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Žižek or the Spectacle of Everyday Life/ Žižek ali spektakularnost vsakdanjega

It would be very difficult for me claim to have ever been infused by a feeling similar to national pride. I love Ljubljana; I like the fact that I can be in Trieste in one hour, in Zagreb in two, in Venice in three, and in Vienna in four. I have never felt the need to explain to strangers why my homeland is something special or why it differs, in this or that, from those of others. But on occasion, I do encounter inquisitive questions about what is considered to be most Slovenian. Since I still have no answer, I prefer to reply by saying that the most famous Slovenian is a philosopher – Slavoj Žižek. This seems to me to be closest to national romanticism: other countries export cars or pride themselves on their national football teams, while we have a philosopher.
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Naturally, this philosopher has a complicated relationship with his homeland, and his homeland, too, has not (always) viewed him favourably. Although he is often seen on Ljubljana’s streets, he rarely lectures on domestic soil. Two years had passed since his previous public appearance (which seems like an eternity for someone so omnipresent in global media) and expectations for his event earlier this month were high. He appeared on the stage of the Slovenian National Theatre Drama together with Mladen Dolar and Alenka Zupančič, with the common thread of the evening being the lie, the thematic focus of this year’s literary festival Fabula within which the event took place.

Tickets for the lecture by the three Slovenian Lacanians were sold out in just a few days. Not even the additional seats that filled up the stage of the central Slovenian theatre institution were enough. The media used the phrase “philosophical spectacle” increasingly often, which, together with the scent of spring that arrived in the city at the time, felt refreshing. On the spectacular evening itself, Mladen Dolar and Alenka Zupančič spoke first. They held magnificent lectures that included almost everything: Francis Bacon, Bertrand Russell, the Epimenides paradox, the cat on the mat, the Cheshire Cat, Martin Luther, Jesus, Hamlet, Benjamin Constant, Immanuel Kant, Mark Twain, gays, blacks, and, to top it all off, smokers. They received honest applause, but one could feel the audience hold their breath: Žižek is next.

Slavoj Žižek spoke about cinema, utopia, Christianity, communism and democracy. He made fun of God. He was politically incorrect. He told a few jokes, some of which were on him. The small city audience, the domestic audience that as a rule is most demanding, lapped it up. And elsewhere in the world, they eat out of his hands and adore his appearances. Why? How is it possible to transform philosophy into a performance, into a spectacle?

Žižek’s performances are distinguished by that which is a crucial characteristic of good literature and art in general: sincerity. Žižek does not try to embellish himself and does not hide behind the veil of intellectualism; he does not distance himself from the audience but instead comes ever closer. He operates according to a tried and tested recipe: the more you talk about yourself, the deeper you go within yourself, the more you speak about everything and everyone. Far more than through worldview or level of education, we are united by what we most often conceal: lower passions, fears, the trivial, the banal. With equal ease, Žižek quotes Hegel and a pilot from an episode of Crime and Investigation and does so without giving the audience the feeling that he is ashamed of it. And why should he be? We all have our ceremonies of bad taste: we gossip, we read the yellow press, we stalk strangers and friends on social networks, we listen to bad music, we cry during romantic comedies or cheer passionately during reality shows/when “our” athletes compete. With Žižek, even intellectuals can relax in public: for a few moments, they forget about the stress of everyday pretension, the pointlessness of their posturing, and the need to take themselves seriously at any and all cost. They smile at the political incorrectness (and by the way, we all know that political correctness is the mother of all lies, don’t we?), they laugh at the jokes, and they feel relieved at the thought that they aren’t the only ones watching crime series in the evening. When Žižek’s lecture is over, the intellectuals glance at each other in slight shame and remark that Žižek cannot be taken seriously, not really, but he is amusing, isn’t he, and such an interesting phenomenon. After this, they feel some more shame for having had a good time – since, as we all know, nothing fits an intellectual worse than having fun. And it is precisely this which renders them hollow; Thomas Bernhard would say that whoever can’t laugh doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously, and Umberto Eco probably meant something similar when he noted that there are no serious scholars who don’t like watching television (he himself adores crime series).

Eco’s latest novel (Numero zero), which instantly propelled itself to the top of Italy’s book charts, was released about the same time as Žižek’s sold-out lecture in Ljubljana’s Drama took place. Although Žižek and Eco may at first glance not have much in common, attitudes towards them are similar: those that take themselves too seriously mock the apparent lightness of their narration and accuse them of lacking depth, on occasion even of being trivial. In doing so, they forget that it is precisely because of humanists such as Žižek and Eco that philosophy and history exist and persist among people as something living, something they can talk about and something which enriches their lives. People are fond of them because they are able to attach the most abstract of ideas to the most everyday of things: from television series to (romantic) relationships. Many can wax poetic about eternal truths and redemptive ideas, but rare are those who can give meaning to the paradoxes of intimate life. And as we all know full well – in art and the humanities, we first seek an explanation of ourselves and only then, when we have ourselves at least partly figured out, can we attempt to understand the world.

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Težko bi rekla, da me je kdajkoli prevevalo občutje, ki bi bilo podobno nacionalnemu ponosu. Rada imam Ljubljano, všeč mi je, da sem v eni uri lahko v Trstu, v dveh v Zagrebu, v treh v Benetkah in v štirih na Dunaju. Nikoli še nisem začutila potrebe po tem, da bi tujcem razložila, zakaj bi bila moja domovina kaj posebnega ali bi se v čem bistveno razlikovala od drugih domovin. A občasno naletim na zvedava vprašanja o tem, kaj je najbolj slovensko. Ker na to še vedno nimam odgovora, raje povem, da je najslavnejši Slovenec filozof. Slavoj Žižek. To se mi zdi še najbliže nacionalni romantiki: druge države izvažajo avtomobile ali se ponašajo z nogometnimi reprezentancami, mi pa imamo filozofa.

Seveda ima ta filozof s svojo domovino zapleten odnos in tudi domovina mu ni (bila) vedno naklonjena. Čeprav ga pogosto videvamo na ljubljanskih ulicah, na rodni grudi predava le redko. Ker sta od predzadnjega javnega nastopa minili skoraj dve leti (kar se zdi za nekoga, ki je v svetovnih medijih vseprisoten, ogromno), so bila pričakovanja, ko je na začetku meseca spet nastopil v Ljubljani, velika. Na odru Drame se je pojavil skupaj z Mladenom Dolarjem in Alenko Zupančič, rdeča nit večera pa je bila laž, ki je bila tudi tematski fokus letošnjega literarnega festivala Fabula, v okviru katerega je nastopil.

Karte za predavanje treh slovenskih lacanovcev so bile razgrabljene v nekaj dneh. Pomagali niso niti dodatni sedeži, s katerimi so zapolnili oder osrednje slovenske gledališke institucije. Mediji so čedalje pogosteje uporabljali besedno zvezo ”filozofski spektakel”, kar se je, skupaj z vonjem po pomladi, ki je v tistih dneh prišel v mesto, zdelo osvežujoče. Na spektakularni večer sta prva nastopila Mladen Dolar in Alenka Zupančič: imela sta krasni predavanji, ki sta vključevali skoraj vse; Francisa Bacona, Bertranda Russla, kretskega lažnivca, mačko na predpražniku, mačko Režalko, Martina Luthra, Jezusa, Hamleta, Benjamina Constanta, Immanuela Kanta, Marka Twaina, geje, temnopolte in še kadilce za povrh. Deležna sta bila iskrenih aplavzov, a čutiti je bilo, kako je občinstvo zajelo sapo: zdaj bo nastopil Žižek.

Slavoj Žižek je govoril o filmih, utopiji, krščanstvu, komunizmu in demokraciji. Norčeval se je iz boga. Bil je politično nekorekten. Povedal je nekaj šal, delno tudi na svoj račun. Publika iz malega mesta, domača publika, ki je pregovorno najzahtevnejša, mu je jedla iz roke. Tudi drugod po svetu mu jedo iz roke in obožujejo njegove nastope. Zakaj? Kako je mogoče filozofijo spremeniti v performans, spektakel?

Žižkove nastope odlikuje tisto, kar je tudi ključna lastnost dobre literature in umetnosti na splošno: iskrenost. Žižek se ne skuša olepšati in ne skriva se za tančicami intelektualizma, ne oddaljuje se od publike, marveč se ji povsem približa. Deluje po preverjenem receptu: bolj kot govoriš o sebi, globlje kot greš vase, bolj govoriš o občem in o vseh. Bolj kot svetovni nazor ali stopnja izobrazbe nas druži tisto, česar največkrat ne spustimo na plan: nizke strasti, strahovi, trivialnosti in banalnosti. Žižek z enako lahkoto citira Hegla in pilota iz ene od epizod na Crime and Investigation, ne da bi dal poslušalcem občutek, da se slednjega sramuje. Zakaj le – saj imamo vsi svoja praznovanja slabega okusa: opravljamo, beremo rumeni tisk, zasledujemo (ne)znance po socialnih omrežjih, poslušamo slabo glasbo, jočemo ob romantičnih komedijah ali goreče navijamo ob resničnostnih šovih/nastopu ”naših” športnikov. Ob Žižku se celo intelektualci lahko javno sprostijo: za nekaj trenutkov pozabijo na napor vsakdanjega pretvarjanja, na nesmiselnost svoje poze, na to, da se morajo za vsako ceno jemati resno. Smejijo se politični nekorektnosti (mimogrede, saj vemo, da je politična korektnost mati vseh laži, kajne!?), krohotajo se ob vicih in si oddahnejo ob misli na to, da niso edini, ki ob večerih gledajo kriminalne serije. Ko se Žižkovo predavanje konča, se intelektualci rahlo osramočeni spogledajo in pripomnijo nekaj v slogu, da Žižka res ni mogoče jemati resno, je pa zabaven, kajne, pa tudi zanimiv fenomen. Nato se še malo sramujejo tega, da so se imeli dobro – ker – saj vemo – intelektualcu res ne pritiče, da se ima dobro. A hkrati ga prav to dela puhlega; Thomas Bernhard bi rekel, da kdor se ne zna smejati, tega ni mogoče jemati resno, Umberto Eco pa je bržkone mislil nekaj podobnega, ko je pripomnil, da ni resnega učenjaka, ki ne bi z užitkom gledal televizije (sam denimo obožuje kriminalne serije).

Ecov zadnji roman (Numero zero), ki se je nemudoma zavihtel na vrh italijanskih knjižnih lestvic, je izšel približno hkrati z Žižkovim razprodanim predavanjem v ljubljanski Drami. Čeprav Žižek in Eco na prvi pogled nimata prav veliko skupnega, je odnos do njiju podoben: tisti, ki se jemljejo preveč resno, se posmehujejo navidezni lahkotnosti njunega pripovedovanja ter ju obtožujejo nepoglobljenosti, mestoma celo trivialnosti. Pri tem pozabljajo, da ravno s humanisti kakršna sta Žižek in Eco, filozofija in zgodovina o(b)stajata med ljudmi kot nekaj živega, nekaj, o čemer se lahko pogovarjajo in jim plemeniti življenja. Ljudem sta blizu, ker znata najabstraktnejše ideje prilepiti na tisto, kar je najbolj vsakdanje: od televizijskih serij do (ljubezenskih) odnosov. Marsikdo lahko razpreda o večnih resnicah in zveličavnih idejah, a le redki znajo osmisliti paradokse intimnega življenja. Kot pa vsi dobro vemo – v umetnosti in humanistiki najprej iščemo razlago sebe in šele potem, ko si vsaj delno pridemo do dna, lahko skušamo razumeti svet.

Manca G. Renko

Manca G. Renko (1988), Slovenian historian (19th and 20th century European and Russian history) and the editor-in-chief of the AirBeletrina literary journal, published by Beletrina Academic Press. She also writes articles, reviews and essays for various publications and occasionally works as a translator.

Manca G. Renko (1988), ist eine slowenischen Historikerin, sie hat sich auf die europäische und russische Geschichte des 19. und 20. Jahrhundert spezialisiert. Renko ist Chefredakteurin des Literaturjournals AirBeletrina und schreibt für diverse andere Publikationen Artikel, Rezensionen, Essays und gelegentlich Übersetzungen.

Manca G. Renko (1988), Slovenian historian (19th and 20th century European and Russian history) and the editor-in-chief of the AirBeletrina literary journal, published by Beletrina Academic Press. She also writes articles, reviews and essays for various publications and occasionally works as a translator.

Manca G. Renko (1988), ist eine slowenischen Historikerin, sie hat sich auf die europäische und russische Geschichte des 19. und 20. Jahrhundert spezialisiert. Renko ist Chefredakteurin des Literaturjournals AirBeletrina und schreibt für diverse andere Publikationen Artikel, Rezensionen, Essays und gelegentlich Übersetzungen.

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