Josephine “is thus the vehicle for the collectivity’s affirmation of itself: she reflects their collective identity back to them;” she is needed because “only the intervention of art and the theme of the great artist could make it possible to grasp the essential anonymity of the people, who have no feeling for art, no reverence for the artist.”
Josephine is treated as a celebrity, but not fetishized—her admirers are well aware that there is nothing special in her, that she is just one of them. To paraphrase Marx, she thinks people admire her because she is an artist, but in reality she is an artist only because people treat her as such. Here we get an example of how, in a Communist society, the Master-Signifier is still operative, but deprived of its fetishist effect—Josephine’s belief in herself is perceived by the people as harmless and rather ridiculous narcissism, and should be gently, but ironically, tolerated and sustained. This is how artists should be treated in a Communist society—they should be praised and flattered, but they should not be given any material privileges like exemption from work or special food ration.
[Extract. Appeared in Lacanian Ink, 2009, No. 33, pp. 156-163.]