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Jan Verwoert 6: How do we want to arrive? -19.3.2009

In the course of thinking through concepts of artistic production, the focus of the discussion has gradually shifted and opened up. Starting from the scene of departure, (the moment of inception, vocation and inspiration in which we encounter the question “What is to be done?“) we now, more and more, approach the scene of arrival: the moment when we, as artists and intellectuals, enter the economy of desire and capital (call it ‚the artworld’ if you want to) and face the critical question: How do we want to arrive? What stance do we take in relation to the logic of status and prestige that governs this economy? Where in this field, topologically speaking, do we want to appear and arrive, what is our port of entry? In what star, astrologically speaking, shall the arrival take place, at what hour in the economy of time?

And most crucially: Is there a way to enter the economy of desire and capital without being swallowed by it, without having the direction, humour and spirit of one’s practice determined exclusively (and thus annulled) by its cruel logic of status and prestige? Once more the question: How can we think the possibility of a beautifully perverse, perversely uneconomical way of arriving and staying alive in this economy?

The seminar will take off with an introduction to the vocabulary Lacan offers to theorize the scene of arrival as the “advent of the subject in the field of the Other“ (seminars 16-20) in his positively devastating analysis of the twofold desire to see one’s desire socially represented & reconfirmed in the contstruction of an ideal ego - and the tacit urge to sabotage this ideal relation to oneself and others through a (self)destructive pursuit of what always escapes this logic of arrival. [i.e. “Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go to Amsterdam”: It’s one journey.] Reading Lacan against the letter, the question will be, whether there is not a hole in the loop of symbolic self-affirmation, precisely at the point of its inception, when, in a moment of nonsense, we arrive, “(here we are now) stupid and contagious”,  as creatures who, basically, have come here to fuck and die - together maybe, possibly.

In search for images that may reveal some of the existentially mixed feelings that arise when we seek to arrive, the seminar will look at some of the possibly most striking examples of how this scene of arrival has been depicted in the cinema, interpreted by an actor who embodied the arrriver – the modern arriviste (to stretch the meaning of the term a bit), the one who seeks to arrive in the modern world – like few others: Alain Delon in such films as L’Eclisse (1962), Plein Soleil (1960), Il Gattopardo (1963) and La Piscine (1969). Perhaps these films can offer some insights into what it could mean to arrive differently – or at least avoid the worst …

Jan Verwoert

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