NY #5: Beating the Sky With his Fists

Steve Reinke has an amazing video at the Whitney Biennial called Rib Gets In the Way (Final Thoughts, Series Three). It has several wonderful sequences in its 53 minutes - one long section at the end is an animated version of Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra with drawings made by primary school children. It also contains excerpts from a video of Jacques Lacan speaking at Louvain University in 1972.

The excerpts of the lecture (roughly the first half of this youtube video) are great. Lacan is in full command of his performance. At one point he talks about death. Actually, he kind of shouts about it.

'Death belongs to the realm of faith. You're right to believe you will die. It sustains you. If you didn't believe it could you bear the life you have? If we couldn't totally rely on the certainty that it will end, how could you bear this? Nevertheless, it is only an act of faith. And the worst thing about it is that you're not sure.'


Then, halfway through the lecture, a student comes on stage and performs a muted protest, pouring water over Lacan's notes and making a confused statement about revolution and love.

The student is beautiful, with pouting lips and lank teenage hair. His body is oversized like a teenager, and he is angry at Lacan ('People like you'). Eventually he is led away and Lacan continues. But before that, Lacan takes some time to deals with his interruption, allowing him to speak and then addressing his concerns.

It's an impressive performance, but it's sad to watch. The fawning audience are desperate to laugh at Lacan's dismissal of the man-boy's immature politics. The adolescent ideas of utopia and revolution are dealt with like mistakes or embarrassing confessions, rather than actual desires - whether political or libidinal.

'What is really incredible is that he imagined, that by beating the sky with his fists, this alienation - which is exactly what he was telling you about - is a sort of call. For what? For more truth?'