‘Panamarenko and Psychoanalysis’ by Chris Oakley

But let us finish on two further co-existing vectors of convergence. One is the issue of purposefulness, a question that Panamarenko appears to be persistently to be entangled with. Do his contraptions have any purpose? Are they mere art-iface? Let us examine psychoanalysis. For some it is utterly crucial that the activity is uncontaminated by any specific purpose. The eminent French psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche says, “Cure is no more a relevant aim than divorce.” What is at stake in this is that there is never a collapse into the more normative terrain of adaptation and the totalizing nuances implicated in notions of growth, maturation or self-actualisation.

This is not to suggest that there is an absence of interest in alleviating the other’s suffering, after all no one will enter the psychoanalytical situation without that, but this is best approached through paths of indirection. Let us recall Panamarenko’s photograph of the recent eclipse, taken near Charleville in France, again a borderline city, which is the birthplace of Rimbaud. This is Panamarenko… “what interests me about him is his constant resistance to all influences. He was totally subversive… in that sense he was totally like me (although I could never write poems like that).” Enmeshed in all of this is the desire to subvert the “perceived authority of science” and it’s link to gravity, and we do not have to look far to come up against the gravitas, the solemnity that stalks the psychoanalytic community. Psychoanalysis has always had a somewhat chequered relationship with science. Freud, so eager to establish respectability, sought to differentiate psychoanalysis from what he saw as the childishness of religion. Within fifty years time the influential French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan had begun to argue against himself, and in1977 issued a resolute disclaimer, that seems so very close to the heart of the psychoanalytical enterprise “…psychoanalysis is not a science. It has no scientific status… it merely wants and hopes for it…Psychoanalysis (and I would add Panamarenko’s works operate within this register) is a delirium, a delirium which is expected to produce a science. We could be waiting a long time… there is no progress and what you expect is not necessarily what you end up with. It is scientific delirium.” Thus it is delirium, trance by any other name, that is so crucially figured in the issue of metamorphosis that is so crucially implicated in both the work of Panamarenko and the enjoyments of Psychoanalysis.

Chris Oakley