When You’re Implicated, You Can’t Be Separated

» Meeting Room
By Timothy Murray

Although the audience is an old bourgie institution that drags on the most lofty of radical imaginaries, poo-pooing the bourgeoisie–they are, after all, bigger than ever, especially the petty–amounts to little more than letting off steam, just as holding out for a kind of generalizable utopian merging of beings in the performance situation is a pipe-dream.  More robust modes of participation, however, are certainly possible, and contemporary audiences comprised of contemporary singularities continue to form and dissolve in various iterations of its historical trajectory.  Once kept at arm’s length, the audience “member” was a mere spectator.  A bit later, this spectator was involved along the lines of certain protocols thought necessary to complete the meaning of the work.  Now, participants are or become the work itself.  It is the latter kind of participatory practice Irit Rogoff took to task in a talk entitled “The Implicated” at Performing the Future at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin.  Kai van Eikels responded eloquently with What Parts of Us Can Do with Parts of Each Other and When, after which there was an occasion: What Will There Be Instead of an Audience? Yael Bartana, Bill Dietz, Willi Dorner, plan b, and Stefanie Schult-Strathaus gave short presentations with no pomp and circumstance, and then something interesting happened.

Here is a transcript of What Will There Be Instead of an Audience?, an attempt at a more robust participatory practice, one that made said participation its only criterion for participating.  Implication happens when you enter participation on your own terms; it is a kind of dispersed rather than binary complicity in an occasion that ultimately may leave the art behind.  This conference performed itself.  The Implicated conversing with themselves as the Implicated is the performance, which dips in and out of a kind of meta-reflection on what is going on right now. The Implicated has removed the names of the Implicated.  What was said is already everybody’s.  Participant sounds clinical, audience member just doesn’t describe anything that’s actually going on, and implicated sounds criminal.  Betrayal, or generating modes of unbelonging together, is exactly what we’re after.  The Implicated implicate the Implicated.

–The Implicated

The Implicated: There will not be a panel discussion in the way you might expect it.  We’ll first have a series of truly short presentations by six wonderful artists and curators.  You can find their biographies in the program.  The artists and curators will introduce themselves and their work.  We will then have an open discussion, and open should be taken seriously in this case.  There will be no moderator, only microphones available to everyone–a self-organizing exchange of positions and questions, so be aware of your ability to take part, to make decisions, to decide which part to take.  The floor is yours and ours.

Presentations happen.  They end.
The Implicated in the bowels of the Implicated murmurs “discussion.”

The Implicated: I was curious about the way you chose to clothe the participants.  They’re dressed in hoods and sweats and are kept quite anonymous, so I’m curious about the way in which participant and crowd, or all who are present, is actually one between animate and inanimate.  In fact, the arrangements we saw of humans would seem to be an arrangement akin to detritus in the city, in other words, garbage that collects in the corners and crevices of buildings.  I wonder if there is an interaction between those who are standing and those who are crouching or hanging, how much does the play between inanimate and animate play a role in the work?

The Implicated: I think what irritates people is that they recognize that they don’t move.  This ambiguity is actually what I find interesting.  That’s why sometimes people climb up, to get any reactions. As to whether they reply, it depends on the person.  Sometimes they just go on.  But it’s on purpose, this ambiguity.

The Implicated: It’s not really a question for any one of these people who gave these presentations, but I’m thinking about the question of ‘ugly participation,’ it’s related to what we’re talking about, something we saw here, the fact of this event.  There were problems that happened with the computers.  Some of us felt implicated in the situation to hopefully not accuse or terminology, like me, so I stood up and made an intervention, which maybe some appreciated and some didn’t, but it was my decision to stand up and do that, and the situation allowed that.  There were a few different moments in the presentations, from The Implicated’s plan b, really dealing with this Wittenberg project of, you mentioned some public statements that were not particularly nice or more critical–how as an artist one then deals with that.  One creates a situation for a certain kind of participation and then sometimes it gets ugly.  I thought about The Implicated’s presentation with the John Cage example, the different ways in which the audience feels implicated and they decide to act, but we don’t always like the way they act, sometimes we want silent audience members, we don’t always like people reading over our shoulders in the cinema, that irritates us.  Sometimes we don’t like to be implicated in a Jewish Renaissance movement that tells us that Jews should go back to Europe.  Or is it telling us that?  Or is it just an art piece?  It’s a thought experiment, but it’s not just that, it’s something more.  So I’m interested in some of these moments of ‘ugly participation’ and people feeling implicated and us not liking them because of it, even though we’ve created the situation to allow them to feel that way.

The Implicated: I think that’s because we set up the situation where it was the art piece that came out of it, where we didn’t say, Oh, this is what happened.  We let Google Earth be the artist.  We kind of ducked out.  The way of getting at the annotation on Google Earth is that you put it up to the community and they decide.  I don’t know if it’s a machine or a person that decides that, who then gets into Google Earth.  I’m also thinking about how we had to behave sometimes when we were making the offline analogue to Facebook, where we were very concerned to be much more ethical than Facebook or MySpace, and people weren’t satisfied with their accounts or profiles and asked us to destroy them.  Everything that I’ve spent the last 20 years thinking about is that if you ask someone to do something with you, it’s kind of holy in a way that you kind of try and take that as their participation.  But we had to kind of properly destroy this thing.  It’s kind of nice to have an object that you carry with you and to have all this data together.  Those are the things that were coming to me about this kind of ugly participation.

The Implicated: Maybe we could talk about it in terms of ambivalence, or it seems like ugly participation is a kind of ambivalent feeling towards wanting to be part of or not wanting to be part of, or kind of being drawn into it or something like this.  Just in the break we were talking about an experience with Tino Sehgal, he’s not here today, about an experience I had at a performance of his.  I felt completely wrong.  I felt I destroyed his art.  And I think it had to do with coming from a different background.  For me that was clear that participation had to be negotiated every time you come into the situation of participation.  So what happened was I went into one of his performances where the performers–his artwork–came out, I was in the space, an empty space, and they came toward me and surrounded me, with their backs toward me.  At one point I started talking to them.  In a way that was intended in this work, so that when you start talking they could start talking to you too, but without directly addressing you.  But the way I was engaging with them was very active.  I come from a performance and theater background where this is only normal, and I was already very tired. I think it was the gallerist, he stopped the performance before it was supposed to stop.  and I think for him I did a very ugly participation at that point.  And I was only aware through him that the negotiation of participating at that point didn’t really happen, or it happened in a way that it didn’t really come together.  But he’s not here so I can’t really discuss it with him.

Awkward passing of microphone, the Implicated laugh as cord gets repeatedly stuck on the chair.

The Implicated: What you say sort of makes me think why I’ve been so uneasy during the second half of this lecture. Because we have to distinguish between a sort of directed participation and self-constituted participation.  As long as there are protocols than a break in them or mis-performance can take place.  I think directed participation is not participation, in other words, its an extension of something through a set of protocols.  And participation takes place when there’s nothing to for you participate in, when there’s nothing that’s set out for you.  As a participant, what you’re producing is a way of entering something, but not taking up a model that’s already laid out for you.  I think we have to attenuate this discussion by recognizing where participation is directed, where participation is self-constituted as a result of a provocation or a possibility or a platform that opens up.  The thing, the protocol of the work is always important, because it’s what opens the door to something, but it doesn’t necessarily have to lay out the way in which… You know, it’s worse it’s like rats in a laboratory that are caught on a wheel to fulfill all these sort of protocols, so I felt like we needed to be a little more attenuated in the way in which we speak about this situation.

The Implicated:
I was thinking, because I’m involved in both sides of it, that we all, I assume, we’ve all expected people to listen or to watch or to participate and then from that side there’s that kind of participation, but then we’ve all been on the other side when we’re spectators, we’ve been asked to participate but then from that side something makes us angry, so we react to it, but we don’t feel bad, but we feel like we’re doing the right thing in that situation, that there’s something outrageous that elicits our genuine or righteous anger.  Maybe we know we’re breaking part of the protocol of the situation, but I was wondering within this idea of participation, how much freedom we want?  Or is it about freedom? For me the whole reason you would even talk about participatory work at this time in history is because you want a greater freedom than watching allows.  I feel like for me on this spectrum of work, there’s Spencer Tunic, where all I’m allowed to do is take off my clothes and lie down.  And that’s my one choice.  But then there’s the kind of work that’s trying to push towards the other side of the spectrum and give the participant a greater freedom, and then for me that and within the protocols, how much freedom is allowed, and are these protocols about freedom, are these questions of freedom?

The Implicated: But aren’t we continually trying to decide whether our attention is being well served?  In every situation, as soon as our attention is not well-served, we decide to withdraw it or contribute a different kind of comment to what we’re involved in.  It’s simply a judgment call.  We’ve chosen to participate in an aesthetic object to the point where we choose to withdraw our participation or contribution or presence. It’s all a question of judgment in a chosen context, and also the public sphere, in which we’re participating at the same time, in addition to the aesthetic object.

The Implicated: But if someone is asking me to think about freedom in a performance situation, somehow that short-circuits my judgment a little bit, because, well, that’s a question.  I’m wondering if that might short-circuit my judgment a little bit, but then I’m asking how do I respond to what I’m seeing or participating in?  But I’m also asking what I can I do to make it better or worse?  And that somehow changes the situation, or I’m asking, does it?

The Implicated: I wanted to directly ask something. I hope it’s continuing the discussion, but thinking with this Jewish Renaissance movement in Poland. Thinking about this last part of what you just showed of the performance, where one of the members of the movement comes and solicits the audience to join the movement, and so in that sense, we have a concrete, so people are coming in expecting a performance and are indeed seeing a performance, but at the same time, the performance was in the form of a kind of political rally, where, as audience members, we were unwilling or willing members of this movement.  I wondered if you had some thoughts on that strategy?  Because that strategy does lead some people of the Israeli cultural attache to storm out of the theater and say, you really think we should go back to Poland?  And your assistant said, well, it’s an art piece.  And that’s right, of course, it’s an art piece, but I anticipate a cultural attache would have that reaction to any of the films you made as well.  But I think the dynamics of that performance lend themselves to that reaction because one is directly implicated in it.

The Implicated: I would like to give an example that happened a year ago in Warsaw, three days later, demonstration against the return of Jews to Poland, and he wanted to organize a demonstration in the Freedom Square three months later.  The last one spread through the internet quite easily, but finally the city allowed this to happen, so this is for me a very good example of participation in which it was something to which I was in a way hoping there would be a reaction.  It was actually that after three days of protesting people would want to be more involved or would maybe somehow like to participate. Only by interviewing the people passing by and asking them what they feel about the construction of this strange kibbutz, what does it bring to the memory of prostikibbutz?  And interesting answers such as the Jews in support of living with us again. Some of them didn’t think it was a good idea, that the colony was not ready, another person visited the monument from Israel, and she made the kibbutz that was for me the very interesting way it’s thought to be art.  The gravity or something it’s thought to be very real for people to actually interact.  In the presentation it’s very controlled, but there’s something actually beyond the screen.  many things happen.  People wanting to immediately join the movement, people thinking that this could be the solution for their life, the strategy for me, the next project would be to make a congress actually, movements actually where people could meet.  Allowing for direct participation, however, would also be hallucinating–not to forget that it’s also utopia, not that that it’s a clearly a utopian act.

The Implicated: How did you respond to Polish Jews in Israel who said they wanted to go back?

The Implicated: Some of them said, “We’re going.”  They were already quite active in searching for some kind of relationship to the homeland.  It’s not that I brought them the idea.  Some of them we’re already quite obsessed with the idea, so it’s very much connected to peoples’ lives.  Very strong reactions.  People crying, people thinking, oh, the Poles are now ready to have us back.  Real reactions.

The Implicated: For me it’s really difficult to describe this moment, this participatory moment.  Of course it can have a lot of different layers, but it’s somehow fugitive.  With the stuff we do with The Implicated I can say for sure there is no ugly participation, only the moments when people don’t show up.  If they don’t show up, we’re lost.  From the moment they’re there, it’s always in a process of becoming.  It means if someone refuses to be there or stands on the table instead of sitting there, or decides to talk all the time instead of listening, it doesn’t matter anymore because all this is becoming something.  I don’t know what it is, but something.  I’d like to describe another moment of our work, a connected activist and theoretical position in London platform.  They did this five years ago, undigging the River Ethra.  We’d like to undig it and make it visible again.  and make it a community project. They opened an office.  You could go there and look at the architectural models. I got there at a very late moment when 50 people participated in a discussion, which was very vivid.  Suddenly a man stood up and said, “Listen, don’t you get it? It’s a fucking art project!  And then a lady ten years older than me stood up and said, “SO WHAT?!”  That was really a moment in which participation became visible for everyone.  Because if it’s happening, then it’s also happening. It’s also beyond definition, but then the moment you regret it, it’s gone.

The Implicated: I was thinking that the judgment about the degree of tangibility. I assume that the river or the bed of the river in some sense was there, or it was possible to believe it was there. and that there was something happening In other words, if you heard or you discovered that it was fiction you might find it an empty exercise.  At what point do we decide that something is an empty exercise?  That it isn’t worth our time? At some point it has something to do with the real, to come back to the uncomfortable question of realism that was raised in the first part of the session.  What is it that engages us sufficiently to accept perhaps even some amount of fiction, even if there is some kind of foundation on which it rests?

The Implicated: In this case it was the history of London, which used to be a city with many rivers, which all disappeared.  People know this.  There are only seven left.  There was the specificity of this place, the  communal discussion about urban strategies, there was the charisma of the people leading the discussion, there were clowns and truth holders at the same time.  So yes, I agree there was this lady who stood up and said, “SO WHAT!?”  She was obviously filled up with a lot of stuff from the past weeks of discussion.  She didn’t care if this was in the end a real project to have a real river flowing through her streets again.

The Implicated: There’s the reverse case of Park Fiction. This isn’t to criticize your project in London, but whereas your project is premised on historical past that was submerged that could reemerge, Park Fiction was the creation of a park through its imagining, through social gathering.  The park could emerge if people gathered and did park-like activities.  Then in the retrospective of the project when I hear someone discuss it recently, they were then able to observe that 15 years after the project, helping gentrification through park space, the notion as a problematic.  I wanted to turn to The Implicated, in thinking about the second part of the two films, thinking about this utopia, where the barbed wire comes in to this visual projection.

The Implicated: It’s actually a dystopia more than a utopia.  When the barbed wire appeared, the reaction is it’s a moment of actually accepting them coming, actually really to serve them as the other. And also it’s for me today in Israel the ghettos we’re building, and here we are now, the film is to allow discourse from both sides.

The Implicated: Isn’t the barbed wire also a direct citation of the building of a wall tower in the kibbutz?

The Implicated: Elements in the wall tower of the kibbutz, the settlement of building this way, so it’s a copy almost one-to-one of how Jews were settling in Palestine. The displacement and moving into Palestine more than the change. A lot of the pioneer Poles were actually coming from Poland to Palestine.  It’s a subversive act.

The Implicated: I would like to ask a question regarding the issue of applause.  I’m really interested in this terrible  moment of people clapping after an opera or theater performance.  There’s a very precious dynamics after an opera or theater performance when the curtain calls come, and the fan is waiting for his or her diva to appear to pour the ovation into the diva, so there’s this dynamic of first come the secondary, then come the half-secondary, and everyone’s waiting for the protagonist… slowly increasing the volume of applause.  In between there’s always the break when the person goes behind the curtain, it’s very very low the volume and then it goes up again when the next one comes and the high point, the climax is when the protagonist comes, and bravo! the ovation.  And there’s always in opera performance the applause which goes for minutes to the moment when the applause shifts to rhythmical clapping, and I’m always so sad when this happens because this very precious and fugitive or dynamic volume change of applause is suddenly homogenized, very cruelly homogenized, and there’s no way of differentiating my enthusiasm for a protagonist, so when this happens, I always try to destroy this rhythmical clapping by syncopating.  Normally, I’m the only person who feels this sadness about the emergence of the rhythmical clapping.  I’m always wondering, and inviting people around me to join me in syncopating to destroy this and I’m always wondering how many people are necessary to destroy such a movement.  Your project was the other way around.  You’re the one who is trying to strategically invite rhythmical clapping, so you’re an expert in how many people you need to… [The Implicated laugh], so can you help me as to how many people I need to fight, to destroy this clapping?

The Implicated: I’ve never done something on the scale of opera.  I don’t know, maybe numerically it’s not important.  There’s also maybe 100 people, or 12 people is enough to work wonders.  But exactly what you’re doing interests me very much, and I’ve been wanting for years to move into more guerilla situations, to really make real interventions, not in the sense of trying to activate the audience, but to take this already implicit embedded participation in the literal sense of a concert and to kind of offer the possibility that this opens a bit, that this could possibly be radicalized.  I think that is not so much to become an author, but to be in the thick of things.  What interests me is maintaining this passive role of the audience, but making it into a kind of strategic, spectacular passivity.

The Implicated: I think that the audience very famously in the opera, is very integral.  It’s directly what you’re talking about: is it directed at all?  I didn’t like what they did in my opera, so there’s a kind of investment in this event.  I’ve seen it several times but it first comes out when there’s this roar of applause, and the director comes out and there’s this booing, and this counter-applause.  I’m wondering why it doesn’t happen so much in a kind of experimental theater.  That’s an odd, interesting point.

The Implicated: I think it has a lot to do with the rigid framework in which opera is still performed.  The canoncial repertoire which everyone keeps performing all over again.  And all the audience members know this framework, is familiar with this framework, this repertoire.  Within this very rigid framework it happens that there’s affection and emotion towards what you’re expecting, and this outrage which has the same emotional impact when you’re an enemy to what’s being done.  You know what should be done, and if someone’s not doing it, then love turns into hate. It’s this very affectional notion through this very conventional, rigid framework in which then also this very energetic mode of participation can happen.  Only with such a rigid framework do we get such energetic participation.

The Implicated: To direct something to The Implicated, coming out of the rigid framework of the cinema, the conventions people have going into the cinema, what one expects is that when one goes into the cinema, one watches the film, and what you were showing in your presentation was that you tried as much as you can to create or accept or allow or encourage other modes of participation, or other modes that resist that conventionality even at the expense of your institution to some extent.  Because you can’t take out your cinema seats, in arsenal with the great projection you have.  I wonder if you want to intervene in this discussion with some film perspective of the flexibility that one has to participate in the film-viewing situation.

The Implicated: An example just came to mind with the opera audience.  We have the cinema and the festival and these are very different situations.  In the festival, there’s always a discussion after the screening, so this of course, is something people know they can participate in.  In the festival situation, the audience is always able to participate in the discussion and complain or whatever.  Certain people always do and ask the same things.  We prepared a performance once  to show them what they always do and prepared questions that they always ask.  For example, there’s always one person in the audience who knows better because he has been there where the film was filmed, etc.  So that’s the festival situation, but with the cinema, we have something that happens with the audience in that they just doesn’t try any more.  We have to talk about one audience consisting of a lot of people.  And more and more talking about art cinemas, staying away, but at the same time film, especially analogue film is as popular as ever  then the audience is always consisting of curators, scholars, critics, writers.  They deal with the cinema differently.  We have two choices, one is to close down and cry and be jealous, because people are taking up our topic or to rethink ourselves what is the cinema then? What does the audience want to happen? Different ways? Different roles? That’s how we understand our institution.  We are not artists; we are an institution.  You can I think go very far in an experience like this here, to try to understand how we react, not how the audience reacts but how we react to what’s going on.  Why they don’t show up anymore, why they don’t want to see films in the cinema anymore, but they still talk to us, so we try to invent cinema with every program in a new way, and that’s why we show films and exhibition contexts.  It’s also to understand, to invite people to come back.

The Implicated: I get with you that you don’t like master organized.  I’d like to say in opera it’s so much fun, because people start to clap and it’s a bit proletarian in a way.  I quite like it actually, it’s a little bit like they have machetes.  Like Notorische Querulanten. It’s people who come to a performance to talk, but not really to talk, they come only to the Q&A and they’re so professionalized, that they just have to come in, and they immediately start a fight.  And they know them, the people sitting on the panels.  I like that you can become a professional in the theater where you shouldn’t be.  [The Implicated laugh]  Usually they ask if there are any questions, but with this group, they are already there and attacking.  He does all the talking, he talks too much about himself.  So five people, maybe more.

The Implicated: Last year in the U.S. with the health care issues, there were all these town meetings surrounding the health care bill.  These were also kind of invaded by these claquers of the Republican party, which I found very interesting.  I thought it was a rather sophisticated strategy.  But it happens all the time, you have these people dressed very professionally and they start shouting.

The Implicated: I’m intrigued by the last project that the Implicated introduced, the comment the Implicated saw regarding participation that has emerged from digital media, Facebook, social networking.  How this alienation of this technique, of this participation technique which is very much digital, synchronized, if you open it up, all of a sudden people are wanting to be friends with you and you cannot control it, a notion of swarm here.  If you put something against it, which of course would be in its own way a notion of participation in this digital media.  How did you come to this project?

The Implicated: Well, we were invited to respond to the idea of social media.  But what I think is interesting in terms of participation is that there were two types of audiences, audience that were just passing by doing shopping on the street and the audience that was coming from the festival.  Then there was a coincidental virus by word of mouth started.  I really liked the teenagers, who were then filming their RealSpace, the boxes, and putting it onto their MySpace, so there was this kind of other loop, in which they were putting back into the digital, but it wasn’t about putting it back into the net at all, it was about people meeting each other.  Some of the teenagers went to the same school and met each other there and didn’t realize they knew each other.  They came into the space, started making together in a non-virtual space.  I guess it also had to do with the desire to make things.  This new kind of contact, contact with materials, with people.  It’s a very different kind of contact than the net.  We were astounded that some people were staying four to five hours working on their box.  And then we had to deal with problems. One girl came back the next day and said I don’t like my RealSpace profile, I want to destroy it.  And that refers to the virtual as well, not being able to destroy, a bit of you getting sentimental and saying, oh, I like it, and the other part of you wanting to destroy it.

The Implicated: I wanted to ask what the status of performance is in your work. You said you also rehearsed in a public space, so a rehearsal would also be like a performance. You said you would do less-announced performances.

The Implicated: This whole discussion has me thinking about the term of participation as a guidance or manipulation.  How much does the artist have? What I’m interested in is that I don’t want to manipulate.  I would like that it happens, and I just want to confront people.  I think this is important because I got the impression, how much is guiding participation in artwork, how much motivation does it include.  Manipulation for me includes control of the audience, also the desire to have the power, and becoming more and more, I’m trying not to confuse these words.  But we should discuss how much power does an artist want in guiding or manipulating an audience?

The Implicated: There needs to be a distinction between what is being actualized.  Is it the work that is being actualized through an audience?  Or is it a subject that’s being actualized?  To me that’s a huge political difference.

The Implicated: In my work I don’t think of an audience, I don’t need it.  For me it’s important to find out limitations in public spaces.  So if it happens that we have an audience, then it happens, but it’s not…

The Implicated: Yes, what I like about your story is this lady.  This is a moment of political actualization.  That seems to me to be participation in the sense that you’re more than contributing to the work, you’re more than an extension of the work.  The work becomes a platform in which you actualize yourself.  I think that is a distinction to make with participatory audiences.  That is the platform in which actualization or non-actualization exists, but it’s not an extension of the platform.  I think the thing about participation from the perspective of art, is that it sort of ends up leaving the art behind, which I think is great, I think it’s what should happen, but it’s an uncomfortable relation.  Who owns it?  Who reads it?  Who interprets it?  Where does the meaning lie?

The Implicated were unintelligible on the recorder here.

The Implicated: Maybe the question is: to what extent it’s self-constituted participation, or a power-structured take on the part of the artist, to make something to have to participate in?  This also has something to do with what status pleasure has, or the organization of pleasure, because apparently if there is something like self-constituted participation, then pleasure is one of it’s strongest motives.  Pleasure is not just a neutral theme, or pleasure is already implicated in a sort of organization.  The question is: Is there a way to link pleasure and political intelligence?  We try to connect political intelligence to pleasure, and whether we fail or not, I think it’s rather important.  And within this, let’s say, traditional notion of the bourgeois audience, there is a pre-established connection between pleasure and the idea of sacrifice.  Just like the artist is someone who sacrifices part of his life to produce, bring forth a great work of art, there is an expectation that somebody who is a member of an audience will sacrifice part of his life, his time, his energy, in order to gain that kind of pleasure of the experience of the work of art.  This idea of sacrifice is very problematic.  I’m always thinking about: Are there other ways of organizing artistic events, artistic proceedings that do not rely on this ideology of sacrifice, and if they do, offer a different kind of pleasure that does not rely on sacrifice of your time and energy?  Obviously there’s a different kind of authorization of being together, being around each other, that still allows for a strong element pleasure, and that still allows people to participate in something because it’s pleasurable for them.  Because we have a lot of examples where it’s apparently pleasurable for people to do something, and they do it for the sake of this pleasure.  They do it because it’s pleasurable in a way.  What other possibilities are there to organize pleasure or to organize platforms?  This is also a political question.  We need a connection between thinking about pleasure and thinking about politics.

The Implicated: That’s what queer theory is about.  One of the things queer theory is about is coming up with the politics of pleasure.

The Implicated: Because I come from theater, I always answer with anecdotes. Everyone hates anecdotes, [the Implicated laugh] but I was at two big conferences here in Berlin–one of them was the Kommunismus at the Volksbühne, and the other one was the Documentary Forum here at Haus der Kulturen der Welt.  I was specifically interested because both of them went away a little bit from what we were working on in the last ten years in Berlin, to organize the public in different ways when we come together to debate.  I think a lot of people invested a lot of effort in this, How can we do it better? In relation to your project on how pleasure, political debate, participation can come together in congress, let’s talk about the form of the congress.  I don’t want to generalize it, but I will, because that makes the anecdote better, [the Implicated laugh] we go back to the superego structure, we invite the Big Mama, the Big Papa, the Big Uncle, and we schedule one after another so there’s no similarity of events. You have to follow one after the other.  Because both of these events were structured like this, but there was a huge difference because whether you like to read Zizek, what’s happening when he’s talking, again, the way he talks is like a dilettante, opening upon so many fields, talking about so many fields you can hardly follow him–biographical info, talks about yesterday, talks about a book, but what he does for the public of 800 people sitting there for a moment is: Yes, we are here to think together, to try to find out if there is indeed something to a renaissance of communism on different terms.  And you really think that is a moment of pleasure and politics coming together because he was opening the whole hall in the Volksbühne to discuss it.  Here in the Docu forum was for me what I called the German Wesentlichkeitskultur (essentiality, fundamentality, substantiality culture), so you own suddenly an aura around people saying this is really now the most important information you can get, and if you do something like this, then of course we have exclude other people, to say, if you haven’t heard anything about documentary film theory before, now we present it to you.  That’s reactionary.  But people were sitting there listening the whole time because this contract of the Big Mama is talking, erasing everyone who said something before, is still at work.  But it’s not political.  And Zizek in his very childish weird way worked, in this setting, in this contract.  We’re all sitting, and we’re still listening.

The Implicated: With Zizek, there’s the problem of anything goes, a lack of responsibility.  Zizek is also a person who can carry a lot of tables and their contradictions.  Of course it’s a kind of performance but it’s also a kind of Beliebigkeit (arbitrariness). When the Austrian group comes to a theater, they can do their action, but it doesn’t depend on what was the story, what was the film, what was before them. Sometimes maybe it’s time for anything goes. But sometimes it’s time for responsibility to the project, to hear it, to have a reflection on it, and then maybe to have your own action on it, not a structured participation, controlled participation, but maybe another thinking, a point of view, not just the presence.  I wanted to add sometimes there’s a time you must think about and then have another point of view, not to mix it together to the people who have the best figure and performance on the stage.  Film or literature have different structures of time.

The Implicated: This is performance rather than performativity, no?  This is performance.  I was thinking I had the experience of going to an opera, really lousy, and I’m sitting there like a notorious quarrelent, (such a fabulous term) having an incredibly productive thinking process, and negation of this terribly folk thing.  And you come out and it’s been amazingly productive. It’s not between you and the speaker, it’s between you and you, an occasion of the platform of the speaker, who you can kind of forget immediately.  And that’s the kind of contract between performance and performativity.  That the speaker is producing the performance, and you are producing the performativity.  Something elicits performativity from you through this, and that seems to me to be pleasure.  You’ve had all of these wonderful thoughts that you can kind of take home with you.  What you bring up is kind of a notion of contract.  The dissemination of knowledge is a contract.  Something has to take place between the production and the reception, or the performance and the audience, and I don’t think it’s something we’ve thought much about.  We haven’t thought about how this contract works out, that it is a contract. I don’t think the responsibility is to say something that is real and finished and stands the test of time, and all of that–it’s a contract.  It’s relational, maybe that’s what needs to be said, that anything you put out there has got to function relationally.  It’s not in isolation.

The Implicated: Sometimes it’s communication to have a kind of question and answer, and it’s one form of time.  With art sometimes you can also open a space to another mode of action, also of course a performance, but I think there must also be a chance to have a time structure, to see something, to think about it, and then to have your own thing too, your own performance.  It’s a different structure of time.

The Implicated: I’m thinking about pleasure and then the talk earlier about rage, rage instead of explanation.  So if we’re talking about pleasure I sense that what you’re talking about is the idea of pleasure in and of itself having an intelligence, and in and of itself having a politics to it.  It makes me think of a beautiful passage in Eve Sedgwick’s Epistemology of the Closet, where she talks about Proust and she talks about why it is when she reads Proust that so much of it is simply so true, and that the perception of this truth gives her such joy, and indeed enjoying something confers a kind of truth on it. It becomes this kind of tautological back and forth, but she’s getting at something that’s very productive in terms of getting to an intelligence within pleasure and joy that would somehow lead us in the direction of the self-constituted subject experiencing pleasure, and in that moment and that time, not needing to reflect itself there being, that’s the occasion of politics and intelligence.

The Implicated: Maybe on one point it reflects the event, but it would be possible to replace one figuration of pleasure by one which has more capacity to acknowledge political intelligence without the interest.  Because of course pleasure can also be political stupidity.  In art events there is always both maybe.  The traditional concept of audience stressing the stupidity of pleasure.   It’s worth trying to find other ways of organizing people collectively where we’re more able to acknowledge this intelligence inherent in pleasure.  It’s an important step to change the words, not the event any more the occasion.  And there are different events that come up when we say the occasion.