Laura Gonzalez

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Half Knowledge/Half… — 6 Apr 2010

An exhibition of work by researchers.
Grace and Clark Fyfe Gallery, Scott Street, Glasgow
16-28 April 2010

You are cordially invited to the Private View of the show, which will take place on Friday 16th April, at 6pm.

HKH

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Managing Creativity: Exploring the Paradox — 19 Aug 2009

We are in the last throws of preparing the texts for the forthcoming ‘Managing Creativity: Exploring the Paradox’, a book edited by Barbara Townley and Nic Beech, published by Cambridge University Press. I contributed a chapter on my favourite lemon squeezer. After writing a code of practice for work, various course reports, three chapters of my PhD thesis and a number of articles for a Spanish tendencies webzine, tackling a specialist, yet broad audience was a breath of fresh air.

I liked participating in something that is beyond my PhD, something that the degree will hopefully enable me to do more of, and more often. I like writing. I like writing books, even. I will go as far as to say that I like the publishing process despite editors, going over words time and time again and working with writing done over two years ago. Publishing is not for the faint hearted, or the impatient. Neither is writing, I am finding out. I am going to contradict myself: I hate writing, but I like to have written and seeing the cover of the book, with the title of my chapter and my name next to it (its accent in the right place) brought me that proud feeling, that well-being.

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All the more because, as I mention in my chapter, I am coming into this as an outsider. I am a fine artist, writing about a design piece for a book on management. Of course I wasn’t sure about it but I followed my friend Glyn’s advice: when you are starting, never say no. To anything. I was lucky that the team that edited the book have been very supportive and have done an excellent job. They were very kind to strangers. And from that position, one I know very well (because I constantly seek it), I have been able to produce something I am quite happy with, as it gives an outlet to a bit of research that, sadly, did not have any place in the 40,000 words of my PhD. Still, readers will find my usual obsessive self in my words; there is also seduction, psychoanalysis and admiration of a creative piece of design that I am very happy to own.

With thanks to Charlotte who bought Juicy Salif for me when I left my last job and told me about her shopping experience, which partly inspired the chapter.

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A truth about seduction and my task — 27 Mar 2009

It’s exactly like Father Brown said:

It’s just because I have picked up a little about mystics that I have no use for mystagogues. Real mystics don’t hide mysteries, they reveal them. They set a thing up in broad daylight, and when you’ve seen it it’s still a mystery. But the mystagogues hide a thing in darkness and secrecy, and when you find it, it’s a platitude.

From The Arrow of Heaven, in The Incredulity of Father Brown

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Nikon or Canon — 15 Mar 2009

The first realisation I had during my PhD was the fact that what I was looking for, the objects of seduction I longed for, were already out there. I did not need to spend unfruitful hours trying to re-create, imitate what industrialization, and capitalism had already achieved. To compete, in terms of seduction, what I had to devise was a way to capture the relationship, to apprehend what was going on, to replicate it in order to study it in depth. Photography was my discovery. Four years later, photos are the works of art that titillate me most in an art gallery, as you may have noticed from the way I write on this blog. Photography makes me look twice at things, whether I am in front of a printed image, of behind the viewfinder. Even more if the two conflate and I show what I saw behind the viewfinder. Soon, my image — not the one I have taken, but, rather, me as a model — will take hold of a gallery, and I am looking forward to a new way of seeing myself.

I have been particularly taken by fashion photography, by its glossiness and its fearlessness, by the new language it has created and how it has seeped into the close-knit, inbred fine art world. I found it a breadth of fresh air, especially this show, which I saw on my last visit to New York. I even feel I finally understand Terry Richardson and the Vice Magazine culture! But Fine Art Photography has also had things to say outside of the fashion discourse. I might have been less observant (as fashion photography is all about seduction, and so grabbed me) but interesting things such as this have been going on around me. And then, there are the blogs: from Sartorialist to Belen Cerezo and Neil Scott’s FOTO, I always find inspiration in those pages.

Then, onto the title of the post. I want to commit to photography. It is embarrassing to think that everything I have done has been with a point-and-shoot or a borrowed medium-format camera. I know, I know, the camera is not important, it is what you do with it, but I feel ready to take the plunge into DSLR-world now that my least favourite time in the year is approaching and I may have some disposable cash (she says, wishfully). The problem is, of course, which one. The information out there is dizzying, and everyone has a favorite and an opinion. I am fed up with it, so I want to make this short and sweet. The shortlist is between Canons and Nikons, semi-professional range, moderately light so I don’t get lazy about taking it out with me. Remember I always carry books for comfort… What do you reckon? Do you have camera experiences you want to share with me?

And finally, not to forget what all this is about, I leave you with some images, which are what matters, really (even though none were, I think taken with the cameras mentioned above).

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Dan Graham – Slide

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Santu Mofokeng, Dove Lady #2, Diepkloof Zone 3, Soweto, (2002) Black & white photograph on Baryth paper, 70 x 100 cm

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Terry Richardson, Skateboard P

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Keller & Wittwer, I knew some of you better than others, but I miss you all (self-portraits)#2, 2007, b/w Fine Art Prints, edition 6 + 1 ap, 57 x 43 cm

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Steven Klein, Untitled, 2008

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Juergen Teller

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Michael Thompson, Ruffled Neck, New York City, 2007

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Perversion within seduction — 22 Feb 2009

The talk at MFIT went very well. I realised afterwards that this is the very first time I have talked about seduction without any of the padding that you usually have to put together for conferences, in order to fit into the overall theme. I confronted seduction in a public way for the first time, and it was fantastic. I was motivated, enlivened by the subject and its curious manifestations, by its contradictions, by the philosophies that try to study it. I hope it was interesting to the audience; it certainly was great Viva preparation for me. Colleen’s questions were excellent, direct, the sort of thing that relates seduction to real life and they reminded me of that book I would like to write and publish after the PhD. The public also had interesting things to say: the issue of a subjective approach in research came about, and so did the relational elements of the seducer-seducee dyad. I expected them (as I had asked the same questions) but I never heard myself answering them.

Part of the success, though, comes from the fact that the exhibition I was talking about was consistently good, more Manolo than Boucher, diverse, playful and very very seductive. I nearly fell on my back when I saw the encased Louboutin-Rodarte platforms. I had a picture of them for my presentation and Tamsen took an amazing shot of the talk with the image commanding authority over my head. As it should be.

After that, I have been very busy here in NYC. I have done portfolio advice, organised an alumni get together and done a couple of institutional visits on behalf of the School I work for. Still, I have managed to see the Whitney, Paul Graham’s show at the MoMA, the new museum of contemporary art, and the International Centre of Photography. The photographic bias of my choices is due to the fact that I am also here to take some photos whenever possible. Out of these Paul Graham was distinctly wonderful. His display was a breadth of fresh air. He seemed to be saying “Look! Look! Look again!” I engaged with the photos, I understood, I got inspired by his images and their presentation, their richness of colour. Green looked green, and so did the other elements of the visual spectrum. The content was not groundbreaking, but then, it was, because it seemed I had never seen it before. At least, not seen it enough. It reconciled me with photography. I don’t call myself a photographer but in that gallery, I saw what I wanted to do and how I wanted to display it. I really enjoyed it, although the fact that a nice security guy got me a free ticket, since I was only going to see one room, may have somewhat contributed to my joy.

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New York is full of nice people. My New Museum experience proved that the MoMA guy was not unique. The gallery opens at 12. I was baffled when I found out, and also how I found out. I managed to slip into the administrative offices, all on my own, the little spy that I am. It was freezing outside so I dismayed when the security guy told me (completely calm at finding me there), the museum would open in one hour. His mention of a nice coffee shop down the road sounded much better. I managed to read a fair bit of my Serge Tisseron book, something I hadn’t manage all week, and eat excellent cake. When I finally made it to the museum, I understood why it opened so late. The four floors of display contained only 4 pieces!! I found it wonderful, again a matter of engagement. I seemed to be in the minority, though, as some people found the ticket’s value for money a bit of a cheat. This is the first time I have managed to see video work in its entirety, staying for more than one viewing at times. I even had time to live and breathe in the Jeremy Deller piece It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq. I have to say that this changed my opinion of his work and of relational art in general. I found it cutting edge, contemporary, contingent; for once, competent practice rather than just Bourriaud’s theories and a bunch of cool names. I suppose it is like performances: you have to be present, you have to give time. Time, oh time, we don’t realise how important it is when it comes to art…

All and all, the efforts to revitalise and give my work some time (time, again!) and thought have paid off: I have been to Macy’s and Bloomingdales, up and down Fifth avenue (where I was so inspired by a Valentino shop window), and the boutiques of the Meatpaking district. Let’s see if, for the last couple of days of my stay, I can be as energetic with finishing this methodology chapter that is driving me up the wall…

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And next week… — 13 Feb 2009

I’ll be here doing a talk as part of the Seduction exhibition at the Museum at FIT.

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Do pop in to say Hi if you are in the New York area.

It’s fashion week and I want to take photos of shop windows, people wearing amazing clothes, all done up, dressed up, acting out. Just what it says in the abstract. I want to see it; I want to photograph it. Any tips on where to go? Any 19th Century arcades, amazing shopping malls, secretly fashionable streets or bars? Let me know!

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Burlesque name appeal — 25 Jan 2009

In order to do more than just talking the talk, I joined a Burlesque class. If you have participated in such activities before, you will know that one of the first tasks of the Burlesque student is to come up with a name. Our teacher (Viva Misadventure) does not want to know our birth names at all, only our stage names, so there’s a bit of pressure in the decision, as I don’t want to be known as “the-little-one-in-red-who-should-bend-her-knees-more”. I can’t title my chapters for the life of me and have a terrible experience of being haunted by a horrible Capoeira name. So this is a chance to put things right for me.

I have been using Femme Letale for around 10 years but I feel bad because it is stolen from Almodovar’s High Heels and now that I am going public, it just won’t do. My dream name is Agent Provocateur but, given it is a high end lingerie shop, you understand the copyright issues.

Tim and Neil helped me last week: they came up with Spanish Fly and Catty Devine (in honour of my favourite jewellery designers). They are good, but not yet it. I have …de Vivre, …Rouge/Noir, Désir… as beginnings and ends but not much makes sense on the whole.

So, in the Spirit of reality TV and user generated content, I invite suggestions. Think of it as a phone in. Here are the parametres:

1. French (I like —eur and —que endings, especially)
2. Mysterious (as in detective novels or spies)
3. Seductive/desirous*

* extra points for psychoanalytic references

Any ideas?

I will send the winner a picture of me taking my gloves off. And I mean my gloves, because I don’t yet know any more moves.

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Engagement — 15 Jan 2009

The other day, someone accused me of lack of engagement. This was mainly directed at my online life but also had a bearing in what I do in real life. Lack of engagement is not a good thing when you are trying to study seduction, which needs mindfulness. I was engaged when I took my photographs, I was there 100% and remember every action, every thought related to my fall for the object.

I am writing chapter 2 of my thesis. I have finished the first draft of chapter 1, written bits of chapters 3 and 4 and have chapter 5 in my head, in embryonic form. All this makes me withdraw into myself, even more since what I am trying to tease out with words is something I call self-reflective methodology (don’t ask just yet). It is very much like looking at myself in the mirror, playing a film of certain actions in my head. I have become a character in my own narrative, I have doppelganger but I control the strings. No wonder I am not engaged. It is her that does all the engagement. She has super-powers, much like a second life character and to play her is draining. I have to withdraw, to hide, wearing my camouflage cloak, to look and listen, to predict and to let go. I have to become invisible, transparent, which, of course, does not mean passive. This invisibility, with its champagne bottle effect (it will explode, don’t worry, just not yet) has consequences for my writing here. At the moment, I can only see things within the grand 5 chapter structure I have created. If it doesn’t fit, I find myself at pains to make sense of it. Is this a normal consequence of writing a PhD? Is this what creating new knowledge does to you? I don’t dislike it. I love my topic, but I wonder what would have happened to the world when/if I come out of my stupor. You know what it is like to come from a holiday abroad and look at the news, how little sense they make. This is the extent of my so-perceived lack of engagement. And if in the 18 months I have left of writing we meet, please excuse me looking at your jewellery, your shoes, your accessories, forgive me for perking up when you talk about a moving work of art or even literature or film, make allowances if I seem to wake up at the mention of Freud. That is the language I understand.

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Francesca Woodman. Self-portrait

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On letters — 4 Jan 2009

When I first read, many years ago, Titian, nymph and shepherd by John Berger, I discovered the strange power communicating by letters can have. I find there is something mesmerising about them. Not only in their physicality, which of course counts (the things themselves, the handwriting of the loved one, the journey through the postal system…) but the voice. Blogs are usually written for a multiple audience, but one not intimately known; emails are, well, work-like; micro-blogging (facebook status, twitter) can be poetic but does not carry the soul. Letters, on the other hand, are from me to you. Choderlos de Laclos could not have written the intrigues of Les liaisons dangereuses if not using an epistolary style. P.G. Wodehouse thought there was such power to letters that he did an experiment where he threw stamped addressed letters out of his London window, certain that people would post them (a practical and literal demonstration of Lacan’s maxim ‘A letter always arrives at its destination’) . Then there is Lacan, again, and what is at stake in Poe’s The Purloined Letter.

Titian, nymph and shepherd is even more dear to me because it also contains a letter to me, one written in its second and third pages (it is a long letter) by my brother. I keep all the personal letters I have received (not the cards, letters are usually not cards. I have even written conference papers in the form of letters, plan to write my PhD conclusion as a letter to my examiners and asked students to write them, to anyone, to everyone, to their perplexity… I think about letters almost constantly but this little reflexion on how much they mean to me started after reading Belen’s story. She had been teasing us on the forum, saying she had a story to tell about letter and, when she told it, it was as wonderful as an astonishing sunset. You know what I mean, a mini sublime. Belen and I used to share a studio when we studied for our Bachelor’s degree in Spain. We shared thoughts, meals, books. We expanded to the small community that El Guindo has become today. We shared a baffling but charming sculpture teacher who showed us to love Lacan and, above all John Berger. We couldn’t get enough. At lunch, we would sit under our cherry tree (el guindo), eating soup and croquettes while we read our favourite And our faces, my heart, brief as photos. We would buy his novels to our boyfriends and let them into our private circle only if they passed the initiation rite of having read them AND loved them. Well, Belen was going through a rough patch a couple of years ago. She was in Madrid, where Berger was exhibiting (he takes photographs, like many of us) and something within her made her write him a letter telling him the lot. After that, she thought nothing more of it. Maybe it did not even get to him. Then, earlier this week, she revealed in El Guindo that he had replied to her with a short, handwritten message, the end of the note bidding her farewell in Spanish, her mother tongue. HE HAD REPLIED. The dream of every letter writer is to get a reply. Belen’s story made me think that, a letter is only second to a kiss.

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Seduction at FIT Museum — 18 Dec 2008

On the 9th December the Museum at FIT, in New York, opened an exhibition dedicated to Seduction in Fashion. I have followed the exhibitions at the museum for a while now and earlier this year, when I realised they were hosting a show on Christian Louboutin and desire, the distance separating me from those glorious objects almost became too much. With this new show, though, enough would have been enough and I would have had to find a way of going to New York City, despite the fact that I have another visit planned for the East coast later on in the year. I say would have, because I am now definitely going to see Seduction. Moreover, I have been invited to speak about it in conversation with the curator, Colleen Hill. An honour, a delight. This will take place on the 18th February 2009. If you happen to be around, and want to hear something around perversion, the pleasure of dressing up and scopophilia, do come along.

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Edit: see comment below: John Rawlings, Anna-Lee Daniels modeling for Vogue photoshoot, 15 October 1947, gift of the Estate of John Rawlings (from FIT Museum Facebook site).

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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.