you are describing is the behaviour of the ‘crazy scientist’ type we see in cartoons, the person who is so dedicated to a particular field that he is completely out of touch with reality. The history of mathematics is full of types like that who are, to a certain degree, detached from reality, lost in their own theories. What we frequently find in mathematicians is, in other words, a psychological ground that can support a kind of mental functioning similar to that of the mathematician from our joke: one that allows a degree of detachment from reality that can allow the formulation of logical certainties. But this obsession, this detachment is, usually, not pathological and it rarely extends beyond mathematics. You know, of course, the adage ‘history is written by the winners’. I do. I find another variation even more interesting: ‘history is written for the winners’. Think about it in terms of our discourse: as a rule we write, narrate, read and hear the biographies of successful scientists, like those of successful artists, politicians, business people etc… Their success is, of course, given, since we are reading their stories in retrospect, i.e. after they have achieved fame. And, therefore, even if the lives of some successful individuals were, as it usually happens, rich in personal failures and tragic moments, we tend to read the biographies looking for the reasons that lead only to their success. This is because we are intelligent people who wish to understand the world logically: we seek everywhere and always the answer to ‘why’, the causal link. Narration itself as a cognitive function is, to a large degree, a mechanism of detecting causal relations in the flow of time, a tool to establish links that take us from a to b to c with causal efficacy. How does that relate to our topic? When, for example, we read in the biography of a successful scientist -remember, we said we are referring to success stories- that he or she discovered a new theory, the natural tendency is to attribute their accomplishment to their great intellect, persistence, their moral or spiritual vigour, or anything really that is good and positive. But it’s not as if these elements don’t exist in the life of a creator, is it? Sure, but what we tend to ignore in this way of looking at things, is that other scientists, who may have 132 Bedeutung


equal or greater intellect, persistence, moral vigour etc., failed, by proposing theories that were proven to be wrong. And what fundamentally differentiates the former from the latter is that the former happened to be right. “Happened”? You mean they were just luckier? Writing the history of science, we, as a rule, omit the factor of chance and the role it plays in its progress. In other words, we ignore the possibility of the evolution of scientific ideas as a more general mechanism of production and control of new ideas that is reminiscent of the Darwinian notion of natural selection. If we leave out for a while the central, glorified image of the scientist-researcher and look at the history of science more macroscopically, investigating the history of a branch in its wider context, we realize that every time there is a big open problem, a number of alternative solutions are formulated, from which a number of them are confirmed, whereas the majority are eventually rejected and forgotten. The scientist who develops the right solution is very likely to be endowed with the psycho-mental characteristics of persistence, laboriousness and moral vehemence - characteristics he may very well share with those who failed. That is why I put it so; that for someone to come up with a good idea, he or she also needs to, besides any other virtues, luck. In other words, for the right idea to be found, it is necessary that many wrong ones are expressed and, very often, the question of which scientist has which idea is, partly, a matter of chance. And, often, the ideas that do not survive are equally, if not more, intelligent, creative and interesting as the ‘right’ ones that survive this conceptual survival struggle. Those who express wrong ideas can be equally good scientists -or even better- as the others. I think that this notion is very nicely illustrated in the autobiographical text “The Double Helix”, where James Watson elaborates how he came to the discovery, along with Francis Crick, of the structure of DNA. This is indeed a very interesting book. And it should certainly be read by anyone caring to see this side of science that, I believe, Watson describes beautifully, even to the extent of presenting himself in an unfavourable light. What I mean by this is that he does not try to gloss over the fact that he and Crick were helped by luck and that they happened to be at the right place at the right time, amongst the right people who came up with the right ideas, with which they could work and, ultimately, arrive first at their conclusion. And there’s something else, which is particularly interesting for our discussion: the psychological reasons that lead a scientist to the correct solution of a problem have occasionally less to do with his capabilities than with his weaknesses. Namely, if we accept that, to a certain extent, the right idea chooses the person through which it will be expressed -by ‘choosing’ I of course don’t allude to some external wilful act of sensible choice-, then, the choice of the carrier, namely of the person most capable to express the idea, may depend, on his or her neuroses or, even, psychoses. For an idea to be expressed properly, then, the appropriate emotional makeup must be in place. Which can, at times, be pathological. Something tells me we are getting closer to our main subject. Precisely, we are reaching the point of the observation I made at the beginning, that the history of the quest for the foundations of mathematics is full of severely pathological cases. From Frege onwards -himself included, as we shall see- the magnificent history of the creation of modern logic is, largely, a story of psychopathology. We already saw - this was Rota’s remark with which we began that most of the people who attempted to build mathematics their on foundations of absolute logical certainly, exhibit in their private lives serious deviations from logicality. The brilliant construction that leads, through the last in the chain, Alan Turing, to the invention of electronic computers is, for the most part, deeply rooted on a ground of psychological malady.

Translation: Alexandros Stavrakas Literature 133


Antonia Spiegel has kindly presented us with two chapters of her book: the first and the twelfth. We proudly print these extracts from

The Affair Schneider

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1

Why should you be interested in this story? It is not mine it is not yours. Probably you also do not belong to one of those who had known him, who had refused to believe that there could be any truth to this story when it first began as a rumour. You are not one of those who engaged in the gossip and speculations that evolved shortly thereafter, who devoured him with eyes and ears, in order to feed your imagination. Because you have not heard of him before you opened this book – and let us admit: you do not know anything yet – you might just as well close these pages right here and now. Put the book on your bookshelf. Let it rest nicely with the rest of your collection of acquired but unread copies of compiled letters and numbers and pronunciation signs and, eventually, dust. Or maybe the publication you are holding was a present? Are you wondering whether it is one of these presents one should rather not touch, not damage, keep in a drawer that holds all these useless items one is given on occasions and keeps only to pass them on gift-wrapped at another occasion to someone else? If you are one of those, and if you are about to put this book into one of these drawers, I hope for your sake that whoever gave you this copy did not decide to write some dedication on the front page. You should rather check right now. Are you still reading? Then I must understand your eyes wondering over these letters printed before you – the very same letters I am typing now (how many pages do I still have to write, how long will it take me until I have told this story?) – I take your reading of these lines as an encouragement. An encouragement but also an interrogation! And so I feel it to be my obligation to explain to you why you should read this story. Were you one of those who knew him, I could tell you that, with this book, you will finally understand – might even sympathise. Everything will be clear – at least if your own intelligence will allow you such levels of understanding, comprehension and tactfulness. But my dear reader, I fear you have never heard of Schneider, of this personal tragedy that came to a final climax less than twelve months ago. So I must justify myself – I must justify my book – differently to you. You should read this story because it is part of you. It is part of your time. I am not claiming everything in this book is correct – is true. I also lay no claim to myself being a perfectly reliable narrator, trustworthy. I am biased. I have desires and fantasies just like you. Some of which I will live out here – I already know. Some things will sound grander, bigger, better, faster – others more terrible and fearsome than they really were. But what is a story without exaggeration? We live in a world in which exaggeration dictates our narratives – even our history. Maybe most of all our history, each one of our personal histories. And this is exactly why this story interests you: it is a scandal. And you, you live in a world of scandal – your society feeds on scandals: political scandals, financial scandals, Hollywood scandals, royal scandals, corporate intrigues, families with deteriorating fame, a starlet falling from grace, your neighbour’s son was arrested for drunk driving, your cousin’s wife turns out to be a lesbian. But what does this mean? What is a scandal really? How much is the mediated, talked about, speculated, assumed really related to whomever all the talk is dedicated to? At first, all accusations and speculations around Schneider seemed preposterous – at least this was the word –preposterous. I personally found what I heard neither implausible nor was I surprised. I just did not judge. And, so, I concluded that the general reaction of others, those on more familiar terms with him than I had been in decades, was one inherent to any public indignity: that those closely related either in person, through circumstance or merely by affiliation because of class, lifestyle and taste refuse to accept that one of their circle can traverse down the pass of public disgrace. What they didn’t understand – and possibly still do not understand now – is that he never was one of them. ‘They’ had adored him. They had taken him as a role model, had asked his opinion, tried to simulate who they thought he was. And his disgrace made them feel dirty through association. They felt betrayed because they refused to accept that what they all thought they wanted to be could turn out what he eventually became. It took several weeks – to some extend months, for the case to become clear to those indulging in it. People’s

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disbelief quickly turned into sickening curiosity. I later found out that the girl was questioned and they had broken entry into what was left of his apartment. But his motivation, no one could explain. I would argue, all in all, there was nothing really as scandalous about the events in question as many made out to be. Rumours and speculations quickly became the truth amongst gossiping acquaintances and society. But moral condemnation, if we are honest, was not really appropriate. What morale had been violated if we turn away from the myths that were fast to evolve? Instead, his choices and behaviour seemed to have touched a nerve amongst those who talked about him. I confess I always was an outsider to these realms in which he decided to move about in the end, in which he participated. Yet, it was quite clear to me – especially maybe so because I was an outsider – that his choices became something like a vengeance of a moral that they all defended without adhering to it. Everyone talked about manners and norms and what is appropriate and what is not without knowing what it was: they all held up to each other something like a mirror, while hiding behind a reflection they could never see or grasp; and they still do. And he; he became a caricature of their lives. A pitiful caricature, I have to admit. But we must begin at the very beginning, so that your curiosity can be fully satisfied – leaving no gaps, no questions unanswered. I will try to do my best.

12

The rain had been applauding unceasingly the windowpane since hours, and he could barely see the ocean behind the floating glass. The horizon had melted into the grey sky, which poured its contents into the infinite gallons of water beneath – so much that he was wondering whether it was possible that rain could drench the sea itself; make it wetter than it already was. The seagulls that usually scavenged the shore had disappeared, the dark wood of the pier panels turned into a slick soggy slope, resembling the moist body of a seal. And the melancholy that seemed to resonate like a song from the repetitive sound of the raindrops slowly, but surely, saturated him. He felt vulnerable, tired, longed for solitude instead of loneliness. It had been his choice to decide on a location for the conference. And now, Brighton was lulling him into apathy instead of bathing him in sunshine, spume, and salt. His only relief was the knowledge that the rain, with all its clammy side-effects, was kept out of his world for the moment, separated from his body by the turquoise coloured rusty roof of this hotel room in which he sat, lost somewhere amidst the plain of memories, resonating sleep and gloom. Half an hour had passed since he had decided to rise from his bed and had taken a seat in one of the small armchairs framing the bay window. It was early – very early – but he began to get impatient with himself already. He was undecided whether to order coffee up to his room or to venture himself downstairs into the dining hall. Breakfast was the meal he enjoyed the least, even though mornings had become his favourite time of day. With age, sleep had increasingly decided to make itself a resisting muse, and he would wake up at hours that he used to go to bed at in his youth. The seclusion yet novelty each such early hour brought, had cast a spell on him, and maybe it was this purity of mornings which made him despise the ingestion of food: as if beverages and pastries were the first step towards spoiling and dirtying another potentially flawless, innocent day. With the knowledge that another serving of unanticipated scrambled eggs and tasteless melon slices were coming his way, he knew today was already lost. Pondering gloomily in his chair, he felt cheated by a sudden onset of misery. He would be fifty-three this year. Fifty-three! He remembered what a wise author had said: that it is a misfortune to never be loved, but that there is misery in not loving. This writer had written these words approximately half a century earlier, and very shortly thereafter, he had died in a motorcycle accident, an unfinished manuscript with him at the time. Schneider imagined the tragic scene: the dead man’s face with blood trickling out of his ears and nose, the neck and head strangely twisted due to the broken spine. The gog-

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gles probably sitting crooked on his nose, his hat having come off during the crash. The motorcycle would lie several yards away, thrown by the force of the crash, and everywhere, pages of handwritten sentences, verses in black-brown ink, sailing through the air, dancing through the wind, burying slowly but surely the artist and the scene of death, whilst carrying the writer’s word one last time into the world: into the branches of trees, the leaves of bushes, the meadows and country roads, mixing their white with the orange brown colours of a grey autumn day. Whether it was actually autumn when the writer died, he did not know. But this was how Schneider had always imagined it. And he came to wonder what had motivated the man to write these words about love. Had he been miserable, or misfortunate, or both? Maybe he had been lucky enough to love and having been loved. But who knew the answer to such a question but the writer himself, who could no longer tell. People had loved Schneider ample and passionately. He had caused many grief, had rejected plenty of admirers. Sometimes, he thought his present loneliness was his punishment for his ruthless play with people’s emotions. But he never meant to be brutal, or cruel. He could not help that others left him cold. When he was younger, his lack of partner had rarely affected him, and instead, he enjoyed his freedom and unaccountability, which allowed him to drown himself in affairs and new excitements at every corner that he turned. There was the occasional girlfriend – alone to circumvent the strenuous business of having to seduce women in order to satisfy sexual desires. Moreover, a woman, particularly a very beautiful woman, could bestow a man with prestige no amount of money or intellect ever could. He had learned this lesson already as a boy. Back then, his attention had been brought to this telling spectacle whenever he watched his mother and father in company: in casual situations or when she glittered in glamorous robes, floating within a light, inescapable, and luring sea of perfumes and powder, his mother’s aura enthralled all. And his father was bathed in that light of hers. She was the only woman he had ever truly loved. Loved in this manner that combines adoration and affection and emotional comfort and security. His mother had been an example of everything he had ever held dear and aspired: grace, beauty, intellect, cultivated seduction and frivolous enjoyment; a pinch of excess, of candid emotional ruthlessness. Sometimes, he dwelled in memories that made him despise her for her unintended manoeuvre to linger within his shell as a sculpture of flawless femininity. His path had never crossed that of a woman who could have lived up to the standards his mother had branded into his conscience. But did this make him miserable? Was his life a misery? He rose from his chair in order to go into the bathroom and undress to take his shower, hoping he would melt into the ocean, which was pierced by rain in the same way he was about to feel water puncture his own body. His reflection in the mirror frightened him. A man with grey hair and ashen stubble on chin and jaw line looked into his eyes, examined his softened flesh and pellucid skin, raised his arm above his head behind his neck to investigate the muscles stretching visibly from his collarbone over his chest. He was no old man, yet. The hair framing his sex clung to the dark-brown colour it had always been, defying the future, secretly serving as testimony to his untold desires, memories, and potency. His arms still bore some definition. But his legs – these limbs of the male body that always tell the age – were thinning around the calves and betrayed any attempt to hide the years by validating the truth through thickening veins across the shins. Schneider forced a complicit smile, as if to encourage this friend he had watched for over fifty years. The friend smiled back. He would return to London tonight. A nightmare awaited him: a dinner at his colleague’s that was impossible to cancel. Since over eighteen months, this man had tried to win back his favour after an embarrassing event between the two. The miscalculation on the other’s part had allowed Schneider to reject all advances for a good year. But now, his negations were slowly but surely loosing credibility. There was nothing to be done but to declare defeat. Take up imposed courtesy once more, as he had done before.

www.bedeutung.co.uk Literature 137


May Talks / Lectures - London

Is the Middle East Europe’s Business? Professor Ghassan Salame

Religious Faith and Human Rights Dr Rowan Williams

What is the State? Professor Quentin Skinner

Thursday 1 May London School of Economics

Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet Jeffrey D Sachs

Friday 2 May London School of Economics

1968-2008 40 Years Later masterclass Etienne Balibar

Tuesday 13 may London School of Economics

Tuesday 13 May British Academy

The Nature of Naturalism Workshop Friday 16 May Institute of Philosophy

Cranach’s Influence Upon Expressionism Dr Christian Weikop Monday 19 May Royal Academy of Arts

6,8,13,15 May Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

Wordsworth and the Druids

Multiculturalism and Secularism Professor Tariq Moodod

Self-Knowledge and the Self

Tuesday 6 May London School of Economics

A lecture by David Miliband Rt Hon David Miliband

Wednesday 7 May London School of Economics

Sustainable Design and Development Various Speakers Wednesday 7 May Royal Society of Arts

European Identity in Question Richard Bellamy Wednesday 7 May London School of Economics

Towards the French Presidency of the EU Jean-Pierre Jouyet

Thursday 8 May London School of Economics 140 Bedeutung

Tuesday 20 May British Academy 22-23 May ARCHE British Academy

Decolonizing Critical Theory Drucilla Cornell

Saturday 24 May Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

David Goldblatt in Conversation David Goldblatt Thursday 29 May Tate Modern

Cornelia Parker Talking Art Saturday 31 May Tate Modern

Major Art ExhibitionsWorldwide Jan Van Der Ploeg Thom Puckey 3 May - 21 June Aschenbach & Hofland Galleries Amsterdam

Dennis Tyfus 8 May -28 June

Stella Lohaus Gallery Antwerp

Frie J. Jacobs - Chris Gillis 9 May - 22 June Dagmar De Pooter Antwerp

Nancy Spero

16 May - 31 August Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona Barcelona

Kohei Nawa “The Poetry of Bizarre”

30 May - 20 July Fundació Joan Miró - Espai 13 Barcelona

Les Collections Royales d’Angletere De Bruegel à Rubens

9 May - 21 September Musées Royaux des beaux-arts de Belgique Brussels

Justin Lieberman 23 May - July Galerie Rodolphe Janssen Brusells

Mario Ybarra Jr. “Take Me Out” 29 May - 24 August Art Institute of Chicago Chicago


2008 “The Great Game to Come” 13 May - 21 May Frankfurter Kunstverein Frankfurt

Mark Rothko Retrospective 16 May - 3 August Hamburger Kunsthalle Hambourg

“Disguise”

15 May - 5 July Michael Stevenson Gallery Johannesburg

“Working Space”

16 May - 28 June Galerie Lucy Mackintosh Lausanne

Oskar Kokoschka as “Enfant Terrible” and “Degenerate” Artist 29 May - 28 September Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz

Ben Johnson’s Liverpool Cityscape 2008 24 May - 2 November Walker Art Gallery Liverpool

Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life in Vienna 30 May - 31 August Tate Liverpool Liverpool

Massimo Bartolini 2 May - 21 June Frith Street London

Stefan Kürten

7 May - 31 May Thomas Dane London

An Urban History of Photographic Portraiture 23 May - 21 September Tate Modern London

Home Lands - Land Marks 29 May - 5 July Haunch of Venison London

Spencer Finch

Philip Guston

2 May - 31 August Pierpont Morgan Library New York

Kader Attia

17 May - 28 June Galerie Anne De Villepoix Paris

Mario Schifano

29 May - 26 July Lisson Gallery London

28 May - 14 September Galeria Nazionale d’Art Moderna e Contemporanea Rome

Jake & Dinos Chapman

David Claerbout

Bernd & Hilla Becher

Time & Place: Milano - Torino, 1958-1968

30 May - 12 July White Cube London

6 May - 14 September The J. Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles

Imagining Christ

6 May - 27 July The J. Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles

Avigdor Arikha

20 May - 31 August Musée Thyssen-Bornemisza Madrid

Robert Rauschenberg Traveling 9 May - 7 September Haus der Kunst Munich

Axel Kasseböhmer 29 May - July Monica Sprüth Philomene Magers Munich

200 Years of the Academy 30 May - 31 August Haus der Kunst Munich

24 May - 31 August Kunstmuseum St. Gallen

1 May - 7 September Modern Museet Stockholm

“New York, Austrian Art and Migration”

10 May - 14 September Österreichische Galerie Belvedere VIENNA

Annette Messager

16 May - 7 September Kunsthalle Wien Vienna

“Soccer”

28 May - 30 June Kunsthalle Wien Project Space Vienna

Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist

9 May - 3 August Smithsonian American Art Museum WASHINGTON

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June Talks / Lectures - London Jacobsen Lecture

Tuesday 3 June Senate House North Block University of London

Value in Philosophy Various Speakers

Wednesday 4 June Stewart House University of London

Nativism Various Speakers

Thursday 5 June North Block Senate House University of London

Names: An interdisciplinary conference Various Speakers

Thursday 12 June Clore Theatre, Birkbeck College

Western Secularisation and Globalisation Jose Casanova Monday 16 June London School of Economics

Philosophy as Therapeia: Perspectives from India and Europe 19-21 June 2008 Royal Institute of Philosophy

Mind, Art and Psychoanalysis: Perspectives on Richard Wollheim Friday 20 June Heythrop College, Kensington Square

Renaissance Averroism and its Aftermath: Arabic Philosophy in Early Modern Europe 20-21 June Warburg Institute 142 Bedeutung

The European Exception? The Public Intellectual in Britain Julian Baggini, A. C. Grayling, Kate Sope Thursday 26 June London School of Economics

Major ExhibitionsWorldwide Photographs from the Hermitage 7 June - 24 Aug Hermitage Amsterdam Amsterdam

Christopher Wool 11 June - 15 September Eleni Koroneou Gallery Athens

Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia 15 June - 28 September Museu d’Art Modern Barcelona

Olafur Eliasson

20 June - 28 September Fundació Joan Miró Barcelona

Babylone

26 June - 5 October Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlinische Galerie Berlin

Benin: Royal Arts of a West African Kingdom 28 June - 2 September Art Institute of Chicago Chicago

Modern Masterpieces from China, America and Europe 7 June - 7 September Albertinum-Galerie Neue Maister Dresden

Baselitz, Prints / Gravures 21 June - 25 August Kupferstich - Kabinett Dresden

Johannes Brus

June 2008 - September 2008 Museum Kunst Palast DÜsseldorf

Foto: Modernity in Central Europe 7 June - 31 August Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Edinburgh

“Total Enlightenment”

21 June - 14 September Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt Frankfurt

Christian Marclay

25 June - 21 September Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain Geneva

Rolywholyover, 5th Episode 25 June - 21 September Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain Geneva

Pat Andrea

19 June - 26 October Haags Gemeentemuseum Hague

Piet Zwart

21 June - 21 September Haags Gemeentemuseum Hague

Still Lifes during four Centuries 6 June - 5 October Hamburger Kunsthalle Hambourg

Trésors de l’Academia Carrara de Bergame

27 June - 26 October Fondation de l’Hermitage Lausanne


2008 British Drawings and Watercolours from the Lady Lever Art Gallery 28 June - 9 November Lady Lever Art Gallery Liverpool

British Orientalist Painting 4 June - 25 August Tate Britain London

Italy’s Painting Revolution 18 June - 17 September National Gallery London

Cy Twombly

19 June - 21 September Tate Modern London

Daring to be Different

25 June - 14 September Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art London

The Courtauld Cézannes

26 June - 21 September Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery London

Merian & Daughters: Women of Art and Science 10 June - 31 August The Paul J. Getty Museum Los Angeles

Italian Drawing from the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon 19 June - 20 September Lyon

Miró and the Earth

17 June - 14 September Musée Thyssen-Bornemisza Madrid

Balthus (100e Anniversaire) 13 June - 19 November Fondation Pierre Gianadda Martigny

Gilbert & George

14 June - 1 September Milwaukee Art Museum Milwaukee

Retrospective Gustave Courbet 13 June - 28 September Musée Fabre Montpellier

In the Reals of the Arts Architecture a the Munich Academy 1808/2008 11 June - 14 September Pinakothek der Moderne Munich

Gustav Klimt: The Lauder and Sabarsky Collections

Until 30 June Neue Galerie - Museum for German and Austrian Art New York

Dali and Film

29 June - 15 September Museum of Modern Art New York

Ernesto Neto

14 June - 31 August Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst Oslo

César par Jean Nouvel

Jun 2008 - October 2008 Fondation Pour l’Art Contemporain Paris

“The Wall: Loris Gréaud” 27 June - 6 September Yvon Lambert Paris Paris

Ladies Only

20 June - 9 November Kunstmuseum St. Gall

Women Impressionists: Mary Cassat, Berthe Morisot, Eva Gonzalés, Marie Bracquemond 21 June - 21 September California Palace of the Legion of Honor San Francisco

Power and Glory: Court Arts of the Ming Dynasty

27 June - 21 September Asian Art Museum San Francisco

Impressionism and the Art of the Past 19 June - 21 September Seattle Art Museum Seattle

Alberto Corazón

19 June - 7 September Ivam - Centre Julio González Valencia

Fernando Bottero

26 June - 21 September Ivam - Centre Julio González Valencia

Punk-Blank Generation. Style Rebellion, Art Attack and Social Subversion Agenda 27 June - 5 October Kunsthalle Wien Vienna

Misrach

1 June - 1 September National Gallery of Art Washingon

Martin Puryear

22 June - 28 September National Art Gallery Washington

The Mark Rich Collection 20 June - 3 August Kunsthaus Zurich

Diary 143


July Talks / Lectures London No events were confirmed for July 2008 at the time of publication. Please check on our website: www.bedeutung.co.uk

Major ExhibitionsWorldwide Contemporary American Art Show 5 July - 12 October Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin Berlin

100 Years of Autochrome Until 27 July Amon Carter Museum Fort Worth

Design of 1950’s & 1960’s 11 July - 12 October Design Museum Gent Gent

Design WIth a Smile

11 July - 12 October Design Museum Gent Gent

Painters and Photographers from Corot to Monet 13 July - 19 October Museum of Fine Arts Houston

Painting Family. The De Brays Masterpainters of the Dutch 17th Century 2 July - 5 October Dulwich Picture Gallery London

144 Bedeutung

2008 In the Forest of Fontainebleau: The Marvel and Measure of Peru: Three Centuries of Visual Histories, 1560-1880 8 July - 19 October The J. Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles

James Tissot: The Life of Christ Until 5 July Brooklyn Museum New York

A Selection from MoMA’s Collection: 1970 to Now Until 28 July Museum of Modern Art New York

Art of the Royal Court: Treasures in Pietre Dure from the Palaces of Europe 1 July - 21 September Metropolitan Museum of Art New York

J.M.W. Turner

1 July - 21 September Metropolitan Museum of Art New York

Home Delivery

20 July - 20 October Museum of Modern Art New York

Kirchner Street Scenes,1913 -1915 29 July - 10 November Museum of Modern Art New York

Magdalena Abakanowicz

17 July - 14 September Ivam - Centre Julio González Valencia

Impulstanz

9 July - 31 August Kunsthalle Wien Project Space Vienna


subscribe www.bedeutung.co.uk


events

Upcoming speakers in the summer term include Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Professor Joseph Nye of Harvard University, Lord Chris Patten, former chairman of the Conservative Party, and Governor of Hong Kong and Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. Everyone is welcome to attend LSE’s public events programme, where some of the most influential figures in the social sciences can be heard. Most are followed by a lively question and answer session. If you would like to receive a copy of the termly LSE events leaflet, you can join our mailing list by: emailing events@lse.ac.uk, phoning 020 7955 6566 or faxing 020 7955 6272.

Recent speakers at LSE including from bottom of page: European Union Commissioner Almunia; President Halonen of Finland; Nigerian Finance Minister Dr Usman; Greek Foreign Minister Bakoyannis, President Kagame of Rwanda; Home Secretary Jacqui Smith; and former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan

146 Bedeutung

Full details of all events including whether a ticket is required, or if entry is on a first come, first serve basis can be seen at www.lse.ac.uk/ events, or by calling the LSE events information line on +44 (0)20 7955 6043.

www.lse.ac.uk/events


The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities

Andrew McKinnon (Research Fellow, BIH) in conversation with Frank Deasy. acclaimed writer whose bold new version of The Passion was screened on BBC 1 over several days this Easter Tuesday 22nd April

6.30 Council Room, Birkbeck Main Building

Jens Andermann (Birkbeck) - 'The Politics of Culture' Wednesday 30th April 6.30pm Council Room, Birkbeck Main Building

Etienne Balibar - Masterclass - '1968 - 2008 40 Years Later : Of Insurrection and Democracy' 1.

Rethinking Equaliberty

2.

Democracy and Communism: the Issue of Constituent Power

3.

Conflict, Insurrection, Disobedience, and the Active Citizen

4.

How to Democratize “Democracy”?

6th, 8th, 13th & 15th May Room B35

2.30pm

Registration essential – see website for details.

Birkbeck Main Building, Malet St.

Andrew McKinnon (Research Fellow BIH) 'Madame Blavatsky Chokes The Bishop' Wednesday 20th May 6.30pm Venue tbc

Drucilla Cornell (University of Cape Town) 'Decolonizing Critical Theory : the challenge of black existentialism' Tuesday 24th May

6.30pm

Council Room Birkbeck Main Building

Pheng Cheah (Berkley) 'Necessary Strangers: Law's Hospitality in the Age of Global Migration' Wednesday 11th June 6.30pm Room 541 Birkbeck Main Building, Malet St.

'The State We're In - Museums, Narrativity, Identity' This colloquium brings together a group of experts in museum studies. They will present a range of case studies focusing on ways in which processes of musealisation have been repositioned in the cultural arena. Saturday 7th June

Birkbeck Main Building venue tbc

For more information on these events please contact Julia Eisner j.eisner@bbk.ac.uk or visit the website http://www.bbk.ac.uk/bih/activities


WORLDWIDE ART BIENNALS, FAIRS AND FORUMS (MAY - JULY 2008) 148 Bedeutung


Art Amsterdam 2008 7 May - 12 May 2008 RAI-Parkhal www.kunstrai.nl

Rencontres D’Arles 3 July - 16 September 2008 Sites throughout Arles www.rencontres-arles.com

The International Fine Art Fair 9 May - 14 May 2008 The Park Avenue Armory, New York www.haughton.com

Painting Light Impressionism and its Pictorial Techniques 11 July - 28 September 2008 Palazzo Strozzi, Florence www.palazzostrozzi.org

Hong Kong Art Fair 2008 14 May - 18 May 2008 Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre www.hongkongartfair.com

Antiques for Everyone 24 July - 27 July 2008 NEC, Birmingham www.antiquesforeveryone.co.uk

Photo London 15 May - 18 May 2008 Burlington Gardens www.photolondon.com Temps Forts de Drouot 19 May - 25 May 2008 Drouot Montaigne, Paris www.drouot.com

Melbourne Art Fair 2008 30 July - 3 August 2008 Royal Exhibition Building www.melbourneartfair.com Art Bodensee 31 July - 3 August 2008 Messegelände, Dornbirn www.artbodensee.info

Loop ‘08 Videoart 22 May - 24 May 2008 Catalonia Ramblas Hotel, Barcelona www.loop-barcelona.com The Moscow World Fine Art Fair 27 May - 2 June 2008 Le Manege / Manezh www.moscow-faf.com VOLTAshow 04 2 June - 7 June 2008 Ultra Brag, Basel www.voltashow.com Art Basel 4 June - 8 June 2008 Messe Basel, the Swiss Exhibition Centre www.artbasel.com Biennale of Sydney 18 June - 7 September 2008 Venues and sites throughout Sydney www.biennaleofsydney.com The Courtauld Cézannes 26 June - 21 September 2008 Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, London www.courtauld.ac.uk

Nature & Culture 149


Contacts Academic and Art Institutions - London Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities Malet Street London WC1E 7HX T: +44 (0)20 3073 8363 British Academy 10 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH T: +44 (0)20 7969 5200 British Library St Pancras 96 Euston Road London NW1 2DB T: +44 (0)20 7412 7676 British Library of Political and Economic Science London School of Economics & Political Science 10 Portugal Street London WC2A 2HD T: +44 (0)20 7955 7229 Contemporary Art Society 11-15 Emerald Street London WC1N 3QL T: +44 (0)20 7831 1243 Courtauld Institute Somerset House Strand London WC2R 0RN T: +44 (0)20 7872 0220 Institute of the Contemporary Arts 12 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AH T: +44 (0)20 7930 0493 Institute of Philosophy University of London Senate House Malet Street London WC1E 7HU T: +44 (0)20 7862 8683 150 Bedeutung

London School of Economics (L.S.E.) Houghton Street London WC2A 2AE T: +44 (0)20 7405 7686

Major Galleries and Museums

The Royal Society 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG T: +44 (0)20 7451 2500

96 Gillespie 96 Gillespie Road London N5 1LN T: +44 (0)20 7503 3496

Royal Society of Arts 8 John Adam Street London WC2N 6EZ T: +44 (0)20 7930 5115

Annely Juda Fine Art 4th Floor 23 Dering Street London W1S 1AW T: +44 (0)20 7629 7578

Royal Institute of Philosophy 14 Gordon Square London WC1H OAG T: +44 (0)20 7387 4130 Somerset House South Building Somerset House London WC2R 1LA T: +44 (0)20 7845 4600 Warburg Institute Woburn Square London WC1H 0AB T: +44 (0)20 7862 8949

London

Architectural Association 36 Bedford Square London WC1B 3ES T: +44 (0)20 7887 4000 Atlas Gallery 49 Dorset Street London W1U 7NF T: +44 (0)20 7224 4192 Barbican Art Gallery Silk Street London EC2Y 8DS T: +44 (0)20 7638 4141 British Museum Great Russell Street London WC1B 3DG T: +44 (0)20 7323 8000 Brixton Art Gallery 35 Brixton Station Road London SW9 8RB T: +44 (0)20 7733 6957 Brunei Gallery, SOAS Thornhaugh Street Russell Square London WC1H 0XG T: +44 (0)20 7637 2388 Cafe Gallery Projects Southwark Park London SE16 2UA T: +44 (0)20 7237 1230


Camden Arts Centre Arkwright Road London NW3 6DG T: +44 (0)20 7472 5500

Freud Museum 20 Maresfield Gardens London NW3 5SX T: +44 (0)20 7435 2002

Marlborough Fine Art 6 Albemarle Street London W1S 4BY T: +44 (0)20 7629 5161

The Centre of Attention 67 Clapton Common London E5 9AA T: +44 (0)20 8880 5507

Frith Street Gallery 17-18 Golden Square London W1F 9JJ UK T: +44 (0)20 7494 1550

Michael Hoppen Gallery 3 Jubilee Place London SW3 3TD T: +44 (0)20 7352 3649

Clapham Art Gallery 40-48 Bromell’s Road London SW4 0BG T: +44 (0)20 7720 0955

Gagosian gallery 6-24 Britannia Street London WC1X 9JD T: +44 (0)20 7841 9960

Contemporary Applied Arts 2 Percy Street London W1 T: +44 (0)20 7436 2344 County Hall Gallery Riverside Building County Hall London SE1 7PB T: + 44 (0)87 0744 7485

Gasworks 155 Vauxhall Street London SE11 5RH T: +44 (0)20 7587 5202

Nancy Victor Basement 36 Charlotte Street London W1T 2NJ T: +44 (0)20 7813 0373

Cubitt Gallery and Studios 8 Angel Mews London N1 9HH T: +44 (0)20 7278 8226

Haunch of Venison 6 Haunch of Venison Yard London W1K 5ES T: +44 (0)20 7495 5050

National Portrait Gallery St Martin’s Place London WC2H 0HE T: +44 (0)20 7312 2463

James Hyman Gallery 5 Savile Row London W1S 3PD T: +44 (0)20 7494 3857

Natural History Museum Cromwell Road London SW7 5BD T: +44 (0)20 7942 5000

John Martin Gallery 38 Albemarle Street London W1S 4JG T: +44 (0)20 7499 1314

The October Gallery 24 Old Gloucester Street Bloomsbury London WC1N 3AL T: + 44 (0)20 7242 7367

Design Museum Shad Thames London SE1 2YD T: +44 (0)87 0909 9009 Diorama Arts 3-7 Euston Centre Regents Place London NW1 3JG T: +44 (0)20 7916 5467 Essor Gallery 1 America Street London SE1 0NE T: +44 (0)20 7928 3389 Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art 39a Canonbury Square London N1 2AN T: +44 (0)207 704 9522

Guildhall Art Gallery & Roman London’s Amphitheatre Guildhall Yard London EC2V 5AE T: +44 (0)20 7332 3700

Lisson Gallery 52-54 Bell Street London NW1 5DA T: + 44(0)20 7724 2739 Mall Galleries 17 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5BD T: +44 (0)20 7930 6844

National Gallery Trafalgar Square London WC2N 5DN T: +44 (0)20 7747 2885 National Maritime Museum Greenwich London SE10 9NF T: +44 (0)20 8858 4422

The Orangery Gallery Holland Park London W8 6LU T: +44 (0)20 7602 3316 Photofusion 17a Electric Lane London SW9 8LA T: +44 (0)20 7738 5774

Nature & Culture 151


The Photographers’ Gallery 5 & 8 Great Newport Street London WC2H 7HY T: +44 (0)20 7831 1772

Waddington Galleries 11 Cork Street London W1S 3LT T: +44 (0)20 7851 2200

Major Museums

RIBA Architecture Gallery 66, Portland Place London W1B 1AD T: +44 (0)20 7580 5533

The Wallace Collection Hertford House Manchester Square London W1U 3BN T: +44 (0)20 7563 9500

Musee de Louvre 34 Quai du Louvre 75001 Paris T: +33 (0) 1 4020 5050

Riflemaker 79 Beak Street London W1F 9SU T: +44 (0)20 7439 0000 Serpentine Gallery Kensington Gardens London W2 3XA T: +44 (0)20 7402 6075 Southbank Centre Belvedere Road London SE1 8XX T: +44 (0)87 1663 2501 South London Gallery 65 Peckham Road London SE5 8UH T: +44 (0)20 7703 6120 Tate Britain Millbank London SW1P 4RG T: +44 (0)20 7887 8888 Tate Modern Bankside London SE1 9TG T: +44 (0)20 7887 8888 Thomas Dane Gallery 11 Duke Street St James’s London SW1Y 6BN T: +44 (0)20 7925 2505 Victoria and Albert Museum Cromwell Road London SW7 2RL T: +44 (0)20 7942 2000

152 Bedeutung

Whitechapel Angel Alley Entrance 80-82 Whitechapel High St London E1 7QX T: +44 (0)20 7522 7888 White Cube 48 Hoxton Square T: +44 (0)20 7930 5373

Paris

Musee d’Orsay 1, Rue de la Legion d’Honneur 75007 Paris T: +33 (0) 1 4049 4814 Galeries National du Grand Palais 3, Avenue du General Eisenhower avenue Winston Churchill 75008 Paris T: +33 (0) 1 4413 1717 Petit Palais - Musée des BeauxArts de la Ville de Paris Avenue Winston Churchill 75008 Paris T: +33 (0) 1 5343 4000 Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou - Beaubourg 19, rue Beaubourg 75004 Paris T: +33 (0) 1 4478 1233 Musée de Quai Branly 37, quai Branly 75007 Paris T: +33 (0) 1 5661 7000 Institut du Monde Arabe 1, Rue des Fosses Saint Bernard Place Mohammed V 75007 Paris Musée du Luxembourg 19, rue de Vaugirard 75006 Paris T: +33 (0) 1 4234 2595 Les Arts Decoratifs 107, rue de Rivoli 75001 Paris T: +33 (0) 1 4455 5750


New York The Frick Collection 1 East 70th Street New York, NY 10021 T: +1 (212) 288 0700 The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd St New York, NY 10028-0198 T: +1 (212) 535 7710 The Museum of Modern Art 11 West 53rd St New York, NY 10019-5497 T: +1 (212) 708 9400 P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center 22-25 Jackson Ave at 46th Ave New York, NY-11101 T: +1 (718) 784 2084 Pierpoint Morgan Library 225 Madisson Avenue at 36th St New York, NY 10016 T: +1 (212) 685 0008 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th St New York, NY 10128-0173 T: +1 (212) 423 3500 Whitney Museum of American Art 945 Madison Avenue at 75th St New York, NY 10021 T: +1 (212) 570 7721 Brooklyn Museum 200 Eastern Parkway Brooklyn, NY 11238-6052 T: +1 (212) 534 1672 Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum 2 East 91st St New York, NY 10128 T: +1 (212) 849 8400

Auction Houses Christie’s 8 King Street, St. James’s London SW1Y 6QT T: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 9, Avenue Matignon 75008 Paris T: +33 (0) 1 4076 8585 20 Rockefeller Plaza New York, NY 10020 T: +1 (212) 6363 2000 Sotheby’s 34-35 New Bond Street London W1A 2AA T: +44 (0)20 7293 5000 76, Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore 75008 Paris T: +33 (0) 1 5305 5305 1334 York Avenue at 72nd St New York, NY 10021 T: +1 (212) 606 7000 Phillips de Pury 25-26 Albemarle Street London W1S 4HX T: +44 (0)20 7318 4010 450 West 15th Street New York, NY 10011 T: +1 (212) 940 1200 Bonhams 101 New Bond Street London W1S 1SR T: +44 (0)20 7447 7447 595 Madisson Avenue New York, NY 10022 T: +1 (212) 644 9001

Nature & Culture 153


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Back page poem “The Interrogation of the Good” by Bertolt Brecht, translated by S. Žižek


Step forward: we hear That you are a good man. You cannot be bought, but the lightning Which strikes the house, also Cannot be bought. You hold to what you said. But what did you say? You are honest, you say your opinion. Which opinion? You are brave. Against whom? You are wise. For whom? You do not consider your personal advantages Whose advantages do you consider then? You are a good friend. Are you also a good friend of the good people? Here us then: we know You are our enemy. This is why we shall Now put you in fron of a wall. But in consideration of your merits and good qualities We shall put you in fron of a good wall and shoot you With a good bullet from a good gun and bury you With a good shovel in the good earth

Bedeutung Issue 1 Nature & Culture  
Bedeutung Issue 1 Nature & Culture  

The first issue of Bedeutung Magazine, a UK publication of philosophy, current affairs and the arts. Contributors: Cornelius Castoriadis, Ro...

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