Lovely Luton

Applied Derrida

An Interview

(short excerpt)

Q.: What happens when you apply yourself to a thinker, in writing?

A.: I will try to answer your question - later. First: I am applied Derrida. A conference on me, where I am here... why do they want me to be here, to listen to my name? Let me postpone the answer to this question. [...] It is not application, but dissemination. I learned a lot from the papers. But why did I come here unprepared, with fake notes [holds up an empty sheet of paper]? I didn't want to apply something already, I wanted to come as naked as possible [takes off jacket]. Nakedness: purity and pornography. As usual, Geoff has said everything before I open my mouth, and I try to be unpredictable, which is impossible after him. When you come to a conference on APPLIED YOU, it is as if you're dead. I would like to see what it is like when I am dead. That's why I came.

To relate to an object _as such_ is to pretend that you are dead. I wanted to meet [conference organizer] Julian Wolfreys, but the condition of that was to be quasi-dead. Why are we afraid of death? It is scaring to imagine the end of the world. But what is more scaring is that we will continue to be dead, while attending the world going on, while looking at things... At the same time, it is the most reassuring thing.

If I am applied Derrida, how can I bear being here? It's unbearable. To be dead without being dead: unburyable. The as if, als ob, the quasi is what protects us. On the one hand, there is no applied deconstruction. You have to perform in your language and situation. I don't forget your question. On the other hand, there is nothing but application. You can only apply deconstruction. Now, Derrida Applied - that's something else. If I apply myself, in a deconstructive gesture, it is in a singular and unique performative event. But as you know, because of the law of iterability [microphone feedback], it is immediately applicable. A moment ago, I mentioned dissemination as opposed to application. Dissemination and the supplement exceed polysemy.

If my family name seems to refer to this iterability, it is not mine. And when I say that I am applied Derrida, the name was applied to my body. I love this name, but I ask myself, why are you working so hard, attending conferences, writing a lot? Maybe because the name, in a way, had to be coined and invented for myself, at the same time unique and iterable. That's what I can do to honour the name. And here I arrive at your question.

So when I read (I have been reproached for not writing in my name), the feeling of duty is to countersign, to be true, in the sense of fidelity, to the other. I am before them as I am before the law, the others are the law, because they are before me. Accepting the gift is to countersign. This is a totally spectral structure.

I don't know what will happen to the name Derrida after this. I'll try to survive. - The theme of responsibility is a very enigmatic one which we cannot unfold here. First, the proper name (which doesn't belong to anyone) names a responsibility, for the name of the other and to the other. Autonomy, Heteronomy. The enigma of responsibility lies in this aporia: that you are applied to.

If a decision is the impossible, it must occur in the form of a certain passivity. This doesn't exculpate or exonerate me at all. I am summoned, I receive an injunction, of someone who is not there. Obeying the dead, that's the problem. Of course, a limited responsibility is irresponsible. For responsibility to be responsible you have to try to know the maximum, but it goes beyond the limit. It must be infinite, beyond theoretical certainty. I am very happy there is a conference to do with deconstruction. I have heard it's on the wane, dying, for the last 30 years. I tell you, it is dead. If there is a difference between deconstruction and any other fashion, discipline and so forth, it is that it started with dying.

back up...

© for this homepage: Peter Krapp 1995