Zizek on Caravaggio’s Testa di Medusa: Quote of the Day!


It was Schopenhauer who claimed that music brings us into contact with the Ding an sich: it renders directly the drive of the life substance that words can only signify. For that reason, music “seizes” the subject in the Real of his or her being, by-passing the detour of meaning: in music, we hear what we cannot see, the vibrating life force beneath the flow of Vorstellungen. But what happens when this flux of life substance is itself suspended, discontinued? At this point, an image emerges, an image that stands for absolute death, for death beyond the cycle of death and rebirth, corruption and generation. Far more horrifying than to see with our ears— to hear the vibrating life substance beyond visual representation, this blind spot in the field of the visible— is to hear with our eyes, to see the absolute silence that marks the suspension of life, as in Caravaggio’s Testa di Medusa: is not the scream of the Medusa by definition silent, “stuck in the throat,” and does not this painting provide an image of the moment at which the voice fails?

– Slavoj Zizek,  Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism

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