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Paradigms of Jouissance

Art and Philosophy

The Work-of-the-Art

Run, Isolde, Run

Cultural Ideation:
Recent Works by Tunga and Terry Eagleton

Ghada Amer


Ghada Amer


Cathy Lebowitz interviews Josefina Ayerza

CL: I wanted to ask you about the use of erotic and pornographic images in art, particularly when the artist is a woman. We mentioned Ghada Amer's buried images of women?

JA: Regarding women and pornography... there is a clinical figure: erotomania, which is interesting to bring up with Ghada Amer... the figures in the work - when there are two - don't look at each other, they look out, in another painting their eyes are closed... the element of repetition is always there. The "other" of the erotomaniac is rather peculiar - in that it is far fetched to a point that the subject may have no concrete relation with him/her; in that the "object" (of the desire), often distant, or far away, the subject seems to have enough with sending the message... time and again the message doesn't even reach it's destiny (the other).

CL: Where is the desire? Who is it for?

JA: Amer's work is not a language, nevertheless it uses the structure of language. The images acting as signifiers, there are encounters in there - the fact enchains the images, the desire, I would say, running through the actual chain. As with words, her art is a signifying system. So she emphasizes the process of infinite substitutions, the ultimate truth being: it refers to nothing... not even to pornography. Jacques Lacan said that art was verbal at a second power. In this sense Amer makes use of images without, in most cases, making use of meaning itself. And this allows for the articulation of truth, without having to deal with the transmission of facts.

CL: The images are created with thread, sewn like line drawings, presenting images of naked women…doing what?

JA: Doing what? Masturbating, is what I would say the actual naked women are doing. But of course, this is but an interpretation. And you can also say of the women in the sewn line drawings that they are "playing with their bodies," their hands on their erogenous zones... a hand on one breast, the other arm raised touching the hair, her body curled backwards, the expression in her face: mouth open, eyes closed, exhibits ineffable pleasure (in one of the paintings this image repeats itself along three columns) - another woman in the same painting... her arm reaching backwards covers her ass, the fingers reaching into the vagina again, because of the quality of sewn - embroidered - the real image could be the one that is in the reverse side of the painting... and this is what made me think of them as signifiers - empty words (empty images). These images are the ghosts of the real image. Though, which one is the real image? The fact is significant concerning your question on the desire and where it is, since there is no desire without language.

CL: I see. Can you identify the subject and object ("other") in Ghada Amer's show?

JA: I tend to think the subject in Ghada Amer's show is inside one of your questions: "The images are created with thread, sewn like line drawings, presenting images of naked women... doing what?" more precisely in the "doing what"? Now as to identify the object... in concern with what you are subject to think they are doing, this object divides her - and this is an imaginary object. Not an "other" but an Other, if the case is masturbation the Other is in her fantasy, if not in the fantasme, as you call it with Lacan.

CL: Are the sewn line drawings of women playing with their bodies supposed to remind us of pornography magazines? Are they sensual or exploitative?

JA: I say the sewn line drawings of women playing with their bodies have the quality of pornography, and in this there is a reminder, sure. Yet the fact that they are hanging in a gallery is already removing the function-the function of pornography, which is a very specific one. Moreover pornography more often than not addressed to men - and this is another kind of sensuality than the one you see in G.A.'s work. Should you say pornography is appointed to release with the men, with women the same idea is more complex... if only because men have their orgasms always in the same place, and this is not so with the women. If they are sensual? I would say yes. And I would also say that there is a remarkable feminine touch to the actual sensuality. Already the image repeating itself as in infinity calls in the looking glass, you know, women and mirrors... they belong to each other. And there is as well the thread. I think the thread is so genuinely sensual, from the side of them being constructed with stitches, their existence so ephemeral to a point that if you pull one end of the thread they should disappear in instants - the way a sweater does. Though this is not true, because the threads are cut, as it is not true in everyday life. Again is it a virtue of the feminine, as when women wear heels - for men to hold them when they fall, faint? I don't see the exploitative in there. They are having too much pleasure themselves,within themselves, as to be exploitative.

Art: Ghada Amer, detail: Colored Drips/Figures en Zigzag, acrylic, embroidery & gel medium on canvas, 2000
detail: Waiting for J, acrylic, embroidery & gel medium on canvas, 1999-2000
detail: Coulures Noires, acrylic, embroidery & gel medium on canvas, 2000
Courtesy: Deitch Projects, NY

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