– Autumn/Winter 2013

Lili Dujourie: Desire and Withdrawal

Sinziana Ravini

Lili Dujourie, La Traviata, 1984, velvet (365 × 385cm) and wooden frame (400 × 750 × 60cm). Installation view, S.M.A.K., Ghent. Courtesy the artist

Everything tends to make us believe that there exists a certain point of the mind at which life and death, the real and the imagined, past and future, the communicable and the incommunicable, high and low, cease to be perceived as contradictions. Now search as one may one will never find any other motivating force in the activities of the surrealist than the hope of finding and fixing this point. — André Breton, 19291

How can we know that we do not know? By the simple fact that we remain speechless in front of things that stimulate our desire for knowledge. But then, how does one write about things that make one speechless? How does one interact with events or artworks that withdraw from cognitive impulses? Perhaps one way would be by working with and against that withdrawal, trying to see, like Breton once did in his manifesto of 1929, where art and life, historical references and personal narratives intertwine and begin to challenge each other.

Lili Dujourie, Kabinet (Cabinet), 1992, iron, plaster and wood, 71 × 31 × 45cm, from the series Kabinetten (Cabinets), 1992—93. Courtesy the artist I believe that Lili Dujourie’s work addresses that unknowable part in us that Lacanian theory calls the objet petit a — a gap at the centre of the symbolic order that either makes us implode in a narcissistic quest for ourselves or pushes us to seek the object of desire in the Other.2 Her oeuvre can be read as a tide between absorption and dispersion, Minimalism

  1. André Breton, ‘The Second Surrealistic Manifesto’, in A. Breton, Manifestoes of Surrealism (trans. Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane), Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1969, pp.123—24.

  2. See Jacques Lacan, ‘Of the Gaze as Objet Petit a’, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (trans. Allan Sheridan), Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1994, pp.67—105.

  3. See Nicholas of Cusa, Of Learned Ignorance (1440, trans. Germaine Heron), London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1954.

  4. See J. Lacan, Le Séminaire. Livre VIII: Le Transfert (1960—61), Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2001.

  5. The difference is established in Seminar XII. See J. Lacan, Le Séminaire. Livre XII: Problèmes cruciaux pour la psychanalyse (1964—65), Paris: M. Roussan, 2001.

  6. See Donald Judd, ‘Specific Objects’ (1965), Complete Writings 1959—75: Gallery Reviews, Book Reviews, Articles, Letters to the Editor, Reports, Statements, Complaints, Halifax, Nova Scotia and New York: Press of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and New York University Press, 1975, pp.181—89.

  7. Michael Fried, ‘Art and Objecthood’ (1962), Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998, p.166.

  8. Marcel Duchamp, quoted in Nicolas Bourriaud, POSTPRODUCTION. Culture as Screenplay: How Art Reprograms the World (trans. Jeanine Herman), New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2002, p.18.

  9. I am referring here to Barbara Kruger’s famous slogan, originally included in the poster Untitled (Your body is a battleground) that she designed for the 1989 March on Washington in support of women’s rights and the abortion-rights movement.

  10. See Gilles Deleuze, Le Pli: Leibniz et le baroque, Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1988. Translation the author's.

  11. See Hugues C. Pernath, ‘In mijn nacht nadert niemand’, in Gedichten, Tielt and Amsterdam: Lannoo Uitgeverij and Atlas, p.335.

  12. ‘La naturaleza es sabia’ (‘Nature’s Lore’) was a solo exhibition curated by Lynne Cooke and organised by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía at the Santo Domingo de Silos Abbey, 10 June— 25 September 2011. See L. Cooke, Lili Dujourie: Nature’s Lore (exh. brochure), Madrid: Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2011, unpaginated.