Laura Gonzalez


21 Nov 2008

On forgetting and having to learn again

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.

In the International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, François Richard writes:

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!

Posted in Blog, Peripheral thoughts, Psychoanalysis

4 Responses to “On forgetting and having to learn again”

  1. Neil Scott said:

    I don’t believe that the forgetting they are talking about has anything to do with the forgetting of muscle memory. Your driving isn’t too bad, your skiing is okay — your body remembers both of these things. Rather, I think, your fear and anxiety gets in the way.

  2. Laura Gonzalez said:

    The forgetting Freud talks about is always related to the mind, not the body. He does talk, however about unintended acts. I wonder why no-one has thought about joining the two – forgetting actions? Maybe there something for me to do there, another self experiment…

    My driving was horrendous for someone with a license and my skiing was OK, but after a week. You are right, though, my body may remember those things but something in my repressed mind is not letting it. Fear and anxiety have something to do with it, sure, but fear and anxiety of what?

  3. David Griffin said:

    Ask your Darwinian friends — they will explain.

  4. Laura Gonzalez said:

    Haha, you know? Lacan was not interested in forgetting so my darwinian friend wouldn’t really know. I’ve already consulted his dictionary!

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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.