Spain is in commotion and the culprit is Art. Miquel Barceló recently unveiled his painting for the UN’s room XX in Geneva. The controversy comes from the fact that it cost €18.5 million, €500.000 of which came from a development fund. Some of the reports I read even accuse the Spanish Government of paying part of the work so Barceló could get more international exposure, hence the complex relationship I mention in the title. Then there is the issue that we are in crisis, of taking the king and his family to the preview by extra-comfortable plane and the one around conservation, a strange one. But that has little to do with the actual art, doesn’t it? I am far more interested in the process and the result, so, before seeing it with my own eyes, I won’t pronounce myself. I like the idea in principle (bringing us – and the UN – back to the cave), just need to experience it. My friend Maria has an interesting point, though. World leaders seem to agree on decoration matters much easier than on any humanitarian issues. I can imagine them all in an Ikea trip.
I understand it is a lot of money, and it probably comes from where it shouldn’t, but I can’t help feel the controversy is a little hypocritical. Many other things are expensive too. (I was looking at the new Prada/LG phone the other day and it is £500. I fell off my chair). This is capitalism, after all. Offer and demand. If it cost that it is because someone was prepared to pay it.
Common knowledge says that you never forget how to bike, or to drive a car, or even ski. These are three things I once learned and completely forgot to the extent that, having had my driving license for ten years, I had to take 22 classes before driving to Arran. I did it quite badly, and found it difficult to even stay in my own lane. In Lofer (Austria) last year, I was put in the beginners group and was demoted 3 times, ending up in what we liked to call “the perfectionists” party, despite everybody else calling us the slow coaches.
I watched “Unknown” this week, a film about 5 men waking up and not remembering anything. Their body language, however, was very telling. One of them saw a gun and handled it like I wouldn’t know how to. Their bodies remembered. Mine didn’t. So what does this mean psychoanalytically? Forgetting, Freud says, is the result of repression and demonstrates the existence of the unconscious.
Forgetting, like remembering, belongs more to the phenomenology of consciousness than to the metapsychology of the unconscious. As a specific form of parapraxis, it also signifies repression according to popular convention. Because it occurs in the preconscious and is attracted by the unconscious, forgetting and the rediscovery of the forgotten are similar to what occurs when the subject clearly formulates for himself something he had always known. There have been few developments in psychoanalysis concerning the pre-conscious ego. As a result, it is easier to formulate psychoanalytic approaches that emphasize the cognitive causality of forgetting.
The more I read, the less I understand. Forgetting names, keys, impressions, intentions is acceptable. But whole sequences of actions or processes? What conflicts was I / am I living through to forget something I should never have forgotten, something so difficult, in fact, to forget? I think it was all intentional, something within me wanted to forget these things because, otherwise, there’s no explanation to such expense. Surely more energy was consumed forgetting than remembering. Certainly, more money was spent learning again, and going through therapy to find out why I forgot in the first place (which remains a mystery). Forgetting something like this may have its pros, though. There was playfulness in the renewed learning, once I overcame the shame (yes, I have my driving license but what do I do with this key? Can you remind me where the brake is? Where do I look? How do I steer? Why my skiing group comprises only a 9 year old boy and me – 31? )… I always regret that I will never be able to read certain books for the first time ever again, that I will never be able to experience what I felt in front of Étant Donnés… Ah, if only the unconscious had a switch!
Her work is a fine example of the relationship between art, work, fashion, commodity and the possibility of a change of context (and of heart). Above all, though, I find the pieces very beautiful, in a strange kind of way; nostalgic, yet current. Fashions come back. It may be my French upbringing; or the revolutionary within me; or, again, the pleasing female eager to work patiently, yet subversively… Look, look at the images on the links to see what I mean. Better still, go and encounter them, and do your own work as a viewer. We are all labourers under Capitalism. The conditions and the space for this are very nice, though.
Charcot was modest. He was only a scientist and not a theorist. Lacan was a guérisseur, through charm and through the verbal. He was not a scientist. He was a con man. Freud and Lacan did nothing for the artist. They were barking up the wrong tree. They don’t help any. I simply can’t use them.
Breton’s teacher was really Bousette. Bousette was interested in the grandiose style and social connections — that search for the grandiose and the religious. Breton, Lacan and Freud disappointed me. They promised the truth and just came up with theory. They were like my father: to promise so much and deliver so little.
Bourgeois, L. Destruction of the father, reconstruction of the father. Writings and interviews 1923-1997. Cambridge, Mass & London, MIT Press, 1998. pp. 229
Bourgeois, L. Destruction of the father, reconstruction of the father. Writings and interviews 1923-1997. Cambridge, Mass & London, MIT Press, 1998
Art comes from life. Art comes from the problem you have in seducing birds, men, snakes — anything you want. It is like a Corneille tragedy, where everybody is pursuing somebody else. You like A, and A likes D, and D likes… Being a daughter of Voltaire and having an education in the eighteenth-century rationalists, I believe that if you work enough, the world is going to get better. If I work like a dog on all these contraptions, I am going to get the bird I want… [yet] the end result is rather negative. That’s why I keep going. The resolution never appears; it’s like a mirage. I do not get the satisfaction — otherwise I would stop and be happy. (pp.161-162)
From On Beauty: a conversation with Bill Beckley, on the same book:
As my brain experiences the duality of subjective and objective, my sense of beauty swings between the two. I refuse to choose. I am a woman of emotion who still pines to be a woman of rationality. I am torn between the two, and I have learned to accept them both. To seduce is a harmonious merger of the two, and it is the greatest art of all. Sculpture, which is my raison d’être, is motivated by my obsessive, unsuccessful attempts to seduce.
Uncontrollable beauty is in the effort to seduce one through my sculpture. It is le désir de plaire. Art comes from the inability to seduce. I am unable to make myself loved. I am still motivated by an attraction to “the other,” which is a mysterious beauty. Seduction is a form of convincing. I am the indefatigable seducer. Beauty is the pursuit of “the other”. (pp. 357-358)
This made me thing of Jean-Michel Rabaté’s work on Étant Donnés and the Black Dahlia:
The life of the artist is the denial of sex. Art comes from the inability to seduce. I am unable to make myself be loved. The equation is really sex and murder, sex and death
The fear of sex and death is the same. Attraction and fear move back and forth. Which is the cause and which is the effect? It’s important to know.
Turenne was standing on his horse ready to go to battle. He said to his horse, which was really his unconscious, “You tremble, carcass, but you would tremble even more if you knew where I am going to take you.”
It is at this moment, the thrill of danger, that the erotic impulse is activated. The thrill is an erotic presence, that all-or-nothing feeling. You either resist or let go. If it terrorizes you, it means the resistance is too much. There is the refusal to go to battle with the unconscious. I become paralized by the fear.
In a woman, sex comes when she loses control. In a man, it comes from asserting his control. In sex you lose control and it can be terrifying. By extension, the relationship of Turenne to his horse is an S & M image. Turenne was the artist. The artist is a sadist and afraid of his own sadism, of inflicting death. Is it murder or suicide? It depends on how you feel. Think of the bird ensnared by the snake. Nobody has ever proved that the bird suffers from his fear. Who says that the bird doesn’t enjoy it, that there’s not a sexual thrill? That there’s not ecstasy in death? That the bird dies fulfilled, as he’s gobbled up. One way or the other, the ransom of fear is death.
Don’t forget that the masochist loves a sadist and the sadist loves a masochist, and the prisoner is so helpless and desperate that all he has left is to fall in love with the jailer. (pp. 228-229)
I dreamt my mother sat next to me at our wedding reception (this did not happen in reality, as 4 close friends were at the top table wit us). While walking in the room towards our seats, my mother whispered in my ear that she disapproved my behaviour, that I was too happy and shouldn’t appear like that. For the rest of the dream, I could not speak (only internal monologue) and my eyes hurt from keeping tears at bay.
So, S and I went to Research into Practice and delivered our paper. The experience of interrupting each other’s letters and engaging in an encounter with each other and our audience was, aside from seeing a lot of familiar faces and catching up, the best aspect of the conference. R2P is consistently competent but sometimes I feel it is more about form than content. Testimony to this is the beautiful abstract book (I usually get a set of photocopies, if I am lucky, on coloured paper). Having panels were the speakers themselves chair created all sorts of problems. For a start, it opened the sessions to a little panel terrorism, which S and I rejoiced in. If no one was going to keep us to time, why should we (we did not allow questions), if no one was going to encourage panel loyalty, why stay (we left after our presentation, the first in the afternoon). Good not to care too much, though. It allowed to hear who we wanted.
One plus side of the formal approach was embodied by one of the keynote speakers, who I was eager to see as I may have wanted to ask for their expertise on one aspect of my project. The thing is that the speaker, who I did not know what they may look like, appeared with the most fascinating haircut I have ever seen. I won’t describe it here as I am very diplomatic and more information would be telling. But what I can say is that it was very appropriate to the face in question, albeit being a bit scary. It changed with movement, sometimes drastically and it had me under a spell for the duration of the address. I am not sure now if I may be able to ever overcome the hair if I worked with them! Is this seduction?
Other than that, my weekend in London was spent talking to friends, catching up on food, getting rained on, catching cabs, left-right-an-centre, attending private views, being introduced to people, stepping on people’s feet with my ubiquitous wheel-y suitcase (it was Halloween) and seeing shows.
Of those, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s installation at the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall deserves a mention. The premise if that you are in the Turbine Hall in 2058 (hence the title T.H 2058). It was been raining forever and this has had an effect of various sculptures, which have mysteriously grown. Living is difficult and the space in Tate has been converted into a refugee camp, with colourful bunk-beds. Some cultural artefacts have been saved too: the handful of overgrown sculptures mentioned, a few books, and bits of film footage. Here I am, trying to watch the mesmerising fragments:
It was raining outside when we went and people were up for a bit of shelter and dipping in and out of books. Despite the desolate effect, it was cosey-er than outside, so people made themselves at home. I observed them. Some were able to perch themselves in the metal frames in a way that made me wonder whether they intimately new the furniture. And then, there were the artefacts, interesting choices. My highlight was finding on the list El Mal de Montano by Vila-Matas. V for Vendetta was also there and my comprehensive and systematic search could not get hold of a copy in that space. Do they have problems with art kleptomania?
It was fascinating as it highlighted art’s power to think and to predict. What would I have saved in my end of the world piece? As much as I would like to, I think Étant Donnés would perish, wither because of the rain (or any other catastrophe), or the inability to be dismantled; so I am going to settle for this. And you, what would you rescue from eternal oubli brought about by the end of the world as we know it?
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.