Fragments of a Conversation with Sylvain Lazarus
Anthropology of the Name
Guidance for an adequate listening of this podcast: The file is to be downloaded and listened from an audio devise away from any screen or the internet. Preferably with headphones, and in a mentally attentive and imaginative condition.
This podcast has been edited for the RRS - Radio Museo Reina Sofia. The audio material used for its realization belongs, however, to earlier private recordings made alongside a series of conversations with the French sociologist, anthropologist, political theorist, and philosopher Sylvain Lazarus.
The conversations synthesized in this capsule took place last February, on the 13th and 17th to be more precise, when an awaited encounter with Sylvain Lazarus took place. Oscar Fernández and Paloma Polo had arrived much earlier to a café in Boulevard du Montparnasse (Paris), were Lazarus had scheduled our meeting. Jaime Sepúlveda, a Chilean artist, friend and collaborator of Sylvain, kindly mediated the discussion as translator.
Our interrogations crystalized in a question yet to be elucidated: is it possible for art and politics to coexist and relate in an egalitarian manner when tacking our contemporary reality? We wondered if such a relation would be at all possible for Sylvain, always in favor of separation, a thinker of singularity. In this regard, and despite the differences particular to our respective intellectual domains, we had also come oppose, in words of Lazarus, the “academicism of the disciplines as they dismiss the very idea of a specific space of intellectuality of people”.
Oscar and I had been devoting time to thinking the ideological paradoxes and deadlocks of contemporary art and what an overhaul of art, as it were, could be. In so doing we had converged with many of Lazarus’ claims. Like him, we also thought that “the methods and expected outcomes of knowledge and thought must be conceived in absolute new terms if the interlocution is done with the people”.
Sylvain had devoted all of his life to politics. Together with Natacha Michel and Alain Badiou, among others, he founded a Marxist Leninist organization following the May 68 uprisings, and later, a post-Leninist organization called L’Organisation Politique, which called itself a post-party organization and was informed by a new seizure of politics established by Lazarus and formulated as politics in interiority.
Oscar and I had wondered if the two central propositions (and problematic decisions) of his seminal work, Anthropology of the Name, could orientate the proceedings of an art project. His protocol of inquiry would be: "1. People think. 2. Thought is a relation of the real. It posits the existence of a reality (a requirement for any rational investigation) and of a non-objectal reality."
We are now in 2016 and Lazarus has traversed and experienced almost all possible revolutionary and progressive forms of politics. He carries on, working together with people, activists and students from various backgrounds, diverse occupations and engagements with different problematics. They issue from time to time an austere publication: Cahier des Quelque-uns. The signatures of the articles don’t contain surnames. Part of what they do is investigations into what Lazarus calls problematical words, he affirms that the possible arises when people decide on these words. We are interested in this method of inquiry.
All the quotes from Sylvain Lazarus, Anthropology of the Name (Translated by Gila Walker). Seagull Books, 2015. / Originally L’Anthropologie du Nom, Paris: Seuil, 1996
- Introductory text and audio edition: Paloma Polo / Post production and technical adjustment: Juan Carlos Blancas
- Central voice (French): Sylvain Lazarus / Simultaneous translation to Spanish: Jaime Sepúlveda / Interventions in Spanish: Oscar Fernández y Paloma Polo
- Creative Commons by-nc-sa 4.0