soundtrack for reading this entry…


2.   The Interpassive Subject: Lacan Turns a Prayer Wheel


The Chorus, from the ancient Greek tragedies, put there to feel emotions for us, to take over and experience on our behalf while we freely and guiltlessly occupy ourselves with the more practical, the routine; weepers, canned laughter, prayer wheels.

A better understanding of this can be achieved by looking at the double concepts of interactivity and interpassivity. As far as interactivity is concerned, interaction is slowly taking the place of passive witnessing of a work of art. Cyberspace provides us with the means not only to participate in another’s work but   even to manipulate the rules of that artwork. On the other hand we have interpassivity, a situation where I no longer interact with the artwork (the object) but the object itself takes my place in relishing the artwork and I no longer have to bother doing so. This object, like a VCR recording all the shows I cannot see and in a way seeing them for me, represents in this case the big Other, the ‘medium of symbolic registration’. Taking interpassivity further we come upon the function of the “Oops!” something uttered in embarrassing circumstances  as an enactment of the symbolic registration of said embarrassing circumstance and inform the big Other about it. Having the big Other know something  we can no longer keep on acting as if we are unaware, we are forced to acknowledge.

This notion of interpassivity opposes Hegel’s notion of being active through the Other, that is having an intermediary do my work for me. Here I am passive through the Other, I engage in false activity by leaving the activity at hand to the ‘Chorus’ while I take the time to busy myself with other tasks. I do not act to achieve something but rather to prevent something, as is the case of the obsessional neurotic who in his effort to prevent a situation from occurring, becomes overactive. In the same line of thought, taking into account today’s seemingly progressive politics, we encounter the concept of pseudo-activity, of always engaging in something in order to prevent the stillness that would perhaps bring the change.

Continuing Lacan proposes that the big Other cannot only act for us but also believe and know for us, stating as an example the religious concept of predestination, of our fate already fixed beforehand and we simply act in order to prevent said fate from being altered.  As a result we come across the subject supposed to know, the case in which the result is known and thus of no interest and the actual interest lies in the process (of reaching that result).  The preconceived notion of first believing in something is exactly that which makes us prone to seeing the proof of that which we believe.  In the same way, the psychoanalyst functions on the basis that the patient believes from the start that his therapist already knows what the problem is. Being so, the psychoanalyst guides the patient into discovering himself the meaning of his symptoms. Lacan then, contrary to Freud’s approach of ‘psychic dynamics of transference’, draws from transferential phenomena ‘the formal structure of the presupposed meaning’. In general, by returning to something we in effect invent it.

The subject supposed to know is however superficial compared to the fundamental subject supposed to believe of the symbolic order… In order to believe in something, to accept the knowledge of its existence, we first need to believe in a subject outside ourselves that believes in said something. The actual existence of this subject is irrelevant; so long as we are convinced it exists, it serves its purpose.  And form this stems the meaning of ‘culture’, that which we practice without actually believing in it, simply on account of someone, somewhere, believing at some point (contrary to fundamentalist believers who actually take their beliefs seriously). As Blaise Pascal said ‘act as if you believe and belief will come’ a statement that has been turned on its head to state that by acting we rid ourselves of the burden of believing and objectify our belief in the act.

Continuing Zizek notes the non-psychological nature of the symbolic order. By believing through another (the Other?) we refrain from really engaging our inner feelings/states. Politeness falls into the realm of the symbolic order in the sense that somethings are said/done simply because it is expected and are not to be taken literally but as a symbol (!!) of something silently and generally agreed upon. In the symbolic order the mask, the attitude we adopt, is usually more real/honest than our assumed reality, that which we believe we feel inside. This is clear in situations where we have to deal with a ‘corrupt’ individual who’s  position however is a respected one and our show of respect isn’t towards the individual but towards that which he represents (i.e. a judge the law). This is where cynics fall into Lacan’s phrase ‘those in the know are in error’ as by believing only the hard facts that they see they e they miss out on the ‘efficiency of the symbolic fiction’ the ability to see the good in what one represents and not in what one is.

We here come to what Lacan calls ‘symbolic castration’ – ‘the gap between my direct psychological identity and my symbolic identity’. He uses the phallus as a symbol, signifying any object that symbolizes power and stating that symbolic castration, the occurrence of a divide between what I am and what the ‘phalus’ signifies I am, is exactly that which gives me my actual power. I do not have power because of who I am as an individual but because of the position given to me through holding the ‘phalus’ and so my actions cannot deprive me of that power… That brings us however to the question of what remains when I am striped of my title?  To answer that Lacan first suggests distinguishing between what one is/ what he desires and what others see him to be/what others desire in him and then notes that one desires a) the other, b) to be desired by the other, c) what the other desires. In this sense Lacan along with Nietzsche and Freud support the notion that considering justice as equality is based on envy, on wanting to possess/enjoy what the other does. Seeing as that is not possible in most cases equality is then found in equal prohibition and perhaps leading to asceticism.

That is why, in closing Jenny Holzer says ‘protect me from what I want’ rather than ‘protect me from what I am’ because, after all isn’t what we are in truth what we want?



Protect Me From What I Want (2009) Trailer | Dominic Leclerc



Supporting Links…


Taiwan’s most famous professional mourner



COLUMBO (Short documentary: Interviews and clips)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQp69krLoFM –> check out around 2.00





Later Lacan: neurosis vs. psychosis vs. obsessional; symptom, sinthome, fantasy



Artist that fit the description:


Greek comic strip artis ARKAS is famous for his strips about two cats. A perpetually horny female Lucretia and a castrated male Castrato. Aside from showing a caustic sense of humor, I see his work in connection to Lacan’s theory about symbolic castration. Lucretia wants Castrato to satisfy her needs because that is the role of the male cat but he cannot and more importantly, he does not want to. There is a gap between his identity and his presupposed role and that becomes obvious when he is stripped of the phallus (in this case litteraly).

kastrato chapter 2a

kastrato chapter 2b

kastrato chapter 2c

Obsessive Compulsive Figure Finding Disorder, Video Piece, Oct 2011



Obsessive Compulsive Figure Finding Disorder 2, Video Piece, Nov 2011



Rat Man: A Case of Obsessional Neurosis

http://www.insitutheatre.co.uk/media/rat-man-a-case-of-obsessional-neurosis/  –> I could not find the actual project but if I do I will post, it seems very interesting!


‘Still Life’ – Neurotic Artist – Sims 3 Machinima



Pondering upon…

To what extent can an audience be manipulated? To what extent can an artist lead his audienc on a predetermined path?

What means can I use to enable audience-performer interaction? How much can I allow an audience to create the rules of a performanc and still manage to maintain whatever initial concept I had in mind?

How can cyberspace or any from of safe diestance/detachment affect such a performance?


These are all questions addressed in my ongoing project “Puppets”.  (see other blog http://projectpuppets.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk )

I am currently experimenting with the difference between live audience instructing the perfromers and distant audience doing the same thing, whether distance means simply away, or also out of sight…

An idea that came to mind through this chapter and its approach on questions that had already been bugging me, is to create a vague storyboard, with specific landmarks but with freedom as to how to go from one to the other. The performers need (???) to pass from all of them but it is up to the audience to determine how that will happen.  And what happens when the audience knows all the landmarks from the start and what changes when they are kept in the dark and can only see one step ahead?


  1. Pavlos

    Loved the arkas comics 🙂

    I wonder what is the conclusion of Zizek’s chapter. You can make it more explicit and what is his political stance towards interpassivity.

    I really appreciate that you try situating it in your own practice and finding direct links with your own questions, but sometimes, I wonder how robust those links are (there are some faint superficial connections and I feel that the core argument of Zizek has been lost when it comes to adapting the argument). Try working this a bit deeper… (but well done for having started already the application of those theories into your own work).

    Have a look at this too: http://youtu.be/yVOhuGZSiY0


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