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Interview: Sarah Mary Chadwick Talks Philosophy and Reality

Interview: Sarah Mary Chadwick Talks Philosophy and Reality

Michael McClelland / Thursday 3rd May, 2018 2:18PM

Relating music to psychoanalysis may seem esoteric to some, but conveniently for us barflies with booze-rotted brains, Sarah Mary Chadwick offers an access point to psychoanalytic theory through her music. In a way, the progression from Batrider’s cacaphonic spronk to nowaday’s (comparatively) ordered solo stuff actually mirrors the process that 20th century psychoanalyst, philosopher and know-it-all Jacques Lacan had in mind for his patients and students. We’ll explain what that means in a minute, but be aware that in the interest of not dumbing anything down, this interview has been left intact - and if you can stomach that, you get to read her calling herself "Old Chandler."

So you keep talking about the Real, the Symbolic, and the Imaginary. You’ve done Lacanian psychoanalysis for a couple years, and so have I, but you’ve done it longer.

Well when we talk about [Jacques Lacan, French philosopher and psychoanalyst], there’s like, the Real, the Symbolic, and the Imaginary. Lacan thinks psychoanalysis is about moving as much from the Real to the Symbolic.

Which is also the point of your music.

This is my whole music thing. It's literally, essentially, about moving as much as I can from the Real into the Symbolic. For example... I did this interview with this chick this morning, and she was asking about my lyrics and I was like "I'm probably quite shit to talk to about lyrics because I don't really think about them. I do that thing we do where we switch our brains off and write the words or whatever.”

Which is what we do when we free associate in psychoanalysis. But just cos I'm still catching up on the content - I'm still learning the actual Lacanian definitions. The technical stuff; not the interpretations. So you'll have to correct me if I'm wrong here.

And you'll have to bear with me as well as I'm still learning.

The example I read in Introducing Lacan by Darian Leader, compares the Real to a physical sensation... an inescapably true feeling that nobody else can experience. You are the sole occupant of this understanding. My Real is always going to be different to your Real, because it's isolated to our own individual experience.


Now, if we seek to try to bring that understanding to another human with their OWN individual experiences, first we have to build an IDEA, or an Image. This roughly describes what Lacan means by the Imaginary.


And then the Symbolic's pretty easy actually - the means to convey that understanding. Language, for instance, as one example.

Well... the Symbolic's like the tools.

The tools, but you know. It's the words, or the pictures, or the meaning. But having those tools then enables you to form new understandings of the Real, which starts the cycle again.

I think everything contains a bit of the Real, a bit of the Symbolic, a bit of the Imaginary. Like Lacan’s Borromean knot or whatever. The Venn Diagram-ish thing.

But even though it’s all interconnected, there are some people who can’t access certain parts.

Yeah, like people who live entirely in the Real. Those are the people that might, say, rely on truisms, or idioms, or catchphrases to express themselves cos they can't actually utilise language as it forms in the Imaginary to express themselves. And another example is prayer. Like, what's Prayer? Prayer is, someone's given you the words. You don't even have to move anything from the Real.

I existed in the Real for a long time too. As a kid I would manifest myself in TV and culture a lot... I thought TV was a lot more real than reality was. I liked to invent fictions to explain everything. And I was really pained when reality... when the REAL Real, contradicted that.

You would think that someone who doesn’t have much touch with reality would live in the Imaginary. But in a Lacanian sense it's the opposite... it means they live entirely in an esoteric sense and are unable to articulate that. For instance, a Narcissist probably wouldn't see any worth in contemplating anything esoteric outside themselves. Like, why would you bother? You're like, "if you don't exist, why am I gonna bother articulating my Real to you?"

I'll tell you what, I find existence a lot more exhilarating and fun to be part of when you've got a structure of thought that doesn't just accept things at face value.


Whether that's cultural theory, saying, "We're like this cos we're conditioned to it and cos people think like sheep and because culture is brainwashing us all”; OR whether you're Lacanian and you say we're like this because we're just trying to make sense of our own supernatural experiences that aren't part of the common language.

I reckon that's so great though. I'm kinda similar to you in part coz I definitely take what people say as truth. I'll be talking to someone and they'll say something, and I'll be like ‘It's so fucked that that person said that’, and my partner (being so much more adjusted) will be like ‘No, clearly they didn't just mean that--’ and she’ll contextualise it for me, and I'll be like ‘Ahh’. All I heard was just the words that they said.

The way people react to things is irrational. We’re all just big dumb babies pretending to be rational calculating machines; cocooned by the avoidance of thinking about something so fundamental as our upbringing and our parents. And the loss of that equilibrium is as scary to us as death.

I was driving home from work a couple months ago, and there was this car stopped and I saw this fur or something go up, and I slowly drove up behind the car... and there was this possum dragging itself off the road - and I was like, howling. If I drove past a car accident... I wouldn't even care. I mean, I'd care, I'd be like "oh, that's sad", but a billion percent would not cry if there were humans there or whatever.

You’re not usually the one who feels stuff. But sometimes you just find yourself feeling death, but most of the shock is in the fact that you feel it, and that’s what gets you. That feeling when you're like "OH, FUCK. They're DEAD???"

It's weird that I would allow myself to be sad at that possum's death, but not feel anything at friends' funerals.

You can never predict how you're gonna react. From moment to moment, year to year, we assume different shapes and identities... yadda yadda.

Before I was young, and now I'm 'old'. I was watching Friends last night, and by the time of the later seasons Chandler is 29. I'm six years older than Old Chandler. That's fucked.

Sarah Mary Chadwick's fourth studio album 'Sugar Still Melts In The Rain' is out Friday 11 May via Rice Is Nice / Sinderlyn Records. Melburnians can catch Michael McClelland playing in his group Bloody Hell soon at a venue near you.


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