Sunday, October 15, 2006

"Did a shadow pass?": Learning to fear Kaja Silverman

The problem with graduate school (well, okay, one of the problems) is that four times a week (on average), there is a talk on campus that Fosco would like to attend; however, due to Fosco's workload (or frequent need for restorative naps), he almost never makes it to any of them. His good intention to attend a talk almost always replaces his need to actually attend one. However, every so often, a talk strikes Fosco as unmissable... such as last Wednesday's visit to UCSC of Kaja Silverman.

Anyone familiar with Fosco's interests may find strange his desire to attend a Kaja Silverman talk--after all, he doesn't do much Lacan and absolutely NO film theory (in fact, Kaja Silverman probably watched as many films last month as Fosco watched in the last five years). In addition, Silveman's topic seemed almost deliberately obscure: a (long-past) video installation by Irish artist James Coleman (an artist that, incidentally, Fosco has never heard of). So why would Fosco want to go to this talk?

Because Fosco was Kaja-curious.

You see, Kaja Silverman is not just some Lacanian film theorist: she's a full-fledged Star in the Theory firmament. Kaja Silverman and Judith Butler are the Endowed Chair-holding Titans of that Powerhouse of Interdisciplinarity known as the Berkeley Rhetoric Department. So, regardless of whether Fosco was going to be able to understand a word she said, there was no way he would miss out on an opportunity to see a genuine Theory Rock Star! (Just as Above The Law likes to pretend that judges are rock stars, Fosco likes to do the same with theorists... Hmmm. Now do you understand why we were college roommates?)

And what did Fosco learn from this Kaja Silverman talk? Well, for one thing, she is brilliant. Although that's not a huge surprise--Berkeley doesn't just give you an Endowed Chair for being sassy (that's really more of a UC-Merced kind of thing...). The big surprise is that the talk was actually extremely interesting: Fosco forgot how much he enjoys art criticism talks. But this was no normal art criticism talk--she also managed to provide an extremely complicated meditation on time and space, drawing on Bergson and Deleuze. Did you know that you and I can both be living in different presents? At the same time? Wait... that sounds strangely familiar...

Okay, okay--all kidding aside, it actually was a really amazing meditation on space and time. I don't feel like saying any more about it though, as this blog is what I do when I don't want to explicate theory...

But here's the most interesting thing I learned about Kaja Silverman: she is SCARY. No, really! SCARY! Some of my compatriots in the audience have speculated that she might have hooves, but I don't know--I think she was actually wearing black ballet shoes and I would think it might be hard to get cloven feet into those.

How is she scary? Well, for one thing, she has this habit, during the question and answer period, of shadowing your question with "uh-huh"s until she feels that she fully understands the question; then, she cuts you off to answer it. None of that "wait until the questioner is done asking the question before answering it" stuff for Kaja Silverman. That would waste valuable seconds! The freaky art installations of the world aren't just going to explain themselves, dammit--Kaja Silverman has things to do!

You might think I'm making too big a deal of this, and I probably am. But, I guess I'm still a little surprised at it all. I watched her do it to FACULTY for christsake! Tenured faculty! She was clearly on a level above the mere mortals in the room and wasn't thrilled to have to suffer their questions.

I'm also pretty sure that I saw her outside on my balcony last night. [shiver]

1 comment:

ted said...

Just wait til she started googling herself. Then you'll really get haunted.

Genius post.