A Kind of Other-ing

Simon Critchley, “Cult of Memory: Simon Critchley Interviewed” by Daniel Fraser, The Quietus 2 November 2014

One moral of Memory Theatre is that it is a kind of parable of writing. Here is someone who writes and then goes crazy and then that writing becomes a sort of monumentalisation of death in this fantasy of total recall where everything would become meaningful at the moment of the extinction of one’s life in death. Which is a very reassuring picture of writing, writing helps us to remember but in many ways writing should be pushing us towards that which we can’t remember, that which escapes memory, that which really haunts us. Or again to push us towards something which actually involves other people rather than this masturbatory activity of writing which can lead to catastrophe.

I think there is a way of writing, a kind of Derridean theme: you can try to write in a way which encourages a certain otherness in the self, a certain self-distancing, and Memory Theatre therefore is a negative example, something to be avoided. However, Memory Theatre is also importantly a universe without love, this is what an existence without love looks like and love is also a kind of other-ing. It engenders a disposition in you which is orientated towards something which you cannot control or recollect. It is the same way I see psychoanalysis which again is not premised on a fantasy of total recall, it’s about an orientation towards something which is in you that is maybe not in your conscious memory, and is not really memorialisable in any way.

Does It Mean Stopping Writing?

Simon Critchley, “Cult of Memory: Simon Critchley Interviewed” by Daniel Fraser, The Quietus 2 November 2014

Bataille is of particular interest to me because you could see Bataille condemning the memory theatre and in particular the memory theatre that is Hegel’s fantasy of absolute knowledge, the closed economy of the theatrical space in the book, and opposing that in the name of what he calls throughout his work ‘sovereignty’. Sovereignty is an odd word to use in many ways, because what Bataille was interested in wasn’t sovereignty as the capacity to make a decision or act in a certain way but rather to engage in an experience where you give up who you were and be free of that fantasy of a closed economy.

So in Bataille you’ve got this cultivation of a series of experiences: eroticism, squandering, sacrifice and so on and so forth which are about staging something which would let that memory theatre go in a way; would let go of the delusion of absolute knowledge.

In many ways you can read the book as a negative moral: the point of the book is what’s not in it in many ways. I wrote the book in order to try to correct that tendency in myself which of course you fail to do but nonetheless you have to try.

To write at all is to construct some kind of delusional memory theatre which so often leads to you becoming like some machine which just produces words, like Zizek, just saying the same things over and over again. How do you stop doing that? Does it mean stopping writing? Maybe. Maybe it means writing in a different way such as writing collaboratively, something I’ve tried to do over the years to try and give up the authority of the voice.