The text “Art, non-art and after art”, by PIPA Institute curator Luiz Camillo Osorio, raised some thoughts for Guilherme Gutman, member of the Nominating Committee in 2016, who wrote a text with some reflections of his own, drawing a dialogue with Camillo’s last column. If Camillo discusses in his text the influence of new activities and practices in the field of art, Gutman, psychoanalyst and Professor of the Psychology Department of PUC-Rio, articulates the interssections between art and psychoanalysis – “When we place psychoanalysis face to face with art, what do we obtain, on the one side or the other?”
Art which doesn’t Await the Arrival of Carnival.
by Guilherme Gutman
Luiz Camillo Osorio, in some of his more recent reflections, in the text Art, Non-Art and Based on Art called me back into the discussion. His final two phrases were performative in inviting other fields of thought and action – psychoanalysis, philosophy, anthropology and others – to set foot on the great stage of contemporary Brazilian art. He says:
“It’s not easy to work on the border between different fields of knowledge. Before discussing what art is, we should deepen the debate around what we do when we say (and feel) that something is art, and to what extent this influences our ways of thinking and acting” (all the emphases in bold are mine).
Psychoanalysis, it must seem obvious, is intensely interested in “our ways of thinking and acting”. In its clinical aspect, Freudian thought in some way proposes an event which is the experience of undergoing analysis.
When we place psychoanalysis face to face with art, what do we obtain, on the one side or the other?
What can a session of analysis be? What is an entire process of analysis? An analysis of an entire life can be interminable; it can last as long as the life itself or desire last. Approaching analysis means being inclined to say, yes, to the invitation to this experience, an experience whose script is in no way clear; like 8 1/2 (“Eight And A Half”) by Fellini. In analysis one never knows, from the outset, where one is going, what will change and what won’t, how much it will change, at what speed one is progressing and where one will arrive. Nothing seems to me less attuned to our current times than an ethical position of this nature.
This “where”, reminded me of In depth (landmines), Camboja series, by Alice Miceli, where she “photographs and examines minefields in places like Cambodia, Angola and Colombia, still infested with landmines. Her aim is to visually evidence, in space, the consequences of the contamination of mines and other explosive remnants of war in a variety of contexts in gravely affected regions”. Regarding this study, Miceli said:
“In my research into different spaces occupied, until today, by the contamination caused by landmines, which remain active and lethal even decades after their originating conflict has ceased -, what moves me are the limitations that these situations force me to challenge, causing me to wonder what images could be capable of representing these negative spaces, occupied by something that seems to escape comprehension.” [Conversation with Alice Miceli, by Luiz Camillo Osorio].
Psychoanalysis and art are ultimately interested in where one can go, walking through minefields and crossing their “negative spaces”. To obtain her images in the circumstances described, Miceli experiences and makes us experience an in-between, where one step forward and one step back can be decisive and are never free of risk.
The “prophetic expression” of Lygia Clark is pertinent: “it is a question of perceiving states of art without art” and, in a movement towards contemporary production, these “negative spaces” in minefields, of Miceli, are an example of this particular condition of a state of art without art. The recognition of some familial relationship (1) is authorized by this point of contact which can be represented by the desire to look at art, while remaining outside it. Reflecting on Lygia Clark’s career, Ferreira Gullar said:
“Enabling the participation of the spectator in the work of art – a fundamental element of neo-concrete art -, (he) reaches the conclusion that he can go further, from spectator-participant to author of the work, its sufficing, for example, to cut paper and awaken in oneself tactile or gustative sensations. Thus, we achieve, she says, the singular state of art without art. In fact, this path taken by some artists has resulted in the destruction of the esthetic language and in a submission to merely sensorial experiences, thus prior to all and any formulation”.
Does Gullar understand that Clark also followed “the path taken” by other artists and, thus, promoted the “destruction of its esthetic language” (2)? I see no problem in proceeding from art to this other thing “without art”, as Lygia formulated it. For this reason, Gullar’s question loses some of its importance, acquiring relevance by another path. If, in his criticism, he may have considered Clark’s change in direction – which enters the clinical world – as an exit from the world of art, perhaps he aimed at what he saw, but revealed another potentiality in what he did not see. One of our convictions – in the strong sense of the word – is that psychoanalysis, above all in its involvements with art, can take us further still; within a clinical perspective, psychoanalysis can also be thought of as something obtained in the work with art.
In 2018, we had an interesting experience at MAM-Rio, which we called the “Beggars’ Banquet”. At this “Banquet”, Auterives Maciel Jr and I — both professor of PUC-Rio — began a class which deliberately became a “quasi-class”, “another class”, or a “more than or less than class”, because what was happening was a kind of overtaking of the class by the entrance of music.
As the class progressed, deliberately, in the form of a Platonic dialog, the two characters on stage spontaneously developed ideas. Two voices, two perspectives in counterpoint. And, little by little, one by one, the musicians entered the stage: Bernardo Ramalho, Cabelo, Peu, Siri and Sheik. We were influenced by the idea that, in an experience of transmission, such as that which occurs in a class, conscious, rational and organized thought falls far short of expressing much of what that experience has to offer. The music took over the class, penetrating and amalgamating with the circulating discourse, giving rise to another experience, where the music flowed through the circuit of the words, through the chain of language, through the gaps between meanings.
In 2019, very shortly, a new group shall propose two courses in sequence: “If local sound has been made, use it in something for the future”, at EAV – Parque Lage and “Hearing voices”, at MAM – Rio; 4 meetings, on Saturdays, for each of the courses. In these courses, the classes will be mixed with live music and visual elements, particularly photographs and films. The first of the courses got its name from a phrase of Helio Oiticica, in one of his many specifications for the staging of each of the nine Cosmococas programa in progress, a series held alongside Neville D’Almeida. There are in this phrase of Helio affinities with his thinking regarding a “utility” for art, as Tania Bruguera suggests (3).
All those who read the correspondence between Helio and Lygia know how close they were and the quality of the exchanges between them. I will dare to suggest a hypothesis here: both worked with art, proceeding, at a certain moment in their respective careers, to besiege this “outside of art”.
The coming together of art and psychoanalysis, occurs through this flight of the “crooked angel”; a clumsy flight, this way of leaving art, through art.
These are matters of psychoanalysis and of art. If the “autonomy of art is only interesting to the extent that it is constantly put at risk”, if art seeks “to be something beyond art”, it is precisely here that the work should focus; the new work of a clinic of art, or even another clinic, based on art.
(1) As Camillo, in his text, makes reference to “language games”, I feel authorized to cite the thinking of Wittgenstein. We understand, here, this expression, “familial relationship” as the product of a permanent slip of the language which allows very different artists and works to connect with each other.
(2) In 2014, there was a large exhibition by Lygia Clark at the Museum of Modern Art of New York (MoMA), presented thus: “With over 300 works, in addition to a major catalog and an intense parallel program, the show Lygia Clark: the abandonment of art, 1948-1988 (MoMA) inaugurated, in the final month of May, a retrospective exhibition dedicated to the work of Lygia Clark.
Various key moments in her career are shown, such as the progress from the study of the centrifugal movement of stairs to the geometric and abstract construction of form; the intense and rapid participation in movements such as Grupo Frente and the Movimento Neoconcreto; the discovery of the organic line, in the mid-1950s, when she radically expands painting beyond the limits of the frame; the intense dialog with architecture and the study of space (“what I want is to compose a space and not to compose within it”, she said); the ever deeper questioning of the status of the art object, of the artist and the spectator; until she arrives at what she herself defines as “the state of art, without art”. (Maria Hirszman. Available at http://revistapesquisa.fapesp.br/2014/07/15/relevancia-de-lygia-clark/ ). The exhibition was curated by Luis Pérez-Oramas and Connie Butler, who positioned themselves in opposition to the critical writing of Gullar; they made it clear “that they do not share the idea – according to them, canonized by the current interpretation and based on the critical reading of Ferreira Gullar – that there were two distinct moments in Lygia’s production, one artistic and the other simply therapeutic. It is thus a mistake to present a fracture, to consider her career as deriving from two aesthetically different people. “It does not matter how radically different her work may be from the phenomenon we usually call (or used to call) art, it remains a part of art”, writes the curator.
(3) “Arte Útil roughly translates into English as ‘useful art’ but it goes further suggesting art as a tool or device. Arte Útil draws on artistic thinking to imagine, create and implement tactics that change how we act in society.” Available at http://www.arte-util.org/about/colophon/.
About the author
Guilherme Gutman is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, Professor of the Psychology Department of PUC-Rio and of the Visual Arts School of Parque Lage. Art critic and independent curator, he participated in the PIPA Prize 2016 Nominating Committee. He is the author of William James & Henry James: filosofia, literatura e vida [“William James & Henry James: philosophy, literature and life”].