The talk at MFIT went very well. I realised afterwards that this is the very first time I have talked about seduction without any of the padding that you usually have to put together for conferences, in order to fit into the overall theme. I confronted seduction in a public way for the first time, and it was fantastic. I was motivated, enlivened by the subject and its curious manifestations, by its contradictions, by the philosophies that try to study it. I hope it was interesting to the audience; it certainly was great Viva preparation for me. Colleen’s questions were excellent, direct, the sort of thing that relates seduction to real life and they reminded me of that book I would like to write and publish after the PhD. The public also had interesting things to say: the issue of a subjective approach in research came about, and so did the relational elements of the seducer-seducee dyad. I expected them (as I had asked the same questions) but I never heard myself answering them.
Part of the success, though, comes from the fact that the exhibition I was talking about was consistently good, more Manolo than Boucher, diverse, playful and very very seductive. I nearly fell on my back when I saw the encased Louboutin-Rodarte platforms. I had a picture of them for my presentation and Tamsen took an amazing shot of the talk with the image commanding authority over my head. As it should be.
After that, I have been very busy here in NYC. I have done portfolio advice, organised an alumni get together and done a couple of institutional visits on behalf of the School I work for. Still, I have managed to see the Whitney, Paul Graham’s show at the MoMA, the new museum of contemporary art, and the International Centre of Photography. The photographic bias of my choices is due to the fact that I am also here to take some photos whenever possible. Out of these Paul Graham was distinctly wonderful. His display was a breadth of fresh air. He seemed to be saying “Look! Look! Look again!” I engaged with the photos, I understood, I got inspired by his images and their presentation, their richness of colour. Green looked green, and so did the other elements of the visual spectrum. The content was not groundbreaking, but then, it was, because it seemed I had never seen it before. At least, not seen it enough. It reconciled me with photography. I don’t call myself a photographer but in that gallery, I saw what I wanted to do and how I wanted to display it. I really enjoyed it, although the fact that a nice security guy got me a free ticket, since I was only going to see one room, may have somewhat contributed to my joy.
New York is full of nice people. My New Museum experience proved that the MoMA guy was not unique. The gallery opens at 12. I was baffled when I found out, and also how I found out. I managed to slip into the administrative offices, all on my own, the little spy that I am. It was freezing outside so I dismayed when the security guy told me (completely calm at finding me there), the museum would open in one hour. His mention of a nice coffee shop down the road sounded much better. I managed to read a fair bit of my Serge Tisseron book, something I hadn’t manage all week, and eat excellent cake. When I finally made it to the museum, I understood why it opened so late. The four floors of display contained only 4 pieces!! I found it wonderful, again a matter of engagement. I seemed to be in the minority, though, as some people found the ticket’s value for money a bit of a cheat. This is the first time I have managed to see video work in its entirety, staying for more than one viewing at times. I even had time to live and breathe in the Jeremy Deller piece It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq. I have to say that this changed my opinion of his work and of relational art in general. I found it cutting edge, contemporary, contingent; for once, competent practice rather than just Bourriaud’s theories and a bunch of cool names. I suppose it is like performances: you have to be present, you have to give time. Time, oh time, we don’t realise how important it is when it comes to art…
All and all, the efforts to revitalise and give my work some time (time, again!) and thought have paid off: I have been to Macy’s and Bloomingdales, up and down Fifth avenue (where I was so inspired by a Valentino shop window), and the boutiques of the Meatpaking district. Let’s see if, for the last couple of days of my stay, I can be as energetic with finishing this methodology chapter that is driving me up the wall…
Do pop in to say Hi if you are in the New York area.
It’s fashion week and I want to take photos of shop windows, people wearing amazing clothes, all done up, dressed up, acting out. Just what it says in the abstract. I want to see it; I want to photograph it. Any tips on where to go? Any 19th Century arcades, amazing shopping malls, secretly fashionable streets or bars? Let me know!
One of my students alerted me to the existence of a Shoe Tree in Newcastle’s Armstrong Park. The concept was new to me: it sounds like a pet cemetery, but in a tree and for shoes. She told me that the strange rituals people engage in are a real problem to the council, who has to take the shoes down and repair the tree’s branches regularly. So the location of the tree is either found by mistake, perseverance, or shared through word of mouth. You won’t find it in most guide books. Councils are funny places, though, trying to put order in an entropic conglomerate of people. In Glasgow, where I live, they have taken to flypost over already existing posters with the word “cancelled”. You can’t deny their humour. But back to shoes.
The Shoe Tree is not a Geordie phenomenon. They are everywhere! I can’t think of a more uncanny sight than hanged shoes. They are meant for walking, for being on the floor. When in trees, they are helpless, far away from where they can be of use, reachable only with great effort. Then, of course, there’s the death metaphor. When I see a pair of shoes tied and hanged on a power line, I smile. A drunken night, I think, a silly bet, a joke. A multiplication of this in a tree would freak me out. I attribute the feeling to the ritualistic side of the act, the homage element in it, the mourning. Shoes are objects with which we develop an intimate relationship. They are worn at most times (one shouldn’t go outside without them), they remain there despite the weather and they are a real statement of the person sporting them. They help us get where we want, literally and metaphorically. I don’t drive, so my shoes are like the poor woman’s car. I polish them, wash them, repair them with care. It is sad when I have to throw them away so the idea of a ritual is very appealing.
Still, I can only relate to the trees on a distant level. Think about it. In order to throw a shoe and catch it in a branch, it has to have laces. Not the kind of shoes I normally wear. The trees are more “Sneaker Trees“ or ”Walking Boots Trees“. They are inspiring, though, and I can’t help to think of a Stiletto Tree. Imagine the glitter, the violence of the heels, the red reflection of the Louboutin soles, the typographic sketches of those well-known logos, the parties, the stories, the seductions. What a sight. I shiver just picturing it.
I have completed 3 weeks of the 15-week “Psychoanalysis in Art and Culture” course for postgraduates I devised last Autumn. Focus on my own subject area won over my busy schedule and despite lacking time above anything else, I agreed to fit this in. I tend to stretch towards the impossible, sometimes to my own detriment, but I think one regrets more what one doesn’t do than what one does. Us Spaniards have an expression for this: que me quiten lo bailao (kind of “you can’t take off me what I have danced”).
The course has been as interesting as I had hoped for, thanks to a great bunch of students. Still, the sessions take far too long to put together, anxious as I am to make complex concepts clear, to bridge between two disciplines and to make it exciting, relevant, useful. Teaching psychoanalytic thinking is not teaching psychoanalysis and I have to remind myself of that every time I over-theorise.
My last session was not satisfactory, at least to myself, but I did not expect otherwise. I had to factor in a class where I would develop a shared set of meanings so I know that, when we talk about the ego, we talk about the same ego. It did not work because I talked too much. Like in analysis, I have to give the course’s ownership to my students, let them work it out and let them work through it, as it were. Only this way I can be coherent with the curriculum, which I ask them to devise, mirroring more or less a client-service approach instead of the Discourse of the University. Just a little example of one of my recent teaching experiments, which, so far, has made the whole thing more exciting for me. After 5 years teaching generic research skills, I have become jaded of the topic and I would hate for psychoanalysis to follow the same path.
So now that the difficult class is over, I hope to enjoy myself more. I have psychopathologies, construction of the subject, detectives, family romances, transference, interpretation, self-analysis and afterwardness to get through. All favourites of mine. On this journey, I also hope, by letting them talk, to learn: something about myself (as a teacher, as an artist), and about art and psychoanalysis. This has already happened during the three weeks of the course we have just completed. A golden moment was when one of the students brought “The Century of the Self” by Adam Curtis, into the Eye of My Consciousness, from the pleasant Pre-Conscious drawing room it had been laying about. See for yourselves:
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.