Stefa Govaart

Who Is Sex?

_Seminar organized by Armin Schneider, Tessel Veneboer, Persis Bekkering, Stefa Govaart and Marija Cetinić as part of Summer University Reboot at Performing Arts Forum_


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Who Is Sex? sits with Jacques Lacan’s statement of sex negativity: “There is no sexual relation." Lacan’s statement in the negative never aimed to mean that relations are––ultimately––impossible. We wave farewell to truisms like “relationships are impossible” or “true love doesn't exist”. 

Who Is Sex? follows Alenka Zupančič’s book What is Sex? (2017): such platitudes misconstrue sex’s confrontation with (the) non-relation as “the cause of the oddities and difficulties within all concrete relationships." To falsely decode the non-relation as an obstacle is to think it can be overcome. But for Lacan it wasn’t an obstacle to but the (il)logical condition of relational possibility. So sex names a structural antagonism without the optimism of ontological completeness: “We have never had sex,” declares Oxana Timofeeva. 

Together we read Joan Copjec's article "The Sexual Compact." Copjec looks at "questions and denials all aris[ing] from the same source: the misguided assumption that breaks and flows are antithetical." Or, discontinuity and continuity aren't opposites. Writes Copject: "A non- abstract, immanent notion of time would, it is assumed, restore the continuous flow by eliminating the breaks. In truth, however, the finite subject is not immediately present to a continuous unfolding of events but to breaks, delays, obstacles, still points, to which Freud constantly drew our attention through his invention of a series of concepts, including: a ‘‘latency period’’ that divides the two scenes of sexuality in the Emma case [see article or Freud himself]; a ‘‘periodic nonexcitability’’ that interrupts psychic functioning; and a ‘‘memory system’’ that he famously installed between perception and consciousness, thus disjoining them, interrupting their continuity."

At night, we read outloud Autobiography of Death (2016) by contemporary poet Kim Heysoon, consisting of forty-nine poems, each poem representing a single day during which the spirit roams after death before it enters the cycle of reincarnation. Can we begin to think the (il)logic of sex qua structure of negativity on the terms of what Kim calls “the structure of death, that we remain living in.”