Laura Gonzalez

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The visual — 26 Mar 2013

Images… I need images … I am drowning in text!

Portrait-Photo-Hysteria1

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Pick me up — 21 Mar 2013

Entering the last 10 days of editing the book, I need a pick me up … Bruce was right, this might kill me.

Prince “Dance 4 Me” by Purple Music

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Mass hysteria — 21 Feb 2013

Mania, frenzy, hysteria … Grades on a scale, or different things altogether?

Beatlemania was a term used during the 1960s to describe the intense fan frenzy particularly demonstrated by young teen girls directed toward The Beatles during the early years of their success. The word is a portmanteau of “Beatles” and “mania”. Andi Lothian, a former Scottish music promoter, claims that he coined the term while speaking to a reporter at the Caird Hall Beatles concert that took place as part of the Beatles Mini-Tour of Scotland, on 7th October 1963, and an early printed use of the word is in The Daily Mirror 2 November 1963 in a news story about the previous day’s Beatles concert in Cheltenham. Many fans across the world were known to have Beatlemania, which became common in the United States after The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. ‘Beatlemania’ was characterised by intense levels of hysteria demonstrated by fans both at the actual concerts played by the band and during the band’s arrivals and travels to and from locations.

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Closed for Christmas — 22 Dec 2012

I hope you all have the happiest of times this Christmas and New Year whatever you do. I am off to Spain for a while, and then back to Scotland to be the host of a modest, yet artistic, New Year’s party before joining the Ruth Mills Winter Intensive straight after the festivities. As she writes: ‘start as you mean to continue’ and that is what I wish for you all too. I will try to live up to holiday hysteria, finish writing this chapter of mine and dance maniacally whenever I can surrounded by inspiring people, which is how I mean to continue my year. See you in 2013, if not before.

001_BG_HOLIDAY2012

Image: Bergdorf Goodman’s ‘BG Follies of 2012’, Act I.

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Berggasse 19 — 15 Nov 2012

Berggasse, 19

Papa Freud’s hat and cane

Visitenkarte

Ueber Cocain

Traumdeutung

Custom chair design for strange reading postures

The famous mirror

Consulting room and study

Hysteria above couch

Papa’s handwriting

Condensation and displacement in the dream-work, by Joseph Kosuth

Freud est mort

L’esprit d’escalier

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Readings on hysteria — 19 Oct 2012

So E and I are writing our conference paper as a chapter for a book provisionally entitled ‘Madness, Women and the Power of Art’, which will be published sometime in 2013. Apart from writing a chapter, I will be editing the book with Frances Davies. One of our authors wrote to wish us luck, explaining that his experience of editing almost killed him … I guess this is my apology in case my posts get educed to quotes and pictures again …

As a resource, I wanted to share here my provisional bibliography of hysteria in case anyone wants to delve into the topic. Working through it is phenomenally interesting, as it shows how the topic is controversial, still. Will add to the list, report on specific passages and the experience of editing, and in due course, inform you whether I have survived the task.

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A conference delegate’s guide to Oxford — 5 Oct 2012

So, writing with E worked, and performing with her at the Madness conference did so even better. You cannot see or hear us from where you are, but you can access our text. Soon, it will appear in the conference ebook publication. Also soon, we will be expanding on this work for a hard copy book on madness, women and the power of art.

Now you see why I have not been here as often as I wanted to. There are other reasons too, all marvellous and which will become clear in the next few weeks. But this entry is about the magical time we had in Oxford.


View from my Mansfield College room


Merton College Library

I do love Glasgow, more than I have loved any other city I have lived in, in the UK. But Oxford comes second (yes, before London, Sheffield, and Manchester). It’s the bikes, the quadrangles, the satchels and the elbow patches. All perfectly preserved. E took me on a night tour of Merton College, where we blagged out way with the security people to have a wander around what looked like Brideshead Revisited’s set. Before that, we had checked in our Mansfield College rooms – basic but on campus – attended the first sessions of the conference – brains already working, making connections – and met some lovely people at the wine reception. I found a likeminded Canadian lady who, like me, brought and shared nuts everywhere; I met a friend from the Sensuous Object workshop. If that was not enough for a wonderful weekend, the day after the conference got even better: depression, self harm, autism, multiple personality … Madness is my thing, that’s clear. We also discovered that, round the corner at the Oxford Playhouse, there was a play called ‘Hysteria’ being shown. We passed word around a few of the delegates decided to do homework prior to our paper and see the show. Beforehand, we went for dinner at Byron and ate the best burger I have ever had. Afterwards, I went for a drink to a quaint little pub and had wonderful conversations about Papa Freud. What are the odds of everything being so perfect? Even the play – featuring Freud and Dalí – was good.

Our paper was well received and we were placed in very appropriate panels (that doesn’t always happen, I have to say) where the connections were easy to make and the discussions fruitful. I chaired a session in the afternoon. The sun came out. It had been freezing till then so, for a change, the conference leader suggested we go outside to the lawn.

E and I have a common student living in Oxford. We arranged to see her at the end of the conference. Sadly, we had to turn down invitations for dinner with delegates – shame as everyone was so interesting – but it was worth it, for H and her husband W were the perfect hosts: kind, proud of where they live and very generous. We met at the Randolph Hotel, significant in relation to Inspector Morse, went to have a drink somewhere where Tolkien and C S Lewis occasionally met (I think it was called the King’s Arms) and had dinner at Browns. I recommend every one of these places.

Not all conferences are like this one, not all weekends are so wonderful. Yet, the best part of it was to be able to spend time with my dear friend E, listen to her, work with her, and plan more time for each other. Watch this space: we have ideas to show hysterics are certainly not mad.

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Writing with — 11 Jun 2012

I have begun a collaborative writing practice with an artist whom I consider a dear friend. I am engaged in long term letter writing with two people who were unknown to me when we began the process but now are as much part of me as childhood friends. But writing with E— is different. It is different because we are going to make it public in September, as part of the Making sense of madness conference. Yet, writing with E— is also similar to writing with (and I mean with, not to) L— and P—. Perhaps it is the intimacy we have created and the sense that what we are doing is not work, but fun. I have dropped everything – things I should probably not have dropped – to write my 300 word responses to her part of the cadavre exquis we are creating. P— and L— and I (not the three together, but in individual duets) have discussed the timing of our responses. I also wanted to drop everything to respond to them, but somehow I felt that would be disrespectful of their letter, as if I had not read it with enough care. But E– and I have the excuse of a deadline.

I worked in this way in the past, with S—. What we did was misunderstood but, I am pleased to say, remembered. I met someone recently, who should have known me from a particular place and a few friends in common but who instead remembered me in the context of reading the work with S. He was very taken by it and I could feel the experience had made a mark on him. Of course, seeing two people engage in dialogue, rather than academic discourse for the sake of it, is a lot more compelling.

With E, I have no idea where the paper is going – as I am ignorant of where L— and I, and P— and I are headed with our words, in the same way as my sessions with Dr Sh– were clouded in terms of a clear plan for my talking. What S— and I produced was open, in the way a performative event is open, stimulating thought more than position, unfinished, or, simply, stopped. We let time, and its constraints and contingencies be part of the paper. We offered ourselves implicitly to the writing and the speaking, asking our words (our works) what they wanted from us. And precisely this is what E– and I are writing about.

I want to thank S–, L–, P–, Dr Sh– and E–, for without them, without the reflective surface of their thoughts, my fun, engagement and, ultimately, love would not have been possible.

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Egyptian medical papyrus — 25 Mar 2012

papyrus-2012-03-26-00-00.gif

I am off to Egypt for two weeks to rest, relax and think. I wonder what the country will have in store for me …

According to some historians, an Egyptian medical papyrus dating from around 1990 bc — one of the oldest surviving documents known to medical history — records a series of curious behavioural disturbances in adult women. As the ancient Egyptians interpreted it, the cause of these abnormalities was the movement of the uterus, which they believed to be an autonomous, free-floating organism that could move upward from its normal pelvic position. Such a dislocation, they reasoned, applied pressure on the diaphragm and gave rise to bizarre physical and mental symptoms. Egyptian doctors developed an array of medications to entice the errant womb back down into its correct position. Foremost among these measures were the vulvar placement of aromatic substances to draw the womb downward, and swallowing foul-tasting substances to repel the uterus away from the upper parts.

From ‘Oxford Companion to the Body: hysteria’

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A Dangerous Method — 26 Feb 2012

A Dangerous Method Poster

I want to start by writing that this is not exactly a film review of David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method but, rather, a collection of thoughts stemming from my viewings of the movie, my knowledge of the story it recounts – albeit from Freud’s perspective –, and my amateur interest in cinema. My thoughts are a little unconnected, piling up on my brain every time I hear the advert for the film, or watch the Film 4 programme on the its making, which seems to be aired every time I turn on the T.V. set.

Hysteria: Keira Knightly portrayed Sabina Spielrein better than I expected, but was what I saw on screen hysteria, or just a stroppy woman? The major symptoms of the film seemed to be difficulty articulating complex ideas, playing with food, difficulty sleeping, and not wanting to be handled by hospital staff. She was just being difficult, with a reason. The only truthful – and dare I say beautiful – symptom was her forced jaw, jutting forward and taking a life of its own. That’s what most hysteria is: being taken over by the body. And then there is the issue of the spanking. Apart from the fact that the film sides with me in my theory that hysteria and perversion are not that far in their manifestation and performative aspects, it does so without any explanation of one of the other, with a link that seems so natural when, structurally speaking they are in fact opposite. Tut, tut, tut.

Jung: Well, I was never going to like Jung, wasn’t I? Not even when played by Michael Fassbender. I admit his voice made me a little softer towards him, as I find his intonation warm, quivering, lovely. But the episode of the wood cracking and his premonitions – especially the last one about WWI – represent everything I dislike about his approach. Neil and I had a discussion about it. I understand Jung’s problem with the sexual aetiology of most psychological issues but the only alternative, the one Jung represents, is mysticism. Besides, the scene between Sabina and Jung, after the later visited Freud, explain is well. She says; ‘Of course, he would have been right in my case’. Jung responds that Freud would have been right in most cases, maybe even the majority. That is my experience too. Sexuality makes us more than religion and mysticism.

Freud’s voice: Viggo Mortensen’s beautiful cadence as Freud made the film for me. I found myself drifting in my second viewing, loving his ups and downs partly derived from his eternal cigar. I found most of the words in the film amusing, like I often find psychoanalytic speech, almost cult-like, obscure. I wonder how the rest of the audience managed. As Dany Nobus and Malcolm Quinn pointed out in their excellent book Knowing Nothing, Staying Stupid, the published field of psychoanalysis – in particular Lacanian, but also Freudian – is full of dictionaries that help the interested scholar to understand what is being said. Do have a look at the above link, if you want to know how to say ‘I am ill’, or ‘I want to go to the cinema’.

Dreams: Dream are terribly interesting to anyone studying psychoanalysis, of course they are. And the proper way to discuss them in therapy and the social setting is by recounting them, by sharing and analysing. But this is cinema! Did Cronenberg watch Buñuel, Hitchcock or Powell and Pressburger? The dreams Freud, Spielrein and Jung had were – or in the case of Freud, probably were, as he doesn’t say – rich with connections. Yet, the film made them boring. I feel a trick was missed by keeping the narrative linear, by not going into the thoughts of the characters and accessing only their words. Yes, I know the talking cure, as psychoanalysis is named, is about that, but a film is not therapy, nor it can pretend to be. I am not demanding to be entertained, either, but I think the medium could have given the story something medium-specific, rather than just an accurate (and rather boring) recording. More on this below.

Historical accuracy: The film is historically accurate and, quite understandably, cannot portray absolutely everything that went on between Jung and Freud between 1904 and 1913, the year of their break. Yet, I cannot help but think they have missed some important points – such as Freud’s hallucinations – and left some others just hanging, unexplained – Freud’s fainting at the editorial meeting, and his apprehension every time he boarded any mode of transport. In a way, I would say the film is too historically accurate, to the point of giving us a worded account of the fate of each character at the end of the film (I am sure this has a proper name in cinematography, but you know what I mean). Where is the Cronenberg of Crash, Dead Ringers and Scanners? And, more importantly, where is this dangerous method?

If you have read thus far, you will realise that – paraphrasing Nobus and Quinn, and following on in the tradition of speaking psychoanalese – my scopic drive did not find the objet petit a it was seeking in Cronenberg’s film.

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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.