Laura Gonzalez

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20 Aug 2013

Strictly Bipolar by Darian Leader ***

Reading dates: 27 May 2013 – 20 August 2013

Some might find Darian Leader’s writing style unnerving but I think it comforting in its ease, the depth of its connections. Like ‘Why do women write more letters than they post?‘, ‘Promises Lovers Make When it Gets Late‘ and — my favourite – ‘Stealing the Mona Lisa: What Art Stops Us from Seeing‘, his narrative has no sections, it flows. This is part of the reason why it took me so long to read a very short book: I kept going back and forth, as in a tide. In Strictly Bipolar, he addresses the characteristics, psychic structure, cultural and medical perceptions of manic depression. This is a complex topic, more so at the time of the book’s release, as it coincides with the much dreaded 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Leader argues that the structure of manic depression, although certainly painful and reflecting suffering, is not something to be treated with pills, to be tamed, pushed down. This is backed by his opening remark, the fact that the diagnosis has expanded to cover a large proportion of the population, not making us bipolar (or not), but making us bipolar on a scale.

The book is rich with examples from his clinical work and from culture, but my problem with the book is its length. It feels too cursory, only getting to the threshold of ideas, arguments and counterarguments. The beautiful folds he crafts – there are numerous repetitions, like litanies – get lost in their brevity. And by God the topic deserves length and depth …

Posted in Blog, Book Reviews, Psychoanalysis, Reading


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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.