Happy Mortal

This life, well-lived.

Juana Molina, Sign, and Ecstatic Utterance

Bells Last night at the Triple Door Juana Molina took my psyche on a strange and wonderful trip. One part Camille (think Bobby Mcferrin reincarnated into a crazy, genius, french, woman’s body), one part Thom Yorke, and twenty parts live-sampled, looped, and DJ’d on the spot by Juana.

The amazon beats and 21st c scat combined nicely with each layer of dischordant guitar loops, vocal loops, and synth textures. Generally I’m a lyrics guy, so when the show started I was surprised how deeply I connected to her vocalizations and Portugese lyrics.

About half way through the first song, which was 8 minutes of prog-indie, I realized that I was keying in on her ecstatic utterance. I was moving in step with that utterance despite its being divorced from any sign. The experience was less a concert and more an hour long exhibition of performance art.

I can’t help but think of this in terms of Derrida’s lecture on how to avoid speaking. This lecture run me around in circles. It seems that the only way to address the irony of speaking about not speaking is to turn the irony back on itself by turning into an address.

This afternoon as the caffeine and chocolate makes its way into my blood stream and Daily Routine from Animal Collective’s new album (nice review by window) pushes me toward my own ecstatic utterance, I’m drawn to answer Derrida’s quandary in like fashion.

To speak without speaking is to make an ecstatic utterance without attaching it to a sign. While entwined with the ecstatic, the utterance has meaning, it simply has not been lexified/named/counted. As such, its meaning does not belong to the order of subjective knowledge; in fact, by pushing the subjective to its absolute extreme, it bypasses the individual altogether. This bypass inscribes a point of access. And it is at this point of access that we touch the other sans prosthetic.

Such a mechanism has gone by many names throughout human history. It has been called the khora, it has been associated with rites, and gods. We have known it in words like ritual and worship. And more recently in the technical terminology of Lacan: jouissance. This play is what compelled him to engage in his own utterance about the absence of sign: “la femme n’existe pas.”

By engaging this aspect (ecstacy) of the psyche, we appropriate meaning in a pre-lexical fashion. In this sense, meaning does not belong within the category of knowledge-that-can-be-disseminated, or understood. Rather it belongs to the disindividuating mechanism of our consciousness. It is the ecstacy of un-becoming. It is the phenomenon of the corporate not the individual.

I have missed that kind of jouissance. Thanks Juana.


  1. It’s like Juana said, “Hey Tim, Juana experience a little jouissance?” And you were like, “Yeah, girl!”

    Sorry for the meaninglessness.

  2. That sounds like an amazing concert. I wish I saw her when she was down in LA! I think we always experience meaning as part of a larger whole. Consciously we think of ourselves as individuals, but we constitute and are constituted by a network of forces. That’s the funny nature of consciousness! It thinks it’s the only kid on the block.