Friday, April 11, 2008

the glums; Zizek on Courbet & Malevich

[Kazimir Malevich, Black Square, 1915]

Astonishingly slumpish depression today – occasioned largely by a morning spent reading bureaucratese documents from the various administrative levels of Our Fair University about how to become fulfilled – er, how to go thru the procedures for promotion to Full professor. So far as I can tell, it's much less a matter of having written books & articles & essays & taught classes than it is of getting about 5 million documents in the right format & order in the right kind of ring binder. The very prospect of spending a couple of 40-hour weeks putting this paper & plastic simulacrum of myself together – & by the beginning of August, to boot! – is deeply disheartening.

And then, casting my eyes over one page of criteria, I see a requirement for "2 recent letters of evaluation of teaching," & think, Oh crap, I haven't had a colleague visit one of my ramshackle excuses for a class in half a decade or more; I gotta line up visits – in the next three meetings, before the semester is over!

But mostly, on a lovely spring day, I'm feeling kind of quiet, becalmed, bored, & directionless.
Wishing Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Madeline Kahn, & Bob Creeley were still alive.
"We can now understand in what precise way – and paradoxical as it may sound – Malevich's 'Black Square', as the seminal painting of modernism, is the true counterpoint to (or reversal of) 'L'origine [du monde]': with Courbet, we get the incestuous Thing itself which threatens to implode the Clearing, the Void in which (sublime) objects (can) appear; while with Malevich, we get its exact opposite, the matrix of sublimation at its most elementary, reduced to the bare markings of the distance between foreground and background, between a wholly 'abstract' object (square) and the Place that contains it. The 'abstraction' of modernist painting should therefore be viewed as a reaction to the overt presence of the ultimate 'concrete' object, the incestuous Thing, which turns it into a disgusting abject – that is to say, turns the sublime into an excremental excess."

–Slavoj Zizek, The Fragile Absolute – or, why is the christian legacy worth fighting for?


tmorange said...

oh, man how much do i love those first coupla gun club records! jeffrey lee wails that crazywild lonesome...

Mark Scroggins said...

One of the finer moments of my college years -- musta been 1985 or so -- was seeing JLP -- on the Wildweed solo tour -- in Nashville, in one of those clubs just north of the Vandy campus. At the time he was trying -- foolishly -- to lose the Gun Club aura, & played almost no GC material. But an electric show nonetheless.