Aug 2007

Lacan's Nightingale



Lacan, in truth, had only one style of teaching: his Seminar. Probably the existence during thirty years of Lacan’s Seminar, contributed to making this concept part of the French language. In the classic Latin, seminarium is a kitchen garden. Seminare comes from semen. The modern use of the work Seminar has its origins in the Counter-Reformation (or, better stated, a place, a religious institution where the young are trained to receive religious orders). The modern meaning of Seminarium is born with the Council of Trent, in the Counter-Reformation, when the Catholic Church sought out mechanisms for reconquering Christendom.

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Frank Gehry's "Ship of Glass in Chelsea Waterfront" -

photograph by Gérard Wajcman


Gérard Wajcman casts new light, for our annotated bibliography, on the way in which Lacan foresaw that objects would "rise to the summit", that is, the way in which their rise and fall are linked together in modern sublimation. Climate and hypermarket resonate therein, providing a touch of the supplementary global real, in their search for the O.L.* [object-that-is-lacking].

C. Lazarus-Matet

The object from below


In 1960, for Lacan, the elevation of the object constitutes the act of sublimation.1
  In 1970, the rise of the object seems to take us back to another matter, as the general rise of the object in society. In fact, the indication of a new potential rise of the object unveils a new class of sublimation. In ten years there was a shift from sublimation’s traditional and aristocratic view, the cathartic power of beauty in the hands of some chosen souls, to a GSS, a generalized social sublimation, an industrial, anonymous, desacralized sublimation, where the emptiness of the Thing is drowned under the deluge of the object series.
This demands an examination of the nuance between the object’s elevation and its rise. To integrate Duchamp’s hypothesis that any object can serve, the thought of its elevation maintains Lacan along the lines of Freud’s transcendent view of sublimation.
That is, sublimation supposes, implicates and summons the highest and unattainable ideals. It elevates to the highest level. While, the rise, can be perfectly considered from below, from very low, as in the rise of waters. In one case the highest level is reached, whereas in the other, one wades through.
For example, nobody will ever say that Christ rises: He elevates. "the time has already come in which the Son of Man ascends up to glory." [John, 12, 23] And to the elevation of the Passion of Crucifixion, the elevation of the sublime Ascension will follow - the Virgin’s Assumption will be an angelically assisted Ascension. This kind of elevation describes a sublimation in the sense of asceticism, the distillation of matter vaporized in spirit or, and at the heart of our Platonic cavern, the route from darkness to light. In Lacanian, sublime elevation takes the real to the symbolic. But when one measures the religious weight of the idea of elevation- well beyond the erection image – in our region, there is some suspicion that all idea of elevation is more or less perfumed with Christian essence, and that Freudian sublimation does not escape more than alpinism. So, for Lacan, the rise gives the object its material weight again and brings it back to the field of terrestrial gravity. The rise carries no object’s passion, no asceticism, no Metaphysical flight, no sacralization. The rise of the object is a fork-lift truck assisted Ascension. A crucial feature takes shape here: the object is equal to itself from below upwards. It is not an object that dematerializes. It remains exactly as it is: a product, a waste. The secret is that it simply changes levels. This new kind of sublimation consists of putting dirt in the suitable place, [to echo Lord Palmerston’s quotation mentioned by Freud in "Character and Anal Erotism": dirt is matter in a wrong place ]. Nevertheless, it remains that Lacan himself sent that object off to the summit.
It could be regarded as an invitation to raise the eyes to the sky. But it is just about a social summit . That is to say, when the term summit names elevation’s highest degree, there is nothing that forbids to place the social summit at the level of the supermarket’s top shelves. Sublime elevation was supposed to organize "the inaccessibility of the object as object of jouissance” ; the object’s social rise puts it within reach in the shop windows display of all the world stores. In Prague’s springtime, when Lacan announces a human faced sublimation, hyper-modern time sublimation – one immediately hears: the supermarket. This concerns two things. One: the rise of the object really describes its fall. The sublime Parnassus’ wheel is sent to the bazaar, to fatally finish in the rubbish dump. Therefore, it is urgent to forget the Pseudo Longin, Kant with Freud, to give sublimation its modern definition. It is what Lacan does in 1972: as “the highest point of what lies below”. The time for the sublime from below has come. Everything is upside down at the time of the king-object. Two: the rise of the object is a sober way to name the Tsunami of commodities. And in this flood of objects, there is one which gains all its weight, it can be called the O.L.* [object-that-is-lacking]. When society is in consonance with satiety, dissatisfaction becomes a Bataillien’s luxury.
Anorexia is prepared to be the symptom of a world that is dreamt of as a horn of plenty, where hunger seems to be the scourge of another era. Nothingness is a value in rise. In the time of jouisance on all levels, it is necessary to lie in wait for an hysteric’s sublimation,
in their search of a missing and unsatisfactory object. Finally, collections could be the art of our time - the culture of the object-that-is-lacking* in the universal market of civilization.

*O.M. - Objet-qui-Manque, in the original

1. J. Lacan, The Seminar, Book VII, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959-1960. (U.K Routeledge, 1992), p112
2. "Radiophonie",
Scilicet, 2/3, p. 66, (French text)
3. English in the original
The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, p. 203
5. Jacques Lacan,
The Seminar, Book XX, Encore, 1972-1973. Trans. Bruce Fink. (N.Y. Norton, 1998), p. 13
6. English in the original

Translated by Susana Tillet

Revised and approved by G. Wajcman