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IXth Congress of the WAP • 14-18 april 2014 • Paris • Palais des Congrès • www.wapol.org

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The Artist
by Francisco-Hugo Freda

Francisco-Hugo FredaTo the question: "What do you paint?", Picasso answered: "I paint the painting". The dialogue continued and Picasso affirmed that he had painted one picture alone. At the end of the interview, in a slightly sad tone, he declared: "The painting always wins". I will use these points that I have extracted from the interview to try to respond a little to Freud's idea that artists open the doors by which psychoanalysis attempts to enter. Besides, Freud indicates clearly that there is a mystery in the artist and that psychoanalysis can neither find nor give the key that would allow to understand and explain how an artist happens to produce what he does. This position of principle permitted Freud to use great artistic productions to approach and clarify the mysteries that the unconscious contains. Nor, by comparison, did Lacan hold back from supporting himself on the artistic productions of his artist friends, and of a good many others, so as to throw light on points of his theory. Jacques-Alain Miller, in his teaching, has himself made use of literary, theatrical and cinematographic productions on several occasions. We could study the references to each of these productions and assuredly discover the tastes for certain arts in the said psychoanalysts. All the same, we can already say that in these three domains, at least, music shines by its absence. There must be a reason.

Lacan has most evidently exploited the figure of the artist, I think, in Joyce and in the Seminar of Lacan on Joyce.[1] A very distinctive Seminar — and in which I had the honour and pleasure to assist — where Lacan interested himself in Joyce in order to research a point, inter alia, that I will condense with the following interrogation: Can one create a real? In this Seminar, Lacan answers this question by saying that it is there his work and he makes use of the formula: to create a real for psychoanalysis. But there is a problem. Picasso, as I have indicated earlier, does not hesitate to say that the painting is, that the painting resists, and that the artist finds the way of giving form, as little as it may be, to the painting: through a picture, for example. But the picture, the picture carried through and set out, is nothing save the reflection of the painting. This leads the painter of Málaga to say that he has only ever painted one picture, which he has never finished, because the painting resists the picture. It resists, so much so that he continues still to paint.

The formula: what does not cease being painted could be applied perfectly to painting, and not only to it. It would, however, seem that Lacan answers Picasso, it is indeed what he does, when he declares that the "I do not seek, I find" is no longer useful to him because what applies to him now is: "I do not find, I seek."[2] What did Lacan seek? It's what he himself said, "a real for psychoanalysis", a real so as to defend it against that towards which it tends: religion.

Allow me a parenthetical remark. I imagine that Lacan dreamed that a Francisco was going to arrive who would restore religion, much to the joy and the sanction of almost the whole world. It is perhaps because Lacan dreamed of Francisco, which is to say that he dreamed that the 21st century would be religious – just as Malraux had had a presentiment about it – that Lacan thought he must construct a real for psychoanalysis, a real worthy of the times. A real which takes account of religion and its obscure face: the woman. A real that is able to dialogue with religion and the woman without being pulled towards sense.

Lacan's Seminar XXIII preaches the instuaration of a new relation to the real. Interpretation will be poetic, an interpretation as a making (un faire), in the primary sense of the term – an artisanal, artistic making as its etymological root indicates. Which means that, to the knowledge and to the making of the sinthome, are added the knowledge and the making of the interpretation, because the interpretation, i.e. the suspension of sense, indicates the region of shadow which it has, itself, generated. Interpretation, like the truth, cannot say it all. It counts more for what it does not say than for what it says.

It is perhaps on this point that artists open the doors through which psychoanalysts must pass. Artists dare to deal with the unfinished, the incomplete, the failed, the fuzzy, the worst: the best. Schubert wrote The Unfinished Symphony. It would have to be listened to attentively. I do not know if there are other examples, but all artists say that something lacks to the work that they have realized, so much so that an anecdote recounts how Michelangelo, after having finished his Moses, struck it on the knee with a hammer and shouted: "Speak!".

Currently, at the Guggenheim museum of Bilbao, the second floor is reserved for the Catalan, Antoni Tàpies. Those in charge of the exhibition have entitled it: From Object to Sculpture. And on the first floor, in room 104, called the Arcelor Mittal, is to be found the permanent installation by Richard Serra: The Matter of Time. These suggestive titles indicate exactly what we are trying to say. Tàpies, the Catalan, takes everything that he finds around him: a glass, a knife, a chair, an old rag, a pile of plates, a bit of wood, a basket. He puts them in order, then in disorder: he folds them, breaks them, mixes them up until he has made a sculpture of it. He does what Lacan in The Ethics of Psychoanalysis calls: "raising the object to the dignity of the Thing", and this elevation produces the miracle of art. Thus, in the hands of Tàpies a pile of plates becomes a sculpture worthy to belong in the museum of the great sculptures of humanity. From another perspective, Serra does the same thing. For his part, he wants to give form to time, a time in agreement with the times. He thus breaks up geometry and topology, disjoins the spiral, cuts the torus, plays with the double helix and invents a sculpture starting from the study of the complexity of a spiral while seeking, at the same time, in another sculpture, the interaction between the sphere and the torus. It is inside these monumental figures that Serra invites me, as spectator of his work, to melt myself there, to cross it on the inside, to feel the effects of "making vibrate in the body the sensation of the space worked by him".

What is there between the first floor of the Guggenheim and the second? What is it that palpitates thus? It is the making of the artist, which, like all "making", gives form, even unfinished form, to what palpitates at the heart of every object. Why? To give form to what, by principle, palpitates in silence. Knowing to wait is enough (Il suffit de savoir attendre).

During my last session of analysis I evoked the sentence of Lacan that had remained engraved in my memory: "I know what knowing to wait means". Analytical waiting does not mean contemplation, it is a savoir-faire, and initially, a savoir-faire against the tendency to the signifying concatenation that religion and bureaucracy are. As the great Argentinian artist Charly García said it, just before l'Université Nationale de San Martín would confer upon him the title of Doctor Honoris Causa, when someone asked him what had been the key to his success, he answered: "There is no plan B".

There is no plan B if one desires a real proper to the psychoanalysis for the 21st century.

Paris, January 2014.

Translated by samya Seth

  1. Lacan J., Le Séminaire, livre XXIII, Le sinthome, Paris, Seuil, 2005 (not translated into English).
  2. Lacan J., Le Séminaire, livre XXV, Le moment de conclure (The Time to Conclude), lesson of 14 March 1978, unpublished.