Laura Gonzalez

blog

24 Jan 2015

Critique of everyday life vol. 1 by Henri Lefebvre****

rsz_1critique_2-1ce9d46c35e13de70f65ea3cfb5985fa

Reading dates: 25 October 2014 – 22 January 2015

Critique of everyday life was Ian’s choice for DiaMat. Having read and discussed David Harvey, one of our heroes, it was time to read one of his big influences. As Ian read during our discussion, Harvey writes:

Marx’s account of how capitalism arose out of feudalism in fact embodies such a “co-revolutionary theory.” Social change arises, he argues, through the dialectical unfolding of relations between seven moments within the social body politic:

a) technological and organizational forms of production, exchange and consumption
b) relations to nature
c) social relations between people
d) mental conceptions of the world, embracing knowledges and cultural understandings and beliefs
e) labor processes and production of specific goods, geographies, services or affects
f ) institutional, legal and governmental arrangements
g) the conduct of daily life and the activities of social reproduction.

And so Lefebvre deals with the last point. His work is a curious book, curiously written. Each of the six chapters is a world of its own in terms of focus and style. The first one, which very nearly put me off, is a rant against surrealism, literature and Baudelaire. It makes contextual sense once the other five chapters are read, but I felt there was very little critical distance in this writing. There is a lot in this book but I also found a lot of it difficult to grasp. While I understood the purpose and benefits of Dialectical Materialism as a method, I was not very clear on how one thinks dialectically; while I got very excited about the everyday and its critique, I am not sure I fully understood what it was. The centrality of alienation was clear, poetically explained, passionate: when ‘duality is exacerbated until even insanity is seen as acceptable’ (131), and we discussed how it begins with language (after John Zerzan).

The book does not remain in the theoretical, however, it is a call to action: ‘action and action alone can guide critical thinking, because it detects deception—and because it is deception which deflects from action’ (201). It is a good argument to Marxism and Marxist dialectical method where there is a ‘unity of theory and practice’ the tenet that sums up Marxism (198). But, again, the revolution is not quite clear to me. Lefebvre writes: ‘But in the last resort the revolutionary solution to economic and social contradictions will only become possible when the human masses are no longer willing to live as before’ (197). This, we argued, will be more of a process than an event, one that perhaps goes through other phases. We talked about space capitalism, green austerity, fully automated luxury communism. We considered the market and its forces, and sighed at Adam Smith’s nice conception of the market only being good for baubles and trinkets. Sadly, the market runs everything today. Including art. There is a lot in this book for the artist and the artivist, beautiful slogans, quotable passages. If this does not make you creative, nothing will:

When the eternal appears in the circumstantial — the marvellous in the familiar – the result is a beautiful work of art (122).

Posted in Blog,Book Reviews,DiaMat,Reading | No Comments »


14 Jan 2015

The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy***

2015-01-14 11.02.49

Reading dates: 01–13 January 2015

After finishing Pride and Prejudice and deciding to concentrate on reading poetry together for the time being, we settled on Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate. This collection writes women into history: Quasimodo’s wife, Circe, Medusa, Frau Freud …

It starts with a high, sustained, note; with this beautiful re-writing of red riding hood:

2015-01-14 11.03.14

2015-01-14 11.03.40

The body, sexual desire, destiny placed into the woman’s hands, a problematic relation to the partner, usually male, defining them and voice, words, language are common themes uniting each of the pieces. This, The Devil’s Wife, was my favourite:

2015-01-14 11.04.22

2015-01-14 11.04.38

2015-01-14 11.04.49

I must admit that when Neil read it and I listened, I did not know what it was about. The clue, Neil explained, is in the peroxide on the last section, Appeal. Read it again. The buried doll. The devil is Ian Brady; the wife, Myra Hindley. I read it forward, and back, and forward again. What a perfect narrative.

Other than these two, the other poems were good, but not better than that. Apart from one, which made me laugh out loud (what are the chances of that with poetry?):

IMG_4177

Posted in Blog,Book Reviews,Reading | No Comments »


1 Jan 2015

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel*****

XXX ZX48204 D BOOK A FEA

Reading dates: 1 – 4 January 2015

How wonderful to start the year with a superb book. My dear friend Ian Macbeth gave me this for my birthday a couple of years ago. Many people had mentioned it to me but he did not hesitate: it was a book for me, and he was right. I could have read this in a single sitting but my mind whirled around too much. It is an intense graphic novel, a raw memoir of discoveries and insights. It is very sensitively put together – and I mean put together because the drawings tell the story as much as the words. Bechdel weaves her autobiography and family memories, making parallels with books and writers. The echoes of Oscar Wilde, Colette, and more importantly, Joyce’s Ulysses made me not only enjoy this book but also want to read and re-read some of the ones she mentions. What would I do without books … Together with my own body (and I am not sure about this one for every cell in it is renewed every seven years), books feel the only constant in my life. I have always read, I always return to books. This love of reading is evident in Fun Home and it made me feel very close to the narrative. Perhaps even closer than the main theme, Alison’s relation with her father. Although that was very resonant too, for we all come from a father, known or unknown.

I read Are you my mother? first, the story of her other progenitor. Lovers of Fun Home kept telling me they found the maternal line heavy handed. I enjoyed both, but I agree that the paternal story is closer in identification, more fluid, less reasoned. Dare I say, more loving? The two together, with their green and red hues, are a good example and satisfactory resolution of the Oedipus Complex, rigorously exemplified and tenderly drawn.

I could write a lot more about her theory of his suicide and his homosexuality but I don’t want to reveal too much to those I know are reading this and the book at the same time.* For Fun Home is that kind of book: the kind you lend as soon as you finish.

*If anyone wants to, though, I am happy to go into it, preferably with a glass of wine, for it might long and precise. Write below!

Posted in Blog,Book Reviews,Psychoanalysis,Reading | No Comments »


1 Jan 2015

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen***

IMG_4126.JPG

Reading dates: 5 September – 31 December 2014

I know it is somewhat harsh to give 3 stars to such a beloved classic novel but I have to admit that both Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy got on my nerves more than Mrs Bennett did. The heroine is a little wishy washy, boring, not the character of the Brontë’s Jane Eyre or Cathy. It is all about marriage, I thought, about matches rather than about love or fulfilment. And don’t get me started on the others … The only worthy ones of dialogue were the parents and wordy Mr Collins. Jane Austen writes well, though, despite using the word super-excellent (!) once. I had to do a double take. The book is worth reading for her prose.

The book is, I think, better than the TV adaptation as the narrative is better handled (the TV show has it in the wrong order) and it was a pleasure to hear Neil voice the witty words of Mr Bennett with such vivacity. We read the last eight chapters on New Year’s Eve and it made it a memorable one. Still, we were not as enthralled as we were with Mansfield Park or even Persuasion (for we knew nothing of the latter).

We read Pride and Prejudice at the same time as Phillip Larkin’s poems and the conclusion of this experiment in reading is a desire to read poetry to each other more than novels. There is something wonderfully thought provoking about voicing a poem before one dreams.

Posted in Blog,Book Reviews,Reading | 1 Comment »


31 Dec 2014

2014 reading round-up

2014 will be remembered as a ‘meh’ year, one where there has been bleak, bad stuff happening — difficult diagnoses, the loss of Klaus, the art school burning, the bin lorry accident, bodily-experienced misogyny and bullying — but also a year of personal challenges fulfilled and a lot to be grateful for — some of the diagnoses defeated, the strength received by witnessing that happening, a new reconfiguration of myself as someone who can do stuff I never thought possible, engagement in politics, handstands and headstands, alternative maternals, laughter and crying with Ellie, friends who move away but feel closer than ever despite being missed, broccoli trainers, all the amazing dances of 2014, Neil (in general and in particular). I have learned gratitude, forgiveness, discipline, compassion and I have been fortunate enough to be able to really test them.

I am looking forward to 2015: Rob and Samara will be closer which means merriment will be a norm. I am writing a book on my own and rather enjoying it; I have a 10 week sabbatical to concentrate on it. I am curating a show in London with artists who are a dream come true to work with because of their integrity and that of their work. The show comes with a conference where I may meet some of my heroines. I will do yoga at least twice a week, in the mornings, and I may do yoga every day in Crete for a while. I am going to learn from Kia, who I have heard so much about, and Peter and Caitlin may come to Glasgow to visit. I will see Ama again, and also look forward to catching up with Gaia, Jools and other London friends. And that only takes me till June.

Aside from life, 2014 has been a mediocre year for my reading, mainly down to the choices I have made, not those others have made for me in my reading groups. Sometimes I wonder if I know what I want, what I need, what is good for me. I used to think I was not a morning person, so could not get up early to do yoga. Now I don’t think, I just get up and go, I don’t give my brain a chance to complain and just do it for my body, for my whole integrated being. I has not failed me a single time, I have not regretted it. So I am wondering if I should go back to that kind of reading: the one that requires work but stays with you, rather than the garbage, quick gratification of whodunnits. Having said that, all my books this year have received 2* and above, which is an achievement of sorts. I also read less than I would like, but we can’t change that. Here’s the list with the awards.

[RED]: The book I would recommend (closely followed by ‘Madame Bovary’)
[GREY]: Not worth it (with ‘Tripwire’ as a close second)
[GREEN]: Book revelation of the year (‘A room with a view’ was my other choice)
[BLUE]: Most pleasurable reading experience
[*]: Read with Neil, aloud
Should have abandoned reading

  • *Pride and Prejudice by Austen, Jane
  • Gone Girl by Flynn, Gillian
  • *Collected Poems by Larkin, Philip
  • The Dead Hour (Paddy Meehan, #2) by Mina, Denise
  • Madame Bovary by Flaubert, Gustave
  • Revolt, She Said by Kristeva, Julia
  • Something Fresh (Blandings Castle, #1) by Wodehouse, P.G.
  • Tripwire (Jack Reacher, #3) by Child, Lee
  • Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures by Fisher, Mark
  • La Vérité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert by Dicker, Joël
  • Yes: The Radical Case for Scottish Independence by Foley, James and Peter Ramand
  • Nineteen Seventy Seven (Red Riding, #2) by Peace, David
  • [*Ariel by Plath, Sylvia]
  • Tears of the Giraffe (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, #2) by Smith, Alexander McCall
  • Precarious Communism by Gilman-Opalsky, Richard
  • Lacan: In Spite Of Everything by Roudinesco, Elisabeth
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot, #4) by Christie, Agatha
  • [Never Somewhere Else by Gray, Alex]
  • *The Awakening by Chopin, Kate
  • The Finishing School by Spark, Muriel
  • The Quadruple Object by Harman, Graham
  • [Unmastered: A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell by Angel, Katherine]
  • Field of Blood (Paddy Meehan, #1) by Mina, Denise
  • [I Love Dick by Kraus, Chris]
  • *Loitering With Intent by Spark, Muriel
  • The Dogs of Riga (Wallander #2) by Mankell, Henning
  • *My Man Jeeves (Jeeves, #1) by Wodehouse, P.G.
  • *A Room with a View by Forster, E.M.

Posted in Blog,Reading | 2 Comments »


27 Dec 2014

Gone girl by Gillian Flynn***

IMG_4099.JPG

Reading dates: 7 – 27 December 2014

I saw David Fincher’s film adaptation of Gone Girl in Boston earlier this year and despite my admiration for his earlier films, I really hated it. A lovely idea gone wrong, a broken promise, a lost hour, made worse by the fact that the hopes and expectations were so high. So, as you do in these situations, I read the book of a film I did not like, and it made me appreciate it more.

The problem is in the book, in the story. A wonderful beginning, a great premise, becomes an ordinary story, the same story told all over again without taking advantage of the form, of what words and scenes can do. Superb beginning but mediocre in execution; too middlebrow, my most despised kind of book. The only thing I ask of my reading, as with most things in life, is that it delivers on its promises. Gone girl does not, and for those of you falling out of love with Murakami, you know exactly what I am talking about.

The book has left me in a funny position about what to chose next. I long for Madame Bovary but I am not sure I can bear the hard work. I also want to read more Denise Mina but want to be really enthralled. Any ideas? Can you give me a reading list for 2015?

Posted in Blog,Book Reviews,Reading | No Comments »


15 Dec 2014

Collected Poems by Philip Larkin***

STL1729LARKIN_1087719k

Reading dates: 27 July – 13 December 2014

Neil and I read this book together, aloud and to each other, before our daily Pride and Prejudice chapter. No, no, no. This order did not work as Larkin, for all his sins, sent us to a particular universe of bleakness, social observations, impossible loves and thoughts of death. How could I take Darcy and Elizabeth seriously after that? The result of this experiment is that, after we finish Austen’s novel, we will only read poetry to each other, and novels by ourselves.

I love Larkin’s work, but it had such a profound effect in me, I am not sure I can muster a higher rating. He gave me nightmares, made me want to cry, made me feel those ripples in the skin I get when I try to imagine what it is like to be dead. All this in precise language and interesting punctuation. I think he taught me how to read poetry aloud, how to dance the words in my mouth. Ah, dance … there are lots of poems about dance in this book … like the one below, aptly unfinished … I love dancing but Larkin is right, it is an awkward thing.

IMG_4089

IMG_4090

IMG_4091

Posted in Blog,Book Reviews,Reading | No Comments »


12 Dec 2014

Trance Art

else-journal_coverissuezero_oct2014

A paper I wrote with the wonderful Christopher Danowski has been published in issue 0 of ELSE, an international art, literature, theory and creative media journal. The image on the cover is also a hybrid, like the writing: Chris’ head and my décolletage. Thank god there is a fair amount of Lacan in our paper to analyse that. Have a look at this smart publication here (free but needing registration) and consider submitting. The deadline for the issue on contemplation is 1 January 2015.

http://www.transart.org/else-art-journal/

Posted in Blog,PhD,Photography,Practice,Psychoanalysis,Seduction,Writing | No Comments »


7 Dec 2014

The Dead Hour by Denise Mina****

isbn9781409150671-detail

Reading dates: 14 November – 06 December 2014

Denise Mina’s crime novel characters are like no other. There is a clarity to Paddy Meehan and to Maureen O’Donnell that Jo Nesbø (with his Harry Hole), and Lee Child (with Jack Reacher) only aspire to. It is perhaps due to the fact that she works in trilogies so the character does not have time to contradict herself in ways that annoy the reader. Then, there is the heroine’s background. Both Reacher and Hole are somewhat stereotypical, aspirational, but I know Paddy Meehan, I have met parts of her. I might be biased because I also know another of the characters in Mina’s novels: Glasgow; and she, too, is accurately, vividly portrayed. Glasgow is surprising, interesting, dark, dangerous, cold, gritty, cool. Yes, that is the city I live in.

So having declared my bias, I will mention two other things that are, perhaps, more objective: she knows how to craft stories and, importantly, to write them. Most crime writers are let down by the quality of their prose, but there were sections in The Dead Hour I went back to because they were insightful, nicely put. This only happens to me with one other crime writer, David Peace. Him and Mina are proof that a more literary version of the usual trashy crime fiction is possible and innovation can happen in this highly codified genre.

If you have recently been to the cinema to watch Nightcrawler and enjoyed it, read this book. Young Paddy Meehan will accompany you in the small (and dead) hours of the night, with her tiredness, desire for sleep, cloudy judgement, insightfulness and fad diets. I liked Nighcrawler, but I would have preferred a film adaptation of The Dead Hour.

Posted in Blog,Book Reviews,Reading | No Comments »


9 Nov 2014

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert *****

madame

Reading dates: 1 January — 9 November 2014

Looking at the reading dates, one would think I did not like this book. But I adored it. I decided to keep up with my French, so I read it in the original which, after so many years of not being serious with my school language and only paying attention to Lacan, made it hard going. Yet, reading La vérité sur l’affaire Harry Québert in French, oiled my brain. From then onwards, my encounter with Bovary was a little easier. The story, for me, tips with the unforgettable episode of the leg operation. Emma becomes an adulteress and the book, compulsive. It is so well written, so heart-wrenching, so relentless and ruthless. It is well conceived and constructed, nothing is surplus. Emma is wonderfully complex, endlessly fascinating to think and talk about. I have never read scenes of grief that are so effective. I was disarmed, inconsolable, not knowing what to think, questioning my own positioning, what I would do in each of the main character’s situation. Only great literature can give one a problem like this. Unlike real-life cases, novels are crafted from beginning to end, with purpose, limiting the superfluous and the serendipitous. Good novels are exemplar cases and Bovary is perfect in this. Not a single detail is left hanging and the most tragic one is the fate of Homais, the apothecary. I challenge anyone who doesn’t know a person with this perfectly described character, the traits of whom I discovered in my reading and not in my interacting with similar people.

I am not sure I will be able to, but I would love to re-read Madame Bovary — strength may fail me and there are always many other books to discover. Although, on second thoughts, it might be an interesting performative act to re-read it regularly, perhaps every year starting on the 1st January, like Yiyun Li re-reads War and Peace. First, I need a gorgeous copy (like hers below) and a fresh supply of post-it notes.

10457460_785683748137701_1392466851244521915_o

Posted in Blog,Book Reviews,Reading | No Comments »


 

About Me

Laura Gonzalez is an artist and writer. Her recent practice encompasses film, dance, photography and text, and her work has been exhibited and published in the UK, Spain and Portugal. She has spoken at numerous conferences and events, including the Museum for the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, the Medical Museum in Copenhagen, College Arts Association and the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society. When she is not following Freud, Lacan and Marx’s footsteps with her camera, she lectures postgraduate students at the Glasgow School of Art.

Her doctoral project, completed in 2010, investigated psychoanalytic approaches to making and understanding objects of seduction, including an examination of parallels between artistic and analytic practices, a study of Manolo Blahnik’s shoes as objects of desire, a disturbing encounter with Marcel Duchamp’s last work, and the creation of a psychoanalytically inspired Discourse of the Artefact, a framework enabling the circulation of questions and answers through a relational approach to artworks.

She is currently immersed in an interdisciplinary project exploring knowledge and the body of the hysteric.