Laura Gonzalez

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25 Jul 2014

Ariel by Sylvia Plath ****

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Reading dates: 24 June – 24 July 2014

Neil read this book to me, around a poem per night, before sleep. I travelled from thoughts of suicide, to hospitals and bees in vehicles made of words. A star fell because I did not re-read, and this needs re-reading. Of all the poems, this one echoed daily since the day I heard it. It still does.

Thalidomide

O half moon—

Half-brain, luminosity—
Negro, masked like a white,

Your dark
Amputations crawl and appall—

Spidery, unsafe.
What glove

What leatheriness
Has protected

Me from that shadow—
The indelible buds,

Knuckles at shoulder-blades, the
Faces that

Shove into being, dragging
The lopped

Blood-caul of absences.
All night I carpenter

A space for the thing I am given,
A love

Of two wet eyes and a screech.
White spit

Of indifference!
The dark fruits revolve and fall.

The glass cracks across,
The image

Flees and aborts like dropped mercury.

8 November 1962

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18 Jul 2014

Alternative Maternals

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I curated Alternative Maternals, an international show dismantling the collective characteristics by which the maternal is recognisable or known. Through a variety of expressions the show combines diverse lenses of absence, rejection, memory, legacy, scandal, autonomy, physical body and social media. It opens at Lindner Project Space in Berlin on the 3 August 2014 and runs until 9 August.

The artists in the show are wonderful, moving, critical, supportive and very engaged. What can I say, it has been a pleasure to work with them; I have laughed and learned, and I could not have asked for a more interesting project to be involved in. They are: Deborah Dudley (USA), Linda Duvall (Canada), Jeca Rodriguez Colón (Puerto Rico), Miriam Schaer (USA), and Valerie Walkerdine (UK). You can see the charming catalogue we produced here (PDF, 1MB).

I want to thank Cella and Klaus Knoll at Transart Institute, Eto Otitigbe and Kate Hers Rhee for their support with organising a show in a venue I have not been in yet. It is amazing how easy and rewarding it has been considering the crazy nature of the circumstances.

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7 Jun 2014

Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith ***

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Reading dates: 23 May — 7 June 2014

Sometimes, I crave reading about a place. The day I chose to start this book, my beloved Mackintosh Library burnt into disappearance and I needed comfort, something unwaveringly good, clear cut, easy, kind.

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Tears of the Giraffe is all of those things. I have never been to Botswana or Zimbabwe but McCall Smith (as does Muriel Spark) make me want to go. The book — a mixture of a novel and short stories, perhaps a novel made of short stories — is heavy in its morality, sometimes too much in your face, too didactic. Yet the characters, the repetitions of their names in particular, are like lullabies. They pacified my state of unrest, my sleeplessness. Sometimes, that is all I ask of a book: a bit of mothering. I read many at a time, for I am whimsical. I have my morning books, those I read with breakfast, my holiday books, my learned book (my reading list), and my comfort books, the ones I want in my dreams. Tears of the Giraffe and Mma Ramotswe are definitely in the last category: short, sweet, entertaining, effective and undemanding.

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19 May 2014

Precarious Communism by Richard Gilman-Opalsky ****

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Reading dates: 05 – 17 May 2014

We read Precarious Communinism for our Dialectical Materialism bookgroup. The discussion was lively but, at times felt as if we read four different books. Perhaps this is always the case with reading groups. I really liked Gilman-Opalsky’s work. If anything, it is inspiring, informative, wide ranging (perhaps a little too much) and full of really interesting references. I never heard of Kristeva’s Revolt, She Said and now I have a copy.

The book is predicated on a Situationist détournement of Marx’s Communist Manifesto. This is the only aspect of the book that does not work for me. I did not see a détournement, nor know how détourning a classic text can be defferent from re-reading, or reading á la letter — like Lacan did with Freud, subverting him. Gilman-Opalsky explains this methodology in the introduction and then it somehow evaporates.

Yet, the work is a solid critique of capitalism (especially of what work does to us), a call to personal responsibility through an ethics of the precarious communist, who is many unorganised things but who seeks dignity, autonomy and human association. They key, he writes at the close of this short book, is in the unwinding after work, in the uncoiling of a potentially threatening force of unrest in search of a different, more human, logos.

A precarious communist also knows in her most meaningful lived experiences — perhaps in love, in tragedy, in playing with a young child, in the creative moments of art or recreation, in the euphoria of musical bliss, in the awe of visual vistas, and of human intimacy — that the logic of capital is absent there, for such experiences have a different logos altogether. (p. 74)

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18 May 2014

Lacan in spite of everything by Élisabeth Roudinesco ****

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Reading dates: 23 April – 17 May 2014

I very much enjoyed reading Roudinesco’s appraisal of Lacan’s legacy, thirty years after his death. Only a psychoanalysis historian like her, author of Lacan’s biography, could take such a challenge in 224 pages. She gives an admirable account of Lacan’s ideas in short chapters, focusing on the family, womanhood and sexuality, Antigone, and his love of objects, for example. She mixes his life, his reception and his thought with his context thirty years ago and what it means now. She does this in a clear and accessible way. Yet, this book is not for the faint hearted. It is, I think, for the well-read Lacanian scholar. This is what made me enjoy it. I understood the familiar Lacanian turn of phrase, the inferences, in short, what Dany Nobus calls Lacanese. Without this, the book would be hard work, I think, quirky perhaps, but also impenetrable. For the Lacanians among us, it is provocative but measured, critical in a soft way and a good overview in a few pages. It reads like a review of his oeuvre and, as such, made me want to go back to the master (and subvert him), to re-read Encore, Seminar VII, and Kant avec Sade.

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17 May 2014

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie ***

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Reading dates: 24 April – 16 May 2014

I read a lot of Agatha Christie in my teens. I considered her a genre of her own. But youth is always premature and reflection-less and my love of her began to wane as I read modern crime fiction. Reading P.D. James’ Talking about Detective Fiction also had a hand in the demise of my admiration, as she showed how the golden age of the genre is a pure exercise in form, not grounded in reality or the social (which is not true for many modern crime writers). The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is ok. It is a famous example of detective fiction because of one thing only, one I cannot reveal because it would spoil it for you. That punchline, a trait for which Christie became famous, is innovative but vapid. A little bit like liquid nitrogen in food. I have never seen The Mousetrap but, having recently watched the awesome Witness for the Prosecution, I wonder if her material works better in a form containing time and movement than on the page. Not that reading doesn’t have movement and time, but it is too disperse. Theatre, TV or film would contain and force decisions.

Monsieur Poirot and his little grey cells also leave me cold. He is patronising and pompous, both of which I forgive in Suchet’s portrayal, perhaps because of the time-based element. The book and Poirot lack visual, depth, gut. The structure is neat and lovely, but I have always preferred Wilhelm de Kooning to Mondrian.

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8 May 2014

Scottish Dance Theatre’s SisGo at Tramway

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Last week and this, I have been rehearsing with Scottish Dance Theatre as part of their SisGo production at Tramway. We open this Friday 9th May and we will also be dancing on Saturday 10th May. The show is at 7.30 on both days and I can tell you it is a dance experience you will not forget. If you are in Glasgow, come and see it. The music is spectacular, you will see a choreography called ‘Reverse Thriller’ and there is a lot of glow in the dark excitement. You also get to take your shoes off and share the same space as dancers. Not for the faint hearted!

Fleur Darkin’s SisGo from Scottish Dance Theatre on Vimeo.

If you come, follow the instruction anyone tells you at any time in the show, especially if it is to move or stand somewhere. I promise you will not be asked to backflip or somersault, and there are no individual solos planned for the audience.

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24 Apr 2014

Never Somewhere Else by Alex Gray**

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Reading dates: 16 – 23 April 2014

I really like crime fiction set in Glasgow. The place is a character, and one I happen to know, so this adds an extra depth to the reading experience. Yet, this setting is the only thing I liked about Lorimer’s first outing. The story is clever but only through being a text book detective story and not much else. I was not blown away by the writing and, although it was an easy page turner with no friction, not much remained after I closed its last page. It made me think about crime fiction as a genre, though. I read these books and I enjoy them, but what do I take from them? What remains? Not much in relation to the amount I read … Can there be innovation in the genre or is it simply a formula that works but is repetitive? Surely someone can go where Gombrowicz went with Cosmos, or Poe with The Purloined Letter. But who? Denise Mina got close with the Garnethill trilogy (especially through the fabulous main character Maureen O’Donnell) but did not quite make it. Alex Gray, however, is as far as Jo Nesbo is. I may read more of her books, and I know I will enjoy them but books like this tell me that enjoyment is not all there is to the act of reading.

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9 Apr 2014

The Awakening by Kate Chopin****

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Reading dates: 23 January – 9 April 2014

I really appreciated reading The Awakening. It is soft spoken, considerate, well-turned out and mannered but very determined. It is sad and I am not sure I get on with the ending but I am conscious that I also cannot provide an alternative to Mrs Pontellier’s predicament, at least at the time the book is set in. I have a similar relationship to children which is why I have not yet chosen to have them.

More than anything in the book, I liked the names, their ring, their musicality (they would be musical with their French provenance): Reisz, Pontellier, Ratignolle, Lebrun, Alcée Arobin, Doctor Mandelet … It is not easy to find as literary names as these. The whole book does feel literary, in its rhythm (like waves), pace (slow, slow, fast) and prose (cared for, definitely not gratuitous). This is what makes it beautiful. The anger is bubbling below a thin skin of measure.

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3 Apr 2014

The Finishing School by Muriel Spark***

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Reading dates: 15 March – 3 April 2014

I had not planned to read Spark’s last novel, especially since I found ‘Loitering with Intent’ a little awkward. Sometimes, though, one has to throw one’s plans to the wind and embrace the moment so, as Neil got me tickets for ‘Muriel Spark’s Finishing School for Writers‘ I thought I would swot. I am glad I did. It is a lovely book about jealousy and envy amongst writers. It is witty and inconsequential (I like Muriel’s inconsequential), a little neurotic. It depicts one academic year in the life of College Sunrise and how this affects teachers, support staff and students. Then, why the 3*? Well, the book is rather short (98 pages) and could have taken a few more breaths to develop towards the finale. The denouement is almost as if someone told Dame Muriel she had a week to complete it, when it needed four. Still elegant, but rushed. She could have done so much more with Darnley and Rizzio and Mary Queen of Scots. The parallels between court and college are inspired. She still had it in her last novel but it feels as if she lost interest in it.

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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.