DOLLS AFTER THE AVANT-GARDE: LACANIAN PSYCHOANALYSIS AND THE END OF THE UNCANNY

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Rosalinda Quintieri

Abstract

Drawing on Jacques Lacan’s discourse of the capitalist and recent discussions on the sinthome, this thesis offers an art-historical and critical account of the prominence acquired by the figure of the doll in European and American visual culture since 1989. A paradigmatic figure of the historical avant-gardes, and of Surrealist photography in particular, the life-size doll has been typically associated to the Freudian uncanny as return of the repressed and its connections to castration and lack. This thesis argues that this theoretical framework has become inadequate, both to account for the aesthetic and formal qualities of the contemporary forms of the doll, and to relate to the new subjective structures of the current discourse of civilisation. The thesis discusses recent photographic and cinematic works that can be seen to register an aesthetic and psychological shift in the way the life-size doll is put at work. There are case studies on Olivier Rebufa’s photographic series Bimbeloterie (1989-2016), Stephan Gladieu’s photographic documentary Silicone Love (2009), about the life of men living with sex dolls, Laurie Simmons’s large-scale, pictorial photographic project The Love Doll (2009-11) and Lars and the Real Girl (2007, Gillespie), featuring a life-size doll as a non-human actor. Articulating psychoanalytic aesthetic theory with a cultural history of dolls, I start this project through an analysis of the modernist treatment of inanimate human replicas, mapping its traditional theoretical links to the notions of mimicry, the informe, the uncanny, the punctum and the (Lacanian) picture as field of the gaze. Working through a consideration of the historicity of the unconscious and of the particular organisation of jouissance within the discourse of the capitalist, in the subsequent chapters I offer close formal analyses of works that explore the figure of the doll in its implications with a condition of visuality and a structure of subjectivity unconcerned with lack and desire. The heightened hybridity of these art forms is analysed through a consideration of the doll’s traditional implications with doubling, narcissism and the maternal, in view of the post-Oedipal ramifications of the capitalist’s discourse. Trying to think aesthetically through the new clinical and theoretical territories opened by recent Lacanian debates about new symptoms, ordinary psychosis and the sinthome, this thesis problematises a traditional understanding of the doll as emblem of a traumatic encounter with the repressed and of visuality as field of the gaze. The doll emerges in this study as a narcissistic supplement, rather than a cypher of anamorphosis. In conclusion, the thesis argues that the contemporary doll is a device allied to the effort of creating a modicum of psychic consistence, at a time when the crisis of desire, as an effect of what has been called the ‘evaporation of the Father’, imposes an individual creative solution to the problem of the Real.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
  • David Lomas (Supervisor)
  • Jackie Stacey (Supervisor)
Award date31 Dec 2018