A Main Course of FEAR

Review by Mathilde Victoria Prietzel Nielsen, Undergraduate in Philosophy, King’s College London.

On December 11 2020, Fear was served up at the CVPA table. That is, on the panel roundtable hosted by CPVA and including speakers from the disciplines of philosophy, art, and psychoanalysis.

The first man to broach the topic, fear, was King’s College London Senior Lecturer in Philosophy and Director of the CVPA Sacha Golob. Golob explained that ‘fear’ is an ambiguous term in philosophy, widely utilised but strangely neglected as a topic of analysis. In less than 15 minutes, Golob surveyed various formulations of ‘fear’. This included a short tour of the phenomenology, structure, politics (yes, Covid was mentioned) and more. A question Golob asked was what fear might be good for if anything. His suggestion was that it is good for tracking what’s valuable to us, because it alerts us to what we are afraid of losing, and so what we care about. Since it tracks value in, rather than projecting it onto, the world, he urged philosophers to seize it as an object of inquiry. To stem the neglect of it.

 Gerhard Richter September (2005)

The second man at the table was William Badenhorst, psychoanalyst at the British Psychoanalytical Society and Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer at Imperial College London. Badhenhorst fine tuned the distinction between anxiety and fear. He spoke of anxiety as the ‘smoke alarm’ which focuses our attention on our underlying fears which themselves interact with a broad network of emotions. Badenhorst introduced cases that illustrated this broad network and cases where the ‘smoke alarm’ was either (superficial) saccharine or (worse) disabled.

Cornelia Parker, American Gothic (2017)

The third and final speaker was Caterina Albano. Albano, is both a curator and Reader at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London. She had a wealth of slides prepared and presented artworks that “questioned fear”. Terror attacks, a virus, immigrants in overcrowded boats, a night before a U.S. presidential election… Albano’s presentation sparked questions in the audience about fear as entertainment. The thrill we seek in movies and festivals, the humour in fear and how it might help us cope with fear. The notion ‘liquid ‘fear’ which Albano introduced along with the Gerhard Ricther oil painting September ignited all three speakers.

To end the discussion, chair holder Alla Rubitel, psychoanalyst with the British Psychoanalytical Society, Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer at Imperial College London, asked the three to answer Golob’s question, what fear might be good for. The agreement was that it tracked what we care about, thus, showing our humanity.

This audience member thought …That’s not bad, for a neglected emotion!

Richard Mosse Incoming (2014)