An Insider’s Story

 

Permanent employment, clearly defined working hours, night and overtime pay, the right to annual leave, sick leave, paid leave for educational or professional advancement, daily allowances for work-related trips, or subsidies, bonuses, trade union benefits for private journeys, subsidized loans – all these have never been available to fine artists in Serbia, at least not based on their professional activity. Therefore, they were ready for the new economic order which means flexible, often part-time or contract based jobs, mostly immaterial, i.e. in the areas of services or communication-information. Little has changed for the worse in their working practice.

This is probably the main reason why there are few art works based on the theme of the new uncertainty and insecurity of those participating in such work processes. It is true that some projects deal with transitional economy and the devastation of society by political and other social elites, but the dominant paradigm of work in the global economy remains unexamined. With this exhibition in the KCB Gallery Mark Brogan initiates an exploration of this theme, based on the example of the reflections of an insider who bears witness to one area of his professional activity (economy) in another area (art). He, as an artist, reflects on the activities he carries out as a manager of a call-centre, which he himself established and where he employs people, to ensure himself a ‘regular’ income.

The style of artistic work demonstrated in Brogan’s project is closely connected with what Hal Foster described in his text on the ethnographic turn in art some fifteen years ago. According to Foster, artists who examine fields which they open up to intervention later change their behavior into that of ethnographers and contextual fieldworkers. The material they work on consists of these very relationships they find themselves in, whilst initiating the procedure that, according to Clifford Geertz, could even be called autoethnographic. Each of their actions is, therefore, reflexive, in the two following ways – as an ethnographic reflection of the way the group that the author identifies with functions and as autobiographical statement developed in accord with ethnographical ways of observing and presenting. 

Brogan’s story is a story of an insider; it shows and, at the same time, implicitly interprets the way insiders’ stories are treated in the economy of knowledge, in the information market. Thus, it also offers a synecdotal presentation of informational capitalism. The call centre, which is introduced into the story as a centre located “somewhere in the Balkans”, is just a set where a complex tangle of rhetorical games are performed, by which stories, attitudes and series of raw data are elicited from those with access to information relevant to the centre’s clients. It is important that the insider status of the respondents is verified by their handling of information from domains with restricted access. Such information automatically acquires commercial value if anyone is interested in it. 

The call centre is a non-place. The respondent usually does not map the position of a call centre when called, but only evaluates how the operator’s voice addresses him. What is important here is not place but time – if a respondent finds that the operator is wasting his time which he hasn’t voluntarily decided to spare, he will not be cooperative, i.e., he will not be a good source. That’s why “somewhere in the Balkans” is a reference that offers more information than is required, especially if we consider the standard practice of American call centres dislocated to India, Ireland or Hong Kong, whose geographical positions mustn’t be divulged, and that we should avoid the feeling that the call centre clients’ money flows away whilst in the clients’ own countries there is still the problem of unemployment.

In principle, call centres either collect data for their clients by directly questioning the immediate users of the clients’ products or services, by phone, as in Brogan’s story, or by marketing products and services that way. Phone sex thus reaches the same plain as industrial espionage and telemarketing. For the operators, managers and owners of call centres this is a way to economic empowerment and personal fulfillment in the role of the entrepreneur who survives in an uncertain labour market. For the users of services and products and the call centre clients, that is a means to mutual recognition, in roles which enable the establishing of specific forms of relationships and which are possible only as a result of the operator’s performativity. This quality of utterance enables the distribution not only of products but of roles as well.

When Freud, some hundred years ago, tried to summarize the relationship between the analyst and the analysand into a single clear picture, the picture which occurred to him was that of the transmission of a message through telephone signals. In the text Recommendations to Physicians Practising Psychoanalysis, he not only gave guidelines but explicitly instructed that the analyst must create a relationship with the patient similar to the relationship between the microphone (which one speaks into whilst speaking on the phone) and the telephone receiver, namely, that the analyst should transform his/her unconscious into a receiver which receives signals from the patient’s unconscious. The capitalist who orders services from the call centre wants exactly this position. He wants a means to be able to establish such a transfer and through this he shares the user’s wish and he will satisfy the wish no matter what it is. If it is expressed in any way, it certainly will be satisfied.

 

Stevan Vuković 2010


The Artist’s Fingers

 

Art. The zenith of humankind: noble, exalted and spiritual; in a word, sublime. In chemistry, sublimation describes the transformation from a solid to a gaseous state without an intervening liquid stage. So it is with great art: the transubstantiation from base matter – pigment, clay, wood etc – into the priceless object of inexplicable spiritual beauty and truth. Sublimation is also a psychoanalytic term, of course, relating to the impetus for intellectual and sensuous creativity – the diversion of the sexual drive into cultural pursuits, according to Freud. Civilization in action. In Mark Brogan’s paint-sculptures the dumb re-materialization of the spiritual art object reveals in an idiotically obvious way the de-sublimation of artistic high purpose to the gurgling pleasures and anxieties of infantile sexuality.

 

‘I am for the art out of a doggy’s mouth, falling five stories from the roof.

I am for the art that a kid licks, after peeling away the wrapper’

Claes Oldenburg I am for an Art

 

Brogan’s most striking method to date has involved the use of gloss paint, laid out to dry in large rectangles and then rolled up like tight pancakes, which are then hung, tied in knots or otherwise manipulated – a kind of painting in the third dimension. His work therefore relates to two opposed notions of artistic development in modernism, roughly speaking a classical and romantic sensibility. If the familiar narrative of modernism has been the disappearance of representation itself through an increasing abstraction and reduction to the limitations of the material form of the canvas, until the very distinction between painting and sculpture breaks down, an alternative lineage would include artists like Guston and Oldenburg who rejected the insularity of formalist development (for Greenberg the protection of high culture from mass produced kitsch) in order that their art could be as beautiful, scary and stupid as life itself. If Cézanne is the father of the former methodology, Van Gogh must be father of the latter. His goal is to express the overwhelming sensuality of the world, and he does this in a rather literal, unrefined way through the use of impasto paintwork. Think of Sunflowers where the two dimensional representation grows outward towards the viewer in great swirls of sculpted yellow paint. This link between the sensuous oily pigment and the material presence of the objects to be expressed is brilliantly captured in Robert Altman’s film Vincent and Theo when Van Gogh, unable to decide which colour paints to buy, scoops some of each into his mouth, contemplating their taste.

There is something undeniably tasty in Mark Brogan’s paint-skin sculptures too – like chocolate sauce, bubble gum or coloured liquorice. It brings to mind Oldenburg’s vinyl lollipop and hotdog, but also his limp furniture. Oldenburg shares Van Gogh’s exuberance and anxiety, but now in relation to a world of mass-produced pop consumables. One aspect of this is the creation of a shiny new universe of materials and colours spewed forth by petro-chemical technology: domestic objects, toys and sexy new clothing. The sensuality of oil paint has been reflected since the Renaissance in its subject matter – our national galleries overflowing with fleshy nudes and overabundant arrangements of food. What we find in Brogan’s work is this sensuality escaped from its external reflection and embodied by its own stuff, but now with the fetishistic quality of shiny plastic attracting the light to its folds and creases: a narcissistic reflection. Unlike vinyl fetish-wear, however, Brogan’s objects appear squishy, as if too physical a contact would not leave one unmarked by the work’s juice, protected within its skin. In this respect the pleasure here seems oral and anal, rather than phallic – an idiotic infant joy. The ironically glossy pastel is like a garish cartoon of gooey food and bodily fluid; shit the colour of baby food out of a blender, fetishized and hung in a gallery.

 

‘Use your penis as a paint brush’

Paul McCarthy Instructions for Art Works, 1972

 

Brogan’s work most obviously refers to desire and impotence, and this is reflected in the titles. Reclining Nude 2 is in anything but a state of relaxed, dreamy anticipation. She has reclined too far and snapped her back; all potential vanished, like the broken springs of an old settee. Or else she is slumped over on her belly like a flaccid sausage, her two halves resembling the pert ears of a playboy bunny gone limp. All this is to say that what is really on display is the artist's impotent dick; his artistic creations nothing more than the sublimation of his failed desire. And this points to a third aspect of the work, what might be called its postmodern sensibility, taken to mean an ironic relation to the practice and theory of art. All the clichéd Freudian references are used as clichés, so that any affective identification with the work as expressing the anxieties of sexuality cannot detain us too long because they are too obvious and too ridiculous. Fetishization, fear of castration, sexual sublimation are no longer subjects of the work as markers of truth, but material with which to denigrate the idealistic pretensions of art in a playful way. We all know that painting is a combination of infantile regression, hysterical machismo and metaphysical delusion, and when we know it no longer works; so there is no point in getting upset about it, or critiquing it from a distance.

Gloss Castration spells out what it is, in case it wasn’t mind-numbingly obvious. ‘Tie it in a knot!’ my history teacher used to growl when a boy asked to go to the toilet – a powerful image, suggesting that the penis in question would be either long, or at least thin enough for such a procedure. In Brogan’s piece, thick snakes of rolled gloss are awkwardly pushed through a hole and tied together. The dumb pleasure of rolling malleable matter and squeezing soft objects through holes is too Freudian for a Freudian analysis. Here, anal defiance and the gift of shit are rolled into one!

In comparison, Zig Zag Moderne is like an extended Rubik’s Snake, hard and geometrical, veneered with imitation-wood Formica, like the playfully sinister objects of Richard Artschwager. Its rugged peaks repeat themselves giving the impression they could extend indefinitely with macho elegance. The Artist’s Hand is a much more pitiable state of affairs. A modest hardboard-backed wooden frame attempts to cover over several rolled paint-skins, the ends of which protrude form the edges of the frame like multi-coloured toothpastes squeezed from their tubes. This work was removed when exhibited in a painting show at Deutsche Bank. There is undeniably something disturbing, not to say disgusting, about it. ‘Don’t open the Trap Door!’ went the song from the kid’s TV programme, and when it was opened by as much as a crack, dozens of Plasticine worms would wriggle and crawl out in a split second: the id, ‘the horror!’ And the sublime blank canvas holding back the uninhibited libidinal drives, a very product of this repression! Except here the monochrome comes as a cheap piece of hardboard, the nails are protruding, the masterpiece is missing. It seems that what could not be abided at Deutsche Bank was the fact that its staff kept going up to The Artist’s Hand and squeezing the squishy paint-skins! Whether the authorities were worried about damage to the ‘painting’ or damage to the walls of the building is unclear. But infantilism must reflect badly on a bank and on art. In Paul McCarthy’s film Painter, the obnoxious Abstract Expressionist artist has huge, fat foam-rubber fingers that seem detached from any central nervous system. In Brogan’s piece, the paint itself becomes big, dumb, floppy objects, squashed against the wall like a bunch of chubby fingers run over by a cartoon steamroller. ‘A pile of little arms…the genius!’ as Marlon Brando once said. In Brogan’s work the sublimated terrors of castration become pathetic figures of fun and pleasure.

 

Dean Kenning 2003


Texts to the Watercolour paintings:

The Musical Fountain

The artist can be interpreted in terms of Hegel’s proposition that man is ‘the insistent accident’.  This proposition is predicated on two models of subjectivity, the Greek and the Christian which in turn are predicated on the relation of essence and accident.  In the Greek model, via habit accident becomes essentialised.  Habit substitutes an immediacy posited by nature with one posited by the soul, so-called ‘second nature’, resulting in an ‘exemplary individual’.  The Christian model is the accidentalisation of essence.  God, the infinite, accidentalises Himself in the process of divine kenosis, alienating His infinite Self in the incarnation of His son, the finite Jesus.  In this negation of Himself, He gives Himself finite being, He predicates Himself.  Jesus’s resurrection is the negation of this primordial kenotic negation and Jesus is the example God gives humans of the speculative relief of the infinite and finite, the essential and the accidental.  The drive of understanding is a bit like the speculative movement.  Understanding was restricted to finitude under Kant’s God, the Jewish God.  Kant’s notion of the transcendental imagination is proof of this restriction.  This was predicated on the fact that understanding and reason are separate instances of thought and therefore cannot enter in unison into experience.  Under Kant’s God, and prior to Hegel’s, the synthesis of a priority and a posteriority could only be imagined by the transcendental imagination.

The artistic imagination thinks constantly in terms of Parousia, of the reconciliation of the divine (the infinite) and the human (the finite).  Parousia is the Second Coming of God and the reconciliation promised by Jesus to man.  Jesus gave man the task of assisting in the realisation of this promise, He gave man the Labour of the Concept which is the unrestricting of thought from the a priori and a posteriori instances, from their extension, and positing in their place an intuitive understanding which can be a priori and a posteriori without extension i.e. simultaneously.  The same as the transcendental imagination of Kant’s God. 

Mark Brogan, 2017

 

 


Slavimo Beograd

Lacan claims that the Unconscious has two psychic tropes: Repression and Displacement.  The Unconscious is structured like language and the metaphor is analogous to the trope of repression and the metonym to displacement.   ‘The metaphor is the sign of a sign, it expresses emotion indirectly and through a false sign’ (Derrida).  The metaphor is substitution whilst the metonym is contiguity and synthesis, combining rather than substituting signs.

The metaphor is the legacy in the state of society of a pre-societal language.  Rousseau posited a pre-societal condition of man, where he lives in absolute dispersion.  The distance he maintains between himself and others impairs the development of his faculty of judgement and gives rise to illusions about others.  His language corresponds to the passions moved by these illusions.  Rousseau claims this is the root of the metaphor.  The metaphor is the sign of the passion affected by the object.  When man becomes socialised, repression of primal fears gives way to their displacement.  ‘The illusory image presented by passion is the first to appear and the language that corresponded to it was also the first invented.  It subsequently became metaphorical when the enlightened spirit, recognising its error, used the expressions only with the passions that produced them.’ (Rousseau)

Freud gave his patient Sergej Pankejeff the pseudonym ‘The Wolf Man’.  In early childhood, Pankejeff dreamt he saw several white wolves sitting in the walnut tree outside his open bedroom window.  He had screamed for fear of being eaten.  Freud claimed Pankejeff had witnessed his parents having sex a tergo or doggy style, a primal scene.  He had seen animals copulating and his unconscious has displaced this onto his parents.  Rousseau describes a similar situation in pre-society: “upon meeting others, a savage man will be frightened.  Because of his fear he sees the others as bigger and stronger than himself.  He calls them ‘giants’”.  As man crosses the threshold between pre-society and society, her brings with him his pre-societal language, a language of false signs born of illusions and passions.

Society can always return to its pre-societal condition.  The latter continues into the former as its possibility.  The metaphor is the expression (and repression) of this possibility and of the primal necessity of dispersion and distance in opposition to synthesis, contiguity and proximity.

Mark Brogan, 2015

 


The Kalemegdan Pasarela - the speculative schema

What is the time of Absolute Knowledge? It is that which follows from circular or teleological time [the Aristotelian conception of time, that is the circular unrolling of δύναμις (force) and ἐνέργεια (action)] and linear time (the time of Christianity, that is the time in which the subject ‘sees itself as a passing moment’). The idea ‘moment’ precedes both conceptions of time as their condition of possibility, since both are finite. Hegel’s frame is the Christian moment of the concept of time which presupposes its Aristotelian/Greek moment in the following way: there are no moments before the divine kenosis, that is the divine alienating itself from itself, positing itself in exteriority/otherness to itself. The infinite divine posits itself as a finite moment of itself and in doing so temporalizes itself. Hegel gives us this schema (the making sensible of the suprasensible) when he talks about the ‘labour of the Concept’. This is the Concept’s returning to itself through alienating itself. The ‘labour’ of the Concept is in its moments, its temporalising and finite instances which it relieves. These moments are sequential and circular: sequential in that one moment represses its predecessor and circular in that that moment preserves its predecessor in itself. God, the Concept, temporalised himself, making himself into a moment of Himself, Jesus. Here for Hegel lies the origin of speculative philosophy (hence his Christian frame of time). God manifests Himself to His own gaze, “the specular presentation divides the divine from itself” (Malabou). Jesus is the finite moment, the ‘Example’ which God gives humans but because the moment of circular time is already in the Christian moment of time, Jesus must die. As a finite moment, He returns twice to the infinite, His Father’s (the Concept’s) side, once as the finite (Jesus the mortal man, God’s sacrifice) and once as the Son of God, resurrected from finitude into infinity. A different account of temporalisation takes place in the story of the Titan king Kronos who vomited his own sons because of the Pharmakon given to him by his mother Gaia, having devoured them at birth to stop them succeeding him. God negates His own moment of divine kenosis (Crucifixion) and then negates His own negation (the Resurrection) and this is the ‘speculative example’ He gives humans.
The ‘example’ is the schema and vice-versa. The schema is the speculative (for the gaze which beholds its own self-presence) revelation of the Concept (God). To reveal itself, the Concept must predicate itself, that is give itself finite being. This means that the schema’s fate is always momentary, accidental. But the schema’s predicative becoming also reveals the concept’s speculative becoming. The Concept as infinite labours through this process of finite predication of itself and the end is the time of Absolute knowledge, the end of the necessity of predication. It is that which remains ‘after’ and ‘from’ the infinite/finite division of time, it is when time ceases to gorge its own moments (Kronos). Hegel talks of a bad infinite – that is an infinite which is either purely sequential or purely circular, bad because in the former the Concept cannot return to itself and in the latter it is locked in self-identity. René Girard talked about one of the problems of Western thinking as always being framed in etymological terms, always rehearsing existing meaning instead of giving itself the possibility of new meaning. This relates to Hegel’s thoughts on the ordinary conception of ‘outline’ (Grundriß). This is where the content has been presupposed, is familiar, and has to be presented in an already decided upon short space. Time is explicit in the outline, which Hegel believes should schematically present a moment of the speculative movement of the infinite Concept (it should represent the movement of the infinite and not that of the finite, empirical and sensible, that would be figuration), a moment of the speculative movement arrested by the process of abbreviating the immediate and natural, thus providing a short(er) cut to the Concept, one that “should not truncate or amputate arbitrarily the process of predication, but must respect the intrinsic movement of speculative unfolding” (Hegel). In this process of abbreviation “spirit submits to its self-sacrifice and is transformed into a lifeless skeletal thing. A thing without flesh and blood … yet this life destroying formalisation is a guarantee … which alone makes it possible for universality to be used in a superficial way” (Ibid).

Mark Brogan, 2017


A Crime against Art

The bringing out into the open what is structurally criminal, what was first locked up in mere possibility and thus tying the unconscious to the conscious, non-existing to being, is structurally criminal. There can be no innocent operation since every operation produces an outside in order to maintain an inside, since the law which commands this operation is double and one can never know what one does on the two sides at once (human or divine). The doer cannot deny the crime, his/her culpability since the operation commands him/her to recommend one law over the other and there is no such thing as an operation-less unconscious. The timing of the consciousness of the crime is crucial to what happens after the crime. Anselm Franke makes a distinction between two types of operation or doing. Doing by explication means making it available, enlightening it. Doing by implication is photophobic, means producing the given. Culpability, the sense of having committed a crime is a priori conscious in explication whilst in implication it is only realised a posteriori. Think of explication as a double consciousness that at the same time acts and reconsiders the frame under which agency is possible. Think of Albert Camus’ proposal that in the moment you are in a position to name the guilty, you should assign that very guilt to yourself. The implicating conscious is the unconscious crime which receives its sense as a crime only after the blow and that makes it pathological and denies it redemption. The explicating conscious has always assigned guilt to itself a priori which makes it ethical, since the a priori is the property both the universal and the explicating conscious share. It is the precursor to the redeeming conscious.

Anselm Franke spoke of explication and implication in the context of a mock trial staged by Anton Vidokle and Tirdad Zolghadr at an art fair in Madrid in 2007. They were accused of ‘a crime against art’ by colluding with the art market and the ‘new bourgeoisie’ and the questions were whether they could be named as guilty having already assigned this guilt to themselves and were demonstrating an explicating consciousness and whether this was the only ethical option in the given situation of neo-liberal hegemony. The same questions can be asked of the art school. For example, Goldsmiths was one of the first adopters of student driven experiential learning which is the ideal opposite of ‘being taught’. Teaching is informal and self-driven and the student learns a particular mode of individuation and socialisation which privileges a limited, localised and sovereign view of the world determined to elide the institutional, social and political context in which the individual operates. The student is taught to be an ‘entrepreneur of himself’ (Michel Foucault), both in the private and public spheres, via self-instrumentalisation. This pedagogical approach is predicated on the neo-liberal definition of freedom which is the freedom of private individuals from institutions, fellow students, teachers etc. and therefore as a model of exclusion it overlaps with the charges against Vidokle and Tirdad in the mock trial of shrinking the space of possibility of artistic agency. One of the concluding questions asked at and of the trial, and here in the example of Goldsmiths, is if either is productive in the sense of being an explicated consciousness and if so, what is this productivity based on, what does it produce a consciousness of? Paulo Freire argues for a notion of ‘freedom for’ (against ‘freedom from’) and this would be a freedom to return the production (rather than the exclusion) of artificial forms such as society, institutions, discourse.

Mark Brogan, 2016

 

 


The Goldsmiths Art Gallery

The German philosopher Hegel argues that Jesus abandoned his disciples and left them alone to fight the Christian cause when he returned to His Father in heaven.  “His disciples remained as sheep without a shepherd”.  He chose the spiritual over the political.  His move created the conditions for the political moment of consciousness, its utopian moment.  The Christian moment of consciousness succeeds the Jewish moment which cuts the finite and determinate from the infinite and indeterminate.  Christianity lifts the limitations of Judaism and the holy laws founded on these limitations by claiming that the finite has always been penetrated by the infinite, the divine.  The Christian moment then undergoes a partial reversal, itself a moment when Jesus rises from the dead (the finite), appears to his disciples and tells them he has to return to His Father’s side (the infinite) but that he will come a second time to redeem the Jewish cut, to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.  His job is only half done but he is confident his disciples will continue his work, motivated by his promise.  He leaves religion in an anticipatory state.  The Christian moment sets spirit in movement, releases it from the Jewish state.  The end of all such moments of consciousness, and therefore the end of history which is but the history of consciousness, is the state of pure presence.

Mark Brogan, 2016


Do Good to yourself...

Quod quid erat esse (Thomas Aquinas).  ‘That which each thing already was in its thingness, before it became actual.  Anything – a window, a table – was already what it is before it is actual, and it must already have been in order to become actual.’1

The thing is essentially what it is before its actualisation which introduces difference and contingency and can be thought as the negation of the thing.  Hegel does not incriminate actuality itself for the negation of the essence of the thing but instead our sense perception which grasps the thing in its immediacy, or its actuality.  This is the negation for Hegel which must be negated.

The logic of Quod quid erat esse can be applied to the Christian notion of the soul.  The soul was in itself what it already and always was before it was corrupted and perverted by becoming actual.  Christian guilt is the lamenting of the actualisation of the human soul.

‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’  The human soul can only recover its truth by recourse to the cause of its corruption, actuality.  Instead of the maxim of natural goodness ‘do unto others as you would them do unto you’, ‘do good to yourself with as little evil as possible to others’.2



1 Heidegger, Martin, 1988: he Basic Problems of Phenomenology, Indiana University Press; Revised Edition, p.85

2 Derrida, Jacques, 1976: Of Grammatology, The John Hopkins Press Ltd, London, p.196

Mark Brogan, 2015

 


The Garden (Bridge) of Eden

Adam and Eve both ate from the tree of knowledge even though they were forbidden to.  Before this act, they lived in a state of nature, in an undifferentiated state from beasts and plant life.  After eating from the tree they became conscious of their nudity and that they had this in common with the beasts in the Garden of Eden.  They hid their immodesty. The only other being possessing self-consciousness was the Supreme Being, God, as is shown in how he critically appraises his own work in the seven days he created the world.  As punishment for eating from the tree of knowledge, God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden.  In the moment of eating from the tree and becoming self-conscious, they also became conscious of the need to create a difference between themselves and the natural world.  As Hegel tells us, they became conscious of the subject-object relation.  Leaping forward to Jacques Lacan, I think of the pre-linguistic stage he proposes as being equivalent to the period before Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge [1].   In the (post-) linguistic stage, we cease to exist as objects amongst objects.  In becoming self-conscious, we become subjects and bring into being a world of objects.  Language becomes the stand-in for the thing, the world.  Lacan says that the Unconscious is composed from language.  This is because we construct our subjectivity, as per Martin Heidegger, by bringing the things around us into worldliness through language.  In Hegel’s terms, language is the thing as it is ‘for itself’ and not what it is ‘in itself’.  It is how consciousness (re)presents the world to itself but not how the world really is. 

Lacan claims our subjectivity is based on a fantasy of the world.  What is this fantasy?  If we return to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, this fantasy is of a pre-linguistic state in which the world is not experienced as something inaccessibly ‘in itself’ and only accessibly ‘for itself’, mediated through language. The subject’s trauma is that he or she experiences the ‘for itself’ of the world, the world as language.  Hegel tells us that our knowledge of the world moves dialectically towards a State of Science, a state in there is no difference between the ‘in itself’ and ‘for itself’ of the consciousness of the world.  Consciousness grasps the concept of self-consciousness upon which the subject’s notion of itself is founded.

In Lacanian psychoanalytic sessions, the analyst focuses on the unconscious language of the analysand (the patient) and works figuratively speaking through the strata of language from which the patient has constructed his notion and history of himself as a subject, working backwards, chronologically[2] towards an imaginary origin, to the first experience in which the patient was confronted with the trauma of subjecthood, when he first became conscious of the existence of the difference of the ‘in itself’ and the ‘for itself’ of the world, when words came to stand in for things (and for the patient).  The analyst and the patient (analysand) together seek to return to the moment immediately after the latter figuratively speaking ate from the tree of knowledge and realised his nakedness.

 



[1] “...Condillac’s (procedure) who admitting that language was given by God as a finished product to Adam and Eve, supposes ‘that for some time after the deluge, two children, one male, and the other female, wondered about in the deserts, before they understood the use of any sign.'”  Derrida, Jacques, 1976: Of Grammatology, The John Hopkins Press Ltd, London, p.254

[2] psychoanalysis proceeds both diachronically (or chronologically) and synchronically, diachronically due to the repressive function of the Unconscious and synchronically due its displacement function. [See text on Lacan in  'Slavimo Beograd']

Mark Brogan, 2015

 


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