In Structure, sign and play, Derrida deconstructs Claude Lévi-Strauss’ structuralist analysis of the incest taboo in order to reveal the persistent metaphysical (and ethnocentric) assumptions at the centre of western epistemology. Derrida argues that the epistemological presumptions of western metaphysics constitute the structure of philosophical discourse, and thereby find their way into and “infect” everyday language. He reveals the reliance of these discourses on an origin or centre (such as God, essence, truth or presence), which permits the play of elements because it provides them with a context. But for the same reason, the centre also controls and limits the play that it makes possible, because play threatens the organisation and coherence of the structure.
How do we practice critique if critical discourses contain flawed assumptions and blind spots? How do we critique art, politics or society despite the assumptions embedded in language? Derrida maintains that the decline of the concept of the transcendental signified has brought about an intensification of discourse; extending the play of signification infinitely. Does this provide a starting point from which we can begin to imagine new ways of thinking and acting?
[SYMPOSIUM] is a monthly reading group on the intersections between art practice and critical theory. Everyone can propose a text and facilitate the reading group. Please visit the website for more information, to book and download the shared document.