A paper I wrote with the wonderful Christopher Danowski has been published in issue 0 of ELSE, an international art, literature, theory and creative media journal. The image on the cover is also a hybrid, like the writing: Chris’ head and my décolletage. Thank god there is a fair amount of Lacan in our paper to analyse that. Have a look at this smart publication here (free but needing registration) and consider submitting. The deadline for the issue on contemplation is 1 January 2015.
Reading dates: 5 September – 24 October 2014
When Gilman-Opalsky kept referring to a book by Julia Kristeva I never heard of, I made my mind up to chose this when my turn came in our Dialectical Materialism book group. This is a book of interviews and, I am going to be honest, it was not my most inspiring choice for our discussion. I cannot understand why it is Gilman-Opalsky’s main reference. The book is repetitive and depends very much on the interviewer and his questions. Kristeva is good, and she has some very interesting insights into psychoanalysis, art and May 68 but in a format like this it is difficult to make an argument consistently. I chose a question and answer form for the last chapter of my PhD and I think it worked to deepen the understanding of what I had been raising in previous chapters but, then again, I was writing both the questions and answers, creating characters that fit the argument itself. Of all the interviewers, I got the sense that the first – Philippe Petit – did not like her at all, so was out to get her (note this is MY sense), the second – Rainer Ganahl – was the best but his text was too short and the third –Rubén Gallo – was far too wordy; Kristeva lost heart with her answers. I felt for her, as our discussion also lost heart. But how do you chose a book for a book group? Do you chose something you have already read and you know is good, or do you risk and grab something you are curious about (which is what I did). This time, my risk did not pay off despite the fact that I had trusted Gilman-Opalsky (and liked his book), but that does not mean I did not enjoy the discussion.
Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures by Mark Fisher *** — 21 Sep 2014
Reading dates: 08 June – 21 September 2014
I read this during a very special summer in my life. A close, loved and much admired person died young and unexpectedly, taken away by a devastating cancer in 3 months. Meanwhile, my country, the one I live in, was gearing to the most important decision in many years, perhaps ever: whether to break the United Kingdom and become independent, or (as it turned out on 18 September) not.
On the 10th June and following my invitation, Mark Fisher came to speak to the Glasgow School of Art where I work. I wanted to read his last book when I met him. This is a book on possible, lost futures, those that could have been and, at the same time, are and are not; a book on ghosts; a book on ontology. How apt for my summer. The book is divided into three sections for, broadly, the 70s, sounds and places. While I devoured 1 and 3, the second section was beyond me. Mark is an accomplished writer but I found it very hard to read on dubstep and house music, on artists I never heard of (literally). I did find them on youtube, and listened to get a sense, but that did not help my impasse. My advance through section 2 was very slow. I did adore his essays on Patrick Keiller, John le Carré, W. G. Sebald, David Peace and Christopher Nolan, despite his choices being the usual boys (boys I like, but still, always the same). He reveals insights, is well read, writes with care and precision and weaves philosophical, psychoanalytic and cultural thoughts to create a very good collection of essays, if you share with him his object of study. If not, the writing is still good, but the ideas are too abstract. Perhaps this is one of those books where some of the chapters would work better in the original form, as blog posts: linking feels an essential part of the process of reading, as Masha Tupitsyn did in her book Love Dog.
Reading dates: 23 April – 17 May 2014
I very much enjoyed reading Roudinesco’s appraisal of Lacan’s legacy, thirty years after his death. Only a psychoanalysis historian like her, author of Lacan’s biography, could take such a challenge in 224 pages. She gives an admirable account of Lacan’s ideas in short chapters, focusing on the family, womanhood and sexuality, Antigone, and his love of objects, for example. She mixes his life, his reception and his thought with his context thirty years ago and what it means now. She does this in a clear and accessible way. Yet, this book is not for the faint hearted. It is, I think, for the well-read Lacanian scholar. This is what made me enjoy it. I understood the familiar Lacanian turn of phrase, the inferences, in short, what Dany Nobus calls Lacanese. Without this, the book would be hard work, I think, quirky perhaps, but also impenetrable. For the Lacanians among us, it is provocative but measured, critical in a soft way and a good overview in a few pages. It reads like a review of his oeuvre and, as such, made me want to go back to the master (and subvert him), to re-read Encore, Seminar VII, and Kant avec Sade.
Wimbledon blog posted a lovely review of our performance last week: http://blogs.arts.ac.uk/wimbledon/2014/03/25/acts-re-acts-week-three/
I want to thank everyone at Wimbledon (Clare Mitten, Peter Farley, Anna, Richard and Mette) for making the day go smoothly, bearing with us and our pernickety approach to lighting and being so attentive to our outpour of words. Your generous feedback will make us revisit this text again, fold it for the fourth time and show it to you.
[…] This was followed by a performance lecture ‘Reading Hysteria, Between Laughter and Crying’ by Eleanor Bowen & Laura Gonzalez, incorporating performed text and projections. The work explored the condition of “hysteria” both historically and in relation to the image and performativity, reading and writing. The performance culminated in Bowen and Gonzalez re-enacting Ulay and Abramovich’s AAA AAA (1978) to a screening of Sam Taylor Wood’s film Hysteria (1997). […]
Eleanor and I will be presenting our performance lecture ‘Reading Hysteria Between Laughter and Crying’ at Acts Re-Acts on Wednesday 19 March at 3pm. We will be sharing our time with the fascinating Mette Sterre, showing STRUCTUREALIST (2pm) and the wonderful and elegant Richard Layzell (of Glory fame) who will be presenting SWITCH (4pm).
READING HYSTERIA, BETWEEN LAUGHTER AND CRYING (30 Minutes)
Bowen & Gonzalez present a collaborative performed text, accompanied by projected images and film. The piece explores the relationship between writing and reading, and the role of the image and performativity in relation to the condition known as hysteria.
Madness, Women and the Power of Art [Paperback]
Frances Davies (Author, Editor), Laura González (Author, Editor)
If madness has a female voice, what art can represent it? Why do women so often find themselves lying on the couch as patients? Does creativity and cultural production have a special relation to madness? This collection of essays from an international cluster of sociologists, social and mental health workers, artists and literary critics offers wide-ranging answers to these pertinent questions. From the madwoman in the attic to the position of women in outlaw motorcycle gangs, the essays address such topics as the role of perversion in Italian literature, a Marxist critique of the psychiatric system, multiple personality order, and the link between creativity and self-harm. Some accounts come from direct observation, or suffering itself; others from reading and looking. In its attempt to represent madness, the convulsive ripples of thought dissect, contradict, perform and, at times, grieve. This book is an enthralling journey into the depths of madness.
Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: Inter-Disciplinary Press; First edition (1 Dec 2013)
Frances Davies is a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Practitioner in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. Originally a social worker in South Africa, she came to the UK to further her studies. Her work on this book began with her MSc studies in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the University of Northampton. Laura González is an artist and writer. When she is not following Freud, Lacan and Marx s footsteps with her camera, she lectures postgraduate students at the Glasgow School of Art and Transart Institute. Her current research explores knowledge and the body of the hysteric through text, dance, performance and video.
Reading dates: 1 — 10 November 2013
Bruce Fink is my absolutely favourite Lacanian writer. His texts have not only helped me understand Lacan, but find enjoyment in Lacan’s language, which is not at all easy. He is also the translator of Lacan’s Ecrits and Seminar XX. He has gone through the pain to allow us to read these wonderful texts. In 2010, as I was submitting my PhD, he published the first adventures of Inspector Canal. I am an avid detective story reader, as anyone perusing these reviews will no doubt notice, so my favourite analyst publishing a collection of three Lacanian detective stories had the momentousness of a clear eclipse. There was a cosmic alignment about it and despite some reservations, I gave it 4 stars. This was mainly due to the first story, The Case of the Lost Object, which explained desire so well. When Death by Analysis: Another Adventure From Inspector Canal’s New York Agency was published, I left everything I was reading to enjoy it.
Despite what it is trying to achieve, which I acknowledge is complex and difficult, the novella is not very good. The case is trite, unsophisticated and circles around an issue that is not perhaps of interest to most readers: the internal wars in psychoanalytic institutes. The book offers some insights on the workings of neurotics and psychotics and I think this is where its strength lies. Sadly, though, is is glossed over, gone through it too quickly, unexplained and unexplored. A shame. Canal is annoying; his Scarlet Pimpernel ability to dress up quite unbelievable. The rest of the characters have impossible, silly names which are just there for the purposes of a little not-so-free association. I loved the French introjections and word plays, but, then, I speak French and I felt the joke was lovingly personal. I also learned many new words (vulpine, mondegreen) but I do that with most books anyway. It read like a draft, a draft of something that might have become a very interesting novel, but we only got a draft of it. It does not have the wonderful circularity and analytic insight of the Lost Object, and that is precisely what it is missing. I will very possibly read any further adventures of Canal, but that is more my own need for completion and my commitment to the genre, not to the slightly jejune Quesjac Canal, even if …
psychoanalysis is the fine art of responding to questions without answering them. p. 143