Pleasure, Measure, Treasure
We Tell Stories was een project van De Kijkdoos waarvoor kunstenaars en schrijvers werden uitgenodigd samen een presentatie te maken. Voor We Tell Stories IV werd ik gekoppeld aan kunstenaar Michiel Hilbrink. Onderstaande tekst schreef ik in het kader van deze gezamenlijke presentatie.
TRANSLATION OF JANOSCH’ THE TRIP TO
One morning as they sat and spoke by the shore
For there was a box and it floated on by.
Little Tiger helped; they caught it together.
On the box was a stamp that did proudly declare:
Inside it was fruit, both yellow and ripe:
“What a wonderful place this Panama must be,
I N S E A R C H O F P A N A M A
The children’s book In Search of Panama by Janosch tells the story of Little Bear and Little Tiger, two friends on a quest to discover Panama after finding a banana box in a river that triggers a longing for this land of their dreams (“where it smells like bananas from top to bottom”). They pack their bags and embark on a journey that will eventually lead them back to their own home, unrecognizably overrun by plants and trees. Not realising they’ve ended up where they started, Bear and Tiger happily nest in their ‘Panama’, their ‘new’ home.
T H E I M A G I N A T I O N O F T H E ‘ O T H E R ’
Simply put, the moral of this story comes down to the concept that the grass is not always greener on the other side: Bear and Tiger already had everything they could have wished for. But the story also seems to be about the way in which we imagine far places and create fantasies about exotic destinations. Bear and Tiger’s idea of Panama was not based on facts, but the banana box stimulated a desire which resulted in a fantasy about this place. A banana box being a stereotypical example, objects and images tend to trigger a desire to be elsewhere. Think of paintings of wild waterfalls, the yellow coloured carpet at your local travel agency or a map of the unknown. These images and objects are archetypes of otherness; all charged with a symbolism that makes us dream of and long for the exotic or the other.
A C H A N G I N G C O N C E P T O F T H E E X O T I C
Due to globalisation’s acceleration, the experience of the faraway is changing. For-eign places, previously unknown, are now closer than ever. We are more familiar with these once mysterious destinations, since we ‘experience’ them through television and Internet or may have visited them personally. Today, former exotic arenas might even be changing into ultra-modern technological societies. Furthermore, by incorporating the ‘exotic’ into our daily envi-
R E P R O D U C T I O N O F D E S I R E
Thus, even as the actuality of the exotic is changing, the psychological longing and desire for the exotic seem to remain the same. This psychological aspect leads us to Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytical concept of desire. According to Lacan, desire is entangled in a fantasy version of reality. As fantasies do not necessarily correspond with reality, desire relies on a lack, something that is missing. This lack, which is a fundamental part of desire, ensures that we continue to crave. If we come too close to our object of desire – to, in this context, our longing for the exotic – we are threatened with an uncovering of the lack. Never fully attaining our object of desire is crucial in order for our desire to persist. Therefore we must keep well away from the actual exotic. As philospher Slavoj Zizek puts it: “Desire’s raison d’être is not to realize its goal, to find full satisfaction, but to reproduce itself as desire.”
 Which is of course part of the larger debate about the stigmatizing of the East by the West and exotism.