translated by Kate Lawrenson
I often question hatred these days—that of others, of course. Oh well, it fell on me under the implacable laws of the genitive in French. I’m hateful this week. It began triggered by fear as it should have. Muslim fundamentalists set fire to a newspaper that I don’t read; Catholic fundamentalists raged against the performance of a theatre actor which is not to say that I appreciate his creative activity. And voilà! I fear for the freedom of expression (that’s the phrase of Beaumarchais in the heading of Figaro that makes me respect this journal which I did not direct), and so I hate those who challenge it. This leads to the line of Saint-Just that gripped me when I first read it in adolescence: “Pas de liberté pour les ennemis de la liberté” (No freedom for the enemies of freedom), an ethical version of Russell’s barber paradox. Is it the same freedom in both cases? The Lacanian method of the completed aphorism is useful here. If I complete the following: no freedom (of action) for the enemies of freedom (of thought), what happens? I separate thinking from action, rendering everyone powerless and given to the chimeras of sense. If I complete it in this way: no freedom of criminal action for the enemies of freedom of speech, it is a truism: crime, defined by Law, is prohibited and as such, bound to punishment. But speaking and writing are also acts. To set fire to the headquarters of a newspaper is a criminal offense which in a state of law has no extenuating circumstances. To prevent or to attempt to prevent a theatrical performance by force falls under the same section of law. And to prevent the publication and dissemination of Mein Kampf? And to prohibit the teaching of Darwinian evolution as is the law in certain states in the US? This question is a relevant aporia in the impossible meeting between logic and language, or, to put it another way, a result of the fact revealed by psychoanalysis that, in parlêtres, jouissance is internal to the symbolic. To take care of this impossible limit, which is in fact a gap, political powers have a number of tools: the Law or the Arbitrary or both; Punishment by force or not; Surveillance always.
Saint-Just twice experienced the arbitrary against freedom: when he was sent to reformatory school on a lettre de cachet at the request of his mother, and again when the father of the young woman he loved, refusing his request, quickly had her married to another, it did not prevent the young woman from escaping, leaving said husband to find the man she loved. The faces here—the mother’s, the father’s, and the king’s—were for him the enemies of freedom. The cause he was defending, that of individual freedom against the patriarchal order, has triumphed: no freedom for the enemies of individual freedom. Today, these powers find themselves faced with difficulty in the exercise of their tools: trouble in legislating which, having become universal (it is imperative for all legislation to limit the power of everyone as power has deserted the hierarchy to take refuge in the individual), is crazed by what it calls the “legal vacuum;” difficulty in punishment (even within the family, punishment is challenged because parents are no longer assimilated to power, but to duties); difficulty in surveillance, all the cameras of the world see nothing, as G. Wajcman has shown in his latest book.
The techno-sciences have indeed accomplished a revolution, or a leap forward, which has quantitatively and thus qualitatively transformed the social link. The internet, networks, and blogs have completely changed “inter-human trade” which, as developed by Jacques-Alain Miller, is passed on from the individuals of the Enlightenment—still defined as citizens, that is to say, still linked to a center which is the Republic—to the scattered ones, with no link other than sharing modalities of jouissance, which are ephemerally grouped under concurrent master-signifiers, in the more or less active “minorities.” The parlêtre of today is no longer the individual of the Enlightenment and the new democracy no longer has anything to do with the Republic—neither that of Saint-Just or that of the French Third Republic—which originates precisely from secularism. It was only the result of a negotiation between forces that no longer exist in a globalized world. Time is new and chaotic. Thus, it is taken with a desire to go back. Because it is a time of change, fearful, anxiety-producing change, it is a potentially reactionary time: fundamentalism—Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and cognitive-behavioral—is stoked. They are candidates for the possession of power, they have the sense with them, the good, the mortal. They want to close the question of truth that, like a wound, was reopened on the edges of ancient scars.
It is in these thoughts that I went on Sunday night to the theater, a little sad that the pleasure I had at the idea to see a major artist’s new show was overshadowed by my hatred and the need to comb over the analysis again and again. Castellucci, because this was the last show he was giving, was in Paris, and LQ was the echo and the defender, the target of fundamentalism, its slander and its violence outside of the laws of the Republic. He was surprised moreover, since his show has given rise to this sort of reaction in France. But France, don’t forget, was the eldest daughter of the Church and is today a land of conquest for Islam. Christian fundamentalists have retained, even condemned by Rome, a church, Saint Nicolas du Chardonnet, near the Mutu, right in the fifth arrondissement. The Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André XXIII, said apropos of the renegades on Radio Notre-Dame on October 29th: “We are faced with people who are organized for demonstrations of violence,” adding in reference to the “idiots” that follow on “good faith”: “it is not that because they act in good faith that what they are doing is right. Their membership in highly politicized, militant groups comprised on religious terms, does not favor their development, but rather their distortion.” The Archbishop does not mention that the current Pope is indulging them, but his remark on faith is no shortage of salt. There is faith and faith, and the good is not always the best.
At the Cent-quatre, where the demonstration took place, the impact of terrorism was palpable: abundance of CRS cars, bon-enfant distribution of PCF pamphlets: “for the freedom of creation and the defense of public service for the culture”—phrases not fading before the audacity and possibility of a contradiction in terms. And then the body-searches, the mandatory coat-check, the walk-through metal detector like at an airport. We want to stay alive, the fundamentalists rot us. I sat in a small room. An employee of the Cent-quatre reading the order of law said that it would be applied most rigorously and that if we wanted to leave the room during the show, we would be escorted by staff. Thus, spectators were to be protected among them so as to infiltrate the enemy. It’s true and It’s a consequence of the breakdown of the rule of law.
Many years ago now, Castellucci was a decisive encounter for me with his incredible show, Julius Caesar. There, the body as well as the voice occupied a unique space. A camera placed in one of the actor’s throat projected the movement of the glottis on a screen; another breathed helium to modify the sound of voice, the obese, old, or anorexic body showed the flesh and not the image, without altering the Shakespearean frame, for I have never seen in the theatre a mise en scéne more true to battle, rendered solely with sounds and lights. Therefore extreme realism and the emergence there of a puzzle where history tends toward meaning. Only technical skill and the virtuosity of theatrical art allow these performances. After this unforgettable encounter, I have, as far as possible, made every effort to watch the progress of his work. In Rome, a different representation, short as a Lacanian session, demonstrated to me the power in arranging the form of the human body and the sound of the voice through a subjective effect obtained in all the spectators—live verification of Lacanian theory of the dimension of the Imaginary. In short, it is the theatre of the object and the real, the meaning appears like a simple effect, moreover enigmatic and fragmentary, in any case given to the responsibility of the viewer. I’ve had in Rimini—a town very near the spot where there is installed the Compagnie Rafaelle Sanzio—the chance to participate in a debate with him organized by our colleagues from the SLP, Loretta Biondi and Maria Antonella Del Monaco, with the participation of Adele Succetti. We talked about Hamlet, which he had staged; he knew of Lacan. He was clear and quietly affirmed his conception of the theatre. We had spoke of the objects and the body and the Lacanian language was not foreign to him. This year we will find ourselves in Rimini in January 2012 for another conversation among psychoanalysis and the art of theatre, this time with his company.
I sat. The stage and set were visible: a white tray, a modern interior, sofa, TV stand, a rug, a table and two chairs, a bed and a nightstand, all as white as the floor of the room. In the background, a giant image of the face of Christ, of Antonello di Messina. The title of the piece, which lasts 50 minutes, is “On the Concept of the Face of the Son of God.” This face looks at us and overlooks the minimalist interior of a design magazine. A father, old from the oldness that medical science produces: ill, impotent, vegetating in a nameless world. He sits before a TV with his back to the audience members who detect the random flecks of light and words—inarticulate noise. They fit him with a helmet so he does not escape. This is the first interpretation. The old senile before his TV, it’s the viewer in general. He mumbles and his hands are rough waves of movements. A son, well dressed in a suit and tie. He puts a note in an envelope, checks his cell phone. Before leaving for work, he gives his father some drops—doubtlessly a useless remedy—and two tablets. Absorbed in what he’s doing, he says, “Dad. …Dad…How are you, dad? How are you this morning? What’s on TV?” He doesn’t really expect a response. He talks aloud more than he speaks to such a vegetative “he.” And then the old man begins to relieve himself. And the son goes to clean the father and the furniture… “I’ll change your diaper.” “Sorry, sorry, I’m sorry,” mumbles the father. “You don’t have to apologize” repeats the son. A scene of unbearable realism, without characters taking to violence, a scene that all of us who have been in nursing homes for the elderly recognize. Between the father and son, nothing but humanity. The father continues to relieve himself, the shit is beyond the son’s control, from the paper towel to the latex gloves, the garbage bag to the diaper to the sponge; the water becomes dirty, the white decor is spoiled, the son is defeated. All shit away. Another possible interpretation: The human world and its waste, plastics, electronics, nuclears… The shit of our objects, the shit of lathouses, our new maser who will decide the fate of humanity… The Father, he ch… and asked for forgiveness: he is no longer an organism that apologizes for living. Twice, however, he responds to his son. Two signifiers arise which thus represent the subject: “the… the… animals”: he is a sick animal. Then to his son who told him, “Tonight we will see Tata,” he responds, “But I do not care for Tata”: An animal that does not care, that is out of the link.
And all this under the empty gaze of Christ. When the son gives up and disappears from the scene, the old man—the bed, the floor, and himself soiled—falls into shadow. The beautiful, harmonious image of Christ’s face begins to be attacked from within (behind the scenes) by an action with no visible author; the spectators watch it deform, then smear, then tear up into shreds and disappear revealing the following, printed clearly in huge black and white letters: “You are my shepherd” and appearing and disappearing less brightly: “not.” To be or not to be, the memorable echo of Hamlet, this time applied to the Other, “You are or you are not.” The subject no longer questions if he is, the lack in being is passed through there, he knows he is “his objects,” as Lacan says, there is no being but from this jouissance de vivant, the living body that fills and empties itself, and that medicine maintains in the state of putrified enchantment. The question here focuses on the being of the Other: it exists, it does not exist? The two, randomly, at the moment, once more art and psychoanalysis are found on the same track. A track not without risk for those who speak on their behalf, who want to know something of the real still, in these times of willed ignorance and looking back.
This article was originally published in french in N°82 of Lacan Quotidien.