- If You Do Well, Carry! The Difference of the HumaneAn Interview with Bracha L. Ettinger
The following conversation explores the stakes of the human(e) in the work of Bracha L. Ettinger. Ettinger has been working on this question throughout all of her art-workings as well as her theoretical work. Central elements to her feminist reworking of psychoanalytic approaches to (human) subjectivity are the insistence on the matrixial and metramorphosis, in which connectivity acquires primary importance, and supplements-questions Lacan's starting point of the cut and lack as constitutive of what becomes human. Taking the feminine matrixial as a model, Ettinger's conception of human subjectivity is always already relational—a transsubjective relationality, however, that is different from mere intersubjectivity. Relationality here crucially means also "relations-without-relating to the other based on re-attuning of distances-in-proximity" (Ettinger 2005, 65) and affective resonance. This invites the "possibility of co-respons-ability with/for the unknown Other," which also implies that we "participate in the traumatic events of the other" (ibid., 89). This interview explores the question of the human and of humane-ness along the three interwoven axes of the aesthetic, the (micro)political, and the ethical that can be found in Ettinger's oeuvre. A longer, unpublished paper by Ettinger from 2013 (working title "Carriance—for Mexico")1 and thoughts she developed in various lectures between 2012 and 2016 served as background texts for our conversation. Inserting fragments from the text written between 2011 [End Page 101] and 2013—and especially the quotes in Hebrew which include fragments from the New Testament and the Old Testament—proved necessary to flesh out some of the key issues that Ettinger raises in her thinking on the human(e) and to help illuminate and unpack the points that the conversation touches on. We decided to weave these fragments into our conversation as well as present them as a co-text running alongside—thereby also making transparent the conversation's process of gestation. We would like to thank Bracha L. Ettinger for her generosity and for making available the images and film stills that are reproduced at different moments throughout the interview.
Arise, lift up/carry the lad, and hold him fast by thy hand.—Genesis 21, 18
Grosse, Glühende Wölbungmit dem sichhinaus-und hinweg-wühlenden Schwarzgestirn-Schwarm:
der verkieselten Stirn eines Widdersbrenn ich dies Bild ein [...].
Wo-gegenrennt er nicht an?Die Welt ist fort, ich muß dich tragen.—Paul Celan, Atemwende
When planning this special issue on the re-turn of and our return to the question of the human, we were delighted that you agreed to continue our conversation from 2011 and to explore this time explicitly the stakes of the question of humane-ness in relation to your work—as an artist, an analyst, and a feminist philosopher.2 Last time, we spoke mostly about the multiple dimensions of the matrixial in your work, and therefore didn't delve into the question of being human directly; so perhaps we can try to take up the thread where we left it six years ago in Berlin and move more explicitly into questions of humanness and humane-ness here. In 2011, we discussed how you argue in your work on the matrixial that human subjectivity trans-connects with others in transsubjective and subsubjective ways—in relation-without-relating, as you [End Page 102] call it—and we then already dwelled on the different layers of the poeticaesthetic, political, and ethical in your art-working. At one point, we touched on your series Autistwork and you said that autistwork—I quote from our earlier conversation—"is a paradoxical notion: you enter yourself and you discover strings to the world. The poetic level is very real. One has to go there, inside, lose oneself and suddenly you find a world" (unpublished manuscript; for German, see Kaiser/Thiele 2012, 259). The title of the conversation's German translation is taken from that figure: to "lose yourself and suddenly find a world," which is possible as borderlinking in the matrixial sphere, even if...