The boundary of love: art, paranoia and deadlock
The Norwegian-Australian artist Bjarne Melgaard has become known for his lavish, hedonistic displays that defy all norms associated with sexuality, substance abuse and art. Claiming that his art does not need to be compelling, since a Melgaard painting is “not about what we observe, but a painting that observes us,” Melgaard radically reformulates the surrealist posture in a way that obliterates the artist as subject. When Melgaard admits to terrible pangs of paranoia we should not be surprised that his projected new home carries the title “A house to die in,” echoing both the artist’s creative vision and his self-perception as a mortal subject. Originally situated on the ground where the progenitor of Norwegian plastic arts, Edvard Munch, lived and drew his famous oak trees, it generated lively debate about the respective artists’ place in Norwegian cultural history and the way they relate to their natural and social contexts. This paper sets out to understand Melgaard’s art in light of three relations between art and its creative subject. While to Jacques Lacan we relocate ourselves as whole subjects when we reaffirm the father as law-giving instance, Martin Heidegger’s suggestion was that the subject can truly only encounter itself in so far as it is ecstatically outside itself. Ultimately, Melgaard’s destiny turns out to be analogous to that of a dominant trend in contemporary art as such. As Slavoj Žižek points out, his kind of opportunistic, permanent transgressivity can only lead to dullness and deadlock. Can the end of Melgaard’s personal housing project usher into a new era beyond this deadlock?
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