Here's a great article by Jacques Roisin titled “Renée Magritte, a particular destiny of the scopic impulse:”
Here's a bio on one of the principle figures mentioned in the book: [Louis Scutenaire is chiefly remembered as a central figure in the Belgian Surrealist movement, along with René Magritte, Paul Nougé, Marcel Lecomte and his own wife Irène Hamoir. He studied law at the Free University of Brussels (now split into the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and was a criminal lawyer from 1931 to 1944. In 1926 he discovered surrealism and was a primary contributor to the Revue surréaliste. He was sympathetic to Communism during the 1930s and 1940s but as the truth about the Stalin regime became more apparent, he grew disenchanted with it and became an anarchist. After the Second World War he became a civil servant in the Belgian Ministry of the Interior, a job he kept for the rest of his life.
Scutenaire grew disillusioned with the increasing commercialisation of Surrealism after the Second World War, but this did not apparently impair his close friendship with the most famous Belgian surrealist René Magritte. Scutenaire and his wife would visit the Magritte home on Sundays, where Scutenaire would be invited to give titles to Magritte's recent paintings; 170 of the paintings still bear the titles that Scutenaire suggested. (He is also the model for the figure in Magritte's canvas Universal Gravitation.)
Scutenaire, 1985Scutenaire's published works include a series of books entitled Mes Inscriptions, collections of gnomic and mischievous aphorisms, as well as one of the earliest and most entertaining monographs on Magritte. He was awarded in 1985 the Grand Prix spécial de l'Humour noir in recognition of his achievements as a writer with a lifelong distrust of authority and institution. He died twenty years to the hour after his friend Magritte, just after watching a television programme on the painter.]
Scutenaire, in my opinion, tends to exaggerate and sensationalize the facts creating legends of certain events in Magritte's life, such as the death of Magritte's mother.
INTRODUCTION by editor Leo Berlips:
The original article was published in the Cahiers of the Centre d'Etudes Pathoanalytiques (CEP) with the title: “Renée Magritte, a particular destiny of the scopic impulse” (A short essay of applied psychoanalysis) by Jacques Roisin.
In order to facilitate an easier internet reference to the contents of this article I changed the original title of this article into: “Psychoanalysis of surrealist Magritte.”
As I am not a professional translator this translation was extra difficult mainly depending on two facts: 1. Roisin uses very long and complex sentences. (His text reminded me often of Karl Marx). 2. He uses Lacan’s concepts to explain his main viewpoint. For those who, like me, never had a chance to study Lacan they were very difficult to translate. Therefore I lifted out some of these concepts and put them at the end my translation (unfortunately in a very incomplete way)
Some translation details:
>pensée< I translated sometimes as: thought, mental representation, concept, human thinking.
>présence d'esprit< as “presence of the spirit”, instead of “alertness.”
In case of doubt I put the original French word next to my translation.
As a literal translation often would miss the point I have sometimes added an extra word in brackets (abcde….) I hope you will look at my text with some benevolent tolerance. Anyhow I have to take full responsibility for any mistake made. In case you can make a better translation I will immediately change it with this one!
Roisin refers often to the “veil” in Magritte’s painting, as well in a concrete as in an abstract (symbolic) sense. However, surprisingly enough, neither he nor Magritte ever referred to the fact that the symbolic use of the “veil” is a well known in philosophy, religion or literature. Nevertheless Roisin clearly mentions in his speech:
> But aren't we all in the illusion to think that we have contact with reality when (in reality…..) we have to do with image representations redoubled by the painted images, or with word representations redoubled by the written words <
The Hindu religion uses the word “Maya” (veil) since a long time ago in the same sense as Magritte, when he wrote:
"I could see the world as if it were only a curtain placed in front of my eyes." This is exactly what the Hindus mean: the veil of material reality covers spiritual reality. Goethe described the same view in a very beautiful way, in Faust II: “Anmutige Gegend”. (strophe 4695 till 4725). Faust is not able to see the sun in a direct way, but only indirectly by way of the Rainbow, used as a veil to protect him from directly seeing “the Light”. (In the Tibetan book of death the first discovery of a new reality after death- ego loss - is described as being exposed to intensive light phenomena. In his book “The Doors of Perceptions” Aldous Huxley even plays with the idea that the human brain might function as a kind of veil-filter to protect us from the intensity of another reality. (In case you are interested in this I recommend you read Ken Wilber’s books, see: http://wilber.shambhala.com/)
However what we own to Roisin is that he shows us in detail the connection between Magritte’s trauma, with the concrete veil of his dead mother, and his mental and artistic working through of this trauma on a higher symbolic level.
I do hope that for you who are interested in surrealism or in the mystery of existence that this translation of Roisin’s psychoanalysis of Magritte is useful. I am aware that this is translation is imperfect! To tell you the truth in connection with it I felt sometimes very much like the grasshopper that Mephistocles described in Faust when he says:
"Er scheint mir, mit Verlaub von euer Gnaden, wie eine der langbeinigen Zikaden, die immer fliegt und fliegend springt und gleich im Grass ihr altes Liedchen singt (He looks like the grasshopper who ever jumps and flying through the air falls down, but continues to sing his old melody"
Your editor Leo Berlips. >firstname.lastname@example.org<
PS. Unfortunately I could not reproduce Magritte’s pictures. You find them in the Cahier itself or in a library.
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“Renée Magritte, a particular Destiny of the Scopic Impulse” (Rene Magritte, A short Essay of applied psychoanalysis) by Jacques Roisin.
I came here invited by Jean Kinable, to speak to you about my work concerning the painter Rene Magritte. I can say that it was the passion of my life: I devoted to this work several years of my spare time. It concerned- I underlined this especially with Jean Kinable— a true biographical investigation, looking for what was the life of the painter from his birth (on November 21, 1898) to the moment of his so called “surrealistic” revelation (in 1926). For various reasons the account of this investigation, finished 5 years ago, was never published. The following are the notes that I entirely worked over for your sake.
You will thus take the proposals that I address to you for what they are: working hypotheses not entirely worked out, and because of this I hope you will forgive me for the unmethodical character of certain aspects of my contribution. If you want despite everything to give me some merit, I hope that it will be because I have tried new tracks in the psychoanalytical interrogation of a work of painting. It is indeed only with this short exercise in applied psychoanalysis that I answer the invitation that was made to me.
A belief was propagated among amateurs of the painting of Magritte. According to this, the suicide of his mother (occurred on February 23, 1912, in Châtelet) would be the cause of the fact that he became a painter. The pictures “Les Rêveries d'un promeneur solitaire et Les Eaux profondes” (the Daydreams of a solitary walker and The Deep Water) would evoke this tragic event. Perhaps you will understand the source of this belief after having heard me. For me it is first of all the occasion to denounce the common belief: which consists in believing that psychology or psychoanalysis could explain art. Something, which is quite as stupid as its opposite: to believe, because it is about art, that psychoanalysis could say nothing about the subjective resonance of the process of painting (act to paint) or about any of the works of an artist. It is clearly necessary to separate art and the unconscious or the desire which is the subject of psychoanalysis from the artistic production which is characterized by the going beyond the impulse.
Figure 1. Les rêveries d'un promeneur solitaire, 1926. Dreams of a lonely walker) [From a recent report in the newspaper: The one Surrealist work in the sale went through the roof. Magritte's drawing of the black silhouette of a man standing a few steps from the cutout of a musical score was done in 1926. The title, "Les reveries du promeneur solitaire," is a spoofy reference to Jean-Jacques Rousseau's essay. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago was selling it. Bolstered by its provenance, the "daydream of a lonely walker" climbed to $589,900, making it the most expensive Magritte work on paper ever auctioned.]
Figure 2. Les eaux profondes, 1941-42. Deep waters
A new way to paint.
When in 1925 a friend of Magritte shows him the reproduction of the picture of Chirico "the Song of Love"
(figure. 3) below, "the painter cannot retain his tears."
"It was," magritte will say later, "one of the most moving moments of my life." “My eyes saw the 'la pensée' (idea, conception, thought) for the first time."
"It is about a new vision where the spectator again finds his isolation (loneliness) and understands the silence of the world." From now on, because Chirico showed him the way, Magritte will know that it is for him a question exclusively to be preoccupied by "that what he needs to paint and not any more how to paint."
Figure 3. Song of love, Chirico, 1914
He passes like in a fever a period of "laborious trial and error" (figure. 4 and 5) during which he "finds his first picture:" The window -La fenêtre- (figure. 6, see below). He starts at last the realization of the “Jockey perdu” (Lost Jockey, figure. 7 see below) in 1926, which he considered his "first really successful surrealist painting."
Magritte will herewith introduce once and for all the theory, which he tirelessly will repeat in his texts, in his letters to his friends, his answers to the journalists, that what he baptizes as "a new art of painting."
[painting image not found]
Figure 4. Le goût de l'invisible. (Taste of invisible, 1925).
Figure 5. Le gouffre argenté (The silver plated pit, 1926)
Figure 6. The Window, 1925
“The art of paint for me is a means of description," said Magritte. "It is a question of describing a thought (concept) but of course not any thought. I cannot describe a thought that has the quality of duration for example. It is up to a writer to do it. I can describe only a thought that consists of images, of what the world offers in the way of the visible. The image of a sky, a tree, a person, an inscription, something solid. This image, however, is not a juxtaposition of visible things. It deserves in my opinion to be only described if it is inspired. It is inspired when this thought links visible things in such a way that their mystery is evoked."
Figure 7. Le jockey perdu (The lost jockey, 1926)
“What do you call an inspired idea?” asked the journalist. “Well," replied Magritte, "this is an idea (thought) that links visible things in such a way that mystery is evoked. An example is: a night landscape under a sunny sky. (L'Empire des lumières- Empire of the lights) Without any doubt the union of night and day evokes this mystery."
Thus Magritte would often say, "I show poetry which I identify with the description of the inspired idea," and added, "these ideas which suggest the mystery then resemble the world because the world is mystery." (1954) The picture L'empire des lumières (the empire of the lights, figure.8) was inspired in Magritte by a poem of Lewis Carroll:
"... the sun on the sea was shining/ it shone with all its forces/ it did its best to reflect the sparkling and calm waves/ and it was very odd, you see, because/ it was in the middle of the night."
I (Roisin) especially like this picture, as well for its successful mystery-effect as for the biographical resonance that it evokes in me. Because I met, during my investigation into the life of René Magritte, multiples incarnations of day and night in the unions of the father and the mother, Georgette and Rene Magritte in the (works of…) Magritte of before and after surrealism...
However, since the moment of the revelation, Magritte never changed any more, neither his type of painting nor in the preoccupations which supported it. The Renoir period (renamed afterwards: The Surrealism in full sunshine and Vache period express his two only exceptions.
Le Premier jour (figure. 9)
In 1943, in contrast with the ambient despair of the war period [I believe this is also, and more importantly, due to his marital problems of 1940], Magritte launches out in a type of painting inspired by impressionism in order to combine, through his personal research, the expression of the feelings of lightness, unconcern, and happiness. The evocative titles are Le Premier jour (figure. 9), La Moisson, Les Heureux présages. By the way, the so-called Vache “period", was only a nasty trick. Magritte was making fun of the criticisms and of the people of Paris, who sudden, in the year 1948, seized his name and claimed "pictures made by Magritte." Magritte’s friends told me how he proceeded. He noticed in a review illustrations which he judged dreadful, and used them to work out, in one week according to some, or two according to others, the ugliest pictures (Le galet, 1948, figure. 10) which he could design– This is in any case that of which he boasted himself afterwards...
Le galet (The Pebble), 1948, figure. 10
But so to say the good luck of finding his way in painting, as well of his activity as a painter as of the theorization that accompanied it, had an effect on Magritte’s personality, it produced a change of character. As a child, Magritte had been treated as of being possessed by the devil, as the terror of his neighborhood; because his behavior had show a kind of radical rebellion.
As a young groom, he was tyrannical with his wife. It seemed to me that one spoke about quite another character when my fellow biographers told me about the Magritte in the time after 1926: He had entered a routine life, painted at fixed hours, had been transformed into a dutiful husband and was from then on very attentive... Where thus had his rebellious tendencies gone?
“Renée Magritte, a particular destiny of the scopic impulse:” Some proposals concerning the psychic life of Rene Magritte
Let us return to his painting, which was to manifest the mystery of the world. Magritte linked his taste of mystery to some events of his childhood.
"From where did come this feeling of mystery?" asked a journalist. (1)
Rene Magritte answered, "The first memory that I remember is when I was in a cradle and the first thing that I saw it was a case [crate] close to my cradle, it is the first thing which I saw, the world was offered to me in the appearance of a case [crate]."
"I felt a vivid feeling of astonishment by looking, from my cradle, at some men who removed a deflated balloon that had fallen on the roof from my parents house."
Questioned as for his reaction to his mother’s suicide, Rene Magritte said, "(...) these were things of the same order as the deflated balloon, the closed case. (...) and the feeling of being in a mysterious world." To his friend Scutenaire [see his bio above], he had heard some confidences concerning the suicide of his mother. The following is how Scutenaire comments on the remarks which the painter made to him:
"Being a young person still, his mother committed suicide when he was twelve years old. She shared the room of her last born who, in the middle of the night, realizing that he was alone, woke up the family. One vainly sought everywhere in the house and then, noticing the traces of steps on the threshold and the pavement, followed them to lead to the bridge of Sambre, river of the Country."
"The mother of the painter had thrown herself into the water and, when her corpse was fished out, she had her faced covered with her nightdress. It was never known if she had hidden her eyes in order not to see the death that she had chosen or if the whirlpool had thus veiled her."
I (Roisin) initially questioned the memory of the suicide as a false memory, using the following questions: what had been the facts in reality, did the scene told by Magritte have a connection with what he desired? I present four reasons for my affirmative answer.
The veil on the death body, in the memory, just like the attitude of the picture of the man with the bowler hat, turning his back on the corpse, in Les Rêveries d'un promeneur solitaire (Daydreams of a lonely walker) are metaphors of the personal attitude of Rene Magritte. It consisted in posing a veil in front of the effects that his mother’s death produced on him. I give you some illustrations of them.
Scutenaire had brought back, in his monograph, Rene Magritte’s very particular reaction when this happened." The only feeling, wrote Scutenaire, which Magritte, in connection with this event, remembers — or imagines to remember — is that of an intensive pride at the thought of being the pitiful center of a drama." I (Roisin) have, from my side, questioned the great friend of Magritte’s childhoods concerning the reaction of Rene to the disappearance and the information about his mother’s death. I leave out the passages of this testimony that have a too anecdotic character... Raymond Pétrus (his childhood friend….) had concluded:
"Rene never showed anything, I did not even see him crying, whereas we, the street urchins, we cried during two weeks... and did not go out, so much were we frightened to have heard what happened: Magritte’s mom committed suicide! Indeed this is really quite exact, I must say it... and he would never spoke anymore about his mother."
He would never speak anymore about his mother Pétrus had told me: such was in effect from now on the attitude of Rene Magritte and— I do mean with this: during his whole life...it was the same.
Of the many texts of Magritte, only one contains a reference to his mother’s dead. In the “ Outline of an autobiography” written in 1954 — seven years thus after the publication of Scutenaire’s book — one can read the small following sentence: “ In 1912, his mother Régina does not want to live any more. She throws herself in Sambre”.
In the interviews with the painter, his mother’s death was evoked only twice. Thus in 1961, a journalist explicitly asked him the question about the suicide of his mother. Listen well at the question and the answer:
"During a long conversation, we asked him whether the suicide of his mother in the water of Sambre, had deeply marked him. Here is his answer:
"Of course, these are things that one does not forget. Yes, that marked me, but not in the sense that you think. It was a shock. But I do not believe in psychology, not more than I do believe in the will, that is an imaginary faculty. Psychology does not interest me. It claims to reveal the course of our thought and of our emotions, it attempts to oppose what I know, it wants to explain a mystery. Only one mystery: the world. Psychology deals with false mysteries. One cannot say if my mother’s death had an influence or not... During my adolescence, I felt things of the same order as the deflated balloon, the closed case. Very often, I had (and I still have) the feeling to be in a mysterious world: a street, a face, the sky, they appear to me in unknown, strange aspects. It is then that thought (la pensée) resembles the world..."
Admittedly, there were the remarks that Magritte held according Scutenaire, but I would like to underline the insistence which his friend had to use. Let me restore you the context of this confidence of the painter, because its importance seems large to me.
A complicity in surrealist rebellion linked the painter and the writer since their meeting in 1927. In the current of the year 1940, Scutenaire decided to devote a monograph to Rene Magritte, and he started with him a series of discussion-interviews. But the war occurred and delayed the publication of the manuscript, (3) Scutenaire’s book “Rene Magritte” appeared first in 1947.(4) One year later, Scutenaire took up his notes and asked Magritte some extra questions concerning his past, and edited this second text with the title Renée Magritte.
When I interviewed Scutenaire concerning Magritte, he started laughing when he remembered Rene’s attitude confronting his past. “He (Renée )gave the impression that he was incapable to remember. Can you imagine told Scutenaire amused and astonished at the same time, he could not arrive to remember his father’s first name. Leon?…. no it is not Leon, ….Francois? No!”
It took him a quarter of an hour at least to find at last his fathers first name: Leopold. One ought to see how painful it was for him when I asked him these questions, continued Scutenaire and he concluded "If I had listened to him, I would have written in chapter "the Past: Nothing!"
It is thanks to Scutenaire’s tenacity, because he returned to harass him on several occasions, that Rene Magritte delivered some rare memories of his childhood to him. But the painter seemed then— I tell you this based on Scutenaire’s testimony— unable to locate those with some precision of time or place. Did the scene occur in Lessines, Gilly, Châtelet? All these questions disturbed Rene Magritte.(6)
At the time precisely when he wrote his book devoted to Magritte, Scutenaire, curious about additional details, asked one day addressed Georgette Magritte:
"Thus the mother of Rene committed suicide!" he had exclaimed. This sentence astounded Georgette, because Rene had never entrusted her with this fact. A few times later, Scutenaire asked her whether she had spoken again about it with Rene, and Georgette informed him what had been the reaction of Rene Magritte: One does not speak about these things! He had answered. (7)
2. I had referred to a second interview where the suicide of Mrs. Magritte was evoked. Rene Magritte seems there confusedly to connect the starting of his activity as a painter with the happening of this drama —this one has to understand with a question mark. The interview was carried out in the way of a questionnaire (8), and Michael Georis of the newspaper Le Peuple had asked:
"— When did you start you to draw, to paint?"
" — As a very young person, around six or seven years, had Rene Magritte answered. I attended later the Athenaeum of Charleroi and I liked much to draw and paint. My mother had died when I was very young. My father liked my drawings, my painting... He was benevolent and encouraged my vocation."
3. The veil, present in the account of the memory, multiplies through a chain of substitutes in many fabrics (some of those perhaps evoke the suicide).
You know certainly the obsessive presence of the curtains in the work of Magritte. It is to be noticed that the very first activity of Rene Magritte’s painting consisted — according to testimonies that I received from his childhood friends — to represent church curtains; moreover before he started as a painter he painted stage sets.
If you consult a catalogue of the works of Magritte you also find many veils (consult “ L'Histoire centrale ”, (the central History, figure. 11) and Les Amants , (the Lovers). The screening of the face by an object in La Grande guerre (the Great war), Le Fils de l'homme (the Son of man) , but also the screening of the of the face by hands ( Le Genre nocturne, (figure. 12), or still more the replacement of the face by a dead’s-head La Gâcheus (Mona Lisa) , or by a ball of light Le Principe de plaisir (the Pleasure principle) , etc...
4. The question of what is hidden in what one sees one holds a central place in Rene Magritte’s discourse concerning his painting. The painter deployed it through two topics: that of hiding and of showing, that of the mystery. I will return to it later.
For all these reasons, I consider the memory of the suicide as a screen-memory. It will be seen that the interpretation that I propose to give , when related to a basic function of the screen-memory, clarifies the meaning of the two other memories. But I will initially focalize on the double meaning (aspect….) of the interpretations in psychoanalysis. They are focused, indeed, on the repetition of the trauma (such as Freud approached it at the time of “Beyond the pleasure principle”), and the return of the repressed (the theory that onfinds in all Freud’s work).
The aspect of trauma
What is a trauma: it is the psychic impact resulting from the meeting with a destructive incident, which can not be put in words. (une destruction indicible) Working in a Service giving assistance to victims, I receive many people consulting me following a traumatizing event. The listening to these people in an analytical way enabled me to realize that the event gets its power and its traumatic resonance based on the brutal awakening of the person confronted with his possibility to die. In other words the awakening of the trauma of existence.
If those traumatized are taken in the conflict between forgetting and remembering , the way out of the experience of the traumatic happening is elsewhere. It is in the assumption of one’s existence as a living and mortal person.(9) It is certain that the refusal to speak about the death of his mother - that I lengthily have depicted to you -, like the retention of tears witness, as shown by Magritte, of the impossibility of expressing the trauma in words and likewise of the flight way from the memory is traumatic.
How not to think here of (La Mémoire, the Memory, figure. 13): showing a head of a young woman, a head made of marble or plaster, surrounded by objects dear to Magritte — sky, clouds or the moon, curtains, a bell, a sheet of a tree— all this is put on a wall in front of a stretch of water. It shows on the temple a stain of blood.
In the following I propose to discuss the question: up to what point was Rene Magritte’s painting a part of the anticathexis in connection with the trauma, or up to what point made it possible to mitigate the impossibility of expressing the trauma in words?
As for the aspect of desires….) I will not take up here the theory of the repressed needs as it is familiar to you, it was the axis of Freud’ s interpretations, including when he wrote about applied psychoanalysis. In such a concept, the childhood memory is named screen-memory, as a construction made afterwards to cover the repressed infantile needs.
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Editor:. The LACAN concepts described in this part I LEFT out, you will find a very incomplete and poor translation of them at the end of this translation.
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Let us return to Magritte’s memories, and focus on that what is beyond the impulses that can be set there in scene. I choose as the location of the scopic object:
In the memory of the “suicide”:
-the gaze of the dead and the veil in which it hides.
In the memory of the “wrecked balloon”:
-the deflation which suddenly gets hold of him and surprises the child who looks.
In the memory of the closed case:
-the "what is this", the condensed meaning of the question which seems to him the first visible manifestation of the world,
(Lacanian slutsats av Roisin:
One ought to be astonished here by the presence of the "object little a," even on the level of the text that refers to the childhood memories, whereas it generally only appears in associations related to the memory. This characteristic reveals the character of brutal and sudden appearance of the scopic object in the psychic life of Rene Magritte. I went directly to the "object little a." One could however question the unconscious desires which are pressed on the scopic object and which the setting in scene of the memories evokes.)
The balloons return in Les belles relations (the beautiful relations, (figure. 14) , Lorsque l'heure sonnera (When the hour strikes, figure 14, 1967)
The cases appear in the pictures under the aspect of coffins, thus in Perspectives I and II (figure 15 and 16), Magritte reproduced Le Balcon, (Balcony) of Manet and Madame Récamier by David, by substituting their person, (one sitting, the other lying), by that of coffins, keeping them in the same positions.
This reminds us also of the sentence that Magritte launched talking with Scutenaire, affirming: "we are in a cellar and there is not even a basement window..." The suggested questions relate to the relation of the painter to berth and death, and this relation seems captivated by his bond to his mother...
Where could this bring us? Briefly, let us try.
Figure 15. Prospect I. Mrs. Récamier de David, 1950.
Prospect II. The balcony of Manet, 1950.
I do not know what was former: the formation of these memories or the death, in reality, of the mother? But all these memories can be referred to this death: the case, the deflated and wrecked balloon (like the body of the mother gorged with water)... I want to say that this death came to concretize the phantasm. Let us return to the memory which account contains such a power of fascination.
Of what would thus consist this fascination?... Neither the dumb eternity of Eaux profonde (Deep Water) neither the distance of the " Promeneur solitaire (the lonely Walker nor the murder of La Mémoire (the Memory), only hide the pain of the painter. There is extreme pleasure in the scene of the memory! The nightdress does only covers the face, it is the face of a dead woman; the remainder of the body is completely naked, it is the body of a mother and it is in decomposition. Let us keep to the following two pictures: in “ Le Viol ” (the Rape, figure.17, 1934) a face — which the memory said was hidden to sight — is the female body naked itself, and in , La Philosophie dans le boudoir , (Philosophy in the boudoir, figure. 18), a nightdress carries on itself the sexual characters which it would be supposed to cover... Does not the painter without knowing it suggest (the fact) of still being attached to his incestuous sexual desire with the scopic object?
I will conclude this first point by two remarks.
Let us rest the question of the psychic effect which his mother’s suicide produced in Rene Magritte. I propose to reconstruct the facts as follows. A share of the impact had without any doubt the quality of a pure trauma. This is testified by the impossibility that Magritte found himself in his whole life of never to be able to speak again about the dead of his mother.
But under the insistent interrogation of his friend Scutenaire, the way appeared by which Magritte could, at least partially, assume his trauma. This is recorded in the repetitive chain of his unconscious instinctual position, i.e. in the scopic register which constitutes since his early childhood the traumatic center of his unconscious desires.
One can thus speak about a desired assumption of the trauma, and this always constitutes a success for a subject and this was partly so in the case of Magritte. Also let us question the psychic fate of the pieces of reality that Magritte included in his memories and his works. I make a point of underlining, far from any deterministic consideration, their statute of being material used by the unconsciousness of the subject. I chose to call them for this specific reason biographical remainders (restes) in the way in which Freud named the elements of the day before day's residues , which entered the composition of a dream. I could enumerate here a large number of these remainders (the grelots hanging at the neck of the horses, the small wall from where the mother threw herself in Sambre). This would start the following question:
Wouldn't the statute of these remainders be different according to:
a) whether they are marked by the impact of the trauma (which solidifies itself in the pure repetition), or
b) when they are worked through by the desire of the subject (who transforms depending on his situation)?
I have thus underlined the invasive and central presence, of the scopic object in the psychic structuring of Magritte. If one dares to make the assumption that the essential instinctual experience, by which all the painters are in relation to painting, is of the scopic order, then it is now a question of approaching the specific presence of this object named gaze (regard), such as the painting of Rene Magritte mobilizes it.
The gaze and the painting of Rene Magritte
Which is indeed the particular subjective resonance of the search and the way Rene Magritte made his pictures? I propose to consider that they are all wholly organized around the sudden scopic appearance of reality.
It is the brutal revelation, for the painter Magritte, of the object in its scopic statute. It is his research to work out in his surroundings, in an always to be remade construction, a feeling and a way of a mental representation (pensée) of the mystery.
I. The presence of the gaze (the scopic object) in the painting of Rene Magritte
One often questioned Magritte on the various elements represented in his pictures: were they symbols, one asked him, of objects, of images? Magritte answered by his scopic experience of the world:
"Perhaps one cannot speak about an object in an absolute way. It are images that I show, and the human figure appears in my pictures on the same level as the objects, as things (choses) — a tree, a sky, an animal, etc... The object can be the contents of a thought (pensée) . I would say that the world offers visible things; what the world offers as visible is immediate. In that case if I employed the term "object ", that would suppose an anterior consideration that would distinguish visible objects and that what is not an object. The man is a visible appearance like a cloud, a tree, a house, as everything we see (...)."
You have to know— I (Roisin) will not develop this point today— that the relationship between the vision and the question of the reality statute of what was seen (du vu) was already actual before Magritte had found his way in painting. One finds in La tentative de l'impossible , (the attempt of the impossible, figure 19) the extreme representation of a visual concept that makes reality . This picture represents a painter at work, painting his wife, who is born by this act of painting with the features of a living woman.
La grande Guerre (The large War, Figure 20. 1964) this picture puts in figuration an inherent tension in such a scopic experiment, that Magritte described in the following words: "I hope really to get rid of any symbol in the things that I show. For example, take the canvas entitled "La grande Guerre", where one sees a character with a bowler hat whose face is hidden by a large apple. Useless to tell you that it has nothing to do with 14-18 while painting it.
The apple it is that of the visible what appears that hides the hidden visible (the face of the fellow). In the world, everything always occurs like that. Thus, there is a kind of tension, of war: our spirit searches to see that what we cannot see (...)"
Look for that what we cannot see , is this not a good definition of the scopic impulse. This desire (to see what we cannot see) affected Magritte taste and his motivation to paint. Magritte adored riddles and other problems that had to be solved and which he had baptized "the key enigmas.. But his painting was focused he liked to repeat, on the only true enigma "the enigma without a key": “The mystery of the world”. Only one and invisible, affirmed Magritte, the why of the existence of things, but things do not exist for us in any other form then when they are visible.
Thus the tension between the apparent visible and the hidden visible took place between the visible and the gaze (regard) and, beyond, between the visible and a question that he named "the mystery".
3. If certain paintings express this concern, others present directly the character of raw reality, traumatic, surprising, inherent in a "realistic" experience of the world, with such a reinforcing of the reality character that it becomes uncanny...
Thus have a look at the reproductions of these pictures and at the same time listen to Magritte’s words: "I want to make the objects howl " and moreover "The existence of the world and (especially…) the one that is ours is a scandal for human thinking. (la pensée)
Red Model, figure. 21
Take the Le Modèle Rouge (the Red Model, figure. 21). ”the problem of the shoes shows how the most frightening things happen by the force of carelessness to become… completely inoffensive. One feels that thanks to the "Red Model" the union of a human foot and a shoe is based on a monstrous practice." In the examples that follow, Magritte resorted to the expatriation of objects - in order to repeat this scandalous experiment of sudden emerging of the scopic object.
As refers to L'Echelle de feu (the Scale of fire, figure 22) and La découverte du feu (the discovery of fire, figure. 22b):
"The discovery of fire " gave me the privilege to know the same feeling that the first men had who gave birth to the flame by the shock between two pieces of stone. I in my turn imagined to make burn a piece of paper, an egg and a key."
I (Roisin) come to the state of things of my hypotheses.. Without doubt painting, grounded in its subjective unconscious resonance, is a way of handling the scopic impulse. What would be then the specificity of the Magritte’s painting, as for the particular presence of the scopic impulse? The genius of Magritte, and his success in his painting is to have been able, to solidify the moment of appearance, the emerging of the gaze (regard) . He addresses us as if to show us the scopic object itself (something that by necessity gets an overloaded expression (nécessairement forcée).
This is why one does not enter the painting of Magritte but encounters as if getting a blow in the eye. See: La durée poignardée (Fixed duration, figure. 23).
"the image of a train engine is immediately familiar, (however….) its mystery is not perceived. In order that its mystery is evoked, another image immediately familiar — without mystery — the image of a chimney of a dining room was joined to the image of the engine (Thus I did not join it together with a "mysterious " image, such as for example: a Martian, an angel, a dragon or another being, wrongly known as "mysterious:" Effectively there are not mysterious beings and non-mysterious beings. The power of thought appears by revealing, by evoking, the mystery of the beings which seem to us familiar
(by practice incorrectly). I thought of joining the image of a train engine to the image of a chimney of a dining room in a moment of presence of the spirit. I understand with this the moment of clarity that no other method can reveal . The power of thought appears then alone: we can be proud of this power or be exalted that it exists. But we, in this respect, do not count; we restrict ourselves to be present at the manifestation of thought. When I say: I thought of joining together, etc..., the exactitude would require that I should say: the presence of the spirit manifested itself, in this way I knew how the image of an engine was to be shown so that the presence of mind becomes manifest. The Euréka of Archimedes is an example of the unforeseeable presence of the spirit."
La durée poignardée (Stabbed duration, oil, Figure 23, 1939) In this same resonance moreover you can La chambre d'écoute (The room of listening) , L'Anniversaire (the Anniversary) Le Chateau des Pyrénées (the Castle of the Pyrenees).
II. The feeling of the mystery
See Les Vacances de Hegel (Holidays of Hegel, figure. 24. 1958): Magritte
" My last picture started with the question: how to paint a painting where a glass of water is the subject? I drew many water glasses..... etc..... a (specific…) line..... was always in these drawings. Then this line..... crushed itself..... and took the shape of an umbrella..... Then the umbrella was put into the glass: and to finish the umbrella opened itself and was placed below the water glass: What seems to me to answer the initial question. The picture thus designed is called: "Les vacances d'Hegel".(Hegel’s Holidays) ". I believe that Hegel would have liked this object that has two contrary functions: to push back and to contain water. That would undoubtedly have amused him as one can have when on a holiday" in a (Letter to Maurice Rapin, May 22, 1958).
Magritte had named his method "frenzied contemplation ". On the basis of objects taken as questions or as objects-problems , he sought while drawing and while reflecting during weeks or months, images which expressed an inspired idea, in other words an idea that creates the feeling of the mystery of the world . Look at L'Au-Delà (Beyond, figure.26. 1938). "For the sun, I found as an answer: a tomb. On the ground there is a tombstone and the sun lights the sky, the ground and the tomb. This answer is current but might become perhaps insufficient in the future? Indeed, by taking the sun as the starting point of the voyage which we make, by taking the sun as being our origin, it is not possible for us at present to consider for this voyage a term further away than death. It is about an actual certainty and the title of this picture, "Beyond” makes it possible for us again to find for this word an emotional content.". Une simple histoire d'amour (A simple history of love, figure 27.1958)
"My tail chair appears in a movie (of Lepesckin). Several persons sitting (on chairs) have in different ways appreciated " a simple love story " but all were shaken by an insane laughter (astonishing if one thinks that a chair manages to cause such a reaction)." "I await news from you, as news I do not see anything better than to let you known the solution found for this problem (how….) to paint a canvas with a chair as the subject. I sought a long time before knowing that the chair was to have a tail (which tells more than the modest animal legs which are sometimes used as legs for the chairs). I am very satisfied with this solution. What do think about it you?"
In La Réponse imprévue (The unforeseen Answer, figure. 28): " The problem of the door called for a hole by which one could pass. I showed in the unforeseen Answer a closed door in a room. In the door, a formless hole reveals the night." see L'Eloge de la dialectique (the Praise of the dialectical), La Poitrine (the Chest), L'Exception (the Exception), L'Invention collective (the collective Invention) ..
La réponse imprévue (The unforeseen answer, Figure 28, 1933)
(Roisin:) In front of the multiple psychoanalytical ways to approach the place of the feeling of the mystery, the following questions are worth of looking deeper into.
From which kind type of relation with the Other does such a repetitive sudden appearance of the scopic object and its reference to the mystery originate? What could have happened with Rene Magritte in the inaugural, and always repeated, encounter with the question of the desire from the Other?
a) a certainty: Magritte met this question in the scopic field and this was registered, solidified, like a vertiginous opening. Thus listen:
"There is a mystery in the universe ", told Magritte one day his friend Collinet, and it added: "but what?". (Roisin:) Let us think that the inaugural meaningful articulation of this question “but what” refers to the memory of the “case”.
The conference in which Magritte tells us about being a painter was entitled La Ligne de vie (the Life line) and opened with the question: “Who are we?"
Magritte affirmed to his close relations that the question of why we exist is the only question he never worried about. "It concerns, repeated he, of an
"enigma without a key".
(Roisin) We can think of the shock which had the effect of the revelation of his way in painting, I want to speak about the Chirico shock and remind you of the sentence: "the spectator hears the silence of the world ".
b) Does not it seem to you that by hearing all this that one can speak about a personification, substantification, even deification of the Other - who is the place of the desire in Mystery. "Mystery is not one of the possibilities of reality. Mystery is what is absolutely necessary so that there can be reality ", launched Magritte.
c) But such a substantification did not place him it in peace with (his….) anguish.
" — It seems to me - it is Magritte who speaks to a journalist – that you had associated that which I showed in my pictures with an idea of a nightmare?
" — I thought - the journalist answered - of a canvas that represented a kind of gamekeeper who had his the arm taken in a brick wall, and who, I believe, howled, or, otherwise in any case expressed his astonishment. " — Yes, or his embarrassment, or his fear, his anguish. This picture is called by the way La gravitation universelle (the universal gravitation. 1943, figure. 29) The title of this picture, as those of the other pictures, was found after that the image was painted. Could one speak of a nightmare if one thinks of this universal gravitation? It seems to me that one then distinguishes the nightmare which can be imaginary and a necessity of the universe.
"— That concerns us little in our everyday life." — That concerns us little, undoubtedly, but it is an example, in fact, of the anguish that one can feel in connection with reality. But this anguish is nothing more than one privileged moment of thought — We speak now about it in an academic way. I do not feel at this moment any anguish, but there are moments when this specific anguish suddenly emerged and then I am certain that it is the feeling of mystery that reaches me."
It would be necessary to question Magritte’s construction of this feeling of mystery. It would be necessary to interrogate moreover of how the feeling of mystery is different from the feeling of the enigma, of that one of the uncanny strangeness. Is here sublimation at work?
Finally it is necessary, to give all its value to the Chirico shock: undoubtedly it is due to the what happened after the Chirico shock that Magritte could construct his feeling of mystery that caused his change of character and the revelation of his way in painting.
III. The thought of the mystery
Rumination was eternally, in an obsessing way, always at work in Rene Magritte. Listen to the testimony of Madeleine S, who was a maidservant at Magritte during 35 years: " Often Monsieurr Magritte was taken by his thoughts, as well whether he was sitting or was standing, then one did not have to speak to him. " But let me be, he said to me with an annoyed air, I reflect!".
Which was thus the place of thought (mental activity….) in this construction of mystery? If the activity of thought started as I have already underlined with the question, perceived and focused on the scopic level and put in terms of the founding of things (fixed in the question without response of the why ?), it was afterwards totally oriented towards deconstruction. By this Magritte worked to make possible to retrieve this meeting point originating of the world as a question, and wanted (voulait) that that the (re)construction of the feeling of mystery might take place.
See the human condition (figure. 30) and listen to the comment by Rene Magritte:
" the problem of the window showed the human condition: I placed in front of a window, seen from the interior of a room, a picture exactly representing the part of the landscape masked by this picture. The tree represented on this picture thus hid the tree located behind it, outside of the room. It was for the spectator, at the same time inside the room on the picture and at the same time, by the mental representation (la pensée), outside in the real landscape. In the same way we see the world, we see it outside our self and however we have only a (une) representation in us." (12) La condition humaine , (The human condition, Figure 30. 1933)
It is the illusion to which Rene Magritte himself was particularly attracted:
"I could", wrote it, " see the world as if it were only a curtain placed in front of my eyes".
(Ruison) But aren't we all in the illusion to think to contact reality when we have to do with the representations of images redoubled by the painted images, or with the word representations redoubled by the written words?
Have a look at La clé des songes (the key of the dreams, figure 31, 1930), Le Miroir vivant (the living Mirror) Un jour à l'autre (from one day to the other)
and have another look at this picture (figure. 32): both emphasize the error of the thought that identifies the word with the object, Magritte puts on the same foot the word representations and the painted images, and calls the canvas thus made up the Le Bon exemple , (Good example, figure 32, 1953)
A whole series of pictures of Magritte deploy their variations around these questions about which Magritte had been worrying since the Twenties. Certain letters to his friends testify this, like his text, known as Les mots et les images (Words and images testify, figure. 33). Magritte had the intention to deconstruct our mental practices and to start thinking again about the only true question: the irreducible, unexplainable mystery: "that the world exist". The canvas L'Importance des merveilles (the Importance of miracles, figure. 34) radically illustrates the sentence that could summarize Magritte’s position with respect to thought: The truth is in the deconstruction.
Which truth? " For me painting, he said, is to make alive my thought. I love much the poets and the writers, but I am not a writer, so I think in images, not in the form of a novel or of poems." Thus did Magritte work to put in pictures the questions which he worked though in such a completely personal way. Let me therefore, in this connection, inform you about a revealing anecdote. It expresses the personal anguish of Magritte that he could not circumvent. Moreover it was undoubtedly at the origin of his famous " This is not a pipe " in Trahison des images (the Treason of the images, figure 35). A picture which stimulate to think to all its spectatators, from little children to the famous philosophers. This anecdote was entrusted to me by one of the friends who Magritte had met during war 14-18, and whom I interviewed several times. (He told me….)
"You know from which “this is not a pipe" comes”, this gentleman told me. One day he continued Rene arrived at home, he was very distressed and asked me: - See Les mots et les images (Words and images, Figure 33) - in "La révolution surréaliste" (the surrealist revolution ", n° 12-15, 1929)
“Say, Charles, do you believe that I exist? Yes; but, how can you be sure that I exist?..... and can I myself be sure of it?" In fact, we had spent the previous night discussing in a bar with students in philosophy. They had spoken about the Descartes doubt and of his “cogito ergo sum”. Somebody had quoted the reflexion of a painter: " if I paint a horse, I do not obtain a horse but a painting of a horse ". And of course we had spoken about the legendary anecdote about Frans Hals. He entered one day a Dutch inn where he ordered a meal. "I left the money on the table” he shouted it the moment he left, and the landlord thanked him, satisfied because he saw on the table the golden coin that Frans Hals had painted there. It is said that he caught up with the painter, when he realized his mistake, and said to him then: «Ben jij Frans Hals of ben jij de duivel?» (Are you Frans Hals or are you the devil?) Rene, had all this mixed up.... And each time I heard him speak about his famous >This is not a pipe<
I think again of this discussion, and the arrival of a very distressed Rene at my home soon after.." L'importance des merveilles, (the Importance of miracles, Figure 34. 1927)
La Trahison des images (The Treason of the images, Figure 35. 1948)
One can, in this anecdote, hear all the acuity of the subjective resonance of the search for the concept (pensée) that resembles the world-mystery: Rene Magritte was under the distressing influence of a very personal question.
However one could likewise say that he personally put forward a question which arose beyond him, the one concerning the condition of our existence: The unthinkable fact that we are a part of this world and at the same time are ourselves, camouflaged under our usual constructions concerning the world. (This…) unthinkable that what Magritte reminds us of by his pictures, and to which he proposed his solution... It is by this double dimension of representation (énonciation) - in which I distinguish (15) - "talk with myself" and "talk to the outside - that I come to my conclusion."
An umbrella is not a phallus. (In proposal with applied psychoanalysis)
I return to the belief that I expressed at the beginning of this exposition. I believe that my remarks have made understandable the thread that it has been able to follow. Did it maybe take form in the mind supported by the putting away the veil that the memory, confined to Scutenaire, had lain over the dead woman, those the painter has represented so many times on his canvas? Did not the idea of an intimate correspondence between the work of the painter and an event in his life (as told in the memory of the suicide) become amplified in the Les Rêveries d'un Promeneur solitaire (Daydreams of a solitary Walker) and Les Eaux Profondes (Deep water)?
There is another fact in the life of the painter, less known than the suicide, which still more directly raises the same question. I want to speak about the relation between a biographical fact and Rene Magritte’s vocation to paint, and I refer to the following memory:
"In my childhood, entrusted Magritte, I liked to play with a small girl, in the old unused cemetery of a small provincial town. We visited the underground caves of which we could raise the heavy iron doors. When we went up to the light, there was a painter, who had come from the capital, painting in an alley of the cemetery. It was very picturesque with its broken stone columns covered with dead leafs. The art of painting appeared then vaguely magic to me and the painter gifted with higher capacities." (Roisin) I will never know the deeper or accidental reasons that three years after the meeting on the cemetery, made decide Magritte to start painting. Certain is however: the vision of a painter had surprised the young Magritte when passing out of the shadows into the light. This experience could have reinforced the link that connects the painter with the experience of the vision. It is likewise true that the identification of the painter with a gifted being of higher capacities was a part of Rene Magritte. Look at those two self-portraits: Le Sorcier (The Wizard, figure 36) that reminds of the Hindu god Shiva. Magritte is equipped with 4 arms, and without a doubt the presence of bread and wine also evokes the Last Supper. The name of the other picture, Le Fils de L'Homme (the Son of man, figure 37, 1964), has been retained by Magritte together with other titles proposed by his close relations, it contains a religious connotation.
Think of the circumstances of the appearance of the painter: it took place in a cemetery, just when Magritte left a vault, a few months after the death of his mother (and more precisely, according to my investigation, at the moment of the festival of All Saints' day)... Between the higher powers, the divine position, the question of the impossibility of mourning his mother... are we not tempted to believe that it, in a hidden way, has to do with the myth of an absolute power over life and death? But who might tell us if the particular subjective resonance, of this identification with a holy being, has encouraged or merely accompanied Rene Magritte’s choice to become a painter? One can scorn these questions and only consider the painter’s art, and one will think that Magritte indeed was a magician. Aren't we fascinated when we see stones floating among the clouds, or motionless bird-plants at the foot of the mountains, see a boat-sea (bateau-mer) sailing on the water, and all that what comes to surprise each one among us?
I have for my part, questioned the resonances that life reflects. The psychic working through (le travail psychic) and the work of the artist... It is characteristic of popular mentality to attribute an explanation to the bond that links phenomena of so different order, the events of life and psychology, or the psychology of an author and his works. The position of Magritte in this respect was that he refused any explanation. He wrote in connection with the Perspective Amoureuse (Prospect In love, figure 38):
"This closed door however is open: an opening that makes it possible to pass there through it as in the opening of an open door. What one sees through this opening is a tree that has the shape of a leaf. Just as the door corresponds to an opening, the tree corresponds to the leave. And these connections are joined together by only one object: “Door-Opening” or “Tree-leaf”. Instead of being separate: a Door and an Opening or a Tree and Leaf . The house that is close to the Tree-Leave suggests the dimension of this Tree-Leaf and avoids confusing it with a leaf.
On the roof of the house is a bell is (as one attaches to the collar of a horse). The existence of this bell, located on a roof, loses its common triviality as agreed upon, indeed it becomes again mysterious, it invites us to ask (wonder….) why it is there.
La Perspective amoureuse (The Prospect in love, Figure 38. 1935)
The answers which one might make are without interest: for example one could explain that in the house lives a manufacturer of bells and that he put a large bell on his roof by way of publicity. A psychiatrist could answer that it is a disturbed person who put this bell on the roof, etc.... This kind of answers would dissipate the mystery that I precisely try to protect and to evoke. The difficulty of my thought, when I wish to find a new canvas is indeed to obtain an image that resists any explanation and which resists at the same time to be indifferent. "
(Roisin) Which position did I take compared to that which Magritte maintains in these remarks? I chose to be interested in the subjective resonance in connection (related….) to his work, but without ever implying a bond of explanatory nature of one with the other. Thus I have, between the memories and work, extracted the same subjective resonance, that of the brutal invading presence of the scopic impulse in the psychic life and Magritte’s artistic production. I underlined already, before, the not-causality in what happened in the psychism and the work. I would like to linger on, together with you, and stay with the report between of the explicative non-causality between the psychism and the artistic creation.
But I would like just here, at the end of this short essay about applied psychoanalysis, to question the legitimacy of such a procedure. In fact I will in this direction deliver some reflexions to start in this direction, which all are to be investigated more profoundly.
It will be a question of (first) posing the conditions of validity of the comments or proposed interpretations. I am convinced that applied psychoanalysis can reach some exactitude, in the sense where it is suitable to oppose exactitude and accuracy.
The exactitude of an interpretation is based on the criteria of the evidence, of the re-dividing of the representations, by the repetition, of our knowledge of the unconscious... The accuracy can only be confirmed by the cure, when the effects of an interpretation of the client reveal that the approach and the moment chosen for the intervention allowed the person to use it. Moreover the (possible) exactitudes cannot leave the statute of an assumption without any reliability, since the application of the psychoanalysis is exerted outside of the reaction (hors de la réaction ) of the interpreted subject. In other words, accuracy and certainty are the prerogative of the cures where the effects of words produce the proof!
Thus I could collect my assumption relating to Magritte in the sentence
”Magritte paints the feeling of "jamais-vu" (if this concept of "jamais-vu" does not exist, I have just invented it), or
”his painting solidifies, by a hypnotic standstill of time and movement the visible appearance of things ", or
”the act to paint was making an offer to the Mystery-God!". xxx
Is this interpretation faithful to the subjective range of Magritte’s texts, with the power of his images? It will be a question of stating the validity criteria or rather of the probability of the hypothetical exactitude Is this however more enlighting ? It will be a question of stating the criteria of relevance of them. There lies the question of the so called " applied psychoanalysis ". Because let us never forget the sentence pronounced by Cocteau when he discovered the Freudian theory: " If, when I dream of an umbrella, it is about a phallus that I dream, who will be able to contradict me if I say that when I dream of a phallus, I dream of an umbrella?"
But (secondly) a much more fundamental legitimacy is in question when a psychoanalytical approach to works of art is examined. One thing is to limit oneself to study the subjective resonance to it. Another thing is to seek to clarify the creative process itself, i.e. the passage of the subject to art, an attempt that I did not start today. For this purpose it is necessary to question the testimony of the artists themselves.
But what might be the result of such a step, if not to open the true question. Because if art consists of a going beyond of the instinctual (désir) - I would say in this direction " True art does not reside in psychoanalysis"- I could likewise say that the experience of art consists of a going beyond, even of the artist’s activity. ( l'expérience de l'art consiste en un dépassement de l'activité même de l'artiste). Shouldn't one reverse the usual description of causality, and (instead…..) think of the causality of art on the subject?
Doesn't the range of the concept of sublimation stop at the threshold of the world of art?
Such is the experience of the creative surprise, let us not forget it, and this points out to us all the relevance of the famous word of Rimbaud: I is another. (Je est un Autre!)
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Here follows the text that was LIFTED OUT, referring to LACAN:
> But starting from Jacques Lacan a new interpretation, aiming at a more radical function of the screen-memory, can be tried out, when the setting in scene besides the needs additionally puts forward the appearance of the
"object little a " and shows the presence of the screen which occults it. (10)
I use a concept here that Lacan created within the framework of his seminar XI devoted to the Quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychanalyse 10 ( Four fundamental concepts of the psychoanalysis) Let me immediately specify that the object in question in the memories of Magritte is that of the scopic impulse. About what is it?
The invention of the concept of "object little a " is a result of a reflection on the impulses on which the unconscious desires are based, and on the active presence (présence agissante) of the death instinct within these impulses.
1° Lacan insists on the fact that the various instinctual vectors, (champs pulsionnels) far from being reduced to the instinctual in the person, are places of experience where the child meets the desire of the Other and where its own need is given form (se constitue). These places have a meaning, which is to confront the child with certain registers of human relations Thus in the oral period the primitive relation to the external world is acted out by the desire to incorporate, or to cannibalize the world, to satisfy itself with it. But the child encounters the need for weaning and, by this, is introduced to a fundamental human conflict. In the anal phase the child plays with the question of exchanges, the contract, the gift..., which he corporally experiences between himself and his entourage by the manner of way of what he can produce like a present. It concerns not only the pleasure of shitting, but to retain or not to retain his faeces, or any other production of himself, is a way of playing with giving a present and a control of the relations with the other, and the child will experience (rencontrer la perte dans les échanges) himself to be a loser, This is also true for the other impulses....
2° Lacan then reconsiders the active presence of the death instinct on the level of these sexual instincts. He realizes indeed that the fundamental object of the impulse has been chilled by the death instinct. That this object is not the object of the nostalgic pre-conflict, such as one can fantasy about as it was in the origin and got lost.
It is about the object as a representative of the mortifying loss and not the lost paradise. I insist in order that one understand, the “object little a” is the product of the conflict and not the imagination of its anteriority. In the attachment to the object, what the subject is looking for is to make up its loss in the relations of desire with desire, much more than of fantasying about a satisfying object. (that would be manifested in he attachment to the breast, or as in the oral cramming, or with the anal object which represents the loss in the exchanges...).
This register of the failure, which causes the trauma in the desire of the subject, Lacan, calls the dimension of reality, going beyond the imaginary and symbolic representations of the impulses. The reality which is, as insists Lacan, the heart of the repetition about which Freud spoke, occurs as by accident ("tuchè") and is repeated like such ("automaton"). We have here to do with the "real" character of life, which causes the brutal experience of being a part of reality, faraway from a feeling that life is only a dream. By the concept of the "object little a”, Lacan names this the central instinctual point of any desire, it is its traumatic point.
Let us not ignore that this relates to the register of the trauma of the desires and not to the trauma of existence, that in opposition to the precedent, I called pure trauma.
Several meetings of the Seminar XI are devoted to place (à penser) the "objet little a " in the scopic register of the desire. To introduce this concept, Lacan reverses the traditional diagram of the act of seeing (vision) : the subject, being the spectator who constructs his representation in the image of an object, is put in the position of resorting to a screen with respect to the look at the things, that overwhelm him.
(de spectateur construisant sa vision dans l'image d'un objet, est mis en position de tableau recourant à un écran vis-à-vis du regard des choses, qui l'inonde).
Likewise, it concerns on this level of désir (impulses, need), such what cannot be seen but kills each imaginary representation as being illusion. It is the evil eye, death’s eye (which, as one could say, breaks down what the imagination builds up). Lacan calls this eye, as far it is charged with cruelty and deadly despair, gaze ( regard ). Could one not name this, if it really is a question to locate the breast, faeces, gaze and voice – which one wrongly gives the name "objects" - as places where confrontation with reality is played on the scopic level: decomposition.