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Jean-François Lyotard « SEMIOTEXT(E)



Driftworks

Jean-François Lyotard

Here is a course of action: harden, worsen, accelerate decadence. Adopt the perspective of active nihilism, exceed the mere recognition-be it depressive or admiring–of the destruction of all values. Become more and more incredulous. Push decadence further still and accept, for instance, to destroy the belief in truth under all its forms.

In this collection of essays and interviews from 1970-72, Jean-François Lyotard explores and drifts, as we drift, between art and politics, the “figural” and representation, silence and libidinal energy. Art becomes a deconstructing force that deals not with the signified of things but their form or plastic organization; and politics is the overturning of a mystified or alienated reality. The artists’ reaction to capitalism, and their function, isn’t anymore to create new good forms, but to deconstruct and accelerate their obsolescence. It is necessarily a critical activity.

In his essays dealing with Freud, Lyotard develops his thought on the figural and the unconscious as a topological space. Contrasting image-figure, form-figure, and matrix-figure, Lyotard establishes links between the order of desire and the figural through the category of transgression: transgression of the object, transgression of form, transgression of space. For him, the important thing is not to produce a consistent discourse but rather to produce “figures” within reality. For there is no point in changing social reality if all it does is set up the same form. Dealing with issues of depth and appearance, the body becomes a surface of inscription for flows of libidinal energy. We need to pay more attention to the silence of bodily organs which creates a tremendous dissonance: it is this silence that must be heard as the libido wanders through our bodies. What we enjoy in art is its ability to displace us, to make us drift.

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