Lacanian Press Agency
Paris, Friday 12 October 2001

- TO THE DEVIL, TALIBAN, by Catherine Clement
- CINEMA AND OBSCENITY, by Anne-Sophie Janus
- THE RAPE OF NEW YORK, by Thelma Sowley
To the devil, Taliban
Paris, 7 Oct (LPA) - Sunday 7 October. The American and British strikes on Afghanistan have just begun. And what strikes me comes from a long time ago: when small, I suffered the bombs of the Allies, too late to save my grandparents from the gas chamber, in 1944. I did not think of these bombs at all at the time of the outbreak of the Gulf war. This time, it is different. Like the Nazis, the Taliban are beyond humanity. No angelism, no grace. Nearly five years ago, some Western women shouted themselves hoarse over the tyranny of the Taliban, while the men, the politicians above all, sympathised in good taste, on tiptoe. Oh! I know well how we are becoming aware that, in time, by avenging the dead of the "Twin Towers", we will also get rid of a dictatorship directed against women. In sum, collateral liberation. Very well! These tyrants deserve to go. Having analysed their complete ignorance of the Koran, their dire lack of culture, their readiness to punish and destroy women, one can, as Hannah Arendt did with Eichmann, bluntly condemn the Taliban in the name of one sole argument: not wanting to share the same planet. With regard to their Saudi leader, Bin Laden, his instructive obsessions on the clean and the pure, the shower and the eau de Cologne, say a lot about his refusal of the feminine. What is to be found in Allah's Paradise? Perfumed virgins, indefinitely virgin. Pure, as the Aryan of old. Go! To the devil!

Cinema and obscenity: Le pornographe
Paris, 8 Oct (LPA) – "Le Pornographe" opens on a fixed shot - an epigraph shot. In a dark room, some spectators are watching a projection. They face us; we look past each other [nos regards se frôlent]. The screens, theirs and ours, coincide in a single geometric scheme that articulates two similar "spectatorial" spaces. This device makes a screen from the images of the projected film consigned to the field out of shot, all whilst allowing its soundtrack to filter through. A blind surface is interposed between these spectators and us, upon which our own desires and expectations are projected, swept away by the moans, the panting and the crude dialogue of the off-screen sound.

Venus is attending the projection of the latest in vogue Parisian film; we are given a pretty rough ride from the outset. One shot will prove to have been sufficient to associate us – we, respectable cinema enthusiasts – with the "pornography enthusiasts" that Bertrand Bonello's camera sets before us. The principle of symmetry established by this inaugural shot endures for the whole length of the film: Jacques Laurent (Jean-Pierre Leaud) is guilty of a lie by omission, passing as a film director whilst he exercises his pornographer's profession under the pseudonym "Laurent Jacquet". He knows the same ups and downs as his colleagues from the cinema. Like them, he has a grand project, a film that unfortunately he will never be able to realise due to financing. His visions, his artistic impulses, are constantly being stifled by budgetary constraints and the intransigence of his producer. He is a unique artist, struggling against the restrictive rules of a genre. He counts among his admirers some fine connoisseurs, heavily influenced by his filming techniques. Everything, in cinema, finds its counterpart in pornographic cinema.

Obscenity is the axis of symmetry of this operation of depiction [mise en regard]. For Bonello, it is not necessarily located where it is most expected. Pornography, Jacquet reveals, "is about sex in its pure state. It is thus human". Obscenity seems to be situated on the side of those who want to speak about it, like the journalist played by Catherine Mouchet who is preparing an article on pornography. But, equally, she gets out fast as soon as the pornography ceases to be a political gesture. Obscenity is thus the actresses" nail varnish; the obligation to show the ejaculation; the genital close-ups that conceal the faces; the redundancy of sound and image (Laurent to his actress: "If they can see you come, it's not worth hearing it"; the producer to the actress: "Jenny, louder, I"m not hearing you"). Any cinema, any image, any text responding only to demands for profitability is inevitably in danger of sinking into the most abject obscenity.

FoxP2 and the zero of signification
Paris, 8 Oct (LPA) – The latest issue of the eminent review Nature presents a sizeable work. Some English biologists claim to have discovered the first gene linked to a language disorder. Through this work, they expect to clarify the biological substrata of "thought". The gene, named FOXP2, is not being qualified as a specific gene of speech. A mutant form of the gene is held to be responsible for a protein indispensable to the functioning of the language zones. Some researchers are enthusiastic, others are warning against any overvaluation of the discovery of a "damage gene".

Will the biological foundation help us to understand what "damage in language" is when we are not even managing to name what is before us in a satisfactory way? Has the world been at peace or war since 11 September? What does this mean? All opinions are being expressed. For some, it is war, the most modern, the most high-tech there is; for others, it is an archaic war, a crusade, an ancient word, chosen to hold steady in the semantic zone of holy war. That was in the first days. The American leaders quickly noticed that it was incongruous to pit a state against a man, or a gang, on the model of the judiciary process. The semantic is resuming its rights, one is becoming cautious. The grand coalition that is forming is against "terrorism". "No State, no war" like one says, "no money, no Swiss". It is underlined in the international code of the "Law of War". The concept of "rogue state" that "harbours" the designated terrorist or terrorists permits of designating at the very least a responsible state and thus of justifying the use of the word "war".

Is Afghanistan, or rather what remains of it after twenty years of modern war on its soil, anything other than a fiction maintained by neighbouring powers who prefer to delegate it the role of "the state that causes everything". One speaks of "turbulent peace", we are discovering that this "war" includes aspects proper to a police operation: identification and tracking of suspects, control of financial circuits, evidence for judicial submission, widespread surveillance. But then, what kind of police operation mobilises special forces such as these or involves aerial bombardments? Is this the police of the end of history?

Tolstoy's epoch knew the difference between peace and war, despite the unprecedented widespread mobilisation at the time of the Napoleonic wars. Clausewitz and the author of "War and Peace" are in agreement here. There was war, there was a decisive battle, there was peace. Will the G8 powers really be at war one day? We do not know, but under the regime of nuclear deterrence and the treaty of non-proliferation, the suspicion is beginning to arise that the deferment of "The" global war no longer has solely the multiplication of local conflicts as its effect. "Not war", now means, "there is no peace anywhere". Here we are in "the era of terror", to use J.-A. Miller's expression. The definition of the enemy is vague. He is imagined everywhere, elusive, under the guises of the dissimilar, present both globally and locally.

Terror can present itself ultra-locally, and, on the occasion of a trauma, can concern the body. The traumatised body searches in vain for the word it lacks. The memory defies any transformation by language and thus also defies forgetting. It imposes itself and repeats itself. It is possible, in certain cases, to repair this encounter with "that which does not have a name", through speaking, through trying to name. The whole "language damage" edifice must be mobilised to dislodge the terrible signature of "things". Roland Barthes spoke of the "degree zero" of signification. The retroactive effect of trauma is the clinic of "Ground Zero", as, in New York, the closest place to the post-traumatic hole left by the "Twin Towers" has been called.

Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author
Paris, 8 Oct (LPA) - Text translated by Francois Regnault, director: Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota. The curtain opens on a piece by Pirandello himself, "Il Giuoco delle parti", which is being performed on the stage. The actors float indecisively, uncertain in their postures. Six characters intrude from outside. They are looking for an author for a play, that of the "sorrowful drama" that they themselves are. They want the private, the fantastic and the absurd of their private life to become public, because it is true. Ordinary theatre passes fiction for reality. These want precisely the opposite: the text shall be their very existence, the one that shall have been their cause. For though they were born as characters, they are not yet "complete"; what is worse, Pirandello himself refuses them! The piece is thus "to be made". These characters are in search of an author. From this point on, an infernal machine is unleashed; they are there, "more true and more real" than the others, but the director of the theatre curbs them, tramples on them, it is beyond him; he wants to throw them out, he cannot get rid of them. The actors try hard to play the role of these misplaced characters but they only manage a "grimace" in which they do not recognise themselves; they are only "semblant". What proceeds to well up in the characters is unrepresentable: treachery, neglect, incest, hate, guilt. The fiction will never abolish the real. With them, the eternal game of human roles, a "harmonious framework", is no good, rather, like "a stone on the road", it is a question here of "perpetuating the torture", the torture of the act that cannot be gone back on. The act which is happening now, which happens all the time, says the mother, but also, in an "eternal moment", the one that has been lived by the father. As Francois Regnault said, "the drama is played out within the hopeless intrication of torturous repetition and the irremissible act". For though they are all culpable, they do not strive to reconstitute a story, to present a complete account, rather they search from beginning to end of this display of a "muddle of contradictions", to get back to the unfathomable decisiveness of being which makes them the extent of this horrific ending that takes them all by surprise. The little girl falls in the pond and dies, sacrificed; the adolescent watches immobile as she drowns, then kills himself. "Reality, reality", proclaims the father. "Reality, fiction, go to hell", says the director. The characters leave. Have we finished here? It is not sure, for the shadows of the characters reappear; this time, there are only four.

A play of rhythmic lights across a wide space, then suddenly concentrated on a set suspended between reality and fiction, familiar, amplified sounds alternate with a collage/montage of layers of ancient and contemporary music, Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota's direction drives home the temporal beating of divided subjects like their struggle against the fixity of destinies forever singular. His art, allied to that of Francois Regnault, author of a limpid and magnificent translation of the piece, performs the feat of making us hear a text with contours as precise as the enigmas of life, those that Pirandello presented to us in "simplified" form. As the father says: "Before an inexplicable fact, when the evil is accomplished, find a word, a word... on which one might rely." That it is in no way a question of psychology, this much will have been understood.

This piece will run at Paris' Theatre de la Ville until 27 October.

The rape of New York
Paris, 9 Oct (LPA) - Born in New York, an American, I have lived in Paris for decades. JAM has asked me what the first thing was which came to mind when I turned on the television at about 3.30pm on 11 September? It is William Butler Yeats's sonnet, 'Leda and the Swan'. No doubt, it was the signifier 'burning towers' which precipitated this connection. In the emotion of the moment, I saw it as a premonitory writing. A connection through the signifiers of the language, but also an imaginary connection. The mythic rape recounted by Yeats seems like an anticipated metaphor of the attack: the wings of the swan and the wings of the plane, Leda's thighs and the Twin Towers.

Are the towers symbols? 'Symbols' in this sense are non-arbitrary signs, like the Cross, the Star of David, the crescent, the swastika, flags, the Eiffel Tower, whose signification is established in history, the history of populations, the history of the world. Is it wise to bring this Symbolic to the foreground?

In the current situation, this Symbolic is dangerous. If the attack concerns symbols, some will say with the American or Arab fundamentalists that it is a question of symbols of Evil (abortion and homosexuality for the former, financial power and American military for the latter). Others will say with Bush that it is a question of symbols of Good, and flags will be waved.

Like everyone, I am capable of a sentimental chauvinism. Sometimes on the side of France, sometimes on the side of America. When the headlines in 'Le Monde' read 'We are all Americans' on 12 September, I thought I could very well line up under this banner, on the condition that it be accompanied by others: 'We are all Palestinians', 'We are all Afghans', 'We are all Iraqis' and, as is evident, under the banner of reference for all the horrors of our century: 'We are all Jews.'

The one for whom the watchword 'We are all German Jews' was created in 1968, Dany Cohn-Bendit, proposed on television: 'We are all New-Yorkers; we are all Afghan women.' I prefer his version, since it spares any sliding towards patriotism and the nationalism that rears its ugly head behind it. The New-Yorkers have no flag, nor have the Afghan women.

The 'Twin Towers' are not in the same semantic field as the 'World Trade Center'. The liberty represented by 'World Trade Center' is the truculent power of Ultra-Liberal economics. The 'Twin Towers' were part of the New York skyline, whose splendor lit up the architectural history of the city.

The "Letters to the Enlightened Public"
Paris, 11 Oct (LPA) - J.A. Miller continues the publication of his Letters, which are the talk of the analytic milieu. The third instalment comprises three Letters: the first is entitled "The Tenderness of the Terrorists"; the second is addressed to the entire Lacanian galaxy; the third is a fragment of auto-analysis, sparked off by an observation by J.F. Rabain, a member of the SPP.

Freudian Field meetings
Paris, 11 Oct (LPA) – The first meeting, forecast for Thursday 25 October in the Lutetia rooms, has been confirmed (reception at 8pm). On the other hand, there will be no meeting in November.

The second M. Denis Prize
Paris, 12 Oct (LPA) - The second Monsieur Denis prize is being awarded, with the congratulations of the jury, to M. Charles Melman, psychoanalyst and leader of the "Groupe Paris", for the whole of his oeuvre.

Translated by Adrian Price (Paris)

Edited by Susana Tillet (Melbourne)

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