Tag Archives: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis A Selection

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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&, 2 and XAGGERA launches this week!

The very tail end of this week will be a pretty big one for me! First up, this Thursday I and the other amazing members of Guelph’s &, collective will be launching the collective’s second chap/book, this happened to one of us. The book’s been in the works for a while, and I think it’s pretty exciting: the project came from writing and workshopping we did together around the theme of confessional poetry, where one of us would come up with a confessional-style prompt and everyone else in the group would write a poem as if they’d actually had that experience themselves. The result is a bunch of poems about things like getting a flat tire, cheap motels, drunken teenage birthday parties, coffee dates, and (of course) sex. We’ll even be filling up this week’s launch with prizes for audience members who correctly guess which poet actually wrote the prompt for each set. Several of us in the collective have been working with Publication Studio Guelph to plan the launch and actually make our own books (see photo evidence below), and the book layout (wickedly designed by yours truly) also includes illustrations by the Guelph-based artist group SADSADDERDAZE, which will be hand-coloured for the launch editions–so, the whole thing definitely feels like a community effort. Which is why you should come celebrate with us: 7pm at Boarding House Arts (6 Dublin St. South) this Thursday, September 29! Check out the facebook event. Or look for the book (which, as per PS’s amazing distribution model, promises to be pretty damn cheap) over at the PS web store.

 

ampersand-2

 

Second, and the very next day, I’ll be hanging out with David Knight and friends of Fenylalanine Publishing and Ed Video to celebrate Ed Video’s 40th anniversary and launch FP’s new art magazine, XAGGERA (which will be on sale for $10 a copy). I’m definitely not as in-the-know about this project, but a quick look at the event’s facebook page promises a series of probably insane visuals and music that’ll be nowhere close to ordinary. I can also let you in on the fact that my contribution to the magazine is a bizarre pseudo-advertisement for the special erasure/asemic font I created for The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis: A Selection, which I’ve been uploading in parts over at my new instagram account. In short, the magazine is something to watch out for. And if you’re up for something on the weirder side of normal, come join us at the ANAF Club (32 Gordon St.), 9:15pm this Friday, September 30.

 

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