The Artwork as Knife

Last week I went to see the exhibition at the Tate Modern of the Cuban artist Wifredo Lan and near the end of the exhibition there was this quote from the artist

‘… a true picture has the power to set the imagination to work, even if it takes time.’

… and I was thinking how this is the traditional notion of how an art piece might effect the viewer, the idea that it would set the imagination to work, however, in the work of psychoanalysis this notion would be contested and instead a work of art might cut through the register of the imaginary and put the symbolic register to work. 

The imaginary register is the world of the known, underpinning what we know about ourselves and the world around us and contrary to this idea that the artist is working in a world of imagination, perhaps they are in fact working in a world of pure signification?

Isn’t the ambition of a work of art to disrupt our imaginary capture, to cut through our world of knowns?markshawwifredolamhavana1950cmarkshawmptvimages-com2

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