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Anxiety and Whimsy in Popular Culture

A Dissertation Submitted to the Division of Media and Communications of The European Graduate School in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

By Emily Lutzker June 2002

Abstract

Anxiety and Whimsy in Popular Culture is a cross-disciplinary investigation that


employs philosophy, psychology, art history and criticism, and media theory to explore the connection between two seemingly unrelated concepts. Beginning with a definition of anxiety and whimsy as basic psychological affects, and an overview of the discourse surrounding these ideas, this dissertation aims to shed light on the role of these concepts in Western culture. In the first chapter, Anxiety Revealed the following topics are presented: the cultural significance of anti-anxiety medications; the history of anxiety in the field of psychology; the exploration of anxiety as it is characterized by philosophy, and how it is central to the concept of Daesin; the workings of the Lacanian objet petit a and anxietys relationship to fear; the way anxiety relates to desire; and, the presence of anxiety in the contemporary social phenomena of the rock star and the drug addict. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how anxiety can be both beneficial and harmful to ones sense of self and being in the world. Chapter two, An Inquiry of Whimsy, draws attention to the concept of whimsy as an emotional condition that inspires people to invent comedy and play. Included in this discussion is the evidence of whimsy as seen through humor; laughter; irony; the Kierkegaardian spirit; and the figures of the trickster, fool, jester, idiot, and bully. In addition, the question of subjectivity as it relates to emotionality in culture is described, as are postmodern language games and the paradox of the ludicrous. The effects of whimsy on everyday life are also addressed. The third chapter, Anxiety and Whimsy explores how anxiety and whimsy appear together in popular culture and everyday life. The personalities of the seducer and her different motives, and the inner workings of the modern celebrity, provide a clue as to how these affects work as one. The idea of physical trembling as both anxious and whimsical, and the idea that anxiety and whimsy are both crucial to Dasein (rather than two opposite ways of looking at the world), are presented here. Finally the author relates how the simultaneous

presence of anxiety and whimsy could be advantageous to finding a glimpse of authentic subjectivity. The final chapter, Anxiety and Whimsy in Form and Space, is closely related to the authors artistic practice. Using the various discourses surrounding the changing definition of sculpture; a discussion of how people perceive space, time, and three-dimensionality; and a brief history of the evolving debate about form versus concept and formlessness; this section explores how anxiety and whimsy can be understood in terms of art, and particularly in terms of sculpture. Examples from contemporary art are used to illustrate how anxiety and whimsy inherently play into the experience of three-dimensional art. Finally, the traditional definition of the uncanny (as anxiety-producing) is introduced, and a perspective on how the uncanny can also be whimsical is proposed. In conclusion, it is revealed that uncanny space is the fundamental platform for the interaction of/between anxiety and whimsy in sculpture.

Table of Contents
Introduction 1 Chapter 1 Anxiety Revealed 7
General Anxiety Disorder and Prozac Culture 8 Early Classifications of Anxiety 10 The Anxiety Attacks of a Television Mob Boss 13 Persecutory Anxiety and Guilt 15 Processing Anxiety in Media Culture 18 Paradigmatic Teenage Angst 19 Getting-High Anxiety 21 Being Anxious 23 Anxiety or Fear 28 Anxiety and Desire 31 Timing and Failure 35 The Merits of Anxiety 38

Chapter 2 An Inquiry of Whimsy 43


Comedy, Humor, the Joke, the Gag, the Riddle and the Comedian 47 The Fool or the Jester 51 The Idiot 52 The European Buffoon 55 The Bully 56 The Paradox of the Ludicrous 56 The Remainder of Whimsy: Laughter 58 Irony and Sarcasm 61 The Death of The Subject and Language Games 63 "Davka!": The Irreverence of Whimsy 67

Kierkegaard's Spirit 69 The Whimsy of Sisyphus 72

Chapter 3 Anxiety and Whimsy 75


Double Anxiety 75 From the Anxious Tragedy to the Whimsical Comedy 78 Star Quality: Anxiety of the Rock Star, Whimsy of the Celebrity 80 The Trembling Subject. 81 Secrets of Seduction 82 Whimsy as a Container for Anxiety 84 Anxiety and Whimsy Appearing Simultaneously 85 Spirit's Foe 88

Chapter 4. Anxiety and Whimsy in Form and Space 92


Anxiety and Whimsy in Art 92 The 3D World 96 The Sculptural Frame 98 What is Sculpture? 99 Space, The Final Frontier, Perceived 102 In Perception of Time 104 The Art Viewer Cam 105 The Form(less) Question 107 The Uncanny 110 Uncanny Space 112

Bibliography 116

Appendix 122
Appendix A 122 Appendix B 123 Appendix C Error! Bookmark not defined.

Introduction

Introduction What Do Anxiety and Whimsy Have to Do With Each Other?


What is the anxious condition? What is the whimsical impulse? What do these two seemingly opposing phenomena have to do with each other at all? The phrase, "Look Ma, No Hands" seems to personify both feelings, yet still leaves us wondering what anxiety and whimsy are all about. On the surface the exclamation is both one of a childs exhilaration and a plea for approval, and furthermore, the phrase offers us a caption to a continuing activity -- in this case, riding a bicycle without holding onto the handlebars. What is meaningful about being engaged in that activity of simultaneous anxiety and whimsy? It is being engaged in the activity itself which allows us to hold onto that feeling of the in-between -- before the closure, before the end of the ride where who knows what will happen. Whether the daring free act results in a tragedy of falling off the bicycle, or the triumph of physical virtuosity, is of little consequence here; the meaningful task at hand (or without hands) is to continue riding with anxiety and whimsy right there with us.

This phenomenon of the two emotional states appearing at once is no longer a rare occurrence. We see it in the media, in art and in everyday life, it is increasingly common and the importance of such frequency should not go ignored. To understand the mechanisms of this materialization, this exposition will dissect the parts of the formula only to reassemble them again, in the hopes of gaining a greater understanding as to how to sustain the activity -- how to continue riding for a little bit longer.

The first chapter will ask: What is the anxious condition? In this section ideas of anxiety beginning with Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan will be investigated. It is the most fundamental

Introduction

observation of anxiety that Freud makes: Anxiety, then, is in the first place something felt.

With this, we are provided with a starting point of anxiety as a visceral lived experience. Anxiety asks, "what will happen?" and that question is felt in every cell of our bodies. There is no direct threat of death with anxiety (maybe just humiliation?). As opposed to fear, anxiety is characterized by the fact that what threatens is nowhere and nothing. We experience anxiety in many situations, and in places where no rationality for a not-knowing shows itself.

The cultural evidence for anxiety itself is particularly important in the first chapter: we gobble up anti-anxiety medications, showing ours to be an anxious society by looking for an antidote to what seems like a problem, or worse, an illness. The fashionable medications provide us with an attractiveness of appearing cool calm or sure of ourselves, relaxed even. But perhaps this just masks us from the underrated merits of anxiety, could living on the edge of the possibility that something might happen be somehow advantageous?

Is it possible that the anxious state has a direct connection to the artist? Creativity responds to anxiety, says Wolfgang Schirmacher, and the artist questions by nature, lives on the verge of something: of an answer or another question, perhaps. And anxiety is the idea of possibility pure potentiality, and it exposes Dasein.
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In Chapter 2, the alternative analyses of what whimsy is will be discussed. How is it different from joy or pleasure or humor or fun or play? If whimsy is in fact an emotional state, where is there evidence of it? How does it relate to the trickster, to Soren Kierkegaard's notion of the spirit, or to humor, irony and play?

Sigmund Freud, The Problem of Anxiety, trans. Henry Alden Bunker, M.D. (The Psychoanalytic Quarterly Wolfgang Schirmacher, Lecture at EGS Seminar, Saas-Fee, Switzerland. August 21, 2000.

Press and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc: New York, 1963), 69.
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Introduction

And what is the nature of play? Johan Huizanga explores play in HomoLudens. He wrote: "Play cannot be denied. You can deny , if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play."
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So this playful aspect of

children which "cannot be denied" is a necessary part of our daily lives as adults, as well. But why? Does it not just hinder the world in the name of "serious progress"? And where does the concept of whimsy fall into the equation of play?

For Chapter 3, a synthesis of the two emotional states (anxiety and whimsy) will be explored. Where they occur in popular culture and how they influence each other is covered. The proposition of whimsy carrying equal importance with as anxiety as well as the idea that maybe the two are inseparable, perhaps even one entity is discussed. What does this idea illuminate in regards to humanity? To the experience of openness and openness of possibility or daring?

And finally, in the last section, the significance becomes is delineated, in the exploration of a particular way that the emotional muses of anxiety and whimsy can show themselves in a three dimensional abstract world: in the field of sculpture. Because three dimensionality and space perception are difficult to conceive, see, picture in ones mind (and also are difficult to articulate with language), the significance of how we perceive space and three dimensionality will be introduced. This enables us to explore a field where the nature of abstract form is still important, whereas in other sub-genres of contemporary art it has fallen into the background in lieu of the purely conceptual, bringing us from the form to the conceptual and then to the formless.
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Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens, (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1955), 3. As used in Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind E. Krauss, Formless, (New York, Zone Books, 1997).

Introduction

The methodology for the following research will be mostly phenomenological, it is within the examples of culture itself that the evidence for anxiety and whimsy appear. "Phenomenon -- the self showing in itself -- means a distinctive way something can be encountered." The phenomenological approach used here specifically describes the "how" the cultural thing looks -what is its distinctive way in which the TV program or film or artwork reveals its meaning. Because seeing how things look can perhaps give us a glimpse as to how they are, and how we want them to be -- all which can be thought of as symptoms of the current cultural psychological state of affairs.
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But in order to perceive this cultural spirit as a whole, it is important to review the psychological and philosophical literature which pertains to the subject matter; this is set forth in the chapters on anxiety and whimsy. But as it appears here, it is mainly for observations, and not as doctrines to be argued for or against. Therefore, it is not the responsibility of this study to engage in the theoretical discussions typical for these fields, but to utilize the wisdom of these academic fields merely with an intent to discover what is hidden in their fundamental principles. "A phenomenon is typically and foremost what you cannot see" as Heidegger stated in the methodological introduction to Being and Time and, consequently, the phenomenon (issue, or problem at hand) needs to be discovered before it can be applied.

Following Gadamer's Hermeneutic which was founded on phenomenology but also critical of its straightforwardness, this dissertation is an original synthesis of this researcher's own. It is not without belonging to a distinct hermeneutical circle, which is inescapable, but perhaps with a little ingenuity it is possible walk around within that circle. "Recognition of the cultural and historical
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Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, (San Francisco: See Hans Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall (New York:

HarperCollins, 1962), 27.


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Continuum, 2002).

Introduction

plurality of forms of life and schemes does not itself require skepticism towards the idea of reason."
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The perspective disclosed here can be characterized as a blending of cross-disciplinary activities which this researcher is engaged in: cultural theorist, media philosopher and, last but not least active visual artist, who creates sculpture. This horizon of the present from which to see can be described as a 'fusion' (Gadamer) of an understanding of media technology and popular culture with a keen eye for its constructive elements and possible applications. Perhaps the new term for this particular brand of fusion could be called cultural strategy.
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The investigations of the inner workings of the cultural psyche, is especially appropriate now, at the start of the a millennium -- an age where struggles, both inside and outside, political and personal, seem to have a chance to resolve in "justice" or at least fulfillment for some. It is this possibility of such a transformation which is of immense interest to this researcher and had been the inspiration to address the subject of anxiety -- a subject which describes what seems to be in the foreground of the cultural mind, because it is what pushed towards the resolve. But anxiety alone cannot satisfy us --- it cannot fulfill humanities cravings for a "good life," which requires pleasure and fun and play. The infrequency of these enjoyable subjects in critical theory is noticeable, but certainly worthy of closer consideration and even deserves an exploration into the root of what drives humans to create "fun." What will be concluded in Chapter 2 is the premise for the remainder of this dissertation; that "whimsy" is what inspires play and fun and joy and humor and the like. It is an emotional state, a muse, and is presented here, to be the not only the flip-side of anxiety, but anxietys necessary counterpart.

Georgia Warnke, Gadamer: Hermeneutics, Tradition and Reason (Stanford: Stanford University Press, "Rather understanding is always the fusion of these horizons supposedly existing by themselves." Gadamer,

1987), 171.
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Truth and Method, 306.

Introduction

By citing the instances of where whimsy and anxiety appear together in the media and in three dimensional fine art, it will become apparent that whimsy is not only necessary, but gives a richness to an otherwise a dull and automated life full of "should's," "should not's," "have to's" which are all in the effort to make the outdated discovery of one singular "truth" in the name of "progress." Finding one big Truth is no longer humanities' project, but observing small truths is, and the trend of inserting some whimsy into previously solely anxious scenarios is unmistakable evidence as such. In other words, seeing instances of anxiety ridden stories infused with whimsy shows that we are letting go of the search for universals among humanity. Because if anxiety is what makes us "seek the truth" or "fight for a cause" then whimsy is what makes us play or laugh and create humor or fun and allows us to laugh at ourselves, and each other. Each affect alone is not sufficient -- pure whimsy reduces us to all fun and games (or indulgence) and pure anxiety's default is in the proliferation stringent dogmas and forced activities. But the real task here is to show how whimsy is necessary in order to create meaning in a multi-truthed world, and how it can be successful at it, as long as anxiety is not forgotten.

Anxiety

Chapter 1 Anxiety Revealed


Anxiety is a term used broadly to describe a number of psychological conditions. And the different types of anxiety described here hardly begin to touch upon the specific neurotic states and everyday feelings which we experience -- all grouped under this vast term and used for a multitude of purposes by psychologists, pharmaceutical companies, doctors, patients, psychoanalytic theorists, mothers and philosophers. Here, some general theories, symptoms, and manifestations are sketched out -- for empathizing and sympathizing with -- perhaps serving as a universal reminder of what the experience of anxiety feels like. Because we all have experienced Freuds sentiment that anxiety, then, is in the first place something felt, revealing that emotional feelings, as we all know, occur in the body. It is the peculiar not-knowing of anxiety which gives us the hiccups, makes us fidget our toes, have butterflies in our stomachs and puts us on the edge of our seats" which we call anxiety; we experience it in many situations, or in places where no rationality for a not-knowing shows itself.
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What differentiates anxiety from any other similar feeling? From fear, from mere nervousness? From apprehension? Or, to employ the psychoanalytic term for an emotional state, how do we know that anxiety exists as an affect? How does that anxious person look?" and also "what does anxiety feel like?" And in contrast when is it not present? It is not unfamiliar -- the nervous gesture made when there is nothing to be nervous about. That tap, tap, tap of my foot on the leg of the table -- the repetitive action with which I try to expel the anxiety from my body. And it lives there, in the physical world, the sweaty palm world -- the bodily experience of space-time, of things about to happen, of things happening in the continuance of life. And even when there's nothing to be afraid of, in moments of complete safety, anxiety occurs, there is no tornado

Sigmund Freud, The Problem of Anxiety, 69.

Anxiety

approaching, no burglar threatening, no terrorist imposing an my immediate locale, anxiety still rears its head.

The task at hand is to provide an overview of anxiety in a psychoanalytic and philosophical sense. Beginning with the psychoanalysts, this chapter will recap the ideas fleshed out by Freud and Melanie Klein, and then move on to Heidegger, Sartre, Kierkegaard and Lacan to consider a philosophical concept of anxiety as a mode of being. Following an exploration of anxiety in people, objects, pop-culture, its relationship to everyday life, as well as the merits of anxiety, will be undertaken.

General Anxiety Disorder and Prozac Culture


The National Institute of Mental Health reminds us: "You are not alone. In any year, 4 million Americans have GAD."
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Along with Woody Allen, most New York Jews undergoing

psychoanalysis or psychotherapy are classified as having Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Code number 300.02 for the insurance companies' convenience, this broad spectrum diagnosis provides the patients who can endure the anxiety, or lack thereof, an alternative, or not, to the wonders of modern medicine. It is no surprise that the stereotypical shrink is also a figure of anxiety himself, absorbing it from the clients.

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, "treatment options" include: 1. Behavior Therapy, in which the goal is to "modify and gain control over unwanted behavior."

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http://www.nimh.nih.gov. March 27, 2002. downloadable document, gad.pdf.

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2. Cognitive Therapy which is used in order to "change unproductive or harmful thought patterns;" or 3. a combination of Cognitive and Behavior Therapies, "often referred to as CBT.

One of the benefits of these types of therapies is that the patient learns recovery skills that are useful for a lifetime." Another alternative is the practice of Relaxation Techniques which "help individuals develop the ability to more effectively cope with the stresses that contribute to anxiety, as well as with some of the physical symptoms of anxiety. The techniques taught include breathing re-training and exercise" or medication which "can be very useful in the treatment of anxiety disorders, and it is often used in conjunction with one or more of the therapies mentioned above. Sometimes anti-depressants or anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medications) are used to alleviate severe symptoms so that other forms of therapy can go forward. Medication is effective for many people and can be either a short-term or long-term treatment option, depending on the individual."
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We owe homage to Prozac, the wonder drug of the 1990's, and Daddy to a slew of anti-anxiety medications. Although the father of the psychopharmacological craze is officially prescribed as an anti-depressant, as well as medication for obsessive-compulsive disorders, it extremely similar in chemical make up to the family of anti-anxiety and anti-panic medications, which are widely used in recent years. Clinically, there is a distinction between the disorders, and psychiatrists prescribe different mediations for each one, but here, there is no need to distinguish between the medications which could possibly have the same, or very similar, results in patients. It is easily arguable that "depressed," as well as "manic," people are anxious figures (more about the anxious figures later on) but it seems that the non-depressed and the non-manic are outside of, or without anxiety. The late 20 century fashion of the "non-anxious" life gave rise to a whole family of
th

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http://www.adaa.org/AnxietyDisorderInfor/GuidetoTre.cfm March 27, 2002

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books (Prozac Nation, Listening to Prozac, Prozac: Panacea or Pandora?, Talking Back to Prozac, Beyond Prozac, Prozac Backlash, and the all natural alternative, Potatoes or Prozac) available for the style hungry drug culture that any mind altering substance inspires. Articles in magazines, black market resources, comparative studies to the use of recreational drugs, and especially the, "Is he on Prozac?" sentiment, which could have easily replaced the previously overheard line, "Is she still a virgin?" became socially ubiquitous. Just as bubble gum pop music swarms over angst-ridden indie-rock, chemically induced anti-anxiety pushes out anxiety.

"Prozac is believed to work by blocking the re-absorption of serotonin, a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger in the brain. It is a member of the serotonin-reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) family, as are Zoloft (sertraline) and Paxil (paroxetine)" which are classified as anti-anxiety medications. The wonder-drug Paxil, whose tag line, "Your life is waiting" is prescribed for General Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety, and Panic Anxiety. -- classifications made by the medical and pharmaceutical industries -- all had risen from the couches of the psychoanalysts and the ideas of the philosophers of the early to mid 20 century. These medications serve here as an expos by way of difference.
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Early Classifications of Anxiety


Certainly the attractiveness of appearing cool calm or sure of yourself and relaxed is the first cultural evidence of the real "un-cool" anxiety showing itself, and Freud mad an attempt to get to the heart of this so-called problem.

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http://www.nami.org/helpline/prozac.htm March 4, 2002. http://www.paxil.com March 4, 2002.

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Throughout his writings, anxiety is mentioned in different ways, evolving with the ideas of the author. But in all cases, and in all types of anxiety, the differences become apparent in the symptoms of the subject (the person feeling the anxiety), and the nature of the object (the thing, or lack thereof, that the subject is anxious about). Marking the prototype for our first experience of anxiety and his first classification, Freud says " we are inclined to see in the anxiety state a reproduction of the trauma of birth." Although the newborn coming into the world has no concrete notion of death, (nor any supposed myth or fear of death) this experience of birth is seen merely as a horrific contrast to life in the womb, which is, of course, the only thing which has been known before. The daily experience of anxiety which has triggered the memory of this first birth trauma, Freud describes as primitive anxiety, or automatic anxiety: that which leads to a traumatic idea of annihilation or death. In this case, the subject is utterly overwhelmed and can no longer perceive the source of the anxiety. (Although later in this study, the source of anxiety, and whether one exists, comes into question.)
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He also spoke about signal anxiety, classified as pertaining to an anticipated tension. "Thus the classical psychoanalytic view of anxiety is a signal or warning that something really overwhelmingly awful is just about to happen, so you had better do something about it quickly if you are to survive physically and mentally. It can be likened to a massive electrical storm in the mind."
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This signal is referring to something which has already taken place -- any traumatic

event which triggers the feelings of anxiety in the present.

Another discussion mentions repression anxiety, and the "return of the repressed," whereas a repressed idea, something which has been forced to the unconscious and thought to be "bad" by

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Freud, The Problem of Anxiety, 71. Ricky Emanuel, Anxiety, "Ideas In Psychoanalysis," (Cambridge: Icon Books, 2000), 13. Ibid.,11.

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the subject is forcing "its way back into consciousness." In this case, the guilt of the "bad" idea is the anxiety producer.

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This brings us to the common separation anxiety -- stemming from the initial separation from the mother as caregiver at birth. According to Freud, separation anxiety occurs when the caregiver is not present, and therefore, the world is unsafe. Hence, the feeling of anxiety in terms of a general danger. According to psychotherapists today, the first separation of being out of the womb, not just the severance of the caregiver, is the root of separation anxiety and possibly all anxieties which are related to the human condition of being alone. It is the deep desire for reconstructing the experience of actually being a part of the mother, of someone else, to return to the symbiotic place where we have all known to feel supremely safe. It is this everyday pain of being alone which drives us to find people and things in life to make us feel safe and attached, whether they come in the form of lovers and family, or drugs, or alcohol, or pills, or defenses.
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Castration anxiety is the fear of loss of the male genitalia, bodily integrity, the pleasure organs, and of being powerless, ineffective. In both castration anxiety and separation anxiety object loss is the precondition.
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"According to psychoanalytic theory, part of the psychological development

of boys is the realization that girls lack a penis. This invokes in boys a fear of castration, and the presence of women always serves to bring out that fear. Thus, the sexual difference is the source of male anxiety."
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Ibid.,11. Lionel Shockness, C.S.W., interview by author, New York City, March 27, 2002. Freud, The Problem of Anxiety, 78. http://www.bcholmes.org/film/gilda.html, B.C. Holmes, 1993, March 20, 2002.

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Freud concludes that anxiety arises when there is a threat to certain feelings and desires that we cherish, and two different purposes are served for the subject by these anxious feelings. In the first case, it is not clear as to what the anxiety is in reference to, because it appears "inappropriate and expedient, in response to a new situation of danger; the other, a useful one, as a means of giving warning of and averting such a situation." This anxiety in the face of a new situation, or a new concept, is what will carry this discussion into the realm of philosophy. The second, this researcher believes, is not anxiety at all but more in the family of fear. Later in this chapter the differences between anxiety and fear are discussed in further detail, but certainly a "warning" of something dangerous in the world, is a fear of a danger to the self and not necessarily a situation where the loss of the ego is threatened. For example: the warning anxiety experienced when rock climbing, when one has previously experienced a bad fall from that same activity, is a "real" danger to one's physical well being requiring a personal battle with the obstacle at hand. This adversarial position is contrary to anxiety which threatens the sense of self, and not a specific cause.
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The Anxiety Attacks of a Television Mob Boss


Television watchers across America have witnessed the anxiety attacks of Tony Soprano -- the favorite fictitious mob boss of northern New Jersey, husband, father, and no stranger to psychiatric care. The show itself is not anxious, and the series, along with the film Analyze This from 1999, starring Billy Crystal as the anxious therapist, with Robert DeNiro as the anxious mobster, launched a phenomenon of layering icons of anxiety (the mobster and the analyst) upon each other to create humor (maybe even whimsy?). But the fictional anxiety attacks that the rich character of

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Freud, The Problem of Anxiety, 87.

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Tony Soprano suffers from are perhaps the overwhelming primal anxiety that Freud recognizes as the root of all other minor anxieties. Anxiety attacks, sometimes called panic attacks are often mistaken for physiological disorders. The symptoms of such a mental short circuit can consist of, but are not limited to, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, excessive sweating, hyperventilating, chest pain, and even loss of consciousness.

During the episode "Fortunate Son" Tony recalls his first anxiety attack. It occurred when he was eleven years old, during an evening in the kitchen where there was an exchange between his mother and father regarding the meat that his father brought home from the butcher. Earlier that day Tony had witnessed a violent scene at the butcher shop where Junior (Tony's uncle) cut off Mr. Satriale's (the butcher) finger. At home, not only was the father proud to be a provider for his family (although it was apparent that the food the family was receiving was closely related to death, violence and organized crime activities) but the child Tony also witnessed a sexual exchange between his parents. This realization of their sexuality, along with the confusing information regarding food and death and the power of his father, all brought into the kitchen of a home that was otherwise joyless, caused young Tony to collapse and lose consciousness in his first anxiety attack.

As Sandy Naiman of the Toronto Sun writes, "A panic attack can be a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and without any obvious reason. It is much more intense than feeling stressed out, with symptoms like heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, shaking, choking, not being able to catch your breath, dizziness, chest pain, fear you're having a heart attack, you're going crazy or you're going to die." And this kind of an attack can occur when there is no container for an excess of anxiety present. A container in the world of
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Ibid., 73. http://www.canoe.ca/Health0110/29_panic-sun.html March 27, 2002.

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psychology, is used to describe something which contains, cushions or alleviates a painful feeling, or in this case, anxiety. A container for anxiety could be the mother , in the case of a child feeling abandoned at his first day of school, or any kind of support which prevents the anxious person from feeling so utterly isolated or overwhelmed or helpless in the face of the emotionally painful experience.

Persecutory Anxiety and Guilt


The boundaries between different types of anxiety seem blurred in Freud's texts; it was Melanie Klein who later made greater efforts to categorize anxiety in her writings of the 1950's. She focuses her studies of anxiety on examples taken from developmental situations with children. In this way, she can see how different anxieties are formed, and how they play out with little interference from the rationalizations of anxiety which adults are more likely to create.

Klein makes the distinction between two ways in which anxiety affects the subject: persecutory anxiety and depressive anxiety. She writes, "I came to the conclusion that persecutory anxiety relates predominately to the annihilation of the ego; depressive anxiety is predominantly related to the harm done to internal and external loved objects by the subject's destructive impulses. Although the distinction is not always clear-cut. The depressive position is closely bound up with guilt."
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Klein writes, persecution anxiety "relates to an intimidating or tormenting feeling

associated with the fear of being harshly judged, but also a different quality of anxiety, a dejected feeling concerning whether I can be worthy of my good objects expectations of me."
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Melanie Klein, "The Theory of Anxiety and Guilt" in Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946-1963 Emanuel, Anxiety, 4.

(London: Hogarth Press and The Institute of Psychoanalysis,1975), 34.


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In this case, it appears that the source of the anxiety is something outside of the self, but that is untrue. Persecutory anxiety is reflective and " the root of persecutory fear in the paranoid individual is, I believe, the fear of annihilation of the ego" What she means here is that it is not actually the thing outside of the self which is anxiety provoking, but the fear of the loss of the ego itself. It is related to both humiliation (see Avital Ronell's test later in this chapter) and Freud's primal anxiety which is so utterly overwhelming. But the persecutory anxiety is always a precondition for an anxious state; it is the person who is inclined to have the fear of the annihilation of the ego, this tendency already having been established during childhood, who is the one to experience periods of anxiety in the face of a stressful situation with great frequency. This persecutory anxiety is closely related to paranoia and humiliation. It does share some similarities to primal anxiety to the degree that it is overwhelming and threatens the ego itself. It always pertains to objects of the anxiety that are outside the self, but the fear is about the loss of self. The trigger comes from an outside stimulus, but the precondition has already been established.
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On the other hand, depressive anxiety relates to a fear of loss of some object. This is the area where separation and castration anxiety come into play for Klein. In addition, anxiety based on protecting another who is in danger, as well as guilt of hurt inflicted upon another, remorse, regret, the negative feeling in the fear of the loss of love from a particular loved person and ultimately the fear that the other (the one who was hurt) will no longer love (me) are all depressive postures.

It is very difficult to distinguish the two -- depressive anxiety and persecution anxiety. Take for example separation anxiety vs. castration anxiety; could the genitalia also be seen as the object that would be lost? The pleasurable thing? Yet at the same time the castration anxiety is also connected closely with the death instinct -- and therefore primal or persecutory anxiety -- the loss of the ability to procreate. In Klein's understanding of castration anxiety, the subject has an

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Klein, Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946-1963, 33.

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unconscious knowledge of the penis/testicles as the life-giving organs and therefore, "anxiety is aroused by the danger which threatens the organism from the death instinct; and I suggested that this is the primary cause of anxiety."
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It is both the preservation of life and the "fear of death

[which] enters into and reinforces castration fear and is not 'analogous' to it. Since the genital is not only the source of the most intense libidinal gratification, but also the representative of Eros, and since reproduction is the essential way of counteracting death, the loss of the genital would mean the end of the creative power which preserves and continues life." And truly Klein appears to understand the relationship between anxiety as essential to a discussion of the life instinct and the death instinct which the philosophers such as Erich Fromm engaged. "Since the struggle between the life and death instincts persists throughout life, this source of anxiety is never eliminated and enters as a perpetual factor into all anxiety-situations."
29 28

Worth mentioning for

this discussion is a clarification of the understanding of castration anxiety as exclusive to the male in a literal sense, but the equivalent for the woman would be in her relationship to her father's penis. The penis in castration anxiety is only the symbolic object (literally castration is the testicles and emasculation the penis) which could possibly be cut off. So, instead of the loss of the penis for a woman, the loss is the castration of the mother as caregiver, as in the Electra complex. In this scene, the daughter, our subject, desires to be with the father and therefore to eliminate the mother. This guilt in harming the caregiver, along with the anxiety surrounding the loss of love of the mother as the care-giving object, is where the female has the anxiety over castrating the mother, so to speak. But in contrast to the penis, which does not fight back in the face of it being cut off, the mother steps in and says, "no" to the subject desiring the father. And this "casting out" forces the subject to find a new mate (penis/father.)
30

27 28 29

Ibid., 28. Ibid., 30. Ibid., 29.

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Processing Anxiety in Media Culture


Still worth mentioning is the curious relationship between the world of psychology, or psychiatry, and how anxiety is processed in our culture. It is exactly in the acts of consuming, eating and digesting which are the modes of dealing with the emotional affects. The mobile telephone company Verizon's slogan "stay connected," which calls for an urgency between us via telephone lines, tangible and otherwise, and loved ones (Did you call your mother?) provides a solution for separation anxiety through technology by way of the lines of communication. In this way, advertising reinforces castration anxiety and separation anxiety both in problem and solution. This invisible umbilical cord of wireless communication acts like an anti-anxiety medication, giving the user a (false) sense of attachment and safety. A way to be with others, yet to still remain an individual.

The popular pills which help us to digest the anxiety itself suggest a cannibalistic nature in the anxious phenomena. The use of anti-anxiety medications, as well as Klein herself, points toward a certain connection that Karl Abraham noticed between eating and " the origins of anxiety and guilt with cannibalistic desires."
31

Perhaps the root of the cannibalistic / devouring / eating-the-

anxiety-itself phenomenon is in the first anxiety felt towards the mother's breast -- the first external object -- the life instinct and the death instinct all in one, somehow equated with eating. See the discussion of "the bad breast" in which the thing which is life giving can also become the hateful other which threatens the identity of the individual. In this case " the ego is felt to contain
32

30 31 32

Lionel Shockness, C.S.W., interview by author, New York City, March 27, 2002. Klein, Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946-1963, 496. See Klein, Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946-1963 (London: Hogarth Press and The Institute of

Psychoanalysis,1975), 34. Also, Klein's Psycho-Analysis of Children, and The Emotional Life of the Infant.

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devoured and devouring objects." If the "good breast" and the "bad devouring breast form the core of the super-ego"
34

33

then by reliving this consumption by way of substituting an intake of

Paxil, a continuous reassertion of the super-ego is enforced. As well as a chemical solution, the subject then eats the anxiety itself in the form of a pill, like a cannibal eats an enemy.

In the remainder of this dissertation, the focus is with the persecutory variety of anxiety, which is also where the anxiety of possible humiliation appears. The anxiety which arises from the repressed, or the guilty, depressive anxiety, is particular to the past experiences of the particular angst-ridden person/thing and is not so easily seen by the spectator, except in a general quality of anxious behavior. (It is particularly difficult to categorize persecutory or depressive anxiety for an object, aesthetic movement, or film, and to do so is not necessarily important here. Actually, for our purposes the distinction is not so relevant since it is the general symptoms of anxiety which illustrate the emotional character which becomes an important clue for living in the media epoch.)

Paradigmatic Teenage Angst


If anxiety, the emotional state of Being, the feeling that arises in the face of events which remind us of our humanity, can be captured in a persona, who would it be?

Who is the exemplary anxious figure? The persona could perhaps be understood in terms of a celebrity whose popularity is grounded in angst. And just by the use of the word "angst" immediately the phrase 'teenage angst" springs to mind. And an apropos phrase it is, because the teenager knows anxiety best. They are at the crux of their lives: between getting somewhere,

33 34

Klein, Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946-1963, 30. Ibid., 32.

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growing up and being there, finding out what it means to be an adult, questioning their position in the family, who they are as individuals, and of navigating through peer pressure and "finding themselves," all which include the challenges of sexuality, and body image concerns. Compounded by erratic chemical imbalances, the phenomenon of teenage angst often takes the form of anger (present in the loudest teens) and sometimes anger against the self and often depression. The figure who most often speaks to and expresses the anxiety of the teenager is the rock star -- preferably one who is perceived to belong to the "independent" or "alternative" areas of the music industry. On that account, pop culture once again, supplies us a window to the emotional state of the world, and gives us a language to sing with.

Kurt Cobain -- now considered by many to be an Aristotelian tragic figure committed suicide on April 5, 1994 in his home in Seattle Washington, shooting himself in the head with a shotgun, and splattering his brains all over the bathtub. Fronting his band Nirvana, the icon of grunge-rock and drug (ab)user sang "With the lights out it's less dangerous, Here we are now, Entertain us, I feel stupid and contagious, Here we are now, Entertain us, A mulatto, An albino, A mosquito, My libido, Yeah" fronting his band Nirvana.
35

Contrary to what he sang he was neither infected with a

contagious disease, nor was he to be thought of as having an inferior intellect (as his teachers and friends testified in the film Kurt and Courtney). But with these words, which express anxiety so well, he became a hero to a generation who happened to be at the right age to question where they were going and what they were all about. Cobain became the questioning, angry hero with his songs which spoke to teenage angst and therefore an anxious hero by default. His tumultuous affair with Courtney Love added to his romantic status, and for that ambitious gal, became a launching pad for her whimsical star status.

35

http://www.cobain.com. March 17, 2002.

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Getting-High Anxiety
In her book Crack Wars Avitall Ronell explored the ambiguous relationship between an external crisis and the emotional state of an individual when facing an existential abyss: "Crisis in immanence. Drugs, It turns out, are not so much about seeking an exterior, transcendental dimension--a fourth or fifth dimension--rather, they explore fractal interiorities."
36

Rock stars, especially ones who express their confusion and anger with the world, are figures of anxiety and point us to another category which exposes the nature of anxious living: The Drug Addict. The very cyclical nature of the daily drug addict's existence is likened to the circular nature of desire and escape. Just like Sisyphus from Homer's Odyssey who continuously pushes the rock up the hill only to have it roll back down again, the drug addict engages in the desiring act -- to desire the desiring itself. It is time which allows this cycle of desiring and anxiety. With the drug addict the drug experience supplies the (mis)conception (lie, illusion) of escape, even if the escape is only recognized to be only temporary -- and it is. The user gets high to escape, only to replace the sober anxiety with the anxiety of the drug experience. And later, when the drug usage becomes a lifestyle, the anxiety of being the drug addict becomes an even higher level of the anxious persona. The worse the habit, the more desire to escape the habit, and therefore making the habit itself worse. It is a closed circuit of desiring the escape and anxiety.
37

Getting clean is another anxious quest altogether. The options are limited to replacing one substance addiction with either an addiction to a person or behavior or a "higher power." And is not the idea of weaning off the substance already anxiety producing? And consider quitting cold-

36

Avital Ronell, Crack Wars (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), 15.

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turkey, another anxiety producing de-tox the anxiety of being without this is another state of non-closure. an unsuccessful mourning of the loss of the other.
38

37

See Slavoj Zizek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan Through Popular Culture (Cambridge:

MIT Press 1991, 5) for an explanation of desire and the apparent "paradox of a continuous approach to an object that nevertheless preserves a constant distance." (page 4).
38

See Ronell, Crack Wars for a description of Emma Bovary's "husband abuse" and an unsuccessful

addiction recovery., 104.

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23

Being Anxious
Another discipline besides the psychoanalytic one moves us towards an understanding of anxiety. Beginning with existential philosophy, and then moving forward we are served up with a response to Freud's narrative of the human psyche. Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Soren Kierkegaard and Jacques Lacan (our crossover philosopher-psychoanalyst) provide some clues as to how anxiety is a mode of being.

Anxiety in Being is a primary focus of this group of thinkers by nature because existential philosophy "is an understanding of the ontological structures of existence, that is, what it is to be Dasein, and existential understanding is a person's self-understanding, that is, an understanding of her/his own way to be or what s/he is."
39

By concentrating on anxiety as an emotional state, felt

and experienced by the self, we are involuntarily pulled into this category of philosophy whose job it is to provide a glimpse into how anxiety reveals the human condition. According to Heidegger, the fundamental human condition is in the state of Dasein -- that we are beings for whom Being can be an issue. He explains Dasein as Being which becomes "disclosed to itself in its throwness."
40

It is the characteristic of being thrown into Being which allows Dasein to emerge.

So what is the relationship between anxiety and Being? Or nothingness for that matter? If anxiety is an emotional state, as evidenced in the body, then it is most certainly something that requires the pre-condition of being, and of our knowledge of our consciousness. It seems important to note, that the word we use to describe our awareness of being is "sentient." Page 1242 of The American Heritage College Dictionary gives us the following definition: "1. Having sense perception;

39

http://members.tripod.com/~jonmills/Dasein.htm. Jon Mills, The False Dasein: From Heidegger to Sartre

and Psychoanalysis. March 29, 2002. Published in the Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 1997, 28(1), 42-65.
40

Heidegger. Being and Time, 181.

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consciousness. 2. Experiencing sensation or feeling." Nancy, "to make sense of the world through senses."

41

We use our consciousness like Jean-Luc

42

If we question the Being (anxiety appears as the question is conceived) and it is automatic to suppose that the answer could be that of nothingness -- this is the negative position to our positive Being and posits anxiety as the feeling of the in-between. In-between Being and nothingness, inbetween the non-question and the answer is the feeling of the question.

Lacan states a phenomenological point of view: "anxiety affects the subject."

43

So this affect

(understood in psychoanalytic terms as an emotional state of being, as if to say "it is affecting") becomes an indicator of something. In this way Lacan addresses "anxiety as a signal." The mere fact of pointing this out implies considering it as something referring to another order. Thus, it is not a self- or auto- referential phenomenon but, on the contrary, has a condition of retransmission to another field. Anxiety does not represent itself."
44

It represents (or rather points to, because it

does not re-present anything) the condition of Dasein and with this, "anxiety discloses Dasein as being possible."
45

So the next logical step is to ask, "When do we experience Dasein?" Sartre asks, "'is there any conduct which can reveal to me the relation of man with the world?'" This conduct is the irrepressible impulse, the need, the basic instinct, the deciding moment in which Eve acted,
46

41

The American Heritage Dictionary. Third Edition. (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, Jean-Luc Nancy, Lectures in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, August 2000. Harari, Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety, 3. Ibid., 4-5. Heidegger. Being and Time, 232. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, trans. Hazel E. Barnes (New York: Washington Square Press,

1993), 1242.
42 43 44 45 46

1993, 1956, 1984), 35.

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pulling Adam with her into the real world, the act of questioning. "In every question we stand before a [B]eing which we are questioning. Every question presupposes a being who questions and a being which is questioned." And questioning is the act of anxiety; the act of Being-in-theWorld.
47

In the 1999 film The Matrix, Trinity whispers into an anxious Neo's ear "It is not the answer, but the question, which drives us."
48

Revealing to him that it is the search itself which made his life

meaningful. It is the act of questioning, or the event of the question, which expresses either linguistically, visually or in abstract thought, the anxiety, whatever the anxiety is in reference to. And questioning Being itself -- that' is the act of Humanity. This is ontological anxiety anxiety in Being.
50 49

As Heidegger himself entitles section forty of Being and Time "The Basic State-of-Mind of Anxiety is a Distinctive Way in which Dasein is Disclosed." Here he says that with each person's experience of anxiety, Dasein is individualized, making anxiety the indicator for humans as the beings for whom being can be an issue; "that which anxiety is anxious about is Being-in-theWorld itself."
52 51

It is necessary to dwell on Dasein itself, on the act/event/happening/idea as occurring in our minds. And what happens when we do this? It is the churning of the idea of being, of being and existence as something which is. We are, we know we are, we practice this. And we watch ourselves Being. "I feel safe," "I feel cold," "I feel hungry," "I feel sad," "I am in this caf," "I feel

47 48 49 50 51

Ibid., 35. The Matrix. Silver Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures. Dir. Larry and Andy Wachowski, 1999. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 35. Wolfgang Schirmacher, interview by author. Saas-Fee, Switzerland, August 2000. Heidegger, Being and Time, 228.

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like I'm in yoga class." But for one minute, if we stop being one with the mountain and remember what the act of Being, of contemplating Being, is all about then it seems that not only do I feel all of these things -- safe, cold, hungry but knowing that I am these things, that I have them at this moment, and concentrate on them at this moment, (they are really always there, whether I am contemplating them or not). These things which I sense which remind me of my existence and knowing about this existence -- simultaneously a powerful feeling and a powerless feeling. Like David Byrne says "How did I get here?"
53

Subsequently, where would I be if I weren't here?

Would all of this stuff around me exist without my existence? "Where is my beautiful house? Who is my beautiful wife?" And if I didn't have the knowledge of my Being, what would life be like? I know nothing else. What would downtown look like if we humans did not have the knowledge of our existence -- that we were not conscious of being sentient beings? What there is rather nothingness than being? This questioning and supposing and putting myself into possibilities and possible existences is indeed anxiety producing. With all of this questioning -- which is the condition of Dasein of the thrown project of Being -- has anxiety as its emotional state.
54

The turning or falling or churning of Being happens during the authentic event of Dasein. Or conversely: "That anxiety makes its appearance is the pivot upon which everything turns."
56 55

Anxiety is "what does not deceive" the emotional experience happens, it presents itself. Anxiety is "Dasein's fleeing in the face of itself and in the face of its authenticity."
57

52 53 54 55

Schirmacher, interview by author. Saas-Fee, Switzerland, August 2000. David Byrne, singer of the Talking Heads, Remain In Light (Warner Brothers Records, 1980). Ibid. Soren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, ed. and trans. Reidar Thomte and Albert B. Anderson Jacques Lacan, Television, trans. Cennis Hollier, Rosalind Krauss, Annette Michelson, Jeffery Mehlman. Heidegger. Being and Time, 229.

(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 43.


56

ed. Joan Copjec (New York, London: W.W. Norton and Company, 1990), 82.
57

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27

All of this asking logically leads to a most horrific conclusion, that again we are forced to contemplate the possibility that the converse of Being is non-existence -- that the huge abyss of nothingness is perhaps there. But Heidegger prefers to focus on Being and time, not only as if they are inseparable -- they are-- but he puts time as an addition to being, instead of returning to the terrifying habitual response. It is in a positive way, as if he observes, "we have this and that." Sartre, on the other hand, responds with, "there is this Being thing and then, there is Nothingness." Therefore, he throws us into the big abyss absent of life, of Being and within this life we are left with despair and helplessness. Kierkegaard, approaching this from a third angle, takes these notions in another direction but does not stop there. He acknowledges that by merely asking the question of Being we are toying with the seemingly opposite concept, by saying "anxiety and nothingness have always corresponded to each other."
58

He writes of innocence and dreaming

(innocence in this case would be the enemy of anxiety, whimsy and Dasein.) It is this dreaming which is the thing that " there is indeed nothing against which to strive. What is is? Nothing. But what effect does nothing have? It begets anxiety."
59

He expresses that in dreaming and

wondering, we are committing the act of questioning , but with an openness to possibilities. Kierkegaard puts forth, "The spirit in man is dreaming." And later adds, "anxiety is a qualification of dreaming spirit," so then, anxiety is in man and a qualification of man. But there is more, for this spirit of Kierkegaard is the wondering, pondering, open questioning man, this man with a nonclosure, a man with possibilities, with potential. And anxiety is the idea of possibility pure potentiality. And this anxiety reveals Dasein. Kierkegaards innocence is a state in which anxiety does not occur, it is the pharmaceutical companies desired state induced by anti-anxiety medications.
60

58 59 60

Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, 96. Ibid., 41. Ibid.

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28

"Therefore, I must point out that it is altogether different from fear and similar concepts that refer to something definite. Whereas anxiety is freedom's actuality as the possibility of possibility." this sense anxiety is the emotional state engendered by the contemplation of the fact that something could happen. That discomfort in everydayness which creates immobility at one extreme, and a freedom of non-closure, of openness "I could do whatever, but then what if" at another. The jury is in: anxiety is both a state of questioning and possibilities. Isn't that what Dasein does? "Throwness, as a kind of Being, Belongs to an entity which in each case is its possibilities, and is them in such a way that it understands itself in these possibilities and in terms of them, projecting itself upon them."
62 61

In

It is unfortunate that hitherto the state of possibilities is

commonly thought of as having ony negative possibilities.

Anxiety or Fear
It seems that anxiety itself is something to be feared. The physical expressions of anxiety expose the human condition of Being, and that is something to be feared -- by most. Anxiety in Dasein comes from within Dasein itself -- from the self, and not from an-Other fearsome thing. Conversely, fear is not something to be anxious about, although some of us do not know it. The fearsome object happens, it presents itself, and the preceding or lingering feelings are united with the threat of that fearsome object.

Anxiety is different from fear because the experience of fear requires an object to be afraid of. We do not have anxiety of something, we have "fear" of something.
63

61 62 63

Ibid., 42. Heidegger, Being and Time, 181. Ibid., 231.

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"for anything "fearsome" is always encountered as an entity within our world." But, let us not forget that we must have a notion of our Being in order to have fear of something other than ourselves. "The turning-away of falling [a characteristic fact of Dasein] is grounded rather in anxiety, which in turn is what makes fear possible."
65

64

For example, take the September 11 terrorist attack on those beautiful examples of anxious architecture, where an unsuspecting population is pounced upon by a horrific act which truly was a destruction of a monument of spirit. But the fearful atmosphere of New York City and of the country, post 9-11, are not without grounding. The event actually happened, and the idea that a people whose resource is destruction could triumph over that monument of spirit, transforming a safe and what was perceived as insular life, instantly into a frightened and shocked culture -fighting against an enemy. And that real enemy, had presented itself -- claiming many lives and destroying the elegant skyline. There is no anxiety in that event, or in the immediate, reactive future following it. The fear of an enemy, or the sadness of lost lives and city integrity is without anxiety.

th

In these recent events two examples of where anxiety is not present appear: in fear and in the face of an enemy -- the adversarial position, in fighting, in war. And in sadness, in mourning. In both cases the cause of the emotional state resides outside the self, outside the psyche. "Fear is anxiety fallen into the 'world,' inauthentic, and as such, hidden from itself."
66

And what about love? That is definitely an angst-ridden state! Love is by nature anxious. Love reminds us of what we are here for, and the physical symptoms are almost indistinguishable from those of anxiety. Of course love is more complicated than anxiety because not only are the

64 65

Ibid., 230. Ibid.

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30

expectations of the self subject to the unknown, but the expectations of the other and the expectations of the entire relationship come into question. It is the ultimate in the fear of the loss of the ego. But more on love and desire later.

Ontic anxiety (anxiety in everyday life) shows us that as opposed to fear, anxiety is characterized by the fact that what threatens is nowhere and nothing. Fear, on the other hand, has some thing, or event, a monster, a person, an enemy which the self is afraid of. But "Anxiety 'does not know' what that in the face of which anxious is."
68 67

Anxiety has nothing -- No-Thing as its object. But the sentiment is never expressed as, "I am anxious about nothing." Actually, in sentiment anxiety is usually expressed with some commonplace or everyday thing or event as its object. "I am anxious about the meeting tomorrow." But the meeting tomorrow is just a stand-in for the failure of the ego -- the loss of the self. Lacan, unlike other psychoanalytic and philosophical traditions states that anxiety is not without an object. But that object is object petit a (the indefinite object which is symbolic). "For the subject, there is substituted, for anxiety which does not deceive, what is to function by way of the object petit a. Thereupon hinges the function of the act."
69

The meeting / stand-in / or


70

constructed image Lacan calls the symbolic image or the specular image: i(a) everyday thing or hologram that we project onto the object petit a.

which is the

66 67 68 69 70

Ibid., 234. http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Troy/2967/heidegger.html August 20, 2000. Heidegger, Being and Time, 231. Lacan, Television, 82. Ibid., 86.

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In Lacan's fifth element of the petit a, whereas he names the object petit a as the object of anxiety -- where previously it has been understood that anxiety has no object -- Lacan redirects the "no object" into what is truly an absence of a real object. And in this absence, this empty space, this no-thing we call the object petit a, the stand-in image is formed -- the specular image.

71

Anxiety and Desire


What constitutes the relationship between anxiety and desire? It becomes not only a psychological issue here, but also a metaphysical one. Because we know that the, "function of the Libido is to perpetuate the organism's existence in spite of it's pursuit of the instinctual path toward death." The similarities between the sexual tension anxiety and primary anxiety lead us to the same conclusion -- that the anxiety in both cases is in opposition to death; in one case it is the idea of staring into the big Abyss itself -- the death of the self -- and in the other case it is the need to perpetuate the self with the forthcoming eventuality of death in mind. Let us embrace the sex instinct for a moment and focus on the mechanisms of daily desire. What is important here is not desire in terms of a metaphysical sense of humanity, but the everyday psychological desire, meaning lust, and the desire for mere things -- stuffs, wants, desires to be something or someone, desire for whatever it is that "I have not."
72

Lust, obviously is the most titillating of the categories which pertain to the aspiration to have something. And we all have experienced the build up of sexual tension (the unsatisfied Libido)

71 72

Ibid., 87. J. Preston Cole, The Problematic Self in Kierkegaard and Freud (New Haven and London: Yale University

Press ,1971), 40.

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which creates an anxious state. "Anxiety is the knife-edge that separates desire from jouissance"

73

Remembering that "the fundamental point of psychoanalysis is that desire is not something given in advance, but something that has to be constructed--and it is precisely the role of fantasy to give the coordinates of the subject's desire, to specify its object, to locate the position the subject assumes in it."
74

It is the object, or the vision, the fantasy the symbolic image i(a) which has been

constructed by the subject to create something to represent the thing desired. It is the space between what is and what the subject desires where the anxiety happens. In other words, it is in the non-closure of the question of wanting which is anxiety inducing.

Here, again the object petit a, "the surplus, that elusive make-believe" makes it's appearance. So the spectral image is marking the object that does not exist and does not effect anything in reality. The object petit a, in the case of anxiety is the non-existent thing to be anxious about. It is that gap between what the subject does not have, the thing that the subject wants and the anxiety of wanting it. So the object petit a is two fold, it is the resolution that anxiety wants, yet is also the cause for the anxiety itself. Therefore we see the formation of " the object-cause of desire: an object that is, in a way, posited by desire itself." The object does not exist in itself, but only when looked at from an angle does it assume the shape of something.
76

75

One cannot stress enough that

the elusive thing is the object petit a and the thing only seen at an angle is the specular image: i(a). And this angle which allows the image to exist is the fact that it only exists in the fantasy, in the imagination, outside tangible reality itself, it is the looking-inside-and-projecting-out angle. Zizek describes the Lacanian notion of desire, "anxiety occurs not when the object-cause of desire is lacking; it is not the lack of the object that gives rise to anxiety but, on the contrary, the danger

73 74

Lacan, Television, 94. Slavoj Zizek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan Through Popular Culture. (Cambridge: Ibid., 8. Ibid., 12.

MIT Press, 1991), 6.


75 76

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33

of our getting too close to the object and thus losing the lack itself. Anxiety is brought on by the disappearance of desire."
77

This is the paradox that desire presents us with: that truly desire itself is what is desired. The story of Orpheus tells it: He had a wife named Eurydice whom he loved very much, but sadly she died. His sadness was so great that he traveled to Hades and with his great musical talent, persuaded King Hades to bring her back to life. But there was a condition: the whole journey home from Hades Orpheus was forbidden to look back at Eurydice who he was told was following him. But he could not bear the wait to see her, his desire was so great that only a few steps from home he turned to watch his beloved her specular image vanish and with a cry and be sent back to the land of death.
78

It was this anxious gap between what Orpheus wanted and the thing itself that he

could not bear. By turning around, he chose to have the desire, for that is what he truly wanted. His anxiety had no container, nothing to assuage his agitation, no cushion to let him achieve the comforting thing that he wanted this so-called happiness or satisfaction -- and his only choice (the genuine happy choice) was to go on wanting. It is not strange that he was not destroyed by his decision -- he no longer had hope of getting Eurydice back, but spent the rest of his days writing poetry, because as we know, anxiety and desire are the seeds of creativity. And obviously, (there was no point) Orpheus never remarried.
79

Lacan reminds us that "anxiety is the threshold that must be crossed on the path that distinguishes two different modes of relating to the Other."
80

The two different modes become the wanting and

the having. Lacan's fifth term of the function of petit a whereas "the Other is the site of a decoy in

77 78

Ibid., 8. W.H.D. Rouse, Gods, Heroes and Men of Ancient Greece (New York and Scarborough Ontario: The New Ibid. Lacan, Television, 94.

American Library, 1957), 142-145.


79 80

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34

the form of petit a. In the fifth term, we shall see the petit a of the Other, sole witness, in sum, that that site is not solely the site of a mirage."
81

With anxiety as the emotional state of desiring,

questioning in the linguistic tangible world, not having and of having the desire itself: I want such and such, the thing is the answer to the question, and it is the question which is the authentic act. So this image, the image of the not knowing showing itself is the uncanny. What appears to be the petit a is not, it is its complement -- the specular image: i(a).
82

It is the fantasy that we mistake for the petit a, which is referred to as unheimlich. And this is the function of desire, is to create the image that substitutes for the petit a. The desiring happens and a question, and a holographic answer at the same time -- uncanny! Avital Ronell in her discourse on the test -- where the risk is a risk of possible ridicule-- takes this into the negative. Instead of having the positive desiring fantasy, the thing which is the i(a) is that of humiliation. (The image of what a disgusting, worthless fool you look like.) "Ridicule stalks in like a ghost" that ghost, the uncanny, the hologram in the place of fear of the loss of the ego.
83

None of this is to say that fulfillment is impossible, just let's not be fooled by it. "Orgasm is in itself anxiety, to the extent that forever, by a dint of a central fault, desire is separated from fulfillment."
84

And what about the common laugh so many of us have after orgasm -- the

whimsical punctuation to the anxious act. We have accepted the desire itself. Like Orpheus, we know that we sent Eurydice back to Hades so that we could desire her again. What is the relationship between pleasure and whimsy?

81 82 83 84

Ibid., 87. Ibid., 86. Avital Ronell, Stupidity. (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 291. Lacan, Television, 86.

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35

Timing and Failure


Heidegger describes the feeling of anxiety as falling/fleeing -- all things happening in time.
85

Throwness is the act of a sucession of happenings in time. And time is something that anxiety requires. The nature of the affect -- anxiety itself-- is based on the future, or of the past, of a continuum which "is not now." "Time familiar to us as the succession in the sequence of nows, is what we mean when measuring and calculating time."
86

As anxiety is the emotional state of

Dasein, Dasein itself requires the generosity of time to make room for its own awareness. Klein tells us there is future anxiety -- about what will happen: "Will it happen?" and anxiety about the past "Did that really happen?"

It eventually becomes apparent that the two are actually one and the same because the anxiety about the past is only anxiety about the future consequences of whatever event "happened." Or anxiety about the future is merely anxiety about the what could happen in the future, based on past experiences. Even the anxiety of guilt is wrongfully an anxiety of the past because it always presupposes a future where the subject will be judged for his decision.

It is doubtful anxiety can be without time. If it appears as a moment, frozen in time, it is still referencing that time exists. It is this frozen moment -- the "about to happen" moment which contains the notion of time.

Heidegger tells us that, "Being is determined as presence by time." And then "Yet being as presencing remains determined as presence by time, by what is temporal." For time is what passes

85 86

Heidegger, Being and Time, 181-234. Ibid., 3.

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away, but also what stays with the knowledge of its passing. And this knowledge of its passing is Being in time. We already know that anxiety is the affect of Being and then, anxiety asks, "what will happen?" Within the question it is apparent that whatever will happen, the happening is an effect of Being. "It happens." And this knowing of Being in time, is the construct of Dasein and the feeling of anxiety. Drug addicts in recovery are taught to live "one day at a time" as a prescription for how to be less anxious.
88

87

Anxiety occurs at the moment of the undecided or ambivalence, for the child -- when it figures out that the mother that deserves love and the mother that deserves hate are one and the same person. In this case, it is this non-closure of time, it is this waiting where anxiety occurs. "Anguish is precisely my consciousness of being my own future, in the mode of not being The decisive conduct [whether to throw myself into the precipice or not] will emanate from a self which I am not yet. Thus, the self which I am depends on the self which I am not yet to the exact extent that the self which I am not yet does not depend on the self which I am."
90 89

Any decision or answer or realization of a desire or jouissance would cause the anxiety to cease, even if only for a moment. Sartre divides anxiety by time -- "Anguish in the face of the future" or "anguish in the face of the past."
91

For Sartre, the anguish of the past is a guilty anxiety that

negates any satisfaction the subject had achieved by finding the answer/making the decision in the first place.

87 88 89 90 91

Ibid. Ronen Tal, interview by author, New York. March 22, 2002. Emanuel, Anxiety, 43. Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 68. Ibid., 69.

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Avital Ronell discusses the construct of the test. She describes it as a perpetuation of an anxious state: of questioning and answering and the fear of the wrong answer. The test itself, whether it is for any student or for Abraham before God, requires this state of questioning. And the fear of ridicule, humiliation (which is truly a fear of worthlessness in front of a public audience), fear of stupidity in failure of appearing stupid in the face of the "teacher" who is just a judge in a classroom setting, exposes the nature of the test to be anxiety ridden. It is the performative act which could be humiliating for the test taker, or by the same chance, be rewarding. It is the nonclosure state of the test which makes it anxiety producing. Freud says, our narcissism wants closure. It is anxiety producing not to have closure.
92

Questions, which are the linguistic state

of non-closure, run the risk of the loss of the ego in the face of the judge (the big other).

And the figure who represents the risk in the face of the test -- the exposition of ridiculousness,

93

or at least possible ridiculousness, is the performer. But the performer, by nature, continuously puts herself into the face of possible humiliation -- in the face of the public test, and the spirit of risking failure. This Kierkegaardian spirit of freedom makes the actor in particular, a whimsical figure, and not the anxious figure in the face of the test taking. But "performance anxiety" is something that the layman attributes to himself, associating it with the performative test and that risk. (Whether he could stand tall, or erect, in the face of a judgmental audience.)

The fear of appearing stupid or being humiliated (castration anxiety, separation anxiety, and performance anxiety) has the power to reduce the serious and respected super-ego to the super-ego of the bumbling idiot.
94

But this bumbling idiot, the stupid person, the one who failed the test, is

worse than the persona of the Fool, because this test taker had within himself the hopes of being the A+ student, but has failed and become the humiliated character, invisible, worthless, and with

92 93

Avital Ronell. Lectures at The European Graduate School, August 2000. Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Ronell, Stupidity, 291.

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his ego destroyed, his entitlement to any object of desire (libido) wiped out. In this way humiliation and anxiety are closely linked.

What about guessing the answer? Take a chance and see if the answer is the right one? Ronell says it is the neurotic who believes in chance. The meaningful happening, where It had to be. In this case, chance becomes providential for the neurotic, a necessity, instead of merely lucky. (An instance which was thought of as merely lucky would be the response of the whimsical test taker).

The rock star, with his great assuredness and talent and voice, is luckier than the rest, for the test passes over the rock star, like the angel of mercy despite his performative nature. But the life of the rock star is anxious because of desire -- his own as well as the fans' anxiety -- whereas the everyday person is anxious because of the test. The performer and the test taker are anxious in the face of humiliation.

95

The Merits of Anxiety


This entire exploration of anxiety is not without direction. We have gathered indications to the importance of anxiety, how it reveals the human condition, as well as the possible places where anxiety shows itself in our culture. Because anxiety, although not necessarily the most pleasurable thing we can have permeate our daily activities, is a necessary emotional state for mental expansion and creativity. Embracing our anxiety, or at least a little taste of it, reveals the complexities of humanity. Not only does anxiety provide an impetus for growth, but also inspires

94 95

Not to be confused with the persona of The Idiot which is totally different -- see Chapter 3 on Whimsy. not to mention his army of groupies

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art, music, philosophy and science. It becomes its own creative style and shows us some valuable clues about what it means to be sentient beings.

In child development, "the capacity to bear these feelings [of not -knowing] determines the capacity to learn."
96

Anxiety in this sense is the emotional indication that growth and

development have a chance to happen. Most activities and accomplishments worth doing arise out of a personal struggle; we know from the psychoanalysts that no mental development happens without some mental pain -- this mental pain being anxiety. In other words, the child never learns independence from the mother, never learns of her identity without having a certain amount of separation anxiety. Anxiety teaches us to be individuals, in our teenage years, and can give us strength by way of having the courage to overcome the anxious situation. Anxiety stimulates human development -- within the subject as well as outside; the search for objects not imbued by persecutory anxiety, enlarges our scope of the world.
97

Depressive anxiety, which cultivates the

ability to tolerate ambivalent feelings in one object or person, creates a desire to make a repartition, and stimulate creativity. Ricky Emanuel refers to anxiety as a kind of mental pain, and uses the two terms interchangeably. He notes, there is a doctrine of psychoanalysis concurring that no development can take place without pain (of course, too much or too little impedes development).
98

Wolfgang Schirmacher stresses that creativity responds to anxiety. Anxiety is disclosure of understanding,
99

or mis-understanding. And it is the artist, the philosopher, and the scientist who

respond to anxiety in the way they look for and express modes of being, exploring the human condition, and beyond. It is not to say that others do not engage in this activity, it is just that

96 97 98 99

Emanuel, Anxiety, 62. Ibid., 45. Ibid., 49. Schirmacher, Interview by author, Saas-Fee Switzerland, August 21, 2000.

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history rarely records the achievements of the layman who makes creative progress. "Being anxious discloses, primordially and directly, the world as world and in the face of the world, anxiety then arises,"
100

producing a call to produce; we make stuff and search for things and solve

problems because of questions which arise out of anxiety. Just as anxiety is a call against becoming the ridiculed figure (the idiot), "the most exalted and secretly ridiculed of beings owes his existence to the undecidable nature of the call, its meaning or address, its intention and value."
101

So the outcome of the "call" or rather, to dare to question which is the inspiration that

the affect of anxiety is responsible for, in success and just as much for failure.

Anxiety as style. It is important to be reminded of anxiety, and its existence, its assets, its pitfalls. Some artists and filmmakers have made stylistic choices to explore anxiety itself, how to represent it, how to express it and then perhaps by this expression create a cushion for some of the artists own anxiety. Freud qualifies anxiety as having an "unpleasurable character"
102

which is some of

the inspiration and subject matter of superb artistic achievements. The Michelangelo's Pieta does not depict a happy Jesus and Virgin enjoying a spring day. Hamlet's anxiety, and how he is paralyzed by it, as well as the unconsummated love between Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, are perhaps not "cute" and comfortable subjects for art, but are expressions of anxiety and in their struggles, close to each and every one of us. The pop star Pink sings to us of her rock n' roll, teenstyle angst, "So Doctor, Doctor won't you please prescribe me something, A day in the life of someone else, I'm a hazard to myself, Don't wanna be my friend no more, Wanna be somebody else."
103

100 101 102 103

Heidegger, Being and Time, 232. Ronell, Stupidity, 293. Freud, The Problem of Anxiety, 69. http://www.songlyrics.co.nz/lyrics/p/pink/dontletmegetme.htm April 2, 2002.

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There are definitely pitfalls of anxiety, of having too much of it, or having too little; ironically the possible outcomes are: insanity, seriousness, and/or comfort. It is always the danger, which anxiety itself reminds us of, that the complete breakdown of the ego is looming on the horizon. Thanks to the external containers, some of us are lucky enough to be saved from that fate. Because at the extreme, anxiety without a container could be devastating for the subject, making them dysfunctional altogether. Some possible outcomes of anxiety are as such: "In hysteria the Libido finds an outlet in abnormal substitutive, physical manifestations. In the obsessional neuroses it is invested in substitutive ideas. And in anxiety neuroses the Libido finds no outlet whatever, thereby creating a state of suspense or anxiety (CP, I 61-74)."
104

In hysteria, there is

container for anxiety, and a complete breakdown of reality takes place; in the obsessional neuroses, the container for anxiety during development is also not successful and the symbolic image becomes what the subject concentrates on; and in the anxiety neuroses, a perpetual state of suspense is created -- the state of non-closure, the state of desiring (maybe this state itself is what is really to be desired). As the gypsy curse proclaims, "May you get what you want."

Sartre believes that one adverse consequence of anxiety is seriousness. Sartre, in Being and Nothingness, describes "seriousness" as opposed to anxiety: " the reflective apprehension of freedom by itself." Seriousness being "reassuring, materialistic substantiation of values."
105

At

the remote end of seriousness is the real enemy: comfort, which turns to complacency and couchpotatodom, blocking any kind of positive call to action of the human spirit. This kind of behavior we have been witnessing for decades in America; It can be observed in the perpetuation of the status-quo, the waning of artistic, political and scientific interests, and the valuation of superficial living -- the gross consumption of luxury and material goods, "keeping up with the Jones's," and the rise of enrollment in business schools.

104 105

Cole, The Problematic Self in Kierkegaard and Freud, 35. Harari, Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety, 7. From Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 39.

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We should remember that anxiety is also a warning, not of some outside danger which could possibly be a physical threat to the self, this is fear, but a warning from the possibility that a total breakdown of Being-in-the-World, as we all have some experience of it, could occur, i.e. insanity. Without the container, the risk is insanity; a little anxiety is a healthy reminder that this is maybe not far off. Returning back to the physical conditions of anxiety -- the sweats, the nervousness, which force us to rise to the occasion and have the courage to overcome the fear of loss of the ego, despite the fact that maybe without our beta blockers or anti-anxiety medications we do not seem so cool and calm. It is the sustaining of non-closure in small doses, which anxiety aids, making it possible to have a greater awareness of self-consciousness, of form and space and time, enabling a heightened experience for living in the world.

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Chapter 2 An Inquiry of Whimsy


"Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More fools than cool reason ever comprehends. The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, Are of imagination all compact."
106

What is the whimsical impulse? How is it different from humor? How is it related to fun? How does it show itself? Where does laughter come into the equation? This funny attribute which is so essential to humanity is rarely discussed in theoretical terms. "I did it on a whim," we might say. The act became a surprise, maybe even to ourselves. There is evidence of the whimsical spirit seen everyday, in what drives us to create things which make us laugh, or look funny, or silly or to play with. Often whimsy is equated to being child-like, for the child has a freedom from common sense that adults have been removed from. The spirit of the trickster, a personality with a cause for the whimsical act, a sense of playfulness and a touch of irreverence deserves attention in the musings of what whimsy is and does. For if whimsy were a person who would she be? The element of play or surprise as evidenced in this persona is indicative of humanities' sense of hope as well as an inevitable death. What separates whimsy from humor or comedy or irony and sarcasm? In popular culture, where is whimsy? Finally this section asks, how do we have the whimsical everyday in all things? How does whimsy express itself in the corporeal presence of being (a lived body experience)? How can whimsy be a physical everyday thing? Why would anyone want that? Or why not? As an emotional state what does whimsy know? What is it aware of? Why is it necessary?

106

Theseus in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 5, Scene 1.

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Is whimsy all fun and games without philosophical importance? And if it is important, what gives it its dark side, its depth, to make it so? Using texts from psychology, cultural theory and philosophy, a phenomenological sketch of the place and importance of whimsy as well as what sets whimsy apart from all of the other phenomena which are commonly confused with it, will be made here.

The Trickster The figure of the trickster who appears in stories and tales and myths can give us a clue as to the nature of whimsy. For if whimsy could be contained in an archetype, the trickster fits the mold best. He is an old figure of folklore, and a new figure of entertainment, often for children, he is the clever liar, the magician, the thief with a good heart and the game player. He plays tricks, gags, prods, teases and laughs. Generally thought to be a descendent of Hermes, that Greek halfgod who liked to have "evil" fun -- fun based on deceit with the goal of self-pleasure as well as happiness for all. The word itself, '''Trick' is dlos in Homeric Greek, and the oldest known use of the term refers to quite a specific trick: baiting a hook to catch a fish."
107

This first trick is evidence

of how the person using the trick is oriented to intelligence -- he outsmarts, outwits, "throws us for a loop," (or at least the fish) and manipulates to get what he wants. The trickster came to us with many names: the Greeks personified Hermes, who made Apollo's cows walk backwards to hide their tracks as he stole them; the Native Americans created the Coyote, "who teaches humans how to catch a salmon, he makes the first fish weir out of logs and branches."
108

And the Norse had

Loki, who outsmarts his pursuers by changing into a fish; and the Raven is the trickster for the Inuits, just to name a few.

107

Lewis Hyde, Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art, (New York : Farrar, Straus and

Giroux, 1998), 18.

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The trickster, a folkloric device, who teaches children to outwit others around them in order to become successful in life, personifies the growing intelligence of predator over prey. He learns, develops and grows from each hunt and with this Kierkegaardian spirit of his he wins his tricks -because he must in order to survive. And he plays -- he wants something in order to survive -food or whatever and gets it by playful games or by outsmarting his prey, or the rightful owners of the desired thing. Because he knows how to play and he needs to enjoy the game. In stories as well as real life, the trickster reveals "the world'as it is,' a world of constant need, work, limitations and death."
109

An interesting trickster comes to us from the Nigerian Yoruba. He is a "homeless wanderer; like Hermes he is a mediator between gods and men; he is cunning and he inhabits the market-place, the crossroads and the thresholds of houses. Since boundaries are places where strangers meet and where quarrels break out, Eshu-Elegba is the trouble-maker."
110

Here we see this trickster as a

creature of the in-between. "He breaks down distinctions -- between wisdom and folly, sanity and insanity, rule and disorder."
111

He is in-between wanting and having, good and evil, lies and truth.

Being aware of all of his options, the trickster has developed a keen sense of knowing the world, for knowledge is an essential part of the game -- of being able to play and win. But the trickster also knows how to have fun with the hunt, and this playfulness is a prerequisite for whimsy. Because any studied hunter and gatherer can survive, but to enjoy the pursuit itself and its deceits, is his defining feature. Otherwise we could just call him a husband.

108 109 110 111

Ibid. Ibid., 27. Richard Boston, An Anatomy of Laughter, (London: Collins, 1974), 98. Ibid., 93

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The trickster, laughs at his own tricks, and we laugh with him as long as we benefit from them. Hermes foiled Apollo, but gave gifts to Zeus. But the question remains: Is this guy whimsical or just a narcissistic liar and a thief? He "may strike us as malicious and violent, but [his actions are] only a step away from the great custard-pie fights and destruction binges of the silent cinema."
112

For the trickster inspires laughter, because after the game is played, he brings home his winnings to judges and recipients. And so they laugh, like watchers of a good pie-fight. Richard Boston concurs that "our laughter is a recognition of our primitive selves;"
113

a remembrance of the

physical acts in which we expressed ourselves -- these pie fights -- physical interactions which precede language. But are we sure that the trickster is not just mean? He has very little conscience; "he is virtually incapable of reflecting on the pain he causes himself and others because he has a difficult time admitting his own flaws and failings."
114

He is childlike in this way,

educated in the wiliness of the game, yet not in the responsibility of life, showing us that there is always room for improvement.

Rap artist Ludacris teases and taunts, shows off for his listeners. He is a trickster in AfricanAmerican urban culture. He sings, "Breakin' the rules, I shake fools while I'm takin 'em, whewwwww!"
115

Just as Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka or Bart Simpson and Q of Star Trek: The

Next Generation are all tricksters -- learning and changing and having fun all the while. "Trickster starts out hungry, but before long he is master of the kind of creative deception that, according to a long tradition, is a prerequisite to art."
116

112 113 114 115 116

Boston, An Anatomy of Laughter, 100. Ibid., 113. http://www.cgjungpage.org/articles/rutzky1.html, April 9, 2002. http://www.lyricsxp.com, April 17, 2002. From "Roll Out(my Business)" Word Of Mouf. Hyde, Trickster Makes This World, 17.

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Comedy, Humor, the Joke, the Gag, the Riddle and the Comedian
Comedy, including the joke and such other performative aspects of producing laughter through representation (and presentation), once had a simple definition according to Aristotle, and since, has grown to have may facets, and genres. The purpose of which seems to be wholly the same, to produce laughter from an audience. The task of this section is to understand comedy, humor and its forms, and to see how the production of laughter works and what its relationship to whimsy is. Obviously there is some connection between these things as seen in our desire for fun and pleasure and surprise, but first it is vital to remember that these representations are constructs, meant to be performed -- communications to be played in public, for an audience -- and not modes of Beingin-the-World, as seen everyday. Even the joke teller among friends is still dependent upon the performative aspect of this kind of humor-- but perhaps within their desire to tell or make the joke, whimsy peeks out from behind the curtain.

According to Aristotle, "comedy is as we said it was, an imitation of persons who are inferior; not however, going all the way to full villainy, but imitating the ugly, of which ludicrous is one part. The ludicrous, that is a falling or a piece of ugliness which causes no pain or destruction; thus to go no farther, the comic mask is something ugly and distorted, but painless."
117

Looking back to

Aristophanes' Lysistrata, it must have seemed that the women of Greece withholding sex in order to persuade the men to end a war was at least an ugly proposition.
118

In accordance with

Aristotle's definition, this plot did not cause pain and destruction -- quite the contrary, and so with it, is revealed the power of the comic -- that somewhere underneath the hoopla is a crumb of truth. But ugliness is a small term for our vast array of humorous attributes which can produce a hearty guffaw.

117

Aristotle, Poetics, trans. Gerald F. Else (Ann Arbor; University of Michigan Press, 1967) 23-24.

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Freud undertook the project of dissecting the mechanisms of the joke whose construct is something particularly human made, and derived from words or actions, and told or performed. There is a sender (often this is the maker as well) and a receiver. He suggests that jokes can be formulated in several ways: "Joke-work makes use of deviations from normal thinking -- of displacement and absurdity -- as technical methods for producing a joking form of expression."
119

(Hand me that Piano!) The joke stirs up our common sense and we laugh. It "is an activity which aims at deriving pleasure from mental processes, whether intellectual or otherwise"
120

in the

formation and realization of the process. One way a joke works is when it contains a displacement which produces a double meaning.
121

It could also have a contrast of ideas (sense and nonsense)

or two seemingly unrelated subjects juxtaposed upon each other.

A joke consists of an "activity, relation to the content of our thoughts, the characteristic of playful judgement, the coupling of dissimilar things, contrasting ideas, 'sense and nonsense', the succession of bewilderment and enlightenment, the bringing forth of what is hidden, and the peculiar brevity of wit"
122

The linguistic form of the joke consists of first, a setup or lead in, and then, the punchline, or conclusion of the story/nonsensical act. For example: "Doctor, doctor, I keep thinking I'm a dog. Lie down on the couch and I'll examine you.

118 119

Aristophanes, Lysistrata (Toronto: Dover Publications, 1994). Sigmund Freud, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, trans. and ed. James Strachey (New York & Freud, Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, 113. Ibid., 61. Ibid., 11.

London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1960), 69.


120 121 122

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I can't, I'm not allowed on the furniture."

123

But the importance of the workings of the joke, and perhaps the biggest clue to how it could relate to whimsy is in recognizing that "The joke lies not in the question but in the answer."
124

Without

the punchline (or the answer), the conclusion of the contrast of ideas, we are only presented with a situation, a scenario. So within the formation of the joke -- the question -- what happens? It seems that the titillation and expectations of the teller and the listener are heightened. The question presented, pregnant with a forthcoming laugh -- is this our evidence of the whimsical? The desire to create the joke?

It is important to note the difference between a joke and a riddle: A riddle is a question which contains a game, and usually it becomes an ironic answer, something clever and twisted, rather than a performed story, it requires audience participation and is something that could be guessed, or figured out: "What do you call a fly with no wings?" "A Walk!"

Freud puts jokes into two main categories: 1. The obscene, 2. The grotesque. He says, "it is either a hostile joke (serving the purpose of aggressiveness, satire or defense) or an obscene joke (serving the purpose of exposure)." blasphemous), and skeptical jokes.
125

He later adds the minor categories of cynical (critical, Freud proposes that the joke is a "rebellion of reason."
127

126

An adult activity which is in response to the "duty" of work or logic. "The main characteristic of

123 124 125 126 127

http://www.workjoke.com/projoke30.htm, May 30, 2002. Ibid., 56. Ibid., 115. Ibid., 137. Ibid., 154.

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joke-work--that of liberating pleasure by getting rid of inhibitions" kinds of mysterious ways.

128

But humor works in all

In an impressive phenomenological defining list Charles R. Gruner gives us ten categories of humor: 1) Exaggeration 2) Incongruity " associating two generally accepted incompatibles" 3) Surprise, which he says "in its more sophisticated form it becomes irony." 4) Slapstick which is dependent on the physical. 5) The absurd, "that which lacks reason, which is foolish or ridiculous in its lack of good sense, includes nonsense, the nonsensical use of logic and language; the preposterous, arising from the incongruity of reality and fantasy; and whimsy, a fanciful or fantastic device, object, or creation especially in writing art or decoration." 6) Human predicaments, including degradation, misfortune on others, comic predicaments ("however, no hostile feelings are intended to be aroused or expressed.") 7) Ridicule, including negative ridicule, in which there is a victim, [see "The Bully," later in this chapter], playful ridicule which "is based on the sympathetic acceptance of human foibles," and satire, which is a "sophisticated artistic form of humor arising from both types of ridicule." 8) Defiance, here we see the violation of authority present primarily adult authority. 9) Violence 10) Verbal humor, in this category we have sarcasm, with, puns, jokes and name-calling.
129

128 129

Ibid., 164. Charles R. Gruner, Understanding Laughter (Chicago: Nelson Hall, 1978), 5-6.

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It seems with these categories the phenomenon of humor is extensively covered and little is left to be said. Still, there is a need to deconstruct the genesis of laughter in order to avoid a patent explanation of a richly layered and complex phenomenon.
130

In regard to our exploration of whimsy and its mechanisms one has to ask: could it be possible that the whimsical impulse comes before the joke is formed? That it acts as inspiration for comedy and the joke and the creation of humor? In humor category #5, the absurd, Gruner mentions whimsy as an aspect of this category of, but what if this kind of humor -- the humor of the absurd, is that which holds onto whimsy without the closure of the punchline. Could it be not a category of humor at all, but an emotional state which inspires humans to create? Is the inspiration of the creative itself producing a certain type of a product?

The Fool or the Jester


Reviewing comedy, one should not leave out the figure of the Fool or Jester. Traditionally such a personality was under the employ of a King and hired for his entertainment in order to generate some kind of relief from the everyday anxiety and responsibility of that ruler. (We appreciate the ruler as an anxious persona and therefore he needs comic relief.) In literature and drama, we know that the fool has another purpose as well: The audience knows him as a prophet who hides behind the guise of performative stupidity. Truly the Fool is the only character who really knows what is going on in the play or situation, but he is not a catalyst of the plot himself; traditionally he does not lend to the action of the story, just the psychological make-up of the story. But the figure of

130

See Diane Davis, Breaking Up (at) Totality: A Rhetoric of Laughter, (Carbondale: Southern Illinois

University Press, 2000).

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the fool is definitely a character of whimsy within the drama; he plays with the other figures in the script, giving clues indicating that the game that is afoot, and of the possible outcomes of the dilemma that the protagonist is faced with. The fool has a quality of knowing, like our trickster, in the sense that he understands the characters better than they understand themselves, and perhaps even exhibits a touch of clairvoyance, but he also hints and toys with the others around him, and does not have any sense of responsibility invested in the result.

"The Fool is most important in an authoritarian society. His position in the power structure is perpetuated in the ordinary pack of playing cards, where he is not only a member of a royal family (having no suit), he is not even a proper member of the pack; there are fifty-two cards, plus the Joker. Yet at the same time, he is the most powerful card of all. His Protean ability to change shape, the fact that he is 'wild', means that he is at once nothing and everything."
131

So our Fool is an outsider, an observer, somehow detached. "If the king is the law, the fool is lawlessness."
132

Or at least outside of the law. "Unimpeded by the inhibitions to which ordinary

members of society are subject, they were uniquely free, Like Lear's 'all-licensed Fool', to tell the truth."
133

He is an outsider, like the king himself -- alone. Like the modern-day stand-up

comedian, he provides comic relief and entertainment to an angst-ridden audience, and also, working alone, points out half-truths in a fun way, before we can recognize the danger in his authentic act.

The Idiot

131 132

Boston, An Anatomy of Laughter, 93. Ibid.

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He is of course not really an idiot. This role, imposed by society, upon individuals -- whether it be the "lunatics, bumpkins, village idiots -- are the butts rather than the sources of laughter. In Tudor England a clear distinction was made between these two kinds of fool -- the 'naturals', who were mentally deficient and often physically deformed, and the 'artificial' fools, who were professionals."
134

Our non-professional village idiot, who is that humiliated and stupid guy, is

merely someone who is marked by the stain of idiocy. He is the pitied figure with a an imperfection (clubbed foot, or dwarfism, or low intelligence) which somehow brings this figure closer to God in the mind of the community. It is this imperfection, or stain, or tragic flaw which wipes clean any wrongdoings or offensive behavior, making the idiot completely innocent, because by his flaw he is both pitied and understood.

This point is illustrated in the film Sling Blade, where a recently released moronic degenerate from a mental institution befriends a child who lives with his widowed mother. Karl, our hero, the idiot, was sent to the mental institution for murder 25 years before, deemed insane and marked with the stain of stupidity and an undiscriminating sense of morals, but in every other way he is generally a lovable man. Eventually, Karl becomes so infuriated with the mother's abusive boyfriend, that he commits his second murder and brutally kills him, deeming him heroic for the family, but a criminal to the rest of us. Being the idiot, marked with the stain of innocence, we admire Karl's authentic act and excuse him from our judgement.
135

He committed the act that we

all could not, being the upstanding citizens that we are, yet all wanted to do.

The Idiot, as opposed to the fool, is not a whimsical figure at all, but a tragic one, a victim of circumstance, of society, and therefore not responsible for himself and his actions. It is his stain, the bodily imperfection or illness which allows the idiot to regress. "Read watch television,

133 134

Ibid., 96. Ibid., 93.

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hallucinate."

136

But he is necessary in the way in which he allows a community to recognize that

each member who is not an idiot is responsible for his actions, therefore reinforcing good over evil, rather than enabling living in the in-between of good and evil, like our trickster may be able to do.

Another modern figure of the idiot, is the main character in the film Zoolander -- Derek Zoolander, that is. He is our hero/idiot male fashion model who falls victim to the evil plot to take over the world through subliminal messages. His stupidity is unmatched, even by his male model colleagues. When confronting a reporter who confesses that she is bulimic, he responds, "you mean, you can read minds?"
137

So this ignorant fool, a representative of the fashion industry, is

both fool and idiot, he has a stain of stupidity. His purpose for the viewers is to remind us that stupidity is not a sin, that being beautiful and fashionable neither makes you better nor worse than anyone else; and with this the egos of the rest of us are reaffirmed.

Derek Zoolander answers the press: "Age: You're only as old as the girl you're sleeping with. So I guess that makes me 18. How old were you when you lost your virginity?: You're only as old as the person you lose your virginity to. So, I guess I was 53."
138

The film and the character were created in the spirit of whimsy, this is comedy, or the tragic ironic figure, but the persona of Derek Zoolander, if he were to exist as a person off the screen, is merely an idiot.

135 136 137 138

Sling Blade, Dir. Billy Bob Thornton. Miramax Films, 1997. Ronell, Stupidity, 182. Zoolander, Dir. Ben Stiller. Paramount Pictures, VH1 , 2001. http://www.zoolander.com April 11, 2002.

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The European Buffoon


Particular to American comedy is a different kind of Idiot or Fool: The European Buffoon. Exhibited by the likes of Austin Powers, Inspector Clouseau, Benny Hill and the members of Monty Python, these characters all have a certain quality which is most appealing to the American sense of humor. This comic persona not only provides entertainment and silliness, but a sense of intrigue and worldliness -- the outsider is always a figure of knowing something that the rest of us do not. Because of his foreignness, the Buffoon can be seen as the trickster -- although often he knows not how he wins the game -- and the hero, because his aim is always for greatness. Julia Child and Wolfgang Puck also fit into this category, being comical to us, yet possessing something heroic, for making the perfect souffl is an admirable feat. It is not clear whether the appeal of the European Buffoon is solely an American phenomenon, specific to an adolescent country which has a touch of fear of things different or alien, or whether it is cross cultural. But it is true that the English have the Irish as their figure of the buffoon, but the Irishman does not have the depth that is projected into the American made foreigner. This Buffoon knows -- he knows something, but it is out of our grasp. But we are aware that he knows, yet still he falls on his face for our amusement. The European Buffoon is the figure of the modern day fool, and outside of the law, yet still the law itself. His buffoonery lends itself to be a possible third sense, which gives this "International Man of Mystery"
139

his charm, his whimsy. He is capable at any moment of being

much more than the fool, he is both the Idiot, the Idiot savant, the fool, and the hero.

139

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Dir. Jay Roach. New Line, 1997.

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The Bully
This figure, as seen on playgrounds and back alleys, and in living rooms across America and probably the world, might be mistaken for the trickster, but do not be fooled about this person. The Bully is merely an opportunist who has a warped sense of fun. The Bully hurts and humiliates others for the amusement of himself -- but this is not amusement for the sake of amusement (a requirement of whimsy), but out of a need to reaffirm his own ego. He uses negative ridicule which "finds it source in feelings of self-aggrandizement of the release of hostility through the mockery of others."
140

He is not a whimsical character at all, although he

does laugh last, or so it seems. But the bully is an anxious character looking for his lost ego -- but if you tell anyone, I'll have to kill you.

The Paradox of the Ludicrous


We recall Aristotle's mention of the ludicrous in his definition of comedy -- this is precisely the case in which the funny thing is not premeditated. Samuel S. Seward asks us, "Why do we laugh when the wind whips off the bishop's hat? The whole problem of the ludicrous is summed up in that old, often discussed question. The hat itself may bounce along with whimsical perversity, again and again evading the outstretched hand of the pursuing churchman; but it's teasing elusiveness is as nothing to that of the problem it may evoke in the mind of a chance spectator."
141

The problem presented is the choice of whether to laugh at the Aristotelian ugliness of the bishop's chase, or to be sympathetic to the bumbling churchman's cause and help him retrieve the hat. In

140 141

Gruner, Understanding Laughter, 6. Samuel S. Seward, Jr., The Paradox of the Ludicrous (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1930), 1.

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making the first choice -- to see the humor in the bishop's dilemma -- we are presented with the perfect scenario of the stupefying, humiliating ludicrous presenting itself in everyday life. The laughter and humor we see in this situation is both punctuating the bishop's humiliation, recognizing the possibility of our own humiliation, and reaffirming our own ego to be whole as evidenced in the fact that we are not the bishop. To make the second choice -- of being sympathetic to the bishop -- would be to share in his humiliation -- his loss of ego -- his anxiety -in the face of the public.

So where is the whimsy in the ludicrous? It is not the spectator which is whimsical -- the hat itself supplies us with the difference between humor and whimsy -- whimsy is the character, the spirit in which the playful irreverent hat bounces, not in the laughter or ridicule or joke that the bishop is about to be the brunt of. The whimsical impulse is the chance that the hat gets to fly, as well as the wind's decision to play with the bishop.

The ludicrous, in the family of jokes and humor and ridicule presents us with a paradox : "We derive pleasure from what logically causes displeasure."
142

And this feeling of pleasure naturally

results in laughter -- the physical response which indicates, or rather punctuates, pleasure. The whole notion of deriving "fun" from someone else's non-fun is absurd, and this is where we are presented with a paradox, and all paradoxes are seemingly absurd. Even whimsical, we might say, in the way that they are graspable, yet not graspable. Lacan's paradox of the object petit a , complete with its spectral image, again comes into play. Seward notes that, after the hat incident, that perhaps if the Bishop "had realized what he had started, he would find occasion for a slyly malicious twinkle of his own."
143

Here instead of malicious (which is the negative ridicule of

Gruner) one could propose mischievousness. Because mischief is what whimsy knows, wants

142 143

Ibid., 2. Ibid.

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and thrives on. It is the mischievous/whimsical person who can inspire laughter in others, has the freedom to laugh, be laughed at, or just be pregnant with the coming of laughter.

The Remainder of Whimsy: Laughter


Laughter which comes after the humorous thing is put forth, it punctuates, indicates pleasure, escapes at inappropriate moments, marks a passing of time. As Jean-Luc Nancy notices: laughter is something which arrives in its presence -- it is the birth of something: "'To be born' is rather to transform, transport and entrance all determinations The verb without a presence coming to presence To be born is the name of being and it is precisely not a name."
144

Laughter is in a

profound sense precisely something which presents itself, cannot be represented, something which is pre-sensing -- coming before our senses. Laughter is an after (after the joke) and a before (before whatever is next) like birth which comes before. Whimsy, although maybe not yet formed into the thing which produces laughter yet, definitely has laughter as its closure -- as its death. Nancy proposes that "beauty represents itself in a laugh, recognizable and unexpected bursting and in peals." It is a mode of presentation, but of what?
145

The joy of laughter is but one aspect of

what is witnessed in beauty, as well as only one aspect of what can be evidenced with a laugh. And what the laughter presents is the evidence of whimsy -- laughter in beauty and joy and creativity --- the human condition of possibility -- and the laugh comes forth. It is the excrement of whimsy.

144

Jean-Luc Nancy, The Birth To Presence, trans. Brian Holmes (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), Jean-Luc Nancy "Laughter, Presence" trans. Emily McVarish in The Birth To Presence, 373.

2.
145

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The trickster laughs (or stifles a laugh) at the conception of her trick (in joy as the trick's possibility) as well as she laughs before her judges with them, and her own success of the game (in triumphant pleasure). The listener of the joke laughs, punctuating the conspicuous assertion of the humor in the joke, aligning himself with the teller. And the onlookers of our ludicrous bishop laugh -- laugh at him at his humiliation and at the possibility of their own: laughing at him and laughing nervously at the fear of becoming him.

Laughing happens for many reasons. And we it has been affirmed (as seen on TV) that "he who laughs last, laughs best" but who laughs last? Is the last laugher affirming her freedom of possibility? Her power? Her ego? Her triumph over "smaller" beings? Is this the evil laugh of the villain or the pleased laugh of the lover? Each chuckle punctuating some idea or act. We laugh for different reasons, in different situations, but each is an expression of pleasure from the laugher, if not from the rest who are present at the time.

Another instance of laughter is what Michel Foucault calls "the laughter that shatter[s]. . .all the familiar landmarks of [our] thought" (Order xv).
146

Because laughter transports us, releases us

from the seriousness and common sense of Being, and can expresses the freedom of not-knowing, a release from responsibility and maybe even identity. The laughing subject is "breaking up" but also "broken up"; her seemingly stable identity can't cut it: it cracks up." spasm that Diane Davis describes: "When Mary wigs out [laughs], she offers the other mourners a glimpse of this dance, a glimpse of our commonality, of finitude uncovered, and when she does, she challenges their humanist definitions of being-with, which have only managed to think community in terms of the self-identified individual who then encounters others. We ought to have a problem right here at the threshold of this humanist equation. If finite beings are not stable individuals
147

It is the uncontrollable

146 147

http://www.utdallas.edu/pretext/PT1.1/Elect1.html April 22, 2002. Diane Davis "Chortling into the Storm" Ibid.

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but a mass of loose ends, what can it mean to be-with-one-another? This may be the question of our time. If what we share is our unsharable loose ends, then what we will necessarily give up in any common work effort or quest for solidarity."

It is in this laughing moment, that it is seen that each of us is truly alone, yet sharing with others. It is the result of the sister of our efforts to return to our mother's womb -- in the same way there is anxiety in being alone, there is whimsy as well, there is freedom's possibility. And so, there is nothing else to do but to laugh at the realization because here, whimsy is as much a discomfort as anxiety can be. And the desire to find closure is urgent, at least in most modes of western beingin-the-world, and so we laugh, to make the death of the openness and give birth to something else.

The laugh works in Lacanian ways, for it is the desired state, the state which brings forth the laugh (pleasure, or finding something funny) and the cause which creates the desire for the laughing state to return, so laughter becomes the object-cause of itself. The laugh in the laugh -- the laugh in the possibility of the laugh itself. In this way, laughter "offers itself, and the desire is in this laughter."
148

Therefore, the laugh itself becomes the object-cause of desire. "the uneasiness
149

which makes us laugh."

In this way we punctuate the holographic spectral image -- the desired

thing which is gone as soon as we try to see it. Because who can grasp birth? The Lacanian object-cause of desire finds its conceptual ancestor in spirit (see Kierkegaard's spirit in this chapter) he says, "the reality of the spirit constantly shows itself in a form which entices its possibility, but it is away as soon as one grasps after it, and it is a nothing which is only able to alarm."
150

This is the grasping after whimsy in order to turn it into an expression (a joke, or

148 149 150

Nancy "Laughter, Presence," 369. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, ed. R.D.Laing (New York: Random House, 1970), xviii. Soren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Dread, trans. Walter Lowrie (Princeton: Princeton University Press,

1957), 38.

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humorous instance) which show's its nothingness. "As soon as [the laughter] bursts out, it is lost to all appropriation, to all presentation. This loss is neither funny nor sad; it is not serious and it is not a joke."
151

With this discussion of laughter, we have skipped over the presentation part the joke and gone on to the to the reaction to it. But perhaps there is something in-between, in the expectation of the laugh, before it comes. This moment before the laugh occurs, and in it the subject is affected with a particular emotional state which is extremely fleeting should be recognized. What you are feeling in that moment -- this is whimsy. Have we just made whimsy the new object-cause of desire?

Irony and Sarcasm


In the context of humor and jokes and the ludicrous and comedy, where do irony and sarcasm fit in? Sarcasm seems to be limited to linguistic expressions, the sarcastic act is not easily interpreted correctly. But we say something is "ironic", whether it is a saying, a happening, an "ironic" twist to a story. But is irony an integral part of the human spirit? Is it something which drives us? Is whimsy something which drives us? What came first: the laugh or the joke? Kierkegaard tells us that we can recognize irony by how it operates: "Already we have a quality that permeates all irony namely that the phenomenon is not the essence but the opposite of the essence."
152

So an

ironic phrase would be an intentional contradiction in itself. What is said is contrary to what is

151 152

Nancy, "Laughter, Presence," 368. Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton:

Princeton University Press: 1989), 247.

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expected, but strangely related somehow and illustrates that the expressions "earnestness is not in earnest."
153

Richard Rorty paid homage to contingent chameleon thinkers which he called ironists, "because their realization that anything can be made to look good or bad by being redescribed, and their renunciation of the attempt to formulate criteria of choice between final vocabularies,[the words which justify their actions, their beliefs, their lives] puts them in the position which Sartre called 'meta-stable': never quite able to take themselves seriously because always aware that the terms in which they describe themselves are subject to change, always aware of the contingency and fragility of their final vocabularies, and thus of their selves."
154

What happens in a world without irony? Rorty says "the opposite of irony is common sense."

155

For an ironist, this is the kiss of death, for where is the fun in living in that one dimensional linear model? Common sense is the forfeiture of human interpretation, of holding onto a "what if things were different?" We have already agreed to disagree, common sense does not allow that, it does not even allow the possibility that maybe we could agree differently.

It can be seen on any given day, on the streets of many cities, in a public which knows media, and exercises what this researcher calls "a heightened sense of cultural irony." It is the knowledge of what exists in culture, the acceptance of it, being able to play the game of life with the given cultural iconography as the raw materials to be adapted and commented on as each of us sees fit. It is to be able to play the language game of culture in simple conversation and everydayness. In a similar sense that Rorty's ironist puts forth, "The ironist spends her time worrying about the

153 154

Ibid., 248. Richard Rorty, Contingency Irony and Solidarity (New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Ibid., 74.

Press, 1989), 73-74.


155

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possibility that she has been initiated into the wrong tribe, taught to play the wrong language game."
156

To have a "heightened sense of cultural irony" is to be this ironist, but free from the

worry, just to have a keen sense of observation to be able to play the culture game. This allows the person schooled in classical music to enjoy Britney Spears. It is the art school discussion of this century which asks, "Do you have to learn the rules to break the rules?" Well, those of us who have suffered by learning the rules can come to terms with pop culture by being ironists. And if we are lucky, whimsical ones -- ones without the worry.

Here, it is seen that the defining difference between irony and whimsy is such: the ironic, although perhaps in the spirit of whimsy, is not necessarily of it. It is not a requirement that irony is not a sad, horrible state of affairs -- irony is not necessarily fun. So it is possible that irony could fall to the side of anxiety, despite its gaming nature. But if it is whimsical, the ironist becomes the game player, the trickster, if only just in her imagination, and not the gaming victim.

The Death of The Subject and Language Games


"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less."
157

And all of us, like Humpty Dumpty, have developed our

linguistic communication because we have chosen what words mean, and unlike Dumpty, have at least somewhat, mutually agreed to their meaning in order that we can understand each other. In Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, he outlines that not only does language

156 157

Ibid., 75. Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass" in Alice in Wonderland and Other Favorites (New York:

Washing Square Press, 1951), 191.

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enable us to communicate on this one level, but that words can become actions, and therefore a "language game" is created and used. An example of the way this happens is the following: during surgery a doctor says to her nurse, "scalpel." And the nurse hands over a scalpel. So for Wittgenstein, we have taken our base language understanding -- an agreed set of terms which we use to communicate -- and turned these words into the "rules" or basis of the game. For Wittgenstein, the game builds and grows with culture, but is based on a set of "truths" which are what we have agreed upon, over time, as language has been formed.
158

For Dumpty, and Jean-

Franios Lyotard alike, a language game's rules are, and can be, and should be, in flux -- making the game more fun in the way that it treats the accepted language, or connotation, as a "formidable adversary."
159

An utterance, or a "move" can be made for the sheer pleasure of its invention"

160

because certainly, although accepted language and its connotations are the rules of the game, and Lyotard calls them an adversary, they are not an adversary to be "beaten" in the typical sense; they are an adversary to be played with. It is this kind of game, with its ongoing transformation and openness that reveals and holds the spirit of whimsy. We remember that the true whimsical trickster is the player who plays, not for personal gain (money, career success the prize, etc.) but for the fun of the game itself.

In the 1980's, at the height of postmodern theory's dogmatic impact spreading through art and culture, Frederic Jameson wrote an important essay where he proposed the idea that parody and humor were dead and gone. He said that with the "loss" or "death of the subject," pastiche, a

158

http://ksi.cpsc.ucalgary.ca/PCP/1996Q2/0377.html, April 30, 2002. Wittgenstein's Language Games, Lois Jean-Franois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi Ibid., 10.

Shawver, Jun 1996.


159

(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 10.


160

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blank humorless irony, an imitation of styles without a whimsical impulse, had taken its place.

161

Was he mistaken in pointing out the significance of this common stylistic thread that appeared in the art of the 1980's and 1990's? Pastiche still is present, stylistically, as shown in the film Moulin Rouge, where snippets of popular songs are used and adapted and strung together to carry the story forward, as well as to create the "original" score.
162

And it is not intended to be funny. Even

without the "punchline" of this language gaming joke (because it is a language game, even if game pieces in this case were pop songs) it is not apparent that writer and director, Baz Luhrmann, created the script and score using his whimsical side. Here we are faced with the idea that whimsy does not exist in the Thing-Itself -- that the joke and the parody and punchline are no longer available to us in the artistic expression as the element of humor, but emerge in a different form -the whimsical sense is revealed to the viewer when faced with a work of art where the punchline is not presented. It is this failure of closure which aids whimsy and is a disservice to humor.

At the root of this discussion is the search for authenticity. But the Jameson essay brings us to another question: How can whimsy exist if there has truly been a "death of the subject or "death of the event of the author?" And how can there be a genuine "truth" without an author? The subject must exist somehow in order to have an emotional state as strong and compelling as whimsy, because we see that the author's whimsical impulse is evident by the creative thing, even if the artistic expression is not intended to communicate whimsy. In between the viewer and the thing, the joke has failed to be communicated, and this shows us that the author as hero/comic is no longer the focus of the expression, but the emotional state becomes the non-directly communicated result. Therefore, the subject may be "dead" but subjectivity is not. Structuralist theory put every aspect of humanity under scrutiny of it being a social construct and attempted to dissect the old dominant paradigms -- the big Truths that culture had used as its foundations; the

161

Fredric Jameson, "Postmodernism and Consumer Society," in The Anti-Aesthetic, ed. Hal Foster (Seattle:

Bay Press, 1983), 111-125.

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goal was "to disturb and threaten and collapse our age old distinction between Same and Other."
163

But always it was the quest of what it means to be genuine. It is important not to be

careless and discard the hints of authenticity which can sometimes be pre-packaged with the constructed big Truths. "Authenticity is not the truth, only traces of the truth."
164

And these traces

are glimpses of the genuine persona of the subject as well as of the world. Derrida says a glimpse of the authenticity of the subject is not a postponement of truth -- this postponement may be eternal. And Lyotard reminds us with his fluctuations of language games that language is not the truth, although this was the question of the post-structuralists. Are we playing games and is the truth only whatever truth there is within the game? The rules of the game become the truth, but these truths are not the big Truths of the world. Wittgenstein never got this far, for him language, and the mechanisms of it, was still a practical activity and grounded in a given reality.

Returning to the idea that the whimsical Thing is no longer possible, but that the authentic whimsy is felt in the subject's reaction and creation of the thing whose main aim was not to communicate whimsy, it seems that whimsy has suffered the same transition as the sublime in the 20 century -that we are no longer able to experience the sublime, or whimsy for that matter, in the Thing itself, but only in the thing which is a representation of something else which is somehow the "looking awry," seen at an angle -- and this shows us the existence of whimsy.
th

Our trickster Ludacris shows us a place where we do experience whimsy. In the song Southern Hospitality, he sings: "All my players in the house that can buy the bar, And the ballin ass niggas wit the candy cars, If you a pimp and you know you don't love them hoes,

162 163 164

Moulin Rouge, Dir. Baz Lurhmann, Fox Films, 2001. Foucault, The Order of Things, xv. Schirmacher, interview by author. April, 2002. New York.

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When you get on the flo nigga throw them bowls, All my women in the house if you chasing cash, And you got some big titties wit a matching ass, Wit ya fly ass boots or ya open toes, When ya get on the flo nigga throw them bowls."
165

In no way is this passage literally whimsical, yet in the attitude of the singer whimsy is felt. Is it not clear that the new whimsical object in this case is the thing seen at an angle, or "unable to be grasped"? The whimsy itself is not illustrated, so it becomes the spectral image of Lacan's, just with a different personality. In this case it is not the desired, anxious object which is the object petit a of wish fulfillment, that would be the joke presented in Sex and the City (see below), but it is the openness of possibility of spirit, that Ludacris taunts us with, which is and makes the fun itself the thing wanted.

On the other hand, a failure of whimsy can be seen in the HBO series Sex and the City, which is supposed to be a humorous look at single women in New York, but the joke appears without whimsy being present at all. Instead of the whimsical feeling being transferred to the viewers, the viewer laughs at the appropriate moments, but it is out of nervous identification and not in the spirit of the game. Actually the viewer is left with an anxious feeling of not being able to make the lives of the four heroines different.

"Davka!": The Irreverence of Whimsy


There is a non-translatable word in Hebrew which captures the whimsical spirit and perhaps facilitates the Israeli people to endure the heartache of living in a country which is constantly

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threatened by and threatening others. The word is transliterated as "Davka" which can be loosely interpreted as a combination of "fuck you" and "nevertheless." It is used in situations where the human spirit of fun and pleasure must prevail over authority. For example -- the smoker sits in a non-smoking area of a restaurant and lights her cigarette. "Davka, I'm going to smoke here!" she says with the exclamation of defiance and the assertion of embracing her own pleasure seeking lusts and desires. It is the transgression of this smoker who shows us an interesting part of whimsy: that the whimsical act, spirit or character must be in relationship to authority or duty or responsibility. Irreverence is dependent on the concept of responsibility.

An important part of whimsy is irreverence. Unless she transgresses out of anger (which is not unlikely) the transgressor is a whimsical figure. And she transgresses out of fun or folly, pointing out the sheer absurdity of the thing to be transgressed, or perhaps any other absurdity which could be mildly related to the situation. She sees what it is and chooses something else -- davka! This decision is not the decision to be irresponsible but to decide to be not responsible. (Although the decision to be irresponsible is necessary at times, not just here.)

By this proclamation the subject is not only giving in to temptation, but giving into it with wild abandon and with gusto; our whimsical transgressor is keenly aware of the temptation itself. Derrida says, "It is a duty not to respect out of duty, ethical duty. One must behave not only in an ethical or responsible manner, but in a non-ethical, non-responsible manner, and one must do that in the name of duty, of an infinite duty, in the name of absolute duty."
166

165

Ludacris, "Southern Hospitality" Back For The First Time, Def Jam Records, 2001.

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Kierkegaard's Spirit
Where in philosophy is there a mention of whimsy? Is it merely a fancy of this writer to propose that whimsy is of an utmost importance? Has the idea that whimsy is a key emotional state something that has gone unnoticed for so long by European philosophers? There is at least one exception: Kierkegaard delves into the notion of the Spirit, which has some similarities to our discussion. It is a laborious task to extract Kierkegaard's work from its shroud of religious and moral complexities; an attempt to do so with his notion of "spirit", is not an exception. Actually it is particularly difficult, especially knowing that the word spirit itself has been through centuries of Judeo-Christian projections and definitions. He says, "Spirit is dreaming in man."
167

This

dreaming can be interpreted as imagination. And later ". Spirit becomes manifest to the individual as a possibility, his possibility. Thus his true being, Spirit, is projected as his own reality, an unrealized reality, a reality which is as yet only a possibility."
168

J. Preston Cole notices

that "for Kierkegaard the power of selfhood is Spirit Spirit is the quest for freedom or selfdetermination inherent in man."
169

But it seems that it is not only the possibility of freedom and

self-determination -- but to dare to dream like Don Quixote: to dream (im)possibility.

We have seen in the previous chapter that the dark abyss of possibility results in an emotional state of anxiety; but here the positive is exposed in Spirit. Freedom and the light side of possibility seem to have found an enemy in dread or anxiety. It operates in the following way:

"This is the actuality which is preceded by the possibility of freedom. But the possibility of freedom does not consist in being able to choose the good or the evil.

166

Jacques Derrida, "When to Give to (Knowing not to Know)," Kierkegaard: A Critical Reader, ed. Cole, The Problematic Self in Kierkegaard and Freud, 15 (quoting The Concept of Dread, 37). Ibid., (quoting The Concept of Dread, 3). Ibid., 56.

Jonathan Re and Jane Chamberlain (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers: 1998), 161.


167 168 169

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Such thoughtlessness has as little support in the Scripture as in philosophy. Possibility means I can. In a logical system it is convenient enough to say that possibility passes over into actuality. In reality it is not so easy, and an intermediate determinant is necessary. This intermediated determinant is dread, which no more explains the qualitative leap than justifies it ethically. Dread is not a determinant of necessity, but neither is it of freedom; it is a trammeled freedom, where freedom is not free in itself but trammeled, not by necessity but in itself."
170

Here Kierkegaard recognizes the power of dread and anxiety over human freedom -- that it paralyzes our ability to choose and self-determine -- and this is the sadness of operating in a world where making things happen is the main goal. What is saved from dread, in a world where nonclosure can be sustained, is the idea of possibility. And then spirit is not only free from anxiety, but free from the constructs of this tangible world itself.

Virtual reality gaming systems are the closest realizations of this so far -- it is not only the hope of the game designer that for a round of the action that the player can become whatever the particular game's possibility of personas, but it the hope that the game itself has pushed the possibilities of this tangible universe and given the player the possibility of becoming an avatar beyond what is achieved when she is not in the game. In other words, the real possibility of spirit is the idea that in a gaming system each of us could take on a persona where flying or breathing underwater were possible.

Of course this is only a possibility when imagination is not stunted by the dreaded dread. "Here there is no knowledge of good and evil, etc., but the whole actuality of knowledge projects itself in anxiety as the enormous nothingness of ignorance."
171

Which is limitations because of that

170 171

Kierkegaard, The Concept of Dread, 44-45. Kierkegaard. The Concept of Anxiety, 44.

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nothingness itself. Kierkegaard's dread is an anxiety, but it is limited to the negative. "but what effect does nothing produce? It begets dread."
172

"With the years, it is true, this pain diminishes more and more; for as more and more one becomes spirit, it causes no pain that one is not like others. Spirit is precisely this: not to be like others."
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Recalling the point of anxiety which feels the pain of separation from the mother, of being alone, where anxiety's aim is to be like or even one with others, whimsy's aim is to be free. So is whimsy opposed to dread? Or, in other terms, could it be construed as a positive anxiety? What Kierkegaard missed out on, not having survived into this century, is the future of spirit as possibility -- the future of whimsy -- that maybe whimsy, or the positive aspect of spirit could be an affect in itself -- something which there was no pressure to grasp -- to find closure in. If the spirit of whimsy is not forced into closure, into the joke or Thing which tries to represent whimsy, then an openness of fun and game playing becomes possible.

Comedy and Sex: Kierkegaard reminds us that Eve seduced Adam "Hence the highest pagan expression is that the erotic is the comical."
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But have we not ever laughed in bed? True

eroticism is never comic. Because the comic is a closure on a possibility. But the erotic can be whimsical, playful (see the casual sex seducer in Chapter 3) but the serious seducer who seduces for personal gain other than the sex act itself (power or procreation) will not ever be the whimsical lover, because the whimsy in the sex act comes from knowing that it is an activity done for the purpose of enjoyment. It can only take place in this way, for whimsy in sex is dependent on

172 173

Kierkegaard, The Concept of Dread, 38. Soren Kierkegaard, "Attack Upon Christendom" A Kierkegaard Anthology, ed. Robert Bretall (Princeton: Kierkegaard, The Concept of Dread, 62.

Princeton University Press, 1946), 467.


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eroticism, otherwise we may as well play tennis. "Eroticism, unlike simple sexual activity, is a psychological quest independent of the natural goal: reproduction and the desire for children."
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The Whimsy of Sisyphus


Telling is the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus and his ordeal in Hades, "His punishment was to roll a huge stone up to the top of a hill: he pushed with head and shoulders, panting and sweating and covered with dust; but whenever he got to the top, the stone would gently slide off on one side or the other, and roll down to the bottom. Then he had to begin all over again."
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It was this

plight in his hell which can be seen as demonstrating the object-cause of his desire, but also offers another angle -- something which has been hidden: we always consider the "work" of getting the rock up the hill -- it is described as a most laborious and awful task, but two things are left undiscussed -- what would happen if he got the rock up and kept it there? But also what fun he could have had if he just saw the roll down as the task to be desired instead to the roll up. When we all go out and skip stones across a lake, the skipper is never concerned with the "work" of finding the stones, so why should Sisyphus be bothered by the work of getting the rock up the hill? Obviously he is a strong enough guy to do it over and over again. But imagine the joy he could experience in seeing that boulder tumbling in absolute freedom (a freedom which he enabled) rolling with wild abandon? He could be witnessing the magic of gravity, the ecstasy of reckless movement, without fear of its consequences (remember, this is hell, so no one would be killed), if only he would see his situation differently. Sisyphus' real punishment was the punishment of having his sense of whimsy taken away from him, because the desire, the will, the feeling of

175

Georges Bataille, Erotism, Death and Sensuality, trans. Mary Dalwood (San Francisco: City Lights Rouse, Gods, Heroes and Men of Ancient Greece, 144.

Books, 1986), 11.


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knowing and expecting the boulder's downhill dance, the joy in the rock's possibility, could turn his punishment into pleasure. So the moral of the story is that whimsy allows us not only to bear life, but if we can hold onto it, to bear eternity.
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Children's media is dripping with whimsy: Dr. Seuss, Grimm's fairy tales, Babaar, or Eloise, the circus and magicians. But rarely adult media, nor the adults themselves, can hold onto this fleeting state and turn a daily job or errand into an openness of possible fun. Is it because whimsy can go wrong so easily? Or because that openness of play is hard to hold and we fall into its pits? Or because whimsy is generally thought of as "good" and anxiety thought of as "bad", that we just take whimsy for granted? Where do these potholes of non-whimsy (which is not anxiety) find us?

In cuteness, where joy and pleasure are resolved in comfort and warm fuzzy things -- puppies and kitties pretend to be whimsical, and images of cuteness are created out of an aesthetic which was maybe once whimsical, or reminds us of our whimsical childhoods, but they are vessels of our own anxiety, holding it at bay, reassuring us. Common sense is another danger of whimsy taking a wrong turn; Rorty reminds us that without a healthy dose of questioning and risk taking, the obvious becomes too obvious. Consider the trickster's trap: complete narcissism with a lack of conscience which may result in an overload of fun. All of that sound nice is nice, but it comes without the realization of effecting others; this is seen in most of James Bond's arch enemies. It is easier to recognize those of us who are victims to the pitfalls of whimsy than it is to recognize those of us who value and practice whimsy in the everyday.

Whimsy can show us many things, it can give us hope as well as a glimpse of inevitable death. Because whimsy requires the knowledge of our mortality; we seek to enjoy our daily existence,

177

See Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, trans. Justin O'Brien (New York: Vintage

Books, 1955) who stresses that Sisyphus might be a happy man.

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while it still lasts. It is the character of whimsy which is seen in so many things which are not trying to present whimsy: it is responsible for the creation of comedy and humor and hence, laughter which can show us the optimism, hope and power of our humanity. Even though whimsy is lost to the wind by the time we get delivered the punchline of the joke, we know that whimsy was somehow there. And the surprise of acting on a whim can bring us such joy: "I bought you a ticket to Hawaii on a whim today, dear."

The complexity and ambivalence of whimsy gives it its dark side -- that whimsy is irreverent and surprising make it more interesting than mere happiness or joy and has brought us to the conclusion that whimsy is much more than just an aesthetic description. It is something felt -- an emotional state of expectation, as experienced in the body, in our corporeal existence. Because without Being, whimsy could not exist.

But before whimsy finds satisfaction, in humor or in any expression, we appreciate it -- we see the expectation and what we aspire to do now, is hold onto that feeling of non-closure -- of expectation -- without knowing what the result will be. This joyful openness Is the physical spirit of whimsy -- an optimists side of anxiety -- what we here call the whimsical impulse which undeniably inspires and agrees with Theseus who says, "The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, Are of imagination all compact." makes for art as possibility.
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It is this imagination which is a greatness in possibility which

178

Theseus in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 5, Scene 1.

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Chapter 3 Anxiety and Whimsy


What is the intrinsic relationship between anxiety and whimsy? We have seen how these two affects operate in our lives, in the world, as emotional states, sometimes pleasant and beneficial and sometimes unpleasant and hurtful. But nonetheless both are dependent on Dasein, and provide some glimpse of an authentic human experience. From here derives the real question of whether or not there is a significance to both anxiety and whimsy appearing together, and where we see evidence of this in our common everyday lives now becomes our focus. This brings up another set of questions, such as: why would we want to notice that the two occur simultaneously? Is having one or the other not enough? Why is it important to recognize both? It seems easy to label things or people around us as fitting into one category or the other, "Tony Soprano is an anxious person." But would it be so confusing for all of us if we were to acknowledge, "Captain Picard is an anxious and whimsical person." What does it mean to allow for such a characterization? What is the advantage in bringing see these seemingly opposed or even unrelated things together? The assumption of seeing anxiety and whimsy as interconnected can not only be helpful to the average neurotic, but to the philosopher and artist alike. Before we draw any conclusions as to the benefits or drawbacks of seeing our two affects as different sides of one coin, as two more possible emotional states of humanity, let us take a look at where these things appear together already -- and maybe this can give us a clue as to why we would want to put them together more often.

Double Anxiety
So what happens when two angst ridden situations are layered on top of each other? (Seen side by side?) Like the prospect of utter humiliation at tomorrow's meeting and the painful absence of a

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loved one? Within the angst ridden individual's personal mind frame, each anxiety producing situation compounds the other, making the sufferer feel worse. But to the sympathetic ear of someone close to the victim, the effect is completely different (and I mean a truly sympathetic ear, like a friend or confidant, someone who is indirectly emotionally affected by the sufferer's anxiety). What happens in this case is the realization of absurdity. Enabled by the distance from the emotional trauma, the sympathy load becomes overwhelming for the friend, and then, and the ridiculousness of non-control in the thrown project of Being is revealed. Take this joke for example, it was published on the Internet in February 2002:

"French Intellectuals to be Deployed in Afghanistan to Convince Taliban of Non-Existence of God

The ground war in Afghanistan heated up yesterday when the Allies revealed plans to airdrop a platoon of French existentialist philosophers into the country to destroy the morale of Taliban zealots by proving the non-existence of God. Elements from the feared Jean-Paul Sartre Brigade, or 'Black Berets', will be parachuted into the combat zones to spread doubt, despondency and existential anomie among the enemy. Hardened by numerous intellectual battles fought during their long occupation of Paris's Left Bank, their first action will be to establish a number of pavement cafes at strategic points near the front lines. There they will drink coffee and talk animatedly about the absurd nature of life and man's lonely isolation in the universe. They will be accompanied by a number of heartbreakingly beautiful girlfriends who will further spread dismay by sticking their tongues in the philosophers' ears every five minutes and looking remote and unattainable to everyone else. Their leader, Colonel Marc-Ange Belmondo, spoke yesterday of his confidence in the success of their mission. Sorbonne graduate Belmondo, a very intense and unshaven young man in a black pullover, gesticulated wildly and said, "The Taliban are caught in a logical fallacy of the most ridiculous. There is no God and I can prove it. Take your tongue out of my ear, Juliet, I am talking."

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Marc-Ange plans to deliver an impassioned thesis on man's nauseating freedom of action with special reference to the work of Foucault and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. However, humanitarian agencies have been quick to condemn the operation as inhumane, pointing out that the effects of passive smoking from the Frenchmens' endless Gitanes could wreak a terrible toll on civilians in the area. Speculation was mounting last night that Britain may also contribute to the effort by dropping Professor Stephen Hawking into Afghanistan to propagate his non-deistic theory of the creation of the universe. This is only one of several Psy-Ops operations mounted by the Allies to undermine the unswerving religious fanaticism that fuels the Taliban's fighting spirit. Pentagon sources have recently confirmed rumors that America has already sent in a 200-foot-tall robot Jesus, which roams the Taliban front lines glowing eerily and shooting flames out of its fingers while saying, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. Follow me or die." -Author unknown

What happens here can be described as the following: one anxiety laden situation is a given -- the US invasion of Afghanistan (it was established Chapter 1, that in the face of an enemy, there is no anxiety, but instead fear, but in this case, for the stay-at-home American public, fueled by Washington propaganda, anxiety is the operative state.) Then, another scene which also is anxious through and through (the search for truth in philosophy) is laid on top of it. Neither of these situations, movements, life events or happenings is whimsical by any means. It is possible that each has moments of humor embedded in it, but both are serious and require a possible failure of the ego. But proposing that the two happen at the same place and time, and even that one is the possible solution for the other, turns all of the anxiety into a joke -- we see the absurdity in each mode of Being-in-the-World only when the view to each anxious situation is obscured by elements of the other. Foucault reminds us, "absurdity destroys the and of the enumeration [in this case he means the "ordering of things"] by making impossible the in where the things enumerated

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would be divided up." Fortunately, the "operating table has been removed from truth."

179

And the

absurdity which presents itself is a pointer towards the possible whimsy of the human spirit sees that all of the "big" foundations that the anxiety was built on, have been taken away. Not only do we have the whimsical impulse to make the "joke" without realizing its mechanics, but within this kind of joke, there is created a space for fun where previously this was just in poor taste. Now, this joke may still be "in poor taste" but it is the kind of poor taste which reveals a kernel of truth of human existence, and that kernel is the whimsy itself.

This joke brings us back to the trickster -- because we have already noted that it is the trickster who plays jokes and makes jokes and has the whimsical impulse, but it becomes clear that the trickster is dependent on the angst ridden, otherwise who does she play the trick on? In other words, if there was no one to play the trick on, and not necessarily someone/thing who knows that she is in the game, then the trickster would be simply a child, playing safely in the confines of the game. So in order to have the whimsical impulse in the "real world" there must be an anxiety to pit it against.

From the Anxious Tragedy to the Whimsical Comedy


It is important to mention, that we are not merely discussing classical tragedy or classical comedy as anxiety and whimsy. We must frequently remind ourselves that those forms of expression are just the products -- the leftovers of these emotional states, and once they have become manifested in the conclusion of the laugh or the cry, then the anxious and whimsical moments have already come to an end.

179

Foucault, The Order of Things, xvii.

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But, in realizing that these are the byproducts of the feelings themselves, it is of use to recall the difference: "Finally the difference between tragedy and comedy coincides exactly with the master difference: namely the one tends to imitate people better, the other one people worse, than the average."
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In this Aristotelian sense, the expression of anxiety portrays people in a better light.

This way, we can see humanity's romantically optimistic desires that the hero overcome his obstacles or fears and rise to the occasion of growth from an anxious situation. All of this gives the audience something to aspire to.

Conversely, the whimsical expression portrays people in a worse light. The trickster's desire to win or outwit or outsmart, comes into play here; comedy demonstrates the audience's need for reaffirmation of their own egos with the help of the idiot who appears onstage, who serves as an example of what the audience is not.

With these classical examples we can see how anxiety and whimsy -- the inspiration for these art forms -- are not dissimilar at all, and even could be seen as the byproducts for viewing these art forms themselves. It could appear, that in each case a reaffirmation of the ego is needed -- called for. For in tragedy, it is reaffirmed by the characters in the play, and in comedy, it is reaffirmed in the hearts of the audience while watching the play. Again the reverse applies: the fear of the failure of the ego is present, and therefore portrayed as such in the "ugliness" of the characters in comedy and the audience's anxiety after watching the tragedy; during they can compare their own ways of operating in the world with the protagonists heroic large ego. So each art form here could be seen as both anxious and whimsical -- it is just a question of when and in whose eyes. The affect is inspiration, and a leftover for the audience, which inspires again.

180

Aristotle, Poetics, 18.

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Star Quality: Anxiety of the Rock Star, Whimsy of the Celebrity


We have already established that the persona of the rock star is an angst ridden archetype. But the all around celebrity is not. Driven by the desire for fame, wife of Kurt Cobain, actress and singer for the rock band Hole, Courtney Love shows us a different side to stardom. She was the ultimate groupie, and used her relationship with Cobain to better her career -- not to say that their relationship was not genuine, but the union of Kurt and Courtney was not unhelpful to her rise to stardom. After his death, Hole gained commercial and critical success, (Celebrity Skin was deemed "Album of the Year" by Rolling Stone, Spin and the prestigious Village Voice critics award in 1998 ) and Courtney embarked on an acting career. She became not only a rock star but also a movie star. But she prefers to identify with the former:
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COURTNEY Love on Cameron Crowe at Entertainment Weekly's party: "He's like Tom Cruise. Has to make everyone feel important. Like Drew Barrymore, who exhausts me. I'm a rock star. Not to be selfish or nasty, but to stay and make sure everybody loves you is like running for office. Russell Crowe doesn't. Jagger doesn't. And goddam it, I don't."
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In this sense, Courtney plays the celebrity, but makes note of her rock-star irreverent license by way of sexual exhibitionism and drug use. The anxiety of the rock star meets the whimsy of the celebrity.

"Love's history has been as archetypally American as that of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and, of course, Jay--"the Great"--Gatsby. All were self-invented icons who transformed themselves from ordinary people into symbols of wealth and fame. All refused to be

181 182

http://imusic.artistdirect.com/showcase/modern/hole.html, May 15, 2002. http://www.suprmchaos.com/bcEnt-Sat-033002.index.html, March 30, 2002.

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bounded by reality."

183

This is evidence that her girl-punk-rock female-power music career is not

what brought her to success, she is successful for her trickster star quality that she knows how to act like the rock star, or like the movie star, as need be. The star, not necessarily the rock star, but the celebrity is a figure of whimsy, but only if she avoids the crimes of taking herself too seriously, like Jewel, or Alanis Morissette do. (Or any artist who is attempting to voice issues for an entire generation of young people, or worse, women.) The diva is a figure of anxiety, but the celebrity who says "davka" to the public, is playing the stardom game in the face of an audience.

The Trembling Subject.


As experienced by all of us, in our inescapable corporeal existence, anxiety and whimsy produce strangely similar effects. It is the trembling of the subject which is the evidence, the physical sign of Dasein. And this trembling occurs, not only in the face of anxiety -- because we know that anxiety is the emotional state of Dasein, but in whimsy, in laughter, in hysteria, which is in the positive possibility of spirit. "The trembling of the 'same' is its identification."
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We tremble, we

shiver, we shake, we quake, we are agitated, sweating, skittish, titillated -- all happening of and with anxiety and whimsy -- we "tremble with the trembling of finite identity." . And contemplating Being makes us tremble with laughter, and with fear, after the fact. When there is an object or an expression to project our anxiety and whimsy through, and we tremble with the expectation of these expressions, the shaking, wavering feeling of what is about to happen, be it good or bad. "The soul trembles because the subject is other to it, and because its identity takes
185

183

http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/09.10.98/hole-9836.html, Gina Arnold, "The Hole Story," Jean-Luc Nancy, "Identity and Trembling" in The Birth To Presence, 30. Ibid., 35.

May 15, 2002.


184 185

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place only in the alteration of its substance. The trembling, the trance, is also a vibration-- almost a rhythm of the soul, a palpitation."
186

The rhythm of the trembling, the palpitation happens, is out

of our control, the body knows whimsy: the dance of the ego knows anxiety, it is he shivering of the ego. The physical trembling which is in both whimsy and anxiety.

Secrets of Seduction
If anxiety and whimsy could be personified as lovers, not with each other, but each seducers in their own right, what would their pick up lines be? Each affect does have a quality of the seducer in it -- ego, libido, the game of seduction, the life and death instincts all wrapped up into one potential lover. For this drama, anxiety would portray the serious sex seducer(SSS), and whimsy the casual sex seducer (CSS). In this instance, "casual" or "serious" is meant to classify the meaningfulness of the sex act, and not the style of dress each seducer is wearing. Because the seducer seduces in different ways for different ends, the one looking for casual sex treats the seduction as a game, a playful sporting exchange, and the seducer who looks for serious sex (or a relationship or love) treats the seduction as serious, a heavily invested business. Jean Baudrillard reminds us of an important element of the seduction -- the secret. "It is the opposite of communication, and yet it can be shared. The secret maintains its power only at the price of remaining unspoken, just as the seduction operates only because never spoken nor intended." Recalling the previous chapter, we are reminded that the trickster has a "knowing," a certain knowledge, or secret as to how things in the universe operate. And our whimsical CSS uses this secret in his lover's language game. If he has a worthy opponent, the secret remains, but yet with a mutual understanding (Pussy Galore understood James Bond's secret, and vice versa). But yet if
187

186 187

Ibid., 30. Jean Baudrillard, Seduction, trans. Brian Singer (New York, St.Martin's Press, 1979), 79.

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either party exposes the fact that they are playing the changing organic seduction game then the game would be over, the secret revealed, the seduction ruined, becoming un-erotic. In the same way, Jennifer Lopez knows the secret of George Clooney's charming ego in Out of Sight, where he plays the escaped convict and she the FBI agent whose job it is to (re)capture him in more ways than one. During a good part of the movie their attraction to each other is unconsummated, revealing the game playing of the seduction. This is how whimsy shows itself as the seductive trickster.

On the other hand, our SSS has forgotten his secret. He operates like the anxious addict, without self-awareness, following the "call" of nature, or at least the call of culture. Like Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, Eyes Wide Shut and Vanilla Sky, this lover searches for the meaningful relationship over and over again. He harbors no secret, yet desires cyclically, desiring the desiring itself. And the girls from Sex and the City and Bridget Jones (of Bridget Jones' Diary) become perfect partners and prey. It is this anxious leading lady who makes the perfect wife for the SSS.

So what can we learn from the CSS and the SSS? First, we can see the difference in the male roles in the media - the hero is a character of whimsy, and the "leading man" is a character of anxiety. Their female counterparts would be strong wily seductresses like Halle Berry in Swordfish, Penelope Cruise in Vanilla Sky or Angelina Jolie in Gone in Sixty Seconds, and for the SSS, the ingnue who is looking for the perfect husband (Renee Zellweger, Gweneth Paltrow, Meg Ryan.) Secondly, it becomes apparent that whimsy knows a secret that anxiety does not. The secret of whimsy is in the fact that it has an awareness of Dasein. It watches the subject/the self, in its thrown project. Whimsy gets on the roller coaster, and willingly pays for the ride. Anxiety does not know how it got on the roller coaster in the first place, and wants to get off with the help of the perfect woman, of course.

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Whimsy as a Container for Anxiety


In Chapter 1, the concept of a container of anxiety was discussed. In child development, the mother, as well as other comfort giving people and things (the security blanket, the teddy bear) are containers for a possible overload of anxiety, which allows for a bearable level of inner struggle and mental pain which in turn aids the mental growth process.

"External dangers are experienced in the light of internal dangers and therefore intensified; on the other hand, any danger threatening from outside intensifies the perpetual inner-danger situation. This interaction exists in some measure throughout life. The very fact that the struggle has, to some extent, been externalized, relieves anxiety. Externalization of internal danger-situations is one of the ego's earliest methods of defense against anxiety and remains fundamental in development."
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But in everyday adult life, the containers for anxiety are not so clear-cut. The inner anxiety that we experience connected with the external dangers (the fear of the loss of the ego) is not contained so easily, and drives many of us to look for false containers in escapist "therapies" (drinking, drugs, etc.). An alternative to the escapist therapies is in the use of the power of the whimsical impulse -- and generally that is utilized -- but after the threat has dissipated. We go watch a standup comedian, or a comic television show in the evening, when the anxiety level has been lowered - even if it is for a few hours. But what would happen if we could bring that whimsical spirit into an anxious situation and use it more widely as a container? It is a common device that is suggested to alleviate performance anxiety to imagine the audience in their underwear. That is an excellent use of whimsy as a container for anxiety. It is a general fear that using this kind of device would impede our "performance" in "important" situations (business, career, relationships, family). Sadly, it is understood that whimsy is a non-impactful avenue to pursue. Moreover, it is even looked upon as lessening the impact, intensity or "seriousness" of a situation, event or

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expression to the point that the non-cautious whimsy user can be easily misunderstood as nonserious. The power of humor, in everyday situations is often thought of as a flippant response, instead of either a release for that anxiety, enabling the subject to concentrate (work) more efficiently, or as an equally poignant response.

Anxiety and Whimsy Appearing Simultaneously


Case Study Number 1: Let us have a look at the HBO series Six Feet Under, where members of a family who operate a funeral home are our main characters. In the business of death, as well as in the dysfunctional lives of the family members, there is more anxiety than anything else. The air between them is tense, the occupation of "sympathy" is pregnant with false compassion and discomfort, and the love affairs gone askew, but not destroyed, paint the stage with anxiety. Just one of the story threads has our would-be male hero (Nate) stricken with a brain disorder which gives him seizures (sometimes controlled by medication) which could cause his death at any moment. His fiance (Brenda) participates in frequent casual sexual relationships and befriends a call girl, who turns out to be the only functional character in the show. All of this is extremely anxiety producing, but yet we watch anyway -- and not because we are waiting for the typical dramatic ending of the "miracle cure" of Nate's illness, or Brenda's realization that she either wants or does not want to be married, but because we are enjoying the journey to the next anxious event. With each characters particular anxiety, we see a series of their "visions", hopes or fears or day dreams or

188

Klein, Envy and Gratitude and Other Works 1946-1963, 32.

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hallucinations, which give the show its richness. While looking at the self-help section in a book store, Brenda comes across a title of her own imagination "Your Brother is Crazy and Your Boyfriend is Going to Die" -- both sentiments which mirror what is going on in her life at present. As viewers, we know that these are truths of Brenda's reality, but in the whimsical way it is presented, in the commonplace daydream or vision, a place of imagination and whimsy, we are left hanging between the fun and absurdity of life and the anxiety and pain of death, or vice-versa. In each sub-plot the story is continuously held back from resolving the tension -- not from the resolution of the story line, but it is a postponement of the emotional affects themselves.

Case Study #2: A master of pitting Anxiety and Whimsy against each other is filmmaker David Lynch. In his recent film, Mulholland Drive, where the interchangeability of human existence, especially Hollywood human existence is explored, two women develop an intimate relationship. One of these women has amnesia, furthermore we are given information which shows her to be sexy and experienced, dark and mysterious. The other woman is all "peaches and cream," "bright eyed and bushy tailed," a newcomer to L.A., trying to succeed as an actress. Part of their connection is in the symmetry of each supporting the other's insecurities. At the scene when they are on the verge of engaging in a physical relationship, the actress says to our sexy amnesiac, "Have you ever done this before?" and she answers "I don't remember." In this exchange, each woman both feels the anxiety of the situation, the one in her sexual inexperience, the other in her amnesia. And likewise, both women experience the whimsy, one in her happy playful exploration of a lesbian sexual experience and the other in her irreverent attitude towards the amnesia. Amnesia has never been better used as a vehicle for sexual anxiety than it is here. We see that the "not knowing," the fear of the loss of the ego for the sexual performance, the anxious object petit a, is exactly missing its spectral image, because it has been forgotten -- the desiring has no referent.

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In both these cases we see that the anxiety and the whimsy are so intertwined that each makes the other more intense. It is important in Six Feet Under that the petty problems of the characters are as whimsical as they are anxious, that the absurdity and tension of human existence postpone the resolution of the action, otherwise, it becomes just a boring drama or sit-com or a classical comedy or tragedy. It is the marriage of anxiety and whimsy which brings this show into a different category. (A category which is closer to how we live rather than the comic or tragic resolution anyway.) And the same is true for Mullholland Drive -- the tension and the giddiness of the girls' encounter makes them players in Lynch's acute insight into how we design our lives and the unresolved cyclical interchangeability of Hollywood keeps open the resolve of our emotions.

In a recent television commercial for Doritos Tortilla chips the union of the anxious and whimsical are used as a "lifestyle choice" advertising tactic. The ad presents two men, one African American, and one European American playing a one-on-one basketball game. The white man has a prosthetic lower leg. Cut to: a nutty professor type narrating on the sidelines. He says, "You may be interesting, but are you daring?" And the shot changes back to the game where there is a close-up on the basket. The ball is about to go into the basket, but is diverted by the prosthetic limb, being used as an extended reach by the white mans hand. It could be argued that in this commercial, a tense situation is merely a set-up for an upcoming joke. It is the comedy of the joke that could be seen as a closure on the whimsical impulse. But what is striking about the ad, is that it does not only contain the comic punchline, but it presents a lifestyle of language gaming that the two men are embracing, and in this way, keeps the game open for further whimsical changes. Where the anxiety comes into view is obvious -- the tension of the game, the "special-ness" of the one player, and in the judge on the sidelines, challenging these two to the "test" of daring.

Star Trek gives us models of how our idealized leaders of the future -- ones that not only govern, but imagine, embracing freedom's possibility -- could operate. All of the captains of the Starship

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Enterprise have been figures of anxiety and whimsy. They are the smartest rulers, and explorers who play in the uncharted territory of space; whimsy saves them from seriousness, and anxiety saves them from becoming merely tricksters, or even worse -- huggable. It is the command status which is the post of anxiety, the responsibility for the crew, for "progress" of mankind, "to seek out new missions, and to boldly go where no one has gone before." Kirk, Picard, and Janeway all embody the TV hero captain, who like the TV hero politician (see The West Wing), is able to be whimsical in her strong arm of ruling. But all rulers have this anxiety, if they are respected, and all have whimsy, if they are any good.

Spirit's Foe
The opening story of this text: "Look Ma, No Hands" brings us back to Kierkegaard's spirit and freedom's possibility, and we are reminded that freedom's possibility is both exciting and scary at the same time. The expression of looking for approval, and the embracing of the triumphant play of riding one's bicycle without holding the handle bars. Performing virtuous tricks while riding a bicycle reveals freedom's possibility as both anxious and whimsical: we see the anxiety as an attachment to our mothers, the need for the reaffirmation of ego through the approval from the authority figure, and the whimsy as the game playing on the bicycle, which taunts death.

Kierkegaard proposes that "As soon as the actuality of freedom and of spirit is posited, anxiety is cancelled."
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But whimsy, as opposed to spirit and freedom of the spirit, requires a "knowing"

something -- a knowledge of death -- and that holds anxiety within reach. It is this defiance of death -- the "davka" to the face of death, well knowing that death is an eventual inevitability, as well as holding dear the knowledge of spirit, which is the strength of the in-between of anxiety

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and whimsy. That is the power of whimsy, to continue the activity of anxiety, and anxiety's power, although humanity at times has wanted to deny this, is to be open to whimsy. Whimsy without anxiety is merely cuteness or nicety, or even egotistical indulgence. And anxiety without whimsy is seriousness or even possibly a breakdown of sanity due to a failure of the ego.

Without either anxiety or whimsy our mode of being in the world becomes spiritlessness. "In spiritlessness there is no anxiety, because it is too happy, too content and too spiritless for that."
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It is important to remember that whimsy is not happiness, whimsy taunts death and reaffirms the ego. Kierkegaard continues, "Even though there is no anxiety in spiritlessness. Because it is excluded as is spirit, anxiety is nevertheless present, except that it is waiting."
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Without anxiety and whimsy humans are reduced to automatons who go through their everyday tasks only seeking procreation, and money and sex and all of the things which aid in procreation. Regardless of the frequency of the search for procreation, it is anxiety and whimsy, Dasein and questioning, knowing and searching that is responsible for making great things. It is fortunate that these affects exist, that we are bound by them, have a love-hate relationship with them: "Nor can man sink down into the vegetative, for he is qualified as spirit; flee away from anxiety, he cannot, for he loves it; really love it he cannot for he flees from it."
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But it is the embracing of whimsy

and anxiety which is responsible for humanity's creation of science and art and philosophy and even religion (for this is merely one answer to a series of anxious questions) -- all great ideas stem from imagination which these affects make room for.

"Viewed form the standpoint of spirit, anxiety is also present in spiritlessness, but it is hidden and disguised. Even observation shudders at the sight of it,

189 190 191 192

Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety, 96. Ibid., 95. Ibid., 95-96. Ibid., 44.

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because just as the figure of anxiety -- if the imagination is allowed to form such a figure -- is appalling and terrifying to look at, so the figure will terrify still more when it finds necessary to disguise itself in order not to appear as what it is. When death appears in its true form as the lean and dismal reaper, one does not look at it without terror; however, when it appears disguised in order to mock the men who fancy they can mock death, when the observer sees that the unknown figure who captivates all by his courtesy and causes all to exult in the wild gaiety of desires is death, then he is seized by a profound terror."
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What do anxiety and whimsy have in common? In both conditions there persists an element of the unexpected. Or, at least something that appears to be contrary to the expected or "natural" order. A sculptural form that appears to defy gravity -- that would be anxiety in form, or a polka-dotted sofa would be an example of whimsy in design.

Anxiety as not-knowing, but in whimsy there in an inherent knowing -- it is the knowing that notknowing exists. And therefore whimsy embraces absurdity. But both anxiety and whimsy are the emotional affects of expectation. It is the expectation of something that is going to happen, or something that could happen, it is the questioning of greatness or worthlessness, of Being and Nothingness in time which anxiety and whimsy are the emotional states of.

In this chapter we see how both of these expectations could be fulfilled, come to their closure, as well as a few instances of where this closing is stayed, even if it is just for a few moments. What we aspire to do now is hold onto the feeling of non-closure, not only in art and media, in the experience of being an audience member, but in the day to day life-world that we make for ourselves. Because we aspire to remain at the margins, where authenticity is possibility and Nancy trembles with laughter, affirming that "the laughter that takes on anguish and joy alike --

193

Ibid., 96.

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this laughter remains on the margins."

194

If it is possible to live in this in-between of anxiety and

whimsy, in the activity, before the closure, even for a moment (because most likely that is all we will get), then that glimpse of authenticity, a peek into the genuine subject or self just might be revealed.

194

Nancy, The Birth To Presence, 373.

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Chapter 4. Anxiety and Whimsy in Form and Space


"Laughter is the joy of the senses, and of sense, at their limit. In this joy, the senses touch each other and touch language, the tongue in the mouth. But this touch itself puts space between them. They do not penetrate one another, there is no "art." Still less a "total" art. But neither is there "laughter," as a sublime truth withdrawn from art itself. There are only peals of laughter."
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Anxiety and Whimsy in Art


Before the peals of laughter erupt, whether the laughter is an anxious laughter or a whimsical laughter, an audible laughter or a silent one, its cultural catalyst of the senses appears as our present specimen -- as art. As we have seen in the previous chapters, anxiety and whimsy appearing separately, together, intermingled, overlapping. In culture, whether this is a current trend, or whether this is now the moment for noticing the phenomenon, is of little consequence. What is noteworthy, is the expression itself and the fact that a new angle on addressing the emotional affects and inspirations of art and culture could provide a peek into an authentic expression of humanity; one in which anxiety and whimsy occur simultaneously aiding the postponement of a feeling of closure, or the answering of a posed question. Because with this non-closure, we might turn around for a moment and see our beloved Eurydice, even if she is an uncanny ghost.

Examples of art that express both anxiety and whimsy are easily found in two dimensional works, such as the photographs of Charlie White, who pictures ordinary home and work scenarios with snippets of space alien creatures invading the scene, using the toilet and as food on the dinner

195

Nancy, The Birth to Presence, 373.

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table. And the work of Vic Muniz whose giant or miniscule photographs of formations in the grass keep us in the activity of imagining possible solutions with their tricks of scale, jokes and "what if's" in a silly anxiety game. In painting, the work of John Currin, who depicts people in grotesque yet disgustingly funny portraiture, and Alexis Rockman, whose culturally scathing paintings label each biological or earthly piece of debris and microorganism with whimsical precision and accuracy. But where does anxiety and whimsy appear in sculpture? How can an object present these feelings instead of depicting them?

Furthermore, what has become of sculpture at the beginning of the new millennium? We see big objects which are often referred to as sculpture appearing in its anxious and whimsical grandeur in an art gallery near you. Even Jeff Koons, who presents himself very seriously, and even proposes the idea that he is a spiritual artist, presents us with pieces exhibiting a syrupy vulgarity,
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which

could be explained as whimsical. His infamous Puppy from 1992 is a likeness of a young dog, but rises 43 feet tall and is covered by flowers. It is the sheer overbearing ridiculous size of the thing, compounded with the inherent culturally anxious silly object, in which we project our "rules" of taste, which gives this work the power of the anxious and whimsical. Similarly, the work of Dinos and Jake Chapman whose siamese twins (triplets and quadruplets) joined in the most inopportune places and having open and ready mouths present us with a kind of rude teenage humor and physical horror. Likewise both affects appear in the hysterical self portrait of Charles Ray entitled Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley where many likenesses of the artist himself are engaged in a group sex act as well as the work of Matthew Barney, and Paul McCarthy. But these pieces are without emphasis on the form, just on the object. They are object-oriented sculpture -- an arrangement, or not, of a bunch, or one, things(s) that are displayed in a space. Sometimes these objects are found, sometimes they are chosen, sometimes they are constructed or reconstructed from raw or

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Videorecording: American Visions, volume 8: The Age of Anxiety. Hosted, Written and presented by

Robert Hughes. 1996, BBC Worldwide Americas, Inc. PBS Home Video and Turner Home Entertainment.

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manufactured materials, but what is notable in regards to object-oriented artwork is the fact that it inhabits a 3D world is merely a coincidence -- we also live in a 3D world, and the materials which make up the object-oriented sculpture are taken from our world. This kind of work is mostly conceptually based, and more likely addresses cultural rather than aesthetic concerns (although that is an increasingly difficult distinction to make, most of these works are not without an aesthetic awareness). So with this in mind, we are left wondering what the other kinds of sculpture are. We know abstract 3D work, like the minimalist and post minimalist sculpture of Richard Serra, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd or Robert Morris. Or earth works like Robert Smithson and Walter de Maria, or the light based works of Robert Irwin or James Turrell. But how can this type of sculpture which is devoid of glaringly obvious cultural references still be both anxious and whimsical? And why is abstract sculpture increasingly rare? Have we become disinterested in the slowness of it?

But sculpture in general, is more difficult a procedure than other fine art modes. First, unless the sculptor is constructing table-top figurines, or something along a minute, the sheer physicality of the work itself is a challenge (and evidence of that is seen in the fact that until recently, very few sculptors were women -- those of us having less access to avenues of brawn). Making sculpture is likened to construction --it is often unwieldy, or unmovable by one person at all. Plus, the engineering of the piece is another problem in itself. "How does that thing stand up at all?" It is structural and needs to be engineered in a structurally sound way.

Secondly, what makes making sculpture more strenuous than painting (but also for some a more attractive endeavor) is the addition of another dimension. In painting and photography it is assumed that each respective medium, for the most part, takes place in two dimensions. Sculpture is made in at least three dimensions, but truly it is experienced in four. The viewer walks around sculptural form, or in the very least, walks from one side of the room to the other, and the image, set before the unframed frame of their vision, changes. Sides or masses and/or colors of the work

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itself are concealed and revealed by the viewer changing her viewpoint. And all that happens only using one out of five senses. But we all know, that art and life are experienced with more than just sight, and so is sculpture, sculpture has a presence, a feel to it (and often a smell, from the materials and surroundings, and sometimes sound.)

Therefore, not only does the sculptor create with the 2D visual snapshots of the piece as seen from one angle at a time in mind, the sculptor must think in 3D. And this way of understanding space in the way that architects do, sculptors do in reverse. Architects create spaces (or rooms) for forms to inhabit, and sculptors make forms which inhabit spaces.

All of this said, we can now return to our basic question: What makes 3D forms both anxious and whimsical? What is specific to art making in 3D? What, if anything, could be characterized as anxious and whimsical in the 3D universe? What makes something sculpture and how can different ways of representation in 3D give us different experiences of anxiety and whimsy? How does the Uncanny fit into contemporary 3D abstraction when it is generally perceived as a depiction of creatures of the in-between? It is this in-between, ambiguity, the "activity on the border thus understood [which] presupposes the constant willingness to and possibility of crossing that boundary"
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which is worth further exploration. Because what is it that makes art both

anxious and whimsical? Is it merely what we read into the image itself?

Because when "the subject of art sees itself there as what bursts, explodes, is consumed and disappears,"
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it happens during the activity of experience. That event of being with the anxious

and whimsical piece for the duration of viewing it, of holding on to the non-closure of the affects,

197

Siegfried Zielinski "Thinking the Border and the Boundary", in Electronic Culture, ed. Timothy Druckery Nancy, The Birth To Presence, 389.

(New York: Aperture Foundation, 1996), 285.


198

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this is the scene of the churning of ideas which makes certain works resonate with meaning for the viewer. Sculpture is presented to us.

What is first important to discuss is what makes sculpture sculpture. If we can understand what is specific to it rather than any other mode of art-making, maybe we can figure out where its power lies. This will include an assessment of how we perceive 3D space and sculptural viewing experiences. And afterwards, returning to a historically poignant issue, form and content and the formless, as well as the uncanny will be put forth.

The 3D World
To understand three dimensional art as a lived experience as something that, as viewers, we feel and think with our bodies, has somewhat fallen out of favor as a focus of the art viewing public. Has the proliferation of work which is either two dimensional, "screen" based communication, and/or sculpture which is object-oriented, rather than work that concentrates on the fact that it is 3D, responsible for this de-emphasis? Or is the de-emphasis responsible for the nature of the work? Regardless of which came first, the discoursal chicken or egg, it seems that concentration on three dimensionality has been forgotten, or at least diffused.

It could be seen that this 3D amnesia has been cultivated by western civilization for centuries -- or maybe even since drawing began. It is the fundamental act of drawing to depict a 3D world on a two dimensional surface whether the result is an Egyptian Hieroglyph or a complex perspective Renaissance painting, the act is much the same -- to picture the real solid thing on a flat surface. It could be that the human mind works better thinking in simplified 2D, or maybe we have merely

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been conditioned to admire the "talent" of the artist to represent space on a flat surface.

199

Or

maybe it is simply the mechanism of the eye -- which as the organ for seeing projects light onto a a relatively 2D surface of cones and rods. Or perhaps the art of the filmmaker, to capture the world and show it to us projected on a screen is to blame; but little by little, the anxious and whimsical 3D world we live in has been reduced to a represented image on a 2D surface. Furthermore, this has happened even in our minds' eyes. It is noticeable that in perceiving the world around us, most of us grasp and retain a flat image of what happens before us. In other words, by seeing life as 2D imagery for so many centuries is it possible we have become desensitized to thinking in 3D? If it has been the aim of artists for so long to show us images of the 3D world in two dimensions, how come it so infrequently gone the opposite way -- to depict the 3D world in 4D or 5D?
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Or maybe we have just gone forward and skipped the dimension of Moving images seem to have

space all together and substituted easily graspable time instead.

done that quite well, and even earlier than the invention of the film camera there is evidence of such; the flip-book depicted things which seemed to move across the surface of a 2D surface (in this case the printed page) -- in time.

Where does all of this leave us, discussing three dimensionality of the sculptural form in a culture which is so fixated on the 2 dimensional image that it has itself almost forgotten that we live in a 3D world? One strength that sculptors have plays upon this, which is the ability to resurrect the

199

Virtuosity, in realistically reproducing the world on a 2D surface is not a qualification in art making, nor

a "quality" issue for the validity of a work, in the accepted "art market" for well over on hundred years, and if it ever was is a matter for debate.
200

Only one instance of this comes to mind: a recent exhibition of artist Ricci Albenda entitled Tesseract

which consisted of the four-dimensional analogue of a cube -- this construction of "tilting, angled walls; fashioned elaborate convex corners; hung a hollow cube in the center of the gallery and inset peculiar reliefs around the room" but as the viewer walks around the space, "the central cube appears to stretch into a trapezoid." (http://www.artnet.com/Magazine/features/saltz/saltz2-21-01.asp, Psychitectural Digest by Jerry Saltz).

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experience of an awareness of Being in space. Is it possible that sculptors could have a chance of curing this cultural amnesia? Even if it is just for a moment.

In this way, it could be seen that it is the task of sculpture to make what is almost imperceptible (depth) perceived (although it is imagined or understood) the viewer becomes aware of the fact that space is almost unpercievable.
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The way in which to achieve this is to address the viewer's

own sense of space --(what the viewer knows of space is her own relationship with past physical experiences of the body -- dancing, sports, sex -- anything which requires a heightened sensuality - making sense of the world through sense perception ) as shown in terms of form -- static or moving as well as the personality of that moment -- because even a stiff dance step still has a certain quality which it is expressing and cannot be devoid of that personality in the physical world.
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In this way anxiety and whimsy become the quality of the object which is displayed --the quality, not necessarily the subject matter. It is the personality, or the how it is, not the what it represents, or what other references it has brought forth.

The Sculptural Frame


All art is constructed with the idea of the frame in mind -- a traditional painter is conscious of the four edges of the canvas, the photographer sees through the viewfinder, the filmmaker is conscious

201

See Wolfgang Schirmacher's Imperceptible Perception in "Artificial Perception: Nietzsche and Culture See Jean Luc Nancy, The Sense of the World, trans. Jeffrey S. Librett, (Minneapolis: University of

after Nihilism" Poesis 1 (Toronto: EGS Press, 1999).


202

Minnesota Press, 1998).

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of the cropped image projected onto the screen and the media artist has the computer's window as her frame. How she wishes to use, or pretend to ignore it is another matter. But sculpture, often hanging, or standing, out there, in what seems is the middle of nowhere, seems to have no frame at all. More easily than flat image making, sculpture can ignore its frame -- it has a different sent of parameters for understanding its frame. Of course the sculptural frame is the room, space, setting or place between two trees that it resides in. But even sculpture which hangs from the ceiling, for example the works of Peta Coyne, still needs the ceiling, not just to hang from, but also as a backdrop to be seen against or at least, to walk under. And except for table top works, or relief sculpture, all of it is dependent on its setting -- not to say that if a piece is moved from one room to another it will not have the same form, or not "work" in that space, but it is that fact that the setting is a room, as such, or the park or wherever, that impacts the work so greatly -- unlike painting, which most of the time, brings its frame with it. A change of setting has a massive effect on how a sculpture is perceived.

What is Sculpture?
"Sculpture, however, is the art form that best defines the changing relationship between mass and space. For thousands of years embodying the essence of Newtonian gravity, statuary was massive, monolithic, heavy and stationary."
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This was true for a time, and then things changed, but the

idea is that even though a particular sculpture may not be "weighty" it still references a possible weight and mass. Instead it now emphasizes "the tension generated by the unseen geometry at the

203

Leonard Shlain, Art and Physics (New York: Quill William Morrow, 1991), 364.

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border of mass and space."

204

Especially in terms of a kinetic, or light sculpture whose path that

cuts or projects in space would be part of the geometry it creates, whether or not the object is inhabiting a particular point in space; whether or not it is actually there is not the question. It appears to be there.

Rosalind Kraus says that "we know very well what sculpture is. And one of the things we know is that it is a historically bounded category and not a universal one. As true of any other convention, sculpture has its own internal logic, its own set of rules, which, though they can be applied to a variety of situations, are not themselves open to very much change. The logic of sculpture it would seem, is inseparable from the logic of the monument. By virtue of this logic a sculpture is a commemorative representation. It sits in a particular place and speaks in a symbolical tongue about the meaning or use of that place."
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Does the idea of the "monument" pose a problem to object-oriented sculpture, because the space it is in has little to do with the integrity of the work? And over the years has this object oriented sculpture become more like "stuff" or "products" rather than something which is "in homage to" like a monument? Although Krauss sites the "fading logic of the monument," modernist works that had been taken out of their homes,
207 206

beginning with

throughout high modernism, works that

were dependent on their pedestals for "grounding" in a particular space, it is unclear as to why the relationship of sculpture to the traditional "statue" or other kind of government sanctioned monument is important at all. Except in the way that any artwork is a monument, paying

204 205

Ibid., 368. Rosalind Krauss, "Sculpture in the Expanded Field" in The Anti-Aesthetic, ed. Hal Foster (Seattle: Bay Ibid., 35. Could the departure from this logic bear a relationship to the uncanny -- being "un homed"?

Press, 1893), 33.


206 207

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homage to something else. But a change has taken place in the autonomy of sculpture it has become first for itself. And possibly second in homage to some human condition.

Furthermore, as sculpture's definition has expanded, it has been stuffed into, or at least associated with, so many different categories like architecture or landscape. But Krauss could not fit sculpture into what existed as either architecture or landscape either. She says, "Sculpture is rather only one term on the periphery of a field in which there are other differently structured possibilities."
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Krauss uses the anxious earthwork constructions of Robert Smithson and Alice Aycock and Bruce Nauman as examples of the "expanded field" of where sculpture fits into the apex of architecture and landscape. The key idea that sculpture is related to landscape presupposes that it is necessary for the works of sculpture to be outdoor works -- instead of what they might be -- roomscapes or even spacescapes. This dichotomy of inside space and outside space seems too limiting.

Is then sculpture which is not addressing landscape , only an adjacent activity to architecture? That it could not exist without it? In that sense, what is the activity that painting is dependent on as well? The wall to hang it on? The space above the sofa?

If " the logic of space of postmodernist practice is no longer organized around the definition of a given medium on the grounds of material, or, for that matter, the perception of material. It is organized instead through the universe of terms that are felt to be in opposition within a cultural situation" , then just like Humpty Dumpty, a sculpture is "whatever I say it is, neither more nor
209

208 209

Krauss, "Sculpture in the Expanded Field" in The Anti-Aesthetic, 38. Ibid., 41.

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less. Again, here the postmodern whimsical language game could be applied. And Krauss emphasizes what is important to the concept of a work and not to its form.

Space, The Final Frontier, Perceived


In an attempt to understand the flattening dimension phenomenon we can look towards understanding how we humans perceive 3D. Maurice Merleau-Ponty writes, "Space is not the setting (real or logical) in which things are arranged, but the means whereby the position of things becomes possible. This means that instead of imagining it as a sort of ether in which all things float, or conceiving it abstractly as a characteristic that they have in common, we must think if it as the universal power enabling them to be connected."
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Now that is a grounding thought. If

space is a frame for the "stuffs" of the universe to inhabit, we are provided with a comforting answer to what is thought to be a mostly anxious proposition: that all of this junk just floats around there in the huge vastness of space, of the viewer's universe which is so daunting in size it may as well be called the "Abyss." In contrast to Merleau-Ponty, Gaston Bachelard comments on the anxiety of open spaces, "Here fear is being itself. Where can one flee, where find refuge? In what shelter can one take refuge? Space is nothing but a 'horrible outside-inside.'"
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It is space

itself, without borders which is the fear sans-referent (a.k.a. anxiety) that most of us feel. Heidegger feels a similar anxiety when contemplating space "'Nowhere,' however, does not signify nothing: this is where any region lies, and there too lies any disclosedness of the world for essentially spatial Being-in. Therefore that which threatens cannot bring itself close by; it is

210

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (London and New York: Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964), 218.

Routledge, 1962), 243.


211

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already 'there,' and yet nowhere; it is so close that it is oppressive and stifles one's breath, and yet it is nowhere."
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The anxious space could be seen in contrast to Merleau-Ponty's universal power of interconnectedness of space which is also the whimsical exhilarating part. Space has a freedom of possibilities in its anxiety, and humans can play in its possibilities. This playfulness is what the sculptor and dancer take advantage of. It is the openness of freedom's possibility in which spatial games are allowed, knowing that there is an anxiety and whimsy in the vast openness of being uncontained -- "out in the middle of nowhere." The anxiety comes in the non-connectedness the separation anxiety of objects. But the idea of space as interconnectedness allows for a game, it becomes the board to play on, or the playground.

Somewhere between the Bachelard and the Heidegger it is apparent that the open three dimensionality which space is, is not simply the "empiricist psychology which treats the perception of space as the reception, within ourselves, of a real space, and the phenomenal orientation of objects as reflecting their orientation in the world."
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The idea of things happening

in rooms is neither anxious nor whimsical, it is safe and merely home decoration.

"If we consider the logical relation of a concept to its object, we discover that the linkage can be surpassed in a symbolic and allegorical way. Sometimes on the contrary, the object itself is broadened according to a whole network of natural relations. The object itself overflows its frame in order to enter into a cycle or a series, and now the concept is what is found increasingly compressed, interiorized, wrapped in an instance that can ultimately be called 'personal'." not what happens when contemplating Being? That the frame of Dasein is exploded, and
214

Is this

212 213

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. 231. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 247.

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henceforth creates a churning of personal inside anxiety/whimsy? If this activity/churning could be constantly held -- like the cycle or series that Deleuze describes, then the object itself has achieved the anxiety/whimsy which has the potential to surpass its own frame.

In Perception of Time
"Time-space now is the name for the openness which opens up in the mutual self-extending of futural approach, past and present. This openness exclusively and primarily provides the space in which space as we know it can unfold. The self-extending, the opening-up, of future, past and present is itself pre-spatial; only thus it can make room, that is, provide space."
215

It is impossible to continue a discussion about the experience of viewing a 3D piece of artwork without discussing how we experience it temporally. Although it seems obvious that time is inseparable from this experience, so often it is not addressed. Recalling our earlier discourse on anxiety and time and how anxiety requires time, some parallels can be drawn. Different from the "real" fear of a Richard Serra sculpture falling on you, is it possible to create tension in form? In other words, is simply using physical forces of gravity or things stretched or balanced upon one another, (something which has a "real" reference for the fear) the only way to create a tension in form, or better for our purposes, an anxiety in form? But, a tension of "something about to happen" does serve this purpose of creating anxiety in sculpture, and the fact that the inert spheres precariously balanced on a Barry Leva work do not roll onto the viewers toes creates an anxiety in the non-movement of the piece, not necessarily in just its potential for movement. Impactful

214 215

Gilles Deleuze, The Fold, trans. Tom Conley (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 1993) 125. Martin Heidegger, "Time and Being" in On Time and Being, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Harper & Row: New

York 1972), 14.

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anxiety in sculpture as dependent on time is perhaps dependent on its sustainability of the nonclosure of that moment; the fact that the thing that could happen, is where the anxious time appears. It is the inertia which encapsulates the anxiety, not the momentum. Heidegger reminds us that "presencing opens up what we call space-time." .
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And whimsy in time is simply the opposite side of the coin: that something great could happen in time (like laughter that bursts). The similar potential moment could occur on the playful or happily surprising and pleasantly irreverent side of the coin. From another angle, as a viewer experiences a 3D work while moving around it, she can participate in the game that the sculptor has created for her, the seeing and playing whimsically in her own time dependent experience.

The Art Viewer Cam


But all of this is irrelevant if we do not have an awareness of the place we experience sculpture from; it is impossible to perceive things in space without being a human in a room having that experience, Merleau-Ponty concurs, "I regard my body, which is my point of view upon the world, as one of the objects in that world."
217

We cannot deny that when inhabiting a room and faced

with any work of art -- a situation in which looking and consciousness are the given activities at hand -- we become acutely aware of our own bodies inhabiting that world -- by the act of going to an art gallery or museum itself we are confronted by our own activity of looking (something which is central to James Turrell's work). The experience is then compounded when looking at

216

Ibid.

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works which have a high physicality in the space themselves -- a.k.a. sculpture -- another object which we identify as something other than what we are, but which also challenges the idea of "bodies" in the room.
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Suddenly, we become not a body which is a "mass of affective

sensations, but the body which is needed to perceive a given spectacle [and possibly take part in that spectacle]. Everything throws us back onto the organic relations between subject and space, to that gearing of the subject onto his world which is the origin of space."
219

Yve-Alain Bois, in his book Painting as Model notes that "sculpture unlike painting, is an art that mobilizes time: [he quotes artists Strzeminski and Kobro] 'The spatiotemporality of the work of art is related to its variability. We call spatiotemporal the spatial changes produced in timewhen the spectator moves, certain forms present themselves, others hide; the perception of these forms changes constantly.'"
220

What is noteworthy is that when perceiving a three dimensional world,

whether the views that are not seen have been seen is inconsequential -- the viewer imagines what the entire form is regardless of the fact that they have not yet walked around it. This does not discount the beauty of seeing a three dimensional work from other angles, and certainly is not an argument for looking a sculpture in a photograph, but is our minds eye which instinctively wants to make the object whole -- solid in our space. That is the difference between "viewing" and "experiencing" a work; it is the viewing which sees only one viewpoint, one angle of a work of sculpture, and the experience (in the Helgelian use of the word ) in which the speculative logic of "what is happening" or "what is there" is understood, even though it may not be actually taken in by the cones and rods of one's eye. Experience connotes an understanding of what is happening,
221

217

Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 70. Any forms -- bodies foreign, ours or otherwise. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, 251. Yve-Alain Bois, Painting as Model (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990), 151. And Strzeminski and Katarzyna See Hegel, Phenomenology of Mind, trans. J. B. Baillie (New York: Harper & Row, 1967).

218 219 220

Kobro, "Composition of Space: Calculations of Spatio-Temporal Rhythm" (1931) in EU 105.


221

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or what is going on, what is present, not just seeing something from a viewpoint, or the act of viewing which does not imply that the viewer had done anything except use her eyes.

The striking part of this phenomenon, is that the very "canvas" for anxiety and whimsy to live together is the realm of space, in all its 3D glory, and as communicated with an understanding that the receiver receives in real time. Because 3D space itself is already a frame of freedom's possibilities -- by its very nature "anything can happen here," like in real life.
222

Of course the next

question is, "so what will happen here?" or what is happening?" Or "oh, maybe something could happen." Like a dancer on an empty stage before a movement is made, sculpture is born from a question of infinite possibilities. The sculptor asks, "out of all of the wonderful and horrible things in this world, and not of it, what can I make?" Any artistic act is made in the same spirit, but what is particular to sculpture is that the feeling of a lived experience in an openness of spacetime, and this allows yet another dimension of possibilities.

The Form(less) Question


Throughout the discourse of 20 century art and art making there has been a shift concerning where the importance or validity of an artwork lies. Previously, the ideas of "form" and "content" were the defining features -- how a work was made, and of what materials, or the form it took, and what it was depicting or, the content. In postmodern thinking, the focus on these purely aesthetic concerns shifted to what Bois calls "formless" in which case the importance of a work is not in its "how" or "what" but in its function, what the task of the particular piece is. This is formlessness. When speaking about abstract sculpture, this seems to pose a problem; despite this shift in
th

222

This real space of sculpture is not the same as the simulated space of painting or photography or film or

TV; it does not "happen" within a window.

Anxiety and Whimsy in Form and Space

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thinking, the sculptor is still engaged in asking traditional questions about the form because the form is inseparable to the piece in sculpture -- how it is made and the materials make the piece what it is. Even when making something out of "traditional" clay or bronze, whatever it is made out of, and therefore the engineering concerns of that particular material must be taken into account (how big it can be, what the material can do. It is impossible to make a "soft sculpture" out of stone). Furthermore, the form is inherent to a medium whose frame is indistinct, because the shape of the thing, its borders, defines what the thing is. It is evident that the power of sculpture is still dependent on the "how" it is presented. "Form is not indiscriminately architecture, sculpture or painting. Whatever exchanges may be made between techniques-however decisive the authority of one over the others--form is qualified above all else by the specific realms in which it develops, and not simply by an act of reason on our part, a wish to see form develop regardless of circumstances."
223

The current thinking about 2D art and object oriented sculpture is that form and content just add to formlessness -- to what the art work does. But the current thinking about form and content conclude that they are not enough in themselves, otherwise, as with something that is perceived as pure form, the work of art is reduced to ornamentation -- something Theodor Adorno referred to as simply "wallpaper." So, in this sense, pure abstract 3D forms do not satisfy the contemporary art viewer's appetite for meaning -- it could be argued that they run the risk of being reduced to items that are merely decorative. For example, the anxiety in the work of artist Ernesto Neto has become diminished over time; and therefore his whimsical forms begin to verge on suffering from the phenomenon of being reduced to ornamentation. The stretched and stuffed white nylon material which makes up his large sculptures is friendly and fun, playful, yet without tension, despite the fact that often the forms themselves are being stretched or weighted down against their

223

Henri Focillon, "Forms in the Realm of Space," The Life of Forms in Art. (New York: Zone Books, 1992),

65-66. Originally published in 1934 as La Vie des Formes.

Anxiety and Whimsy in Form and Space

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own elasticity. But that seems to be not enough, and even though the forms have some vague body materiality reference, additional meaning is not generated. The problem here becomes as such: How can a whimsical form keep its anxiety and not be reduced to decoration? Does the fact that something appears in the place where freedom's possibility is intense, necessitate an expression of openness of possibility which is anxiety? (Or necessitate an openness of possibility which is whimsy for that matter?)

But Henri Focillon provides an alternative response, for him purely abstract forms can never be just that. He says: "Here, then, is further confirmation of the idea that ornament is not a mere abstract graph evolving within any given space whatsoever. What ornamental form does is to create its own modes of space, or better, since our conceptions of form and space are so inseparably united, what they do is to create one another within the realm of ornament, with identical freedom respecting the object and according to identically reciprocal laws."
224

The structuralists perhaps offer a different solution: Klaus Ottman looks towards them: "Instead of a mechanical-materialistic formalism, [Roland] Barthes suggests a scrupulous examination of an objects materiality as theoretical act. It is this structuralist activity that defines the object. Materiality becomes structure, an 'interested simulacrum.' It makes something appear which remained invisible, or if one prefers, unintelligible, in the natural object.'"
225

What this provides is

a shift in thinking: the material itself carries meaning and therefore content -- like the sculpture of British artist Marc Quinn who cast his own head in his own blood, which is kept frozen in its own freezer pedestal the material of the blood becomes the part of the form which carries the content into the formless. It is important to remember that the root of the word formless is still "form."
226

224 225

Ibid. Klaus Ottman, "Spiritual Materiality," Sculpture Magazine, April 2002.

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What all this comes to mean, or where our formlessness is in the case of abstract sculpture, is that the form of the work itself, and the material it is made from (because we know that 3D work in particular is intrinsically dependent upon this) the meaning is carried. Krauss observes, "But whatever the medium employed, the possibility explored in this category is a process of mapping the axiomatic features of the architectural experience -- the abstract conditions of openness and closure -- onto the reality of a given space."
227

And it is still the fact that this artwork exists in the

anxious and whimsical space which make it a candidate for the new spatial uncanny.

The Uncanny
The uncanny, appearing in art, plays with an in-between which succeeds in being both anxious and whimsical. The uncanny is what " disrupts unitary identity, aesthetic norms, and social order."
228

Like the digitally augmented photographs of Margi Geerlinks which depict women

knitting themselves babies and sewing breasts, embroidering ears and other body parts or extensions thereof, the creepy grotesque women's "work" of redesigning the body exhibits images of the uncanny.
229

Or Joel-Peter Witkin's creepy freaks who taunt death, and the mechanical

biomorphic dolls of Hans Bellmer which present the haunting uncanny coming to life.

Returning to Lacan's fifth term in the function of the object petit a whereas "the Other is the site of a decoy in the form of petit a. In the fifth term, we shall see the petit a of the Other, sole witness,

226 227 228 229

Klaus Ottman, interview by author, New York, May 2002. Krauss, "Sculpture in the Expanded Field" in The Anti-Aesthetic, 41. Hal Foster, Compulsive Beauty (Cambridge: MIT Press 1993), xvii. See Smock Magazine, Winter 2002. Vol. 2 #1 p.37-39.

Anxiety and Whimsy in Form and Space

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in sum, that that site is not solely the site of a mirage."

230

The phantom image that sits between

life and death and appears to be the petit a is not, it is its complement, the stand in, the specular image: i(a).
231

And this is the uncanny -- the uncanny as a spirit or ghost as an apparition, but also

as the shiver-up-your-spine feeling itself.

Again, we remember, as Orpheus tells us, the function of desire is to create the image that substitutes for the petit a, the uncanny thing. As Freud and Nietzsche noted while discussing the uncanny, the German translation is unheimlich, which directly translates as "un-home-like." It is important to note that "home" is still the defining root of the word. The uncanny images of ghosts and the undead directly correlate to Ronell's discourse on the test, where the risk is a risk of possible ridicule and loss of the ego, is the anxiety producing syndrome. She says, "Ridicule stalks in like a ghost"
232

that ghost, the uncanny, the hologram in the place of a fear which is

without a real life reference, in other words, a phantom embodying the loss of "home-like-ness" -the loss of the ego of anxiety as personified. "For even as the uncanny enlivens the outmoded, renders it disruptive in the present, it threatens to overwhelm the subject."
233

For the most part, the uncanny has been understood as solely anxiety producing, as in these examples, but it is possible for it to be whimsical, both in the way it "plays" and how it can be depicted as a more abstracted in-between. As pHinnweb.com astutely asks: "Why, however, "should the exercising of anxieties evoke pleasure in the subject? Freud, in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, describes a game played by a young boy as a reenactment of the trauma of his mother's departure (Freud 13-15). He suggests that the motive of this repetition remains to master the unpleasant situation. The boy compensates his powerlessness by placing himself in the position as agent. The

230

Lacan, Television, 87. Ibid., 86. Ronell, Stupidity, 291. Hal Foster, Compulsive Beauty (Cambridge: MIT Press 1993), 174.

231 232 233

Anxiety and Whimsy in Form and Space

112

reader or spectator of an uncanny text may similarly exercise these anxieties to master or exorcise them. However, a tension remains with this mastery as pain is reinflicted in each "play." In "The Uncanny," Freud attributes repetition as a factor of the uncanny (Freud 236)."
234

The return to the "play" and pleasure in repetition of the uncanny shows the creator of this game as a kind of trickster. Whimsy, and the "whim" -- the act of irreverence and surprise in possibilities - has influenced the game player (and the artist) to repeat the game (or put that thing in the picture), and by this infusion, we are given the gift of the uncanny as the result in the image that has been whimsically created. And the game player or artist -- understands something (as is required by the whimsical trickster): she know that she taunts the big Other, yet creates the standin for it, regardless of its (non-)existence.

Uncanny Space
Not only do the avatars of the uncanny disjoint "the subject in time and space,"
235

in the way that it

becomes unclear to which time space they belong, but also the viewer who is looking at these works becomes disjointed in terms of her emotions. It is "the space of the uncanny which destabilizes the subject, exhilarates the subject."
236

It is this space of in-between, a haunted place

which uncanny things inhabit (for, of course, they do not really live there) which has both anxiety (the destabilization) and whimsy (the exhilaration). This is the space of the imagination.

"For the feeling of uncanniness, Freud argues, stems from the recognition that these doubles are at one and the same time the extreme opposite of oneself and yet the same as oneself, which is to say

234 235

http://www.modcult.brown.edu/students/segall/u-5.html, May 21, 2002. http://www.modcult.brown.edu/students/segall/u-10.html, May 21, 2002.

Anxiety and Whimsy in Form and Space

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both alive and dead."

237

What is striking here, is that the idea of being "opposite and the same" in

terms of the avatars of the uncanny (ghosts, mechanical dolls, the undead), can also be applied to the emotional affects of anxiety and whimsy themselves. We have discussed the importance of "opposite and sameness" of anxiety and whimsy in the previous chapter, but as this as applied to art is particularly interesting and offers another interpretation: Because the uncanny, as expressed in the old fashioned notions of "form and content" spends most of its energy in the "what" (the content) that is being depicted. It is traditionally the images of the stuff which make it "uncanny" -- or at least how we have understood it thus far. But in the world of non object-oriented sculpture, where the notion of form still has resonance, where old fashioned abstraction is still a viable concern, the uncanny plays a different role -- it becomes visible, or felt, not in "what" (the content) is being shown, but in the "how" (the form) is shown. So for this genre of non-specific pictorial 3D work, the uncanny appears as the quality -- as the emotional personality -- the affects -- of the particular piece. Of course, this is dependent on these qualities being "at one and the same time the extreme opposite of oneself and yet the same as oneself" notably, anxious and whimsical, threatening and exhilarating.
238

In other words, it is the ambiguity or unresolvedness of

the piece which is the anxious and whimsical, allowing the form to become the vehicle for the feeling of the uncanny. What occurs here is that the object which does not depict the uncanny Thing has a quality of uncanniness in its character and provokes the feeling of the uncanny in the viewer just the same; the ghost is not shown, but in the personality of the sculpture, it is somehow felt.

236 237

http://www.modcult.brown.edu/students/segall/u-4.html, May 21, 2002. Rosalind E. Krauss, "Uncanny" in Formless , Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind E. Krauss (New York, Zone It is possible that these could be other qualities, but at the root of any so called qualities would be our

Books, 1997), 194.


238

affects -- Anxiety and Whimsy.

Anxiety and Whimsy in Form and Space

114

So in this sense the quality of the uncanny becomes indispensable -- it is this quality which points to an in-between -- of life and death, of beauty and the grotesque, and of a particular emotional affect and its closure.

Before departing from the material formless spatial uncanny it could be useful to have a look at the work of artist Anish Kapoor. Since the 1970's he has made sculptures which are large abstract forms, largely geometrical in their exploration of the physics of topology and constructed from luscious glossy materials. These works are generally bigger than human size and are sometimes translucent, often reflective, but hard, goo like balls or complex torus shapes, turned inside-out, floating, drifting or suspended in the room. While experiencing these works, the viewer has an idea that they are both otherworldly and yet familiar, sexy and attractive, yet frightening. They slice through the space, looming and friendly, playful and daring. It is not in what they depict where the uncanny comes into play, but in their presentation of some world known and yet unknown to us.

How do space and anxiety, form and whimsy, formless anxiety and whimsy play together? If the modernist task was to "disappoint expectations" a.k.a., what Bataille called "slippage,"
239

then

perhaps it is the task of the postmodernist to hold, and play with, and keep with the activity of expectations themselves.

239

Yve-Alain Bois, "The Use Value of Formless" in Formless , Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind E. Krauss

(New York, Zone Books, 1997), 15.

Anxiety and Whimsy in Form and Space

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"The very existence of play continually confirms the supra-logical nature of the human situation."
240

It is the job of the artist to explore whatever the human situation is. In this case we

have discussed what is specific to sculpture as a playing field for this kind of serious game. If space, in all its 3D glory, is a blank canvas for anxiety and whimsy, for freedom's possibility, and artists take advantage of that, then it is their job to make the viewer aware of the anxiety and whimsy in 3D space. Conversely, it is the 3D player's job to make the viewer consciousness of the 3D-ness of it. It is a tautological game, making sculpture, which contains the knowing of the trickster, the angst of desire, and above all else, the churning of Dasein. The artist tries to represent "the unpresentableis presented as unpresentable, or its impossibility comes into presence."
241

In the anxious and whimsical activity of using three dimensions to keep closure at bay, "it could be said that the monad, astraddle over several worlds, is kept half open by a set of pliers." perhaps these pliers are made of play-doh.
242

But

Anxiety is necessary, it keeps us exploring the human condition. Whimsy is necessary, it keeps us from going crazy.

240
241

Huizinga, Homo Ludens, 3-4. Nancy "Laughter, Presence" in The Birth To Presence, 372. Deleuze, The Fold, 137.

242

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Appendix

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Appendix
Appendix A

Four frames from an internet advertisement. February 2002.

Appendix

123

Appendix B
Pop Culture Chart of Anxiety and Whimsy (a work in progress) Anxiety Kurt Cobain U2 Janis Joplin Marianne Faithful Michael Jackson Bubble gum pop music (Britney Spears, N'Sync) John Lennon Linda McCartney Serious Sex Seducer (SSS) (habitual relationship seeker) Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Meg Ryan, Bridget Jones Presidents Bush Monica Lewinsky Larry Flynt, Hugh Hefner Wile E. Coyote Homer & Marge Simpson Julia Roberts Arnold Schwartzenegger Science Fiction Real life Ruler/Captain Bugs Bunny Bart Simpson Erin Brocovich Danny DeVito The Musical The Comic Book Ruler/Captain or Super Hero The Terminator The Circus TV Hero/Captain/Politician (i.e. Captains Kirk, Picard, and Janeway) Lisa Simpson Bill Clinton Casual Sex Seducer (CSS) (ironic suave guy/gal) James Bond, George Clooney, Pussy Galore The Super Hero as Lover, Buffy (the Vampire Slayer) as Girlfriend, George Hamilton in Love at First Bite Hillary Clinton Richard Nixon Paul McCartney Yoko Ono Whimsy Courtney Love Eminem Ludacris Anxiety & Whimsy Queen Latifa Beastie Boys Missy Elliot

Appendix

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TV Sit Coms Police/ Courtroom Drama Hospital Drama Sex and the City Tony Soprano Beverly Hills 90210 The Bachelor MTV, BET French and Swedish Cinema Woody Allen Fight Club Gladiator Professional Sports Professional Wrestling American Action Movies Mel Brooks, Blake Edwards Austin Powers OZ The Sopranos Legally Blonde The Iron Chef

TV Commericals

Six Feet Under Fear Factor Buffy the Vampire Slayer Survivor VH1 English Comedy Mike Leigh, David Lynch Natural Born Killers

Female Mud Wrestling Celebrity Boxing

The Working Professional Circumcised Cosmetic Surgery Department Stores Uncircumcised Permanent Make-up Tattoos Discount Stores (Wal-Mart, Target) Home Video Gaming Systems Vegetables Oat Bran (or any cancer preventing food) Low-Fat Dairy Slices Diet Foods/Drinks Triple Cream French Brie Dessert Arcade Games Tofurky

The Freelancer Pierced Penile Implants Home Improvement Stores

Arcade Dance Game Systems

Buckwheat Pancakes Cheese Whiz Cheese Course

Appendix

125

Scotch Equal Muscle Queen Arithmetic Science Mobile Phones Anxious and Whimsical Persona's The Drug Addict The Idiot The Bully The Test Taker The Protagonist, The Antagonist The Leading Man The Ingnue Anxious and Whimsical Artists Richard Serra Shirin Neshat Hans Bellmer Louise Bourgeois

Tequila Sunrise Sugar Drag Queen The Mathematician The Mad Scientist Walkie-talkies

Rum and Diet Coke Saccharin Leather Queen Day Trader Mathematics Quantum Physics Instant Text Messaging

The Celebrity The Artist The Trickster The Fool/ Jester The Philosopher The Teacher

Andy Warhol Jeff Koons Ernesto Neto

Charles Ray Vic Muniz Anish Kapoor Matthew Barney Christo Richard Prince Ricci Albenda

Political Art Minimalist Art The Uncanny in 2D

Dada Pop Art The Uncanny in 3D

Appendix

126

Appendix C
Sculpture of Author

Connecting Afterwards 2002 11' x 4' x 4' polyethylene string, aluminum ducts

Appendix

127

no title (snout) 2000 12" x 12" x 24"d polyethylene string, acrylic frame

Appendix

128

Inside Out and Upside Down 2001 32" x 8" x 7" bakery string, aluminum rings, drapery rings

Appendix

129

Oncelers Kin 2001 7' x 7' x 4h polyethylene string, aluminum ducts

Appendix

130

no title (passing orbs) 2001 4" x 4" x 11'h bakery string, aluminum spheres

Appendix

131

Return of the Lovers 2001 32" x 10" x 6" bakery string, drapery rings

Appendix

132

Dangling Rocketry 2000 10'h x 3' x3' polyethylene string, aluminum rings

Appendix

133

Self Portrait 2000 3pcs. 5'5"h x 10" x10" ea. polyethylene string, acrylic frame

Appendix

134

no title (one leg) 2000 30" x 8" x8" polyethylene string, aluminum rings

Appendix

135

The Lovers 2001 32" x 8" x 6" bakery string, drapery rings

Appendix

136

All Legs 2001 7' x 7' x 8h polyethylene string, aluminum ducts

Appendix

137

no title (baked rings) 2000 4" x 4" x 11'h bakery string, aluminum rings

Appendix

138

Number 3 2000 (corer installation) approx. 7'h x 7' x 5' polyethylene string, aluminum ducts, aluminum rings

Appendix

139

Three and a Ball 2001 32" x 14" x 6" bakery string, aluminum sphere

Appendix

140

detail -- no title (baked rings)

detail -- no title (passing orbs)

detail -- Dangling Rocketry