Laura Gonzalez


Unhappy birthday to me — 31 Mar 2008

The 24 yearly hours marking the date when I was born are a torment to me. I get an uncontrollable sorrow, a desire to be away from everything and everyone. I do not answer phones, and whatever attempts a smiling are clearly seen as an effort. It is not ridiculous to say that I am slightly moody. I have my tempers but what happens on the 31 March defies any kind of rationality. I have been lectured, analysed, tried to be talked out of it. Yet, anxiety soars. The worst is the cake and the song. They are triggers in my eyes, giving me a loud GO for sobbing.

Ritual image, a few years ago. Photo courtesy of Neil Scott

Yet, I do try to exorcise this feeling as much as possible. In January/February, I make my master students organise a birthday party for me a their project management training brief. A surprise party is my biggest fear. I have had gatherings, of course, but these were safely outside of the dreaded date and controlled to the last detail. I do tell myself, towards the end of March, that this year will be different, that things are better than ever, that it is only a day like any other. Yet, the repressed, in the form of a compulsion to repeat, returns.

The best description of what overcomes is grief, mourning. What I feel is peculiarly similar to loosing someone, to arriving at the understanding that we are not going to see them ever, ever, ever again, no matter how much we try or want. Let us see where this takes me by looking at the source of mourning.

Photo courtesy of Neil Scott

The first point of call could be a lost year, another one. But this does not ring true. I look much younger than I am, pathetically so. I still get asked for ID regularly (and not only in the US) and my facial features have caused me some troubles in terms of authority at work. I have never considered getting old. It is a thought that rarely occurs to me consciously and in relation to myself.

Is it a trauma, then? A childhood trauma related to a birthday? Admittedly, I never liked the damned day. my mother was horrified of inviting many children home for a party so I had to put up with the next door neighbour, who was born the same date as me, and her 3 brothers. They were neighbours, not friends, or crushes, or cool people. Every year we would rotate the place of the party: our house, their house. The same building. And then there was the year when we were going to celebrate with Gran and everybody departed, inadvertently leaving me locked at home. A party without me. These trifles, however, are like those in any child’s history, I presume. They are not hidden, or repressed. I vividly remember and the provoke the same amount of cringing as of laughter.

Again, I am not getting anywhere, although this may be the key. Fréderic Declercq’s paper at the 2007 APCS conference, argued that the difference between anxiety and fear is the fact that fear has a known cause whereas anxiety does not. He made us look at examples within Freud’s Little Hans and it was quite humourous to see that his Lacanian approach provoked both anxiety and fear in the audience. Fear is understandable, anxiety is irrational, as the cause is not known. It always takes one by surprise and attempts at dealing with it are easily overcome by the overwhelming feeling. It is not impossible to find a cause for it, though, ir to construct it in order to work though the feeling but it will require many hours on the couch, as the knot is tangled. Very tangled. Today, more than ever, I miss Dr Sh—.

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The look of Lucas Cranach the Elder — 9 Mar 2008

By now, you must know my weakness for Cranach’s paintings, for his depictions of the seductiveness of the female body, his wonderful view on Eve. I am lucky. London’s Royal Academy of Arts is hosting a major exhibition of his work, which includes a fair amount of Venuses. Five centuries later, Cranach continues to shock and contradict, as the poster for the exhibition was almost pulled out from advertising spots on the London underground. Is it really that outrageous? what is it about the image that is uncomfortable to show? The nudity or the look? I wonder…

These images have influenced so many others… The first I can think of is Tizian’s Venus of Urbino, almost its contemporary, although less defiant. Then there’s Manet’s Olympia, of course. I recently attended ArtSheffield 08. Like when in Venice, I enjoyed the social aspect more than the art. There was one piece, however, at the interesting Millennium Galleries display, that broke the indistinguishable continuum I felt reigned over the other spaces. A look was at its centre, although this time, the figure was a man, fully clothed.

This image of Morrissey by Wolfgang Tillmans showed me, tracing it back to Cranach, that the challenge resides in the look, much more than in the pose, in the nudity, in the political stance of the images. The look, the gaze… Always them, at the centre of works of art…

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Conscious and unconscious sources — 1 Mar 2008

I do not, of course, believe that photographing reflections in shop windows is a groundbreaking or truly original thing. My contribution to the genre, and to seduction, is a little more subtle and made of a number of elements combined. When extrapolating the images, however, and looking only at them in the context of art, it is quite useful to locate sources. I knew they were there but I could not identify them until Lorens showed me his wonderful Lee Friedlander book. There they were. Friedlander’s series in Like a one-eyed cat:

What was useful about unlocking this piece of my unconscious (the kind Lorens and I chatted about) was that not only the detail of the information was useful for my PhD – as it will inform the analysis of my practice –, it also revealed things about my photos that I hadn’t seen before. Friedlander’s images are often typified as self-portraits. In my photos, the body that appears on them is mine but I don’t relate to it. At least for now; we’ll see what happens in the gallery space. Thinking of them as kind of self-porttraits, of which all art has something, is interesting in relation to certain things on seduction and narcissism I have written about. For this, as well as for showing me the second volume of his thesis and, with it, a way into analysing images where screen and space are central, I have to thank him.

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About Me

I am an artist and writer. My recent practice performance, film, dance, photography and text, and my work has been performed, exhibited and published in many venues in Europe and the US. I have 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 I am not following Freud, Lacan and Marx’s footsteps with my camera or creating performance works as part of my Athenaeum Research Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I teach postgraduate students at Transart Institute.

I am currently immersed in an interdisciplinary project exploring knowledge and the body of the hysteric. In 2013, together with Child and Adolescent Mental Health practitioner Frances Davies, I co-edited the book ‘Madness, Women and the Power of Art’, to which I contributed a work authored with Eleanor Bowen. My book ‘Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces’ was published by Cambridge Scholars in 2016. In this text, investigates 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.