Enjoy Them

hd video / 02:57 / language: english

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The title "Enjoy Them" refers to a statement by Slovenian philospher Slavoj Žižek concerning the German NDH band Rammstein. According to him, in a simplified manner, Rammstein's approach to nationalistic imagery and symbolism frees these elements of their idelogical connections to nazism, and enjoying these newly discharged and unburdened elements might even be a way to combat such ideologies. So Žižek doesn't simply separate the art from the artist - he goes one step further, by separating the art from its means. This sword cuts both ways, however: By unlinking the used elements of an artwork from their prefigurations (and their usage), inadvertently the elements are now linked to how they are currently employed: They might end up as floating signifiers, or the artists' intention has now become their principal quality to look out for.
For decades, through this kind of reasoning, in which Žižek isn't alone, Rammstein had a solid group of feuilletonists at their disposal who were eager to explain to any enraged petit bourgeois why their rage was unjustified. I myself remember defending the band as a teenager - after all, they had released Links 2-3-4 - against accusations of nazism without ever being a fan or listening to more than one album (I didn't 'get' their music, but was sure others 'got' it even less), while never feeling comfortable about the band either. I just assumed this discomfort was their artistic intent, that I was supposed to feel that way.
However, recent events have shown that the trite nazi discussion might have actually helped the band in unexpected ways instead of damaging their reputation: The constant defense mode of journalists and normies like me, in a vain attempt to show that we 'get' Rammstein, immunized the band against a barrage of other criticism and helped to divert from more pressing issues in the German music scene. The argument of Rammstein being inauthentic by principle might, for example, have masked the fact that some of their songs are basically just dramatic readings of gay sex jokes.
Jumping topics: In the VR game Beat Saber, a player hacks into coloured blocks (with laser swords!), following the rhythm of the song played as a soundtrack. As is the case with most music games, the disconnect between the - at times - quite serious, or at least artistically meaningful directions of the song, and them being broken up into playable (and, as in this case, slashable) set pieces can be quite staggering. Playing, for example, the Linkin Park music pack for fun, considering Chester Bennington's fate, is, on a conscious level, very discomforting. Yet pop music is created for entertainment purposes, and entertain it does - including the Linkin Park music pack.
What Beat Saber inadvertently illustrates is a capitalist perversion of Žižek's proposal: That compartmentalizing small aesthetic elements disconnects them from their former purpose.
The Beat Saber streaming scene is one of the few online gaming communities in which female streamers easily dominate. Dismissing this factoid because it feels obvious why women are successful in a gaming sub scene that focusses on pretty costumes, dancing, and whole body shots, also dismisses that women have successfully carved a niche for themselves in a still mostly male-dominated field. As the issue with Rammstein might, eventually, have been their misogyny-fueled fan relations (at the time of writing, no better, legally sound term is available), it feels apt to have Žižek's proposal, originally made in the 2012 film "The Pervert's Guide To Ideology", put to the test in an arena it was in no way built for. No official music pack for Rammstein exists in the game, yet a few of their songs can be played in fan-created levels. For this discussion between a non-fan who still struggles to vocalize their discomfort in and about this entire discourse, Žižek acts as a representative of the feuilleton charging Rammstein with pretty words about ironic detachment that the plebs just don't 'get', and Rammstein themselves provide snippets of their song "Reise Reise" in a custom-built Beat Saber level.

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