Cathy Lebowitz: In this painting by Dawn Mellor, we see two women engage in a sexual relation. But Lacan says: “There is no sexual relation.” In this situation, does Lacan’s “It does not stop being written” suggest an interpretation of the words written all over one woman’s body?
Josefina Ayerza: In the Dawn Mellor’s Surrender Dorothy, you see two naked women kissing, touching leaking... you look and at a certain point you start asking yourself if there is another one, a third woman towards the back of the image... Of the written on one woman’s body, Lacan consorts the writing body with love, on the basis of it “stops not being written’, ‘doesn’t stop being written, doesn’t stop, won’t stop...” We are again substituting, now for the sexual relation which according to Lacan doesn’t exist.
CL: In Luis Gispert’s movie Smother, the explanation from the gallery says that it has to do with a boy coming to terms with his overbearing mother, or the mother that smothers. But from the notation of M(Other), it seems to suggest SM(other), and this is what the movie’s immediate impact is to me. SM as sadistic and masochistic. In this sense, what would this notation M(Other) mean in Lacanian terms?
JA: M (Other) is a pun I am doing with the “M” of Mother and Jacques Lacan’s Other, which he writes with a capital O to indicate it is the place of desire. Again Lacan’s Otherness is the Other scene that Freud said was the place of dreams. The Other has a discourse, and this is the family romance or myth which predates the subject’s entry into the world of speaking beings. Written as the Oedipus complex, the father enters it as a name, the Name-of-the-Father. The mother enters it as desire—with a capital D. And this desire is not the desire you usually hear about. This desire is a signifier. A relation of substitution, the father as the one who interdicts, the one who prohibits, gives the child his own name. A symbol of the Law of incest, the very interdiction is the mother.
CL: So in the scene of the mother’s seduction, the boy has turned into a dog and then when the mother leaves, the man does something horrible. Could this be the substitute father putting down the law?
JA: Yes, the boy turns into a German shepherd, and the German shepherd turns into a boom box... Carl, who appears to be a villain, then steals the radio and gives it away to Rastafarians driving by in a truck. Here the artist’s conclusion becomes subjective to a point that his lucubration is complex enough. “In this way, Carl liberates the boy from his mother.”
CL: In the two recent films by Shirin Neshat, there is often a voice murmuring, murmuring, constantly speaking. This seems to have a counterpart in her photographs. She has text written over the background in some, and in others it is written directly on the face.
JA: I think of the murmuring, murmuring in the background of Shirin Neshat’s films, in Farsi and at times in English, that it stands for the reading aloud of Shahrnush Parsipur’s novel Women Without Men, the book she consults as for her art to appear in bodily form. And also the writing I think relates to the book. However, the psychoanalytic aspect I would directly connect to the text in view of the fact that it is written over the background in some, and on the faces in others. With Jacques Lacan all love subsists only on the basis of his enigmatic line “it stops not being written.” As it tends to make the negation shift to “it doesn’t stop being written, doesn’t stop, won’t stop...”, such is the substitute for the sexual relation which doesn’t exist. Once more with Lacan the path of existence is the path of the unconscious...
CL: I don’t understand “it stops not being written” relating to love in any way much less all love subsisting on it. So I am not anywhere near acceptance of the negation shift.
JA: Defining the sexual relationship as “it doesn’t stop not being written, Lacan is saying there is an impossibility therein. Meaning nothing can speak it - that is, there is no existence of the sexual relationship in the act of speaking.