Psychoanalysis and Art

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Psychonalysis and Art

A thematic project devised by Vanessa Ohlraun (October-November 2011) with Pierre Bismuth, Felix Ensslin and Robert Pfaller 4 ECTS'


  • Pierre Bismuth - Melanchotopia

Pierre Bismuth in conversation with Anne-Claire Schmitz

October 13, 2011, 19h

Location: Witte de With

In the past few years, Pierre Bismuth has regularly integrated dynamics of randomness and irrationality as a strategy in developing determined and rational ideas. Recent works such as “Following the right hand of…” or “En suivant la main gauche de Jacques Lacan – l’âme et l’inconscient, 2010″ include play, fortune and coincidence. Anne-Claire Schmitz will talk to him about these notions and question their capacity to function as rule setters within his artistic practice.

Pierre Bismuth’s work for Melanchotopia is to be seen at the Buro Rietveld/Dutch Style Company (garden) on Jongkindstraat 16, Rotterdam.


  • Fiction is Just an Interpretation of Reality

A workshop by Pierre Bismuth

October 14, 2011, 10-18h

Location: Piet Zwart Institute

In this workshop, Pierre Bismuth will engage the students in a process of interpretation through observation and the creation of narratives. Following two specific protocols, students will wander through the city, registering a moment, an incident, a conversation and elaborate on it in writing. In this process, the ordinary is to be transformed into fiction, or semi-fiction, extrapolating from an observation an imaginary world that is shaped by the student/writer’s perspective – revealing a multifaceted collective unconscious.

Pierre Bismuth’s work tirelessly explores the multiple manifestations and product of knowledge and culture. It is engaged in a constant process of translation, of moving from one form to another, from one logic to another as if in search of a hidden meaning. But instead of revealing something concealed, Bismuth’s transformations aim at creating a new, parallel reality. Not an answer but a new question. The rules under which this new reality operates, sabotage the unique and fixed meaning of the cultural products from which it is initially derived. By means of simple accumulation – an excess of material, of translations, of possibilities – the artist challenges any logic of efficiency and usefulness. His works are metaphors of human activity – proliferating and polluting until the logic and the energy of the system that engenders them is exhausted. In this seemingly aimless and hopeless activities Bismuth’s work manages to find the means for an effective transformation and ultimately to formulate a promise: no matter how structured and limited human activity and creativity are, freedom can be rescued from any closed system.

Bismuth's work has recently been shown at Witte de With (Rotterdam), the New Museum (New York), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris/Metz), Castello di Rivoli (Turin), M HKA (Antwerp), la Biennale de Lyon, Queensland Art Gallery (Brisbane) and the British Film Institute (London). He is represented by Team Gallery (New York), Jan Mot (Brussels), Bugada Cargnel Galerie (Paris) and Christine Konig (Vienna). In 2005 he won the best original screenplay at the 77th Academy Awards along with Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman for the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.


  • What Life is Worth Living For

A public lecture by Robert Pfaller October 20, 2011, 19.30h

Is it not amazing to what degree our recent culture experiences enjoyment as unbearable – especially the enjoyment of the other? How does it come that objects and practices which, until recently, had been sources of pleasure and elegance – such as drinking, smoking, studying freely without restrictions, wearing furs, adult language, sex etc. – now are regarded as embarrassments and threats? Why are we so anxious? And what would be necessary to call the time before we die a life?


  • What We Wish and What We Need

A seminar by Robert Pfaller October 21, 2011, 10-18h

Is pleasure an easy thing? Are human beings by their very nature hedonist, and can only education bring them to pursue some higher goals? Why is it then that some epochs – like ours – have such a difficult relationship with pleasure? What does it mean in political terms if we are unable to claim what life can provide us with? Questions like these will be presented and discussed, based on texts by Epicurus, Epictetus, Benedict de Spinoza, Sigmund Freud, Alain Badiou, Bertolt Brecht, Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Zizek and others. (Copies and a relevant movie will be provided.)

Robert Pfaller is professor of philosophy at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria. His publications include Wofür es sich zu leben lohnt. Elemente materialistischer Philosophie (in German, Fischer Verlag, 2011) and Stop That Comedy! On the Subtle Hegemony of the Tragic in Our Culture (ed., in English and German, Sonderzahl Verlag, 2005).


  • The Artist and the Psychoanalyst: Two Sides of the Same Discourse?

A public lecture by Felix Ensslin October 27, 2011, 19.30h


Jacques Lacan famously created the four discourses of the master, the hysteric, the university and the analyst. Absent from this list is the artist. The talk will approach the question if in fact Lacan’s theory of art is implied in his theory of the psychoanalyst. Since the victorious days of Critical Theory it has been a commonplace that good art deals with the „non-identical“, with that which has no place in the pseudo-ontological constructions of reality of our social world or within the discourses of our contemporary lien social. Lacan offers this as a description of a discourse: it is a social bond. The social bond of psychoanalysis is a peculiar social bond, one that seems to exist only in its negation – bringing it close again to a thought of non-identity. Yet it might be possible that psychoanalysis offers us a way to bring this thought of subversion and non-identity together with a constructive side: e.g. in the making of art. If this is the case, then each making of art is equivalent with making an artist; just as each analysis in the discourse of the analyst is equivalent with making an analyst.


  • The Artist and the Psychoanalyst: Two Sides of the Same Discourse?

A seminar by Felix Ensslin October 28, 2011, 10-18h

In this workshop the issues of the public lecture of the previous evening will be discussed in more detail in conjunction with relevant readings by Jacques Lacan.