Perhaps a make believe.
Among the attractions at the 56th Venice Biennale this year is a performance which is an installation by Dora García called The Sinthome Score, which comprises two performers and a transcript (unofficial translations in German or English) of Jacques Lacan’s 1975-75 seminar Le Sinthome, on which diagrams of movements have been added such that as on performer performs the reading the other performs the corresponding movement. The performers perform to one another, and their co-presentation constitutes an installation for the public, such is García’s stated intention. There is no particular order of reading, and a claimed lack of intention of an engagement with the meaning of the words. García seems particular in seeking not to claim an interpretative framework for the artwork.
A Sinthome as discussed in Lacan’s seminar in relation to the writing of James Joyce, is a kind of solution which might orient the end of analysis, a reduction of someone’s symptoms to a kind of core which no longer imply the chains of meaning along which an analysand travels which are associated with psychoanalytical symptoms. From what is given by a symptom - a signifier which implies a knowledge, and for which an analysand goes to a psychoanalyst supposing them to have this knowledge - we go to a sinthome, a signifier all alone, which does not imply a knowledge, and which has a consistency and stability for an analysand on which they can depend. On the one hand a sinthome is a particular solution for each, not just any old signifier, but the one that operates at the core of each’s symptoms as varied and seemingly unrelated as they may be, on the other hand the making of a sinthome is a work of fabrication. Joyce worked in fabricating a use of language not as communication, but as a way of making a consistency between the body, signifier, and what is real beyond signification such as it marks him, and for Joyce necessitated in that it is supposed that a connection between these registers was not otherwise guaranteed for him, as it is so often not guaranteed in the world as we find it now. Joyce’s sinthome is not communicable, but none the less something of it is transmitted, can be got just as the point of a joke is transmitted more than communicated as demonstrated by a joke’s failure upon explication of its point.
We may often in a sense suppose that an artwork has a meaning - that it carries a knowledge for the question we bring to it, and most particularly when such knowledge is withheld the audience makes knowledge imputing the artwork as its cause. And indeed The Sinthome Score in its withdrawal of extraneous interpretative framework seems to offer this possibility. What we have are two elements which play against each other, we question whether the movement interprets the text or vice versa, and if so what is given? Perhaps some meaning emerges, or perhaps it is lost, neither here nor there, and the work is neither here nor there with it. We may come up with a chain of interpretations - the work lends itself to this. We may ask what of this enactment is connected to a sinthome - is there something sinthomatic for García in this? After all we know that Joyce’s text is a magnet for interpretation, read more in the university than beyond it, and despite this is also opaque and sinthomatic. But whereas a sinthome is something found in Joyce’s approach, it is something forced as a subject matter, as a meaning, a key in García work in a way that is contrary to the singularity of what might be sinthomatic - if it were a joke it’d be the kind which relies on the explanation of its point for its punchline, which would be a neat trick, a truth in a lie, reminiscent of a lie in the truth illustrated in Freud’s joke about the distrusting friends on a train one of whom responds to the other’s assertion that they’re going to Crakow, that fellow is only telling him he’s going to Crakow so that he would think that he’s really going to Lemberg, when in reality he’s going to Krakow. The viewer may however reasonably wonder whether García has read a bit of Lacan (and we suppose at least Seminar XXIII) and understood that she can make an artwork which appears to have some formal qualities in common with a sinthome as it might be given as a subject of understanding - a kind of university cultural-studies Lacanianism applied with the blank reflexivity of art.
Psychoanalyst Jacques Alain Miller has on occasion sought to use the English expression make believe in the place of the French semblant. Something of the direction of semblance, as can be sensed in making an adjective of it - semblantised - moves in the direction of a dissolution of belief, whereas make belief operates the same axis in the other direction. Miller refers to the semblant as the crossover of appearance and Being. Being in so far as Being is an effect of language and always incorporates a want of Being. If there is Being there must be a lack of Being otherwise everything would Be and the word would lack the differential characteristic of signification, and as such there would be no Being. Being incorporates its lack, is never quite entirely Being, although we may cover this inconvenience over and imagine it so, and we can see perhaps that there is a crossover between Being and appearing here. Being in so far as it is defined here in its logical differential quality in relation to not Being is symbolic, whereas appearance is of the order of imaginary - and so a make believe, in so far as we do believe, can be something which is a holding together of the symbolic and imaginary, if perhaps limited in the face of an encroaching real, working in this regard as an at least ad-hoc and impermanent solution to making the world liveable in, when guarantees of meaning aren’t what they used to be (and they aren’t). It is quite possible that in what may be the semblance of a Lacanianism, in The Sinthome Score there is a make believe which whilst not a sinthome, might at least be something to be going on with.