December 1st, 2010 / 12:05 pm

Lacan gets punk’d

A young ideologue punks Lacan in the name of situationism by pouring water on his desk and pelting him with soggy paper.

Reminds me of the part in Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” that goes:

who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism
and subsequently presented themselves on the
granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads

Pranks as politics.


  1. Anonymous

      The most unsettling thing about the video is the crowd response, the support they give Lacan, their authority. I do like how Lacan handles the whole situation. But the crowd man. creeps me out.

  2. Lacan gets punk’d / HTMLGIANT « word pond

      […] Lacan gets punk’d / HTMLGiant […]

  3. Anonymous

      Gotta love EGO. Anyone know what cigar Lacan is puffing in the vid? The shape looks like a culebra.

      The video seems a little staged.

  4. Miss Flesh

      “Pranks as politics.”

      That’s pithy, but not what Ginsberg meant. He meant the exact opposite, that the dadaists and the righteously mad were not pranking–that’s what fakers/academics do. Of course. the experiences of his mother and her coterie inform the poem, and this passage, in particular.

  5. Michael Blackburn

      Nothing either of them said made any sense whatsoever. That’s the beauty of the French language, though, that even complete bullshit can sound intellectually profound.

  6. Christopher Higgs

      Dear Anonymous aka Mr. Bone aka Miss Flesh aka you are not Allen Ginsberg for he is dead and therefore you have no authority to speak to what he meant or did not mean w/r/t his compositions, how embarrassing and obnoxious of you to be so presumptuous. No wonder you posted the comment under a pseudonym!

  7. Hank

      Crowds are just creepy, man, and even more so when the crowd you are speaking of is termed an “audience.” An audience is always passive.

  8. JakeLevineSpork

      Angry dude with big lips and glasses: I believe in, well I believe in revolution. I am doing this for revolution. I am expressing myself, like if we all got together and did it together, then we’d be expressing ourselves. Like a revolution, dude.

      Lacan: Sit down so that you don’t put that soggy towel on me. Good. Now that you’re sitting… I respect your autonomy as an agent in the world. Just don’t put the soggy towel on my shirt.

      Angry dude with puffy lips: I AM A REBEL. I do what I want to do. I believe in revolution.

      ::Angry dude puts soggy towel on Lacan’s shirt::

      Lacan: Disguisting.

      ::Angry dude gets thrown out::

      Reminds me of high school. I liked The Circle Jerks too and had purple hair. Then I got older and registered to vote… ahh… where has life gone?

  9. jereme_dean

      Gotta love EGO. Anyone know what cigar Lacan is puffing in the vid? The shape looks like a culebra.

      The video seems a little staged.

  10. jereme_dean

      He was wearing a pretty sweet shirt, no?

  11. Justin RM

      It creeps you out that an annoying douche bag did douche-baggy things and that the audience sided with the non-douche bag who might say douche-baggy things sometimes but wasn’t acting douche-baggy in this instance?

  12. Hank

      Crowds are just creepy, man, and even more so when the crowd you are speaking of is termed an “audience.” An audience is always passive.

  13. Guest

      Lacan doesn’t want to get touched by a wet napkin. Student stamps feet, demands his mom buy him a candy bar in checkout line at walmart revolution. Everything happens in French. This is exactly how modern literary theory makes me feel in my heart.

  14. Janey Smith

      Once again Christopher Higgs believes he’s the authority when it comes to reading something. But, let’s be clear: Even if Ginsberg were alive, that would not be enough to possess him of the authority to speak about his own texts, compositions, whatever. As if Ginsberg could be responsible for knowing all the possible interpretations, readings, uses or whatever, that his texts could possibly, and impossibly, generate?

      But, this doesn’t mean I agree with Miss Flesh’s reading of the Ginsberg citation. I just think that if Higgs can provide a better reading of it, a more compelling reading, then he should do so rather than call for acts of interpretative purity and authorial meaning of texts that he, too, doesn’t seem–nor, I imagine, really want–to play out.

  15. Anonymous

      I just think he could have handled it a lot worse. Like, get this fuck the hell out of here, or not actually responding in any way to what the kid was saying. I do think he was trying to respond to him.

  16. Guest

      really don’t like what’s happening in this video

      will maybe investigate why i don’t like it later

  17. deadgod

      Crowds in which the individuality of individuals is metabolized into uncritical momentum are creepy. A charismatic bully and/or an extra-legal police apparatus will turn a crowd against interests the people in it might choose as their own, were they not in it.

      Why do you “like how Lacan handles the whole situation”? He’s intimidated by the confused hippy, then, after the kid is bundled off, returns to control with his smug, uncontestable-in-this-context theorizing. To me, he comes across here as a devious operator.

  18. deadgod

      Fair points, Janey – according to what he says here himself, Chris is either: a) Miss Flesh; or b) “embarrassing”, “obnoxious”, and “presumptuous”.

      As he demonstrates practically, everyone has the “authority” of their perspective – and, here, the “authority” to bruit it — mistaken or offensive though that perspective and its expression, respectively, be.

      I don’t know about Ginsberg’s “mother” (??), but I think Miss Flesh is right, in that dada provocation is not a trick by which the trickster reinforces patterns of representation and force that the trickster ‘secretly’ shares with the tricked (which, I think, is the effect of, say, Candid Camera or Kutcher).

      I also doubt that the ‘revolutionary’ kid is running a “prank”, but rather, is making a directed criticism of, well, whatever he’s blaming. That his praxis is inarticulate, that he seems to have shit on his own legs . . . at least the guy has plenty of room on his drawing board to plan his next intervention.

  19. Christopher Higgs

      Hi, Janey Smith,

      Wasn’t my intention to provide a reading; was my intention to point out the obnoxiousness of presuming to know what Ginsberg “meant” in his poem.

      Thankfully, I’m alive, so you can ask me what I meant by my comment. See, I just explained it to you. Since Ginsberg is dead you can’t ask him what he meant.

      Your assertion about “all the possible interpretations, readings, uses or whatever” is irrelevant. You’re confusing your a priori with your a posteriori. Rookie mistake.

      “Interpretations, readings, uses or whatever” have no bearing on what I meant when I typed the above comment. I meant what I just told you I meant. You can’t disagree with what I meant because you aren’t in my head. You can interpret what I wrote, you can read what I wrote, you can “use or whatever” what I wrote, but unfortunately you can’t know what I meant. I’m the only one who knows that. And to presume otherwise is…to put it kindly…naive and obnoxious.


  20. Trey

      interpretation beats intention. although, intention beats scissors, and scissors beats interpretation. so.

  21. deadgod

      Chris, regardless of your “intention”, you certainly did provide a “reading”, namely, that the content of Miss Flesh’s post was “presumptuous”. ( – unless you’re not ‘interpreting’ Miss Flesh’s words? but rather are stating a perspective-independent fact about them – namely their ‘obnoxious presumption’??)

      You evade Janey’s “assertion” that an author is not a final, total, or absolute “authority” on the meaning(s) – or even the fact – of her or his own work.

      Janey is saying that an author shares with every other reader of that work a perspectival relation to it, necessarily contingent, immanent, limited – despite actually having written those words in that order. This, you don’t respond to.

      With respect to her logic, she is saying that the deduction, the reasoning from cause to effect, the a priori reasoning, that a reader’s perspective cannot be absolutely ‘authoritative’, obtains in the particular case where the reader of a text is also that text’s writer. – that being an “author” does not imply the “authority” of being able to explain ‘authoritatively’ the whole of what’s interpretable of a text.

      She’s not reasoning inductively, from effect to cause, a posteriori, when she argues that a writer, as a reader of her or his work, is perhaps privileged, but certainly not absolutely ‘authoritatively’ privileged in “pointing out”, say, the “presumption” to be “point[ed] out” in a text.

      She is reasoning a posteriori, inductively, from effect to cause, when she ‘presumes’ to see, in your claim of Miss Flesh’s “presumption”, “presumption” of your own.


      I’m the only boss of what I mean.

      sounds like something you would attack ruthlessly if anyone else said it, which is a presumptuous, but not obnoxious, thing for me to mean to say, if I’m the boss of what I say means.

  22. deadgod

      u r posting that u r “maybe” going 2 post y u mad about it

      is it because you don’t like malevolent leaders of swayed crowds?

      or because that ‘revolutionary’ is so callow, or so tongue-tied?

      either/or, both/and, options abundant

      u tell m y u mad about it, dawg

  23. Christopher Higgs

      haha! Touché, Trey!

  24. Janey Smith

      Christopher? I am a rookie. But not the kind that tries to recruit followers or members–that’s your job.

      You are also a typical American-style philosophy of language advocate. Actually, I do disagree with what you meant because I don’t believe that you know what you meant. And what is that? What is it that you meant? You know.

      But, you also don’t know. That much is certain, too.

      And this fact, makes your responses very funny. But, I am certain you both did and did not intend that, I mean, mean it. I mean, what else could you have meant? As if the concepts a priori and a posteriori, which belong to both you and me, can be so robustly defined, so severely differentiated, removed from confusion, employed without contamination?

      But I know you know that. Well, at least, that’s what you meant. And, of course, at the same time, didn’t mean. I mean, we can agree on that much. I mean, it’s not much, but it’s something. Because, you see, I agree with you when you write that it can’t be any other way with you? I mean, it’s what you meant. And what is that? What is it that you meant? You know.

      But, you also don’t know. I mean, how can one know an intention? I mean, what is meant? It would seem awfully difficult to know such a thing, such a concept, such a word, without, I don’t know, engaging somehow in an act of reading or interpretation or something that would somehow permit you or your head to state: “This is what I meant.” Or: “It has arrived! What I meant.” But, I know you didn’t mean that. I am also certain that you did. How do I know? You know.

      But, I’m all confused–and certainly don’t know what I mean. I mean, what I meant to write was something else. And what I wrote just kind of appeared. I don’t know how it got there. I’m not, like you, concerned with how it got there, what informed it, etc. I mean, who could imagine an a priori “anything” appearing out of “nowhere” without “something” somehow preceding it? You probably could, but you have a far broader imagination that I? How do I know this? You know.

      The careful contamination that informs your (but it belongs to me, too–only differently) precious, ballsy, unknowable-to-anyone-but-(even)-yourself notion of a priori and your rather loud a posteriori, doesn’t that have “everything” to do with making meaning, constructing intention, knowing intention through acts of reading, interpreting, etc? Or, more simply put, with what you mean, meant?

      Of course it does. But, it also doesn’t.

      But you already knew that. And in knowing that, you decided, quite deliberately, to withhold what you knew/know about these two concepts, which are nuanced with differentiation, more than slightly confused in their conception, and whose relation to each other is informed by a fog of dependency and use.

      And you meant to do this. I mean, you did and you didn’t. And quite deliberately so. I mean, so-so. Because that is what Christopher Higgs, to whomever that is, wrote, meant. A move that assures purity of the kingdom of thought, writing, philosophy, ego, etc. How do I know this? You know.

      With terrific naivety and sublime obnoxiousness, the rook.

      PS: Rook takes pawn, forgive me, king (but that doesn’t mean we have to stop playing. And yet, also, it does).

  25. C. Mittens

      Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.

  26. c2k

      1. He is confused (Lacan). 2. The hippie is confused. 3. The crowd/audience is confused. All for different reasons. What we’re left with is a mess. And not just on the table.

  27. c2k

      To add: the tell is when the hippie sits down. Here is the conventional teachable moment. The hippie acquiesces; gives Lacan this gift. But Lacan doesn’t know what to do with it. He’s lost/confused/chokes. There the young man’s action might be judge a success – but it’s completely accidental, as per the absurd.

  28. Anonymous

      It seems to me there’s something of substance here. I don’t know very much about Lacan, but I’ll share what I got from it. I’m not sure what Lacan is saying to begin with. I think the kid is saying that individuality (though not explicitly stated) has turned into a spectacle, along with culture or society. So, because of this (?) he’s chosen to act out. ‘But in the name of what?’ asks Lacan. Then, the kid leaves, and Lacan concludes by explaining the reasoning behind his question. For him, this idea of revolution serves no purpose except to draw others into it and become its own order. The kid alludes to distinctions, but these distinctions are still in the form of groups, are still perpetuating the master/slave dichotomy. Lacan’s closing remarks, then, really strike me as anarchistic. That may be far removed from what he actually believed, but that’s, at least, what I got from it. I had to watch the thing about 4 times before I really saw any sort of substance there, but I do think it’s there. It would be awesome if I was totally wrong about all of this though.

  29. Justin RM

      I never thought you of all people would actually make me “laugh out loud.” But you did. Thanks for that.

  30. deadgod

      I think it’s true that Lacan was nonplussed, that he thought he was safe from this kind of vigorous challenge while he was on stage.

      Watching it, I thought that he could have shared the platform with the hippie – not to humiliate the kid, but to turn an emotionally difficult moment, as you say, “teachable”: ‘what “revolution”? what do you mean by “revolution”? can you put what you’re talking about into words?’ – in the hope that the attacker would take a breath and make some clear statement that the Great Theorist could work with.

      I don’t think this Great Theorist was interested in working with ideas or with students or in thinking in a genuinely adventurous way – though a short clip of an awkward situation wouldn’t be nearly enough to demonstrate such broad claims, only to indicate their possible fairness.

  31. David

      Lacan was always in control of the moment, how could you sense his intimidation? At first the hippy might have seemed romantic, but Lacan let him talk himself into confusion and silliness. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lacan was in on the gag. Just because Lacan let the poor jim display his quick implosion, didn’t mean he wasn’t in control. At any time, Lacan could have summoned the guards to remove Nemo, but he didn’t until he laid hands on him.

  32. David

      Chris Huggems,

      Of course even Ginsberg didn’t know what he “meant” and If he were alive today I doubt you would ask him such a stupid question because your smart enough to know what his rude but funny response would be. To ask writers what they “meant” by their work would as Beckett said: defeat the purpose of writing it.

      that leaves analysis and critique, and thats always driven by personal predilection, not something worth analyzing or critiquing.

  33. Student

      uhm, that’s exactly mr. higgs’s point! the original commentor said “That’s pithy, but not what Ginsberg meant. He meant the exact opposite…” mr. higgs called that commentor out for being stupid enough to claim they knew what ginsberg meant. i agree with mr. Higgs. it is stupid for anyone to think they know what someone else means. you can only interpret what other people do or say, you cannot claim knowledge that you cannot possibly have access to — which is exactly what that peach lady tried to do. she tried to correct the interpretation of the person who posted the post, but instead of arguing a different interpretation the peach lady made a claim that she knew what ginsberg meant, when it is impossible for her to know. that seems pretty obvious. i don’t understand the people who are commenting against what mr. higgs said. that peach lady *was* obnoxios to try and correct the person who posted the post. “tisk tisk, you don’t know what ginsberg meant, but i know.” god how obnoxious!!!!

  34. deadgod

      A fair point, Student: Miss Flesh, without using the word “knowledge”, makes a strong claim that s/he knows what Ginsberg “meant”, rather than qualifying her claim with IMHOs.

      Many of us who are convinced of the perspectival nature of knowledge prefer not to overdecorate our posts with IMHOs, preferring (only occasionally) to use an “in my view” to separate more personally determinate commitments from more empirically compelled ones. Miss Flesh indeed presumes to know something that’s only her opinion.


      Both Chris and you presume to understand that Miss Flesh mistakes her opinion for an objective fact. Or is the obnoxiousness you ‘hear’ in Miss Flesh’s post objectively factual??

      And Chris makes explicit a stronger claim of “knowledge” than even Miss Flesh implies: he says that he, exclusively, knows what he means. Do you agree with Chris on this “knowledge” claim?

      Furthermore, look again at how Janey concluded her initial broadside: Chris hasn’t offered a different reading of “pranks as politics”/Lacan’s episode/Ginsberg’s fragment. Instead, he chooses to scold superciliously.

      Student, every mark you make, every trace you draw, is “presumptuous”. Cool, right?

  35. Miss Flesh

      Ginsberg wrote/spoke VOLUMES about Howl–about his mother’s mental illness and his intentions with the poem–line by line. It’s probably the most analyzed post WW2 American poem. I don’t mean to be uncivil, but the part quoted is–easy to “get”–American Lit 101. Sometimes, you really do have to read–not just think & blurt– to understand. As for my nom de guerre–I’m far too beautiful to use my real name–you’d be distracted by my long lashes, my long legs, my longer… well, I must leave, Mr. Jimmy is calling.