Laura Gonzalez


Traumfrauen — 24 Oct 2008

This looks exquisite:

Traumfrauen: Haus der Photographie in den Deichtorhallen, Hamburg 20.09.08 – 09.11.08

More information here, here and here (all in German). Traumfrauen… Dream women… Trauma


Images: Albert Watson, Breaunna Las Vegas Hilton, 2001 / Miles Aldridge, Homeworks, 2008 / Dan Martensen, “Looking out the window”, from “LowLuv”, Los Angeles, 2005 / Donna Trope, Mood 1, Jodie Kidd, London 1998-2008 / Glen Luchford, Freja, New York April 2008 / Greg Delves, White Hood 1, Alek Wek, long Island, 1997 / Marc Hom, Amy Winehouse, 2007 / Marc Hom, Louise Bourgeois, 1998 / Marc Hom, Sofia Coppola, 1998 / Max Vadukul, Audrey Tatou, Paris 2008 / Michael Thompson, Pulling Lid, New York 1993 / Michelangelo di Battista, Nibelungen, Paris 2002 / Miles Aldridge, Homeworks #3, 2008 / Miles Aldridge, Homeworks, 2008 / Peter Lindbergh, Giorgia Frost (links), Romina Lanaro (rechts), Italian Vogue, Downtown Los Angeles 2006 / Ralph Mecke, Lou Doillon, Paris 2004 / Sheryl Nields, Scarlett Johansson, Sun Valley, Los Angeles 2006 / Torkil Gudnason, Untitled, New York, 2007

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On copying, reproducing and confronting — 21 Oct 2008

Teaching a proper course is such a different experience from my experience delivering the PhD training programme, I can not overcome certain aspects of it. Having started my academic career at the top of the degrees pyramid (don’t get excited, that pyramid doesn’t match the salary pyramid) I have missed certain aspects such as curriculum, assessment, learning outcomes, and all that malarkey that the PgCert prepared me for. It makes even less sense when planning my psychoanalysis course. Assessing psychoanalytic thinking in 15 weeks? How? That is just going to undo all the work on the course! Yet, I have to take the position of the master, that one I am going to dismantle on the first day…

Anyway what brought me to think about teaching proper courses is the issue of cohort, something I don’t get with my PhD group. A very interesting manifestation of cohorts is source fads. You know, when suddenly the whole group is reading Benjamin’s Arcades Projects. Okey. Then, last year, it was Latour’s Actor-Network theory. I can barely keep up, but I guess that’s what makes it interesting too. It also translates in practice. At some point last November, students were appropriating. I wonder whether galleries experience these fads and to what extent. They must do. I like to keep up with my students so I did look up on appropriation to find exciting examples – exciting for me and thought provoking for them, of course – and through one of my image researches I found this:


It really is what it looks to be. A copy of Duchamp’s Étant Donnés. Reproducing it is by no means an impossible task, of course, as it is well known that Duchamp left painstakingly precise notes on how to build the tableau vivant/nature morte. Still, some knowledge of geometry, of maths is needed. Technical ability aside, though, why would anyone want to reveal how a magic trick is done? I was complaining that last week’s talk circled too much about meaning; this, around technicalities and how artists work. When, oh, when are we going to confront ourselves as viewers?

This perhaps raises the issue, unpins the viewer from her small cross on the floor, lets her free, loose to wander and find out how things are made. Still, it reflects on the original piece and not what the original piece meant to do. I guess that is my problem too with my student’s source-fads. We’ll see what this year brings me.

Image Credit: Richard Baquié. Sans titre. Étant donnés, 1°) la chute d’eau, 2°) le gaz d’éclairage (Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon, 1991)

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Giving Given; or reflexivity — 19 Oct 2008

A reflexive week, as if by last week’s post I was trying to draw attention to myself, or bend back my writing. My google alerts entry returned to me by the logical, but unexpected medium of… Google alerts and Drugs in Milk, who recommended me links, continuing this never-ending network of references. What did I expect? My strategies of fracture, distanciation, interruption, discontinuity were thrown back at me and, as a reader, I felt slightly baffled by my own image in the mirror. A little as if it really wasn’t me. Who then? Embrace the link, the quote, the reference, the poach… Dylan is still in touch… Reflexivity also came back at me through the issue of spectatorship, this week. I attended the very excellent lectures that Jean-Michel Rabaté gave at Glasgow University. The one on formalism was a master class in the creativity involved in theorizing. The second one, a more intimate workshop on Duchamp, Art and Crime, circled my revered Étant Donnés.

The discussion was good, even through it focused too much on the factuality or historicity of his claims, something he brushed aside quickly in the name of creativity, in coherence with his previous talk. I was surprised, though, that the conversation about this object focused solely on its meaning or the historical circumstances of its creation. I felt that the fact that this is an art piece that is meant to be engaged with, encountered and, above all, looked at, was not considered. The viewer was not considered, yet, she is crucial. Part of the problem is the fact that very few of the company had actually experienced the work and were referring to it through a black and white image of what lies behind the door, printed on the programme. Also no doubt (as students present seemed diligent) on a few internet searches. The door is important, Jean-Michel said. Of course it is. It positions us, it pins us, it makes us aware that we are looking, a little like Lacan’s inverted bouquet trick. So I asked the question of spectatorship and I got the answer of self-reflexivity. Nice and neat.

At lunch, I had the opportunity to chat to Jean-Michel. We talked a little more about spectatorship and he mentioned that Étant Donnés might have been moved once or twice, to the L’Informe and/or Femininmasculin exhibitions and the Pompidou. Could have they been hideous (or otherwise) fakes like in the Duchamp Man Ray Picabia show? Interlibrary Loan requests for the catalogues are, of course, under way, as this could be an interesting and important datum for my argument on position (which, for the Duchamp piece, is before anything else, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and its dead end room 183). He also mentioned that this was taking place:

Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés
July 7, 2009 – November 1, 2009
Marcel Duchamp’s enigmatic assemblage Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas) has been described by the artist Jasper Johns as “the strangest work of art in any museum.” Permanently installed at the Museum since 1969, this three-dimensional environmental tableau offers an unforgettable and untranslatable experience to those who peer through the two small holes in the solid wooden door. Celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the work going on public display, this exhibition consists of Duchamp’s extraordinary assemblage, along with close to eighty works of art related to its installment, including all the known studies, photographs, erotic objects, and other materials.

This landmark exhibition and the accompanying two hundred-page catalogue explore the history and reception of Duchamp’s final masterpiece, as well as its legacy for contemporary artists such as Ray Johnson, Hannah Wilke, Robert Gober, and Marcel Drama

Michael R. Taylor • The Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art

Galleries 181–183, first floor

B-but of course! I forgot it was the 40th anniversary of its unveiling. I wonder if I will be able to go.

When I got home from the event (and via the library with some further reading), Neil asked me: ‘did you tell him the anecdote of your encounter with Étant Donnés?’ He knows me too well. I blushed. I can never resist telling it. This time, though, it paid off, as Jean-Michel seemed interested and asked me to send him some of my writing. Well, I am honoured! You see? Reflexivity, indeed, like in my photographs, like in seduction.

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Psychoanalytic principles — 12 Oct 2008

Under Analysis Last week, I reluctantly set two Google Alerts, to receive emails every time something had been published on the Internet where the words “seduction” or “Lacan” featured. I have to say I was a skeptic, since I subscribe to various jiscmail and yahoo groups, which mostly clog my inbox. One of them goes straight into a folder, marked as read. I don’t unsubscribe as it has the function of reminding me I must do something about dancing. But that is another story and I don’t want to veer from my track.

I was surprised, therefore, when my first email alerts were not an endless list of links. Reading through the carefully chosen excerpts was a little like browsing through a journal’s content page. Not an entirely useless exercise. It was as if I had had a personal shopper or some of those customized experiences that leave you feeling you can cope with the overwhelming world of commodities (and information IS a commodity), that somehow there are maps and ways of navigating.

Then, amidst all this daydreaming – what is research if not a lot of that – a link jumped at me. Ever since I chaired the Psychoanalysis in Doctoral Research panel at the Rigorous Holes: Perspectives on Psychoanalytic Theory in Art and Performance Research workshop, and heard Professor Naomi Segal speak, I have been concerned about psychoanalytic principles. In her workshop “How to do psychoanalytic things with words” she positioned herself as follows, before making us read and comment on a series of texts:

First principles:
Psychoanalysis is a theory of mind that sees human subjectivity as rooted in three elements: the body, social/familial structures and language. All the theories of psychoanalysis put these into different configurations and see the ways that the theory can be used in differently configured ways. But they follow the principles that:

  • the human mind functions as much unconsciously as consciously;
  • everything is an utterance and no utterance is innocent;
  • utterances are always motivated by forms of desire.

This is even more poignant for me now that I am trying to put together an Art and Psychoanalysis course for Postgraduate Art Design and Architecture students, aimed at introducing them to the idea of thinking psychoanalytically. What are the principles for that? How is thinking, acting psychoanalytically different from other forms? How am I to teach them this in 15 weeks with no previous training or even exposure to psychoanalytic texts? How will I avoid getting bogged down by psychoanalysis and get them into action (as the assessment will be a series of interventions)? How will I find exciting ways to join up art and psychoanalysis that are faithful to both fields and still manage to create something different?

You see what I am driving at. Students will now about artistic principles, but my first task will be to dismantle their received ideas about psychoanalysis and, more importantly, about psychoanalysis as a theory. I cannot send them in to see a psychoanalyst for 15 weeks, as much as I would like to; time and money, the two most important constants in psychoanalysis are against me. So I have to find a pretty effective way soon, if I am to succeed with this course and, on the back of my mind, Professor Segal principles were the beginning of the key. But not enough.

One of the excerpts in the Google Alert I received last week was entitled “What are the Guiding Principles of Psychoanalysis?” and linked me to the interesting Drugs in Milk blog. Now that’s the question I had been asking myself since May 2007. The entry was short, and to the point. It simply linked to an also short and to-the-point article in by Eric Laurent: Guiding Principles for Any Psychoanalytic Act.

His eight principles are a great summary of psychoanalysis, as a relational practice, something I want to come across in my seminars and in my PhD. He discussed the key problems within the History of the Psychoanalytic movement, its wars, the issues around training within Universities, the length and frequency of treatment and, importantly, the setting. At the very end of these exquisite two and a half pages, Lauren talks about the status of the psychoanalyst within society and about his authority within it. He says:

A psychoanalyst is one who affirms that he has obtained from the psychoanalytic experience what he could have hoped for from it and therefore that he has crossed over a “pass”, as Lacan called it. Here he testifies to having crossed over his impasses. The interlocution by which he wishes to obtain an agreement over this crossing over occurs in institutional settings. More profoundly, it is inscribed within the Great Conversation between psychoanalysis and civilization. A psychoanalyst is not autistic. He does not fail to address himself to the benevolent interlocutor, enlightened opinion, which he wishes to move and to reach out to, in favour of the cause of psychoanalysis.

Here’s something Art students will understand and feel related to, something they will feel recognized by, or so I hope. Here’s the bridge between artist and psychoanalyst. A bridge that somewhat conflicts with some of the issues I have been developing around Lacan’s Discourse of the Analyst, where the artwork occupies, in the gallery, the space of the analyst in the consulting room (this is not mine, but Sharon Kivland’s. It is, nonetheless, where my contribution to knowledge stems from). But that doesn’t matter to me too much. I have two years to sort it out, look for a compromise, make my analogy more fluid and work out how art and psychoanalysis are seductive practices, in themselves.

Image credits: The psychoanalytic couch; An Associated Press photo by Bob Wands; from (mass)think!. “A doctor listens to a patient digging into her past at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute Treatment Center in New York, April 25, 1956. The psychoanalyst’s couch has provided material for endless jokes and cartoons since Sigmund Freud developed this method of treatment for neuroses. Some modern analysts discard it in favor of face to face sessions, but the method of “free association” to give the doctor clues to the patient’s hidden fears and problems is accepted even by dissidents from Freudian theories. (AP Photo/Bob Wands)”

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Technical matters — 5 Oct 2008

My week’s work has been spent switching over to Mellel from Word (recommended to me by Michael) and backing up my journal entries from 2004 onto Mac-journal, images and all. I have to say, it has not been the most joyous way of spending time and I am still unsure as to whether this is useful stuff for my PhD (Mellel seems to be helping with visual decisions around my Clinical Diary piece), or if it is just a​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​p​​​​​u​​​​​​​​​​n​​​​​i​​​​​s​​​​​​h​​​​i​​​​​n​​​​​g​ ​​​​w​​​​​a​​​​​y​​​​​ ​​​​​o​​​​​​f​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​p​​​​​​r​​​​o​​​​​c​​​​​​​​​​r​​​​​a​​​​​s​​​​​t​​​​​​​​​​i​​​​​​n​​​​​​a​​​​t​​​​​i​​​​​n​​​​​​​​​​g​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​. I am getting to that point where the PhD is make or break; you know what I mean, when one has got to sit down and make sense of it, write it.

Having said tat, my job provided a useful day, for a change. I hosted one of the twice yearly student presentation events, where I invite a keynote speaker to talk about an aspect of their work that relates to research degrees. Nicky Bird led the day and it was wonderful to hear her talk about her struggles with the photograph below, and compelling to see her read excerpts of her examiner report. I was so surprised to see how little things have changed. I mean, we still worry about writing in relation to PhDs, but hers, the first practice-led one at Leeds University (completed in 1998) addressed the reader in first person.

I learned about writing props (what a fabulous idea) and I chose one for myself (Étant Donnés, of course). When I got home, I started on the introduction, in Mellel. Maybe I am not an irredeemable procrastinator, after all. I do know PhDs are ridden with guilt…

Photo of the week:


Ed Feingersh, 1955 (from Marilyn Fifty-Five: photographs from the Michael Ochs Archives by Ed Feingersh, text by Bob LaBrasca, Bloomsbury, 1990)

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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.