In 1971, Luis Felipe Noé begins psychoanalytical therapy with Dr. Gilberto Simoes, to whom this book is dedicated. By way of this therapy—which involved speaking and drawing at the same time—the artist sets out on a path that heads back to painting.
En terapia (In Therapy) gathers together the drawings made during the sessions, along with the later developments and consequences of that production in a selection of over 130 drawings made between Buenos Aires and Paris. It also includes characters from the novel Códice Rompecabezas sobre Recontrapoder en Cajón Desastre (Puzzle Codex on Super-Power in Disaster Drawer) and his series of paintings La Naturaleza y los Mitos (Nature and Myths).
LETTER TO GILBERTO SIMOES
Because I still feel the presence of your absence in me, I want to tell you that I’ve decided to publish the drawings I made during the therapy sessions I had with you, consistently, in 1971, and more sporadically during the following two years. I’m referring to those graphicnotes that I made while we conversed, across the desk. When I left each session you would keep them and, in many cases, note the dates I had made them. Many years after that we met again, and you gave them back to me as a characteristic gesture of your great honesty.
I never laid on a couch during those sessions. I would talk about my anguish during that time. A period in which—with respect to social-political life—skepticism intertwined with hope, creating, as a consequence, a doubt about my place as a person, because since 1967 I kept a distance from what is commonly named artistic expression.
It is not easy for me to remember that time. The affairs in the different spheres (art, politics and personal) were happening almost simultaneously as if reality was a great discordant symphony. I had stopped painting since 1966, because my search to assume chaos as the structure of my works (that I felt and still feel as the mark of the world I was meant to live in) had driven me to make works that projected themselves from the wall into space constituting pseudo-installations that were very hard to keep, move and, naturally, sell. The truth is that when I had to come back from New York in 1968—where I was a grant recipient—I destroyed the works although I liked them. I got rid of the ones related to an inquiry that I already considered limited (I mean that one I did with plane-convex mirrors in 1967, looking for chaotic environments but starting from reality).
Having abandoned the plane as a pictorial reference, I had trouble going back to it. Therefore I stopped painting. Painting stopped being a good therapy and an important language for me. Therefore, in that moment my therapy consisted in leaving painting and keeping myself away from the world of artistic competition. I believed in the idea of a revolution that was above all a cultural self-questioning that would allow a leap from a colonial situation to an enunciative protagonism.
It was the time when Herbert Marcuse would say: “The development of technology undermines not only traditional forms but the true basis of artistic alienation,” and Marshall McLuhan stated: “We now realize of the possibility to fix human surroundings as a work of art…” These were times in which many artists stopped making plastic works to engage themselves in politics. In that spirit, I wrote back then a book titled El arte entre la tecnología y la rebelión [Art between Technology and Rebellion] that I didn’t publish because I later realized that, even if the analysis of the time we were living in was correct, its forecasts about the future reflected, in a Latin American key, the oversincerity of that period.
That is why, not practicing art and in a militant crisis, I took on my great anguish and the need for psychological therapy.
I went to see you—recommended by one of your colleagues, Doctor Horacio Scornik, who was my classmate in the Colegio Nacional Sarmiento. You dismissed the proposal of psychoanalysis right from the very beginning, opting to confront my anguish with a conversational therapy. I drew at the same time as I was talking. I started doing this spontaneously, which turned it into something like child therapy. The truth is that you were aware of this and, as a consequence, you were prepared with markers and sheets of paper at the beginning of each session.
The year 1971 was very intense for me. Among other things, you helped me overcome the unexpected death of my great friend Jorge de la Vega. At the end of that year you told me that you thought our therapy had come to a momentary conclusion. I experienced this as if you had given to me a certificate of mental health. Nevertheless, I still visited your practice a few times during 1972 and 1973.
Many years passed and I would occasionally run into you by chance. On the other hand, you were always for me Dr. Simoes, whom I spoke to with usted. A parenthesis of eleven years came (1976–1987) in which I was residing in Paris, but in the nineties I had the need to talk to you again. A period of free-flowing sessions, psychoanalytically speaking, began; because in every meeting we would decide when the next session would take place, and they were, more than anything else, conversations between two men sitting on sofas. That is how a friendship began. You were the one who started to use tú (or vos, in this case), and this helped a lot more in our communication. Evidently I felt closer to you as a friend each time, but you knew a lot about me and I hardly knew anything about you, except for this: from southern Brazil, born in the city of Pelotas, went to medical school in Buenos Aires and educated alongside the pioneers of psychoanalysis in Argentina. So, even though you were an orthodox pre-Lacanian Freudian, for chronological reasons you had a lot of respect for Lacan. Some of your attributes were intellectual openness, your great sensitivity and perceptive intelligence, and great respect for others. That is the reason why, despite the fact that I had been your patient, you allowed Nora—my partner in life—to see you as well when we returned from Europe, as she felt the need to do so. In this last period you didn’t want to charge me, but I rarely felt such pleasure when giving a work of art as when I gave you spontaneously my painting Panorama Web (1999).
So why making a book of these swiftly drawn sketches, that to me didn’t have any intention of becoming works of art when I made them? I made up my mind while, in the year 2007, I had a comprehensive exhibition of my drawings in the Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires (which was taking refuge in the Central Post Office) entitled Noé en línea [Noé in Line], organized by Laura Buccellato, who was the director of the museum back then. When I saw a great part of the exhibited drawings, I realized that they constituted a work of art by themselves, and that they had a big impact on the people who contemplated them. You told me yourself that you were very happy to look at them again.
I know that, based on these drawings, I started to draw intensively in my house. Thus, I believe that it is suitable to publish along with the drawings I made at your practice some of the ones I did using processes more intricate than simple markers, but following the same spirit in Buenos Aires as well as in Paris, between 1971 and 1978. I chose this date because I think that the influence of the therapy diminished thereafter. The truth is that the drawings that I made during the therapeutic sessions gravitated in such a way that I decided, in spite of what I worked through, to entitle this book En terapia [In Therapy].
In 1975 I went back to painting, from which I had been distant since 1966, and organized in October an exhibition in the gallery Carmen Waugh, that included a series named La naturaleza y los mitos [Nature and Its Myths]. What were the latter? The myths themselves that had appeared in the “therapeutic” drawings.
On the other hand, as you already know, a year before I had published a written novel with drawings with the title Códice rompecabezas sobre Recontrapoder en cajón desastre [Jigsaw Codex on Recounterpower in Disaster Drawer]. If this text is a symbolic and fantastic echo of the therapy itself, the drawings that portray the characters are the offspring of those made in those sessions. Thus I also include them in this book.
Because there wasn’t time to have a prologue written by you, and, as I said, because you knew me so well, but I knew you far less, I asked Carlos Abboud (who is also your former patient, but who visited you thereafter as friend) to accompany me in this project with a text about you.