Robert Smithson and Pascal's Wager in Lacan's seminar XVI




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The paper deploys Lacan’s mathemes for the ‘unary trait’, ‘the Other’ and the ‘a-cause of desire’ in making an initial analysis of the early work of Robert Smithson. It treats the early work as a vorstellungrepräsentanz, a symptom of a repressed trauma. The paper addresses how the work dealt with specific family circumstances that determined his identity and worked through his various dilemmas by repositioning, through painting, the relation between his unary trait and the Other in order to restore his enjoyment. The analysis uses newly discovered archival materials (a correspondence with his gallerist) to provide essential evidence. The paper is rigorous in that it makes a thorough examination of Smithson’s reading and use of Jung in a series of self-analysis drawings, but then submits this to a Lacanian paradigm. It is original in that it uses evidence from the newly discovered correspondence to qualify Smithson’s conception of ‘revelation’ and to establish the chronology of the early work. The paper significantly offers the first psychoanalytic construction of the early work in the literature on Smithson. This paper is crucial to a larger research project on Smithson in that it establishes Smithson’s extensive knowledge of psychoanalytic theory, and provides an independent analysis of the early work that allows the later or ‘mature’ work to be read as a sublimation.


RAE 2008, UoA 63 Art and Design


Martin, T.D. (2007) Robert Smithson and Pascal's Wager in Lacan's Seminar XVI. Transmissions, The seventh Annual spring Symposiuim of the California Psychoanalytic Circle, University of California, Berkley, 12-13 May 2007.


Research Institute