Saturday, December 04, 2010

Astaire and Zizek

Friend and F&M colleague Kevin Brady sent a great response to my earlier posting on Astaire's Swing Time, suggesting psychoanalytical trajectories and Zizek readings:

Dear Kostis
You might find this interesting - on a note tangentially related to your blog post about Fred Astaire, projected shadows, fonts and Robert Longo (all fascinating, by the way) - Your description of Fred Astaire standing aside to watch his own triple projection dance dovetails nicely with Slavoj Zizek's various film illustrations of Freudian-Lacanian desire vs. drive, and "death drive" in action (see two texts from Zizek, attached) - and in that regard, your use of the word "subject" in the blog is spot-on (desire is subjectivized, drive isn't).
The "projected" self, in Lacanian lingo, is the subject "barred" upon entering the socio-symbolic order (i.e. culture and language). The fact that Fred Astaire stands aside to watch three magnified selves dance autonomously can be related (I would think, speaking as a psychoanalytic amateur) to several other film motifs - e.g., Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1940), where the broom is a nightmare evocation of the Lacanian "partial object" (autonomous body part); the young woman in The Red Shoes (1948), who in the original story has to cut her feet off, because they won't stop dancing; Peter Sellers' "Heil Hitler" arm/hand in Dr. Strangelove (1964); even Forrest Gump's crazy running legs (1994, he can't stop himself, and his running always follows upon some loss or tragedy - in a word, drive takes over from desire). Zizek would add Fight Club (1999), where the main character can't stop his own autonomous fist from beating him up.
I haven't read much about Robert Longo, only seen images; but the psychoanalytic patterns suggested here (drive vs. desire, partial objects, symbolic castration or dismemberment in the socio-symbolic order) would probably readily apply - people flattened almost violently in their 1980s corporate costumes. It's significant that the three Longo figures are facelesss, de-subjectivized - possibly more traumatized than "dancing"? Has anyone related these images to crime scene photography?
Thanks for the thought-provoking blog piece!
Kevin Brady, December 4, 2010 9:42 AM

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States