AN INFORMAL MEETING ABOUT NOTHING IN PARTICULAR
ARTELES gallery, HAUKIJÄRVI, FINLAND
October 16, 2011, solo exhibition
An Informal Meeting About Nothing in Particular 1
by Benten Clay
curated by Carolina Trigo
While we are accustomed to thinking of psychological states as possible subjects for works of art, we do not think of psychology as constituting their medium. The notion of a medium contains within itself the concept of an object-state, subtracted and sutured from the artist’s own being, through which her/his intentions pass. Yet, there is a further condition which is always present. It could be said that the object-state is analogous to a body-state constellated between two psychological perceptual machines. The first of these is intuition, a sort of parenthesis generating an opening and a closing within a given field. The second is cognition, which re-casts the object-state as a subjective corporeal construct with the immediacy and complexity of a confronting mirror; a mise-en-abîme of being so to speak. What emerges then is a convergence of effects and affects, the multiplicity of the creative act itself, art.
Benten Clay’s sculpture2 “An Informal Meeting About Nothing in Particular” behaves precisely as a parenthesis that marks a proximity and distance between intentions, their formal state and their apprehension. In so doing, the sculpture moves away from the condition of object-state into that of an embodied situation akin to a mirror-reflection; where I as subject feel drawn-in, enclosed, surrounded and—more importantly— circumbabulated by my own being. Yet within this envelope (or parenthesis) I as subject get to experience the meaning of Nothing in particular; or, to be more precise, the eloquence of nothingness. I’d like to elaborate on the notion of Circumbabulation here and set it aside from the concept of Diibadaaba3 Circumbabulation, or Tawaf in Arabic, Pradakshina in Sanskrit, or Skor Ba in Tibetan, is the act of moving around a sacred object usually placed at the center of a field. The movement itself signifies the transition from daily life into spiritual perfection, achieved through a set of states or stages. Through this circular motion participants move inwardly towards their own infinities, their own sense of nothingness, or perhaps their own mise-en abîme. Circumbabulation then is a process by which physical boundaries dissolve into unknown realms; realms that defy identification by virtue of being pure potentialities— potentialities hereby understood as alternate forms of being. If Circumbabulation is a physical-spiritual process then Diibadaaba is a cognitive one; one that—through similar formal circularities— attempts to poke a hole into the incomprehensible through language.
One can therefore state that the inherent movement, reflexiveness and—paradoxically—the displaced locus of “An Informal Meeting About Nothing in Particular” is a performative act of circular doublement or, put differently, the multiple unfolding and refolding of a dis-placed object and the subjective conditions that accompany such experience. This reflective condition of plural feedback is then a precise process of bracketing out the object-subject. Perhaps it is for this reason that it feels inappropriate to speak of a physical medium in relation to a particular idea. For the object—its physical embodiment and its possibilities of unveiling—have become a sort of accessory to a psychological situation, the very form of which withdraws attention from itself into an-Other (the Other understood here as forms of inner silence). This is the specific psychological condition of “An Informal Meeting About Nothing in Particular.” A situation or meeting in which the subject transforms its subjectivity by encountering the “killing of time,” by
becoming aware that Nothing needs to be said. The meeting itself is then the Something that leads to Nothing,
or potentially vice versa.
Let me expand. In The Language of the Self, 4 Lacan begins by characterizing the space of a therapeutic transaction (or séance) as an extraordinary void created by the silence of the director. Into this void the participant projects a monologue of her/his own recitation which Lacan calls “the monumental construct of narcissism.” Using this monologue to explain him or herself to his silent listener (or Other), the participant begins to experience a very deep frustration. This frustration, although initially thought to be provoked by the maddening silence of the director is eventually discovered to have had an alternate source, a deeper meaning.
What the participant comes to see is that this Self of hers or his is a projected object; and that the frustration that accompanies this realization is due to the participant’s own capture by the object, one with which (s)he can never really coincide, one in which (s)he finds him/herself bracketed out. Explaining this frustration, Lacan points to the fact that even when the subject makes himself an object, (s)he could not possibly be satisfied with it, since even if it achieved the most perfect likeness, it would still be the pleasure of the Other that would reconcile it within itself as such.
The process elucidated by “An Informal Meeting About Nothing in Particular” is one that enables this sort of frustrated fascination by asking the question: Where is the Moi 5 of the subject? The analytic project set forth is then one in which the participant meets the object of her/his reflected Self by exposing the very possibilities of their own subjectivity; thereby necessitating the material and psychological independence of the situation and/or external object itself. Benten Clay’s piece speaks not only of an aesthetic achievement, but rather extends itself into the perceivable and un-perceivable realms of our own psychology and humanity— be it through religion, implied political paradigms or the creative process itself. The sculpture gives form to the characteristics that emerge out a meeting that addresses and does Nothing, in particular.
1 / An Informal Meeting About Nothing in Particular: term coined by artist Gemma Tweedie on October10th, 2011,
2 / Sculpture: French for Sculpture
3 / Diibadaaba: Finish for “utterances concerning nothingness”
4 / The Language of the Self: the Function of Language in Psychoanalysis, The Johns Hopkins University Press, December 17, 1997. In this important work, Lacan states that ‘All speech is demand, the demand for love.’ The text is concerned with the importance of language as expressing our desire, our need for love —a desire, by the way, that can never be fulfilled and results in pain and frustration.