Fhilosofhy of the Encounter (forthcoming)

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Fhilosofhy of the Encounter (forthcoming)

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Tatiana Istomina's conceptual art/writing project is inspired by story of Helene Rytman, who was murdered by her husband, prominent Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, in 1980. Today Helene is largely forgotten; in death, as in life, she remains an insignificant woman lost in the shadow of her famous husband. Althusser, on the other hand, remains an influential thinker: his texts written before and after the murder continue to be published, widely read and discussed. Althusser’s main contribution to theory is his famous analysis of ideology. He defines ideology as a set of discourses and concepts through which we live our relationship with reality, but which do not truly represent this reality: ideology makes us believe that we are free subjects, while in fact our thoughts and actions are fully controlled by the state, family, education, and other ideological structures. There has been little discussion on how Althusser’s crime relates to his theory. At the time of the murder, was he, the radical philosopher, a free individual, a cog in the oppressive ideological apparatus, or simply a puppet activated by social or biological forces outside his control? The artist book “Fhilosofhy of the Encounter” considers this question from Helene’s point of view, reconstructing what could be her side of the story and reviewing Althusserian theory from this new perspective. 

The book is based on Althusser’s posthumously published memoir “The future lasts forever”. Using Althusser’s method of “symptomatic reading”, Istomina rewrote parts of his memoir from Helene’s point of view – in much the same way as Althusser rewrote some of Marx’s texts to uncover the “true” Marxist theory uncontaminated by bourgeois ideology. She then reassembled the text out of cutout fragments from several used copies of the memoir, some of which retain notes in the margins left by previous readers. The new, visually-striking version of the memoir now tells the story of the murder—in haunted, engaging prose—from the victim’s own perspective, giving her back her voice and agency.

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