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Richard Forman

More Hysteria, Please

Richard Foreman & Josefina Ayerza

Deutsches Haus. Columbia University New York City, 1995


Josefina and Slavoj at the New Museum

JOSEFINA AYERZA: So we are doing a session... is this is what I heard?
RICHARD FOREMAN: Well no. This is what you just told me. My thought, as we said on the phone... I said: 'We're going to have a discussion, we're going to talk about this, I don't have any time, we'll figure out something to talk about.' And you said: 'Well I think we'd better have some questions.' I said: 'Oh why don't we just... listen, I'm the hysteric, you can psychoanalyze me, you know? And so you said yes, and I thought, that's going to make it very easy for me, and I forgot, as you just pointed out to me, that your function as an analyst is just going to be to sit there and not say anything. You're not supposed to talk!

J.A.: Hmm...

R.F.: Of course that could be OK too. We could just... I'm sure there are sessions where nobody says anything. But my... I can tell you about all my problems, but I might be able to say something more rewarding, actually, if I were sitting up. I'd be able to just, you know, suck the energy from these people sitting out there in the audience. You see, the problem is, if I get into the being—analyzed—mode I'm only going to want to talk about... well, you know, I would want to do it rigorously. I would want to associate and roll on.
J.A.:I see...
R.A.: But if you really wanted to have a discussion about the theater and Lacan, or something along those lines, then, I'm not sure I can be too productive if I'm just letting come out whatever is going to come out. By the way, I certainly don't know how many people here are interested in Lacan and how many people are interested in the theater, but I certainly want to say in the beginning that I'm here to make a fool of myself. Because I certainly can't pretend to be an expert on Lacan. I'm somebody who makes art.


J.A.: Aha...

R.A.: When I was very young I spent... well, there have been three moments in my life. When I first went to college, to Brown, my sophomore year, I had a teacher who had been a student of Ortega. And that was my introduction—Ortega to Western philosophy, Western thought. And I was bowled over, and just got tremendous aesthetic, intellectual kicks from reading Ortega for two years. Then for about 15 years all I thought about was Brecht, all I read was Brecht and Gertrude Stein. Both of those I have no more use for... And then about 15 years ago I started reading everything I could lay my hands on by Lacan. And to this day he's the one person that I can read. I'm an obsessive reader. Most people I read I get very interested in for a week, and then I start to want to vomit them back. It's like eating too much candy. It seems wonderful: 'Wow, this is the answer!' I'm the hysteric in search of the perfect Master. And somebody for a week will be the perfect Master. I'll feel great, high, wonderful, and then I will start to feel like I'm suffocating. And this repulsion makes me cast them away and look for something else that is as opposite to them as I can get. But the one person who does not have that effect upon me is Lacan. I have not experienced that revulsion. Now perhaps because I am in the theater, because the theater is notoriously where people of lesser intellect collect—perhaps I'm just fascinated by the gnomic, Zen Master aspects of Lacan, who was always ready to upset whatever apple cart you were going to present—I am really not very interested... I mean, I find it impossible to read...

J.A.: how impossible?

...a masterful pole out of this disorganized material floating through my passivity, I get it both ways... I'm very guilty about the fact that I am a director who uses his ego, his super-ego, who uses his intellect, and controls and organizes everything so he is seamless and masterful. I've often wished that I could be a John Cage kind of theater director. Just let everything happen. But I can't. It doesn't work for me and it doesn't satisfy me. What satisfies me is taking the garbage that I as a writer pour forth, which fortunately or unfortunately is more elegant these days than it was 10 years ago, when I was really trying to pour forth that garbage. But it's still stuff that comes from someplace else, from the Other... So I'm not sure that I'm not performing some kind of perverse activity in trying to over-structure all that material and pretend to myself from its real potent self-revelation, self-revelationary aspects... Help me Doctor!

J.A.: (clears her throat)

R.F.: Lacan almost came to one of my shows once in Paris. We did a show called Book of Splendors, a very pornographic kind of show. Of course, since we were in France... But anyway, this lady organized Lacan and his entourage to come and see the show. I don't know how familiar all of you are with the theater. There's a very famous Italian director, Giorgio Strehler. He was doing at the same time in Paris a production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, which was a great international success. And Lacan—correctly, I think—the night before went to The Cherry Orchard, and I'm told that—and I don't question his artistic judgment at all in this case—that in the middle of the show he got up and walked out of the theater and said, 'OK, that's it, no more theater for me.' And as the result, he did not come to my show the next night.

J.A.: Ohhh!

Other people with him, I believe Miller, did come. Jacques-Alain Miller, his son in law. Or for those of you who are not real Lacanians, his—what would you call him—the carrier of the torch in France—he came. And he and the other people coming, I was told—I did not meet them, this was the woman who organized it; I don't know if she was just being polite to me, trying not to hurt my feelings—she said, 'They thought it was very interesting...=a lot of interesting things; in a way it was—did it have to be quite as clarified as it was, though?' So. I don't know what that meant. It was interesting because Foucault saw the same show, and I met him afterwards and he said, I found this play'—and I thought this was the greatest compliment that's ever been paid to me, he said—'I found the play very interesting. But what I found especially interesting about it was, I could tell that there was some very rigorous scheme organizing it, but I could not figure out what it was.'

J.A.: But it's...


R.F.: Don't interrupt me!

It's true I'm mostly interested in Lacan as he stimulates me to try and figure out ploys where some kind of structure... structure's really the wrong word... some kind of texture, some kind of form can be involved which reflects the fact that we are broken. We are in pieces. I've always felt that I've never really known a person that was a together, successful person. I mean, do any of you know anybody who doesn't have a side that... eventually you discover that this person is as flawed, as adolescent, as stumbling, as defective, as jealous, as what have you, as the rest of us? And most theater tries to give you a feeling that you are being presented with a whole organized representation of the world as we interpret the notion of what the world is. And obviously... this wouldn't only come from Lacan; it would come from many other people... this is a fiction. It's a lot of bits and pieces stitched together from different sources. And to give the feeling of a character, for instance, which I've always hated in the theater, is a lie. Character, like Jacob said, character is an error. Character is contingent accent. And I've always been interested in the scenes, in the ways things are glued together and fail to present anything whole or coherent. Now nevertheless, the music that can be made out of that swirling of all of those incoherent pieces, the poetry that can be made of that, in a way, can be a different kind of lucidity. I think I'm only interested in art in lucidity. But I'm interested in the lucidity of, I guess what Lacan would call the real, which are all the things that made you stumble, the things you can't touch. I'm setting up essentially texts and mise-en-scenes that are my fields; that are things for the narrative, the character, the attempt to achieve an action, to things that they can stumble over, things that resist them, things that make the language have to swerve, and reveal its temporary, stitched-together, defective quality. That's what interests me in art. These days, I think art can be many different things at many different times. The seductiveness of convincing one that you are looking at a real picture of the world as we understand it, seems a very unchallenging thing... a very... a thing that puts one to sleep. And I don't want to put one to sleep. And I don't want to put myself to sleep. Maybe that's because I love to sleep. No seriously, I'm very lazy. And I spend... when I'm not directing a play I spend a lot of my day stretched out on the couch, with books covering me, and maybe reading a few lines of something or other, and then sort of dozing off. Maybe getting an idea to write a few things down. I'm a very slothful, lazy person, even if somehow I manage to produce quite a bit. But in even a mystical, Virgilian sense, for those of you who... I mean what's the difference between Lacan and Virgil really? Both spending their lives in strategies of one sort or an other to upend people. And I suppose my decadence is that in a way that interests me more than the very complicated schemas that both of them really had to explain the world. How much of the interest in Lacan really is because of all those famous stories that are told of him? He was such an eccentric. And to what degree does that Zen-like eccentricity really feed people more than...?

J.A.:That's a very good answer.

R.F.: my question, an answer?

J.A.: Your question is a very good answer.

R.F.: Yeah. That doesn't help... You finished the session? Are you saying the session's over?

J.A.: The session's over.

R.F.: Yeah. Thank God.

R.F.: My wife went to Lacan once in Paris. And at the end of the session... she only saw him once... and he said 'OK, it's whatever it was, how ever many francs it was.' And she said, 'Oh, you didn't tell me I had to pay you when I was here. I have to look in my pocketbook and see if I have enough money.' So he's sitting here next to her. She opens her pocketbook and she starts looking through. And Lacan looks over, reaches in and says, 'OK, this will be enough.'

J.A.: So. You have to pay me now.

R.F.: Oh! Have I?

J.A.: Should we change chairs? I think we should change chairs.

R.F.: Oh, you mean you want me to analyze you?

J.A.: I want to change the structure of the dialogue, make it into an interview.

R.F.: OK.

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