The Three Passions; Love Hate and Ignorance

I went to a really interesting seminar today given by Renata Salecl titled The Three Passions; Love, Hate and Ignorance (referencing the psychoanalytic work of Jacques Lacan) and it concentrated mostly the passion for ignorance and how ignorance plays such an active role in society. After all ignorance, in many ways, helps us maintain a sense of sanity but the discussion opened out into a broader look at how it is being used politically. Also the proliferation of hate. Are the breaking down of structures providing a potential for a new left in politics or is it just indulging in the enjoyment or the jouissance of a quasi ‘Death Drive’ – an enjoyment in the process of destruction without care for creating something better? I fear it is the latter … this video is from a couple of years ago but touches on some of the ideas covered today.



An Intervention

Vanessa called me down (saved me) from my practise yesterday (and my troubled ruminations on the state of the world) to say that there was an episode of ‘In Therapy’ on the radio. Susie Orbach is a psychotherapist and has written a second series of ‘In Therapy’ for BBC Radio 4. Because I’m interested in Freud and the talking therapies Vanessa thought that I would be interest.

I couldn’t bare it!

Listening to it and reading a recent article Orbach wrote in the Guardian brought up what for me are the clear differences between psychoanalysis and psychotherapy.

Please forgive me my bias towards psychoanalysis – Freud being one of the many jewish men and women including my beloved Leonard Cohen for whom I have a great passions, but I was interested to look at the work of Susie Orbach as this kind of approach appears to be in the zeitgeist and I wanted to see how it compared with what I’m exploring. But I have to say that I couldn’t listen to more than five minutes without reaching for the standby button.

She, the therapist was putting words into the mouth of the patient, and also using her relationship (what is called ‘the transference’ in Freudian jargon) with the patient, as a way of manipulating the patient’s emotions), which as far as I could see completely takes him or her away from the work of discovering their own psychic structure and material. Also she, the therapist seemed to be taking the assumed role of a ‘strong ego’ that the patient can supposedly aspire to, but what use is that to the patient who is made out of completely different clay to that of the therapist?

Psychoanalysis and psychotherapy both stem from the work of Sigmund Freud but whereas psychoanalysis has attempted to carry on the work of Freud, psychotherapy has taken a very different path.

In Lacanian psychoanalysis, the approach to the work of analysis is to treat the spoken language of the analysand (analysand being the name given to the patient) like a musical score that has to be read to the letter. Words are not merely tools to express feelings of the analysand, they are signifiers that by nature are ‘overdetermined’ i.e the colour brown might be used to describe the colour of a viola, chocolate or the colour of the door of the analysands childhood playroom, and in the process of analysis this ‘signifier’ might link up in different ways.

The aim of the work is to keep the musical score alive at all times and this is achieved by the desire and the strategies of the analyst, but the analysand is always leading the work, the analyst is giving a direction through patterns revealed by unconscious slips, double meanings, repetitions etc.

Psychoanalysis has only one ambition – to enable the analysand to discover their ‘own truth’ through following the path of their true desire not the desire instilled by a family tradition or family mythology or what culture tells us we should desire. Analysis is in fact more like interpretation but a very particular kind of interpretation by intervention.

Of course there are horses for courses and all the different methods work differently for all the different types of people that are looking for that particular exploration and of course feelings are fundamental but what Freud and Lacan realised was that it was the linguistic structures underneath those feelings that can really make a difference. After all where can you go after you have expressed a feeling? With analysis this is just the beginning of exploring a chain of signification.



WORDS WITHOUT THOUGHT NEVER TO HEAVEN GO a quote from Hamlet sort of signposts my reaction to the exhibition I went to of the American pop artist Ed Rusha Called “Extremes and In-between.” I sometimes find it as interesting to wonder why I don’t like an artist’s work as why I do like it. When I say that I didn’t like it, I mean that I wasn’t changed by it.

What is at stake for the artist? As Kierkegaard wrote in his essay “Fear and Trembling” ‘the ethical expression for what Abraham did is that he meant to murder Issac; the religious expression is that he meant to sacrifice Isaac – but present in this contradiction is the anxiety that can make a person sleepless and yet without this anxiety Abraham is not who he is.’ 

What struck me about Rusha’s work was that there was  something too neat, too circular, too symmetrical, too obsessive, lacking in a certain anxiety about the process – too anal to use a Freudian cliché.

As Zizek loves to quote the Ernest Lubitsch’s black comedy where the man goes into a cafe and asks the waiter for a coffee without cream. The waiter says, we don’t have cream, can I bring you a coffee without milk? It’s not the same thing. Something is defined not only by what it is but also by what it is not14947668_911973608936242_3807105151576446436_n

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

Identity and Internet Surveillance

Apparently Zuckerberg is worried about what is called ‘context collapse’, that people are not wanting to share so much personal information about themselves on Facebook.

A friend said to me the other day ‘I’m a terrible “over-sharer”, I say far too much and need to cut down and edit what I say!’

However it does seem to me that people, even if they intend not to share so much, or they edit personal information about themselves they do share, videos, music, images and articles written by other people as a way of sharing how they are and what they are thinking and apparently kids, terrified that their parents are checking their pages have even developed strategies to code their shares so they might quote a limited few words from of a song, a song which their friends will know the entire lyrics and therefore what personal feeling that child is wanting to project. Apparently in an attempt to snoop on their kids, some parents will even try to befriend them disguised as ‘friends’ and kids are careful not to accept certain suspicious friend requests.

Last week I went to a seminar given by a wonderful Slovenian thinker and writer Renata Salecl and she was talking about this very subject. One really interesting thing that she elaborated was the idea that our sharing is not only presenting something about ourselves but also functioning as cover or camouflage. That although technology has taken away a lot of our privacy, it has also created new ways of defining areas of privacy.

Privacy is a really important part of our psyche and the way we maintain a sense of secrecy is perhaps changing with the internet and it is a great source of anxiety when we feel that our privacy is being ‘invaded’. However maybe it’s more complicated than it would first seem.

One of the fundamental concepts in psychoanalysis is that we have a secret, a secret kernel that we are aware of but can’t actually articulate. The common and misleading idea that psychoanalysis is like a form of confession, that it is merely a process of naming the psychic material and therefore releasing ourselves of its burden, as in the Catholic sense, this concept is not entirely the case. The act of speaking and free associating in analysis is for the purpose of presenting ‘truths’ about ourselves but it is also displaying our camouflage and a significant part of the analytic work is the process of cutting through this narrative to reveal something more fundamental about ourselves.

Our identity on the internet is equally complicated. We share information on our ourselves and the internet makes calculations and algorithms based on our web movements and it creates a certain identity. But it’s a set of signifiers gathered from the symbolic order and organised in a chain. It is a creation, our www identity and it is a creation in the big Other. This links to what Lacan means when he says that we are a subject enunciated by the Other; culture and language. Our clothes are like the material of culture that we wrap ourselves in. Although we forget and become absorbed into culture this is, perhaps, not where our true secret, our kernel of truth is located. Maybe we only get present to to the possibility of exploring this kernel when we extract ourselves from the language of our culture.14718792_903307996469470_7101713754667399266_n


14517385_897023543764582_1010912963174509127_nThe Hauser & Wirth Gallery are showing the work by the American artist Mike Kelley who died in 2012 aged 57. He created work using found objects and was interested in the boundaries between the inner world and the outer world as well as the boundaries between cultures and the conceptual spaces between their real and imagined places. In the case of this piece “Framed and Frame” the overlapping spaces of Chinatown in downtown LA.

When I first saw the piece, which is a lot larger than it appears in the picture, I thought I was looking at a huge piece of coral, that in that moment an ocean of culture and ideology had flowed out with the tide and revealed the unconscious thoughts and the ideology of Mike Kelley’s society and psychic world. If you look closely you can see lots of the tiny Christian, Buddhist and American kitsch nestled in. 

Kelley died under sad circumstances and after his death mourners were invited to help rebuild in a disused carport near his studio his work from 1987 , by contributing stuffed toys, afghans, dried corn, wax candles building an altar of ‘unabashed sentimentality.’

Little Eva

When I was four or five years old, our family lived in a bungalow in Parkstone Poole that mum and dad had had designed and built on a plot of land given to them by Nan and Jim. My room was at the end of the house and was full of junk. Amongst the clutter was a portable record player with automatic changer and two knobs on the front – volume and tone controls. Also was a box of my mum’s French Lingua-phone records and a couple of music 45’s. One was ‘Old Man River’ and the other was ‘The Locomotion’. 

It seems like objects play a vital role in our early life and it’s funny how sometimes the significant objects are the random ones that we just come across. Freud realised this when he was observing his grandson playing with a cotton real on a piece of string. The presence and absence of the mother is traumatic and the infant seems to use objects as a way of gaining a psychic control in a world were the mother who is their world appears and disappears.

For me there was a magic and fascination in taking this small black disc, sliding it down the central pin and dropping the needle – the voice was like a disembodied object and was always there on my command and I loved the sound of it. The voice sounded higher than my mum but I always imagined that she, Little Eva looked a bit like my mum; white, peroxide hair, slim and in her mid twenties.

Yesterday I thought I must look it up ‘The Locomotion’- this important part of my life on YouTube. Off it starts with those great honking sax drones and the groove …. and Little Eva is there grooving centre stage … My surrogate mother was AfroAmerican! How wonderful is that!

I’ve fallen in love with Little Eva all over again. Her original name Eva Narcissus Boyd. Eva was my mum’s mums’ name.526675144



Event for Stage by Tacita Dean is a fascinating art piece and is particularly interesting to anyone who happens to be a performer. It’s free to see until 4th November at the Frith Street Gallery 17-18 Golden Square W1F 9 JJ.

Event for Stage is an art film with one actor. It marks the first time that Dean has worked with an actor and using theatre as a medium. The relationship with her actor she says in one interview, was difficult. She approached the actor without a script and said that she wanted to “make a piece of about 45 minutes without having written script as such” –

This is what the actor says in one part of the monologue and you wonder whether this is what really happened of whether it is a created part of the script which points to one of the aspects of the work. What part is the actor playing?

There where four performances of the piece and the art work is edited between the four performances. There were also four different audiences and the actor wears four different costumes. Two of them seem to be 18th century costumes with wigs. In one section he seems to be quoting Shakespeare. When he is reading Shakespeare he takes on the role of an actor acting as an actor. When he is another character he appears to be acting being an actor. Another time he seems to be himself but is he actually acting the part of someone else? That question is not answered –

The stage is circular and at one point the actor is speaking to the audience about the ‘membrane’ of the stage. Something that protects the actor and something that protects the audience. The membrane can be broken. He is asked about stage fright. Pieces of paper are handed to him by a woman in the audience. The woman I find out today, having seen the piece for the second time, is the artist herself. The sheets of paper have directions and text which he reads from then discards onto the floor.

There are two cameras onstage which film him and every now and then a clapper board cuts through his monologue and he directs the other camera to take over the shooting. The cameras, camera men and director are a part of the drama and there is a microphone in the middle of the stage which the actor speaks intimately into at a couple of points.

I might write more about this later because there are so many layers to the piece but I’ll just post this up now because I feel so enthusiastic about it.

Do go and see it. There’s some David Hockney downstairs. I haven’t made it down there yet. Event for Stage has held me captive.

“I always speak the truth. Not the whole truth because there’s no way to say it all. Saying it all is literally impossible: words fail.” Lacan

“I always speak the truth. Not the whole truth because there’s no way to say it all. Saying it all is literally impossible: words fail.” Lacan

I’ve been reading with fascination and horror the various politicians brushing without blushing with truth and untruth. A spate of posts on Facebook giving A/B comparisons with what politicians have said in the past, with what they are now saying.

In psychoanalysis this kind of A/B comparison is one part of the interpretive process, a process that unfolds over a considerable amount to time. However it’s not, as in the case of the politic critiques to show the analysand/ patient up for being a liar. The analysand is telling his own truth even when he or she is ‘bending the truth’. 

When we speak we don’t just impart information like a computer linking up to another computer. We evoke meaning. This is why it is so easy to be misunderstood. In fact Lacan would go further and say that speech is always miss-understood. We’re always slightly missing the target.

An example of how the ‘language of the unconscious’ distorts the Real can be found in Claude Levi Strauss’ village analysis in Structural Anthropology where two groups from the same tribe were asked to draw a map their village. They all drew a delineation between the ruling class and the workers. What was interesting was that some would draw variations on a smaller circle within a larger one and some drew a different types of square divided up into two different sizes to show the areas where the two classes lived.

What is significant about this is not the fact that it could be sorted out with simple and quick use of a drone camera and the correct layout established but more interestingly that the difference between the various maps is what demonstrates topologically how the unconscious distorts the shapes and information and the distortions created by the unconscious shows us our personal truth.

So when we get frustrated with, say, a political leader who is being inconsistent, or “why can’t their followers see them for who they are(!),” it’s time to remember that language is more than just the words. Yes in some ways the truth, like the word of God, the word is all we can work with, but if we only reduce listening and speech down to clean and functional sentences, the type loved by Americans, with a powerful subject/ object relationship/ antagonism we end up scooping out the bit that has us all mesmerised, the bit that does the strange work in the field and function of language and speech.

… the remainder leads me to write again …

The problem immanent in the class struggle is that the focus on and the fetishism of the working class and the ruling class maintains an engagement with the very class structure itself and language itself has a hegemony within it’s own structure and by naming something or someone we create it or him or her as an object and we become an agent of rule within the sentence and within every dictator there is a poet and language tortures us and the period drama sanitises the mise en scene of the bullying upper classes and we give the permission to be bullied by and lied to by posh ‘benevolent’ smelly smiles and language defines us and segregates us and reveals our unconscious thoughts that we thought were private and wanted to keep private so we keep silent and truth is a lie and being kind is unkind and being truthful dominates and a decision is a decision and to decide is related etymologically to homicide, suicide, patricide and decision kills off possibility and a King is an empty signifier and Freud was more worried about the Catholics than the Nazis, the Nazis were Catholic apparently but religion is just a bunch of signification however powerful a signification it may be and political leaders all have a psychotic structure and should not be trusted on any level especially if they talk about being trust worthy and caring and I write because there is a remainder, a left over from the last thought that has me write something else and when I put a full stop at the end of this sentence it will not be the end and there is a kind of musicality to language a rhythm of thought of … gap in the stream of consciousness which has a kind of truth because it isn’t edited or thought out – it is thought into the gap created by the folding back of understanding and isn’t beholden to the terror of grammar of what is learnt at school and forgotten in the exam which will determine the rest of your life when you are put into that box and spend the rest of your life trying to struggle out of, only to end up in another box and then to return to the first box which now feels more comfortable but still nevertheless has me left with a remainder; a left over to write more next time14324433_882687565198180_5953565703657173772_o