Prof. Julia Steinmetz, Pratt Institute
Performance and Performance Studies MFA Program, Fall 2016

“I came into the world imbued with the will to find a meaning in things,
my spirit filled with the desire to attain to the source of the world, and then
I found that I was an object in the midst of other objects.” -Frantz Fanon

Special Topics in Performance Studies:

Object Relations: Performance, Psychoanalysis, and the Object

While the concept of object relations is one proper to psychoanalysis, this graduate seminar will take an expansive view of that formulation, inquiring into the role of “the object” in the scene of aesthetic encounter.  We will discuss the performative ways in which art objects deploy psychic mechanisms such as projective identification, introjection, and abjection, and ask how art objects take up residence in the unconscious. Intensive consideration will be given to the uses of the art object, its capacity to act as something transitional, transformational, or simply transactional, as a placeholder for value.  We will consider the materiality of objects and explore the crossed wires of aesthetic use value and exchange value. This seminar will examine the function of art institutions as containers for objects, and as potential holding and facilitating environments for performance encounters. Part-objects, fragments, lost objects, fetishes, objects fantasied, documented, desired and destroyed–all are within our purview. Each week’s reading material will pair a text from the psychoanalytic literature of object relations with a critical treatment of the art object in its various apparitions.  This pairing of object relations theory with analysis of the relational functions of the art object draws out the complex relationships between the domains of aesthetics, the social, and unconscious mental life.

Required Text

All readings are included in your course reader, available from the copy center on the lower level of the ISC building.

Course Requirements
One in class presentation (approximately 6-7 pages/15 minutes), to be assigned
Two in class performances (10 minutes), to be assigned
One term paper (approximately 15 pages), due at the close of the semester

Course Schedule

Week 1: Objecthood
Michael Fried “Art and Objecthood” (1967)
Jay Greenberg and Stephen Mitchell “Object Relations and Psychoanalytic Models” (1983)
Case studies: Sol Lewitt, Tony Smith, Donald Judd, Richard Serra

Week 2: The Use of an Object
Donald Winnicott “The Use of an Object and Relating Through Identifications” (1968)
Amelia Jones “Art History/Art Criticism: Performing Meaning” (1999)
Case studies: Yoko Ono, Marina Abramovic, David Wojnarowicz

Week 3: Transitional Objects
Readings: Winnicott “Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena” (1953) from Playing and Reality

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick “Introduction” Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (2003)
Laura Marks “Video Haptics and Erotics” (1998)

Case Studies: Joseph Beuys, Gabriel Orozco, Linda Montano, Sadie Benning, Yayoi Kusama

Week 4:  Transformational Objects
Readings: Christopher Bollas “The Transformational Object” (1979) and
“The Aesthetic Moment and the Search for Transformation” (1993)

Adrian Piper “Catalysis” and “The Indexical Present”

Sigmund Freud Interpretation of Dreams (selections)

Case Studies: Adrian Piper, Harun Farocki, Pauline Oliveros

Week 5: Objects Held, Lost and Found
Winnicott “The Location of Cultural Experience” / “The Place Where We Live” /

and “Mirror-role of Mother and Family in Child Development” from Playing and Reality (1971)
Douglas Crimp “On the Museum’s Ruins” (1993)

Case studies: Louise Lawler, Marcel Duchamp, Bas Jan Ader

Week 6: Phobogenic Objects
Franz Fanon “The Fact of Blackness” (1952)
José Esteban Muñoz “ ‘The White to be Angry’: Vaginal Creme Davis’s Terrorist Drag” (1997)
Case studies: Kara Walker, Vaginal Davis, Bruce LaBruce

Week 7: Resistance of the Object
Fred Moten “Resistance of the Object: Adrian Piper’s Theatricality” and “Black Mo’nin’” (2003)
Case Studies: William Pope L, Adrian Piper, Emmett Till photographs

Week 8: Objects of Exchange
Karl Marx  Selections from the Grundrisse. (1857-61)
Amelia Jones “The Contemporary Artist as Commodity Fetish” (2004)
Case Studies: Santiago Sierra, Damien Hirst, Vanessa Beecroft

Week 9: Stolen Objects
Donald Winnicott “Delinquency as a Sign of Hope” (1967)

Sigmund Freud – Selections from Psychopathology of Everyday Life
Judith Butler “Gender is Burning: Questions of Appropriation and Subversion” (1993)
bell hooks “Is Paris Burning?” (1991)
Case Studies: Jennie Livingston, Trajal Harrell

Week 10: Melancholic Objects
Sigmund Freud “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917)
David Eng  and Shinhee Han “A Dialogue on Racial Melancholia” (2003)
Roland Barthes, selections from Camera Lucida (1980)
Case Studies: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Breyer P. Orridge

Week 11: Objects in the Depressive Position
Melanie Klein “Love, Guilt and Reparation” (1937)
José Esteban Muñoz “Feeling Brown, Feeling Down: Latina Affect, the Performativity of Race, and the Depressive Position” (2006)
Case Studies: Ana Mendieta, Nao Bustamante, Lolita Lebron

Week 12: Objects of Desire
Jody Messler Davies “Love in the Afternoon:  A Relational Reconsideration of Desire and Dread in the Countertransference” (1994)
José Esteban Muñoz “Introduction: Feeling Utopia” Cruising Utopia (2009)
Case Studies: Sophie Calle, Frank O’Hara

Week 13: Sex Objects
Jessica Benjamin “Sympathy for the Devil: Notes on Sexuality and Aggression” (1995)
Jennifer Doyle “The Effect of Intimacy: Tracy Emin’s Bad Sex Aesthetics” (2006)
Case Studies: Ron Athey, Robert Mapplethorpe, Kobena Mercer, Tracy Emin

Week 14:  Abject Objects
Julia Kristeva – “Approaching Abjection”
Mary Douglas – selections from Purity and Danger (1966)
Case Studies: Karen Finley, Laura Aguilar, Mike Kelly, Jenny Saville

Week 15: Object Lessons
Jody Messler Davies “Transformations of Desire and Despair” (2005)
Andrea Fraser “From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique” (2005)
Benjamain Buchloh “Michael Asher: Writings 1973-1983 on Works 1969-1979.” (1983)
Case Studies: Michael Asher, Hans Haacke, Andrea Fraser


Bollas, Christopher. “The transformational object.” The International Journal of Psychoanalysis (1979).

Bollas, Christopher. “The aesthetic moment and the search for transformation.” Transitional
objects and potential spaces: Literary uses of DW Winnicott (1993): 40-49.

Bollas, Christopher. The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

Breitwieser, Sabine. Occupying Space: Sammlung Generali Foundation Collection. Vienna: Generali Foundation, 2004.

Buchloh, Benjamin HD. “Michael Asher. Writings 1973-1983 on Works 1969-1979.” (1983).

Crimp, Douglas. AIDS: Cultural Analysis, Cultural Activism. Cambridge, MA. MIT Press, 1988.

Davies, Jody Messler.  “Whose Bad Objects Are We Anyway?: Repetition and Our Elusive
Love Affair with Evil.” Psychoanalytic Dialogues, (2004)14:711-732

Davies, Jody Messler. “Love in the Afternoon: A Relational Reconsideration of Desire and Dread in the Countertransference.” Psychoanalytic Dialogues, (1994) 4:153-170.

Doyle, Jennifer. Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013.

Doyle, Jennifer. “Blind spots and failed Performance: abortion, feminism, and Queer theory.” Qui Parle: Critical Humanities and Social Sciences 18, no. 1 (2009): 25-52.

Doyle, Jennifer. Sex Objects: Art and the Dialectics of Desire. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006.

Duggan, Lisa, and José Esteban Muñoz. “Hope and hopelessness: A dialogue.” Women &
Performance: a journal of feminist theory 19, no. 2 (2009): 275-283.

Fischer-Lichte, Erika. The Transformative Power of Performance: a New Aesthetics. Routledge, 2008.

Fraser,  Andrea. “From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique.” Artforum 44, no.1 (2005): 278-286.

Jones,  Amelia and Stephenson, Andrew Eds. Performing the Body / Performing the Text.

New York, Routledge, 1999.

Klein, Melanie. Love, Guilt and Reparation. New York: Delacorte Press, 1975

Lee, Jonathan Scott. “Spike Lee’s Malcolm X as Transformational Object.” American Imago 52, no.2 (1995): 155-167.

Marx, Karl and Engels, Frederick. Collected Works, Volume 28. (Grundrisse). 1857-1861.

Moten, Fred. “Black Mo’nin’.” Loss
Moten, Fred. In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

Muñoz, José Esteban. “Feeling brown, feeling down: Latina affect, the performativity of race, and the depressive position.” Signs 31, no. 3 (2006): 675-688.

Muñoz, José Esteban. “Cruising the toilet: LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, radical black traditions, and queer futurity.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 13, no. 2 (2007): 353-367.

Muñoz, José Esteban. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Utopia. New York: NYU Press,

Peltomäki, Kirsi. Situation Aesthetics:  The Work of Michael Asher. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010.

Owens, Craig. Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power and Culture. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992.

Piper, Adrian. Out of Order, Out of Sight. Volumes I and II. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1996.

Sedgwick, Eve. Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.

Winnicott, D. W. Playing and Reality. London/New York: Tavistock Publications, 1980.