Reminiscences: Locating the traumatic object
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 Material Information
Title: Reminiscences: Locating the traumatic object
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Leger, Emily ( Dissertant )
Roberge, Celeste ( Thesis advisor )
Publisher: College of Fine Arts, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2009
Copyright Date: 2009
 Subjects
Subjects / Keywords: Art Thesis, M.F.A.
Dissertations, Academic -- UF -- Art
Genre:
 Notes
Abstract: Reminiscences is an installation of digital images, video, and soft sculpture that presents experiential trauma in a multiple autobiography. The viewer is asked to consider how theory, particularly art history and art criticism, may be omitting the complicated messy details and multiple vantage points of trauma survivors. Primarily, the exhibit explores relationships between myself, a survivor of sexual abuse, rape, and paternal incest; a character I created, Emmy Brown, who is a response to my experiences; and the viewer. The installation intends to produce a situation for play that is both overt and antagonistic and that coaxes the viewer into the role of translator. My desire to locate the traumatic object surfaced from an analysis of the origins of Emmy Brown. Is she my child, my little sister, or a representation of one of my child states? Considering psychoanalyst Juliet Mitchell’s ongoing positioning of the object, Reminiscences searches to include the tangled details of the family. Do theoretical interpretations of trauma rely too heavily on a Lacanian subject? Inspired by clinical literature on trauma, Reminiscences questions the politics of disclosure and considers those who have no access to recovery. Reminiscences invites the translator to verify or falsify testimony. As Emmy Brown discloses, the translator is asked to intervene, is invited to tell or keep secrets, and is permitted to walk away.
Publication Status: Published
General Note: MFA in Art conferred Fall 2009.
Acquisition: Sculpture terminal project
General Note: Includes bibliographical references (page 40).
General Note: Document formatted into pages; contains 41 p.; also contains graphics.
General Note: Includes vita.
 Record Information
Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Rights Management: Permissions granted to the University of Florida Institutional Repository and University of Florida Digital Collections to allow use by the submitter. All rights reserved by the author.
System ID: IR00000046:00001

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REMINISCENCES:
LOCATING THE TRAUMATIC OBJECT




















By

EMILY LEGER


A PROJECT IN LIEU OF THESIS PRESENTED TO THE COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF FINE ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2009


































2009 Emily Leger


































To Emmy Brown









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank my family, especially my mother, who unconditionally

supported my academic endeavours. I would also like to thank my supervisory

committee whose support reached farther than the academic context. Finally, I would

like to thank the University of Florida and the School of Art and Art History for the

financial support specifically my Alumni Fellowship, which allowed me to attend a

Master of Fine Arts program in the United States.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A C K N O W LED G M ENTS ......... ............................ ..... .......................... ............... 4

LIST O F FIG U R E S .................................................................. 6

A B S T R A C T .................... ....................................................................... ..... 8

P R O JE C T R E P O R T ......................................................................... ............................. 10

Reminiscences: Locating the Traumatic Object ............................................... 10
Figures ........................................... 26

B IB L IO G R A P H Y .............. ..... ............ ............................... ......................................... 4 0

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ..... ........... ........ ........ ......... 41









LIST OF FIGURES


Figure page

1 "Page, Emmy Brown Insane," 2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in
w hite fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8 ..................................................................... 26

2 "Page, Emmy Brown Split," 2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in white
fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8 .................................... ....................... .. ... 27

3 "Page, Emmy Brown Disagreed," 2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in
w hite fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8 ..................................................................... 28

4 "Page, Emmy Brown Stat," 2009. Digital Print (13" by 24") mounted in white
fabric from Pages 1 of 8. ........ .. ......... ........ ................................ 29

5 "Page, Emmy Brown Staged,"2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in
w hite fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8 ..................................................................... 30

6 "Page, Emmy Brown Sat," 2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in white
fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8. ..................... ............................... 31

7 "Page, Emmy Brown Fakes," 2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in
w hite fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8 ..................................................................... 32

8 "Page, Emmy Brown Falls," 2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in white
fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8. ..................... ............................... 33

9 "Paper Doll Booklet," 2009. Plain paper digital copies, (17" by 11"), ribbon
and scissors ......................................... .......... 34

10 "Performance Detail" 2009. Engraved plastic, (10" by 6"), installed outside
the G allery entrance. .............. .. ...... ............. ................ ............... 34

11 "Large Therapy Dolls," 2009. Various dimensions (greater than 72" lengths),
hand dyed heirloom fabric and fiberfill, hand sewn, embroidered and stuffed.... 35

12 "Small Therapy Dolls,"2009. Various dimensions (less than 30" lengths),
accumulating quantity, hand dyed heirloom fabric and fiberfill, hand sewn,
embroidered and stuffed. .... ................................. ... .... ............ 36

13 "Dress Pillow," 2009. Installation detail, fabric, fiberfill, various dimensions,
and accumulating quantity .......................................... ................ 37

14 "Reminiscences," 2009. 18 minute video, 2009 Installation of Projection
Video, Greater than 1000 square feet of hand stitched white cloth, loop with 4
speakers and surround sound, and 11 hand crafted lamps suspended for
am bient lighting. ................................... ........................... .. ........ 38









15 "Obstructed Window," 2009. Plain paper digital copies, greater than 200
copies of small therapy dolls, folded and taped ......... ................. ... ............. 39









Summary of Project in Lieu of Thesis
Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Master of Fine Arts

REMINISCENCES: LOCATING THE TRAUMATIC OBJECT

By

Emily Leger

December 2009

Chair: Celeste Roberge
Major: Art

Reminiscences is an installation of digital images, video, and soft sculpture that

presents experiential trauma in a multiple autobiography. The viewer is asked to

consider how theory, particularly art history and art criticism, may be omitting the

complicated messy details and multiple vantage points of trauma survivors. Primarily,

the exhibit explores relationships between myself, a survivor of sexual abuse, rape, and

paternal incest; a character I created, Emmy Brown, who is a response to my

experiences; and the viewer. The installation intends to produce a situation for play that

is both overt and antagonistic and that coaxes the viewer into the role of translator. My

desire to locate the traumatic object surfaced from an analysis of the origins of Emmy

Brown. Is she my child, my little sister, or a representation of one of my child states?

Considering psychoanalyst Juliet Mitchell's ongoing positioning of the object,

Reminiscences searches to include the tangled details of the family. Do theoretical

interpretations of trauma rely too heavily on a Lacanian subject? Inspired by clinical

literature on trauma, Reminiscences questions the politics of disclosure and considers

those who have no access to recovery. Reminiscences invites the translator to verify or









falsify testimony. As Emmy Brown discloses, the translator is asked to intervene, is

invited to tell or keep secrets, and is permitted to walk away.









PROJECT REPORT

Reminiscences: Locating the Traumatic Object

Lacan defines three separate orders in the development of the ego: the Real, the
Imaginary, and the Symbolic. In "From Simone de Beauvoir to Jaques Lacan,"
Toril Moi describes the impact of Lacan's seminal 1936 essay, "The Mirror
Stage," on feminism. The Real, Moi states, is defined as fragmented, and the
child enters the mirror stage through a shift into the Imaginary in order to endow
the baby with a unitary body image. Furthermore, Moi argues, in the Imaginary
there is no difference and no absence, only identity and presence; however, to
remain in the Imaginary is equivalent to becoming psychotic and incapable of
living in human society. So, the child must move into the third order, the
Symbolic, where the Law of the Father separates the child's identification with the
mother's body; consequently, the child comes to define itself as separate from
the other.1


In her essay from the 2003 symposium "Theory as an Object," reprinted in the

summer 2005 issue of October, Juliet Mitchell asks us to consider how art criticism

might use psychoanalytic theory. Mitchell outlines a shift towards "positive

destructiveness"; this shift makes necessary a clarification of the complex historical

position of the object. Mitchell distills this necessary clarification from David Winnicott's

1968 paper "The Use of an Object and Relating through Identification." Mitchell reminds

us that from within her current perspective of "object relations psychoanalysis" the

"object" is a person; a feminine person. This person, Mitchell asserts, who occupies the

position of object, not subject, is endorsed in Lacan's readings of Freud. Importantly,

Mitchell is well aware that relocating the object is an extremely difficult task. Mitchell

confesses her limited clinical and textual approach and she acknowledges criticism of

her 1974 book Psychoanalysis and Feminism. Mitchell identifies a mistake in her earlier

writings; she notes her ahistorical moment when she mistakenly removed women from

1 Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory (Second Edition). London; New York:
Routledge, 2002, 99,100, summarised in Emily Leger, "Performing Childhood Trauma," Wreck: Graduate
Journal of Art History, Visual Art & Theory 1, (2004): 29-41.









the family context. With added clarity, Mitchell complicates the revolt against the

maternal body that originated from a criticism of Lacan's model of gender differentiation;

she suggests how this feminist revolt against the otherness of the object was simplistic.2

Considering Mitchell's ongoing positioning of the object, Reminiscences

problematizes domesticity and the family context. The installation incorporates domestic

activities such as embroidery and sewing. The video projection repeats songs and

stories shared across generations, and contributes family testimony. Reminiscences

searches for an inclusive discourse of trauma; a discourse of survivorship that includes

the family, to unearth the elemental and the experiential sites of trauma. Does

survivorship rely too heavily on a Lacanian subject? Does a theory of trauma that

includes the family make necessary a distancing from the subject? Cautiousness about

the subject position triggers a psychoanalytic paradox: to activate and reclaim the object

we must be willing to destroy it and move away from the object towards the Symbolic.

Reminiscences approaches the other, and under an unknown shadow, risks psychotic

encounters with the Imaginary. White fabric covers the entire floor of the gallery and

extends up one wall to create a screen. Each viewer chooses if and how to enter the

gallery. Upon entering the space the viewer trespasses onto the screen and engages

with the traumatic Real.3



2 1 am referring to the historic politics of removing women from the family context that was used to argue
for a position of sexual sameness or equality; this approach was simplistic and essentialist. Mitchell
quotes Quintin Hoare a critic of her 1966 paper "Women: The Longest Revolution," who, in 1967, argued
against Mitchell's abstract and ahistorical position. Hoare states that the whole historical development of
women has been within the family and she argues that women cannot be separated from the family. Juliet
Mitchell, "Theory as an Object*," October 113 (2005): 28-30.
3 I am speaking here of my own extension of the term traumatic Real to include trauma survivors. This
extension arose from my response to Hal Foster's 1996 book The Return of the Real. Foster uses the
Lacanian psychoanalytic model of the gaze to locates a traumatic encounter with the Real that is
antagonistic and bold. Within Foster's traumatic subject is a strange rebirth of the author as witness,
testifier, and survivor, found in the paradoxically absentee authority of the traumatic subject. Foster's









Reminiscences features the character of Emmy Brown; Emmy Brown messes

around with subject-ness. The character of Emmy Brown is in many ways a coping-

mechanism. She told secrets, and exposed traumatic memories; she keeps telling.

Emmy has appeared at least twice: once as a protective child state to repress and deny

paternal incest and sexual abuse, and again as a young woman struggling with new

sexual traumas, resurfacing memories, multiple dissociative and destructive child

states, real psychosis and mental illnesses. Reminiscences catalogues eight digital

prints of Emmy's cut-out-doll dresses transformed into paper doll book "Pages"; these

miniaturised digital dress images are flattened into the format of a paper doll book

(Figures 1-8). These hand-sewn dresses are Emmy's uniform; the original pattern was

inspired by the cut-out paper doll. Emmy's original performances engaged the public

with her very private disclosure. This catalogue, "Pages," is also reproduced as "Paper

Doll Booklets" (Figure 9). Each booklet corresponds to one of eight prints on the wall

and is attached to a pair of scissors with a single long ribbon. Sound penetrates the

gallery and the viewer is told the story of Emmy Brown; her telling. The voices of the

video are those of a mother and of a maternal grandmother; these narrators are

commemorated for their contribution to the project in a small plaque outside the gallery

entrance (Figure 10). These intergenerational narrators contribute testimony; they also

contribute heirloom fabric hand-dyed and hand-crafted into three "Large Therapy Dolls"

(Figure 11). Similarly, "Small Therapy Dolls" are also hand-sewn using the same fabric.

These smaller dolls accumulate over the duration of the two-week exhibit (Figure 12).

The viewer is given multiple opportunities to view Emmy's dresses. Each digital print


traumatic subject is very active and integral to my own position. For a discussion of the limits of Foster's
traumatic subject see Leger, "Performing Childhood Trauma," 29, 30.









and each large doll is installed under a single hand crafted, dress-like, hanging lamp.

The dimly lit gallery is transformed with over 1000 square feet of white fabric and the

viewer is invited to sit among scatterings of cut-out "Dress Pillows" (Figure 13). By

activating the horizontal space of the child lower to the gallery floor, the viewer is

encouraged to linger, and to participate. One wall of the gallery is entirely covered in

white fabric onto which, "Reminiscences," an 18-minute video loop, is projected (Figure

14). There is no way to enter the gallery without interacting with and stepping on the

exhibition.

Through the testimony of Emmy Brown and inspired by clinical literature on

trauma, Reminiscences questions current politics of disclosure. Reminiscences

searches to include the multiple vantage points of trauma survivors. Furthermore,

Reminiscences questions the present-day attraction to the traumatic subject; the viewer

situates the larger historical contexts of trauma and art. Attraction to the subject is both

normative and narcissistic; by destroying the object that is us, or who is related to us,

we can forget by dissociating. Reminiscences presents experiential trauma in a multiple

autobiography; the exhibit explores the perplexing relationships among Emily Leger,

Emmy Brown, and the viewer. In other words the viewer is asked to question disclosure;

and encouraged to consider if the voice in the exhibition is singular, authentic, or if it is

truthful. Multiplicity helps the work move beyond autobiography to include other trauma

survivors, particularly other sexual abuse and sexual assault survivors. Reminiscences

intends both to locate and to include those who are missing. In many ways these

missing subjects are far from the gallery and far from the art context; alone on an island,

the traumatic subject is rescued. Clearly this model is flawed. Why do we isolate trauma









survivors by pigeonholing autobiography and testimony? What would a new model look

like? Is domestic trauma relevant to art making? Is it easiest to forget? In pursuit of an

inclusive discourse for the trauma survivor that reclaims power from the domestic,

experiential site of trauma without claiming autonomous sanctity from criticism,

Reminiscences postulates a traumatic object that does not replace the traumatic

subject; the exhibit attempts to foster a tension of "coexistence."4

In her introduction to the summer 2005 issue of October, Mignon Nixon clarifies

one of Mitchell's art-relevant distinctions: one must "use" rather than "relate" to theory;

one must not be obedient to theory; rather, one must use it as an analytic object. Nixon

predicts that such an object would be multifaceted; the analytic object would embody

the person of the analyst, the technique, the setting, and the theory. This issue of

October is seminal to Reminiscences for many reasons. In much the same way that

clinical literature allows advocacy for missing trauma survivors, the interaction of

psychoanalytic texts and art criticism allows advocacy for a missing context: the

emerging traumatic object, her person as analyst, her setting, and her technique.

Advocating for art that is made about real psychic trauma requires not just that there are

listeners and witnesses, but also co-authors and co-confessors. Understanding the

context for such an art means understanding and combining the positions of others.

Nixon notes Mitchell's encouraging advocacy for psychoanalysis that offers "the most

profound analysis of patriarchy available to feminism." Mitchell's inclusiveness requires


4 An in-depth historical account of the relationship between the object and the other in the development of
the subject is missing from this discussion. Mitchell does not advocate for a simple approach; she does
not imply that there is an object, traumatic or otherwise that might replace the subject. My approach is to
move psychoanalysis towards cultural theory. Mitchell alerts us of a tension between the original female
subject and her analyst who occupies the position of other (the object); Mitchell warns us not to move
between these positions but asks us to hold them in a tension of coexistence. Juliet Mitchell, "Theory as
an Object*," 30.









caution; separating the survival of psychoanalysis from the politics of trauma within the

family is precarious.5

In Addition, another important "coexistence" is evident between Mitchell's

second-generation feminist absent maternal subject and her contemporary analytic

object. In Reminiscences the traumatic object is a person; she is also a position that

coexists with the traumatic subject. Examining Emmy Brown's origins led to interest in

the coexistentt" position of the object. Is Emmy my child, my little sister, or a

representation of one of my protective child states? The fact that Emmy Brown would or

could not exist without me confirms our lack of separation. When I was six and again

when I was twenty-six, Emmy Brown lashed out protectively against the family and

against the other. Emmy Brown performed trauma and exaggerated for the viewer my

experiences of telling. Emmy Brown continues to reenact the frustrations of not being

heard. Emmy Brown disconnects herself from the family and revolts simultaneously

against her abusers, her parents, and others in positions of power and authority.

In her 2004 interview, reprinted in the summer 2005 issue of October, Juliet

Mitchell defends her horizontal field as a lateral shift away from an intergenerational

model of psychoanalysis. The intergenerational model focuses on both the object, and

the other, as parental relationships. Mitchell's shift towards intragenerational lateral

relationships locates a sibling and peer psychoanalytic model. Mitchell demands us to

confront the limitations of a traditional intergenerational psychoanalytic model;

specifically those limitations associated with gender differentiation and feminism. In


5 Speaking of Juliet Mitchell's involvement with Mary Kelly's "Postpartum Document,"Nixon locates the
introduction of an absent maternal subject. This absent maternal subject and the fragility of her position is
relevant to an emerging traumatic object. Reminiscences attempts to present the complicated position of
a motherless traumatic subject as absent through the story of Emmy Brown. For more clarification on
second generation feminism and art criticism see Mignon Nixon, "Introduction," October 113 (2005): 3-8.









doing so, Mitchell revisits Freud's pre-psychoanalytic writing; within Freud's hysteria she

reestablishes psychic trauma. Interestingly, Mitchell notes that Freud's hysterics

suffered from childhood abuses; she clarifies that trauma has both elemental and

experiential components. Additionally, Mitchell also acknowledges that lateral sibling

peer relationships occur as an Imaginary relation as opposed to a Symbolic relation. Put

another way, this lateral model engages with fantasy more than language. Mitchell's

new age of psychoanalytic theory is founded on the tension of coexistence between

intergeneration coordinates (subject and object). 6

Within Emmy Brown's performances there are interactions between psychosis

and a failed attempt at neurosis; one might argue that Emmy Brown is both a traumatic

subject and a traumatic object. Her disclosure is contradictory and problematic. In

Emmy's early performances, she performed trauma within sculptural installations that

were in close dialogue with a Lacanian model of the gaze. Through art making, she

explored Lacan's model of gender differentiation. In addition, Emmy acted out a Kleinian

model of aggression by re-experiencing traumatic memory, performing childhood

trauma, and acting out the defiant and aggressive moods and actions of the child.

Emmy created oversized objects of primary experience including enlarged L shaped

keys to her bedroom ("Emergency Keys", fabricated steel, 2000.), and enormous

toddler-style cutlery ("Tweety Bird Forks", fabricated steel, 2002.). Emmy negotiated the

flat horizontal space of the infant, accentuated with patterned floors and hanging strips


6Within her new model, Mitchell extends traumatic elements to not only include traumatic experiences but
also the trauma of a screen memory, a memory that is the narrative history of what mattered in your life.
Mitchell exposes the limitations of the lateral, horizontal field and admits that sibling relationships are
subsidiary and they lack staying power. Interestingly, Mitchell introduces real trauma into her discussion
of siblings. Sibling incest, she notes, is the most prevalent of (reported) sexual abuse in the United
Kingdom. I do not have time to mention Mitchell's discussion of the Law of the Mother in Sibling relations.
See more in Tamar Garb and Mignon Nixon, "A Conversation with Juliet Mitchell," 14-19.









of cloth. Also, Emmy moved in and out of hidden spaces beyond the literal screen and

interacted with video projection saturated with references to psychoanalysis and trauma

theory. Emmy Brown was protective and she was resilient; she possessed the strength

to tell secrets. Reminiscences revisits Emmy Brown and opens up more telling. Emmy

Brown rejects her subjectivity by refusing to end her disclosure. At the same time,

through her actions, she rejects the object by refusing the comfort of the maternal body;

she moves dangerously close to psychosis and to the Imaginary. Emmy Brown's

repetitions and reparations are torn apart, interrupted and exposed to the audience. In

part, Emmy reemerged as a reaction to Mignon Nixon's 1995 article in October entitled

"Bad Enough Mother." In this article Nixon locates a return to psychoanalyst Melanie

Klein within the work of 1990s feminist artists who through their art-practices returned to

the drives and to aggression. Nixon allocates space and importance to artists who

reenact traumatic experiences; she views this return to Klein not as a theoretical

regression but rather as a repositioning. These artists offer a critique of feminist

psychoanalytic work of the 1970s and 1980s that privileged pleasure and desire over

hatred and aggression.7

Nixon stresses that a shift away from Lacan is a shift in emphasis from neurosis

to psychosis. Reminiscences proposes that there is a lateral space, however temporary,

for a traumatic object; a space that exists in dialogue both with Nixon's return to a

Kleinian horizontal field and with Mitchell's intragenerational model. In Reminiscences,

Emmy Brown simultaneously approaches, coexists with, and denies both the Imaginary,





7 Mignon Nixon, "Bad Enough Mother," October 71 (1995): 72-74.









and the maternal body. Early on, Emmy Brown declared herself to have no parents. As

a kind of Lacanian orphan, Emmy cuts into the Imaginary to locate a traumatic object.8

Nixon seems to have updated her position by readdressing aggression and

fantasy. Drawn towards Juliet Mitchell's lateral, horizontal space, Nixon redefines the

manner in which psychoanalysis intersects with art. Within the context of the Twenty-

First Century, Nixon repositions the role of the artist. Within this repositioning, Nixon

identifies Mitchell's "good enough theory" that survives beyond a docile interpretation of

texts. Without interpretation that is active, the artist, the analyst and the other move

towards the banal, the modest or the sentimental. Interpreting art, Nixon warns, carries

with it the same dangers as interpreting text or theory. Reminiscences attempts to

consider both the textual and the theoretical interpretation of art. Emmy actively rejects

the banal; her performances create a treacherous space for the audience who witness

psychosis, pain, destruction, and aggression. Where is the world that created Emmy

Brown, the world of no parents, of self-parenting? Where is the world that interacts with

fantasy and cuts into the Imaginary from within a maternal body without claiming an

objective or ahistorical position? Importantly, Nixon reminds us the current context of art

interpretation can become inactive.9



8 Nixon argues that within the Bad Girls exhibition, subjectivity forms from an experience of loss enacted
through destructive fantasies. Nixon highlights artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Rona Pondick, Janine
Antoni, and Rachel Whiteread; she argues that the desire of the little girl to speak is fulfilled in a desire to
bite, to cut and to devour the one who oppresses her with his speech. Emmy Brown performs this
talkback literally by introducing Klein's "tdaddy" into her performance video in "C'est ne pas Un
pere"(sic)*. Mignon Nixon, "Bad Enough Mother," 71-92.
*As first noted in "Performing Childhood Trauma," the title "C'est ne pas un pere" is grammatically
incorrect; a combination of "This is not a father," and "it was not my father." This is a pun referencing
Rene Margritte's surrealist painting "Ceci n'est pas une pipe."(This is not a pipe.).
9 I am especially interested in Nixon's repositioning of the artist and have reframed and extended ideas
from Mignon Nixon, "Introduction" to Juliet Mitchell. This repositioning of the interpreter is particularly
relevant to my own positioning of the viewer as a translator. Mignon Nixon "Introduction,"3-6. Juliet
Mitchell, "Theory as an Object*,"33-36.









Another important installation detail of Reminiscences is the "obstructed

windows." By covering the windows with photo-replicas of the "Small Therapy Dolls,"

Reminiscences entices and coaxes the viewer into the gallery. At the same, time the

exhibit delivers painful disclosure in a shocking reveal. The viewer is invested in

spectatorship just by opening the door (Figure 15). Ideally, within this individual

exchange, Reminiscences extends an opportunity for the viewer to co-confess. Emmy

Brown makes it clear that she is a survivor of sexual abuse, rape, and of paternal incest.

Reminiscences relies on others: autobiography is only one component of the

installation. In pursuit of art that is active, Reminiscences is informed by artists who

have extended their work to include the family and the community. Many artists have

attempted to use the private in their art-practices; many others continue to identify with

the public and to enact social activism through art. Haunted by the short reflection on

Felix Gonzolez-Torres found in Claire Bishop's 2005 book, Installation Art: ACritical

History, I explore art-making stereotypes such as pity art, art from the margins, "art

brut," or identity art.10

There are interesting overlaps between contemporary psychoanalytic texts and

Claire Bishop's writings on performance art: namely, the interpreter. In her 2006 book,

Participation, Bishop presents her analysis of the Brechtian Model in which the

audience is involved in constructed situations; her analysis becomes particularly

interesting when she posits a situation wherein the spectator becomes an interpreter.1


10 1 mention some other sections of interest in "Activated Spectatorship" that highlight topics such as
"relational aesthetics," "relational antagonism," and "making art politically." Although much can be gained
from considering these writings I will not take on this endeavor here. For a more in depth look at Bishops
perspective see Claire Bishop, "Activated Spectatorship" In Installation art: A Critical History. (New York:
Routledge, 2005), 102-27.
11 Claire Bishop, "Introduction/Viewers as Producers" in Participation. Ed. By Roland Barthes and Claire
Bishop (London; Cambridge, Mass.; Whitechapel; MIT Press, 2006) 10-17.









In his 2004 essay, "Chat Rooms," Hal Foster cautions artists who engage in community-

based art practices and expresses reservation about an excessively optimistic rhetoric

that accompanies collaboration and participation in art.12 Reminiscences produces a

situation for play that is both overt and antagonistic, and creates a situation that coaxes

the viewer into the role of a translator. In other ways, Reminiscences allows the viewer

to witness and console; the viewer interprets the languages of psychiatry,

psychoanalysis, trauma, autobiography and art. In Reminiscences, the viewer is given

opportunities to witness and to participate. The viewer is invited to sit and cut out Emmy

Brown dresses. Reminiscences shares with the viewer the intimate details of

survivorship; the viewer is invited to be and share Emmy Brown. How willing is the

viewer to interpret? How much personal experience does the viewer have with the

different languages of trauma?

This paper barely grazes the surface of contemporary trauma theory, its variety,

its scope, or its profundity. Laura Frost's "After Lot's Daughters: Kathy Harrison and the

Making of Memory" helps contextualize autobiography about domestic abuse,

particularly, autobiography about incest. Despite the abundant theorization of trauma,

and despite the courage of many, sharing traumatic experience from within the family

remains extremely difficult. Emmy Brown performs her trauma and shares her

experiences. Emmy Brown speaks both rationally and from within a psychotic state. She

shares intimate details of her family, her lack of family, and her destruction of her family.

Reminiscences invites the translator to verify or falsify testimony; the translator is asked

to intervene, is invited to tell or keep secrets, and is permitted to walk away and shut the


12 Hal Foster, "Chat Rooms." In Participation. Ed. By Roland Barthes and Claire Bishop (London;
Cambridge, Mass.; Whitechapel; MIT Press, 2006) 190-5.










door. Frost laments that although incest stories do have their own literary genre, it is a

genre that belongs to the literature of the extremes.13

Revisiting trauma is a necessary part of healing. Reminiscences realistically

focuses on ongoing challenges with wellness and mental health as Emmy Brown walks

the boundaries of wellness and engages with psychiatry.14 How is childhood trauma

survived? What constitutes resilience? The term resilience emerged in 1987 from the

set of generative writings within The Guildford Psychiatric Series titled The Invulnerable

Child. In his introduction to this volume, editor E. James Anthony defines resilience as a

relationship between risk and vulnerability. Anthony defines four types of invulnerability;

the one I am the most interested in is developed by an individual who learns how to

"bounce back" from traumatic exposures. Anthony points out how this theory was

developed to overcome the victimization hypothesis; significantly, he concedes that

resilience can be strengthened by external social support systems.15 The character of

Emmy Brown represents personal resiliency.




13 In the introduction to their collection of essays, Extremities: Trauma, Testimony, and Community,
Nancy Miller and Jason Tougaw note the fact that in the new millennium we live in the wake of trauma;
trauma is the symptom of our new age. Miller and Tougaw extend Cathy Caruth's 1996 collection of
essays Trauma: Exploration in Memory to reflect upon the current extreme situation in which sharing
traumatic experience becomes a commodity. Unfortunately, Extremities seems to further marginalize
those who speak out against oppression. It would seem that the more plentiful the voices of taboo
subjects become the more sceptical academia becomes of the relevance of testimony. Nancy Miller and
Jason Tougaw, Introduction to Extremities: Trauma, Testimony, and Community, edited by Nancy Miller
and Jason Tougaw (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 1-21p
14 See my discussion of two of Emmy's performances "No Supper" and "C'est Ne Pas Un Pere" in Emily
Leger, "Performing Childhood Trauma."34-37.
1Anthony positions himself within L. E. Hinkle's definition of resilience as the presence of certain
personality traits, characteristics that insulate the individual from detrimental life experiences. Excessively
resilient individuals demonstrate an ostrich effect and are invulnerable; these invulnerable risk developing
sociopathic traits. Interestingly, within the field of psychiatry there exists a literal "Good Enough Mother or
Caretaker" who is instrumental in protecting a child. In Reminiscences, I interject my mother's perspective
about Emmy Brown and her telling. E. James Anthony "Risk, Vulnerability, and Resilience: An Overview";
in The Invulnerable Child. Ed. By E. James Anthony and Bertram J. Cohler (New York: Guilford Press,
1987), 3-48.









Clearly, the luxury of reminiscing means that urgency has faded as time has

passed. Nevertheless, resiliency does not lessen or destabilize sexual abuse or the

politics that surround disclosure. The silences from within the site of domestic trauma

are both tragic and pervasive. In their 1998 article published in the American journal

Child Abuse and Neglect titled "Prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and

Other Psychiatric Diagnoses in Three Groups of Abused Children [Sexual, Physical,

and Both]" Ackerman et al. give some context to domestic abuses and the

consequences of these abuses on children. Significantly, they point out trauma's

"extreme" definition as being focused around victims of war, natural disaster,

kidnapping, or shootings; in their article they not only include but focus on childhood

sexual and physical abuse. According to Ackerman et al. many, but not most, children

who are affected by trauma are highly resilient and do not develop stress disorders.

However, they emphasize that the most important impact of their research into

resilience is to expose the prevalence of abuse and to reveal the magnitude of the

emotional damage this abuse inflicts on most children. Although their study samples a

relatively large number of abused children, they readily admit that their sample is limited

and only consists of children whose abuses were discovered or disclosed to a

supportive adult.16

Similarly, in their 1987 article from the same journal, titled "Resilience in Child

Maltreatment Victims: A Conceptual Overview," Mrazek and Mrazek report that the

situation of childhood trauma is grave. They say that despite resilient functioning, those

16 In their study, Ackerman et al. found that more boys were physically abused and more girls were
sexually abused. They also stress that many children and caregivers who were approached declined to
be interviewed. See especially the conclusion of Peggy T. Ackerman et al., "Prevalence of Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder and Other Psychiatric Diagnoses in Three Groups of Abused Children [Sexual, Physical,
and Both]." Child Abuse & Neglect 22 (1998): 769-74.









illnesses associated with maltreated children do not often come with a prognosis of full

recovery. We must consider child victims of abuse underrepresented in scientific

literature. We must also consider that adult survivors are also missing. These traumatic

subjects are further marginalized by psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and severe

mental illnesses. Mrazek and Mrazek broaden our perspectives and disclose that

reported incidents of child abuse and neglect continue to be dramatic throughout the

world. According to their research, the most important characteristics of resilience are

optimism and hope. They advocate for protective factors both from within the family and

extending out towards the larger social context. Scientific research shows that the ability

to survive trauma depends on individual resilience. Resilience, having both natural and

nurturant components, can be cultivated and promoted. Although much is known about

the very small number of children who have resilient functioning, almost nothing is

known about the majority. Little is known about those trauma survivors who develop

emotional or psychiatric disorders as a direct result of childhood sexual and physical

abuses.

I am always conscious of the ivory tower position I hold. I owe my family a great

deal (including my father). Making art that speaks and acts out against child abuse and

neglect will never be enough to make up for my privilege. I have a great education and

the ability to look both rationally and creatively at trauma. I have relied on the

Government of Canada for inpatient and outpatient psychiatric care, psychotherapy,

medication, and Income Assistance (welfare) during periods of illness.17 Six-and-a-half


17 Mrazek and Mrazek list seven protective factors including (1) being a middle or upper social class; (2)
having educated parents; (3) having no family background of psychopathology (mental illness); (4) having
a supportive family milieu (social environment); (5) having access to good health, educational, and social
welfare services; (6) having additional caretakers besides the mother and; (7) having relatives, especially









years after my expected graduation from the University of Florida, Master of Fine Arts

Program, my pride in realizing Reminiscences is tempered by the realization that few

have this opportunity to express trauma. Success is overshadowed by dark bodies of

guilt; sedimentary memory is stirred by hours of reminiscing. In Reminiscences, I

reframe and distance myself from the traumatic subject. I make a lateral shift away from

the subject towards a traumatic object by using both the theoretic and literal

intergenerational model. I look for relationships of survivorship from within the family:

my family and Emmy's family. My own struggles with severe mental illness, including

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Schizo-Affective Disorder, are typical among

domestic abuse survivors. I have had the unique experience of two major diagnosed

childhood conditions: severe mental health problems resulting from trauma and

documented giftedness. How have these two concurrent experiences intertwined

themselves? Clearly, I am fortunate. I hope Reminiscences can commemorate my

support network who has nurtured my resilience. I thank Emmy Brown. Emmy is more

than me, and she is a traumatic object, an analyst, a person, a little big sister, and my

parental protector. Looking beyond the opportunity to give testimony, Emmy Brown

embodied resiliency. Every other day, or more often than that, the topics of incest and

sexual abuse surface in popular culture. There is no doubt in my mind that the

witnesses of my trauma have truly saved my life. The real concern I have is that from

this position of relative power and obvious privilege, I very nearly did not make it, many



grandparents, and neighbors available for support. I have added italics to the 5 out of 7 protective factors
that influenced my resilience and that correspond to my position of privilege. It is important to again
consider, as Mrazek and Mrazek do, those many maltreated children who do not have access to
protective factors and who suffer permanent psychological scars. Patricia J. Mrazek, and David A.
Mrazek, "Resilience in Child Maltreatment Victims: A Conceptual Exploration," Child Abuse & Neglect 11
(1987): 357-66.









times over. On a personal level, Reminiscences is proof of my strength and resiliency;

simultaneously, Reminiscences is a sobering document of my fragmentation and my

fragility.









Figures


A)












B) (Detail)

Figure 1. "Page, Emmy Brown Insane," 2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in
white fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8.

























A)











B) (Detail)

Figure 2. "Page, Emmy Brown Split," 2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in white
fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8
























A)











B) (Detail)

Figure 3. "Page, Emmy Brown Disagreed," 2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in
white fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8.
























A)











B) (Detail)

Figure 4. "Page, Emmy Brown Stat," 2009. Digital Print (13" by 24") mounted in white
fabric from Pages 1 of 8.



























A)










B) (Detail)

Figure 5. "Page, Emmy Brown Staged,"2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in
white fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8.



























A)]












B) (Detail)

Figure 6. "Page, Emmy Brown Sat," 2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in white
fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8.



























A)











B) (Detail)

Figure 7. "Page, Emmy Brown Fakes," 2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in white
fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8.

























A)












Figure 8. "Page, Emmy Brown Falls," 2009. Digital print, (13" by 24"), mounted in white
fabric; from "Pages," 1 of 8.






11


B)


Figure 9. "Paper Doll Booklet," 2009. Plain paper digital copies, (17" by 11"), ribbon and
scissors.


Figure 10. "Performance Detail" 2009. Engraved plastic, (10" by 6"), installed outside
the Gallery entrance.





















































B).. c)


Figure 11. "Large Therapy Dolls," 2009. Various dimensions (greater than 72" lengths),
hand dyed heirloom fabric and fiberfill, hand sewn, embroidered and stuffed.


40















































Figure 12. "Small Therapy Dolls,"2009. Various dimensions (less than 30" lengths),
accumulating quantity, hand dyed heirloom fabric and fiberfill, hand sewn,
embroidered and stuffed.










36




















A) B)








C) D)

Figure 13. "Dress Pillow," 2009. Installation detail, fabric, fiberfill, various dimensions,
and accumulating quantity.


























A)









B) C)

Figure 14. "Reminiscences," 2009. 18 minute video, 2009 Installation of Projection
Video, Greater than 1000 square feet of hand stitched white cloth, loop with 4
speakers and surround sound, and 11 hand crafted lamps suspended for
ambient lighting.


























A)



















B)

Figure 15."Obstructed Window," 2009. Plain paper digital copies, greater than 200
copies of small therapy dolls, folded and taped.









BIBLIOGRAPHY


1. Ackerman, Peggy, T., Joseph E. O. Newton, W. Brian McPherson, Jerry G. Jones,
and Roscoe A. Dykman. "Prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Other
Psychiatric Diagnoses in Three Groups of Abused Children (Sexual, Physical, and
Both)." Child Abuse & Neglect 22 (1998): 759-774.

2. Anthony, E. James and Bertram J. Cohler, Ed. The Invulnerable Child. New York:
Guilford Press, 1987.

3. Barthes, Roland and Claire Bishop, Ed. Participation. London; Cambridge, Mass.;
Whitechapel; MIT Press, 2006.

4. Bishop, Claire. Installation Art: A Critical History. New York: Routledge, 2005.

5. Garb, Tamar and Mignon Nixon. "A Conversation with Juliet Mitchell." October 113
(2005): 9-26.

6. Leger, Emily. "Performing Childhood Trauma." Wreck: Graduate Journal of Art
History, Visual Art & Theory 1 (2004): 29-41.

7. Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory (Second Edition).
London; New York: Routledge, 2002.

8. Miller, Nancy K. and Jason D. Tougaw. Extremities: Trauma, Testimony, and
Community. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

9. Mitchell, Juliet. "Theory as an Object*." October 113 (2005): 29-38.

10. Mrazek, Patricia J. and David. A. Mrazek. "Resilience in Child Maltreatment Victims:
A Conceptual Exploration." Child Abuse & Neglect 11 (1987): 357-366.

11. Nixon, Mignon. "Introduction." October 113 (1987): 3-8.









BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Emily Leger is a Canadian artist, musician, writer, educator, and home therapist.

As an undergraduate she pursued Environmental Sciences and Biology. In 2000, she

received a Bachelor of Fine Art, major in Fine Art from NSCAD University. After

receiving numerous academic scholarships and distinctions as an undergraduate

student, Emily began her graduate studies at the University of Florida as an Alumni

Fellow. Emily was a research fellow and candidate of Master of Fine Arts program from

2000-2003. Although never formally schooled in music, Emily Leger has made several

recording of her original music compositions and, in 2002, won second place in music

composition in the University of Florida Annual Juried Competition. In 2002, she won an

emerging artist scholarship to attend the annual Sidney Kahn Summer Institute in New

York in partnership with Sarah Lawrence College. In 2004, Emily published a research

paper about her own art-practice, "Performing Childhood Trauma" in Wreck: Graduate

Journal of Art History, Visual Art & Theory. This same year Emily returned to Canada

due to ongoing health concerns. In 2009, Emily received her Bachelor of Education in

Secondary Education and is a licensed teacher in the Province of Nova Scotia

specializing is Art and Science education. In addition, Emily works as a home therapist

with young children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder and other Pervasive

Developmental Delays.




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