Los Angeles

Ian Rosen

MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Schindler House

In the penultimate lecture of his course on “The Neutral,” Roland Barthes considers “anxiety,” which he is quick to differentiate from “fright.” (“There is something about anxiety,” Barthes writes, pace Freud in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, “that protects its subject against fright and so against fright neurosis.”) He relates the example of a white mouse, dropped into “a circular empty space, without nooks, without markers: it feels exposed, vulnerable to predators; and above all anxiety: the conflictual situation (cf. double bind) . . . divided between the need to eat and the need for flight.” The mouse displays, or seems to display, emotional reactions (“surprisingly, compulsive grooming gestures”). Barthes’s take is tempting to read as an allegory for the creative process, for art: Thrown into the blank space of anything goes, the artist is torn between survival (“the need to eat”)

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