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    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    Theory Porn: Baudrillard and Zizek

    Baudrillard, by Larissa MacFarquhar.

    “ ‘The illusion of desire has been lost in the ambient pornography and contemporary art has lost the desire of illusion,’ ” he began. “ ‘After the orgies and the liberation of all desires, we have moved into the transsexual, the transparency of sex, with signs and images erasing all its secrets and ambiguity.’ ”

    After he read, Baudrillard expanded on his theme. “We say that Disneyland is not, of course, the sanctuary of the imagination, but Disneyland as hyperreal world masks the fact that all America is hyperreal, all America is Disneyland,” he said. “And the same for art. The art scene is but a scene, or obscene”—he paused for chuckles from the audience—“mask for the reality that all the world is trans-aestheticized. We have no more to do with art as such, as an exceptional form. Now the banal reality has become aestheticized, all reality is trans-aestheticized, and that is the very problem. Art was a form, and then it became more and more no more a form but a value, an aesthetic value, and so we come from art to aesthetics—it’s something very, very different. And as art becomes aesthetics it joins with reality, it joins with the banality of reality. Because all reality becomes aesthetical, too, then it’s a total confusion between art and reality, and the result of this confusion is hyperreality. But, in this sense, there is no more radical difference between art and realism. And this is the very end of art. As form.”


    Review of the new Zizek film by Joshua Clover.

    The exclamation point marks a broad joke about cheesy biopix, or perhaps a more specific anxiety about the film's own place in the millennial raft of theoryporn, including the Pierre Bourdieu epic Sociology Is a Combat Sport and not one but two Derrida flicks. Or maybe it's just about subject Slavoj Zizek's tendency to take things to extremes, sometimes at high volume. "I try to go a little bit over the edge," he tells me on the phone from his home in Ljubljana, Slovenia. "I try to be funny blah blah, but then, you know, a little bit too much in being tasteless or telling a joke without a point, that doesn't fit."

    And he is funny blah blah: the least you could ask from a revered and reviled intellectual, a "card-carrying Lacanian" who speaks more excitedly about politics than Jacques Lacan's revolutionary psychoanalytic ideas. "I am a mastodon," he says. "I still believe in the big theories popular back in the '70s. This distrust in big universal theory is the most dangerous ideology today. Look at all totalitarians, the really bad guys, Hitler, Stalin. Sorry, but none of them believed in big theory. Hitler was a historicist-relativist and so was Stalin! Often a reference to some absolute truth is necessary to resist totalitarian political power, so you can not lose hope."


    Geek delight!

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