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Dionea Rocha Watt
I “In December 2008 Britain's best-loved store, Woolworths, went into administration. A nation mourned the loss of this high-street institution…”1 Loss comes from Old English los, destruction, and can indicate deprivation of a possession or the grief felt after losing something of value. Woolworths was the place for acquiring not so valuable possessions and by offering such plenty for so little, ‘etched a place in the nation’s heart’. The loss of something we love triggers mourning, which Sigmund Freud discussed in the essay Mourning and Melancholia,2 published in 1917. We mourn to deal with the loss. Freud explains this as the “work of mourning”, a process that involves an attempt to sever the attachment to the lost object and includes approaching representations of the lost object from many different positions. The work of mourning has both a temporal and a spatial dimension. It is a long and gradual process, performed over time and through memory. Memory is both a looking into the past from a position in the present and the place where things are remembered as representations. The psychoanalyst Darian Leader notes the importance in mourning of selecting representations for the construction of a symbolic space, where things can stand for loss and memory, where representations of the lost object are “represented as representations”. “In the famous example, Marcel Proust’s taste of a Madeleine dipped in tea or sight of a cracked paving-stone in Venice acted as conduits for overpowering sequences of feelings, ideas and emotions linked to a lost love.”3 For so many, the attachment to Woolworths goes back to childhood, to memories of pic’n’mix sweets, of toys and games. Sweet memories of entering a space where little pocket money was in inverse proportion to the excitement of their first shopping experience. For adults, the store was often the place to go for everyday items, the mundane that nevertheless offered the comfort of the familiar. Woolworths had become, in effect, a symbolic space, augmented by its demise. A place of nostalgia, of remembering and re-telling stories, even, or especially, for those who had not been there in years. In a strange
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00jnkg8 (last accessed 04 March 2010). Sigmund Freud, ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ (1917), in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, vol. 14, Trans. James Strachey, London: Hogarth, 1958, pp. 237-58. 3 Darian Leader, The New Black: Mourning, Melancholia and Depression, London: Penguin, 2008, p. 103.
Hanna Segal. in a veiled way. an authenticity which. it is felt to be created by the self and can be freely used by the self. like any form of narrative. It is interesting to note that the commonly held notion that using found objects gives them a new lease of life implies. II Loss unfolds itself in time and space. International Journal of Psychoanalysis.. 76. the Collection. what is not present. the Souvenir. that past continually threatens to reproduce itself as a felt lack. the mourning was not so much for Woolworths. Hanna.”5 The artists taking part in this project selected objects from the dwindling stock of their local Woolworths and transformed them into symbols of memory and loss. what is not seen. op. 1993. and of the possibility of renewal. The recognition of loss is brought about by the registration of the absence of what once was there or what will not be there at some point. Or perhaps it was never there. is always ideological: the past it seeks has never existed except as narrative. the symbol is differentiated from the object. always absent. and of memories. and triggered the Reworthit! project – a creative response to the loss of a store of material and immaterial goods. as suggested by Susan Stewart’s description of nostalgic narrative in her book On Longing: “By the narrative process of nostalgic reconstruction the present is denied and the past takes on an authenticity of being. the Gigantic. It is sensed for what is no longer possessed. 4 Susan Stewart. If psychic reality is experienced and differentiated from external reality. it had already been lost.23. that they are already dead. including childhood itself. . 1988. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature. The imminent absence of Woolworths from the high street made its loss felt. If the work of mourning necessitates a “second killing”.6 perhaps using found objects is a kind of killing. a “symbolic laying to rest”. 6 Darian Leader. a source of cheap raw materials and objects. Psychoanalysts have examined the link between loss and creativity. quoted in Segal. A killing of the dead. 117. ironically. London: The Institute of Psychoanalysis and Karnac Books. p. what is absent. develops Melanie Klein’s ideas about symbols and writes that loss gives rise to symbol formation: “…a creative work involving the pain and the whole work of mourning. but for everything we have lost. ‘A Psychoanalytic Contribution to Aesthetics’. it can achieve only through narrative… Nostalgia. and hence. p. cit. Introduction to the Work of Melanie Klein.”4 Perhaps. 5 Hanna Segal. Durham and London: Duke University Press. p. for example. 1952.way.
op. p. Demonstrating. sometimes playful. . above all.According to Freud. the ability to create something out of loss.”7 This suggests that the ego will be free to form new attachments. 252. when the work of mourning “has been accomplished the ego will have succeeded in freeing its libido from the lost object. the artists participating in Reworthit! have created new objects to be loved. cit. 7 Sigmund Freud.. sometimes tinged with melancholia. By making work in response to the demise of Woolworths.