Possession of artistic/cultural production

At the end of Monsieur Venus, the wax figure with Jacques’ features is totally possessed by Raoule, which represents the culmination of the novel-long project of total ownership. When the object of creation is a living creature with (supposedly) its own agency, the idea of possessing it is very tricky. However, even when the object of creation is inanimate and capable of being possessed, it is still difficult to determine who has the right to own it. 

Are the flowers that Jacques makes for Raoule owned by Jacques or Raoule? Who do they belong to? In the case of the architect, Martin Durands, are the buildings he makes his or someone else’s? This potential separation between creation and creator is something that has come up many times before. In Walker’s example of the quilt, it no longer has a specific creator, but rather, it seems like it belongs to the general population. The original artist and its original recipient no longer really matter. 

In Monsieur Venus, it could be argued that production occurs for the purpose of personal use, which perhaps differs it from the production of artworks and literature that would have a wider audience, and it is that difference that makes the question of ownership more pressing. Because Raoule is creating Jacques for her own use, she must possess him completely; otherwise, her creation has not achieved its goal. 

However, when the production has a wider audience, perhaps it is impossible for a single person to own it. In this sense, Raoule’s manipulations of Jacques affected more than just the two of them–her aunt, Raittolbe, Marie, and others are all affected by Raoule’s actions. So this raises the question of how personal can cultural/artistic production be. Or, if an audience is required for production (and then reproduction) to exist. 

I have trouble coming up with an answer that I can’t pull apart with contradictions, but it does seem like that the act of production results in something that is (intentionally or not) larger than the original creator, regardless of the eventual sphere of influence. As evidenced by my rambling post, these ideas aren’t fully fleshed out, but I’d like to see what you all think about the role of ownership within this cluster. 



5 thoughts on “Possession of artistic/cultural production

  1. I think your post raises really interesting questions that can also be applied to modern philosophical questions about art. For instance, if someone makes a piece of art as a gift for someone, does it diminish the value of the gift if it is appreciated by others without their possessing it? What about if someone makes a piece of art that is supposed to be purchased? I think it depends on what you mean by possession (for example, ownership vs. appreciation) and the type of media of the art itself. Ultimately, even if Raoule produces art that is viewed by and affects an audience other than herself, she still possess Jacques in a very literal sense, and it is she who is able to fully enjoy (eugh) that possession.

    • Those are really interesting questions… In the case of the gift, maybe it would increase the value of the gift, because many people appreciate it but only one person possesses it. Ownership and appreciation are very different things–I think the former relies much more on feelings of power. It’s one thing to get pleasure from something but it’s another to own that source of pleasure. (Again with the pleasure and the power.)

      • I think, though, that the type of appreciation matters–for example, in an art museum or another display of what’s considered to be high quality artistic works, how many pieces do viewers value because they are only told that the artwork is noteworthy and valuable? In this case I think the artwork that is supposed to be purchased loses some of it’s value, because the art is being made for an audience rather than for the artist’s own need for expression, and furthermore, I think the audience has a stake in them. In this sense I think the flowers Jacques makes for Raoule are owned by Raoule because Jacques made them for her rather them himself.

  2. I’m interested what you have to say about ownership being different but still difficult for both inanimate (flowers, Jacques the wax figure) and animate objects (Jacques the human, animals?). What are the particulars that make them respectively tricky? Is it the self-possession that animate objects have that makes them more difficult to fully possess, like Raoule with Jacques?
    Reflecting back on this cluster on culture and knowledge production, it seems like ownership of women has been a bondage that has prevented women from participating through the normal (and also genealogical) routes of production. Then, for Monsieur Venus, it almost seems like the gender role inversion has also inverted ownership and thus production.

    • Self-possession/agency is exactly it, I think.

      However, I think women participate in the genealogical routes especially because of their inability to produce in other ways. Though Monsieur Venus does do an excellent job of inverting everything. It’s interesting to look at Raoule’s relationship with her aunt (and her aunt’s attempts-and failure- to shape her niece) and then compare it to Raoule’s shaping of Jacques and consider female production in that sense.

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