Cite as: Laurence Rickels, ‘Chow Down: Freud’s Primal Fantasy and the Lost Loss’, lecture presented at the conference Abandon: World Picture Conference, ICI Berlin, 7 November 2014, video recording, mp4, 50:48 <>
7 Nov 2014

Chow Down

Freud’s Primal Fantasy and the Lost Loss
By Laurence Rickels
Once in London, in the close quarters of the countdown to or deferral of his assisted death, Freud concluded the final parts of Moses and Monotheism in order to appease, as he put it, an unquiet ghost. At the tail end of his life and work, Freud returned not only to the primal fantasy but also to the connection between waking fantasy and cultural production. In some sense he was catching up with a trajectory of research he initiated in 1908, and which in the interim Otto Rank and Hanns Sachs had been carrying forward. By skewering the three research projects and profiles upon Marie Bonaparte’s memoir of her beloved chow’s illness and recovery, her transference gift to Freud which he translated in exchange at the time of composition of the first parts of Moses and Monotheism, we recognize in the psychoanalytic excavation of the fantasy contents of religion and art Freud’s last will and interspecial testament.

After thirty years teaching at the University of California, Laurence A. Rickels accepted the professorship in art and theory at the Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe as successor to Klaus Theweleit. He is also the Sigmund Freud Professor of Media and Philosophy at European Graduate School in Saas Fee, Switzerland. Rickels is the author of Aberrations of Mourning, The Case of California, Nazi Psychoanalysis, The Vampire Lectures, The Devil Notebooks, Ulrike Ottinger: The Autobiography of Art Cinema, I Think I Am: Philip K. Dick, and SPECTRE. A new study, Germany: A Science Fiction, is scheduled to appear by the end of 2014. He has also published numerous essays and edited and co-edited several collections and special issues on unmourning, as he terms it, as well as on the cultural study of occult and technical media. For more information please visit the website:


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)
The keynote was part of the International Conference ABANDON, a collaboration between World Picture and the ICI Berlin. The conference fed into the ICI’s Core Project ERRANS and was supported by the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and the Department of Italian at the University of Cambridge.

Video in English

Format: mp4
Length: 00:50:48
First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin

Part of the Conference

Abandon: World Picture Conference

Keynote by Laurence Rickels
Live performance by Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder

The term abandon encompasses radical renunciation and immersive indulgence in its oscillation between abandonment of and abandonment to, between restraint and luxury, mindfulness and neglect. When we speak of abandonment we indicate a situation in which we take leave of something, or disband a collective entity, or else act in a way that suggests a disaggregation of certain protocols of behaviour, or belonging (as when we ‘laugh with abandon’). Discourses and scenes of media and politics are generally highly invested in ideas of taking-leave, breaking apart or away, acting with abandon. In the present moment, we believe the term resonates in manifold ways. For instance: with often painful choices between theoretical and political models that have outlasted their effectiveness but to which there seem to be no alternatives; with turns to abandoned objects as new sources of ontologies in which the turn itself is a mode of abandoning an established political-theoretical project; with the obdurate ‘problem’ of pleasure in aesthetics and aesthetic theory as either the obstacle or the medium of the aesthetic’s interface with the political; with the cathexis of the body and its phenomenology as an instrument and medium of political and aesthetic experimentation; with attempts to relinquish the human, and its attendant association with agency, as a category of experience; with contemporary experiences/fantasies of control and resistance to control; with theatricalizations of abjuration and gratification.


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)

Organized by

Manuele Gragnolati
Christoph F. E. Holzhey
Brian Price
John David Rhodes
Meghan Sutherland
An ICI Event with support from the Faculty of Modern and Medievl Languages and the Department of Italian at the University of Cambridge

This year’s World Picture Conference was a collaboration with the ICI Berlin and fed into its Core Project ERRANS, which takes the shifting and incompatible meanings of erring as a starting point to explore the critical potentials and risks of embracing error, randomness, failure, and non-teleological temporalities.