“Is this the Unconscious? Search me.”, by Guilherme Gutman in dialogue with Luiz Camillo Osorio’s last text

Professor, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst Guilherme Gutman, who is currently teaching the online course “Uma erótica do tempo na arte”, wrote a text in dialogue with the last one published in Luiz Camillo Osorio’s column, “Is this art? Search me.”. Gutman, who conducts research in the area of ​​intersection between psychoanalysis, psychopathology, philosophy, and art, discusses in “Is that the Unconscious? Search me.” the idea of ​​the “indeterminacy of the strong aesthetic experience”, that “knowledge there” raised by Camillo.

Is this the Unconscious? Search me.

Guilherme Gutman

We were walking through the central span of MAM-Rio, when Luiz Camillo first told me about the text he had written years ago, in his regular column for the newspaper O Globo; and on the kerfuffle that the title had provoked.

In his most recent piece, published on the PIPA platform, he speaks about the episode (below): 

The title of this review, coined by the person who edited the text in the newspaper, said something quite provocative – that Bispo’s work was not art. It was not exactly wrong from the point of view of what was written in the review, but neither did it fully represent the truth of the text. It was sufficient to cause a huge controversy, which in the heat of the attacks ended up reducing my argument to the denial of Bispo’s artistic value; as if a critic could silence such power. That was never the point. Certainly, if I wrote it today, I would write it differently, paying more attention to the details and complexity of the subject. But the core of the text remains valid and I believe that it recalls this search me produced by the aesthetic experience. To some extent, that was the point: limiting what we consider in Bispo’s work to be art, seems a small matter.

It is precisely this “search me” which Camillo refers to in the above quote (also in the title of his recent article – Is this art? I don’t know) that we discussed at MAM and which we continued to discuss, one way or another, over the course of time, as in this text-dialogue of mine about art and a “beyond art”.

The indeterminate nature of the powerful aesthetic experience, in its raw state, also recalls the last known television interview by Clarice Lispector. At one point, she’s asked a question about meaning, something like “what did you mean?” in story x or book y, to which she responds with a surprising: “I don’t know.” It was as if the interviewer was able to receive from Clarice, in words, the power of something that, after all, does not enter us through the front door, but rather through the cracks. Everything she could really say about something which, despite being written by her, was already inaccessible to her, that no longer belonged to her; that came from “Another place” and which, at that time, was already in “another place too”.  It is this Other place that Freud and other forms of psychoanalysis call the Unconscious.

When Camillo writes about this “search me”, or when he reflects on the presence of the “search me” in the title invented for his text, he seems to invite the psychoanalyst to get up from his chair and walk and think with him, once again, through the spaces of the museum.

Let’s consider this other excerpt from Luiz Camillo’s text:

(The “search me” – ‘sei lá’ – literally, ‘I know there’) (…) suggests knowledge that occurs elsewhere, beyond what we conventionally call the possible conditions of knowledge. In this other place, there, I know. Or rather, it is not an I that constitutes the knowing, but a knowing that occurs in me (…)

To be aesthetically affected is to be moved from one’s place, to be asked to leave oneself and to go, through experience, towards a not-knowing that paves the way for the establishment of another-knowing. Aesthetic experience here is not only rapture, it is also the inner process of amazement before the disconcerting gestures of the artists who introduce the revelatory surprise.

Of course, the quality of art was not denied to the highly impressive creations of Bispo do Rosário, even if according to Bispo, the greatest commandment for him to produce his magnificent objects incessantly and for so long was of the nature of a delirious imperative. For Bispo, the aesthetic quality of his work was experienced as secondary.

The point is to understand that, when it comes to a total aesthetic experience, it is not a question of our engaging with something we already know, but, rather, of having the courage to open ourselves to a knowledge “that exists within us”.

It is art and it is beyond (or “outside of”) art. Or as Camillo wrote “The thing is, and is not art“, which brings us all to Ligia Clark’s phrase: the “state of the art without art”.

Through the power of a divine commandment, Bispo built all the objects present in the world that he knew or imagined on assorted forms and techniques, with the intention that they would be presented by him to God on the day of judgment. Bispo worked hard; he did everything with great care, patience and the diligence that one would expect of a mission sent directly from God. As Mario Pedrosa said of other “virgin” creators, albeit driven by other vectors, often ignoring any element of the so-called artistic scene, it so happens that what was produced was – and I ask that you pay attention to the simple richness of the word – “beautiful”.

In this case, we are entering the terrain of art brut, so called by Dubuffet in opposition to the then so-called “psychopathological art”. However, Camillo’s target is another: the strength of the impact that certain works – officially artistic or not – can have on each of us.

In other words, what is fundamentally interrogated is the aesthetic event that is neither programmed nor dictionarized, and which deprives this atopy of its strength and power to provoke astonishment, alienation and a kind of dislocation from oneself in the spectator.

It is possible to recognize in Freudian thought, particularly in its clinical aspect, the thematization of this “dislocation from oneself. Somehow, the whole assemblage of the so-called analytical set enables the fulfilment of the conditions of possibility, so that the subject who seeks analysis makes contact with a material which, without ceasing to be a part of him, is beyond his consciousness and inaccessible to him.

Not that we are necessarily talking about madness here or even anything that merely concerns the clinical. Well, perhaps it’s also not necessary to “separate so much” where philosophical thought ends and psychoanalysis begins; one form of thinking seems to benefit the other. Just as it would be a waste of time to engage in the thankless attempt to find criteria to establish a kind of frontier between what is art and what should not be art, something is also subtracted from us when we consider differentiating what should be the object of the clinical, from what is only the set of expressive possibilities of another way of living.  

Camillo begins with Bispo, but his text extends to the works of other creators, who presented creations that also produced that bewilderment in those who see that their certainties and references in art are not enough to account for the power of a given aesthetic experience to which, paradoxically, one cannot deny the status of art.

Where does this experience enter us that we seek to encompass now and which carries the same power of existential displacement, but which escapes the discourse precisely because its primary characteristic is exactly that of not forming part of our symbolic universe: that of language?

Two things are articulated here: first, the real quality of this simultaneously aesthetic and existential experience; bewildering and destabilizing at the same time. There is also a second moment that is part of this same bewilderment. In it, we observe through the course of experience that this “search me” hits us like lightning; or like a fine rain. When some time later it can be translated into words, we can say that it has its point of origin in Another place, a part of ourselves.


Translation: Chris Burden

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