Laura Gonzalez

 

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Laura Gonzalez’s book is a fascinating enquiry into seduction. Composed in a careful articulation of inter-­relationships between different aspects of practice and theory, conducted through art‐work, photography, writing and psychoanalysis, Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces presents an innovative challenge to the formulaic organisation of argument, method and example more common in books which cross art theory and practice. Gonzalez takes an original approach to the staging of her arguments, setting them as scenes of seduction, and including the adoption of unexpected personae, through which she plays out her points of view on seduction concerning recognition, capture and reflection. The book sets out its intellectual apparatus in relation to the theoretical work on seduction and desire for example by Baudrillard and Lacan. The close-‐reading of specific theorists and other related material from art theory, practice and psychoanalysis is impressive, sustained, and rigorous and provides a helpful guide through this dense conceptual territory. Gonzalez writes with a spirit of adventure – her intellect is fierce, imaginative and never afraid to take risks.

Professor Jane Rendell

Make Me Yours is an open invitation to be seduced by art and a critical account of what happens in the process.  In her book, Laura Gonzalez elegantly and rigorously defines how seduction becomes manifest in our encounters with art.  Her book is driven by the insight that seduction can only be studied from within the seductive encounter. Gonzalez shows us how, through art, seduction discovers us and that we cannot discover it, because seduction is fugitive – it has no particular features or specific qualities.  She also shows us how, in the course of this seductive encounter with art, we can analyse what has happened to us and how we have been changed in the process.  In this way, she draws our attention to the positive and enlightening dimension of seduction and the manner in which it can bring us to self-knowledge. Make Me Yours is an important book because it tells us that in the seductive encounter with art, we can locate the crucial difference between the essential things that we can commit to without reserve and the trivial things that come with guarantees and lists of ingredients.  In a world in which we habitually judge art by the rules of commerce and refuse to be ‘taken in’ by it, Laura Gonzalez shown us how we gain freedom from being taken in and seduced by art ‘of our own free will’.

               
Malcolm Quinn
Professor of Cultural and Political History
Associate Dean of Research and Director of Graduate School
Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon Graduate School
University of the Arts London

We begin by willing on the author as she struggles to be seduced by art while wearing heels that can never be high enough to reach their target and end with Audrey Hepburn about to enter Tiffany’s, with the author not turning away from the audience to reach the scene of seduction but talking back to it and to us. And in between she has played detective, told us her secrets and shown us those of artists who are both seduced and seduce. Both deeply erudite and wonderfully playful, this book stole my heart. Quite brilliant. Make it yours, dear potential reader, make it yours – you will not be disappointed!

Professor Valerie Walkerdine
Cardiff University

Dr. Laura Gonzalez monograph ‘Make Me Your: How Art Seduces’ is timely and provocative. Performance artist Gonzalez brings her practice- led approach to bare on a substantial literary survey on seduction in its multiple- forms from Les Liaisons Dangereuses to Jacques Lacan’s mysterious objet petit a, the object cause of desire. By citing and siting herself in the middle of this exciting landscape Gonzalez reaches up through the window on the book’s cover to invite the reader into her seductive world. We find out that desire is as much to do with our internal processes as those that are external to us. Gonzalez gives us permission to enjoy desire and its bedfellow seduction through the pages of her well illustrated text. A must for any practice- led researcher, performance or fine artist.

Professor Anna Birch
Research Lecturer, Drama, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow
Artistic Director and founder member of Fragments & Monuments performance and film 
company.

Laura draws us towards the object of her curiosity, leading us to the keyhole itself. Alongside her, finding a place from which to see, we peer though …

In Dr Laura González’ ‘Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces’, we find ourselves not only seduced and curiously accompanying her every move (not coincidentally, González is a practicing dancer) but also gripped by a sense of embodiment within that movement, as though inside the process of seduction itself. All books should seduce of course. The very act of reading is seductive, and this account is cleverly choreographed by González who, also artist and analysand, draws the reader into a dynamic between practice (acts of narrative and visualisation), theory and psychoanalytic reflection.

The introduction invites us into a rich contextual bed of works, exemplifying seduction as a process rooted within diverse works of art, literary (Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Nabokov’s novels), photographic (Eugene Atget, Sherrie Levine, Naia del Castillo) and performative (Tino Sehgal, Sophie Calle, Gina Pane). Philosophical and psychoanalytic content is represented largely by Barthes, Baudrillard and Freud through Lacan. The book is ingeniously structured from both ends, each approaching a core chapter in which ‘the writing changes somewhat, reversing and mirroring itself …’. Thus the text presents itself as an object to be approached with curiosity, and perhaps with even a little frisson of excitement ….

Dr Eleanor Bowen
Visual artist and writer
Associate Lecturer, University of the Arts London

In Make Me Yours, a captivating reverie of Freudian psychoanalysis, Lacanian theory and personal experience, I was, at once, seduced by the author herself, stalking her through the first floor of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, taking copious notes of a most ingenious and sexy scheme to satisfy an insatiable appetite for Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés.
 
The reader follows Gonzalez as she lovingly wanders through poignant points of artistic reference from the theft of the Mona Lisa to the punctum of a Friedlander reflection, leaving us in the end to prove that the locus of our desirous love affair with seduction is, as always, what’s just slightly out of reach and view.

Jean Marie Casbarian
http://www.jeanmariecasbarian.com

Faculty and Advisor, Transart Institute
New York & Berlin
http://www.transart.org

Faculty, ICP-Bard and the International Center of Photography
New York
http://www.icp.org

Laura Gonzalez’ Make Me Yours is a smart, rigorous, witty and delicious guide to the field of seduction. It not only provides a thorough overview of seduction’s history, including its main theorists and an extraordinary array of artists who have toyed or flirted with it, but proposes methodologically innovative and dynamic ways of studying seduction from within. Allow yourself to be seduced by this book, and by Gonzalez. You know you want to.

Dr Glyn Davis
Chancellor’s Fellow/Reader
The University of Edinburgh

glyn.davis@ed.ac.uk
exhaustedscreen.tumblr.com
@warholmooc

In the spirit of the seductive encounter with and through the work of art, Make me yours is far more than an exegesis. It has all the unfolding properties of a practice on the move. Thoughtful and elegant the work is an exercise in thinking which emerges from doing, and perhaps more importantly from being ‘undone’.

Both a collage and a journey, Make me yours is a finely balanced project of scholarly work, insight and intellectual playfulness.  Like its central subject, it perhaps refuses to be fully ‘known’ and thus, is not only a work about art and seduction, but a seductive work of art.

Drawing upon a wide range of contemporary art and artists, psychoanalytical theory, literary texts and personal encounters, Laura Gonzalez has fashioned a book which seem to summon its central focus rather than put its faith solely in theoretical interpretations. What becomes clear is that this is a work about, and of, practice. The relationships between art and seduction are worked and revealed as processes which are always active, even in the text itself.

This work will be of genuine interest to artists, designers, image makers of any sort, artistic researchers, therapists, lovers, and those of us who seduce and are seduced in the transactions of art.

Steve Dutton
Professor in Contemporary Art Practice
The School of Fine and Performing Arts
College of Arts
The University of Lincoln
http://projectspaceplus.org
http://www.steve-dutton.co.uk

Through a series of case study analyses, Gonzalez elucidates the point that the traditional understanding of seduction as a relationship between seducer and victim is overly simplistic, thus proposing a new reading of the nature of seduction as a more complex set of behaviours. Her prose flows from discussion of fantasy and desire to commodity and fetishisation, alternating between the surgical eye of the psychoanalyst and the urgency of a detective novel.

However, it is perhaps the array of examples Gonzalez uses to illustrate her hypothesis that forms the greatest strength of this volume. Drawing on works of literature, visual art, philosophical debates and popular culture events, the reader is presented with an array of forms of seduction and invited to question the nature of the term itself. Gonzalez thus moves beyond the limits of the central premise – ‘art’ – to look at the arts more broadly. In doing so, she continually turns the nature of seduction in on its head. Of particular note is chapter five, where she explores a number of examples of seduction ‘going wrong,’ revising the notion of artistic appropriation through the lens of seductive behaviour.

Throughout this text, Gonzalez’s approach to the material is unique, a consequence no doubt of her dual nature as artist and writer. She presents a nuanced yet accessible analysis of a deeply complex subject, one that will appeal to a wide audience of readers. Undergraduate and postgraduate students in the humanities would greatly benefit from her re-evaluation of seductive works of literature and art, but this volume will be of equal interest to a broader readership who might question why and how we allow ourselves to be seduced. As the writer observes, this book seeks to engage with an audience of hysterics and neurotics, and accordingly, we ought to allow ourselves to be seduced by Gonzalez herself.

Dr Lucy Weir, History of Art, University of Edinburgh

In Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces, Laura González leads the reader on an intellectually complex, multivalent journey, navigating the controversial terrain of seduction. González’s transdisciplinary arts practice and philosophical engagements are evident throughout the text, prominently featuring her interest in the works of Calle, Duchamp, Freud, Lacan, and Marx. Throughout the text, González is at once an observer of the seduction, a seducer, and the victim, taking on each role through a continuously shifting personal conversation with the reader, moving subtly between and among perspectives suited to the changing emphases of her narrative.

The book explores seduction through multiple lenses and approaches in which the author traverses a razor’s edge between seemingly polar opposites, revealing seduction as a dynamic, ambiguous interplay between resistance and desire. González melds her skilled exegesis of relevant texts with self-reflexive narrative, utilizing her own photographs and richly descriptive, insightful examination of seduction in literary works and examples of visual art. In addition, she provides forensic examination of all these sources by way of a third-person narrative featuring an imagined courtroom hearing where a detective provides testimony in defense of research into the seductive nature of works of art.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of González’s argument is the agency she attributes to the work of art itself – accusing the work of seduction, rather than the artist who created it. Building on Baudrillard’s premise that “only the subject desires, only the object seduces” she re-casts the art object from its more typically agnostic role to that of seducer, actively stimulating desire in the viewer. She further re-frames longstanding perceptions of seduction as an illicit, immoral, unethical, or even criminal behavior to possessing the potential for positive transformation through its inherent, and inevitable, reversibility. The subject/object and seducer/seduce relationship remains fluid, appearing as a dance of desire and attainment. The work of art leads in this dance, enacting the seduction by persuading the viewer to act – to look, to question, to wonder, to gaze, to touch, to read, to contemplate. The viewer may resist the seduction at first, but after choosing to capitulate to the work’s demands, the seduction is concluded.

Transformative engagement with a seductive work of art occurs when desire is not satisfied through a purchase. When the person seduced by the work of art refrains from owning it, the dynamics of seduction remain in motion. I found this last premise to be particularly apt. As seduction is not universal, the works González features in her narrative do not necessarily appeal to me personally, but they bring to mind seductive encounters I’ve experienced with other works of art. In these instances, I seldom desired to purchase the item (often because to do so would have been impossibly, exorbitantly expensive) but merely wished to stand before the work, transfixed by its aesthetic qualities, marveling at the still of the artist, and captured by the ideas flowing between myself, the work, and the artist. In those moments, acquisition and possession remained the furthest thing from my mind: all I desired was to remain engaged with the work of art. Because I live far from the places where these seductive objects reside – MOMA, the Louvre, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others – my desire remains an active force, perpetuating the pleasurable seduction. This relationship positively compels me to create my own works of art, to study art, to write about art, and ultimately, to revisit these works, if only in my imagination.

González’s Make Me Yours casts the triune relationship between artist, artwork, and audience in a new light, raising questions about the agency of the work of art, the nature of seduction, and its role in the dynamics of the artworld. Further, she resists simplistic explanations, eschewing the conventions of third-person objective monodisciplinary scholarly writing. González successfully marries personal narrative, creative fiction, expository prose, and scholarly analysis in order to craft a book that presents the reader with a compellingly seductive proposition to join her in contemplating the nature of desire and the seductive power in works of art.

As a strong supporter of research in the arts, I applaud this this book as a sterling example of the remarkable heights that artist-scholars can achieve when they fully engage in deep and meaningful research intertwined with their artistic practice. In short, I highly recommend this book.

Bruce M. Mackh, PhD
Director, Arts and Cultural Management
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI, USA

Laura Gonzalez’s Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces is a tour-de-force intervention into art, seduction and psychoanalytic encounters. Through its playful, provocative and original arguments, the author reveals an expanded notion of practice that encompasses art making, viewing and writing.  There is an infectious performative style at work here in which the reader finds herself re-considering, for example, the photograph and the psychoanalytical. Gonzalez is persuasive in how she consistently asks the reader to attend, revisit, and rethink the latter.  Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces offers compelling analysis of artworks and visual culture revealing how – even at this stage in the 21st Century – Psychoanalysis continues to be a useful tool for articulating the power of an encounter with art, as well as teasing out the troublesome questions of gender, among other things. Last but not least Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces demonstrates how useful it can be to be ‘petite’ in the struggle to see an artwork… 

Dr Nicky Bird
Artist
The Glasgow School of Art

Seduction is a heady business. We all know about seduction: both as seducers and the seduced. As Laura Gonzalez recounts in her recent book Make Me Yours to seduce is to be first seduced—even if only by the very idea of seduction. Each seduction is an offering: will it make us whole; fulfill a need; slake
some unnamed/unknowable thirst?

As with the shoes in a New York shop window that ambushed Gonzalez seduction ignites desire. But what is this desire, how does it manifest itself in artwork work when intentionally deployed? How and why do we artists make art if not to seduce by proxy?

Seduction and art: what a trail for a detective to sniff about! From Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert making us his at first unwitting and later willing accomplice or Duchamp’s teasing notes made to accompany the Large Glass to de Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the seduction by art (and the artist) is a tantalizing
topic.

From her cover and into her text Gonzalez—by turns teasing, tantalising and telling—seduces me with her book: a seduction, which unravels the mechanics of seduction itself as a working method. Or is it a case of if you seek Buddha you lose Buddha?

Like detective fiction, this is a whodunnit.

Andrew Cooks PhD
Artist
Academic Coordinator and Faculty
Transart Institute Berlin New York
Adjunct Faculty (Humanities)
School of Visual Arts New York

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.