Under The Cover

I am in Vienna. It?s raining and cold. I have been wandering around for some thirty minutes, looking for Berggasse 19. I am trying to get oriented in the map but still am finding myself somewhere else than where I want to be. Stiffen with cold, I am passing the Viennese, and slowly begin to search for some nice café rather than for the ?nest? of psychoanalysis. I am losing my hope but, all of a sudden, a sign of Berggasse appears above me. The number nineteen is on the left side of the street. I am entering the house, and ascending to the first floor. It is here, where Sigmund Freud analyzed Dora, little Hans, Anna O., or Sergei Pankajeff, nicknamed ?The Wolf Man?. I am trying to imagine them in Freud?s consultation room, reclining on the couch with a heavy, richly decorated bedspread. Their eyes gazing at the ceiling, hands laid down on the chest, two soft pillows under the head ? one of them covered in dark velvet and the second with delicate white embroidery. Their bodies show their outlines under the warm wool blanket, which I am seeing now neatly folded on the edge of the couch, just as it used to be carefully arranged by Freud?s maid. Dr. Freud is sitting above his patients, with a perfectly cut white beard. Asking inquisitive questions, he is trying to enter into their unconsciousness. ?The unsatisfied desires,? concludes the doctor today?s session, ?is a driving power of imagination??

However, what to do when there is no ?uncle psychoanalyst? nearby? Or when he looks like our father who we deeply hate because he has always known everything perfectly, and has been cultivating our inferiority complex all life long? Shall we lay under the knitted cover, and play, and dream? Shall we incorporate our memories and fantasies into things and people around, or shall we create these objects ourselves? Might be right my girlfriend, an artist and psychoanalyst, claiming that we often don?t even need a licensed specialist because the objects themselves ? especially the artistic ones ? can analyze us in a similarly effective way? That as substitutes for our lost or repressed matters these objects unveil unknown links between the present and the past?

In one of her paintings, Ivana Lomová painted her son resting on the couch, from head to foot covered in the blue blanket with a geometrical ornament. The room around is quite empty. The only thing, which enters the visual field of the child, is a stream of light falling through the window onto the wall above the couch. Sharp and bright colors and elaborated painterly details contrast here with the gaping void surrounding the eleven-year-old boy. On the painting, we see an unwinding ?analka? ? as the painter familiarly and with a sarcastic undertone calls psychoanalysis. However, much more important than what is happening inside of the picture is what is happening around it. First it might seem that the hierarchy between the painting mother and the painted son is clearly predetermined by the dominating relationship of the active subject to the passive object. Yet, instead of painting her motifs after the sitting, respectively laying, models, Lomová uses photographs from the family album, or banal snapshots made with an ordinary automatic camera. The double objectification of her son, which has an almost hallucinatory character, then becomes rather a substituting sign of the absent psychoanalyst than an inautonomous being controlled by his parent. It is this sign (the-son-as-image-and-psychoanalyst) to whom Lomová confides her daily and nightly experiences.

Even though Lomová?s works from ?under the cover? are undoubtedly very sophisticated, they are miles off from heart-breaking and deadly serious probes into the human psyche. In a certain sense, her paintings follow the ?great? genres of group and individual portraits, but the way in which she depicts both ostentatious family meetings and their single protagonists is full of irony and black humor. What seems to be an idyllic harmony among the relatives turns up to be a grotesque show in Lomová?s painterly transpositions. What seems like an innocent baby?s expression on a small old photograph becomes, in the painting, a Frankenstein-like phantom, whose look makes our laughter to freeze on the lips.

For Lomová, the painterly mimic is not an attempt to come close to the perfect representation of the world. The artist doesn?t simply reproduce the world around and its images, but she changes them through color mutations and almost unnoticeable interventions into the pictorial space. These subtle painterly aberrations of multiple ?exposures? provide her a possibility to make hidden meanings of both art and life visible for herself and for others as well. In the period when Freud began to be successful, the ?natural? features of female and male creativity were defined on the basis of the modern science. The ability to imitate, which differs so strongly from the modernist notion about art as manifestation of originality, was assigned to women in these scientific models. In Lomová?s case, however, to use the principle of mimesis is a way to disturb these stereotypes, and to prove that ?if women are such good mimics, it is because they are not simply reabsorbed into this (mimetic) function? (Luce Irigaray).

If the ?lack? ? in the sense of impossibility to accomplish a total fulfillment of one?s desires ? is the very condition of subjectivity, as Freudians and Lacanians convince us, then the potent work of art might also be conditioned by a certain amount of incoherence and openness. Thus the work of art can satisfy our desires, but the inconspicuous ?breaches? in its semantic and visual structure simultaneously arouse our new desires that can be fulfilled only through a permanent searching for new objects. ?We cannot give up anything,? argues Freud, ?(because) we exchange one thing for another; what seems to be a renouncement is, in reality, a construction of substitution, a surrogate.?

I am at home. It is a late July afternoon, and instead of hot sun it is drizzling outside. I am cold. I am putting on a warm winter pullover. I am still cold. I am making myself hot nettle tea (this burning herb is said to clean the blood, and I hope it cleans the mind as well), and turning on the heat. The seductively radiating screen of my computer is staring at me, all empty. I am shivering with cold. I am getting under the cover on the couch in the living room. I am giving myself to delightful fantasies, while my unsatisfied computer desires me?

Martina Pachmanová
(Katalog autorky- Pod Dekou, 2000; 1999/11/30)