A paper I wrote with the wonderful Christopher Danowski has been published in issue 0 of ELSE, an international art, literature, theory and creative media journal. The image on the cover is also a hybrid, like the writing: Chris’ head and my décolletage. Thank god there is a fair amount of Lacan in our paper to analyse that. Have a look at this smart publication here (free but needing registration) and consider submitting. The deadline for the issue on contemplation is 1 January 2015.
From The Baffler:
Žižek: A seduction—to be successful—has to imply a moment of impotence and failure, in the sense that you playfully acknowledge your limitations. Seduction never works with perfection. People are totally wrong when they think that they should present themselves as perfect, blah blah blah blah.
I talked with a sex adviser who told me, when you have a couple where the guy’s impotent, the worst thing to do is to give him some bullshit like, “Don’t think about, just do it spontaneously.” This is where you kill him. He told me one way to do it is to tell them to imitate a purely externalized bureaucratic procedure. Like, you want to make love, okay, sit down with your partner and make a Stalinist plan.
First your fingers (she says) then put your hand on my breasts (she says). Now (he says) you put your finger into my ass. Then you get totally caught in these bureaucratic negotiations. And then usually somebody says, “Fuck it, why don’t we just fuck, let’s go.” The point is you can only do this spontaneously after you have been bureaucratic. It can get eroticized . . .
* * *
Žižek: There’s an Indian guy in Cambridge [Pranav Mistry], who developed “SixthSense,” okay it’s still primitive, he didn’t commercialize it, but it points towards the future. A simple mechanism: you have a camera, a small one, digital, on your head. You have a kind of a projector on your breast, and you are connected to the net through a cellphone in your pocket, and it works like this. The camera identifies the object in front of you. Because it’s connected, the computer can identify them. And then immediately the Internet gets the data about the object and projects them onto any plain surface. You interact with a real object, but at the same time you can project on them all the data.
And I think it’s an interesting thing because the effect is a kind of magic. Objects answer you, telling all about themselves. It must be wonderful to do this in seduction. Okay, it holds also for women, but from my male chauvinist perspective, I look at the woman and it’s projected on her. She likes anal sex, she likes her breasts pinched, she likes this music, she likes that. You get instant data on the girl. This is ideology at its purest. And isn’t it how our real lives are structured? Let’s say you are an anti-Arab, anti-Jewish, or anti-black racist. Isn’t it exactly the same what happens when you see a real Arab or Jew or black guy? You project on him all your racist knowledge. You see that he’s evil, a danger to you, or whatever, blah blah. I think it’s a perfect metaphor for our spontaneous ideology . . .
Looking online for updates on my PhD examiner (I’d like to hear her speak again), I came across the Rigorous Holes website. I was not aware that this lovely conference I participated in back in 2007 had put all the videos online. Timely finding too, for I am to travel to New York on Sunday and this will be on my list to watch.
Don’t worry, My PhD examiner and I did not meet then (not allowed in the UK), as our contributions were on different days. Still, it is great to see this record. You can even watch me speak here.
2HB Vol. 10 is in my hands. Lovely as always and the black cover is a nice touch given the mysteriousness of the texts. It fits well with my contribution, The Scene of a Crime. Thank you to Francis McKee and Louise Shelley.
You are cordially invited to this show, where I will be showing some photographs alongside some work by Glasgow School of Art PhD students:
A woman displays strange behaviour on her way to work: despite having to rush to attend to her duties on time, she finds herself stopping in her tracks, unable to look elsewhere. She is in distress, even if this is not a hysteric fit. The cause of this conduct seems to be related to a diamond and platinum ring. The diamond, a natural, round brilliant one of 1.00 carat, is very sparkling and blinds her. She cannot resist seduction’s call. She is terrified by its meaning and its consequences. She is terrified when addressed to by the object, when faced with her own desire. The encounter is uncanny. She asks: ‘What does the object want from me?’
These photographs are part of a project entitled ‘Make Me Yours’. They are concerned with the relational and psychodynamic aspects of the engagement between object and subject, between work of art and viewer;
one that, when seduction operates, is characterised by interplay, flow and conflict.
I am clearing up, throwing things away, filling, and wrapping, as you do when you finish as long a project as this five-year work. I cannot quite stop yet, I am not resting, although I know I need to. I keep contacting my supervisors with more or less legitimate excuses – my new symptom, it has to stop. I want to write, and I cannot. I am enjoying reading (‘Mansfield Park’ by Jane Austen, ‘Cosmos’ by Witold Gombrowicz and ‘The Man who was Thursday’ by G.K. Chesterton, since you are asking). I am generally leading the life and the moods of someone who is totally lost and a bit bereaved, but it is not a bad thing, as I want to move on (of course I do!).
I am also updating, uploading and making some things available. In general, dragging things out until I they lead me somewhere else.
You can now see the photobook I submitted for my PhD here … As for the textual work, well, that somewhere else I want to go might be publication so I am holding the text for a while. Still, if you want a copy, do get in touch and I will happily respond.
I found the time between submission and examination to be very complex and contradictory. I knew I was not done; yet, in my head, I was done. I had no idea how to prepare for the viva and felt the work was in the past. I had already moved on, especially in relation to the practice, which became more performative. I had even moved on physically, in relation to space, as rather than spending my time in the photography lab or in front of the computer, I was many hours a week rehearsing in the dance studio.
This cognitive dissonance was on the back of my mind between 1st of December 2010 (when I submitted) and 16th February 2011 (the date of my viva) so I asked everyone I knew what their advice was as to how I should prepare. Here’s what I found out:
– Don’t read your thesis, you will find mistakes. I did not follow this one, as I did read my thesis (more than once, in fact), but it helped me to realise that finding mistakes is inevitable. It is also better to find them before the examiners do, so you can show you have done your job properly. I certainly wanted to leave a perfect thesis in the library, with as few mistakes as humanly possible.
– Re-read your thesis and mark it well so you are able to find specific passages. This is fundamental and was very helpful in my viva, as I referred various points to my writing.
– Read your examiners’ works, especially the latest books and papers. Then, think and write specific questions you think they may ask you and try to answer them. In this way, I predicted a few of the questions I had.
– Re-read key sources you mention in your thesis (especially if they are close to the work of your examiners). It is amazing how much opinions change throughout the work of the PhD, and how much one forgets. Most of the answers to the questions in the viva are in these sources.
– Have a mock viva. I could not recommend this enough. It does not matter when you have it: it is better before submission, so you can make changes but to have it after submission is still better than not having it. My mock was extremely useful, it was able to predict most of the questions, it was harder than my actual viva (thus, prepared me well) and it was surprisingly helpful at making me focus on aspects one forgets too often (clothing, space, where to sit, how to behave). Choose your mock examiners well and do give them plenty of time to read your work.
– If your thesis is too open (as mine is) think about the steer of the viva. What is it that you want discussed?
– Phillips and Pugh suggest you write a one-sentence summary for each page of your thesis. I personally think this is a little overkill but it may work for some texts.
– An analytical philosophy student and friend of mine suggested I read Arthur Schopenhauer’s ‘The Art of Always Being Right: 38 Ways of Winning when you are Defeated’. I found this online illustrated version informative and fun, as well as quite useful.
– Think about how to react and answer to the examiners if/when they are having a negative reaction to the material, or to your answers.
– Wear comfortable clothing and footwear. You do not want anything distracting you on the day.
– Be confident in asking examiners to repeat a question or clarify anything. It is normal to be nervous.
– Have water with you.
– Do not put too much hand cream on. You will get slippery, will not be able to open your water bottle and will get self-conscious when shaking hands with your examiners.
Do you have any others? Let me know by commenting, as this resource will be very useful to future PhD candidates (including my own students).
As a postscript, here are some of the texts I read, which reiterated the points my supervisors made (but I needed to hear them again, and again, and again):
Survive your viva (The Guardian, 16 September 2003).
Guidance on preparing for your Viva, School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Sheffield.
How to Prepare for your Viva, Lynn Clark and Michelle Sheehan, Centre for Research in Linguistics and Language Sciences, Newcastle University.
Preparing for the research viva, Dr David Twigg, University of Sussex
Top ten questions for the PhD oral exam: A checklist of ‘viva’ issues that always come up
Finishing your PhD thesis: 15 top tips from those in the know
Let me, first, tell you about the loss. I am mourning my PhD. Its content, the work, the hardship, my relationship with my supervisor, the safety of its structure, its intensity, everything. I even miss the exam (about which I will tell you some other time, soon). My lost object manifests itself in the most unexpected places. Last night, it was in the dance studio, which was so instrumental in keeping my sanity during the last months. I thought I would start crying and froze in fear at the idea of having to explain what was happening to me. What have I lost, exactly?
I should not be surprised by this phenomenon. I have experienced it many times, with broken hearts and the stopping of my analysis. We all have, more or less. yet, the absence of the love object is always unexpected. I should be feeling relief, joy, pride. I don’t. Not yet, at least.
I don’t know how long this will last, or how I will recover, how my mind and my body (for I feel it in the body, a kind of hollow) will take the decision to move on. There is not much more I can say. The only thing I can do, for the time being, is to keep occupied, carry on as normal, dance from this loss, think about work, talk to people, write, get back to writing here and tell you about the last months of the research.
Flashing Nipple Remix, #3. 2005
3 black and white transparencies in light boxes.
38 x 48 x 5″ ; Edition of 3 + AP
I am so sorry I have been neglecting writing to you. The end of the self-inflicted exile from these pages is near. Here’s a quick calendar update:
—— The practice was submitted on Friday 1 October 2010
—— The thesis submission is planned for 1 December
—— The Mock Viva is on the 19th January
—— The real thing is scheduled for 16 February
After that, I am, hopefully, all yours.
In the meantime, you can read a lovely conversation I have had with Alexandra Melissa Korley, published in Illywords. We talk about colour, Duchamp’s Étant Donnés and Casanova, and I give an essential reading list. Don’t expect straight answers for me, though. I have learned enough about seduction to know how to work a tease. Still, I hope you enjoy it.
Till February, with trepidation,