Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society at Middlesex University

27 May 2010 | , , , ,

On the 5th of June, I will be giving an overview of my recent work on seduction at the Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society conference at Middlesex University.

Here’s my abstract, to whet your appetite (if psychoanalysis, culture and society are your thing, of course):

Make me yours: studying the psychodynamics of seduction through works of art

In Fatal Strategies, Jean Baudrillard writes that music and literature are seductive in themselves. Given his later interest in photography and the works of Sophie Calle, it could be argued that seduction is also an attribute of the visual arts. But what makes a work of art seductive? My research is concerned with the relational and psychodynamic aspects of the encounter between the work of art and the viewer; one that, when seduction operates, is characterized by interplay, flow and conflict.

The first step towards disentangling this research problem is to define seduction, a concept that is contingent, ridden with confusion, contradictions and connotative interpretations. Any attempt at pinning down the term, however, shows that it is pervasive and, as a ruling principle, it operates everywhere –especially where efforts to study it are made. The question, then, becomes a methodological one: how might one study seduction as it operates in the encounter with works of art? I put forward a subjective, practice-led approach, comprised of three strands: artistic –in particular photography–, psychoanalytic and writing. All three enact the self-reflexive methodology that is at the core of the contribution my project aims to make, and which is constituted of three steps: recognition, capture and reflection.

In this paper, my own (nearly missed) encounter with a work of art, Marcel Duchamp’s Étant Donnés, and a bold shoe in a New York shop window will be used as props to explain this complex problem. Jacques Lacan’s mysterious objet petit a, the object cause of desire and Freud’s abandonment of the seduction theory will be discussed in the context of these experiences. There will also be the occasional appearances of a detective –who will provide the forensic gaze required of a presentation by a final year PhD student– and other minor characters.

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