Tag Archives: erasure

The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis: A Selection

 

Hi all,

For the past 16 months, I’ve maintained an Instagram account @selected.works dedicated (mostly) to showcasing pages from my artist’s book The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis: A Selection (which was in fact completed and printed some time earlier). I used the account to highlight and quote from pages of Jacques Lacan’s original The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis that I felt were relevant to my project; in the process, I learned a lot about Lacan, my own creative work, and the world of Instagram (or at least the parts of it I connected with).

Since I’ve reached the end of my volume (though it is, of course, only half the size of Lacan’s), I’ve decided to bring the project to a close, at least for now, and to think about turning @selected.works towards new ends. To mark the occasion, I’ve also decided to make available some additional documentation pertaining to A Selection: specifically, a short artist’s statement I wrote nearly two years ago to collect some of my motivations for and reflections on the project. That statement is copied below. If you’ve been following the project, I hope it’ll provide you with some intriguing background material. And if you’ve never seen A Selection before, I hope this will entice you to dig into the Instagram posts!

 

The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis: A Selection

Artist’s Statement

 

The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis: A Selection is a typographical artwork inspired by appropriation art, conceptual writing, and visual poetry. In its complete form as a 142-page printed book, the project operates as a “selection” of Jacques Lacan’s classic text (first published in English in 1977) in at least two senses: first, as an editorial selection of approximately half the lectures included in the original volume; second, as a graphical erasure of approximately half the ink used in the original publication of the selected sections, a result achieved by typesetting the volume in a font variation (designed by the artist) which renders visible only part of each printed letter. Thus the scope of the project spans, on one end, the editorial and visual reproduction of Hogarth’s original publication of Lacan’s text and, on the other, the development of the “Manque” font variation, which could be applied to any text.

The project’s methods draw inspiration from several sources. Its use of appropriation and material reproduction is inspired by the work of appropriation artists such as Richard Prince, especially his reproduction of Random House’s first edition of The Catcher in the Rye. Conceptual writing’s focus on the materiality of text, the labour of reproduction, and radical mimesis provides additional context for these techniques. Meanwhile, the design of the “Manque” font variation draws inspiration from the processes of erasure poetry as well as the visual styles of asemic writing and non-Latin scripts.

Lacan’s The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psych-analysis emerged as an ideal source text for the project for a variety of reasons; in many ways, in fact, the text seemed to suggest the parameters of the project of its own volition. Superficially, the project mimics the format of Bruce Fink’s first translation of Lacan’s Écrits (also the first work of Lacan’s to be published in English), which included only a selection of Lacan’s original essays and was subtitled as such. The publication history of The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis also offers an excellent case study of the problems of reproduction and translation explored by A Selection. Originally presented by Lacan as an oral seminar, the lectures that constitute The Four Fundamental Concepts were first collected as a printed text (and given their popular title, which was not Lacan’s) under the editorship of Jacques-Alain Miller, who has since been accused of distorting Lacan’s voice and thought. As Alan Sheridan’s translation of the French text puts the 1977 Hogarth publication at yet another level of remove from its supposed origins, the book’s appearance in English carries with it a deep suspicion of the status and value of these origins even before its reproduction in A Selection. That Lacan is often considered fundamental to the line of postmodern thinking obsessed with this suspicion is perhaps no coincidence. Finally, the thematic structure of Lacan’s seminar provided a ripe target for editorial re-imagining: by “selecting” approximately the first half of the book for republication, A Selection redesigns Lacan’s seminar to culminate with his discussions of the image and the gaze, foregrounding his most direct commentaries on the visual effects of the “Manque” font variation. In a sense, the project attempts to prove the relevance of Lacan’s comments on mimicry (as presented on page 99 of the text, the only page rendered in regular type in A Selection) to the relationship between textuality and visuality: concerning the limit beyond which a script ceases to signify and becomes no more than a picture, “It is not a question of harmonizing with the background but, against a mottled background, of becoming mottled—exactly like the technique of camouflage practised in human warfare.”

The name of the font variation “Manque” references Lacan’s famous manque-à-être, a neologism derived from the French word for “to miss” or “to lack” but rendered in English as “want-to-be” by Lacan himself. Alongside its application of manque-à-être to the field of the letter (itself an important agent within the unconscious, according to Lacan’s well-known essay), “Manque” thus also incorporates the problems and history of translating Lacan’s thought into its very identity.

John Nyman
January 7, 2016

 

 

 

 

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Tree Reading Series in Ottawa next week, and “Min” in oratorealis

Hi everyone,

To begin, I’m very excited about the fact that I’ll be a featured reader (alongside Shoshanna Wingate) at next Tuesday’s edition of Tree Reading Series in Ottawa. In all honesty, there’s not much I can say about the series (since I’ve never been before!), but I do know it has a long tradition and an important place in Ottawa’s literary scene, both of which I’m happy to have a role in. It’s also a little flattering (though also intimidating!) to be described as a conceptual poet “known for fresh takes” (as Tree’s website points out)–I hope I don’t disappoint! In any case, I should thank Pearl Pirie and Nina Jane Drystek (who I met, by happenstance, at an art opening during my visit to Ottawa last February) for helping set up the reading. If you’re in Ottawa, it’s taking place on Tuesday, May 23, 6:45pm at Black Squirrel Books (and here’s the event’s facebook page).

Recently, I also got to see the text of my poem, “Min,” in this spring’s issue of oratorealis, a new-ish West coast literary journal with the provocative mission of publishing spoken word and experimental poetry. My piece definitely falls into the latter, since (as I’ve admitted to folks who have seen it) I have no idea how exactly it would be performed orally. The piece itself is a kind of textual medley, comprising poetic summaries of the verses of Cab Calloway’s big band jazz classic “Minnie the Moocher” as well as redacted transcriptions of the original verses, which reduce them to something resembling the song’s famous call-and-response scat choruses. As long as I’m on the topic, I might as well add that my process for writing the piece involved downloading every version and cover of the song I could find, then listening to them on loop until the lyrics (and their multiple musical renditions) were etched in my head. It’s a very, very good song.

Anyway, I think that’s all for now. Happy reading!

 

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O Our Ism erasures/artist’s book now available on the Publications page!

Hi everyone,

Presenting some of my work at the fabulous Facilitate event Seeing Poetry last week inspired me to make one of my major visual poetic projects more readily available online. Different forms of O Our Ism have accompanied me through much of my development as a writer: after completing the first few entries of the project for a class assignment in third year (specifically, in my poetry class with the wonderful David Goldstein), I went on to print further spreads as glossy, broadsheet-style posters, many of which are now in the hands or on the walls of poetically-minded friends and acquaintances. Finally, last summer, I compiled the pages into an artist’s book designed to mimic the source material in size and layout (although, admittedly, not thickness). Over the past few years I have brought versions of the project to countless readings and assembled parts of it into wall displays for exhibitions such as the T E X T ual A R T ivity show in Coburg, Ontario this spring.

For reference, I’ve included below a brief note that accompanied O Our Ism on the walls of The Academy of the Impossible during the latter’s brief stay at 231 Wallace Avenue in Toronto. You can access my complete pdf e-book of the project here, or by finding it near the top of the Publications page. Of course, you can also get in touch with me to look at (or potentially own) a physical copy of the book–it’s quite striking in person!

A note on the work:

O Our Ism is a series of erasures developed out of two-page spreads from the book Photojournalism, edited by Nick Yapp and Amanda Hopkinson and published by Könemann (2006) using photographs from Getty Images. The book’s original captions, which provide the textual source for the erasures, appear in English, French and German. O Our Ism is a realistically endless project, as its source material will only be exhausted once its nearly 400 spreads are rendered into poems.

 

2-3

404-405

770-771

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New broadside-posters available at upcoming readings!

Hi all,

It’s now the day after my spectacular feature at Rochdale Rhymes and Readings with Lisa Young and Ian Hanna (if you missed it, it was a lot of fun and a wonderful night all around) and just a few days before my next feature at The Secret Handshake Gallery this Sunday, and I’d like to take the chance to post about my newest art/printing/publishing project!

Last night at the Regal Beagle (with a just-printed package from Staples and a borrowed pen), I debuted a set of (so far) 8 broadsides from a series of erasures tentatively titled O Our Ism. The broadsides are scanned and reprinted spreads from a large book of photographs spanning the 150-year history of photojournalism, whose captions I have selectively whited out to construct erasure poems on the images’ margins. The result is a series of rather poster-like (they’re printed on glossy paper) sheets featuring huge prints of historic photographs dwarfing narrow columns of my own minimalistic, visual found poetry.

Following a very successful showing-off last night, I’ll now be signing and selling copies of the broadsides at my upcoming readings for $4 each (or 2 for $7, or 3 for $10). If you’re interested, come out and take a look! (Oh, and stay for the live readings, too.)

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