Totems: Daisy Wiley

Spring, 2017 Art Series: Totems (Relief Printing). Click on the images to see a larger version.

These pieces are an examination of totems as culturally-mediated forces and the transference that occurs between text and image. I draw from themes such as the unconscious, desire, and the ways in which culture and language shape psychic reality.

I work from a literary framework to create most of my work. Researching thinkers such as Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan to form an understanding of a theory in order to transfer it into the artistic medium. Revealing along the way, perhaps, something hidden in the concept.

The piece, Désir, for example, speaks to Lacan’s views on desire. “The object of man’s desire…is essentially and object desired by someone else.” (Jacques Lacan, Some Reflections on the Ego) To Lacan, desire does not belong to us but to the ‘big Other’ (an external force that controls our mediation of self and ideals through language) and is only revealed to us through the desires of other people.

A second piece, Vorbewusste, considers the creation of totemism in ancient cultures, which Freud argues is still in practice today but on a different, fainter register. Our desires and pleasures “…constantly undergoes displacement…to acquire surrogates for the forbidden in the form of substitutive objects and action.” (Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo) The totem often manifests as an animal, but takes on a meaning beyond its physical representation and serves a specific, social purpose. The totem becomes, to Freud, an object of displacement for the individual and society on a larger scale.

Through intense research and reflection on these theories, I undergo a process of association and visual mediation to bring the concept into plastic form. It isn’t a subconscious act, although ideas do often come to me seemingly from nowhere, but one that is very deliberate.

I worked in the medium of relief printing to create these pieces. Relief printing is the earliest form of printmaking, some of the widest known iterations of it originating in 15th century Germany. My use of it as a medium intends to draw a parallel between the contextually archaic aesthetic of relief printing with the historic creation of the totem and the primitive aspects of psychoanalysis. Through these pieces, I hope to awaken a reflective and historically-informed subjectivity in the viewer- one that considers the psychical transference of images.

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