Laura Gonzalez


Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power by Byung-Chul Han**** — 14 May 2018

Reading dates: 12–13 May 2018

Sometimes, in our Dialectical Materialist Book Group, we limit ourselves. The topic is always related to politics, we want to read full books (not just texts, although we let go sometimes), under 150 pages and contingent, relevant. How many good books are there that fit our criteria? Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power is perfect for us. It explores how we have left the disciplinarian society of biopolitics for a time of psychopolitics, where entrepreneurs of the self practise self-exploitation and self-surveillance. We are in the time of internal struggle, of mental health epidemics and this is evident to see. His argument — even though he draws on the same old Foucault and Deleuze in the same old way — is compelling, provocative and made us have an animated discussion. The issue, though, is that his solution, although interesting (to become an idiot, to be idiosyncratic), has not been feel tested and remains in the realm of the theoretical.

When communication is to be accelerated, idiosyncrasy poses an obstacle inasmuch as it amounts to an immunological defence against the Other. Idiosyncrasy stands in the way of unbounded communicative exchange. Accordingly, immunosuppression is necessary for acceleration to proceed.

I can think of many idiots out there who are not, most definitely not the solution to the new technologies of power (social media, the smart phone, Big Data) and the psychic turn of neoliberalism. He writes: ‘The idiot does not exist as a subject – he is “more like a flower: an existence simply open to light”‘. If only … Some idiots are not flowers, unless one thinks of a Venus Flytrap.

My favourite parts are his language digressions: in particular timeline versus event, immanence versus transcendence (what Capitalism aims to do), and emotion versus affect versus feeling. These last categories are all around us in speech, design, art, objecthood, but rather muddled:

Emotions are dynamic, situative and performative. Emotional capitalism exploits precisely these qualities. Feelings, in contrast, cannot be readily exploited inasmuch as they have no performativity. Finally, affects are not performative so much as eruptive; they lack performative directionality.

It made me think of the qualities of my own work, of what I put in it, on what sustains it.

The weirdest moment in the book, however, was this eerily accurate quote (replace jogging with yoga and see who it reminds you of):

From ages thirty-six to forty-five they are dynamic, get up early to go jogging, have no children but are married, like to travel, and watch Seinfeld.

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Projecting Desire: Sex, Psychoanalysis and Cinema — 3 Jun 2010

A very interesting course at Tate Modern. I would so love to have the resources to teach something like this:

Led by Lucy Scholes and Richard Martin
10.30-16.00 on 5 June only
10.30-13.00 all the other sessions

Combining film, literary and psychoanalytic theory, this six-week course explores the fascinating theoretical connections within the work of Sigmund Freud, Arthur Schnitzler and Stanley Kubrick. Honing in on Kubrick’s controversial last film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999) – adapted from Schnitzler’s novella Dream Story (1926), which in turn can be traced back to Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) – we will consider how successfully cinema has depicted the dynamics of desire, dreams and fantasy.

Classes will begin with a short introductory lecture on the main themes of the week, with class discussion – in small break-out groups and as a whole – forming the majority of each session. Eyes Wide Shut will be screened as part of an extended first session, and the course will also include a session led by the film’s executive producer, Jan Harlan, as well as visits to Tate Modern’s Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera exhibition and to the Stanley Kubrick Archive at the University of the Arts London. No prior knowledge is needed.

In order to make the most of this innovative, multi-disciplinary exploration of some of the twentieth century’s most fascinating ideas, participants will be expected to read Schnitzler’s Dream Story and sections of Freudian theory. Additional material and suggested reading will be handed out in class in advance of each session. The class will also be encouraged to consider the course’s written and visual material alongside the artworks in Tate Modern’s collection.

For a course outline, click here

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La seduccion de los objectos — 23 Dec 2005

La seduccion de los objetos / The seduction of objects
Farruggia, Nazario, Creciente
Publisher: Embajada de Canada
ISBN: 987-43-6600-1
Size: 17,5 X 26 cm.
Language: Spanish
Pages: 180

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Production Consumption — 10 Oct 2005

Reviewing and adapting some of Guy Julier’s thoughts in his book on the Culture of Design:

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The Secret of the Sexes — 25 Jul 2005

Yesterday’s BBC programme on attraction (part of the Secret of the Sexes Series) was very thought provoking.

Through metrics followed by a series of experiments, scientists were trying to extrapolate the universal rules of attraction. They started working from the hypothesis that people with facial similarity would be attracted to each other. They measured a group’s facial metrics and established matches. They then, through a speed dating experiment, they measured (with the aid of a 1-to-100 digital dial at the side of the table) first impressions and the any changes in measurement after the 3-minutes conversations. Three ‘seducers’ were introduced as a control group.

Needless to say, the hypothesis was proven wrong as no couples ‘hit it off’. However, they established that first impressions are decisive and the 3-minute conversations made no substantial change in the attraction measurement.

Though computer programmes that created ‘perfect’ matches, they then had a look at other aspects of attraction like compatibility and body (men are attracted to a particular waist-hip ratio, whereas women give importance to height). But the most interesting experiment was, in my opinion, giving faces a feminine/masculine value to test if one is attracted to the other.

No study was conclusive. Studying attraction solely through metrics can be extremely problematic as they can’t encompass idiosyncrasies, cultures etc… But that didn’t matter so much as the experiments made me think about my own:

– What would happen if I gave objects a masculinity / femininity score?
– Will I have to go into these gender issues?
– What kind of metrics (if any) will my study require?
– Can I create a speed-dating-with-objects methodology followed by (or instead of) focus groups?

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Art vs Design — 13 May 2005

Conference Abstract

What could art learn from design, what might design learn from art? Some practice-based art doctorates.

Beryl Graham,
University of Sunderland, UK

Aimed at artists and designers involved in Ph.D. research, this paper briefly outlines four examples of doctoral research projects at Sunderland University: Johnston’s glass Ph.D. involving materials research, Hogarth’s practice-led sculpture Ph.D., Baker’s theory-informed photography research, and the author’s hybrid approach concerning interactive art. Varying positions of practice within research are explored, and some problems of interdisciplinarity are highlighted.
As starting points for discussion, some areas of common ground between art and design research are suggested (including the space for ‘failure’ and humility in a research process). Referring briefly to some other examples of art research, the paper goes on to pose some opinions on what artists might learn from designers (and vice versa) in a research context. Suggested areas concern process and method, as well as parricide and infanticide.


Yesterday, I attended the ‘Revealing Practice’ conference, led a some of my research students at Wimbledon School of Art in collaboration with Kingston University. I was very interested in one of the speakers, Dr Beryl Graham. In 2000, Beryl wrote a really interesting paper, that may reinforce some of the emphasis of my own research on seduction.

In “What could art learn from design, what might design learn from art?” (In: Friedman, Ken and David Durling (eds.) Proceedings of the conference Doctoral Education in Design: Foundations for the future. Stoke-on-Trent: Staffordshire University Press. 425-434), Beryl outlines how Art could learn a willingness to kill one‚Äôs children from Design, to incorporate feedback as part opf the creative process, to be less protective about the outcome, to be unsuccessful but have mechanisms to overcome that. In contrast, Design could learn a willinfgness to kill one‚Äôs parent‚Äôs from Art, to challenge one‚Äôs peers, to reject tradition to be more readily inclined to innovate radically.

Why would I introduce feedback mechanisms into the artistic creative process was one of the questions that cropped up in my PhD interview at Chelsea. I tried to argue the point as best as I could but I framed it in research terms instead of a difference encountered in Art and Design creative processes, ie: “This is not Art, it is research and feedback is necessary for the research process”. Beryl’s argument provides a new strengh to mine, a subject specific one, rather than simply an activity one and it may be that this new emphasis informs my original contribution to knowledge, which will be in the area of methodologies.

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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.