Please report on any instances of change of direction

6 December 2006 | ,

It is all gone quiet in my seduction world. I have been battling with issues of enjoyment, of desire; trying to understand where, if anywhere, the paths of seduction, perversion and fetishism cross; deciding what the picture frame and the frame of fantasy have in common; finding the key to the Lacanian universe; attempting to comprehend the limits between subjective and objective; listening to what the objects I have been creating have to tell me and how they challenge theories I have been reading about… All this, however, doesn’t make me feel I am any nearer to finding out why and how objects seduce.

But I am taking the wrong approach, aren’t I? I have finally realised that this (writing, blogging) is precisely what I should be doing. Let me tell you about my epiphany. I was watching Alan Yentob’s TV programme Imagine, which discussed the meaning of the internet in the context of cultural production, when something clicked. I tuned in mainly because my friends Pickwick and Dickon were to make an appearance in it. They are both talented bloggers, writers who have embraced new technologies and new ways of telling stories, of seeing and referring to the world. In Dickon’s journal, choosing a tie may be a matter of life and death. But Dickon and Pickwick did not get there in day or two. Dickon has been blogging since 1997, when this thing we are doing did not even have a name. His archive of events and thoughts is a testimony to what it is like to live in London in the 20th/21st Centuries. As such, it can also be contrasted with other accounts more or less amusing and well written. Dickon is building his socio-historico-anthropological account little by little, with a rendez-vous or a record release here, a TV appearance or a bad day there.

Now, this is how the epiphany took place: what I realised is that I want it all now. But the PhD is a 5 to 7 year process, one that will be arrived at by the day-to-day accumulation of experiments, data, thoughts, readings, conversations, objects, responses. Knowing about how fantasies relate to desire will not answer my research question; Dickon’s description of his suit on the 3 of August does not constitute social testimony. One has to be patient (How many times have I talked about commitment here?). One has to be systematic. Oh but don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about forgetting the aim of my quest; it needs to be there permanently, I need to think about it with every decision I make. As Malcolm said to me, a PhD is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. The aim, the distance to be ran is there. I cannot write a formulaic short story. You see? This PhD is really more like blogging. Every day a little step. A step about the minutiae of doing research, of thinking about desire, of being seduced, of finding something contradictory. In short, a process, rather than an output; answering rather than an answer. The latter will come, if it has to.

A PhD is a marathon and, with my PhD confirmation looming, I am just at the second water point.

4 thoughts on “Please report on any instances of change of direction

  1. Hi Laura,

    You use word ‘epiphany’ here, which is of value in understanding how all of this happens. We can work in a systematic way, building a little bit at a time, accumulating the constituent possibilities for richer perspectives, but often our understandings emerge as small epiphanies, as if objects, ideas, memories or fantasies have shown themselves to us in new ways that we could not have anticipated. These visions are not constructed intentionally, but through some re-working or re-arranging of ourselves that is not only the product of accumulating work, but of more messy, experimental ÎaccidentalÌ activity.

    Allowing ourselves such activity while working on a PhD can be a challenge, but I found that I and many of my fellow students unintentionally found ways to play that seemed less likely to have occurred before pursuing doctorates. It was as if all of the intentional building activity that was necessary to pursue a PhD, demanded help from some messier playing that provided a deconstructive element amid all of that construction-like activity. I believe that construction and deconstruction are both necessary for us to see in new ways.

    Not only does this make sense to me conceptually, but I even wonder about the possibility that there is some sort of ambient neural environment that is optimal for experiencing epiphanies. Neurologically, this might be like the constant pruning of neurons that accompanies the rapid growth of neurons during infancy.

    If we donÌt engage in some ÎseriousÌ haphazardÌ unplanned mental activity, are we really going to be able to see anything more than our old overbuilt visions? ArenÌt I just restating what analysands do in therapy Ò free associate?

    It would seem to me, then, that your creative life, blogging included, would be vital to the process of opening your eyes again and again. One of these times you will see something more of the answer to your questions about objects and seduction.

    Dr X

  2. Indeed! I feel epiphanies occur when I let my academic/intellectual guard down, when my eyes are free to look to places, undirected. Like Arquimedes, my epiphanies often happen in a bath. An alternative location can also be found on buses, during sustained bouts of daydreaming (not thinking). My supervisors keep telling me to stop reading and start making. Making, in the case of my PhD, is exactly what you describe as a deconstuctive element. I throws a lot of questions; it often contradicts what I read, even what I think. I am deeply scared of the practice, but I also know that the answer I am looking for lies there. In that sense, even that simple sentence above is proof of what I want to do as part of my PhD: establish a parallel between artistic and psychoanalytic practices in relation to seduction. Thanks for reminding that to me. It is always easier to see a focal point when someone else points at it…

  3. “A PhD is not a sprint, it’s a marathon…” – that’s fantastic, you got it exactly right! Even though I think we’re on different topics, good luck with yours 🙂

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