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Migratory Aesthetics

Bracha Ettinger, Nichsapha-Lapsus, 1991 and  Paintings from the Eurydice Series, 1992-1998

Nichsapha-Lapsus, 1991 Bracha Ettinger Painting from the Eurydice Series, 1992-1998 Bracha Ettinger Painting from the Eurydice Series, 1992-1998

Art as the Transport-Station of Trauma
Extracts from Bracha Ettinger Art-Working 1985-1999
Gent: Ludion 2000

The place of art is for me the transport-station of trauma: a transport-station that more than a place is rather a space that allows for certain occasions of occurrence and of encounter, which will become the realisation of what I call borderlinking and borderspacing in a matrixial trans-subjective space by way of experiencing with an object of process of creation. The transport is expected in this station, and it is possible, but the transport-station does not promise that passage of remnants of trauma will actually take place in it; it only supplies the space for the occasion. The passage is expected but uncertain, the transport does not happen in each encounter and every gazing subject.

Beauty that I find in contemporary art-works that interest me, whose source is the trauma to which it also returns and appeals, is not beauty as private or as that upon which a consensus of taste can be reached. It is a kind of encounter that perhaps we are trying to avoid much more than aspiring to arrive at, because the beautiful, as Rilke says, is but the beginning of the horrible in which – in this dawning -  we can hardly stand.  We can hardly stand at the threshold of that horrible, at that threshold which maybe is but, as Lacan puts it, in his 7th seminar, the limit, the frontier of death, or should we say of self-death? – in life, where life glimpses death as if from inside. Could such a limit be experienced, via art-working, as a threshold and a passage to the Other? If so, is it only the death-frontier that is traversed here? Is death the only domain of the beyond?

Beauty for Lacan concerns the individual that trembles on the limit of the border that splits it – and this limit is in fact the barrier of ‘castration anxiety’ as shaped by a discourse concerning sexuality from the viewpoint of male development: a limit that tears the individual subject – male and female – apart, both from feminine sexuality, always intermingled with closeness and attraction toward the archaic mother, and from revelations of the death drive.  In other words, it tears the individual subject away from regression into psychosis, into the womb-as-symbiotic-autism-psychosis. Theory, that produces the subject thus split, where negation of the feminine is constructed as a defence against insanity, also produces by the same move some unequivocal consanguinity between femininity and psychosis, the feminine and the art object, the feminine and loss, the feminine and sacrifice.  This resonates throughout western culture, for example in the classical structuring of the artist as a creative subject that shapes its object as the loss of the woman or the mother, or the structuring of the woman as an object sacrificed to creation and replaced by it – the list is long from the myth of Orpheus to Duchamp’s  Bride…..

But where a subject is also matrixial, such no-transmission is impossible. It is impossible for the subject not to be accessible to the traumatic shared-in-difference wound, it is impossible for the subject to tear itself away from the archaic pain or jouissance, and not only oneself, but also of several others borderlinked to the self upon the pattern of this borderlinking to the archaic-becoming-m/Other.  If in the phallic field, not to be disconnected from the immemorial between life and non-life means psychosis, in the matrixial sphere a total disconnection from it is itself a form of madness, because in the feminine there is a memory-of-oblivion of and in the borderline, a memory of oblivion different from no-memory in its transgressive affectability, that transmits onwards from the immemorial. The Ketz – a frontier and an end turns into Katze- a borderline as an open limit, an edge (both words in Hebrew derive from the same root) because where the limit is fluid, crumbled, joined together… by artworking to become an edge, the borderline becomes a space and the Katze is then a transport-station of trauma.

No content, no form and no image can guarantee that such beauty-inclined-toward-the-Sublime will arise, but the occasion for it is opened. The working through of an art-work that supplies moments of Hesed, of grace and solace, is but the deepening and widening of the threshold of fragility at the transport-station of trauma.


[Exhibition][Introduction][Postscript][List of Works] [ConferenceProgramme]


University of Leeds School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies Arts and Humanities Research Council