The Deleuzian understanding of the masochistic impulse is one of disavowal and suspense. The masochist extends the arms of suspense in order to arrive at their disavowal, where the fetish is allowed to suspend disbelief. As Freud defined the term, an innocuous shoe has the potential to become an extension of the recognition of the lack of the female phallus. In this way one is offered a chance at magic. Where the fetish object is the bridge that crosses the gap between knowing and believing. Fetishist disavowal extends beyond the realm of the psychosexual, as most things originating there do and operate for us in other ways – from a totalitarian media landscape to unyielding capitalist realism.
I remember remarking to a friend many years ago that the thrill of taking drugs was not the drugs themselves but the hunt to attain them. This is similar – pleasure is administered through the delay and timings from variables beyond our immediate control. For instance, when the masochist consents to accept the cane – it is not the strike of the cane itself that powers the pleasure – it is the anticipation of the variables that have been designed to be played out beyond the precepts of control.
I wonder if there are scenarios within the studio which mimic this effect? There are certainly masochistic traits that run through the formulation of making an artwork. Things are erased, cancelled out, opposites become active through rival tensions. In the case of painting, the edges will always come to define its contents. It is also possible that when the painted image finally locks into place, where gesture has been suspended, it allows for a new indexical potential. In essence, suspense has been figured – which returns me back to masochism.
So how much of the masochistic impulse which Deleuze connects to disavowal is inherent in the artist, knowingly or otherwise? Disavowal as substitution and as recalibration – is an artwork itself a fetish – and I do not mean necessarily Marx’s commodity fetishism, which of course it is, never more so today. But possibly through the growing pains of how a painting comes into existence, it offers up something more than what is just seen or pictured – and in many ways this is a process of disavowal.