Avital Ronell on Darwin, paternalism, and our Creaturality

From Loser Sons: Politics and Authority, p.91, excerpt below

silverback-gorilla-closeup-portrait

image of the silverback male gorilla (you’ve seen this guy in the business pages)

Darwin, admired and feared, scrambled the code, dragged Freud (and us) through the mud, dusting off any semblance of unaffected human dignity. If he, Freud, based social reappropriation on the thinking of identification, who could hope to make it stick when the lineage traced back to a gorilla? … Displacing the origin with a gorilla has generated a massive narcissistic breakdown owing to and in the Freudian narrative- one so serious that, let me hasten to add, it in part accounts for the unprecedented maltreatment of animals, the splice of the disavowed “paternal”, today. … This narcissistic shock may be one reason why, in a sense, mystification such as those sponsoring “creationism” over evolution are on the table in order to skip the pages sketched by Darwin that undermine paternal license while rattling divine sanctity. Still, we are locked in the archeophiliac edifice of killing the father, which exercises effects of power over a wide range of offences to this day, raising auxilliary problems of philosophical responsibility and theological authority. One persistent effect of this construction entails Judaism’s assignation as a religion of the father (notably in opposition to Christianity, the religion of the son).

Author note7: I would add that the motif of the disavowed paternal links up with known forms of anti-Semitisms without being entirely identical to that which ensues from the shock of gorilla parentage. These repressed relations come close on the Richter scale, however

Ronell’s book confronts “the grim fact that divested boys become terrifying men”

 

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the morality of Primate Behaviour

orangutans walking

you will recognize yourself and laugh  click here

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HUMAN/PRIMATES Sept.27-Oct.3

This week I do not feel so alone in my contemplation of creaturality as I notice that Stefan St. Laurent is showing himself ‘feeding the animals’ at AXENEO7, and today the Ottawa Citizen reviewed the movie ‘The Ghosts in Our Machine’ which concerns animal rights. It runs for 3 days at the Bytowne, prior to my show at LPM gallery on the 27th.

This week also I received from Fauna Foundation the first volume of ‘the Legends of Fauna’ a journal that documents the lives of the chimps housed there. This first issue is devoted to Pepper who died in June last year. I had requested if it might be possible to work with some of the art-making chimps, and to use some of their art work in conjunction with my own at LPM. here is a self-portrait by Pepper(2) Peppers self-portrait

which is kind of amazing I think. Here is a photo of her in the recent Fauna journal

pepper

I feel I can now finish this series.

The painting Ascension, refers in a way to Baroque paintings of the assumption of saints  into heaven. (I did not even know that pepper had died until this week!)

Ascension 30_x48_ oil, mixed media on panel

However it is also about baboons’ propensities to sing to the sun as it rises in the morning, which is so lovely, and we’d all be better off if we did it too.

I’ve also used the format of the ancient Byzantine-type icon to perhaps memorialize creatures as something holy, and that reflects our sacred relationships to other primates, most of which are held in captivity to climate change, as we are. The female gorilla, or gorilla mama speaks to me as a wild, protective maternity. I hope we can re-find this in our human selves, enough to protect our more-than-human counterparts. Our world involves more-than-human needs. I don’t think we can ignore our losses for too much longer without it biting us back.

subconscience

subconscience deatil

subconscience detail2

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Living Research powerpoint

Living Research Presentation

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Authority and Politics (of the Table)

apron ladies Give us this day our daily dread. It is difficult to imagine the Kafka family going out to eat, though that is what it would have taken for the death grip of mealtime to loosen, let go. (From Avital Ronell‘s Loser Sons: Politics and Authority)

At home, at the table, little Franz Kafka was eaten alive. By the time of the famous “Letter to Father”, he was vaporized. He says so himself: A good deal of the damage done to the young psyche occurred at table. The neighborhood restaurant might have rerouted the oppressive  domesticity of home rule – it might have introduced a hiatus or suspensive regime change that would allow for hunger’s pacing. Part of a spectacle of public generality, the theater of ingestion – possibly incorporation – the restaurant causes the hold on the child to slacken, if only because there are witnesses and waiters whose work consists in diminishing intensities of paternal law and the sacrificial rites that underlie their daily distribution – the daily apportionment of dread.

In Kafka’s works the family table locks the child into a site where Father presides; it offers one of the prime occasions for paternity to enthrone itself, conducting prescriptive raids on the child’s bearing – invading his plate, entering and altering her body, adjusting her manner of being. the table becomes the metonymy for all law, the place where sovereign exceptionalism asserts itself; Father does not have to obey his own law, he can pick his teeth or clean his ears while the eaters submit to the severity of his rule. The children, in Kafka at least, and in the simulacrum of home in which many others were grown, are consistently downgraded to the status of unshakable refugees, parasites, those who quiver under the thickness of anxiety while laws, like platters, are passed and forced down one’s delicate throat.  pp.153-154  ( note: Avital Ronnell codirects the Trauma and Violence Transdisciplinary Studies program at NYU)

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Ecology of Tears [between air and awareness]

A Bowl of Tears 2

… there is something much more than a metaphor here – an ancient and elemental kinship between air and awareness, between the mind and the wind. (from Becoming Animal by David Abram  p.273)

And I think as I read this that difficult knowledge gets driven inside until tearfully arrived at, it sits expressed, on the skin, between awareness and atmosphere.  Might it be possible to say that our Earth’s atmosphere clouds up, saturated with a distillation of heartaches where tears have become absorbed and condensed into it? Is it a beautiful transmutation even so?

“It is a kinship demonstrated by the Aeolian etymology of such words as “psyche” “spirit” and “anima” (itself the Latin word for soul, derived from the ancient Greek anemos, meaning wind), and by the Indo-European etymology of the word “atmosphere” (which shows the same origin as the Sanskrit word atman, meaning “soul”). In truth the modern, civilized understanding of mind as a purely immaterial power has been born by a process of subtraction, slowly and by increments, from the ancestral experience of invisible atmosphere as a thick, meaning-filled plenum in which we’re immersed – as a living field of intelligence in which we participate. To our oral indigenous ancestors, the animating air was the very place of the spirits, the very medium of awareness (p.273)A Bowl of Tears

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