(Un)Timely: Thoughts on Death and War
The uses of electricity in the porous relation between therapy and torture have been widely documented, a relation in which the mind (as, indeed, memory) is treated as a muscle. In this context, resistance to the demands of the state in times of war has often been understood through categories of “performance” – as, for instance, with so-called malingering by traumatised soldiers – in which the social meaning of death (or, more precisely, of killing) is supposedly rationalised by reference to the power of machines rather than myths. In this presentation, I wish to elaborate upon a film project (made in collaboration with Samuel Weber) that addresses Freud’s 1915 essay Thoughts for the Times on War and Death. With an example from the film, I will reflect on questions of “performance” that mediate the thought of death as Freud relates these to what could now be called (after Latour) an “anthropology of the moderns”. Here the diagnostic model offered in “Anglo-American thought” can be reviewed in a critical light, where the DSM-IV raises an implicit question of practice between performance and philosophy. This critique is informed by comparative reading of Freud’s involvement in debate about “war neuroses” (including his testimony in the Wagner-Juaregg trial), and draws on anthropological research by Eduardo de Castro and philosophical reflection by Catharine Malabou. As with the film, the discussion takes as its point of departure a dialogue with Weber’s analysis (in Targets of Opportunity) of what Freud identifies as a culturally necessary “plurality of life” for a renewed understanding of the existence of death – as, fundamentally, a performance of the relation between concepts and fictions
Dr Mischa Twitchin teaches in the Theatre and Performance Department at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Besides his academic research, concerned principally with theories of mimesis and modernist art practices, he makes his own performance work, material from which is accessible on his website ; and on Vimeo: Recent publications include: “Kantor After Duchamp”, in Polish Theatre Perspectives 1.2, eds. Michal Kobialka and Natalia Zarzecka; “Making Sense of ‘Seeing’”, in Frakcija Performing Arts Journal 62-63, special issue on “the actionable image”, eds. Tomislav Medak and Ivana Ivkovic; and “On ‘the live effigy of man emerging out of the shadows…’” in Übermarionettes and Mannequins, ed. Carole Guidicelli, L’Entretemps and the Institut Internationale de la Marionette.