| Бостон |
A decorated artilleryman, once a Slovenian Presidential candidate and now a philosopher, Slavoi Žižek, shows up for the third time on the ritual paths of one of the most intellectual tribes in the world. In «The People’s Republic of Cambridge» he plays a role, which is not the worst of all roles a philosopher could have, and reminds us of Dmitri Pisarev’s assessment of those happy peoples who are not ruled by philosophers.
«Ceci est Žižek». © 2007 Z. Cherkassky & A. Ter-Oganian; style and title V. Gusev.
Игра в карты
Робер Лепаж отказывается от технологий на фестивале Луминато в Торонто

The incredibly productive Žižek has written 50 books. Judging by the footprints his speeches leave in cyberspace, one can see him in different places simultaneously, like an industrious electron working hard on bringing philosophy out of an academic setting. Where is he taking philosophy? On a purely technological level or, like Jacques Rancière would say in an «aesthetic regime», using the available means Zizek seems to be reproducing the same text that slowly keeps changing as its author shifts from one continent to another. In Richard Schechner’s concentric model (Performance Theory, 2008) drama, script, theater and performance are concentric circles, with each circle embracing the previous one. Drama is a fundamental base that either moves Žižek, or is moved by Žižek. To understand this, one should turn to his books, for instance «The Monstrosity of Christ», which uses a fundamental interrelation of epistemology and ontology as a materialist foundation for religion (roughly speaking, he talks about the «powerful» materialistic theology based on Karl Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle). Dramatic script is his monologues, and each one differentiates slightly from the other. Theater and performance is the «performance» area for Žižek the actor and his audience.

On the surface, The Brattle’s audience in Cambridge paradoxically reproduces a phenomenon called «a laugh track», a mechanical sweetening of a TV program with «canned laughter», invented by Charley Douglass in 1950. Laughter that sometimes starts in rather inappropriate moments becomes a way to break free from the pressure that Žižek creates by constantly switching from one paradox to another and by the awkward and unbalanced style of the performance. Žižek is a transgression that the audience of «the society of spectacle» relieves and brings back to casual routine by one of the reactions at its disposal. Laugh in an American theater is a particular laugh. It allows an audience, raised on TV seasons with a laugh track, to perform one of the functions of the public event. A mere «gathering» of many people partly solves the task of the ritual, and collective laughter lets them experience a sense of community.

No one is more rawly exposed than Slavoj Žižek. Somewhat like the tragicomic, clownlike Christ he sometimes invokes, he stands before us without the least vestige of pretense, revealing every last symptom of his quirky subjectivity, while always allowing this to witness to the universal. His seemingly constant descent into trivia and obscenity, his frequent metafictional deviations, consistently perform a vision that is far more serious than that of most of his contemporaries.

John Milbank. The Eroto-Linguistic Animal. «The Monstrosity of Christ. Paradox or Dialectic?» by Slavoj Žižek and John Milbank. 2009. MIT Press.

A closer look shows us that perhaps we are dealing with quite a sincere and ingenuous reaction. Like Žižek says in his speech, the West likes the «Other» as long as it is passive, «decaffeinated». Žižek presents himself as the complete opposite to the «Decaffeinated Other». For the American audience, he is a representation of his own ideas – he is the Toxic Other, a Toxic Neighbor, a Vampire, the Undead that takes on aboriginal energy. His unfamiliar gestures – almost grimaces, heavy perspiration, a very strong accent are the constant attributes of all his performances. They do not look like eccentricity, but rather the deliberate expressive devices of his stage image. However, the gaping mimetic depths that Žižek reveals in his speech and the heterodoxy of his message are such that the audience is not quite sure what they are observing is just a play, and in the next moment the whole performance will not turn into something rather serious; and once outside they might find themselves in a quite «different» world. Thus, the audience goes through an initiation, through changing their status.

The distinctive feature of philosophy as human behavior which keeps all previous psychological knowledge circulating is not foreign but rather interrelated to a ritual. It is a theatre in which Žižek is the audience and the spectators are the actors. In some literal sense, Theodor Adorno’s assessment of Hegel can be applied to him: «When we deal with a truly great philosopher the question is not what he has to tell us, but on the contrary, what we are, what our situation is in his view, how our epoch can be defined in his thought»

Something serious is going on in the world; a specter is haunting the world. Žižek, quoting «his friend Alain Badiou», claims it to be a specter of communism. He bases this on the fact that communism is an «eternal idea» which, according to Žižek, is a Hegelian «concrete universality». The political left survived the crash of their project in the early ‘90s, which in today’s philosophy is testified by the fact that currently Žižek, Badiou, Shaviro, Rancière, Negri, Klein are the most popular philosophers. Of note is not Žižek’s crossing over to the theatre and his transformation into a mass media figure, but his departure from the pure philosophy. Global warming is taking place not only in the World Ocean, today philosophy also is flooding new unusual terrains. The Brattle Theatre is just one of the many suitable places for that flooding.

At the end of the «event» I asked Slavoj Žižek for a brief comment.

VG: In the spirit of today’s show, what could you say about theatre as a phenomenon that originates from the same source as religion of ritual?

SZ: I am working on it with Alain Badiou. Badiou has got a marvelous text dedicated to the theatre, where he opposes theater to cinema as public to private. He stands entirely for the theatre and develops a «totalitarian» idea that it is necessary to establish an obligatory theatre in France...

I think French already have obligatory theatre…

SZ: Not in the least. Every citizen will have to go to the theatre twelve times a year; otherwise their taxes will go up.

The scenography is extremely monastic, as if it is to tell to the spectators that they have come to a lecture. A historical rear projection screen -- a technological marvel of the ‘60s, a logo of the Harvard bookstore. An academic lecturing desk set on the front stage, equipped with a microphone and a lamp. Sheets of paper. No water.

Slavoj Žižek in the old Brattle theatre. Video © 2009
к театру пространства и времени
Вторник, 16 Января 2018
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