A Faithful Image of the Creatures of His Imagination



The artist, according to Sigmund Freud, wants the usual stuff, “honor, power, riches, fame and the love of women.” But as he is “an introvert … not far from being a neurotic,” he’s unlike to get any of it. Freud said that what made such a “hungry soul” an artist was being good at sublimation and not so good at repression. That means, I think, that an artist’s superior ability to sublimate, allows him to frame his suffering of trying and failing in quite the opposite manner of Immanuel Kant’s “purposiveness without purpose,” view of art. The artist makes his art “purposelessness with purpose.” But his inability to repress means, that in that same frame, he must exercise, this from Freud again, his “puzzling ability of molding a specific material into a faithful image of the creatures of his imagination.”


Praxiteles was quite the artist; his famous Aphrodite for the Knidians was the first “Venus” modeled after a real woman, the hetaera (escort) Phryne.  It was also the first statue in a non-mythic pose, a voyeuristic bathroom scene, no less. Ancient texts tell us that it was quite a popular destination, so much so, that the more voyeuristic than worshipful tourists, who were less good at sublimation than artists–responded to it as if it were neither art nor deity, but an all-too-available hetaera. Here is mortal Phryne cleaning up after them between her shifts as a goddess. Is that what Praxiteles had in mind for his art, is this ongoing event “a faithful image of the creatures of his imagination?”


Imagine those tourists 2500 years on and in a gentleman’s club. Imagine a 21st century Phryne entertaining them; now, she is no longer bound to Praxiteles and his art, she alone creates for each leering deconstructionist “a faithful image of the creatures of his imagination.” But it not the goddess or the escort, even the stripper they want, but the ecdysis, the spectacle. “There is nothing outside the text” says Jacques Derrida, nothing outside the act , there is always a stripping, it is strippers all the way down.