Psychical Realism

The Work of Victor Burgin

Alexander Streitberger

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Monograph - paperback

Comprehensive overview of a highly influential contemporary artist’s work
Victor Burgin counts among the most versatile figures within art and visual culture since the late 1960s. His artwork both connects with and reacts to minimalism, conceptual art, staged photography, appropriation art, video art and, more recently, computer-based imaging. As a scholar his thinking is informed by phenomenology, semiotics, poststructuralism, feminist theory, and psychoanalysis.

This monograph provides a comprehensive and unique overview of Victor Burgin’s body of work over the past five decades. Identifying the concept of ‘psychical realism’ as an overarching umbrella term, Alexander Streitberger traces back the artist’s parallel unfolding of practice and theory, while situating this process within various historical contexts and critical debates. Five chapters link insightful case studies to key issues such as conceptual art and situational aesthetics, the relationship between representation and politics, postmodernist concepts of space, and the digital environment of media images. The book is richly illustrated and includes a sequence from the major work Dear Urania (2016) especially designed by the artist for this book.

This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).


1. Situational Aesthetics 
1.1. Beyond Minimalism: From Object to Perception 
1.2. Role-playing: Behavior and Memory 
1.3. Photography between Reflection and Recollection 
1.4. Serial Art and Systems 
1.5. The Text Works and the Perceptual Field 
1.6. Linguistic Art and Ideology 

2. Toward a Politics of Representation 
2.1. The Politicization of Art in Britain 
2.2. Guerrilla Rhetoric: The Antanaclastic Works 
2.2.1. The Discordance of Ideologies 
2.2.2. Semiotic Theory and Artistic Practice 
2.2.3. Heroes Don’t Smell Very Nice! 
2.3. The Author as Producer 
2.3.1. Work Outside and Inside the Gallery 
2.3.2. The Tradition of Political Photocollage 
2.3.3. The Author as Producer 
2.4. Toward a Rhetoric of the Unconscious 
2.4.1. The Rhetoric of Art Photography and Advertising 
2.4.2. Framing Sexual Difference 
2.4.3. Scopophilia and Surveillance 

3. Tales from Freud
3.1. Toward a Psychical Realism 
3.2. From Socio-history to Psycho-history 
3.2.1. A Socio-historical “Psychodrama” 
3.2.2. The Shattered Composite 
3.2.3. Visual Pleasure and the Photographic Fetish 
3.3. The Rebus as a Model of “Critical Seeing” 
3.3.1. The Suspended Peripeteian Moment 
3.3.2. Voyeurism, Masculinity, and the Uncanny Dance of Ideology 
3.4. Between: From Intertext to Masquerades in the Gallery 
3.4.1. Hetero-optic Writing 
3.4.2. Between Gallery and Cinema 
3.4.3. Between the Masks 

4. Psychotopologies 
4.1. The Discursive Spaces of Postmodernism 
4.2. Epistemophilia 
4.3. Psychical Space and Postmodernism 
4.4. The Paranoiac Space of the City 
4.5. Third Space. The Interstitial Location of Culture 
4.6. Fiction Films 
4.7. The Teletopological Puzzle 

5. The Psychomediatic 
5.1. The Uncinematic 
5.2. The Psychomediatic: Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through 
5.3. Photofilmic Psycho-panoramics 
5.4. Panorama and Sequence-Image 
5.5. Paths through the Virtual Sphere 
5.6. Monuments of Melancholia 
5.7. The Peripatetic Mode of Spectatorship 
5.8. Afterlife 

Dear Urania 

Format: Monograph - paperback

Size: 230 × 170 × 19 mm

320 pages

B&W illustrations and colour illustrations

ISBN: 9789462702462

Publication: October 22, 2020

Series: Lieven Gevaert Series 28

Languages: English

Stock item number: 137926

Alexander Streitberger is professor of modern and contemporary art history at the UCLouvain and director of the Lieven Gevaert Research Centre for Photography, Art, and Visual Culture.