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Art & Psychoanalysis


Art & Psychoanalysis

ART & PSYCHOANALYSIS - Possibilities & Politics

In his 1958 article on The Youth of Gide, Jacque Lacan states: “psychoanalysis is applied, strictly speaking, only as a treatment and thus to a subject who speaks and hears”. In 1965, in his article Homage to Marguerite Duras, Lacan makes another statement concerning the relation between art and psychoanalysis: “that in his work the artist always precedes him [the psychoanalyst], and that he does not have to play the psychologist where the artist paves the way for him”.

For Lacan, as was the case for Sigmund Freud, there is no straightforward relationship between psychoanalysis and art. So the question becomes: what sort of encounter is possible between these two fields? This is the question that will be explored in the Opening Event of the ICLO-NLS programme for 2019-20 with a particular focus on the visual arts.

The arts, as with psychoanalysis, defy singular definitions and concern a multiplicity of forms and practices that invite, question, interrogate and observe unique ways of seeing the human condition. Both value invention and how the once done, the “one-off” cannot be done again except as a lie. But art always involves the presentation of something, that “object-something” having as its correlate a spectator as the one who “sees it”. Thus, this “it” that invites looking at, or equally a turning away from, is central to the “saying” of artwork.

Lacan makes many reference points to the visual arts, notably to Holbein’s The Ambassadors through which he introduces the concepts of “the gaze” and “anamorphosis” into psychoanalytic theory/practice. He also draws on the work of other artists, for example in his Seminar on The Sinthome where, in a study of James Joyce, he advances a new understanding of “the symptom”.

Another urgent issue for both fields concerns the social-bond, its possibilities and politics. Or, to bring matters to a close, how the ever-present “push to commodify” might be resisted in the name of an awake subject.

Let the conversation begin!



Julian King is an Artist and Educator, who has practiced in a number of diverse, creative professions in Film, Advertising, Design and Education. Julian produces digital art works that combine advanced technology with core artistic values of skill and technique to produce a type of conceptual representation that will resonate with the viewer. For example, his set of works, Digital Deities (Hades, Hypnos, Orpheus), he says, “takes modern figures or ideas from our common culture and reimagines them as the deities of Ancient Greece. In our modern world we believe we have come so far in our technological development and understanding, but we live in societies where the screen is ubiquitous, inhabited by celebrities, causes, corporations and concepts, that shape our lives in the same manner as the gods, demi-gods, spirits, heroes and monsters of the ancient world.”

Rik Loose was Head of the Unit of Psychoanalysis in DBS School of Arts in Dublin from 1993 till 2007. Currently he is a senior lecturer there, and practices psychoanalysis in private practice. He is a member of the NLS (New Lacanian School), the WAP (World Association of Psychoanalysis) and ICLO (Irish Circle of Lacanian Orientation) Society of the NLS. Rik has published articles on topics such as psychopathology, addiction, science, James Joyce and presented work on art.

Dr Nathan O’Donnell is a writer and researcher, who has published fiction and non-fiction in several magazines, including The Dublin Review, gorse journal, The Manchester Review, 3:AM, New Irish Writing, and elsewhere. Nathan also writes about contemporary art, is one of the co-editors of Paper Visual Art Journal. Currently an IRC Enterprise Postdoctoral Research Fellow, he is based between TCD and IMMA examining Lucian Freud’s relationship to Ireland. He is editing the critical edition of the avant-garde journal BLAST as part of the OUP Collected Works of Wyndham Lewis, and Nathan’s first book, on Lewis’s art criticism, is forthcoming from Liverpool University Press. He teaches part time on the MA Art in the Contemporary World at NCAD, and has been awarded artist's commissions from South Dublin County Council (through the Per Cent for Art Scheme), IMMA, and Dublin City Council.

Alan Rowan is a member of the World Association of Psychoanalysis (WAP), the New Lacanian School (NLS) and ICLO, who works in private practice in Berlin, Germany. He is also a Clinical Psychologist and Systemic Psychotherapist and, prior to moving to Germany, worked for approximately 30 years in Mental Health Services within both Ireland and the UK where he held a variety of clinical psychology/psychotherapy posts. Alan has published more than 40 articles in a variety of Lacanian and Psychoanalytic journals.

Suzanne Walsh is a writer and artist from Wexford currently in residence in Fire Station Artist Studios, Dublin. Suzanne uses performative lectures, audio/musical performances, vocalisations, recitations and text in various manifestations to query ideas around human/non-human relationships and consensus reality. She appropriates texts from various sources, including the Internet, historical poetry and scientific texts, and has published essays, reviews and poetry in various publications in the art and literary worlds. Recent performances include venues such as Warsaw University, IMMA, The International Literature Festival and TENT gallery Rotterdam. The Roaming Edges, she says,“explores how encounter with an image in a more mundane setting can still leave powerful aftershocks that echo through other art forms and media, leaving a potent symbolic residue.”

Colin Wright is an Associate Professor of Critical Theory at the University of Nottingham where he is also Head of the Department of Cultural, Media and Visual Studies. His research interests are in French Critical Theory and Continental Philosophy, but particularly Lacanian psychoanalysis. He has published articles in journals such as Theory & Event, Paragraph, Subjectivity, The Lacanian Review and Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society. Recent book publications include Perversion Now! (2017) and Badiou in Jamaica: The Politics of Conflict (2014), and his current book project is entitled Toxic Positivity: A Lacanian Critique of Happiness Studies. Colin is himself a Lacanian psychoanalyst with a private practice in Nottingham, and is a member of the London Society of the New Lacanian School.

Map United Arts Club, 3 Fitzwilliam Street Upper, Dublin, Ireland D02 RR50, Dublin, Ireland
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