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La Petite Mort


Abstract collage works inspired by Marguerite Duras’ erotic novella The Lover (L’Amant) – a sparse, disjointed, dreamy, almost hallucinatory minimal tale of love and cruelty. Of longing, absence, primitive need, and dislocation. The novel speaks to the language of dreams, the language of recollections.


The title of the series, La Petite Mort (Little Death) – refers to the French expression meaning "the brief loss or weakening of consciousness,” and is generally used as a euphemism for orgasm. Modern usage refers specifically to "the sensation of post orgasm as likened to death.” More widely, it can refer to the spiritual release that comes with orgasm or to a short period of melancholy or transcendence as a result of the expenditure of the "life force."


For modern philosophers, la petite mort is about more than just the physical act of sexual climax, it’s also about psychological loss. Some philosophers have theorized that la petite mort is about the spiritual release that comes with orgasm. This spiritual release, they argue, makes you temporarily “lose” yourself. Some scientists have linked this feeling to the release of oxytocin in the brain after an orgasm. For a philosopher like Roland Barthes, it’s a feeling that we can find beyond the bedroom.


Barthes spoke of la petite mort as the chief objective of reading literature. He used the concept of la petite mort, which he called "jouissance" (“bliss”), to describe how we should feel about reading certain books in his well-known work The Pleasure of the Text (1973). A book that inspires feelings of "jouissance," he theorized, will cause readers to momentarily lose themselves in the work.


We’re all familiar with the expression of “losing yourself in a good book,” but how many of us know that this concept was originally theorized in relation to a euphemism for orgasm? These paintings – excerpts of text taken from Duras’ erotic novel and placed in a different context – playfully suggest a subtle connection between sex and death and great literature.

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