‘Panamarenko and Psychoanalysis’ by Chris Oakley

A second site of convergence is that of the visionary. Panamarenko’s initiatives are suffused with a resistance (one of the hallmarks of the psychoanalytical project…see Derrida and his “Resistances of Psychoanalysis”, Stanford University Press, 1998), a resistance to the grand narrative of modernity: that the world will be ultimately capable of being laid bare, of being fully analysed, or realised. Let us emphasise his valorisation of his inventions, his objects, not working out, disappointment guaranteed. Once again this is faithful to the Freudian project: we only have to recall the ‘dream of Irma’s injection’ where Freud draws attention to ‘the naval of the dream’, that which is ultimately resistant, impervious indeed, to any analysis or interpretation, a remainder that always leaves something to be desired. For Paramarenko there is a sustained fascination with energy exchange, all buttressed by an abiding interest in electromagnetism and the issue of levitation. Now if we acknowledge that psychoanalysis was always intrinsically linked to trance states this inevitably installs an unfolding narrative that passes through the ‘animal magnetists’ and the work of Mesmer and his concern with what it is to be mesmerised, entranced. At this moment it is utterly crucial to underline that the one who entrances, mesmerises, seduces is not the person of the analyst, which is not to suggest that it could happen without their presence. No, it is not I, the analyst, who hypnotises, rather the analysand is hypnotised by none other than themselves, and this is site of where it all takes off, the site of therapeutic efficacity. In terms of vision Panamarenko is situated within the tradition of the avant-garde which raised “the notion of individual freedom to the level of a pre-eminent political principle.” In part this is co-joined with a dissolution, a disruption, of prevailing ideas within art regarding form, just as psychoanalysis poses questions as to what constitutes ‘good form’ in the unfolding of our desire and the ways in which we are together. Critical in both projects is the foregrounding of experience (in psychoanalysis this is what the other comes for, experience, rather than to gather knowledge) thus returning us to the fundamental vision of the significance of the performative.

A moment ago I mentioned Antwerp, Panamarenko’s birthplace and where he grew up and continues to live to this day. Following Ian Sinclair and his psychogeographical enterprises allow a momentary divergence. A sustaining characteristic of Antwerp is it’s proximity to the Belgium-Dutch border, it is also a port, always entangled in entrances and exits, in other words insistently engaged in commerce, transactions across particular thresholds.