28 August 2006

A Film About What Zizek Calls "Sickening Jouissance":


Pay special attention to the scene near the end, in the Church, which might be compared with the end of The Ring in terms of its theses about jouissance and repetition (the film must be shown to others, i.e., the trauma repeated in order to escape the girl's jouissance), even though the films share nothing in common (there's no surprising twist).

A proposal for reading said film through the juxtaposition of the actual and the virtual:

ACTUAL
VIRTUAL

A nice line from Jodi Dean's Zizek's Politics:

Enjoyment, for Zizek, is a term of art, a technical, Lacanian concept that denotes an intense, excessive, pleasure-pain. Enjoyment by its very nature is excessive, something that can lure us into a kind of idiotic stupor or ecstatic state. Moreover, as I hope to make clear in this book, our relationship to enjoyment is never easy, never innocent. Enjoyment can be that extra kick on behalf of which we do our duty: "Sorry about that extra twenty dollars I tacked onto your ticket, ma'am, but, well, it's the law" or "These comments I wrote on your paper may seem cruel, but, well, it's really for your own good." (xvi)

A nice remark from Deleuze:
Bacon often explains that it [the isolation of figures] is to avoid the figurative, illustrative, and narrative character the Figure would necessarily have if it were not isolated. Painting has neither model to represent nor a story to narrate. It has thus two possible ways of escaping the figurative: toward pure form, through abstraction; or toward the purely figural, through extraction or isolation. If the painter keeps to the Figure, if he or she opts for the second path, it will be to oppose the "figural" to the figurative... The figurative (representation) implies the relationship of an image to an object that it is supposed to illustrate; but it also implies the relationship of an image to other images in a composite whole which assigns a specific object to each of them. Narration is the correlate of illustration. A story always slips into, or tends to slip into, the space between two figures in order to animate the illustrated whole. Isolation is thus the simplest means, necessary thought not sufficient, to break with representation, to disrupt narration, to escape illustration, to liberate the Figure: to stick to the fact. (Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, 2-3)
Isn't the figural succinct definition of jouissance as distinguished from the signifier? And aren't the tendrals of barbwire in the film a graphic figure of how jouissance winds its way throughout the world, perpetually setting social relations awry? That is, jouissance is precisely that which defies or falls outside the narrative function, and thereby functions as the motor of narrative (as narrative perpetually strives to gentrify it). This is one signification of the discourse of the master:

S1.....S2
--......--
$..//..a

Where objet a is the remainder of jouissance that perpetually escapes signification.

And finally a quote from Lacan on how ideology strives to manage or gentrify this excessive and individuating jouissance:
For what the unconscious does is to show us the gap through which neurosis recreates a harmony with a real-- a real that may well not be determined. (Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, 22)
That is, he said, the unconscious introduces the figurative into the figure.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Yusef said...

" Isn't the figurative a succinct definition of jouissance as distinguished from the signifier? "

I don't think so.

However, keep in mind that I don't follow your thinking very well here.

It seems to me that the figurative functions as the signifier, ( the opposite of what you say above,) and that's why artists such as Bacon developed strategies to destroy that function ... to destroy the figurative.

I think that Bacon is poorly understood if he's seen as one of the reactionary artists who re-introduced the figural into art; if that is the way to understand him, Deleuze was an idiot.

August 29, 2006 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Sinthome said...

Yusef, thanks for catching the typo... I intended to say "isn't figure" a succinct definition of jouissance?" in the sense that jouissance is outside the signifier or narrative for Lacan.

August 29, 2006 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Sinthome said...

I'm not sure what you're objecting to in your final paragraph.

August 29, 2006 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Sinthome said...

It's worth noting that Deleuze contends that Bacon isolates the figural (not figurative) in order to render possible the presentation of virtual intensities and forces. Jouissance is such a dimension haunting social relations. Indeed, Deleuze explicitly treats objet a as a virtual object in the second chapter of _Difference and Repetition_.

August 29, 2006 10:37 AM  
Blogger Yusef Asabiyah said...

Thank you for pointing that out to me... I see that I have not appreciated some important nuances of the terminology.

I do want to comment about your calling the Velaquez painting "the actual" while calling the Bacon painting "the virtual." I disagree. ( but I appreciate this juxtaposition very much.)

If anything, it is the badass scream reverberating through time and history, (which Bacon captures,) which is the actual, while the composed, beneficient-appearing, wise-looking old man was and is, the virtual.

August 31, 2006 3:18 AM  
Blogger Sinthome said...

Yusef, I'm a little perplexed by your reversal of the virtual and the actual. Deleuze argues that the process of actualization cancels differences in extensity through spatializing phenomena. By contrast, the virtual is difference in itself or the asymmetries through which beings/entities/actualities are produced. Bacon is the painter of forces or the virtual assymetries that haunt actuality. Hence the juxtaposition. I'm not sure what the virtual would mean in the sense you're using it.

August 31, 2006 7:11 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

But to use these words in Deleuze's way, both paintings are both actual and virtual. Both are actualizations; both are also "the future past of the present: a thing's destiny and condition of existence" as Massumi calls the virtual in UGTC&S.

I think in part I was reacting to the identification of the Velaquez painting as the "reality." On reflection, I see that you did not intend this.

It is interesting to look at the development within painting of this "photographic" look, seen in the Velaquez depiction of reality, prior and up to the invention of the camera. It is as if what the camera gives us has been anticipated in some way, and it is in this way, that the Velaquez, is the virtual, just as much as the Bacon.

A camera doesn't give us a depiction of reality, even though nearly everyone continues to be fooled into thinking that, most of the time.

August 31, 2006 11:14 AM  
Anonymous Sinthome said...

Good point. I think my thesis was simply that we can have forms of art and cinema that deal more with one or the other or which seek to present more of one or the other. Somewhere in Cinema 2, for example, Deleuze gives the example of a film involving a ship where he treats the upper deck as the actual and the servants working way on the lower decks as the actual. Clearly this analogy is inadequate from a strictly ontological perspective as both upper and lower deck are actual... Of course, given my recent polemics against Deleuze's Bergsonian conception of the virtual, I find this example intriguing as it suggests that the virtual isn't some mysterious other realm, but a relative term pertaining to genetic conditions of a phenomena. The lower deck of the ship is the necessary genetic condition of the upper section.

August 31, 2006 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

I checked the index of _A Thousand Plateaus_ - the word 'virtual' does not appear.

I wonder whether some of the criticisms of Deleuze's thinking which you develop through your concentration upon reading _Difference and Repetition_ would apply to the later Deleuze.

This image of the ship's decks reminds me of plateaus, as plateau appears in ATP...

September 05, 2006 10:34 AM  
Blogger Sinthome said...

Yusef, the Cinema books are both published *after* _A Thousand Plateaus_ and deal heavily with the virtual in explicit terms (as does Deleuze's final essay "Immanence: A Life..."). The virtual also doesn't appear in The Logic of Sense, but appears again directly following it. Deleuze has a habit of renaming one and the same topic, so I personally do not think my remarks are simply a result of focusing on DR.

September 05, 2006 11:10 AM  

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