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The Secret Lives of Objects

Jane's book, The Secret Lives of Objects, will be published on 13th March, 2008.

It will be available from trafford.com as a real book and a digital download, both priced at £25.

Click here to view a synopsis of the individual papers featured in the book.


This book looks at objects from a perspective derived from psychoanalytical practice as well as the practice of art/design. I have brought together a number of papers. About a third have already been published (although I have sometimes used a later version.) Others have been presented at conferences or as lectures. Most, I have originally written for my own personal pleasure – even when they have ended in a published version. All these texts make use of the methodology of free association (as used in the consulting room). I have avoided references. For texts, such as these, which hover somewhere between the academic, the essay and fiction, references seem a regrettable distraction. And in line with this kind of thinking, ignoring their dates of origin, I am transferring them from a diachronic system into a synchronic practice, which oversees the whole. One could see this as a panopticon tower regularly installed in prisons in the nineteenth century which allowed for surveillance and separation. (Prisoners were not allowed to meet.) But I would be much happier to think of my texts as a rotating mirror ball reflecting the pulsing disco light system, which represent the shifting perceptions of my own experience of objects. The objects I have chosen to write about have no particular status as aesthetic objects. Nor am I myself a maker of objects. But the dialectic between making and psychoanalytical practice gives us a new perspective on the object. The objects I describe are in the mind, be they jugs, beast costumes, desiring machines, photo albums or whatever. To support this I have largely made use of the method of free association which I outline at several points. The papers are discrete. They stand alone. This inevitably leads to a certain amount of unavoidable repetition. These repetitions serve as leit-motifs which haunt the text. Sometimes they are noisy; sometimes a mere ripple of sound. Their underground rumble resembles the way that prisoners in total isolation still find the means to communicate. But sometimes silence is best. In my final paper ‘The death of the photo album’ I end up with an empty page. [Jane Graves 2008]

What is the object’s secret?

I approach the ‘secret’ of an object from a double perspective. My twin practices as a cultural studies lecturer and a psychoanalytical psychotherapist stimulated my search for the object’s ‘secret’. I see my patients alone in my consulting room, and this isolation is essential for patients to tolerate the process of change and discovery – which tells them they were not quite as they thought. I isolate the object in a similar way, and stripping it of familiar associations, it becomes strange to me, just as my patients become strange to themselves. But the art/design college focussed me primarily on the making process rather than the responsive process. All artists/designers must acquire skills; but at the root of all creative practice, there is an intuition. This intuition can then be sustained by a systematic exploration of the possibilities implicit in the original concept. To guide me through this creative maze I have turned to Freud’s dream theory. He identifies three strategies, condensation, displacement and symbolisation which convert the disturbing wishes of the unconscious into a form acceptable to the dream censor – and pleasurable to the dreamer. To me these three strategies are essential to understand the indirect nature of the creative process – as long as they are unconscious. They are also the defence strategy which allows the artist to get lost in her/his own mind - to engage with the rhythm of the body, heart, blood, breath, which utilises the orifices of the body, in particular the mouth, the anus and the phallus. These primal erotic zones link us to the pulsating erotic desires, which can never be fully satisfied. We must renounce the fantasy of total fulfilment to fully engage with the creative process. Mourning is the basis of creativity – as it is of the creatively lived life. Approaching the individual object this way allows us a temporary escape from the plethora of objects, which make up our daily world. Trapping an object in a peepshow box is an opportunity to illuminate its singularity. [Jane Graves 2008]

Click here to view a synopsis of the individual papers featured in the book.

2007 janegraves.org.uk
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