To resume again...
by Josefina Ayerza
-Salut my friend-says Alain Badiou, in a full and resonant voice, his white hair glowing in the gallery spot-lights, the arms and hands raising in the air as his body walks through the audience, to the last row. The person to greet his salutation is Slavoj Zizek. The figure of the two philosophers is at once to subsume under the terms of friendship in a tight hug.The event had taken place at the Tilton Gallery, November 17, the year 2006. A Lacanian Ink event, this one was for the launching of issue 28, on "Profane Illuminations." Badiou's lecture had dealt with "Truth procedure in arts."-Let me begin with a very general question, what is finally the relationship between an artistic creation and philosophy?"-Badiou summarized an old story, which often enough is the story of the world, if not history... Thus the start of history he attributed to Plato who sustained that between philosophy and poetry there exists a very important war, "we philosophers do not take as our point of departure words, but things." And for the end of the story,-For Heidegger it's the contrary, philosophy is finished, metaphysics is dead or dying or dying for a long time, it's indeed the corpse-Walking through Manhattan Upper East Side on our way to dinner at the Mark's Hotel, the philosophers moved along together with Jack Tilton, his wife, and the usual crowd of artists, collectors, and so... By Park Avenue, Zizek whispered to me,-You won't believe what Alain did to me... You know, at the Wagner conference, in Paris, he was seating among the public in the room where I was delivering a talk, when his cell phone all of a sudden started to ring. Instead of turning it off, he gently interrupted me and asked me if (to add insult to injury, the cell phone was mine, I had lent it to him) I would continue my lecture with a slightly lower voice, so that he could hear his interlocutor on the phone more clearly-I had to laugh and continue to laugh till Zizek said,-If this is not true friendship I do not know what it is--You want to call it true friendship?-The elevator arrived, interrupting our funny lucubration, not the giggling though which went on till Zizek took up the topic once more to tell me how Badiou had finally explained,-I always wanted to do this to you-Now he brings up an old joke always in effect between us,- We know how you do it, you make him the phallic symbol...-The joke comes from a Zizek event I had organized two years ago, at Deitch Projects. At the Armory Show I spot Jeffrey Deitch in his tent, he says, loud enough so that I could hear,-Nobody looks at the art anymore... Josefina is bringing this sexual symbol to the gallery, and this is how the people keep asking about Zizek- Badiou joined us, he addressed us in English, I had to make the remark, -Do you remember when you first came to New York, and you read in English from Lacanian Ink and went on to recite Mallarm? in French... What did the miracle for your English to flow so spontaneously these days? - All I did was to get rid of my inhibitions- So we put up a second 2006 event, November 20, at the Tilton Gallery, with Slavoj Zizek lecturing on "Can we Really Tolerate a Neighbor"?Zizek went immediately into the issue of counting the floors, the American way, the European way...-You start with first floor, you enter the house and it's first floor, in Europe it's the ground floor, so we call it, and then you go up, first floor for us is already climbed up. So the question, are Europeans more grounded? We have a ground, you don't have a ground, you are groundless... You just go up, but maybe you are right here because of the price we Europeans pay is that we believe in the ground..." And there is another feature. Here in the United States you cheat mostly, you don't have a thirteenth floor... So fourteenth is really thirteenth!- From what he calls his European na*ve approach he asks,
-Who are you cheating? In the US you cheat, yet whom? Maybe you are closer to the groundlessness, to what Lacan calls the big Other. The big Other, in the Symbolic order, doesn't exist.-Here Zizek goes on to explain how one of the ways to approach the inexistence of the big Other would be jokes, and how it is against the nature of jokes to say, now I will invent or produce a joke, jokes are always there. Jokes pop up out of nowhere...One of the nicest paranoias is in the dream of what Lacan calls the Other of the other, which is the definition of God. Someone had developed an hypothesis over animals eating their language, you know their language can be very complex but it functions at the level of pure designation, animals cannot tell jokes-So the idea is that the way God puts the divine spark in humans is telling them jokes.-Words walked out of the university, out of the eventual discourse, and they marched into the galleries. Did the process change the discourse? What discourse are the words in galleries dealing with?It would be easy to say that by the sole act words lose their meaning, like the directions on Andy Warhol's Campbell Soup can, still telling you to open it and eat the soup, or the same on Robert Gober's litter bag telling you how to feed the cat... What you know about the tin and the package that sit in the gallery is that they are empty, even if they were full you are not supposed to open the them and consume the contents. And this is how the Campbell Soup and the litter bag become works of art.
I still don't have the right answer though I think something relative to philosophers words in galleries gets altered, in the matter of their consumption.