I would first of all like to thank Mr. Christopher Burger, jewellery designer in Colmar, who
suggested that I reflect on the theme of the unutterable from a psychoanalytical perspective.
From which angle should we deal with this question of the unutterable?
As a question consubstantial with the human condition, I can see two options:
1) From the standpoint of the human species;
2)From that of the individual;
with these two viewpoints converging in any case, since above and beyond our individual specific
characteristics, we all share a base originating in our evolution as a species, an evolution which is not
biological (and thus cerebral) but obviously psychological (different from cerebral).
THE UNUTTERABLE AND THE EVOLUTION OF THE HUMAN SPECIES1
At the dawn of time,our ancestors who were still very close to the great apes and facing dangerous
living conditions, probably experienced perfectly well-grounded fears.
As evolution progressed, the enormous human cognitive potential was actualized through
technological development (formal intelligence) as well as through language, imagination and feelings,
giving shape to an inner life (the psychological world)and to civilisation.
In taking this considerable jump from nature towards culture, human beings earned a certain amount
of freedom over the constraints of the wild environment, but had to pay the price of a neurotic
alienation: that of experiencing fears with regard to their inner world, perceived as a fearful unknown.
These fears are of course unfounded, since they stem from the imaginationand are unrelated to any real
By intuitively perceiving across all cultures that an inner world subject to irrepressible and
mysterious forces influenced his life by acting on his mind and his body, mankind thus developed fears
cut off from reality, which one could then appropriately call anxieties. These anxieties drove him, in
order to try to get rid of them, to project his innerworld towards the exterior by acting it out through
great systems of representations (mythologies, religions, various beliefs), which in turn inspired the
great sculptural, literary and musical works of art.
Freud, in inventing psychoanalysis, did very much the same thing, apart from the fact (which was a
sizeable contribution) that he was the first to attempt a rational study of this inner worldand the forces
involved there, and to give the name “subconscious” to this unknown realm that acts without man’s
knowledge and can be grasped only through its manifestations (sublimations, dreams, fantasies, deliria,
hallucinations, subconsciously deliberate mistakes, symptoms and repetitions).
What I find remarkable about this evolution is the permanent inability of the human being toactually
name what is gnawing at him from within. He has always resorted to figuration (pictorial, sculptural
works, body ornaments and of course jewellery, figuration used even in the great myths where the
language is polysemous and metaphorical, proceeding by analogy, displacement, evocation, enigmas,
without ever actually naming it).
So at this point we can already note a first point concerningthe unutterable.
The unutterable bears a relationship with an interiority that frightens people, because language is
insufficient to circumscribe it.
The unutterable and artistic creation
We will therefore need to zero in on the heart of this interiority if we want to get a little closer to the
A FUNCTION OF THE SYMPTOM
Undoubtedly, the projections of the unutterable inartistic creations enable human beings to better
recognise themselves therein, as if any creation carried with it a meta-language much like the neurotic
symptoms which stem from the same logic.
I might illustrate this meta-language by means of phobias which perfectly illustrate the formation of
the symptom. A phobia, which is a kind of receptacle for an inner fear expelled and fixed on an object...