depressive realism w/ lauren berlant

Depressive realists, in contrast, are more accurate: their sense of realism isn’t dark or tragic, but less defended against taking in the awkwardness and difficulty of living on in the world. So when I said I write as a depressive realist, I meant that I see awkwardness, incoherence, and the difficulty of staying in sync with the world at the heart of what also binds people to the social. What doesn’t work, makes no sense, or is ungainly always accompanies fantasies of the good life, and other clarifying genres of optimism, and the question of fantasy is centrally about how it helps people remain attached to worlds and situations (and find ways of thriving within them) that are also quite toxic, difficult, infelicitous, or just messy. I look at the ways people bear how life proceeds without guarantees. This positioning—as my blog and my next book, Cruel Optimism (2011), argue—asks “Why do people stay attached to lives that don’t work?” There, I am not interested centrally in asking how they could work, first; I am interested in how fantasies of belonging clash with the conditions of belonging in particular historical moments. Depressive realism allows for an account of the utility of fantasy in maintaining but also imagining alternative modes of life. Cruel Optimism tells some pretty difficult stories about how people maintain their footing in worlds that are not there for them.

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One response to “depressive realism w/ lauren berlant

  1. I sampled bits of a lecture she gave after the publication of ‘Cruel Optimism.’ I combined that with a sample from a Drake song. The percussion was sourced from my field recordings of everyday soundscapes. The piano is from an artist named Nadia Lucia.
    Drake, for me, exemplifies many of the thematics of Berlant’s work, particularly surrounding intimacy, love and other fantasies of the good life. I wanted to see if I could transform a song of his into a critique of, rather than an affirmation of, the impasse. The aim of this particular song was to detourne an instance of a kind of cruel optimism (the heterosexual couple form) into an analysis of the fantasies and attachments that keep us bound to an interminable present. Using the sounds of ordinary rhythms as percussive elements links these fantasies to the mundane, minute practices and contexts through which these fantasies are sustained. It’s an attempt to think through sonically the ways in which certain forms of belonging like the couple form are a kind of rhythmic pattern, connected to other rhythms of various sorts (walking, motorized transport, biological rhythms, and so on). The composition itself takes the form of question: ‘what are you so afraid of?’ It then sets out to trace through sound that which binds us to certain fantasies and attachments in the impasse. Or such was the the hope, at least :).

    Excellent interview, looking forward to listening to the talk you posted of hers as well.

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