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Introduction to Reading
Jacques Lacan's Seminar on Anxiety
The Empty Subject:
Kierkegaard with Lacan
The De-Sublimated Object
Dressed in Shadows:
Sarah Lucas and Alenka Zupancic
Inez van Lamsweerde
Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin
Cathy Lebowitz: This isn't the first time I've seen a motorcycle and a naked woman put together. It's an image that tends to be provocative and seductive. First I want to ask you, what is it about that combination, in general, that is compelling?
Cathy Lebowitz interviews Josefina Ayerza
Josefina Ayerza: Already in lacanian ink 1 we published the image of a naked woman riding a bicycle. And this was an old postcard, from the 1910s. It illustrates a story, in which a woman falls in love with the public speaker. The romance coming forth she feels lonely for him even before he goes away. To prepare for his departure she constructs a contraption. In her case the contraption is really fitted to replace the public speaker. I don't know that the motorcycle can go that far, but I have to wonder about the idea not being the same one. If this is the case, the motorcycle/contraption gets erotically invested, with what? With what you imagine she'll do with or on it... this is the compelling combination I guess.
CL: In this image on the cover, the woman is hot pink and the rest is black and white. She takes a posture that is like the shape of the motorcycle, and also suggests to me speed. How do you see her color and her posture effecting the basic pairing?
JA: The hot pink color of the woman's body leaning against the black and white of a motorcycle, while shaping over it, retrieves female sexuality within an "erotica," as Lacan would put it. From her desire to "be" the phallus, it is for that which she is not that she wishes to be desired, as well as loved. Now, the image of her desire arises in the body of him who she addresses her demand for love. The phallus that is not, in that it isn't the penis, in that it is but a signifier... indeed an image, the object-the motorcycle-that assumes this signifying function, takes on the value of a fetish.
CL: What about the image on the back cover of the woman upside down in black and white, except for a pink head? Do you think this also relates to the notion of the woman's desire to "be" the phallus?
JA: As to the woman upside down in the back cover, her pink head and body silver take on the function of a mask... If the desire of the lover is the phallus, the woman wishes to be the phallus in order to satisfy that desire. At once the inherent division-desire, to be experienced as the desire of an Other, it identifies to the mask. The subject wants to endow this Other with what it may have of the actual phallus-what she has is worth no more than what she doesn't have, as far as her demand for love is concerned, because that demand requires that she be the phallus.
CL: Does the image of the woman with wings also have to do with a desire to be the phallus in order to satisfy the desire of the lover?
JA: She could be a winged phallus, like the ones Richard Payne Knight collects in The Worship of Priapus; again this winged phallus, with a vulture for a head and a penis for a tail is an emblem of motherhood. Now from a Lacanian angle, the phallus being the desire of the lover-the Other-it could certainly depict the subject who arises in the actual Other, to get slashed, divided... What we don't know is if Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin's Bird of Paradise is going through pain of childbirth, if she's in labor, or if her screaming concerns a more abstract endeavor, or the barring which touches on the subject of the unconscious.
CL: What is the barring that touches on the subject of the unconscious?
JA: Lacan brought in the concept of a subject as distinct from the ego. And he defined it as whoever is speaking. Determined retroactively by the act of speech, to the extent that what is spoken rarely coincides with what the ego is trying to communicate, there is a splitting-a barring -between ego and subject. Ultimately the subject is the subject of the unconscious, and it speaks more truthfully in slips of the tongue and other errors showing that the ego's censorship is suspended.
CL: The title of another image is I/Eye. In this one, reflected in an eye are the other images you have reproduced here: the woman and motorcycle, the screaming woman with wings, the woman with pink writing. And also in the eye is the symbol of anarchy. Does this I/Eye relate to the concepts of ego and subject?
JA: Indeed, this I/Eye may well relate to the Ego in that the Ego is another name for the I. And it is also the case that Lacan came to define the ego as the image the child encounters in the mirror. But an Eye is not a mirror, even if metaphorically you would want to see your image to enter the certain eyes - with Louis Aragon's in his Contre-chant poem-who may show it. I tend to think this is the Eye of the viewer in the show, that is the Eye or the look the artists would like their work to be approached with. In any case the experience is not sufficient to make the viewer a subject. Not yet. It anticipates the subjectivity that he will gain when he gives in to the irruption of articulation in the visual field, as it accounts for the "here" and "there," for the "this and the "that"-for the "I" and the "It."
CL: But I think this is not a human eye. It may be the eye of a horse or some similar animal. And the first thing I notice looking back at me is a face-a baby's face maybe. Can you say anything about these aspects: that the eye is not human and face is a baby's?
JA: There is a certain ferocity in the image of this I/Eye, I agree. Mostly in this amalgam of animal and baby. Indeed the artist may want to stress the fact that the eye is an organ, instincts prompt the function: the eye's appetite or what Lacan called the opening of the pupil-the "gap" in a picture may also stand for the eye itself. The instinctual function of the eye is to be voracious and malevolent, to embody what is called the Evil Eye. To the eye is attributed many powers to cause ill as well as illness. The structure of this activity is well depicted with envy. In Saint Augustine's Confessions a child gazes bitterly at an infant appended to the breast of his mother. The bitterness of the look, its venomous quality, may eventually break down to poison the person who is looking. However envy is directed towards goods that would be of no use to whom craves their possession, the child gazing with envy has long since been weaned. He pales before the image of completeness represented by the infant at the breast, because the object, the breast from which he has been separated, and which he now desires, has become somebody else's possession and mutual joy. In this context the function of art is to dispossess the evil eye of a look that kills. For it is the look of this eye that fixes an object in the sense of arresting its movement and ending its life. At the moment that the subject suspends or stops his gesture he is mortified. Thereby, art acts to draw the function of the gaze into itself, actualizing its power, within a context where the effect is simulated; thereby to disarm it.
Art: Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin
Bird of Paradise, silkscreen on canvas, 2005
I/Eye, iris print on crane paper, 2005
Don't Kill: Autograph, silkscreen on somerset paper, 2005
courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, NYC.
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