top of page

The Subject Exploration and Artistic Practice in Idol Worship

Edited by Xi Li

Critical contexts: Idol worship, fantasy, subjectivity, symbols, images, artistic practice

Proofreading thanks: Sean Kerr,  Warren Pringle and John Shen



  • Introduction

  • Part I: What is Idol worship

1.1 Explanation of Idol Worship

1.2 Idol Worship as Ideology

  • Part II: Idol worship and the Subject

  • Part Ⅲ: From Fantasy to Symbolic Order

3.1 The Manifestation of Symbols, Using Artistic Practice as Methodology

3.2 Symbolic Fantasy and Image Creation

3.3 The Subject Narrative from "Infatuation" to "Mysterious"

(1) Absolute Infatuation

(2) Relative Infatuation

(3) From Infatuation to Mysterious: The "Sameness" of Contextual order

  • Epilogue

  • Bibliography

This essay is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ). 


In the current society we live in, cultures are becoming mythical. When the frenzy of self-creation has created an ardent and addictive fantasy about a phenomenon, can we understand our own value system and form a new narrative in it? From the common perspective of symbolism and popularity, this thesis has carried out a profound reveal and inquiry to the subject problem behind idol worship.


While creating a world picture that is different from the stereotype of Idol worship, the intention is to explore a methodological reference based on artistic practice, to show that Idol worship has developed from the spiritual boundary of subject fantasy into contemporary mythology, spirituality, survival, the ideal structured narrative.


In this essay, the first chapter "What is Idol worship", explores the realistic significance of idol worship and defines the deep relationship between idol worship and the broken background of grand narrative in critical reading and expresses the complex situation yet obvious anxiety arising from idol worship as spiritual life.


The second chapter of the essay " Idol worship and the Subject " is based on philosopher Jacques Lacan's theory of "objet petit a". Through the retrospect of the root of idol worship, the inner connection between human subject consciousness and image construction is discussed, and the root cause of idol worship's desire is pointed out.


The third chapter of the essay, " The subject narrative from "Infatuation" to "Mysterious"", explores the purpose of the practical method, presents the idols I constructed through my imagination on the idealised idol, subject and symbol; Based on my own observation, experience, and reflection, I interpret the subject's personal symbolic narrative experience from infatuation to mysterious in idol worshipping.


From the exploration of idol worship to the recollection of the truth to the rescue strategy of delusion, the whole process contains my personal understanding of cognition and perception, complex spiritual experience, and clarifies the situation of the self, including a sense of the composition of the self. Deeper understanding: how do we recognise the real meaning of our fantasy, discover the ambiguous activities in the structure of consciousness, understand our own symbolic desire and instinct, and reconstruct our relationship with fantasy.

Part I: What is Idol Worship


1.1 Explanation of Idol Worship


Humans are essentially an animal symbolicum,[1] and idol worship is a unique symbolic practice of human beings. It is not only a kind of human symbology instinct, but also a natural expansion of human nature. As one of the earliest collective consciousness activities of human beings, it is through the worship of ancestors, totems, objects, gods, incarnations, myths, and Eucharistic idols that early human beings used the power of symbols to boldly transcend all boundaries of limited existence, making people's own consciousness undergo unique changes in meaning. Philosopher Ernst Cassirer stated in his book The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (1923-1929):  "Human beings do not only live in a physical world, but also in a symbolic universe. Language, mythology, art, religion, etc. Content forms the parts of the symbolic universe, the interwoven web of human experience, and all progress in human thought and experience optimizes this "symbol web" more refined and robust." [2] Idol worship also includes different ideas and social activities through its rich and broad symbolic activities and exists in our history in various forms. In the contemporary life field constructed by the rise of media technology and consumer culture, Idol worship is also an important factor and part of the construction of contemporary spiritual life. The concept of Idol worship means that individuals have a strong emotional fascination and admiration for idols.[3] The definition of idols over time have also expanded. They may be virtual idols, such as characters from cartoons, TVs, movies, or the protagonists of novels; they may also be historical figures, such as sages, world celebrities; or from real life figures such as parents, teachers, athletes, politicians, public figures. Whether it is the trend of Internet influencers and pop stars, the Kpop idol industry or the two-dimensional virtual animation idols, these rich and complex idols have set off the prosperous carnival of the young generation and have localised in various forms around the globe.

As a young Chinese girl, who grew up in the era of trendy culture and mass media, various music videos, TV selection competitions and survival reality shows from all over Europe, America and the Asia Pacific have influenced how I see the world. Appreciating and admiring a certain character seems like an instinct for me. The work of many actors, singers, dancers, and pop bands have had a profound impact on me at different stages of my life. So much so that I found that my admiration and worship of chosen idols is no longer just a hobby, and even tends to turn to spiritual dependence. Young artists like me who have been influenced by idol culture have also keenly captured the potential power behind idols. Ada Karczmarczyk (1985), an artist from Poland, lived as a child during a period of social transformation in Poland, which was open to consumerism.[4] Influenced by this social context, the themes of her work often explore the obsessions of pop culture, pop music videos, Hollywood and American reality television. Starting in 2015, Karczmarczyk used the pseudonym "ADU" to portray herself as a spiritual leader, producing and filming a series of songs and music videos. She sees her work as a religious song, and the Internet as a vibrant, expressive and joyful community of believers. Gery Georgieva (1986), a Bulgarian artist, was interested in how star women acted as role models in pop culture. In Georgieva's video work Collaboration between Gery Georgieva's music alter-ego Vera Modena and Patchfinder (2015), she keyed areas of her face, danced to the pop icon's song, and danced to the festival scene, showing how interacting with an idol empowers her and audiences. [5] The works of Karczmarczyk and Georgieva from different cultural backgrounds both discuss how pop idols affect young people in the social context of capitalist globalisation while emphasising the sacred nature of the idol's culture: globalisation, dreams, surrealism religion, popular mythology.


However, in the mainstream critical reading of idol worship, many studies from the point of view of social function, regard popular idols as simply the product of the “triple logic” of technology, commodity and culture: a platform that is disseminated through network information. The entertainment culture is supported by the capital market. Therefore, fans of idols are often interpreted as objects of uncritical and blind worship. In some religions, idol worship represents the desire for entertainment instead of the truth, and the worship of creation is not worthy of praise at all. Critics of idol worship argue that it reflects a lack of social rationality and that these traps and hallucinations must be rejected if the lost self-confidence and rationality are to be restored. As a result, many theorists have proposed countless guiding strategies around the development and evolution of idol worship and discussed the halo of idols and the "collective unconscious" fan group. But in my opinion, this kind of discussion that stays at the level of phenomena is often one-dimensional. People tend to fall into the form and performance of idol worship and often neglect its practical significance as a secular belief to people, and thus inevitably fall into the predicament of either being right or wrong. Even with a neutral attitude, it is difficult to capture the rich particularities of different individuals in idol worship only through observation. It is even more difficult to truly care about the exact situation and perception of individuals. The direct result of this is that people inevitably define one-sided idol worship and an imagined mainstream context in various subjective assumptions and "objective perspectives".

1.2 Idol Worship as Ideology

So, what role do idols and Idol worship play today? Is it religion, politics or culture? Agnosticism or ideology? Could it be that Idol worship is really a kind of drunkenness, a self-lie that blinds the mind? Japanese postmodern scholars Hiroki Azuma and Masachi Osawa believe that in the context of the lack of grand narratives, the game of symbols has replaced the grand narrative of ideology, and people choose to return to a world centred on the accumulation of cultural symbols.[6] As a result, countless subcultures and youth cultures emerged, which became the "Ideal" of this era: "The new situation of consumerism has begun to flourish, causing the younger generation to be disinterested in political participation and community interaction; transitional addicted to consumerism; and an image-specific media cult."[7] People no longer express themselves only by absolute belief and political enthusiasm but have transformed into a kind of political hedonism. They satisfy their desires and impulses by projecting residual pleasure onto these idol symbols and using a series of subcultural elements. The "shell" of the spiritual self is established, and the "shell" is used to fill the empty space and emptiness of life purpose and life order that is missing from the grand narrative. And idol worship is an important part of this shell. Matt Hills, a cultural studies scholar, pointed out its roots directly: "Fan is an appeal to the power of belief in a situation where belief is missing, and it replaces the creation of idols with the gods. In awe, the tribal existence of youth subcultural groups has replaced the traditional social existence governed by the unity of belief systems." [8] This suggests people display strong cultural production capacity, create a whole set of symbols and speech systems, and practise collective Idol worship cultural practice.


Therefore, worship is no longer equivalent to absolute obedience and looking-up-to,  and the consciousness centred on the popular theory of self-empowerment begins to awaken. In the prevalence of fetish culture and enjoyment, people imitate and derive from popular characters and real images as text materials. The idols are potentially stripped of their sublime connotations and turned into personality symbols that can be manufactured, consumed, and entertained, a symbol for us an image that enjoys and produces residual pleasure. It is to a large extent inevitable that public figures become objects of worship in contemporary times. This kind of image is vivid and interactive; but at the same time, it is also localized. As a product of the cultural industry, the essence of an idol is a materialized image.[9] The highest evaluation of idols by the media and the public often uses the word "phenomenal", which shows that it is deeply isomorphic with the entire capital market. Even idols deeply bound to the market economy are destined only to become symbols of things attached to the market economy. Essentially, they are characters without substantive content or narrative context as a basis, losing their background stories and huge foundations.


We can observe a paradoxical phenomenon: firstly, idols, as a representative of the paternal symbolic order, have evolved the aesthetic experience of contemporary society. At the same time, the mutual replacement of consumer sovereignty and conscious power has spawned a state that is immeasurably close to the desired economy. People seem to be endowed with unprecedented power and freedom, and through their love for idols, they incorporate themselves into the ranks of consumers, to generate their own endless desires and enjoyments. Many idol worshipers are reluctant to call themselves devout fans, and more call themselves autonomous consumers or individuals with independent thoughts. Even cynic-minded idol worship is reciprocated with an "I'm just having fun, I'm not really into idol worship "attitude. It can be said that idol worship is supporting a kind of "overcoming" of capital domination by contemporary specific cultural groups in the form of "cunning" of consumption. This kind of consumption refers not only to material objects but also to emotional devotion and acquisition. It itself constitutes an ideological activity whose benchmark is anti-ideology and de-ideology. Through this, the identity associated with idol worship always produces "fragmented" symbols and psychology. Personally, I also feel a strong contradiction in idol worship. On the one hand, I have a superficial appreciation by capturing the external characteristics such as talent, beauty, and wisdom of idols; on the other hand, with an understanding of the internal characteristics of idols, such as personality, personality, values. It deepens into a strong identity. On the other hand, as a mode of behaviour that mirrors fantasy into reality, I find myself entering this fantasy system spontaneously, enjoying this vain carnival. In the intertwined state of paradoxes, I fell into a bitter self-disillusionment, unable to hide the disappointment of my spiritual orientation.


But when we realise that the things we love or support our beliefs come from our unconscious and fantasy, do we have to abandon them? Philosopher Karl Marx once said in the introduction to Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1843): "Once the argument of error in the kingdom of heaven is refuted, its existence on earth is in a dilemma".[10] The meaning of this sentence is that the fallacy is not only an abstract existence but also a concrete existence in the human world. Marx believed that religion is an illusion, the illusion itself has reality, but the Enlightenment believes that scientific enlightenment can completely replace or eliminate religion, but it is a naive illusion. Because even if religion disappears, if the suffering of the people exists, things that perform the same function as religion will keep changing and reappearing. In today's world of constantly introducing new symbols, all kinds of desires, fantasies, and spiritual beliefs support our daily lives. Body, sex, brand name, obsession, fame, power, books, fashion, food. Even if the belief is not an idol, it is hard to say whether we are not indulging in other desires. Cultural studies scholar Lauren Berlant also proposes this concept in Cruel Optimism (2012): "Who can bear to lose the world (the "libidinal position"), what happens when the loss of what's not working is more unbearable than the having of it."[11] Can we easily possess intelligence and abandon fantasy? And when we successfully liberate or reduce its charm and entrapment, will it be more enjoyment or pain?


While the intertwining of the paradox of fantasy and reality is both thought-provoking and terrifying, these unreal iconoclastic visions exist not only in our fantasy activities but also in our emotional activities. We should not just dismiss Idol worship as absolute madness. The groundless severance of Idol worship is not true sobriety and detachment, but more childish fantasies.


The purpose of recognising idol worship is not to eliminate illusions, but to transform from it a dialectical process of turning contradictions into unity. From my passion for pursuit and concern for my own issues, I want to confront my heart from the dimension of self-examination, discover my own desires from the depths of my heart, and face the main problem that idol worship directly points to.


Part II: Idol worship and the Subject

Since idol worship as a symbolic activity is both an ideology and a symbolic fantasy, there must be some mechanism for operating it. In philosopher Jacques Lacan's "Three stages" he sees order as RSI (Réel-Symbolique-Imaginaire). They are "The Real" (R), "The Symbolic" (S), "The Imaginary" (I).[12] In the whole order, the coexistence of The Real and The Symbolic relies on The Imaginary, and the ‘objet petit a (object little-a)’, as a "crack",[13] is at the junction of the three. It cannot be eliminated, it cannot be filled, and it is always there.




Jacques Lacan, Three stages: Imaginary, Symbolic, and Real[14]

Lacan believes that the human subject loses its previously chaotic womb state from birth.[15] In other words, since the birth of the subject, it has not been able to find its true identity as a subject in the entire signifier order, but can only be continuously referred to from one signifier to another. It is in the place of ‘objet petit a’ that the subject finds a solid foundation of existence.[16] But at the same time, it is this "crack" that leads to the formation and infinite extension of the subject's desire, which makes us constantly look for certainty to fill it and make it complete.[17] This means that our subjectivity is inherently absent in the entire symbolic order, so filling in subjectivity is our symbolic instinct. We present the object indicative of desire through self-invention and use it to establish and support the subject.


Jacques Lacan: Objet petit a (object little-a)[18]

As far as the object term itself is concerned, ‘objet petit a’ is difficult to show. The object appears as it is, while the fantasy object used for transition is not pure, processed by the symbolic function. Lacan said: "The fantasy object is also the function of the object little a, it is it that allows the subject's desire to take shape and realize it in a fantasy way, and because this realization cannot bring the subject's original satisfaction, the absence is proved to be eternal and stable. " [19] In Idol worship, the idol acts as the transitional object of the ‘objet petit a’, also known as the fantasy object, supporting the formation of desire. The process of the subject filling the ‘objet petit a’ with idol worship is embodied in that human beings project their own subjectivity onto this imaginary object through the establishment of a certain image. The idol is therefore also seen as the little other, that is, the "other's self". The little other is the self-illusion of the subject to the external "other", which is closely related to the subject's self-formation, or it is the little other that constitutes the subject's self. With the development of human consciousness and needs, this behaviour of using idols as objects has gradually changed in various periods of human history.


During the primitive society, for early humans with extremely low productivity, survival in nature was extremely difficult. Only by relying on sufficient spiritual strength to fight against the powerful natural forces and maintaining the unified behaviour of the community can we only then obtain the basic guarantee of individual self-survival and development on the premise of ensuring the survival of the group.[20] Therefore, Traducianism in primitive society believes that the sacred remains of ancestors have great supernatural phenomena, and believes that their entire spiritual consciousness comes from the bodies of ancestors and parents. They used the remains of ancestors, stones, animal skins, bones, trees and other materials to make the sacred body of idols to express the main body's identification with the lineage, nation, blood, and inheritance.


With the gradual development of material conditions for survival, human beings in ancient times had a desire to conquer nature in their deep consciousness. The idols worshipped by people are no longer natural objects, but a force a nature or deformation of natural objects. Humans began to fantasise about the relationship between themselves and animals and plants in the spiritual world and dreamed of extraordinary abilities in the creation of these idols. At this stage, the human symbology ability is further stimulated. The instinct of symbology - decompose will automatically parse, and combine what the subject experiences.[21] As a result, a large number of idol images in ancient times appeared with the characteristics of partial objects. For example, animal totems and sphinxes in ancient Egypt; Chimera in Greek mythology; Fuxi, half-snake and half-human in ancient Chinese tribal totems, Unicorns and dragons.


In the early modern period clans and religions have developed to a higher level so religious idols have gradually emerged from the content and form of primitive idols, and idols have transformed into representations that transcend the sacred realm of human existence Avatar. Although in Christianity and Islam representations of God are absolutely forbidden to be painted as portraits or made into idol sculptures, in the polytheistic religious system of Buddhism and Hinduism these iconic elements are allowed to be shared, cooperated and communicated by members of society, thereby entering the into the realm of religious thinking. Human beings embed their own life into the overall order, attribute the origin of themselves and the subject to the creator with mysterious power, and realise their support through religion.


Since the modern era, human beings have undergone transformations from the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Scientific Revolution. Faith has lost its mystical foundation in the past, and people are more and more inclined to explore the world and themselves in a rational way. Marx summed up this transformation as: “human beings shifted from the worship of God to the worship of self and the understanding of self.”[22] In this period of change, the idol, as a symbol, is sublime and leading. It gradually transforms from an object in the sacred realm to a specific character image: such as a noble, a scholar, a political leader, a figurative personality symbol that is highly respected, admired or greatly appreciated, loved and longed for by an individual or group.[23] Because the interests and spiritual enjoyment they pursue have something in common with the idol, they believe and imitate it with empathy. These heroised and idealised objects make the individual generate surging passion and admiration, and make the subject more firmly establish their own goals and hopes.


There is no doubt that all kinds of celebrity idol cultures in contemporary society are the remnants of all kinds of idol worship. In the past idolatry, the Symbolic—big Other and the Imaginary—little Other were the same and overlapped. This means that everyone treats the little Other, the idol, and can only keep admiring and in awe. In the current idolatry, the Imaginary—the little Other is generally free from the boundary between the Symbolic—the big Other. People's love for idols is more from the symbolic love and recognition emotions, which are used to meet the needs of the divergence of desires and aesthetics. People project their own subjectivity into their favourite characters and objects. And through the appreciation of idols convey their own feelings, and internalize the values ​​and beliefs of idols to achieve self-identity. But this wishful hallucination is contrary to the essence of transcendence, which is precisely at the cost of the subordination of the illusory will. Idols, for me, are just the specific and subtle ultimate of beliefs and ideology that I use, the purpose I give them. Therefore, I believe and choose to emulate them in my own way.


In my personal life, especially during the period of mental development, I often face cognitive confusion and worry about a stable future. My subject also urgently needs a certainty, but in real life, there is often no object that can fill this gap, no signifier can bring this kind of satisfaction, and there is no clear solution to tell oneself “Who I am". As a result, this split created a blind hunger spirit, and I began to unconsciously seek a more sacred dimension to help me excrete my self-centeredness, trying to build a complete self-identity. At this time, the idol industry chain dominated by K-pop swept in, creating an impeccable fantasy chain in my eyes. Idols have naturally become my compensation for the subject's "cracks". It can be said that Idol worship is not only a projection of my self-identity but also a means to achieve a steady-state against internal inconsistency after my subject is separated from the mother’s womb: that is, to use fearless sacrifice against excess to restore symbology equilibrium, I believe through it, the lost original satisfaction can be rediscovered.

Form: Explanation of Idol worship, Xi Li.JPG

Form: Explanation of Idol worship, Xi Li, 2021

But what must be faced is that the ‘objet petit a’ is not a simple lack, but an irreparable and irreducible lack. In essence, no object can bring original satisfaction. In ancient traditions, therefore, idol worship was only the beginning, not the end, of spiritual life. We need to use it as an entry into a way of self-regulating, and then we need to experience and overthrow it through cultivation. The difficulty is that the sanctity of contemporary pop idols is directly confined to the phenomenal level. These commercialized and entertaining desires do not intend to lead people to a state of the soul that is supreme, good, true, and beautiful; nor do they intend to turn people's eyes from temporary phenomena to eternal meanings. So, can I break through the predicament of expressing limited experience at a superficial level by recognising my relationship with idol worship, and developing a different spiritual experience and practical discussion around the study of the main narrative?

Part Ⅲ: From Fantasy to Symbolic Order

3.1 The Manifestation of Symbols, Using Artistic Practice as Methodology

Strictly speaking, the purpose of symbol production is to lead to a world of symbology imagination. Even the symbolic mechanism and the symbols themselves represent the shadow-filled world.[24] This inner world is not a surreal afterlife, nor is it outside of the self, but within my spirit and unconsciousness. For Lacan, he returns to the symbology world by discussing the intersection area of the set of "Three stages" through analytic discourse, which is his way of belief and his truth discourse. For me, making art reflects where I am and where I am wandering. What I create is not just the thing that I present my ideas, it also includes a solution: through my personal imagination and experience of idolatry; recognising my hallucinations and alienation in idolatry; opening the enlightenment of the symbolic order. This is my practical discourse.


The creative works and concepts of artist Mathew Barney and outsider artist James Hampton provide me with the possibility of practice. Barney's work is a contemporary extension based on a wealth of experimental symbols and surrealist texts, especially the myth that is reiterated as an archetype of intellectual structures. In his representative film work Cremaster (1994-2002), symbolic metaphors grow and multiply in mythological structures, becoming a kind of "drive" interpenetrating with knowledge systems.[25] His knowledge-system-centred symbolic practice transcends the daily level of socialisation, politicisation, and economic issues with a mythological narrative, reaching a higher level of narrative. Hampton's life's work, Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly (1950-1964), was an equally ambitious project. Based on several religious visions, Hampton created a grand array of mixed materials from foil, cardboard and various recycled materials, and left a text written in a mystical spiritual script.[26] Hampton spent 14 years creating a church environment as the stage for the Second Coming of Christ prophesied in the biblical book of Revelation. He threw his faith in God and hope for redemption into every inch of this work, completing his vision and a series of visions in a gigantic divine work. As philosopher Albert Camus said: “The great work of art is not so much in itself as in what it demands of a man to suffer, in what it offers to overcome his fantasies and A chance closer to his naked reality."[27] Whether Barney used structuralism to construct a symbolic universe of reflections, or Hampton made arrays to perceive the divine transcendent theory, they all expressed infinite implications through their ideal paradigms, including both the materialised surrounding world and the contains the internalised spiritual world. I hope that I can share my own desires and lacks in my discourse, carry out the inner struggle of my own lust, and confirm and fully respond to my spiritual life.


3.2 Symbolic Fantasy and Image Creation


First, what I want to do is to bring out the image projected by my subjectivity. Just as a primitive man named incomprehensible traumatic objects with visible anthropomorphic symbols by creating idols, tying them to symbology language for safety, I tend to pursue a more primitive state to represent the imagination and spirit as images.


In general, the image of an idol is a medium for projecting self-reflection. And all this brewing is inseparable from the collective self-construction of a specific image and the sanctification process of a specific image. People's worship of idols does not stop at their overall shape but goes deep into its core, longing for a certain power. In addition to shaping the ideal image, I hope to grasp the abstraction and mystery separated from symbology through inner tension and fantasy, so as to present the image and characteristics of the idol's personality. This is not the simulation and packaging of human appearance; it is through the dismantling and imagining of symbols that the "avatar" appears. So, I enthusiastically constructed personal images from the three idols I admire. Not some sort of stereotype, hence a tough character resembling raw strength and power.


Idol I 

"He is a fateful midsummer dream, a blurry night with immortal air. He sits on the mountains, rivers and seas, leaps over the plains and forests, and swims with silent waves. He can change shape with any container, sometimes vast Boundless, deep and boundless; sometimes flying and swaying. I stood on the lake where the still water was deep and the water was flowing, and the moist aroma came to my nostrils, watching another story where dreams and reality are mysteriously intertwined."


Idol II 

"The sacred earth with a spirit inside, exudes a dazzling brilliance in the border area. You actually contain the sun, moon, stars, rivers, land, mountains and rivers, and the bridge of all things. Growing freely in your arms is adorned with soft spring light and eternity of life, there is such a soft and fluffy life force. Whether it is a hurricane or a dazzling star, I only wish to entrust that romantic spirit to you, but I find that you have already given me all your love."


Idol III 

"The essence of nature came out of the sky and the earth, and there are daytime meteors in the eyes. That mighty beam of light is gathering and shining on the fighters who are daring to the other side. He kills and decides, and he is full of love. Facing the endless boulder valley and cliffs, he gave birth to a vigorous bonfire in pain, illuminating the entire abyss. Dear warrior, are you facing a common feast with me, can you join hands with me and rush to the new era without boundaries."



3.3 The Subject Narrative from "Infatuation" to "Mysterious"


As the second step of my practical discussion, I will use my personal experience to show the symbolic activities of idol worship in different stages of my subject narrative. This is not a cluttered and blind mental state, but a traceable personal experience. The term "Vergaffung" was coined by the philosopher Max Scheler in his representative thought "Ordered Loves" (Ordo Amoris), which literally translates to infatuation in English. Scheler believes that infatuation is a "disorder in which there is an order of love". [28] Whenever an individual chooses to be satisfied with a limited kind of good and releases his own impulse to love in it, the phenomenon of infatuation will appear. In this phenomenon, there are absolute infatuation and relative infatuation.[29] Absolute infatuation means that people fill the value of a certain limited thing into the absolute field. Relative infatuation refers to the fact that people begin to make value choices based on the actual structure of their existing ways and types of love, thus violating the objective hierarchical order of the value of love.

(1) Absolute Infatuation

[双语关系图]绝对的迷:精神献祭与欲望矩阵,李曦 - 副本.jpg

[Diagram 1] Absolute infatuation: Spiritual sacrifice and desire matrix, Xi Li, 2021

At the stage of absolute infatuation, one must be obsessed with the physical body, external image, and temperament. In the VR video work The Idol Reveal, I generate an aesthetic experience by capturing the external representations of the ideal role model such as talent, beauty, and wisdom; with the understanding of the internal characteristics of the idols themselves, such as personality, personality, values. This kind of love will gradually deepen into A strong affectionate affection. Through the imaginary space of symbology, I regard idols as sacred beings, thus maintaining a certain intersubjectivity with idols and keeping a distance from my own inner delusions.


Obviously, the idol worship of absolute infatuation is a "spiritual sacrifice" that includes "flattering" and is based on the matrix of verbal rituals and desires of surplus-enjoyment. In the absolute fandom, these wonderful and existential idols brought me complete satisfaction and became an idolized and exemplary "me". These wonderful and existential idols brought me complete satisfaction and became an idolized and exemplary "me" in the absolute fandom. For example, the idol's birthday, hobbies, and life experiences are recited; imitating the idol's words, deeds, and clothing; an unlimited collection of idols' posters, magazines, albums, dolls and other symbols. My contribution to idols has created an omniscient illusion for me, and the pseudo-pleasure produced in it is extreme, pleasurable, and at the same time passionate.

This false "ritual" seems to be humble and awe-inspiring; in fact, it is flattering and blasphemous. I unconditionally vented my feelings, and used idol worship to satisfy my sublimation of sexual tension; I greedily expressed my possession of idol symbols and subject power; I was addicted to the suggestion of sovereignty created by myself. These enthusiastic contributions created an omniscient illusion for me as if I were no longer bound by the symbol system as long as I got the symbol's surplus. But in fact, what I am chasing is the surplus enjoyment, and what I care about is the expectation of reward. Whether it is the expression of one's own wishes, the recognition of identity or the satisfaction of spiritual nature, these seemingly certain things are fantasies and misunderstandings of "cracks".

(2) Relative Infatuation

[双语关系图]相对的迷:精神的景观,李曦 - 副本.jpg

[Diagram 2] Relative infatuation: Spiritual spectacle, Xi Li, 2021

If the absolute infatuation is the obsession with fantasy, life and death under the symbol system; then the relative infatuation is the unique spectacle based on the spirit, the experience of the mind of metaphysical love, and a self-built spiritual wall. It evokes desire, establishes an emotional connection with the idol, and at the same time approximates a nothingness that is approachable but unreachable. Here, all my love comes from the subject's experience of the symbolic order itself. This is not an illusion that can be broken with criticism, it is a design from the depths of my consciousness.


Here, I see my idol as a real, beautiful, loving character. As if their appearance, their singing, their dancing, their willpower, their behaviour, everything showed me an idealised vision of my own, and I felt this beautiful phenomenon, It gave me a new self-understanding. My love is endless and hard to extinguish; my soul is equally energetic and tireless. Here, I clearly see the opposite extreme in the fetishisation of subjective and objective relations, where everything becomes a purely accidental opportunity to release irrational spiritual power. The jurist Xiang Luo once analysed and responded to the dialogue work The Symposium of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato: “We hope to be good because we recognize our current insufficiency. We recall the good old days because we want to reinvent ourselves. We give up our ego in our lover and find ourselves in love.”[30] As he said, I will deliberately distinguish them from other stereotyped and masked idol images, and be surprised to capture them in the vast crowd and exquisite idol factories. I fantasise about them being such a key component of my life and whether there is a destiny between them and me.


Through idol worshipping, I experienced a kind of eternal companionship. I have integrated idols into my life every moment, looking for my mysterious connection with them from all the clues in my life. Hearing their voices speaks louder than all mortal words, and seeing them is like a spring breeze. They seem to have the ability to heal, provide me with energy supplies, and make my troubles disappear in an instant. I dedicate an idealised love to these transcendent objects, and this abstract love also seems to respond to my expectations for beauty. Everything seems to be the symptom and throbbing of the beautiful response. A sunny day is happy because of our existence; the same feeling is swaying in the refreshing breeze blowing in the face; and looking up, the blue sky is our common sky. As philosopher Kitaro Nishida put it: "Because our Self includes others and ourselves, it is necessary to show sympathy to others and to seek the agreement of others with ourselves. What we call 'other love' is the transcendence that happens in this way. The unity of the individual demands. So, we will feel greater peace and joy in other love than in self-love."[31] And in the sense of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, this is "love": "Attunement, unity, the connection of one thing to another, primitively united by belonging to each other."[32] My ideals, needs, expectations, emotions and values gradually gave birth to an experience of emotional resonance and meaning that transcends things.




(3) From Infatuation to Mysterious: The "Sameness" of Contextual order


新 [双语关系图]相对的迷:背景性秩序的“同一” - 副本.jpg

[Diagram 3] Mysterious order: The "sameness" of contextual order, 2021

“Mysterious” refers to the fact that under the urging of inner tension, the subject feels the symbol system and deeply realises the abstraction and mystery separated from the imagination mechanism. First, the mysterious aura of idols was discovered by me, and I started "sameness" with idols. I love because I am lacking, and my subject's desire is to find the perfection of my original soul. I saw their bravery against mediocrity, felt the deadlock we shared and poured out great sympathy for them. The object of my worship is not a specific god, not a superhuman person, not a distant object; but concrete and subtle ultimate ideal for my use, a limited mortal individual. Although I can see the face of the mysterious world and the operation of the true mechanism behind him, he is not the incarnation of the ultimate order, but a "poor person" who faces the ultimate order alone and is in a predicament just like me. I felt a great deal of sympathy and compassion for our mutual impasse. In principle, this relationship is not simply a personal psychological feeling, so it has an ineffable nature. This is the contingent, singular, purely individual relationship of a mind that has lost its orientation, lost its world, and the contingent element of a contingent object, and is necessarily inexpressible.


I found myself in a split between fullness and illusion, "seeing" the difference between reality and illusion, realising the infinite but empty realm of love. Even though idol worship is symbolic, my love itself is not symbolic. Primitive humans, because of their instinct of fear of symbology, dare not attribute the transcendent power they experience to their own subjectivity, so they can only attribute it to idolatry. I consciously discovered that my love for idols itself is not symbolic, but it has to be symbolic when it is displayed. It turns out that the spiritual experience and the manifestation of transcendent power that I perceive all originate from my subject itself. I myself am a limited subjectivised background order, an infinite but empty realm of love.


In the process from "Infatuation" to "Mysterious", I gradually abandoned the projection of my inner imperfection and my denial and realised that alienating emotions and experiences created by myself is the essence of idolatry. This kind of breaking is like waking up from a perfect dream. Here, I can simultaneously experience the coherent symbolic narrative structure of the love of the big Other and the love of the common subject and experience the mystery and transcendence experienced in the entire symbology imagination mechanism: the whole and only big Other does not exist; I myself am part of the big Other, and I am a limited subjectivistic background order.







Idol worship is both intoxicating and "painful". Although it still retains an unknowable dimension, it is infinitely transcendent and infinitely present in reality. Through this research and discussion on the creation of idol images and the subject matter, I have developed my own way of facing idol worship between fantasy and belief—not by abandoning and suppressing asceticism, nor by engaging with my own reason. The struggle is not about emotional madness or spiritual purification but shows the methodology with the main narrative as the core: facing the power of self-revealing, transforming and reshaping the relationship between oneself and fantasy with great fantasy; creating new Poetic, trying to construct a spiritual practice of symbols, existence, truth, meaning, desire, passion, and rich beauty.




Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Duke University Press, 2011.

Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus: The Absurdity and Rebellion of Camus. Translated by Du Xiaozhen, Shaanxi Normal University Press, 2003.

Chen, Lin. Clan of fans: Dust particles summoned by God. Suzhou: Soochow University Press, 2012.

Fan, Kui. Theory of Media Worship: The Abnormal Relationship Between Modern People and Mass Media. Communication University of China press, 2008.

Friedman, J Tyler, Luft, Sebastian. The Philosophy of Ernst Cassirer: A Novel Assessment (New Studies in the History and Historiography of Philosophy Book 2), Walter de Gruyter, 2015.

Guo, Zhijun. "Discussion on idol worship behavior and related factors of middle school students in Taipei area". Master’s thesis, National Chengchi University, 2001.

Hampton, James. "The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly." American Art Museum. Updated January 3, 2021.

He, Ping. "On Cassirer's Philosophy of Symbolic Forms." Chinesische Gesellschaft für Deutsche Philosophie. Updated February 18, 2019.

He, Xiaozhong. Idol subculture and youth role model education. Jiangxi People's Publishing House, 2007.

Hewitson, Owen, dir. A Tour of Lacan's Graph of Desire.2020; Lacan Online, March 22, 2021.

Jacques Lacan, "Objet petit a (object little-a)", Trends in I / The Other / Love / Anxiety / Gaze / Truth | Jacques Lacan, 1901- 81.

Jacques Lacan, "Three stages: Imaginary, Symbolic, and Real ", Trends in Lacan’s Borromean Knot and the Object-Cause of Desire.

Ju, Fei. "Lacan's objet petit a: the object of self-difference." Changsha University of Science and Technology School of Marxism. Updated May 28, 2014.

Kitarō, Nishida. An Inquiry into the Good. Translated by Qian He, The Commercial Press, 2016.

Lacan, Jacques, Seminar XIII :The Object of Psychoanalysis, April 27, 1966, unpublished. Seminar XIII began on 1st December 1965. This first session has been published as ‘Science and Truth’.

Lacan, Jacques. Conference in London of February 2, 1975, Revista Argentina de Psicología.The text was published in Revista Argentina de Psicología, pp. 137‐141. Translated by Jack W. Stone.

Li, Xiaonan. "Image Anxiety: On the Images of Matthew Barney." Art Observation, no. 5 (2017): 135-141.

Liu, Simo, dir. Symbolic Mechanisms of Idol Worship.2021; Bilibili, accessed June 23, 2021.

Liu, Simo, dir. The Origin of Partialism Worship and the Symbolic Mechanism Behind it.2021; Bilibili, July 12, 2021.

Lu, Yi. "Trauma of Existence and Genesis of Subject." Social Science of Beijing, no. 2 (2020): 103-111.

Luo, Xiang, dir. Dr. Luo Xiang's Class: Reading Plato's " The Symposium".2020; Bilibili, accessed April 04, 2021.

Mao, Feng. "The thirty-ninth essay in the series of everything in the world - how can we love wisdom." China Daily: World Column. Updated May 12, 2016.

Marx, Karl. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. People's Daily Publishing House, 2000.

Marx, Karl. Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1843). Cambridge University Press, 1970.

Premiyak, Liza. "Balkan idol." The Calvert Journal. Accessed March 5, 2021.

Premiyak, Liza. "True faith." The Calvert Journal. Accessed March 5, 2021.

The Academia, dir. "Black Soul" from the Perspective of Postmodern Philosophy and the History of Japanese Social Change. 2020; Bilibili, accessed Jan 19, 2020.

The Academia, dir. Japan's Decline and Ideological Implosion. 2020; Bilibili, accessed May 11, 2020.

Wang, Zhen. "Reality, Imagination and Symbolism in the Understanding of Lacan's Theory about Individual Character." Journal of Guangxi University (Philosophy and Social Sciences Edition), no. 31 (2009): 80-83.

Zhang, Tingguo, Zhang, Renzhi. Scheler's "Order of Love": An Introduction to Western Religious Classics. Edited by Sun Yiping, Jiangxi people's publishing house, 2002.

[1] Friedman, Luft, The Philosophy of Ernst Cassirer: A Novel Assessment (New Studies in the History and Historiography of Philosophy Book 2), 269.

[2] He, "On Cassirer's Philosophy of Symbolic Forms."

[3] Guo, "Discussion on idol worship behavior and related factors of middle school students in Taipei area," 5.

[4] Premiyak, "True faith."

[5] Premiyak, "Balkan idol."

[6] The Academia, "Black Soul" from the Perspective of Postmodern Philosophy and the History of Japanese Social Change.

[7] The Academia, Japan's Decline and Ideological Implosion.

[8] Chen, Clan of fans: Dust particles summoned by God, 11.

[9] Fan, Theory of Media Worship: The Abnormal Relationship Between Modern People and Mass Media, 56.

[10] Marx, Marx's Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right (1843), 5.

[11] Berlant, Cruel Optimism, 24.

[12] Wang, "Reality, Imagination and Symbolism in the Understanding of Lacan's Theory about Individual Character,"80.

[13] Hewitson, A Tour of Lacan's Graph of Desire.

[14] Jacques Lacan, "Three stages: Imaginary, Symbolic, and Real", Trends in Lacan’s Borromean Knot and the Object-Cause of Desire.

[15] Ju, "Lacan's objet petit a: the object of self-difference."

[16] Lacan, Jacques. Conference in London of February 2, 1975, Revista Argentina de Psicología.

[17] Lu, "Trauma of Existence and Genesis of Subject," 107.

[18] Jacques Lacan, "Objet petit a (object little-a)", Trends in I / The Other / Love / Anxiety / Gaze / Truth | Jacques Lacan, 1901- 81.

[19] Lacan, Jacques, Seminar XIII :The Object of Psychoanalysis, April 27, 1966, unpublished.

[20] Jiang, Interpretation of Faith from the Perspective of Marx's Practical Existence, 66.

[21] Liu, The Origin of Partialism Worship and the Symbolic Mechanism Behind it.

[22] Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, 101.

[23]He, Idol subculture and youth role model education, 5.

[24] Liu, Symbolic Mechanisms of Idol Worship.

[25] Li, "Image Anxiety: On the Images of Matthew Barney," 139.

[26] Hampton, " The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly."

[27] Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus: The Absurdity and Rebellion of Camus, 137.

[28] Zhang.T, Zhang.R, Scheler's "Order of Love": An Introduction to Western Religious Classics, 78.

[29] Ibid, 108.

[30] Luo, Dr. Luo Xiang's Class: Reading Plato's " The Symposium".

[31] Kitarō, An Inquiry into the Good, 76.

[32] Mao, "The thirty-ninth essay in the series of everything in the world - how can we love wisdom."

bottom of page