3.    From Che Vuoi? to Fantasy: Lacan With Eyes Wide Shut


Starting out, Zizek points out the shift from the early Lacan to the later Lacan, from phenomenology (intersubjective dialectic of recognition) to structuralism (mechanism that regulates interaction of subjects).  Language and desire are the main focus of this chapter and concept of the subjectivised Other is introduced. On the topic of desire Lacan suggests that “man’s desire is the Other’s desire”, that man desires as Other, a statement that can be translated in two ways.

On the one hand what I desire is not decided by me but exists within the symbolic space and is determined beforehand by the big Other; even transgressive desires, those not ‘normaly’ expected, are rooted in the nature of that which they seek to transgress. Human rights are presented as the right to break the laws of the 10 Commandments (and in this I find a very to the point example of desire stemming from that which is forbidden).  On the other hand man’s desire being the other’s desire can be seen in a different light: that of the subject desiring what and when he/she feels the Other desire. I am then brought face to face with anOther’s desire, bewildered perhaps of what actually constitutes my own desire.

The impenetrability of the other human being was first tackled by Judaism and the notion of loving my neighbor as my mirror-image, only to be followed by Lacan and Freud pointing out the Otherness of my neighbor and the fact that I cannot be sure of what I really know about him. In contrast to this Jung brings the New Age approach of the neighbor being just a mirror-image, just a means to my own self-realization and finally just aspects of my own personality of which I am in denial. Because of this, Lacan’s ‘what do you want?’ becomes more a question of ‘what part of you afraid of and cannot control?’. So finally Emmanuel Levinas comes along to propose that “the ultimate function of the Law is not to keep us from forgetting the neighbor, but to keep the neighbor at a safe distance, to shield us from the monstrosity” (that is to say the potential evil hidden within the neighbor).


Skipping a bit ahead we come to the Theory of Performatives: “speech acts that accomplish in the very act of their enunciation the state of affairs that they declare”. SAY=DO. Declaring love then has the potential of being a traumatic experience for the subject on the receiving end of that declaration seeing as it may be forcing one to acknowledge intimate issues kept dormant inside. Lacan takes this notion a step further adding that by telling someone they are something to me I instantly attach to them the quality of that something and force both of us to treat each other in a particular way, abiding to that characterization.  My confrontation of the other is not just referring then to my mirror-image but to the absolute Other, stepping between me and my neighbor to facilitate our relations.



Althusser meats Lacan:

As a protection mechanism Louis Althusser proposed an approach of practical humanism and theoretical anti-humanism, that is  ‘be nice to humans, treat them with respect but keep in mind that humanism is ideology and humans are parts of a structure that follows its own laws’. Lacan however proposes practical anti-humanism, confronting in this way the inhuman core of humanity. To better understand this, consider Kant’s distinction between ‘not’ and ‘non’ the two forms of negating the same positive notion (i.e. when one is dead it is clear that he is dead, but negating this it is one thing to be ‘not dead’-that is alive- and another to be ‘undead’ –that is neither one or the other but a hazy inbetween state). The concept of ‘non’ brings us too close to the positive for something that is not positive, that is Other and that is traumatic. Fantasy (in the sense of why I desire what I do and not of imagining I something I desire but don’t have) is Lacan’s cure for this, for coping with our encounter with the Other and the Other’s desire. The desire created in fantasy is not the subject’s desire but the other’s. It is through fantasy that the subject attempts to form an identity that will satisfy the Other and make the subject the object of the Other’s desire.


In that sense sexual relations are real and in order to survive need to be seen through a degree of fantasy. In art, the need to filter out the Real of the sexual act and rid me of the burden of its presence is an issue has been frequently the chosen option, achieved either by directing the focus on other things at the same time or through audiovisual metaphors. The reasoning behind this is that contrary to psychoanalysis that states that sexuality is hidden within everything, the real sex itself in order to be digested needs to be camouflaged. Fantasy then falls into the category of the Objectively Subjective, that of how things actually seem to us even if we ourselves are not aware of it.


Rumsfeld and Lacan big

In that realm of unknown knowns I, as subject, am robbed of my innermost subjective experience  as I can never fully acknowledge what it is that brings on those thoughts and feelings and so I can never experience them in full consciousness; I am an empty subject. Paradoxical phenomenology without the subject (what appears to a subject but isn’t of the subject) leads to ‘aphanisis’, “the self-obliteration as a result of the subject getting too close to the phantasmic kernel of its being”. It has become the duty of the contemporary artist to bring us face to face with staged fantasies that are radically desujectivised, that can never be enacted by the subject. Frequent reminders that what takes place is fiction but also events that point out the reality of the stage should be perceived as escapes from the Real rather than versions of alienation, in the sense that at the end of the day what we have been taught to believe is turned on its head and ‘Reality’ is actually fantast while in ‘Dreams’ we encounter the traumatic REAL.

Reality and Fantasy big

So for Lacan, the goal is ‘true awakening’ not simply from sleep but from fantasy, imposed by the Other and directing us as puppets even when we are awake…


Potentially related links:

Jacques Lacan the Gaze and the Split: Seminar XI Chapter 6; psychosis



Eyes Wide Shut = NEUROTIC view of the world




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQtfMR-UKd0 –> an interesting  illustration of what is reality and what Real based on perspective…



http://www.nirandfar.com/2012/03/how-to-manufacture-desire.html –> how theories concerning desire are put to use as ‘marketing strataties’


Eating the Other:Desire and Resistance

http://www.scribd.com/doc/118302450/Eating-the-Other-bell-Hooks –> in a way flirting is creating desire in the other through our desire in them. In this case the other is the subject and I am the Other (far fetched, I know but as my blog is called ‘Food for Thought’ I figure why not???)

How to Get the Guy You Want – Flirting Advice for Women




In the “Aritsts’ World”…


Performance conducted for Art Degree (DNAP) at the Marseille-Mediterranean College of Art and Design (ESADMM).

Referring to the idea of the discovery or rediscovery of self in relation to others. A form of recall crossing the theory of the mirror stage developed by Lacan, the notion of faciality and the relationship of the self to otherness that is essential for perception of his own image.




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhY9-d0L8Wo  –> averyclear and humourous approach to the notion of a subject’s desire being the Other’s desire, to the concept that we only desire something when we experience it as being desireable throught the Other, from Greek comedians AMAN.


Inception – the movie

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpXngRB-VTw&list=PL4C321FF5688D3581 –> collection of videos from the movie ‘Inception’ (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1375666/) that is for me a mind boggling approach to what reality/Real is at the end of the day… A dream within a dream, a reality within a reality spiraling in and out and never knowing for sure what is Real.


Eudora WeltyOn Writing

“Making reality real is art’s responsibility. It is a practical assignment, then, a self-assignment: to achieve, by a cultivated sensitivity for observing life, a capacity for receiving impressions, a lonely, unremitting, unaided, unaidable vision, and transferring this vision without distortion to it onto the pages of a novel, where, if the reader is so persuaded, it will turn into the reader’s illusion.”


Augmented Reality art (ARt) in about a minute



Augmented Reality art (ARt) gallery




Small incisions were made in a pattern on Darryl Carlton’s back, and Ron Athey used surgical paper to make prints from the cuts. The prints were clipped to a washing-line pulley rigged above the audience so that they would pass above the heads of some members of the audience. Though no blood dripped down onto the audience, and though the performer who was cut was HIV negative, Athey’s own HIV positive status led one audience member to claim that the crowd had been spattered with HIV-positive blood resulting in spectators franticly trying to leave the premises.

A very clear portayal of how assosiations can cause us to not know the difference between reality and the Real; the particular audience member experienced a different reality and through him it was trasferred to others as well…




There are many thoughts in my mind especially concerning the matter of the  ‘Unknown known’ but they are not clear enought yet to be articulated… All I can say is that I am very much intrigued by all the knowledge we potentially have but have not (yet) unlocked…

For me meditation, reiki and other such practices have been part of my life lately and I feel that perhaps they are a way to get to know I know some of those unknown knowns…

4 thoughts on “ZIZEK “HOW TO READ LACAN” – CHAPTER 3

  1. Pavlos

    This leads me to question whether fulfilling my desire is my truest nightmare…

    Good writing and analysis of the chapter and you seem to have researched on creative links.

    Start finding some application on “Antevorta”. For example “αφύπνιση όχι απλά ξύπνημα” could be an interesting take…

    1. Eirini Atmatzidi Post author

      Fulfilling my desire IS potentially my truest nightmare because if my desire, my motivational force is accomplished what then is there left for me???
      It is like Ithaca… It is the trip that matters not the destination, the process not the product… So if “all my life” I chase after a desire, if my actions, thoughts and feelings are driven or created by that desire, what is left for me when that desire is no longer there? What is left when I actually have it? My nightmare is that there will be nothing left! And then what?

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