A paper given at the Hayward Gallery’s “Flights of Fancy” conference at the Royal Festival Hall on 25th March, 2000.

A preface to what I wish to say is a reference to the relation between Art and Psychoanalysis. The traditional view installs Psychoanalysis as one form of analysis, one form of meaning giving to either the art object itself or the motivation, unconscious or otherwise, of the artist. There is however a divergent view which locates the work of art as occupying the same place as the position of the analyst. Inevitably certain consequences stem from such a reversal: propped up by the assumption of knowledge, this position of the analyst is of the one who is supposed to know (but let us underscore the supposed) and this occasions, brings into being what the psychoanalysts call transference. Clearly it makes no sense to think this term along the classical lines of transfer, a mapping onto the position of the analyst or art work certain affects originating in our founding relationships, habitually those with our parents. No, what is potentially aroused is linked to the trajectories of magnetism, rapture, trance, otherwise known as a light hypnotic state of altered consciousness, a being led astray, all on the road to what Baudrillard designates as the fundamental dynamic of our being: seduction. After all is that not what we enter into both the art space, the gallery, and the influencing machine that is the psychoanalytic encounter for?

What I seek to do is to underscore a number of elements lodged within Panamarenko’s work in order to draw out certain convergences with a particular reading of the psychoanalytic project. As has been emphasised we can witness Panamarenko’s “intense preoccupation with forms of transport.” Immediately one might note a parallel with the psychoanalytic experience (not that I seek to unify this in any form, but allow a prevailing drift) with its link with notations of journey. Almost invariably the initial demand from the analysand is ‘get me out of what I am into’. This idea of travel would be intensified if one was of the school of thought which located Psychoanalysis as “merely a chapter in the history of trance.” otherwise known as trance-portation, the aforementioned light hypnotic state in which one may be carried away into parts that other conversations don’t reach. For those interested in such things this tradition is indelibly associated with the Lithuanian psychoanalyst and hypnotist, whose quote it is, Leon Chertok, Francois Roustang (French psychoanalyst of “Dire Mastery” and “Psychoanalysis never lets go” fame), Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen (philosopher, author of ” The Freudian Subject” and “Lacan: The Absolute Master” amongst others) and the Belgium Philosopher of Science Isabelle Stengers. We will return to this issue of trance in a moment.

Clearly Panamarenko has a stated desire to create works that offer more than a straightforward aesthetic elegance; his concern is to open doors to new forms and new types of experience. This is continuously underpinned by his relentless interest in individual freedom, however impossible it may prove, this dream of escaping the confines of our pathetic rationality (see for example his ‘Catapult Max’ (1977) where “nothing could stop you…it would be a really pleasurable thing… to be just like a grasshopper.” with no obstacle proving insurmountable.) Inevitably associated with altered states of consciousness, so crucially enmeshed in the psychoanalytic experience, one may note the Panamarenko hallmark: the motif of the peyote cactus, encircled by the words ‘Nailate Efil’, an inverted ‘Italian Life’ with it’s reference to ‘La Dolce Vita’. Precisely where the influencing machine, the psychoanalytic relationship, gestures towards: through altered states one is hopefully placed on the path of the ‘Good Life.’ Panamarenko is always already absorbed by the adventure beyond the object (“to make it fly is everything”). A particularly British Psychoanalytic culture, dubbed The Object Relations School, may concern itself with objects, all framed by the myth of interiority (Panamarenko always refers to his works as objects rather than sculptures), but perhaps we might more appropriately come to see that rather than ‘internal objects’ we all have objectives, desires or to return to the title of the day, flights of fancy. So once again we can glimpse an alignment of Panamarenko and Psychoanalysis, both immersed in that desire for voyaging, including, via reference to his exquisite submarine, that which goes beneath the surface, all conjoined with adventure and exploration. Here we might note that Psychoanalysis is simultaneously engaged in two divergent trajectories. In any exploration of a particular symptom there will be the principle associated with the archaeological: a desire to establish the origins, from where it began, a movement in the direction of birth. Simultaneously there will be a concern to analyse, to arrive at a final solution, to lay bare, exhaust meaning by having the last word: a trajectory towards death. So many of Panamarenko’s works engage in a similar paradox, almost shimmering with a congealed latency, suffused with embryonic potentiality, filibrating on the cusp of birth, an emergence, a lift off, whilst at the same time if not exactly dead, certainly inert, going nowhere.

Following Jon Thompson’s excellent curatorial essay we can trace out further sites of convergence. Firstly, that of invention. Indubitably Panamarenko aligns himself with the practice of artist as inventor, whilst the psychoanalyst takes up the role of, let us hope, whatever Freud might have had to say about it, the inventive suggestor. In his early days in Antwerp in Belgium where he was a seminal figure in the inauguration, in 1966, of’The Wide White Space’ Panamarenko and his co-conspirators saw this “gallery rather as a mental space.” Nothing prevents the thought that one can designate the locus of the psychoanalytic encounter as ‘the mental space’ between the analyst and analysand, indeed it has become a psychoanalytic cliché. Intriguingly Thompson invokes the phenomenologist Merleau Ponty with regard to this issue of invention, always already associated with expanded imagination, psychoanalysis as the potentiality of our being refracted through another logic, located within a tradition of adventure, exploration and discovery, the very modalities that saturate Panamarenko’s work. For Merleau Ponty invention “proceeds from an absence…to become the real stuff of knowledge.” Within psychoanalysis that of which I am not as yet aware (absence, where I am not) may become that of which I am conscious (the real stuff of knowledge). But, in parenthesis, one might add that this is not, paradoxically, to suggest that one enters either the influencing machine of the analytic space, or peers into the ‘mental space’ of a Panamarenko exhibition principally in search of knowledge.

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.

In Panamarenko’s work we will perhaps inevitably be drawn to note “an oscillation between grand projects for flying machines”(an insistent presentation or representation of flight) on the one hand, and on the other a relentless concern with the more down to earth, practical or technical problems. And it is this in mixing of two contradictory yet coexistent trajectories installing an exchange across a borderline that also characterises the psychoanalytic experience. Inevitably there will be consideration given to the more grounded, ‘technical’ even, concern with the production of meaning, the fidelity to sense, so habitually enmeshed in the assumptions of depth psychology (back to the delights of “Panama, Spitzbergen, Nova Zemblaya”, Panamarenko’s submarine.) But at the same time there will always be the potentiality of something quite random, utterly contingent moments of seduction, as a counterpoint to production (of meaning), soaring moments of being trance-ported into virgin terrain, the sublime. All of this will take place through the back and forth across or through these distinct registers. It is not difficult to bear witness to Panamarenko’s delight in disrupting and dismantling strict interdisciplinary boundaries between, for example, technology, art, and science, and along with friend and colleague, Joseph Beuys there is a shared sensibility with regard to a synthesis of art/science and philosophy, all converging into something approaching a system reflecting the concerns of our humanity. As with Psychoanalysis.

However there is a twist in the tale. And it involves flight, as in fugitive, on the run from. Those of you who are familiar with such things may have a nagging anxiety which might conceivably run something like this: the very inauguration of Psychoanalysis, indeed it’s very identity, was installed via a purportedly indelible rupture with hypnosis. Psychoanalysis began by analysing a resistance to hypnotic suggestion, which Freud felt was quite legitimate, the resistance that is. From this Freud invented, so to speak, Psychoanalysis, which he would insist would be non hypnotic. In this his concern was with force, coercion, and his proposal was a move from the pressure technique, a placing of the hand on the other’s forehead, toward an insistence, ultimately on speech… in other words a pressing prohibition on remaining silent. Ultimately Freud sought to arrive at a “collaboration”, perhaps evoking Panamarenko’s “The Bernoulli”(1995) which had initially been called “Paradox.” His intention was “to carry two people only…steering is achieved by bodily displacement, the co-ordinated movement of pilot and passenger around the platform.” Amongst a plethora of potential paradoxes that congeal around this ultimately unsustainable rigid demarcation between the hypnotic and the psychoanalytical, transference being none other than a light hypnotic state, we might note the question as to who is the pilot and who the passenger, in other words who is being taken for the ride?

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