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LACANIAN INK 16 – Spring

The Body Politic

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK – The Body Politic
The Drawing Center,
April, 25/2000

Jesefina Ayrza and Slavoj Žižek Slavoj and Josefina Josefina and Slavoj Ayerza and Žižek

Lacan starts up Seminar III: The Psychoses, saying "I took care last time to put madness in the foreground..." and carries on to further quote philosophy in the words of Pascal, "men are so necessarily mad that not to be mad would be another form of madness."

Thus a first question arises with regard to the contemporary art scene as it resumes the matter by way of the Prinzhorn Collection. Why that the contemporary art scene is in need to expose... to tell us about the work of madness at this particular moment?

Catherine de Zegher, comments on "the utter self-involvement of the modernist and post modernist art and thought, leading to forms of hyper reflexivity and alienation, providing analogies for the mysterious symptoms of schizophrenia.".

In the same vein Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger undertakes the work of art as a sinthome. So she writes, "It has to do with the dimension of the feminine, beyond the phallus."

We know by now what the dimension beyond the phallus sets out.

Art as a symptom aims at the severed condition which Lacan wants to cross out - bar. Woman does not exist... Art does not exist.

What exists are the works of art.

The eventuality has two consequences. One that no work of art can stand up as an example: Each work of art is the thing in itself. The other consequence is that all theory of Art can't be but theory of the works of art. Or you can say... to each work its very madness.

This doesn't mean that the diverse works won't be rejoined in theory. What it imposes is their singularity - the one by one. And this is especially relevant, I would say, when the case is "Traces Beyond the Wunderblock," or "Art Beyond Reason".

The Woman on the cover of lacanian Ink 16 is non-existent to a point that she is a computer generated montage by Vibeke Tandberg.

What is the Body Politic?

The concept can be backtracked to the Middle Ages.

The King had two qualities, for he has two Bodies: the one that is a Body Natural consisting of natural members as every other Man has - and in this he is subject to Passions and Death as other Men are.

The other is a Body politic, and the members are his subjects, and he and his Subjects together compose a Corporation. He is in-corporate with them and they with him, and he is the Head, and they are Members, and he has the sole government of them. This Body is not subject to Passions as the other is, nor to Death, for as to this Body the King never dies. And his natural Death is not called the Death of the King, but the Demise of the King, not signifying by the Word Demise that the Body Politic of the King is dead, but that there is a Separation of the two Bodies: The Body politic is transferred and conveyed over from the Body natural now dead, or now removed from the Dignity royal, to another Body natural. So that it signifies a Removal of the Body politic of the King of this Realm - from one Body natural to another.

Ernst Kantorowicz continues to say in The King's Two Bodies: "The law by which a multitude of men is made into a populus (a people) resembles the nerves of a physical body; for just as the body is held together by the nerves, so is the corpus mysticum (the mystical body of the people) joined together and united into one by the Law."

Here we could call on President Schreber, on his "Memoires of my Nervous Illness," and on Socrates who says that madness comes from God. The terms at the center of Schreber's delusion consist in an admission of the prime function to the nerves. Relation between the nerves, between the subject's nerves and the divine nerves - nerve contact - divine nerves talk. Schreber had an erotic relation to God... to the stars... the nerves raising to heaven, going through the clouds... in his struggle against masturbation estimates Lacan.

Not the natural father but what is called the father, the order that prevents the collision and explosion of the psychotic situation as a whole, is founded on the name of the father... Again the law... The name carries through. Your name has nothing to do with your living existence, as it extends and perpetuates yonder.

Slavoj Žižek Slavoj Žižek Slavoj Žižek

Jacques-Alain Miller's essay takes on the notion of the body in Lacan. "The subject, as such, is specially disjointed from the body. Lacan deals with it as a correlation...


I think that if there is something which is an archetypal post-modern procedure it is this: that is to say, it is filling in the gaps of some classical work, rewriting it, sequel, prequels, retelling the story from a different perspective and so on and so on. The most famous example would be that of "Hamlet," Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," retelling the story from the minor characters.


What happens when we fill in the gaps, which can be done in a moral, intellectual, and intelligent way?

James Bond films

My favorite example, if you notice how each James Bond film ends… in a very precise way, usually - ends with a scene of the couple finally reunited and having sex and coupling, the next scene begins James Bond being called to duty and so on…

My ideal post-modern film would begin with discovering James Bond's sexual acts; having the couple finally reunited and having sex, then, which would end the film with the very way a James Bond film begins, him being called to duty, so what happens in between, whatever subversive way you want to think of a James Bond film.


The remake of "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (which I find deeply problematic), on its own terms, its not a bad film, but if you compare it with the original novel I think you can get ideology in its purest, but if you know the novel or have at least read the novel which is really excellent you can see how on the one hand what Minghella, the director and screenwriter, is trying to accomplish precisely to fill in the gaps yet, since the novel was written in the late 1950's, Patricia Highsmith was writing under some conditions of some ideological response to homosexual censorship so he wasn't able to go to the end, so here he goes to the end which means two things. There are two crucial changes from the novel to the cinema form. The first one is Ripley is presented as explicitly, directly gay - engaged in homosexuality. The second one is that Ripley is portrayed as a true moral human being with psyche, with compassion, with nightmares, with conscience (you notice when he feels conscience, awakens in the night, shouting and so on), he has nightmares, so in a way we can say the film went further, went to the end, but here we have the clearest possible idea of why this misfires. Apparently the film filled in the gaps but I claim that what is so unbearable, so dramatic about the theory "Ripley gets lost," its stupid. In the novel he is not homosexual, he experiences something much more horrible… in the novel, homosexuality is not something you passionately engage in. Homosexuality is a simple instrumental activity… you wash the dishes [...]

[We regret that we are unable to continue with the transcription of the actual lecture due to the limitations imposed upon us by the quality of the recording and other, various inconveniences. In the future, we wish to provide you with a clearer reproduction of Slavoj Žižek's lecture.]