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Mo Throp

BreadMatters Lublin & Lisboa.


To Demand & To Receive


A performative presentation of text and video which addresses the issues of power, equality, desire and the construction of identity. The text reads like a litany, a poetic address to the audience, in order to explore demands for satisfaction as both psychic and political in construct.

This performance will be like the daily act of making bread: a repetitive folding and enfolding.

A folding together of the image of the baker's act of making bread and the reading of my text;

a folding together of different theoretical ideas - philosophical and psychoanalytic.

The 'performative' does not describe and fix with its meaning; the 'performative' puts into process, it puts into action. The 'performative' seeks no meaning, no truths. 'Performative' gestures offer both a disruption and the possibility of an alternative. The 'performative' folds and enfolds; it seeks no separation, no difference. The 'performative' - as doing in speaking - is always transformative. (1)

Our Father
Give us this day our daily bread.
The Law provides for our needs;
We demand our rights.

Give us this day.

But do we still have faith in the Father, in the Law, in the Big Other (the psychoanalytic term for that which names us within the Symbolic Order)? What happens when the Father fails to meet our desires?

Our Father,
Give us this day our daily bread.
Give us our rights.

The Law, as power, is both what society produces and that which produces society. It is a reciprocal relationship; it is a 'performative' notion. Our very existence is responsive; we engage as subjects in response to the Other's call. The subject needs the Other in order to set desire in motion and to seek satisfaction.

We think we have rights.
We demand our rights.
Give us this day.


But the distribution of equality must also act on repression. Your enjoyment is checked; your 'joissance' is barred; too much will exceed what the law can provide. The Law distributes what it thinks its citizens should have.

A prohibitive 'no' in language is necessitated by the Law in order that we all may be equal, on a false belief that we may have it all. A false belief in our own identity. A false belief that we can be whole, that we can be satisfied; that we can know who we are; that our desires can be fulfilled.

Give us this day.

Our desire; our endless desire to be.
The impossibility of a complete identity.
An impossible completion.

Our lives are driven by the wish for satisfaction; they are a chronicle of losses.
We need to be satisfied, but desire can never be.
Desire appears in the rift which separates need and demand; it is not related to the object but rather to phantasy - that which I might imagine; desire for that which I imagine I once had.
A desire to be complete.
To be a subject is to be separated from this idea; in my loss of this ideal whole my subjectivity is defined as lacking; I am in a tragic relation.
Desire is linked to the Law as it always searches for something that is prohibited or unavailable. And so we say 'It is forbidden to do this yet nevertheless I will do it'.
Desire remains unsatisfied, endlessly moving from one thing to another, posing new limits and prohibitions.

Give us this day our daily bread.

Needs can be met by the specific object and so be satisfied by it.
Demands, though they may be aimed at an object, are essentially a demand for love.

The gift of bread is a loving act; it acknowledges a demand; it satisfies a need. But the loving act is more than fair exchange; it acknowledges that the logic of exchange can be exceeded and that a new becoming is possible. To love is to acknowledge the lack in the other. A loving encounter is the place where paradoxes (between the you and the me) are negotiated, it is an enquiry of the world from the point of view of the two, it can never know the other. (2)

The loving encounter exposes the self to the infinite alterity of the other.
The loving encounter is contingent and temporary.
The loving encounter with the other is not about gain or satisfaction.
The encounter with the other is a gift; it goes against the capitalistic logic based on
calculations of gains and losses with sameness as its goal. It is an exchange that does not
reduce us to the same. An ethical encounter not marked by gain and satisfaction, but an
exchange of response which confirms the subjects precarious status, it remains open to new
possibilities. This gift is not one of payment for one's pleasure - a form of exchange - it
refuses to be consumed by the humanist project and is beyond patriarchal reciprocity
(marriage and ownership). This loving exchange is not for gain, but is a gift; a gift though
which disrupts traditional economies of gains and endebtedness (and losses) - this gift is
incalculable and open to infinite otherness. Jaques Derrida in 'The Gift of Death' claims that
the act of giving can be redeemed from the capitalist economy of exchange as it demands no
To receive this gift is then to open oneself to an endless relation and to be open to

To receive the gift (the gift as love) is to open oneself to excess.
To receive the gift of love allows for the possibility of overcoming the paralyzing fear of
To be in a system of exchange is to acknowledge that it is temporary and has to be endlessly
repeated; that there can be no completion; this is a continuous relationship.

A repetitive, performative act.

Give us this day.
To receive one's daily bread is not necessarily to achieve satisfaction.
The Law can give you but it is never enough.

So how to think of desire as not just for what one has lost - but a desire to expand and
become other than what is more than oneself?

My desire to be.
My impossible desire.

Jaques Lacan (3), the authoritative father of psychoanalytic theory, represses that which is outside the law, forbids you to speak your 'joissance', your pleasure, your desire - your endless desire.

But Julia Kristeva (4), the questioning daughter, folds it back in - the repressed mother's body - the pre-verbal - the unspeakable emotion. Like the baker folding the bread, she folds it back in - in the rhythm of poetic language; to think desire outside of a desire for what has been lost - a tragic longing for completion - to a model of desire as that which creates connections and relations - as affirmative and productive of new possibilities. To bring about this movement is intrinsic to the practice of artists.

A folding and an enfolding; our unspeakable pleasure, our difference, our unspeakable desire, our uncertain identities, in all their rhythmic fluidities, are folded back in.

That which was once excluded by the law, is, with the 'performative' act (an act of love),
folded back in.
This unspeakable pleasure.
Fold it back in.
The artist's performative act folds difference and uncertainty back into the law (that which
seeks to repress in order that we may all be equal).

The artist performs a repetitive act, folding and enfolding, making and re-making; to allow a desire to expand through what is more than oneself so that we may perceive differently.

The French philosopher Michel Serres (5) describes the bakers 'logic'. A folding and enfolding; not the repeated movement of a return to a narrow enclosure. In the act of enfolding each one affects another; each enters into a composition with each other. Something becomes between the two - not the same - not a reduction to the same - but where it ceases to be a matter of numerable terms.


Multiplicities are made of becomings and so fold in the work of implication.

The baker folds the bread.

Constantly between things.
Give us this day our daily bread.

Everyday we repeat the gestures; we never complete the task - the task of our own identity,
the task of making and re-making ourselves.
Everyday we attempt to re-negotiate our positions as subjects of which there are no firm pre-
ordained patterns. As a woman I attempt to perform my gender daily; acting out my life as a
woman I attempt to imitate an idea of femininity. Performing as an artist I attempt to
renegotiate this problematic relation to the self. To attempt strategies/practices of subversive
repetition that constitute identity and explore possibilities of contesting them and to reveal the
intrinsic emptiness of identity.

Each day we perform our various identities.
Each day we fold together our complexities, our desires.

Jaques Derrida's (6) project of deconstruction also practices the 'bakers logic', a working in of the middle; a third term which is neither this nor that; an inclusive logic - the AND. Fold it in. A multiplicity - a one AND the other. He folds them in. So one is neither one nor the other but an AND - a multiplicity.

The baker folds in time
Difference and time
Folds them in.

So that the past is always present; not something to be overcome.
Folding in the past with the present.
Folding in the outside with the inside.
A movement, a repetitive flow of duration made in the now, as ongoing and creative of
something new. Like Gilles Deleuze's notion of 'becoming' this is a positive relation to desire
where connections are made, again and again. (7)
Air enters the dough. The baker folds it in.
Knead it in - the logic of binary opposition.
The baker lovingly folds the bread - works time in.
An enfolding.
Time - as boundary for before and after - set in motion;
Time - as a space without precise limits - of multiplicity;
Time - as an articulation of difference - where difference remains and is never resolved.
To allow a 'now- as actual, as being; a now that accepts different attributes.
To reconstruct the past in order to be able to go on.

The image of folding dough brings with it all the complications of a world of non-oppositional
The folding and enfolding is a performative act. Making is a process.

Can we believe in the authoritative object anymore than we can believe in the Law?
As artists let us continuously fold and enfold, not an object, but an action and an interaction.
A performative act of making and receiving; a collaborative act of making.
A ritual of inclusion.
A consuming of the daily bread.
This inclusion, this folding and enfolding, breaks down the repressive demands of the Law: be
this, be that: do this, don't do that. The demands of binary logic which the Law is founded
upon, which divides us and excludes us; that pushes to the margins that which insists on
being neither this nor that.

Meaning, completion, fixity, truth, are undermined by the notion of the 'performative'.

Inside/outside separation disappears in the process of folding and enfolding - of kneading -
an all-inclusive performative act.
The baker bakes the bread
We receive our daily bread
We perform our different identities daily.
Performative acts offer both a disruption and the possibility of an alternative.

Artmaking is also a desire to have/to be.

The artist, the artwork, the viewer; a folding and enfolding where inside/outside divisions are
constantly disrupted.
A continuous turning of inside out; a counter affirmation; a site of critical intervention; to allow
a moment between the known and the unknown, the complete and the incomplete. Artworks
are projects of decentring, of un-doing the repressive law which seeks to divide us - as 'this'
or 'that' - neither both, neither 'this' one day or 'that' another.

The work of the artwork - as a process of inter-subjective experience - is also an act of
inclusion; for the artwork can open the spectator to other possibilities.
To be with the artwork is to engage in an intense relationship with material reality.
It is also to work against that which attempts to tell us what to know, what to think - by putting
into question - as a refusal of fixity and truth.
To be in a relation to the artwork is to be in a relation to desire.


For the artwork is outside the binaries of either/or; it engenders a 3rd term and generates definitions of uncertainty and potentially disruptive values.

It is a site that remains incomplete. Like the bakers task of making bread - the performative act of doing - there is a continuity of a question being addressed - one is always in negotiation.

The artwork is not just a representation in the symbolic, but is a process; it works as an assault on the totalising and homogenising notions of identity, systems and order.

The artwork is never complete;
As performative, it is open to what it does rather than describes.
We encounter it again and again.

Difference remains, it is never resolved.
Difference needs to be conceptualized outside of identity, opposition and resemblance in
order to produce a concept of multiplicity which opposes the liberal notion of pluralism. That
we might all be the same, that we all can have enough, that satisfaction can be achieved.

To repeatedly perform the possibility of a new understanding of desire that does not start with the loss or repression of an original object, and is productive not representative. Where the artwork has the power to mobilize desire and create new investments, create new possibilities and is therefore the opening of the political and the future - as a site for new intensities. A practice that performs this ongoing 'becoming'. Where desire is conceptualised as an active force, to produce a new present. To be immersed in a flow of change with what we are not, at an intersection with the other - an endless crossing over between the two. To allow a flow between, as continuous - a crossing of each other to produce an openness to life.

And so this gathering, this symposium, this exhibition of artistic endeavours offers a possibility of giving and receiving - of an exchange of creative possibilities. Art offers more than you ever can know, more than you can ever be; it speaks of affect and excess, it can never be reduced to a system of exchange, of a legitimisation of the Law. It offers to expose our weaknesses our prejudices our longings our anxieties our horrors and our phantasies. It is a site of negotiation, a site of infinite exchange, of open-endedness and ongoing transformations.

© Mo Throp June 2000

Mo Throp collaborated with Goshka Pringle at the Lublin Forum


(1) J. L. Austin 'How To Do Things With Words'
(2) Alain Badiou 'What is Love' (in Sexuation)
(3) Jacques Lacan 'The Four Fundamental Concepts'
(4) Julia Kristeva 'Revolution in Poetic Language'
(5) Michel Serres 'Rome'
(6) Jacques Derrida 'Writing & Difference'
(7) G. Deleuze & F. Guattari 'Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism & Schizophrenia'


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