Aris Kalaizis

The Home of Words

In a second approach to her tri­logy, the Cologne-based psy­cho­ana­lyst Fotini Ladaki, who prac­tices after Lacan and Freud, exam­ines the work of Aris Kala­izis from the per­spect­ive of a phylo­gen­et­ic icon­o­graphy based on the paint­ings "The Ritu­al" and "The Band".

The Scroll
The Scroll

"And God com­mands me to paint."
(Rilke: „Das Stundenbuch“)

A huge tree root sys­tem in the middle of a liv­ing room. Behind an observing woman, in front a man in action: scene of a frozen snap­shot. Many asso­ci­ations that evoke this image and the asso­ci­ated sig­ni­fi­ers flow towards you. The sig­ni­fi­ers also smuggle them­selves into the dictum of pop­u­lar wis­dom. These are often rumored and main­tained. Are the pic­tures "The Ritu­al" (2008) and "The Band" (2013) an icon­o­graph­ic depic­tion of one's own, incarn­ate roots?

Is it a mat­ter of tak­ing root, for example to be able to loc­ate one's own fam­ily his­tory, or is it a ques­tion of des­cent or one's own fam­ily tree? Is this cut-off stump in both paint­ings an ima­gin­ary-pictori­al hyper-meta­phor for lost roots?

His­tory and ances­try are enorm­ous pil­lars on which cul­ture rests. There are dif­fer­ent tribes and the stud book. If there were no tribe, there would be no tri­bal his­tory. If there were no root, we would be uprooted. It seems as if the images run along a phon­et­ic mater­i­al­ism or an equi­voc­al (ambigu­ous) char­ac­ter of the words. It is not for noth­ing that Lacan derived the term mater­i­al­ity from the French word mot.

"Con­versely, the point of view I am try­ing to uphold before yours entails a cer­tain mater­i­al­ism of the ele­ments involved, in the sense that the sig­ni­fi­ers are actu­ally embod­ied, mater­i­al­ized, that are words that walk and prac­tice as such they per­form their func­tion of stap­ling.” Lacan J: (1997) The Sem­in­ar Book III. The Psychoses, p. 341)

If there were no root, we would be uprooted

Is Aris Kala­izis sta­ging the phon­et­ic home­land of words in these images? An uncon­scious motive could be the accept­ance of the artist's own bio­graphy, which clearly goes in the dir­ec­tion of search­ing for one's own roots. But bey­ond the bio­graph­ic­al trau­mat­ic mater­i­al, Kala­izis pos­sibly stages the topos of fur­ther uni­ver­sal phant­asms of a world that is attached to the images and pre­cedes the words. But which topos can be meant here? When you have abseiled from cer­tain rela­tion­ships and affil­i­ations, you ini­tially fall out of line. If the rope teams do not sup­port, the con­nec­tion becomes obsol­ete. One must seek and find a new bond in order to enroll in a new attach­ment or affil­i­ation (home, fam­ily, group).

The con­tent of Kala­izis seems to stem from a dis­course that still has anoth­er hint pending from the mater­i­al­ity of the lan­guage and the sig­ni­fi­ers. One could con­nect it with the world of ideas after Pla­to, which Lacan already tried to do in his sem­in­ar book XI:

Aris Kalaizis "The Ritual" 2008
Aris Kalaizis "The Ritual" 2008

"The image of the rep­res­ent­at­ive of the Leipzig school does not com­pete with appear­ances, it com­petes with what Pla­to rep­res­ents bey­ond appear­ances and as an idea. Because the pic­ture is that appear­ance which claims to be that which gives the appear­ance, Pla­to opposes paint­ing as an activ­ity rival­ing his own." (Lacan J.: The Sem­in­ar Book XI, p. 119)

Both "The Band" and "The Ritu­al" seem to fol­low a trail that attempts to inaug­ur­ate itself as an acous­mat­ic pre­curs­or of lan­guage. He stages the home of words. Accord­ing to Lacan, this staged world can be attrib­uted to the real. In the real, Kala­izis searches for the ele­ment­ary mater­i­al­ity of lan­guage and stages it in an irrit­at­ingly grot­esque realm of the real.
The real is incom­pre­hens­ible and uncanny.

The real exists along­side the ima­gin­ary and the sym­bol­ic. Lacan speaks of RSI, which cre­ates the equi­voc­al ring of heresy. Per­haps it is a heresy, a con­tra­dic­tion of prin­ciples that have crept into the mind, which is now fol­lowed by a heresy of sub­ver­sion, which in turn pro­duces a trans­la­tion and func­tions accord­ing to the Socrat­ic laws. 

So are these paint­ings also about heresy? A heresy that puts image above word and logos? Was in the begin­ning the image and not the word?

Seek a new scroll in a new affil­i­ation (home, fam­ily, group)

Jacques Der­rida also deals with the dif­fer­ence between phony and graph­ic as well as with the dom­in­ance of logo­centrism in the west­ern world. In his "Gram­mato­logy" he writes: "The nature of the phones (…) would be dir­ectly related to what in 'thinking' as logos is related to the 'sense', gen­er­ates it, receives it, expresses it and 'gathers it together'" (p .24). And a little later, start­ing from the Kab­ba­l­ah, he says the fol­low­ing sen­tence: "(…) the intel­li­gible side of the sign remains turned towards the Word and the face of God … The sign and divin­ity are born in the same place and at the same hour. The epoch of the sign is essen­tially theo­lo­gic­al.” (p.28)

In Plato's Kratylos dia­logue, Socrates also propag­ated a sim­il­ar the­ory about the ori­gin of con­cepts and language:
“So if the word is to be sim­il­ar to the object, then the let­ters from which the root words must be com­posed must also be sim­il­ar to the objects by nature.” A little later Socrates puts for­ward the fol­low­ing thes­is: “Fath­er 'Zeus' is obvi­ously suit­able whose name is won­der­ful, only it is not easy to remem­ber. Namely, neat as an explan­a­tion is the name of Zeus; only we have divided it, and some use one half, and some use the oth­er half.

For some call him Zeus, oth­ers Dis; but both put togeth­er reveal to us the essence of God, which, as we say, a name should be able to achieve. Because nobody is so much the cause of life for us and everything as a whole as the ruler and king over everything. Quite cor­rectly, there­fore, this God is named as the one through whom all liv­ing things boast to live. Just as I said, the name, which is actu­ally one, is divided into dis, from through, and zen or zeus, from life”. (Pla­to: Com­plete Works, Volume 3, Rowohlt's Encyc­lo­pe­dia, 1994, p. 32)

So Zeus comes from the word Zoe and Zoe means life. Socrates also invest­ig­ates the oth­er names of the gods:
"There is no need to con­tra­dict Hesi­od about 'Aphrodite', but one can con­cede that she was so named because of her ori­gin from the foam of the sea, aphros".
Socrates not only sticks to the names of the gods, he tackles oth­er things as well when try­ing to explain the ori­gin­al­ity of the words.
"Like­wise, words would nev­er resemble any thing unless that of which the words are to be com­posed had a cer­tain resemb­lance to that of which the words are cop­ies. But must they be com­posed of let­ters?” (Pla­to, Kratylus, p. 81)

Kala­izis now dresses the human trauma in the guise of a now fig­ur­at­ive guise of the words: Uprooted, roped down, look­ing for the tribe, hav­ing a tri­bal his­tory, belong­ing to a tribe? Does he thereby put the words in the place of the phant­asm by neut­ral­iz­ing and recom­pos­ing the phant­asm via the words? In the pic­ture "The Rib­bon" it is not the rope that pulls through the pic­ture, it is the female angel who car­ries it through the pictori­al space. Is find­ing a social bond an angel's work? Why the angels have to be female, let's put it there first. After all, and it should already be men­tioned, we also find male angels in oth­er Kala­izis paintings.

But does Aris Kala­izis lay bare the ori­gin­al acous­mat­ics of the words and their ori­gin in these two pic­tures, as if they point to an indi­vidu­al trauma? Or is the trauma pushed into a sac­red place or into a strange garden of a real (Garden of Eden)?

Both paint­ings depict a fever­ish dream that arises when fun­da­ment­al events such as attach­ment and home are threatened

In Greek Ortho­dox icon­o­graphy there is Saint Chris­toph­er. This Chris­toph­er, how­ever, does not carry Jesus on his shoulders as in the Cath­ol­ic tra­di­tion. He car­ries Jesus with­in him. And he's a dog-headed mar­tyr. Ori­gin­ally he is said to come from a dog-headed people on the out­skirts of India. But because he learned the human lan­guage and passed his mar­tyr­dom, he was can­on­ized. He is depic­ted in the garb of a gen­er­al or a high­er mil­it­ary per­son. But he always stuck out his tongue and looked up at the sky. But isn't the tongue also the organ of speech?

The images "The Ritu­al" and "The Bond" seem to repro­duce a fever­ish dream that arises when fun­da­ment­al events such as attach­ment and home are threatened. Accord­ing to Freud, two more sig­ni­fi­ers can be brought into play for the word home­land: the homely and the uncanny.

But in a time char­ac­ter­ized by mass emig­ra­tion and refugee move­ments, these two Kala­izis pic­tures in par­tic­u­lar tell of the sphere where the night­mare and the fear of a lost home also con­sti­tute the shim­mer­ing of a float­ing hope. Both symp­toms, fear and hope, coex­ist in a charged rela­tion­ship that is ulti­mately unre­solved by the paint­er. It is there­fore up to us to trans­form this arc of ten­sion into a reflex that is fruit­ful for us.

Der­rida J. „Gram­mato­lo­gie“, 1983, Suhrkamp, Frank­furt am Main
Lacan J. „Das Sem­in­ar Buch III. Die Psychosen“, 1997, Quad­riga Ver­lag, Wein­heim, Berlin.
Lacan, J: „ Das Sem­in­ar Buch XI. Die vier Grundbe­griffe der Psy­cho­ana­lyse“, 1987, Quad­riga Ver­lag, Wein­heim, Berlin
Pla­ton: Sämt­liche Werke, Band 3. 1994, Rowohlts Enzyk­lopädie, in Rowohlt Taschen­buch Ver­lag, Rein­bek bei Hamburg

Fotini Ladaki photographed by Anna Papoulias (daughter of former Greek President Karolos Papoulias)
Fotini Ladaki photographed by Anna Papoulias (daughter of former Greek President Karolos Papoulias)

Fotini Ladaki, born in North­ern Greece in 1952, is a psy­cho­ana­lyst (accord­ing to Lacan and Freud) and works in her prac­tice in Cologne. 

In addi­tion, she works act­ively as a freel­ance author. In addi­tion to many essays on art and psy­cho­ana­lys­is, plays, short stor­ies and poetry, she also wrote an essay on Ger­hard Richter “Mor­itz”. About the hor­ror of the exper­i­ence of exist­ence or some­thing like "Freud came to Parla-Dora". Her oth­er pub­lic­a­tions can be found on the fol­low­ing web­site:

©2017 Fotini Ladaki | Anna Popouli­as | Aris Kalaizis

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