'' Baton of desire* | A history of performance art on the Riviera from 1951 until now

Baton of desire*

Jean Mas
Jean Mas
Bibliographical sources: 
cité in Jean Mas, trente ans de Performas, Alain Amiel, 2008, p.87
cité in Performas, 40 ans d'art d'attitude, Alain Amiel, 2010
Theoretical background: 

The original title in french is "Matraque du désir". It has a double signification : a "matraque" is a baton, a riot stick, and "ma traque" means my hunting down.


Matraque du désir

Muriel Anssens
Synopsis / Description: 
Captation montée de la performance extraite de Un « peu » de Jean Mas.

Jean Mas brings an intervention-reading to the seminar as his contribution. The following is an excerpt:

“You who follow desire by following here that which, actually, precedes you.

But how do we know, since this desire of another desire should lead us this evening to the limits of what is done, what is said with desire.

To see it a bit more clearly, it is sometimes good to go searching, rummaging through the heaps. It is also a heap of work. There are days where heaps are everywhere you look.

In everyday language for example: “I have heaps of...”

At my neighbor’s, the junkyard, you find heaps of heaps...

Upon examination, I noticed heaps of possibilities to do afar, and to do a farce with the artist.

Doing afar comes with the farce (the cord of desire).

I come this evening to present to you, as it were, the heaps that others will call “meaningful crystallizations,” and to put them to work.

And I am most concerned, in order that what concerns desire may be plain, to show you an approach that can only be justified given my place as the artist.

Thus, we are already, with this shift, at a distance, that is to say, a time.

To broach the topic of desire in general, I feel it is necessary to refer to (for lack of knowledge) the history of time.

I invited you to consider here TIME and DESIRE and to situate them in the context of the work of Michel Foucault.


M. Foucault draws from Greek thought three experiences of time, each of which corresponds to the art of conducting oneself from a certain viewpoint:

- Dietetics = good time

- Economics = maintenance of this time throughout existence

- Erotics = fleeting time

These three times have to some degree become one.


Doctrinally, especially with Saint Augustin, I would say, “Good times and bad times.” Correlatively, desire has come to the center of the problemizing of sexual conduct, which brings us to think about love in terms of desire and eternity.


This is where we are with the Subject of Desire, a catastrophe of Judeo-Christian rationality that psychoanalysis has to put up with!

The experience of time coincides with that of desire. Awareness of something lacking and of the time needed to satisfy it (at least to believe it).

The absence of desire denies time (without time). Some have committed themselves to this (mystical) route. It’s not mine. Also, for the time being, I will stay committed to this philosopher G. ARCHITAS (the t.1 being the interval of all nature).

The nature of heaps, or tas. Why AR CHY TAS?

But that’s not the point, moving on...Psychoanalysis comes and develops by and in many various and surprising ways. That is what allows its progress forward: clinical practice...

So this development, it is good sometimes, always to find it in context, to know its premises so as to render it palatable, intelligible, the dump. Because, since we can’t always reinvent the wheel, we use these dumps as our work base.

Palatable she is, the beautiful butcher’s wife. Therefore, I will remind you of the story since it appears essential to the comprehension of this famous passage from Freud to Lacan, on the basis of desire, obviously...


So, as it is said, “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful butcher’s wife.”

She was clever and liked to tease her clients. She also knew the theories of her friend Doctor Freud.

One day she said to him, “You always say that the dream is a desire fulfilled...So how do you reconcile this? Because I dreamed that I wanted to host a dinner with slices of smoked salmon. But, the fish market being closed, I couldn’t prepare this meal.”

So as you can see, this dream didn’t fulfill my desire!!! And she laughed.

Freud, prudent, questioned her. She said: her husband, a fat butcher, the diet...making a little fat joke to demonstrate the jolly character of her husband whom she loved very dearly. Suddenly, she told Freud not to give her any caviar. Freud wonders...

The butcher’s wife leaks another tidbit: a visit to a thin friend...The husband prefers plump, fleshy women...

The dream is now clear, it was important not to offer the dinner. As chance would have it, the smoked salmon is the dish of choice of the friend that – strangely – refuses it just as the butcher’s wife does with caviar.

The desire is nevertheless evident. Freud explains it to her but keeps the ultimate explanation to himself...

The caviar, the element left twice unexplained, the butcher’s wife denies herself this desire. On the other hand, the friend that loves salmon and yet denies herself this pleasure, expresses a simple wish: to fatten the butcher’s wife. In the dream, she punishes her friend.

No dinner, no fattening. So she identifies with her friend. The friend is jealous of the butcher’s wife. It’s the classic hysterical triangle: the husband, the wife, the friend...

All this from the science of dreams.


LACAN: “The butcher’s wife desires caviar but doesn’t want it just like her friend: they don’t want something that they desire:

- one: the mirror

- two: the lack

- three: the desire


How can another woman be loved by a man who cannot be satisfied?

Hysterical identification advanced by Freud, then by Lacan.

How is it that the woman identifies herself with the man, and the slice of smoked salmon comes in the place of the other’s desire?

How can the other woman be loved?

The butcher’s wife becomes this question. To answer it, she puts herself in the masculine position.

Lacan turns the slice of salmon into a phallic symbol.

The desire appears in this interval between the need and the request, inasmuch the subject articulates the signifying chain by surfacing with its lack of being so that, in its call, it may receive the complement of the other, if the other, as the place of speech is also place of this lack.

The butcher’s wife requests salmon or caviar. The desire of the butcher’s wife, who lacks both salmon and caviar.

The butcher’s wife requests an object, desire to fill a void, a void which is called the Other.

Desire, you know, cannot be captured in a photo. However, it can appear and you won’t really see it even if it is as plain as the nose on your face or the beast caught in the tree.

You will not necessarily see it because it is rooted in the subject’s imagination. Its corollary is fantasy.

Thus, by putting rubber strips down to bounce the heaps around, you can somewhat, let’s say, feel its mark after having placed a frame around it, that is to say, the rubber strips!

The most frequent are those of the Ideal Me and the Ideal of Myself, ancient concepts but that have sufficiently marked us (reminder: the father: what one wants to be, the mother: what one wants to have).

When I go around in circles, sometimes I try to create the conditions of a send-off by placing what we might call rubber strips (this is just as interesting as sending off the Other).

Look here, for a good send-off, is it good to do just any old thing?

Like, for example, trying to photograph desire?!

I must tell you that, at the same moment, I was hearing about Lacan’s commentary on the butcher’s wife.

At this same time, an artist appeared on the art scene. Brace yourself! He called himself BEEF.

Of course, he was in style. Some of you knew him: he exhibited at the Lola Gassin gallery and he exhibited beef...We got to taste all the bits. He was exhibiting beef, a theme in which he excelled. I followed it for some time. Perhaps he was placing his name with this other Greek philosopher Xenophanes: if an ox knew how to paint God, he would look like an ox.

Therapists should be more likely to follow artists. They could enrich their practice.

One day, during a discussion, after drinking, I hurt Beef, scratched him. He was touchy as a fly...