Slavoj Žižek: "My tastes are surprisingly traditional"

The philosopher Slavoj Žižek in front of the critic Fernando Castro Flórez. Time to dig into the more human side of the Slovenian theorist, while talking about art, music, literature and television series


In the context of the exhibition «NSK. From the Kapital to the Capital ", which the Reina Sofía Museum dedicates to this Slovenian collective, and in response to a joint invitation from the center and the Círculo de Bellas Artes , the philosopher Slavoj Žižek (Ljubljana, 1949) passed through Madrid to give two lectures on The various deaths and resurrections of the fascist ghost. A perfect moment for the critic Fernando Castro to chat with him ... of many other things.

We are talking at the Reina Sofía Museum and I would like to know your relationship with contemporary art.

I think I'm going to disappoint you terribly. I am a "conservative modernist." I still think - and it is horrible what I am going to say - that the great event in the art world was the first European modernism. Schonberg, in the world of music ...

Malevich, in art.

Malevich and all that generation. The idea that postmodernism did away with modernism is not true, we are still in the shadow of these events. We have not passed that time. My tastes are surprisingly traditional. People are totally wrong when they think they reached the lowest level with "Black Square". No: for him, that was the zero point, the starting point. I greatly admire his late paintings, which people misunderstand as their submission to Stalinism. They are not. They are creations that follow the minimal reduction, even those apparently Stalinist, like the final paintings of women. They are works of a genius.

You have written a few times about Duchamp.

Yes, but they were rather standard things. Although I had an interesting debate in China about him, in which people did not understand what he meant. "You have a urinal, you expose it and it becomes a work of art, does not it?" I asked the curator of a museum: "What would happen if I went on stage and pissed?" He said to me, "You would be vulgar because you would show that you did not understand the work. This is a work of art, it is no longer an object to be used for that purpose. " Do you know what my answer was ?: "But what if I say that I am a performer and that the act of urinating is therefore a work of art, a performance?"

This has already been done, in fact. Pierre Pinoncelli urinated and then destroyed the Duchampian urinal in 1993.

Something that is crucial-and perhaps that brings us closer to what I know about art theory and abstract art-is that I've always had problems with Jackson Pollock because I'm fanatically anti-alcoholic and I hate all those artists who get drunk, Paint a couple of colors and then go saying they have composed a masterpiece. My idea of ​​artist is Mark Rothko . It is absolutely ethical, his paintings darken more and more, and you can almost predict just by looking at them that he would commit suicide in the end. I can also tolerate Hopper, who is often dismissed as realistic. One realizes that he did a miracle, produced apparently realistic pictures, but that can only be understood in the context of abstraction. This is what I admire about modern art. The really difficult thing is to return to some form of realism,

And in modern literature, what are your preferences?

For me, there are three great writers from Western Europe. Beckett, in front of Joyce, who is a pain in the ass, a snob, a narcissist. "Finnegans Wake" is horrible. He acknowledged that he wrote it so that literary critics would have four hundred years of work. Fuck you! I do not mess with that for one day. Beckett was the real genius.

"Endgame," a masterpiece.

Yes and all the others, for example, Not I. Then comes Kafka, who nobody wins in their game. He understood the obscenely sexual dimension of bureaucracy. And finally, Platonov, a teacher whom I consider the Malevich of literature.

But this is quite peculiar because you are interested in video games and the most current cyber culture, but then, in art, you stay in modernity and in the first avant-gardes.

I just can not do it all. For example, for some time I tried to follow modern music. But I must admit that I have limitations in this field, I tried to follow the best I could to Boulez and Stockhausen. In the field of modern music, I like the most is Hanns Eisler . At the same time that he wrote the GDR anthem, he composed wonderful pieces. It represented an almost impossible combination: an Orthodox Communist, both a faithful follower of Schonberg and atonal experimentation.

The case of the Slovenian group Laibach is significant because they enjoy fascist overidentification. To a certain extent, they remind me of Chaplin's "Great Dictator," when he turns Hitler's speeches into strange sounds in which we only understand some vulgarities. To do so is much more subversive than rationally criticizing Hitler. You copy as faithfully as possible, and, in this way, make it completely ridiculous. But at the same time this is very serious. Laibach are not liberals who imitate and criticize totalitarianism. On the contrary, they confront us with a very unpleasant fact: that we all enjoy identifying ourselves with totalitarian rituals.

Are you interested in the "Black Mirror" series?

It is one of the best. Do you know which episode I like best? The first of the second season, which is about a society where every time you meet someone or call someone, they put a rating, a note. From this emerges certain standards for social control. This may seem like a utopia, but it is already happening with Google. We can learn from "Black Mirror" that we are approaching a type of control society, although I am not so pessimistic at this point. Yes: we can be controlled, but it does not stop to amaze me how stupid computers are. They know everything, but they have too much data.

From ABC Culture (ES)

Reading Žižek – Where to Start?



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