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Irony and Overidentification


Borrowed from Lacan and applied to politics instead of psychoanalysis, Slavoy Zizek's defines the concept of overidentification as taking 'the system more seriously than it takes itself seriously'. 

Overidentification seems to belong somewhere on the spectrum of parody, satire, sarcasm, irony and pastiche, but unlike these other distancing mechanisms deliberately obscures any clear lines between two systems of knowledge.

Overidentification finds logical paradoxes within the system rather than imposing an external logic or ethic upon it to reveal its flaws.
 At the same time, within a system that is defined by its supreme tolerance of resistance, privileging of the surface, acceptance of contradiction and absorbency towards critique, it can point to internal paradoxes and repressions be an effective means of opposition that goes beyond irony. We can also ask, however, does overidentification require totalitarianism, censorship and repression to work?

Using the writing of Kierkegaard, Rorty, De Man and Zizek this research strand looks at the various uses of irony and overidentification, and interrogates their usefulness for the problems of contemporary art production. 


Over four sessions running throughout the 2009 academic year, the 'Irony and Over-Identification' research strand explored the political currency of irony and overidentification in relation to the basis of critique in ideals of truth and strategies of exposing and revealing. 

Questions addressed in this first salvo of approaches to this research strand included: 

  • Can irony still be used as a meaningful artistic and political device when its rhetoric is appropriated by the language of late capitalism?
  • Does the ironic gap between a private and public voice, between what is said and what is generally understood necessarily entail a position of passivity and can we critique a system which relies on irony without ourselves being ironic?
  • Can we find a mode of irony which does not assume a double audience and hence a privileged sphere of knowledge? 

For archived details of these seminars please click here ...