the incident at antioch/the incident at glasgow

As always, sorry for never posting. I can promise that while not posting here, I’ve been getting good philosophical work done in the real world though! More on that at another time…

So, a couple of weeks ago a colleague and myself spent the day at an event in Glasgow which featured the first english performance of Alain Badiou’s play ‘Incident at Antioch’. The event featured about an hour of selected scenes from the play, followed by a ‘discussion’ time in which the translator of the play and Ward Blanton (University of Glasgow) asked questions to Badiou, and it ended with about 20 minutes of open q&a time.

So first, the bad. The play was embarassingly terrible. My colleague and myself, who seemed to be two of the only philosophy-types there (the event was advertised and organized by theology/literature people) were having to hold back from laughing out loud during some of the scenes. It was almost as if someone fed a copy of ‘Being and Event’ to some automatic play generator website. The character development was pretty hilarious as well, you had this angry revolutionary son who represented Theorie Du Sujet with a more axiomatic mother who’s personality resembled Being and Event. I’m sure if the play was updated he’d add a wise old grandmother to represent Logiques de Mondes. Badiou seemed to at least be somewhat aware of his (lack of) playwright abilities, as he at one point quipped that this was the second public performance of this piece in over twenty years.

During the initial part of the discussion time the translator and Ward Blanton (who is a professor of biblical literature I think?) asked fairly tame questions. The translator of the play (I forget her name, American woman from LA) asked fairly boring questions and treated Badiou as an interesting playwright rather than an important philosopher, and clearly her background made it unlikely that she really had a basic grasp of his philosophical work anyways. Blanton’s questions were a bit better, although he kept trying to ‘push’ Badiou into talking about religion/theology, which he slyly avoided by basically quoting himself from the St. Paul book. The level of discussion made it seem as if most of the crowd had read the St. Paul book, and likely nothing else, so for someone who is a serious student of Badiou, it was a bit frustrating.

After the moderated discussion they opened the floor for questions. The first question amounted to “hi, I’ve clearly never read your work but am now going to ask a question in which I seem like I’m being creative and challenging but in fact just exhibiting the fact that I haven’t even read the introduction to one of your major works”, and sadly, Badiou then spent 10 minutes responding with some really basic remarks about his system as a whole. The next question was asked by my colleague, and was quite an in depth question regarding forcing, cohen, set theory, etc; and sadly, I don’t think Badiou understood much of it, and the translator didn’t get it either, so it wasn’t translated well, and then he just gave a basic response regarding the place of set theory in his work. I had my hand up to ask a question about Kierkegaard (which in all fairness amounted to me searching for some justification regarding my doctoral research project) but sadly they cut off questions after about 20 minutes.

Although Badiou wasn’t really given time to speak at length, I took some notes and will share them here:

At one point while discussing violence he stated that “Violence is the result of order, not dis-order.” Which was interesting.

Later he mapped out what he sees as the four primary political ‘groups’. They were:

1) Students

2) Residents of the Paris Suburbs

3) Workers

4) Undocumented Works

He went on to say that a riot amongst one group qualifies as a revolt or movement, but the inauguration of a new politic (or a real politic) requires that 2 or more groups be engaged. At one point he said “politics is to create the passage between one movement and others.” He said that when groups go to action one by one, it qualifies as revolt, but one more than one group go into action together it becomes a political possibility. He went out to define politics as “the creation of the passage between two different groups“, and said that “the union of four groups would be the revolution“, and only in extraordinary circumstances is that possible.

He then went onto to provide a counting exercise that was right out of a revolutionary version of sesame street in which he stated that:

“4 is the number of the event, or change; 3 of new forms of organization; 2 is the number of politics; and 1 is nothing.”

So, nothing new exciting, but as a some sort of ‘student’ of Badiou’s work, I still found it to be exciting experience, although I’m hoping that the communism conference in London next week will serve as a much more intense experience of Badiou’s ‘live’ work.


4 thoughts on “the incident at antioch/the incident at glasgow

  1. […] Badiou From Daily Humiliation: At one point while discussing violence he [Badiou] stated that “Violence is the result of order, […]

  2. Alex says:

    Sweet God! A post!

  3. Alex says:

    Interesting stuff about his revolutionary version of Sesame Street, something The Count would likely enjoy. Hopefully the financial shit might unite 1 & 3, but we shall see considering the apathy of 3.

    I think all the people who want a non-political proto-speculative realist Badiou need to wake up and smell the empty set.

  4. michaeloneillburns says:

    yeah. i’m totally fine with Badiou not being ‘speculative realist’. it’s ironic that Being and Event was only translated in english a couple of years ago and I feel like I’m already a ‘traditional badiouian’ because I find the necessity of the human subject in his work completely unproblematic, and if anything, I think furthering a theory of life/affect in his work would only support the efficacy of his political project.

    but yes, I can smell the empty set, and it smells great.

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