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Pain, pleasure and the capacity to relate

uclzean30 May 2014

Melencolia I, 1514 by Albrecht Dürer

Melencolia I, 1514 by Albrecht Dürer

My first UCL Festival of the Arts lecture began with Tim Matthews (UCL French) and Juliet Mitchell (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences) discussing the relationship between art and psychoanalysis.

Mitchell, a well-known figure in literary criticism and psychoanalysis, has written on sexual difference, hysteria and siblings. Matthews’s work currently focuses on the work of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti.

The talk was introduced as how psychoanalysis uses art and myth in order to find representations of psychic issues. ‘Art is about reaching out to others’, said Matthews, ‘its subjectivity relates to people who aren’t there.’ Psychoanalysis occupies a similar realm it is a client ‘reaching out to people who are not there, the events are in the past’.

Both psychoanalysis and art and indeed life, according to Mitchell, deal with unconscious purposes. ‘We live largely through unconscious processes’, psychoanalysis seeks to find out what those unconscious processes are and art attempts to represent them.