James Putnam
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'Beyond the pleasure principle' - Sarah Lucas, 2000

Sarah Lucas at The Freud Museum, 20 Maresfield Gardens, NW3. 9 March - 12 April 2000.

In the short book ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’ (1920), Freud examined the idea of a hidden primitive urge towards death and developed a new theory of the death drive (Todestrieb). Thus in every living thing, in addition to the pleasure principle which the ancient Greeks called Eros, there exists another principle, namely what lives, wants to die again. Later, in 1937, Freud wrote "Only the collaboration and the conflict between two primal drives, Eros and death drive, explain the colourful variety of life’s phenomena, never one of them alone." Inspired by Freud's writing Sarah Lucas created a number of new and site-specific sculptures which were installed throughout Freud’s house in the study, dining room and bedroom.

She made a number of chair sculptures some of which incorporated Freud's own furniture and in an interview at the time Sarah Lucas spoke about her use of chairs and the Freudian context of her work:

"... I first started using them as a stand in for bodies in 1992, like a lot of the things I use, because they were cheap, discarded and easily available. The first time I used a table I could visualize it as being like a reclining nude. We even call the parts of chairs arms and legs. Its easy for you to imagine a person sitting in them, as it is in the seat of a car, therefore you can turn them into people in your mind. With soft-furnishings they also take on body shapes according to their fabric with various creases and folds and that can be interesting. I also really like the idea of using a particularly naff piece of furniture and exploring its inherent character or hidden elegance by working on it.

...All living things, not just animals but also plants, are entirely sexual, as Freud recognised and it seems amazing the lengths people go to to deny that. Like when you’re a teenager you go on a sexual quest for better and better sex or for an orgasm in some cases, and then for more liberated sex as if that’s somehow the answer to the problems.

..Talking about this whole libido thing, I suppose there is this obsessive activity of me sticking all these cigarettes on the sculptures. Part of the thing of using cigarettes came out of the the idea of making things out of matches. I was thinking the other day about prisoners. I like the idea that art can’t be taken away from you, even if you have only poor materials. So if you were locked away as a prisoner, there’s still some things you can do and you can formulate and visually manifest and I like that very much. Yet when you think about it in a different way, if you were a prisoner all that kind obsessive activity could be viewed as a form of masturbation, it is a form of sex, it does come from the same sort of drive. And there’s so much satisfaction in it, in the same way that there is in the subtler aspects of sex, in that you’re hitting the mark.

...I think that stuff Freud wrote about jokes and their relationship to the unconscious is totally relevant to me. If everything happened through premeditation you wouldn’t get anywhere that you didn’t know about before you started. When you’re making work a lot of the best things happen that way through those kind of slips. And I do see my work interacting in some way with his house. I suppose its essentially the whole Freudian thing which is most paramount, both the sexual dimension and the hidden elements. I think people can go and look at the work there because they’ve got all that stuff about Freud in mind. They can actually begin to see some of the broader aspects of my own work that they hadn’t necessarily considered when placed in this context. "

Extract from interview with Sarah Lucas, for more go to 'Conversations'.

For more information on the Freud Museum contact freud@gn.apc.org

Hysterical Attack (Mouths), 1999, installed with obelisk in Freud's study.
Priére de Toucher, 2000 (large photograph), installed in Freud's study.
The Pleasure Principle, 2000, installed in Freud's dining room.
Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 2000, installed in Freud's Bedroom.

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