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TONIGHT: Slavoj Žižek & Teeth Of The Sea
The Quietus , June 15th, 2012 04:40

Cafe Oto will be hosting an overnight reading from Žižek's Less Than Nothing with music from Teeth of the Sea (DJ set). More details about the 24 hour event below

It's an ambitious beast indeed: a 24 hour book launch. Tonight and tomorrow (Friday 15th June to Saturday 16th), London's Cafe Oto plays host to an event entitled 'History Is Made At Night', a 24 hour long session for the launch of Slavoj Žižek's book on Hegel's legacy Less Than Nothing. Opening at 17:30 tonight, it will begin with a seminar by philosopher/writer Iain Hamilton Grant to introduce the work of Hegel. His talk will be followed by a talk by Žižek himself, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions and have books signed during a break after the talk.

This break, between 9.30 and 10.30 will also see DJ action by dialectical cosmic synth rockers and representatives of the Quietus, Teeth Of The Sea, who will be celebrating the night with radical and Hegelian Eno beat, culled from the field of funk, Afrobeat and krautrock. Tickets for this first segment of the event - up to 22:30 tonight - are already sold out.

However, after 22:30, an overnight reading session of Less Than Nothing will begin, promising a "collective event of reading and performing philosophy, bringing into play the questions around language, subjectivity and experience discussed in the book". Anyone signed up to take part in the reading session - who will actually read a portion of the book - gets into this session for free. To get in without reading costs £4. After 7am on Saturday, all the way up to 17:30 when the event finishes, admission will be free. You can sign up to take part in the event here. People are welcomed by the venue to bring pillows and blankets, in case they feel that 24 hours on Hegel's legacy is perhaps slightly too much for one period of wakefulness.

The event's schedule runs as follows:

17.30 (Friday): Doors open

18.30-19.30: Introducing Hegel—a seminar with Iain Hamilton Grant 

20.00-21.30: Talk by Slavoj Žižek & book signing 

21.30-22.30: Break & doors open for reading. Teeth of the Sea will be playing music based around Brian Eno's three revolutionary beats... 

22.30 (Friday)-17.30 (Saturday): Readings from Less Than Nothing

In advance of the event, Verso Books, who describe the tome as his masterwork, have kindly given us an extract of Less Than Nothing by way of a preview - you can read it below.

Introduction: Eppur Si Muove

There are two opposed types of stupidity. The first is the (occasionally) hyperintelligent subject who just doesn’t “get it,” who understands a situation logically, but simply misses its hidden contextual rules. For example, when I first visited New York, a waiter at a café asked me: “How was your day?” Mistaking the phrase for a genuine question, I answered him truthfully (“I am dead tired, jetlagged, stressed out …”), and he looked at me as if I were a complete idiot … and he was right: this kind of stupidity is precisely that of an idiot. Alan Turing was an exemplary idiot: a man of extraordinary intelligence, but a proto-psychotic unable to process implicit contextual rules. In literature, one cannot avoid recalling Jaroslav Hašek’s good soldier Švejk, who, when he saw soldiers shooting from their trenches at the enemy soldiers, ran into no-man’s land and started to shout: “Stop shooting, there are people on the other side!” The arch-model of this idiocy is, however, the naïve child from Andersen’s tale who publicly exclaims that the emperor is naked—thereby missing the point that, as Alphonse Allais put it, we are all naked beneath our clothes.

The second and opposite figure of stupidity is that of the moron: the stupidity of those who fully identify with common sense, who fully stand for the “big Other” of appearances. In the long series of figures beginning with the Chorus in Greek tragedy—which plays the role of canned laughter or crying, always ready to comment on the action with some common wisdom—one should mention at least the “stupid” common-sense partners of the great detectives: Sherlock Holmes’s Watson, Hercule Poirot’s Hastings … These figures are there not only to serve as a contrast to and thus make more visible the detective’s grandeur; they are indispensable for the detective’s work. In one of the novels, Poirot explains to Hastings his role: immersed in his common sense, Hastings reacts to the crime scene the way the murderer who wanted to erase the traces of his act expected the public to react, and it is only in this way, by including in his analysis the expected reaction of the common-sense “big Other,” that the detective can solve the crime.

But does this opposition cover the entire field? Where, for instance, are we to put Franz Kafka, whose greatness resides (among other things) in his unique ability to present idiocy as something entirely normal and conventional? (Recall the extravagantly “idiotic” reasoning in the long debate between the priest and Josef K. which follows the parable “Before the Law.”) For this third position, we need look no further than the Wikipedia entry for “imbecile”: “Imbecile is a term for moderate to severe mental retardation, as well as for a type of criminal. It arises from the Latin word imbecillus, meaning weak, or weak-minded. ‘Imbecile’ was once applied to people with an IQ of 26-50, between ‘moron’ (IQ of 51-70) and ‘idiot’ (IQ 0-25).” So it is not too bad: beneath a moron, but ahead of an idiot—the situation is catastrophic, but not serious, as (who else?) an Austrian imbecile would have put it.

Problems begin with the question: where does the root “becile” preceded by the negation (“im-”) come from? Although the origins are murky, it is probably derived from the Latin baculum (stick, walking stick, staff), so an “imbecile” is someone walking around without the help of a stick. One can bring some clarity and logic into the issue if one conceives of the stick on which we all, as speaking beings, have to lean, as language, the symbolic order, that is, what Lacan calls the “big Other.” In this case, the tripartite idiot-imbecile-moron makes sense: the idiot is simply alone, outside the big Other, the moron is within it (dwelling in language in a stupid way), while the imbecile is in between the two—aware of the need for the big Other, but not relying on it, distrusting it, something like the way the Slovene punk group Laibach defined their relationship towards God (and referring to the words on a dollar bill “In God we trust”): “Like Americans, we believe in God, but unlike Americans, we don’t trust him.” In Lacanese, an imbecile is aware that the big Other does not exist, that it is inconsistent, “barred.” So if, measured by the IQ scale, the moron appears brighter than the imbecile, he is too bright for his own good (as reactionary morons, but not imbeciles, like to say about intellectuals). Among the philosophers, the late Wittgenstein is an imbecile par excellence, obsessively dealing with variations of the question of the big Other: is there an agency which guarantees the consistency of our speech? Can we reach certainty about the rules of our speech?

History Is Made At Night takes place tonight and tomorrow, Friday 15th June 17:30 to Saturday 16th June 17:30, at Cafe Oto

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