Saturday, 16 August 2014

Slavoj Žižek: on there being "no metaphysical 'beyond' to put our waste" ..... on "the crisis of late capitalism" ..... and on "the comforting mythology of the recycling industry."

The Elvis of cultural theory, aka Slavoj Žižek, can be found everywhere...

A piece this week from an architect journal touches on the issue of sustainability in a way we'd perhaps rather ignore:

Shitting Architecture: the dirty practice of waste removal

archinect.com/nicholaskorody 13 August 2014

Slavoj Zizek on the toilet. From: "The Pervert's Guide to Ideology" (2012)

In a lecture entitled "Architecture and Aesthetics", originally delivered at Arquitectura y Socieda in 2010, the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek asserts that for him, architecture is “the exemplary case of how ideology is at work precisely where you don’t think you will find it.” In a humorous social commentary, he distinguishes between toilets in Germany, France and England as evidence of how the most utilitarian of objects are often the most expressive of (in this case, nationalistic) underlying ideologies. He asserts, “There is always an excess, a third space which gets lost in the division of inside and outside. In human dwellings, there is an intermediate space that is disallowed. We all know it exists but we do not really accept its existence. It remains ignored and mostly unsayable.” This space is significantly dedicated to excrement and waste disposal, but it is also the space of air conditioning, electric wiring, fiber optic cables – the behind of architecture, covered by curtains and walls and ceilings as well as willful ignorance. For Zizek, it is no mistake that in popular narratives, these are the spaces for ghosts, monsters, insects and vermin. Repressed, ignored, and banished, these spaces return (often at the worst times) to haunt architecture, demanding recognition.

The Arsenale installation at the Venice Biennale. Via the Architectural Review

The attempt to excavate this behind space of architecture by Rem Koolhaas and his curators for the most recent Venice Biennale has been well-noted. Beneath the beautiful painted rotunda of the Arsenale, a chunk of a ceiling space from a typical office building – with its air conditioning ducts, wiring, and drop ceiling – was erected. Another room housed an exhibit tracing the development of toilet design. In the accompanying catalogue, toilets are described as “the fundamental zone of interaction – on the most intimate level – between humans and architecture.” In what could be described as a typical Koolhaasian gesture, rather than banishing bathrooms, the exhibition elevates them as “the architectural space in which bodies are replenished, inspected, and cultivated, and where one is left alone for private reflection - to develop and affirm identity.” In a way, the exhibit illustrates a reading of the development of architecture since modernity as the steady enlargement of this interstitial zone, both spatially and in its importance for architectonics in general.

Timothy Morton, an increasingly important figure in the emergent philosophical school of Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) and general ecological thinking (among many other disciplines), deconstructs architecture’s foundational disregard of our excess and its removal, reflected particularly in a toilet and the magical “away” suggested in its U-bend. Morton, like Zizek, scrutinizes the banished third spaces of architecture that hide the rationally obvious yet phenomenologically startling truth: that there is, in fact, no metaphysical “beyond” to put our waste.

Shitting Architecture: the dirty practice of waste removal | Features | Archinect

How have we come to such an impasse when it comes to the shaping of where we live?

A provocative essay from last year 
Whose Streets? Anarchism, Technology and the Petromodern State | Uri Gordon - Academia.edu
starts its analysis with the 'ubiquitous' philosopher Žižek and his idea that we are entering the ‘apocalyptic zero-point’:


Living in the End Times According to Slavoj Zizek - YouTube

With a review from the Telegraph when the book came out:

Living in the End Times by Slavoj Zizek: review

Brian Dillon is awed by a rock star philosopher with perverse tastes

30 July 2010

Slavoj Žižek may well be the last great thinker of our time. In an era when lighting on one half-formed notion – “the end of history”, “the third way”, “Islamo-fascism” – is enough to get one hailed as a public intellectual to rival Russell or Sartre, the Slovenian philosopher puts all conceptual comers to shame. In recent years he has been the manic, dishevelled subject of two documentaries and maintained a schedule of sold‑out lectures (many of which go straight to YouTube) that looks as gruelling as a high-end rock tour.

But it’s not merely that Žižek’s energy for self-promotion is prodigious. Rather, it’s his range that impresses – he’s equal parts forbidding theorist of the contemporary political and cultural scene, and contriver of entertainingly elaborate paradoxes. If it weren’t for the hangdog persona and residual communism, he’d be an intellectual dandy: the closest thing we have to the mock-aristocratic socialist Oscar Wilde.

Žižek, who is a professor at the University of Ljubljana, has been writing in a hectically engaging English for more than 20 years, enlivening his analysis of Marxism and psychoanalysis with sly forays into popular culture. (For example, he’s one of the smartest critics ever of Hitchcock.)

His books have lately veered between svelte polemics on the perverse core of Christianity and the valuable legacy of Leninism to heftier volumes that promise, but never quite deliver, a systematic statement of his philosophical position.

Living in the End Times is one of the latter: a sprawlingly contentious and varied disquisition on everything from the crisis of late capitalism and the resurgence of anti-Semitism to the soft Utopianism of modern art museums and the comforting mythology of the recycling industry. Though the writing never ceases to dazzle, Žižek reveals himself here, surprisingly, as something like an old-fashioned moralist.

At the heart of the book is an argument that will be familiar to readers of his recent work. The language of social liberalism espoused in the West on the Right and Left alike is, Žižek contends, nothing less than the purest form of intolerance. In fact, “tolerance” is precisely the problem: a weasel word that allows politicians of any ideological stripe to claim that they act in the name of freedom.

Living in the End Times by Slavoj Zizek: review - Telegraph
Living in the End Times by Slavoj Žižek | Book review | Books | The Guardian
The Violent Visions of Slavoj Žižek by John Gray | The New York Review of Books

Here he is again on YouTube, but in the form of an animation as part of the RSA's series of lectures from prominent figures - where he makes the point that:
"Why in our economy, charity is no longer an idiosyncrasy of some good guys here and there, but the basic constituent of our economy."


RSA Animate - First as Tragedy, Then as Farce - YouTube
Slavoj Zizek - First as Tragedy, Then as Farce - YouTube

RSA - First as Tragedy, Then as Farce
The trouble with charity | TheIndependent.ca

The latest political row he has commented on is the secret trade agreement uncovered last month by Wikileaks:
How capital captured politics | Slavoj Žižek | Comment is free | The Guardian
Trade in Services Agreement - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Secret Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) - Financial Services Annex
Secret trade agreement covering 68 percent of world services published by WikiLeaks — RT USA

In fact, he appears almost everywhere - in references such as this from a couple of days ago:

But does fossil fuel know it’s the problem?


We know that fossil fuels are poisonous, that they cause serious social and environmental crises. The money that buys foreign oil, a process we all participate in when we fill up our tanks, leaves our country, causes unemployment and leads to war. Now domestic sources of fuel from fracking have us choosing between fresh water and fossil fuels.

Why then are we unable to stop using fossil fuels? Our inability to deal with the problem of fuel invites a perverse question; does fossil fuel know that we don’t need it? This is a version of a joke told by Slavoj Zizek. Briefly, a man believes that he is a piece of grain who is under constant threat that he will be eaten by a chicken. He goes to a psychologist and he is cured of this delusion. Time passes, and one day he returns to the analyst and tells him, “There is a chicken outside of my house! I am afraid he will eat me!” The analyst says, “But you are cured of your delusion; you know that you are a man, not a piece of grain.” The man replies, “Yes, I know. But does the chicken know?”

This joke helps us to understand how we could know that fuel is causing catastrophe, but because our survival is wholly dependent upon fuel, we must contain the contradiction; we must hold the two separate, climate change and the demands of daily life. In spite of our ability to describe the fuel and its impact upon our lives, our everyday actions paradoxically affirm what we claim to reject. This can help us understand what fossil fuels really mean.

But does fossil fuel know it's the problem? | West Marin Citizen

Indeed, there does seem to be a 'fetish' for this philosopher...
A Fetish For Zizek | The Weekly Standard

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