Shiery NIcholson's wonderful paper
“Now it looks at me":
Aesthetic Experience and the Work of Psychoanalysis”
And if you have the interest do not fail to check out her extraordinary
Comments on Shierry Nicholson’sNow It Looks at MeFirst, let me congratulate Shierry Nicholson on a wonderful dialectical figuration of a commonality of the analytic and the aesthetic. What pivot! I am amazed, I, this most critical of beasts, has not one quibble. Yet, I want to add three observations after calling attention to one of my favoritesShierry’sExact Imagination, Late WorkOn Adorno's Aestheticswhere she demonstrates, uniquely, how Benjamin’s thought was absorbed by Adorno.==========================================(1) My initial comment concerns an aesthetic experience I had prior to psycho-analysis. As the first translator and director of Peter Handke's plays I had no idea what to expect when an audience undergoes these non-naturalistic texts, first of PUBLIC INSULT/ OFFENDING THE AUDIENCE - so I was quite pleased when a New York analyst came up to me after we had done it at the Goethe House in the late 60s and said the audience had had one hour of the best kind of group analysis consciousness raising. Well that's what it was for sure, among any other matters that this very activist piece does. KASPAR, (“I want to be someone like somebody else was once!”) a participatory speech torture, then indeed, can induce the pain of learning language and the search for an identity in an audience. However, I had no idea what to expect from a performance of THE RIDE ACROSS LAKE CONSTANCE. I had translated it, it is a play that consist of dialogue of the most absurd kind, the kind of questions posed analogous to Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations but transferred into the Lebenswelt
"George: And have you ever heard of a "fiery Eskimo"
Jannings: Not that I know
George: If you don't know it, then you haven't heard of it either. But the expression "a flying ship" - that you have heard?
Jannings: At most in a fairy tale.
George: But scurrying snakes exist?
Jannings: Of course not.
George: But fiery Eskimos - they exist?
Jannings: I can't imagine it.
George: But flying ships exist?
Jannings: At most in a dream.
George: Not in reality?
Jannings: Not in reality.
George: But born losers?
Jannings: Consequently they exist.
George: And born trouble makers?
Jannings: They exist.
George: And therefore there are born criminals.
Jannings: It's only logical.
George: As I wanted to say at the time...
Jannings: [interrupts him] "At the time"? Has it been that long already?
George [hesitates, astonished] Yes, that's odd! [Then continues rapidly] Just as there are born losers, born troublemakers, and born criminals, there are [he spreads is fingers.] born owners. Most people as soon as they own something are not themselves any more. They lose their balance and become ridiculous. Estranged from themselves they begin to squint. Bed wetters who stand next to their bed in the morning. [The bed signifies possession. Or perhaps their shame?] [brief moment of confusion, then he continues at once]. I, on the other hand, am a born loser: only when I possess something do I become myself...
Jannings: [interrupts him] "Born owner" I've never heard that expression.
George: [suddenly] "Life is a game..." You must have heard people say that?
George: Only one thing I don't understand. Of what significance is the winter evening to the story? There was no need to mention it, was there? [Jannings closes his eyes and thinks] Are you asleep?
Jannings: [opens his eyes] Yes, that was it! You asked me whether I was dreaming and I told you how long I sleep during the winter nights and that I then begin to dream toward morning and as an example I wanted to tell you a dream that might occur during a winter night.
George: Might occur?
Jannings: I invented a dream. As I said, it was only an example. the sort of thing that goes through one's head... As I said - a story?
George: But the kidneys flambe?
Jannings: Have you ever had kidneys flambe?
George: Not that i know.
Jannings: If you don't know, then you haven't had them....
Von Stroheim: Did you dream about it?
Porten: Someone mentioned it in a dream [she hands the pin to Bergner] When I saw the pin just now, I membered it again. And I had thought about it as also just another word.
George: Once someone told me about a corpse with a pinhead-sized wound on his neck [pause] [to Jannings] did you tell me about that?Absurdist, playful, very dream-play inducing, some of it may remind of Ionesco. However what is absurd is/ are the reasonable questions put in ordinary so-called rational language rational syntax and what I want to emphasize is that this sort of thing goes on a continuous basis for an hour and a half. The audience revolted because they did not have the strap of a story to hang on to. They did not catch on to the fact that this was a HAPPENING, but a highly formalized one, an EXPERIENCE that DID something to their MINDS. that I would say had a DISSOCIATIVE effect – and in that respect it resembles the dissociative effect of the asymmetrical analytic situationI myself came out transported into a deliciously cleansed state of mind (and thus kept going back during the five week run for at least a ten minute hit!), in fact of a kind I would not experience again until I entered analysis and started having what are called a "good hour", and until I experienced the only other Handke play that I know has this same (non-Aristotelian) cathartic dissociative effect, "The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other" (which consists of an hour and a half of changing images) - although Handke’s "The Art of Asking" may have a similar overall effect, but I have only read that. But these effects are not to be had in the reading, only in the experiencing. – As in the analytic situation which itself, for the very position in which analyst and analysand find themselves find themselves is of itself dissociative.Out of the darkness of the experience, out of the enigma shines the light… after a long series that works also on the fundamental phenomeonological neurological and kinesthetic level.Volume I of the Collected Plays===========================================(2) There is that MOMENT isn’t there at which what Shierry calls the FACE is recognized, where one recognizes one’s self. This may involve something as momentous as what Lacan called, perhaps too portentously, “the stage des miroir” – however, at whatever stage it occurs it is a moment of crystallization, and it is epiphanic – and once it passes theresult becomes enigmatic. – I don’t know which if any Paul Klee image Shierry has mind, but I want to suggest that Klee who specialized in the most playful of self-portraits – most famously perhaps his (above) Angelus Novus – reaches a/the moment(s) when he signed off on these self-portraits. Perhaps he himself regarded them as what Benjamin called “death masks of an experience.”(Although I read his notebooks many years ago, I am merely positing something of that kind here.) It was done. Later he would have the urge, playful, or serious, playfully serious, to do another. Moments such as that occur not only between an artist and his work, but also in the analytic situation. And one can of course deconstruct them, and that is always interesting, but the summa will remain enigmatic in the way that Shiery has defined the navel – although I suggest that the navel, the source, has become more penetrable since Freud wrote those famous words. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Klee_Notebooks https://www.google.com/search?q=paul+klee+paintings&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.r_qf.&biw=910&bih=428&dpr=1&bvm=pv.xjs.s.en_US.CQsooEYev9Y.O&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=5vcxUv__D4PgiwKe54CwDQ=========================================(3) Shierry mentions that she regards Adorno a mentor, and so do I, although I had a few others by the time I came on Adorno in the early 60s: Karl May (!), Shakespeare, Joyce (I noticed in writing some prose poems how I fell into pacing the way Joyce does.), Faulkner, Kafka, Brecht, Lukacs, Marx, Pound, Goethe, Flaubert. The most impressive, Freud, awaited me in the 80s. In the late 60s I had prepared an Adorno Reader in collaboration with the author, and with an introduction by Susan Sontag, and if Shierry and Sammy Weber had been as proficient as she became later as an Adorno translator someone, a truly vile person at Farrar Straus, would not have been in the position to find and excuse for killing that project after I left that firm in 1969, and it would have made a real difference to have an Adorno Reader published in that fashion at that time. Later, at Continuum Books I did several Adorno titles, but as co-publisher of Urizen Books only a Frankfurt School Reader since the working partner had had a run in with Adorno in Frankfurt.. I know or at least knew most of Shierry’s references, although more sharply at one time than I do now. They hover in the background as I complete a big novel that has two analysts as narrators, one ancient Austro-American somewhat paraplegic, the other the very mobile fictitious daughter of Wilhelm Reich.
This is the e-mail address associated with