Artist of the Museum of the Unconscious, present in the curatorship of Sofia Borges at the 33rd Bienal de SP

[This is the fifth text in a series of seven, prepared by Christian Dunker, Professor in Psychoanalysis and Clinical Psychopathology at the Institute of Psychology at USP, which we are publishing weekly. up the title "The Education of the Look and the Reading of Images –  Ethical Challenges for Museumswe already approached

1] Curation as conflicting symbolic systems,
2] Aesthetic form and social contradiction  
3] Formalization and Temporality
4] Architecture and Space: the Sovereignty of Images

5 Place, Voice and Language: Empathy and Estrangement


LLet's remember that empathy (Einfühlung) is a concept developed by Vischer in the context of aesthetic theory. Only after that was it translated into English, as empathy, in the context of Titchner's psychology and reappropriated by Freud to describe the type of bond or effect that is expected between psychoanalyst and psychoanalyst. Empathy is not just a punctual affect of affinity and identification. This is best described by the concept of sympathy, that is, we fall together in relation to a certain object, we like the same things, our enjoyment is referred to the same trait or the same font.

Empathy is a path, a path, a trajectory of reading and listening. We can distinguish four times of this potentially transformative experience:

  1. To be affected by the other, to the point that he summons me to take a point of view that is not mine and that disconfirms the semblance in which I recognize myself and on which my identity depends. Here we have a kind of love experience, a way of making one, by the common trait, by the same.
  2. But taking the other's point of view and returning to your own, discovering that they are similar or converging, this is sympathy or mimetic identification, it is not empathy. Empathy progresses from this when, in addition to the other's point of view, we experience the estrangement that he is supposed to experience. When we reconstruct, as a supposition and hypothesis, the body that fits in this letter, the affection that is produced from this trait.
  3. The third stage of empathy comes when the estrangement and non-identity that I recognize in the other, in relation to himself, summons something in me. It is the emergence of the truth of this estrangement on the side of the subject. That is why the third stage of empathy is the time of difference and mismatch of the other, previously received and welcomed hospitably. We go from hospital to host, from welcome friend to disturbing alien.
  4. The fourth stage of empathy is also the resumption of the first. In this time I give something back to the other, as if in retribution for the transformation he unleashed. It is the response time, which can never be exhausted in “liked” or “disliked”, typical of the first and second stages of empathy. Usually this fourth period is marked by expressions such as “it moved me”, “I couldn't forget” or “times later that image kept coming back”. The fourth time is the time when empathy gives birth to the narrative, when we try to pass on the good joke received. When we try to share what would be ours, ours alone, we manage to subvert the experience of possession that characterizes the simplest ways of seeing.

This is what the recent experience of the museum of empathy tried to accomplish by offering us a repertoire of shoes, in which we place ourselves (second period), to listen to the history of their “owners”, (third period), to finally leave the shoes behind. shoes and the stories having transformed us into others, passing on the experience as I am trying to do now, with this text (fourth period).

In the contemporary context of the so-called struggles for recognition, we are dealing with the demand for the inscription of conflicting symbolic series: genders, races, classes, languages, cultures. Suffering demands that ask for inscription in the public space. Demands addressed to museums because they are, and I think they should continue to be, instances of sanction and authorization of speaking positions. But, as explained above, being recognized by the museum is not just being cataloged, being part of the collection in its own way of remembering and forgetting. Demand needs to be recognized not only in its representative objects, but also in its own grammar, so to speak, in its own “museological” thinking. Therefore, having a place, even having a place for speech, can be innocuous if on the other side we don't build a place for listening. And having a place of speech is fundamental, but in a sense because it is just a place, a point of view, which can be reduced again to a particular elite. What is required is not the protocol recognition of the place of speech, but also of the voice. The voice that brings the body and the body that is transformed in the empathic path.

Here, confusion is frequent between expressivism, which demands the autonomy of the singular, and the irreducibility of experience, as replacement and completion of identity, which is a decisive strategy of segregated body forms and the transformative experience that is intended in relation to power. modifier of memory worlds, as long as it is articulated to desire.

The “Tragedy” staged by curator Sofia Borges at the 33rd Bienal de São Paulo features several artists dialoguing with each other

In the hidden details of the body, present in the work of Sofia Borges, which brings us half-faces, mouths cut out in grotesque details, we perceive the decisive role of metaphor as a driver and trainer of narratives of suffering, after its transformation.

Internal Activity, Maria Laet, 2017

It is a strategy in a way opposite to that of Maria Laet, who frames the coast made of lines and erasures that the sea imposes on the sand of a beach. Criticism of walls and borders? Alluding to the fact that without tides and indeterminate borders what we have is fracture and breakage.

If Sofia Borges works with the narcissistic narrative of suffering, Maria Laet chooses the schizoid narrative. In the first one, my identity recognition is at stake, provided by an image that operates in a mirror. In the second, my experience of unity is on the agenda. Being identical is not the same as being one.

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