Nina Krajnik & the Dream of Uncle Zizek

Nina Krajnik (WIkipedia CC BY 4.0)
Nina Krajnik (WIkipedia CC BY 4.0)

Slovenian psychoanalyst and philosopher, Nina Krajnik, is the founder of the Slovenian Association of Lacanian Psychanalysis and the Achéron Institute of Ljubljana.

Like Anne Dufourmantelle you are a psychoanalyst from philosophy. What was the subject of your research during your philosophical course?
I graduated with a thesis on the philosophical approaches to Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. The link between philosophy and literature has always been important to me. In this perspective I studied philosophers like Derrida, Helene Cixous and others who worked on Joyce’s literature, but also those who indlunced him, like Gianbatista Vico. But it was the intersection between the “French thought” and Joyce that I’ve found the most interesting, which soon brought me to the reference that became crucial for me – to Lacan. After that my passage into psychoanalysis happened very quickly and I gladly embraced Lacan’s concept of anti-philosophy.

Can you explain what intimism is in Slovenian literature?
Intimism was a poetical movement that emerged in Slovenia at the time of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. The major signifiers of socialism were “the collectiveness” and “the same way of thinking”, while expressing intimacy, disappointment, suffering or pains of love was seen as bourgeois and sentimental. At that time there was a young poet in Slovenia, who published a book of intimate poetry. Consequently she was persecuted. But soon after that the communist Party made an interesting turn, which became symptomatic. It officially recognized the new literary movement by “allowing” intimate poetry to be published. But under one condition. The poetry had to be written by several poets and published in a collection titled “Poems of the Four”. This means that it created a paradox: “You can have intimism, but ‘collective intimism’. You can freely express yourself, but only under the political control.” I personally got interested in this movement when I was analysing the reasons why psychoanalysis in Slovenia appeared so late. Slovenia is known worldwide by Žižek’s use of Lacan, but until 2015 there were no psychoanalysts. Why? Because psychoanalysis was caught in the same structure: “You can have psychoanalysis, but ‘theoretical psychoanalysis’. Reading about psychoanalysis is allowed, but to practice psychoanalysts is forbidden.” This double bind still rules the Slovenian culture in many ways: “You are more than welcome to do something, but in fact you’re not.’

Why do post-communist regimes still prohibit psychoanalysis?
At the time of communism and socialism psychoanalysis didn’t correspond to the political ideology. In order for psychoanalysis to exist, you at least need a certain freedom of speech and be somehow more easy on the idea of a secret police and that sort of things. Another important difference is also that psychoanalysis focuses on the subject of the unconsciousness, while the communist idea is that the subject is capable of conscious, rational socio-symbolic constructions. All this is of course very different from the conceptual importance of Marx for psychoanalysis. Marx had an enormous impact on Lacan. But also in the philosophical schools that were guided by marxism, psychoanalysis was in the best case seen as a theoretical tool that tried to explain why the subject remained incapable of the revolution. Today psychoanalysis is present in the post-communist and post-socialist countries without any political interfering. It is not forbidden. However, there are still echoes of this era. In Slovenia we’ve experienced that when we first shared the information about the presence of the Lacanian psychoanalysis in Ljubljana. The information was censured or remained unpublished. At the same time the Slovenian Academy started to use various oppressive methods in order to discourage students who wanted to attend the psychoanalytic events.

How many psychoanalysts are there in the former Yugoslavia and Slovenia?
In other countries of ex-Yugoslavia, psychoanalysis has found its place. Today there are several psychoanalytic societies in Belgrade, Zagreb, and also in Bosnia where the psychoanalytic work on the questions of war and genocide have taken place. However, in Slovenia the situation happened to have been slightly different. Two years ago when I started my work I was alone. Today the Slovenian Association for Lacanian Psychoanalysis consists of three psychoanalysts.

What is the Lacanian Troika?
It’s not us. The “Lacanian troika” is a popular name for three Slovenian philosophers that focus on the applications of the psychoanalytic theory into other fields. It is led by Slavoj Žižek. In Slovenia there are a lot of great philosophers, sociologists etc. who study the link between psychoanalysis and social field, and they are doing an excellent job. But they do not make a part of that. Why? Because the “Lacanian troika” is based on a particular condition. The other two members are spreading Žižek’s modification of psychoanalysis to the Slovenian public and in return Žižek is opening the possibilities of their international recognition in the world. It’s a sort of symbiosis. This is also the only group that tried to undermine the presence of the Lacanian psychoanalysis in Slovenia and to discredit the first Slovenian psychoanalysts in order to keep power over the signifier “Lacan”. This is a specific Slovenian understanding of psychoanalysis as a matter of power and discipline. One of the members of “troika”, Mladen Dolar, very well demonstrated that at the time when the first psychoanalytic organisation in Slovenia was established by saying: “I would like to take part in it, but Slavoj Žižek would not allow it.”

Is Slavoj Zizek really the “most sublime of hysterics”?
Lacan used to say that “the most sublime among hysterics” was Hegel. Slavoj Žižek wrote a book about Hegel and Lacan with this title. When it comes to Žižek I agree with the description by the Serbian psychoanalyst Branimir Stojanović. He excellently said that Žižek is “the best product of the Yugoslavian political culture”. After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Žižek ran into the Western capitalism where he successfully sold the image that he is a communist, although he is not. He managed to brand himself as psychoanalyst, although he is not. I certainly respect Žižek’s early philosophical work, but I don’t see anything particularly sublime in impostering and manipulation. Especially in a case when it comes to the ethics of psychoanalysis and the subject who suffers.

Does the “University discourse” fit for all his analyzes?
That’s a very important question. University discourse is in many ways incapable to transmit the singular psychoanalytic knowledge in its universal categories. That’s why a specific platform is needed. It can be established by including clinical sections into the classic university departments. Right now I’m etablishing the first departement in Slovenia, in the same way as a departement of psychoanalysis at University Paris VIII. If not, there’s a need for another notion. I’ll get heretical here, but Wittgenstein used to say that you need to throw away the ladder, once you have climbed up it. I will say that this is also one of the options for the psychoanalytic “formation” nowdays, although psychoanalysis is definitely not a discours that can been apllied to the university one.

Do you “really” consider that Slavoj Zizek’s signifiers are “foreclosed”?
Lacan used to say that what is forced from the symbolic resurface in the real. In 2015 Slavoj Žižek prevented the people to support the presence of the Lacanian psychoanalysis in Slovenia. What happened as a consequence of that was the cut in the social-political field that finally brought to the surface everything that the discourse of the Slovenian Lacanian philosophers actually has been for the last 35 years – a defence against psychoanalysis, élucubration de savoir and a matter of political prestige.

What does Alain Badiou mean by “not giving in on his desire” coincides with the Maoist ideology?
It means that at the time when majority of the philosophers in France were maoists, Badiou supported a socialist-democratic option. When the vawe of maoism was over, Badiou built his philosophy on the hypothesis of communism. The difference between “thinking” and “taking an act” is immense. So is the difference between interest and desire. This gap also defines the difference between philosophy and psychoanalysis.

Is Leni Riefenstahl’ and Leibach’s apology a “negation”, a perversion, a fetishization of the arts, a “manque imaginaire d’objet réel” or a sinthome ?

All these definitions are a great launch of the questions on totalitarianism and arts. My first question regarding this topic would be: Is “an artist” who supports the holocaust really an artist? Because the art in the most “artistic sense” means moving astray from the signifiers of our own time, our own place, also from our language and our world. Art in the most proper sense is the same as an invention. Riefenstahl’s cinematography, on a contrary, was made as a propaganda. Today we might say that it was made as a commercial, which has to be aesthetically developed, in order to be effective. Laibach, on the other hand, appeared as the opposition to the establishment, as a parody of Nazism and communism. It emerged as the critic of the dominant ideology at the time of democratic movement in Slovenia, just before the collapse of Yugoslavia. It was often misunderstood. It created an enigma, because it went against its time and place. But this position radically changes when we move Laibach from the Yugoslavian socialism of the 80’s into the global capitalism of the year 2017. Today Laibach is precisely what you are saying. It sells whatever the consumer wants to see in it – totalitarian phantasies, fetishisation, subversivness, radicallity, negation, etc. Once you have capitalism on your side, you can sell anything. Capitalism can sell communism in a heartbeat. Žižek is also a good example of that. Nothing worse than the conservative avant-gardes or the beautification of the wrong causes!

What is the point of view of Jacques-Alain Miller on this subject ?
Jacques-Alain Miller once said that Žižek’s Society for theoretical psychoanalysis is “la fausse monnaie”, a counterfeit money. Let me give my interpretation. Žižek’s Society for theoretical psychoanalysis is a currency. With currencies we trade. But this curreny is a fraud. Its value is fake. The forgery appears when someone wants to obtain value by using cheating and treasons. In Žižek’s case this means that he is trading with something that does not exist – with “theoretical psychoanalysis”. He present himself as something that he is not – a “theoretical psychoanalysts”. The effect that Žižek has is thus the same as the effect of an over-production of false money at the time of inflation. It is everywhere. It gives the impression of importance and richness. It seems superior. But its main characteristic is that it has no real value.

About the Author
Alexandre Gilbert is the director of the Chappe gallery.