Jacques Lacan thought that we are all born too early. We are born with no ability to move around, communicate or defend ourselves- we are helpless lumps of cuteness upon birth. Our cuteness, you could say, is our survival mechanism at a young age.
Yet we survive and we flourish as a species- it just takes 18 or so years for most of us to become fully independent human beings (although for many it takes considerably longer, as evidenced by the amount of carefully packed lunch I saw while at university).
Lacan theorized the mechanisms we have for learning to be in the world, and also the shortcomings we experience as we become enveloped by the mechanisms themselves. His most famous is the ‘Mirror Phase’. From this stems an alienating identification with an image external to the body. We learn to be and act through the observation of the people around us, we assume their traits and mirror them back. But from this process of identifying with something outside the bounds of our body, we become alienated in ourselves. All of this relates to feelings, the most powerful motivator of all.
Katherine Corcoran’s work comes solely from feeling, an artistic approach that you’re either very good at or not at all. Corcoran is a supremely talented artist when it comes to the difficult task of putting a feeling, that somewhat irrational, somewhat intangible motivator into physical form. There must be a truth and power to work that can encapsulate not only a feeling, but a complex feeling.
Lost Loves at Archive_ sees Corcoran hang a two-metre long wall piece of digital photographs. With herself as the model for the photographs she sports what can only be described as a child’s jumpsuit- the onesie that most of us had when we were young. In this jumpsuit, she mirrors her subjects, leaning on them and pulling at their arms. As if the subjects were learning to be in the world through a series of programmed exercises.
The centre of the room contains her work Searching for something that I thought was you, a steel cube, with no sides. Kath describes her work as talking of ‘longing’ that emotional need for completeness. The cube is filled with quartz that’s covered with living moss. The cube acts as a kind of self-portrait and the quartz the desire to be whole. Lacan spoke of demand being ultimately a demand for love and thus unsatisfiable, which is then eclipsed by desire. Desire is placed upon objects, creating an absolute condition that stands in the unconditional nature of love. All this certainly sounds like a recipe for longing, the feeling that Corcoran is trying to capture. The cube speaks of trying to contain and objectified, living feeling and containing it within an inorganic steel cube – the embodiment of rationality. It speaks of the impossibility of containing that feeling of something missing: The feeling of longing.