The Art of Pathography

The artists’ creation of a ‘true self-portrait’ is bound up in meanings of self-hood and individuation; by means of his/her practice becoming a method of developing the artists’ need for self-discovery. Through this self-exploration, the artefact becomes an attempt to reveal something of the artist, a therapeutic tool perhaps, by which the photograph is used as a form of depth psychology. A mixed methodology of autoethnography and thematic analysis is undertaken of the language of response – language generated from the viewing of purely visual data – to examine and record patterns or themes within this information that is relevant to the research question. Through this form of removed analysis - the interpretation of the photograph and not the artist - can a new internal world of the artist be revealed? Is there a particular reading that could be universalised or is this unique to me? Or is the analysis a series of projections, a more of an understanding of the readers? The concerns of this thesis are with the ways in which the production of these photographs and their reception can be incorporated into an art practice and a new self-portrait is revealed.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Paper On: Stephen Frosh 'For and Against Psychoanalysis. 1997 Routledge

Stephen Frosh For and Against Psychoanalysis. 1997 Routledge
The Visualisation of Incoherence (The Difficulties Of Using Psychoanalysis In the Process of Research)

The Mystical Process
Psychoanalysis is born to the encounter between the hysterical woman and the positivist man of science’ (Moi 1989)
Can we ever get away from the controversy that psychoanalysis brings to the area of research? Does it have standing of true value, as in the status of science as Freud believed, or can we trust its empirical effectiveness at all? If is has a cognitive and affective dimension, that may be seen as knowledge, how can this be represented?
As voiced by Hans Essence, perhaps psychotherapy and its associated milieu are just a series of tell-tales. But can these unconscious utterances, as I would prefer to call them, be used to build some kind of narrative of the human condition, that may ultimately be used in the pursuit of both understanding and insight.
‘Psychoanalysis, in a very strict sense of the term, is a mystical experience. Mystical experiences can be best defined as follows; an emotional experience, which at the same time purports to be and is felt as being the acquisition of knowledge which is important, privileged and out of the ordinary’ (Gellner 1992)

Perhaps we need to move the debate about psychoanalytical research forward, rather than engaging in the same old arguments that Gellner highlights above. The plague is here now, perhaps we need to engage with it more as a process of discovery, as a way forward, to take us further down the road towards an alternative form of knowledge.
In Gellner’s words, (1985), ‘a beast is at work; something that lies within us and systematically disrupts everything we think and do.’
But this ‘beast’ is worthy of enquiry, a way of exploring this new semantic space, constructed and reconstructed, in every move made by patient and analyst, (artist/viewer) deeply complex, multilayered, heavily contextualised, obscure and performative in its knowledge.
At root, the psychoanalytical experience is formulated as a discipline and practice of uncovering latent meanings, of reaching below the surface of action and consciousness to reveal the disturbing elements of unconscious life. To be a legitimate form of study, psychoanalytical enquiry has to be accountable, should show evidence, be responsive to criticism and it is still a view of knowledge that is produced through human activity and underpinned by theory. Even though its role seems to be to disrupt common sense.
‘To search for historical truth is to live out the metaphor of analyst as archaeologist and to believe, along with Freud, that pieces of the past lie buried somewhere in the persons unconscious’ (Spence. D. 1987)

The limits of language
‘Psychoanalysis, it might be argued, processes some of the most versatile explanatory concepts in intellectual history, so versatile that they are immune to appraisal by rational means’ Frosh. S.
It is essential for this enquiry, to remain a critical vision of ones own and throw light on the process of this new discovery. The research question that is asked is, can the documentation of image production deepen our understanding of human functioning and is the methodology consistent and honest? The goal is not necessarily the truth, in the empirical sense of what really happened, but rather an understanding that it includes a powerful affective and experiential component. As Flax (1981) states, ‘The past is lived through the transference, it is not mealy grasped intellectually’.
In the therapist’s session, successful outcomes are a form of linguistically mediated self-knowledge that places a client in a more controlled position over his life’s experiences and relationships. It uncovers a process as a system of tensions and reconciliations always on the move and in flux. The production and assessment of my photographs will uncover ‘truths’ or series of ‘truths’ of the human condition. The to and fro between the analysing of, and production of, work in this intersubjective domain will be reflected upon and integrated into the production of new images to be then interpreted. A new narrative will be produced.
What criteria can I employ to assess an approach that is seen as having a claim to new knowledge? (i.e. rational). In the words of Frosh, ‘Although not always dependant on language and aimed at a consistent meeting of the unconscious, taking the significant residue and putting it into a rational form’. Is it in this residue where creativity of subjectivity resides?

Free association Interpretation and insight
Freud stated the fundamental rule of psychoanalysis is free association, that it is no more than a joint process of free association and transference. The later being the key mechanism and the former the ‘fundamental rule’.
Macmillan (1997) says this free association effectively creates its data, rather than recovers it and ‘cannot be used as any guide to the facts of human behaviour and mental life’. It is at best, ‘an unreliable guide to memory’, and as Grunbaum reminds us, ‘can be contaminated with the promptings of the analyst. All this makes it at untrustworthy’.
The important thing is how this created data is used, as a part of this process and how its interpretation influences further production. The interpretation becoming new information in the patient’s free association, a deepening of the understanding of the conflict and in doing so broadens the patient’s capacity for psychic experience. The above quotes, of MacMillan and Grunbaum, I feel, fail to understand beyond Freud, as interpretations are now seen as combined truths of thousands of supervised client hours. Interpretation is, in a broader sense, simply the understanding of any text, be it a film, poem or interview. The process of making the artist/patient aware of some aspect of his psychological process that he had been not previously conscious of.
‘Far from offering the analysand a new message, the interpretation should serve merely to enable the analysand to hear the message he is unconsciously addressing himself… The analysis plays on the ambiguity of the analysand speech, bringing out its multiple meanings’ (Evans 1996)
These resulting interpretations involve the change in the thing being interpreted, making the original interpretation immediately out of date and informing the process in a forward motion. It is constructive and transformative without being right or wrong, the artist is changed, something new appears in the place of what was there before.
Frosh describes this as like taking a stills camera to photograph something, It represents something that was there at that moment, ‘true’ in an approximate kind of way, but never quite to be the same again’. ‘No interpretation can be the truth, but like language itself, performative.’ This act of interpretation gives the subject the opportunity to seize the lost or hidden meanings and re-own them, restoring an identity between the subject and ones own subject-hood, interpersonal intersubjective truths allowing the emergence of unconscious fantasies out of which meaningful insight might become known, and in doing so, improving that flow to free associations.

Every picture produced is then, a provisional state, often reflecting potential confusion, emotional investment and desire. At each stage it is open to negotiation of its own development and assessment, indeed as the process moves forward, re assessments of previous works are integrated into this provisional narrative. Backed by theory these assessments will seek to validate events and how they are perceived. Psychoanalysis works with phantasy, with the internalised version of the world through which individuals communicate and relate to shared external events. There are no true or false statement, each reading is intriguing and unique and its understanding will be able to be taken to the next engagement.
This collaborative enterprise and validation of enquiry, aims at constructing meaning, has both an affective as well as cognitive part and will depend more upon the empirical accuracy of interpretations and than on the accomplishments of self-reflection. It is these joint narratives, of interlocked theories, of corrected distortions and the creation of a revised set of narratives of personally transformative knowledge that will form a convincing and new photo biography.

Provisional transitional truths
‘Narrative truths convince because of their capacity to evoke and structure experiences, to offer coherence where there is fragmentation, to articulate half understood meanings and to throw light on obscurity.’ Frosh
As in any assessment, these psychological states are often characterised by a kind of alienation, where the subject is separated from objects, experiencing as if an object split from ones own meanings, wishes and desires. As individual images, they represent a temporary transitional stage showing these splits. As a series they becomes narrative of theoretical coherence, inner consistency and have narrative intelligibility.
What if everything is a fairy story? Does this mean that the narrative holds no potency? The alternative family album is a process of unravelling those things that are not as they seem, into a new understanding, an understanding of the human condition, underpinned by established theory and extensive supervision. Thus is the intense experience of psychotherapy as reseach, the searching for or staving off of something new, on the journey to insight, this road to personal change may be the same route towards that of human understanding.
‘Phantasy is not merely an escape from reality, but a constant and unavoidable accompaniment of real experiences, (we are) constantly interacting with them’ Segal 1973

Spencer Rowell 2011

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A Look At Symbolic Representation

To translate a dream to reality, to face and find expression for the internal conflicts, to achieve lasting reparation in reality as well as in Phantasy is the joy of aesthetic expression.
Background of Image
This image was photographed, at dawn at Brancaster Beach. It was the closest beach to where we lived and although three hours away by Morris traveller, a beach regularly visited throughout my childhood. The image of contained boxes on the beach came to me one morning.
I searched in my therapy sessions for problems in these containers, opening some of them, closing some boxes that were partially open, revisiting. However, the contents of each individual box were unaware of each other’s objects, individual boxes continued to remain out of sight of the viewer’s so as to hamper their ability to create a picture.
There are reasons why patients chose not to integrate certain objects within the session, create boundaries between subjects, often approaching each challenge as a separate issue. These defences protect from integration.
I had chosen compartmentalism as an unconscious process to defend against these very anxieties. It was an attempt to simplify things, to inhibit attempts to mix those affects that cognitively would simply create too much pain to be reconciled. It is common to experience these uncomfortable affects that come about from trying to hold conflicting ideas within sight of each other.
This incompatibility has its roots in the non-integration of our polarised selves. That our ‘all good’ and ‘all bad’ are placed into separate containers, this contradiction of behaviour can only be made bearable through denial or through a state of indifference. This division into parts and there insolubility is a survival mechanism, the self will only become one once the parts have been introduced to each other, within psychological dialogue.
The Jungian-trained psychiatrist Antony Storr believes,
"Creative people, show a wider than usual division in the mind, an accentuation of opposites. It seems probable that when creative people produce a new work they are in fact attempting to reconcile opposites in exactly the way Jung describes. [Their work] symbolise the union of opposites and the formation of this new centre of personality...”
After completion of the image and the psychoanalytical theory that it may represent, I researched the symbols within it.
Psychologically the beach evokes for us the daily experience of the slim shore between consciousness and unconsciousness lapped and buffeted, shifted and changed, temporally submerged and once again delineated in the tidal rhythms of waking and sleeping. There are ‘deposits’ from dream and fantasy, the play of the imagination, the clarity of awareness. Sometimes what the psyche tosses on to the shore can, like the jellyfish, only be experienced, but not assimilated. As the perspective and rhythms of the beach and the movement between water and land can liberate ones feelings and expand ones sense of space, time and being, so does the exchange between the depths of the psyche and consciousness.
The Book Of Symbols. The Archive For Research In Archetypal Symbolism (2010:p122) Taschen
The box is interpreted as a female symbol of the unconscious and the maternal. It always holds a secret, enclosing and keeping from the world something precious, fragile or awesome. The box protects, but at the risk of stifling. The box, at the bottom of which Hope remains, is the unconscious for all its potentialities for the unexpected, the destructive, or the positive if it is left to its own devices. Paul Diel links this symbol with a highly charged imagination which invests the unknown object hidden in the box with the power to realise ones hearts desire, a power which is totally illusionary and the source of all our woes!
The Dictionary Of Symbols (1969:p116) Penguin

Spencer Rowell 2011

Paper On: Unconscious Phantasy and Symbolism in Photographs

Hannah Segal. Dream, Phantasy and Art
‘If it where possible that a person should give a faithful history of his being from the earliest epochs of his recollection, a picture would be presented such as the world has never contemplated before. A mirror would be held up to all men in which they might behold there own recollections and, in dim perspective, their shadowy hopes and fears – all that they dare not, or that daring or desiring, they could not expose to the open eyes of the day. But thought can with difficulty visit the intricate and winding chambers which it inhabits.’
(Shelly 1812)

Unconscious Phantasy is a key aspect of Kleinian theory and with it comes her mental picture of emotional activity. It is this psychological aspect of instinct, says Klein that produces ‘image potentials’, these enable the infant to construct meaningful memories, a way of testing phantasy against reality.
Klein’s ideas, of the movement between the Paranoid Schizoid to Depressive Position and its influence on aesthetic communication influenced the psychoanalyst and theorist Segal profoundly. She emphasises the importance of the discussion of Unconscious Phantasy to our understanding of dreams and argues that it is incomplete unless ideas of symbolism are introduced. She opens up discourse between the relations between art, dreaming and daydreaming.
Freud described dreaming in 1900 as;
… a piece of infantile mental life that has the power to suspend’ and that ‘Psychic dream work aims at fulfilling the unacceptable and conflicting wishes by disguising them, and this involves a particular mode of expression- the dream language’

An integral part of this language, are symbols (any indirect representation of various kinds) that may be used through the defences of condensation and displacement. Condensation, where the immediate recollection of a dream doesn’t immediately surface but may offer other valuable links that arise at a future date and displacement, which would be to emphasise or dwell upon some seemingly insignificant detail. We find surfacing, through these two defence mechanisms, the currency of symbol formation, the visual language of unconscious communication.
Phantasy and symbolism are seen as an important combination in the process of art production. It is this internal unconscious dialogue that is the ‘working through’ of art production, where latent images can immerge and dissolve back into the unconscious to be re-assimilated at a future date.
Segal states. ‘The richness, scope, and correctness of our mental activity is linked with our relation to Unconscious Phantasy. If our Unconscious Phantasies are split off or too severely repressed, our conscious life is impoverished and restricted. On the other hand, if our reality testing is impeded and uncorrected by reality testing, our mental life may appear to be rich but it is delusional’

The Symbolic Expression Of Unconscious Phantasy
Feud came to the conclusion that symbols where universal, that they may vary in different cultures, but they are given and not formed and derives from the archaic past. Jones (1916) takes Freud further by describing ‘conscious and unconscious symbolism’ and that only what is repressed is symbolised, that the repressed symbol often has an opposite meaning.
Symbolism underpins Unconscious Phantasy, it is its ‘language and currency’. These symbols could be described as either object, behaviours expressed in relationships, or a repressed thought. All psychotherapists working with patients would recognise the use of symbols used in communication, often to protect repressed feelings. As a therapist you are thinking as much about what the client is saying as much as what he may not be saying.
Segal suggests two types of symbol formation, one she calls symbol equation, this is concrete and rational, the other she called symbolic representational, a form representing the object, however is not wholly equated with it. Segal suggests that these two modes represent both the Paranoid-Schizoid and the Depressive position respectively.
Segal sates ‘I should like at this to point to summarise what I mean by the terms ‘symbolic equation’ and ‘symbol’ respectively, and the conditions under which they arise. In the symbolic equation, the symbol-substitute is felt to be the original object. The substitutes own properties are not recognised or admitted. The symbolic equation is used to deny the absence of the ideal object, or to control a persecuting one. It belongs to the earliest stages of development’.

This is what gives an image it’s initial punch, its primary reading. This is the concrete impact on the viewer’s own experience. But the real achievement of an image that evokes something else is the key achievement of artistic expression. It is these symbolic equations that Segal talks of that are the more primitive aspects of this experience and, I would argue, come from a more universal pre verbal time.

The Dream Function
Why do we, as viewer, enjoy these phantasy worlds? Why would we stand before the repressed wishes of an artist, airing their conflicts in public?
The dream as Freud describes is a way, through symbols, of expressing and elaborating unconscious fantasy. He imagined a compromise-taking place, in the form of wish fulfilment, satisfying both wishes and defences. The dream is performing the function of expression of this unconscious conflict and is the communication between these conscious and unconscious worlds.
The recounting of a dream in the therapeutic session, can be seen as a client offering the analyst unbearable feelings in the form of symbols, perhaps this is what a work of art can do, asking the viewer to create something of his own, to be understood from the position of the artists internal conflicts. When we view work, we are looking for Unconscious Phantasy imbedded in it and how, through this process, it enriches our understanding and empathy with the work.
The understanding of Unconscious Phantasy does not mean interpreting the dream, but rather interpreting ‘Such stuff dreams are made of’.

Klein however developed her theories around the representation of aggression resulting from anxiety and guilt. She saw anxiety and guilt as the prime movers in symbol formation, this is where the ideas of aesthetic production from Klein and Segal differs from the work of , for instance, Winnicott and Milner.
So in Kleinian thinking, the act of creation is the movement to and from the Depressive Position. This movement involves reparation. Through reparation the artist’s inner and outer worlds are brought together and given a new voice, whether reconciliation in the conflict within ones own artwork or insight gained in a therapy session, this is how these affects are reconciled.
The need for reparation is central to Klein’s view on creative expression. This need for salvation is what Segal in 1952 writes, ‘the artists need is to recreate what he feels in the depth of his internal world.’ that my internal world is shattered and that there is a need to recreate something that will become part of a new whole. The fragmented self, reassembled in my own way and during this process that, states Segal, ‘there can be no art without aggression and that true reparation includes the acknowledgment of this aggression’. Adrian Stokes, also talks of what he describes as art being the ‘first step in the containment of this aggression’.
Fry describes ‘This found echo of emotion’. It is this ‘aesthetic emotion’, if found and described by Bell as, ‘a central common quality peculiar to all aesthetic interaction [that] we will have discovered and that distinguishes art from other classes of objects’.
To translate a dream to reality, to face and find expression for the internal conflicts, to achieve lasting reparation in reality as well as in Phantasy is the joy of aesthetic expression.

Spencer Rowell 2011

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Family Album

The family album is a document of importance, but what of its standing in the communication of the truth. As the character Sye Parish, played by Robin Williams in the film, ‘One Hour Photo’ says,

Family photos depict smiling faces... births, weddings, holidays, children's birthday parties. People take pictures of the happy moments in their lives. Someone looking through our photo album would conclude that we had led a joyous, leisurely existence free of tragedy. No one ever takes a photograph of something they want to forget.’

This research, through the metaphor of the family album has been instigated by a need to investigate why ones ‘experience’ doesn’t quite match the ‘evidence’. An 'Alternative family Album' is a re-construction of events that may have been forgotten, through defences, or as means of survival; a new visual connection with our early informative years, confronting these fears and knowing, to quote Deepak Chopra; The things you're most afraid of have already happened.’

Monday, 29 August 2011

Blake Morrison Quote

‘I pick up a photograph, a wonderful sepia set piece, the Blakemores circa 1895, my great-grandmother and her four children posed on a bench, two girls in lace dresses and frills, a besuited boy with a book open in his hand, and a baby in a bonnet. I look at them in their allotted roles‚ -the Eternal Mother (she died within a year), the Proud Beauty (married a womanizer), the Scholar (gassed in the trenches), the Daddy's Girl (but Daddy remarried), the Baby of the Family (already with his bottle)‚ -and I follow their stares back to the man taking the picture, the Absent Father, who had his story too, grief and nervous breakdown. I think how cruelly far the reality of their lives was from what the camera had chosen or predicted for them that day, and how the photo lost nothing in feeling for my knowing this, and how that must mean art can lie as much as it likes, or needs to, and we forgive it anything so long as it is art. The people captured here are real, and there's a frisson in knowing that, which you couldn't get from painting or fiction; but truth does not come into it at all.’

Blake Morrison (1993) And When did You Last See Your Father (Penguin 1994 Edition)

What Is A Family Album?

The family album is a volume of experiences, constructed and presented as historical truth and of immense visual and emotional importance to the owner. These images fill in our gaps; they offer us a method of reconciling our existence, and in so doing bear witness to our internal connectedness with both ourselves, and externally with our family and the rest of humanity; it is often the only proof of our existence at all. It creates a link with both the past and the future and eventually, it provides the one and only link between ‘us’ and ‘there’ or ‘them‘ and ‘then’. Cameras go with family life. A family’s photographic album is generally about us now, but becomes a historic document of the extended family. It seems you cannot claim to have seen anything, been anywhere or ‘belonged’ unless you have photographed it.

Through the production of the family album, we create an idealised image of the world and our place within it and more importantly our relationships. In this document we choose to present photographs of us looking our best, both physically and emotionally, where they are praised for their candor, by the audience that we select to view it.

The family album has its truths of course, but the justification that it shows how it really was, is not so clear. It is a very worthy document, however it is also has a role as a defence against our anxieties. Family albums actively promote nostalgia; one could argue that photography, far from documenting the truth, succeeds more in hiding it.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Image: The Mirror

Does psychoanalysis recollect the forgotten past, making ways of resurrecting and containing deep experience? Or does it create words from feelings, making the unconscious conscious, enriching meanings to events that may give meaning to the here and now? Or does this perhaps describe the artistic endeavour, the creation of photographs to answer these questions. The analyst Liz Bennett, of ‘The Guild’ revues the self-portrait of Spencer Rowell.

‘As I revue this image, it is hard for me to reconcile some aspects of it, perhaps it is hard for the subject to reconcile aspects of himself’. The shape of the work suggests an old fashioned mirror, which allows you to see different views or aspects of the self and the suggestion of a lack of mirroring. This image suggests raw, strong feelings. The subtext seems to be, “Something is coming out of my mouth and the process is horrible and painful, yet I am spewing light and beauty.” Perhaps this is about the subject’s experience of therapy? Is he spewing words and feelings? Or a difficulty in finding a voice for his feelings, something within which he cannot accept and must vomit out, but when it comes out, it is beautiful. Alongside this beauty there is a sense of disturbance and anxiety, a struggle– powers that are beyond control’.

-There I Sit Before my Mother’s Mirror 2011

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Paper On: Mirroring and Attunement. Kenneth Wright

Kenneth Wright (2009) Mirroring and Attunement Routledge; 1 edition (23 April 2009)
Mirroring and Attunement.
‘The form of some art corresponds truthfully to some felt pattern of our emotional life. In this sense every object with aesthetic import is potentially in tune with some elements of human feeling… every truthful work will be limited by its authors range of sensibilities, every truthful work will have its supporters because it resonates with them’. Kenneth Wright

Creative Production and Pre-verbal Communication
A fundamental aspect of psychodynamic work with patients is the shared understanding of symbolic gestures, often not verbalised, but ‘felt’. I am interested in the development of these communications through the production of self-portraits and the ability of being able to symbolise ‘feelings’. Where do they come from and what relationship do they have with artistic production?
Wright offers us an insight into the relationship between early pre-verbal relationships and the mother. He focuses on two aspects of functioning in the pre-verbal relationship provided by the mother, that of mirroring and attunement.
I draw these parallels with the relationship between client and analyst, as he feels his way into the patients’ world through identification and the artwork, both giving back to the patient/viewer his reflection of this world.
Both mirroring and attunement are pre-verbal forms of communication based on affective affirmation. Mirroring is confined to mothers facial expressions and is seen as a single modality (vision), attunement generates a variety of forms across many forms of modalities. Together providing a range of symbolic communication of the infants inner state.
How do we describe this feeling of being in touch? Can we draw parallels with art production and appreciation?
What is artistic creativity? Could it be the skill in accessing this rich imagination, a subjective state finding form for these inner feelings? A return, to the development of the mothers’ skills in holding and attunement, or perhaps, lack of them?
I will draw parallels with the artists’ and others identification with my work as a simile of the mothers’ early identification with baby.
Is psychoanalysis a science or an art.? Does is recollect the forgotten past, making ways of resurrecting and containing deep experience? Or does it create words from feelings, making the unconscious conscious, enriching meanings to events that may give meaning to the here and now? Or is this the artistic endeavour, to seek out these answers through continued development of these questions.
As Wright states ‘how much is analysis a science and how much an art, and is it closer to the sobriety of prose or the inspiration of poetry?’ It is the feature of poetry and of all arts that they have the power to reveal experiences never fully known, and arguably both attunement and analysis have a similar potential’.

My research will enquire into of three basic links, arguing that these are the precursor to this artistic endeavour, of art production and of art appreciation.
The adaptive attuning mother who reflects the forms of the subjective infant and during this process develops a language of shared symbolic gestures.
The psychoanalyst who helps the patient into being, by fostering a new provision of attuning forms as a way of a replacement of that early lack in that earlier relationship.
The photographer, compensating for this deficient in attunement, makes reflective forms of his own and gains an ability to exist and feel real through this process.

The roots of creativity start at the very start of life within the relationship with the adaptive mother. ‘The art object is a structure of non-verbal signals’ (Susanne Langer 1942)
Both in the therapy session and during the production of these photographs, there is the possibility of existence in a new world of newly created reflections. This may be seen as a way of reviving the process in the patient/artist that had died or failed to develop or simply the artists’ need to enquire, reform, reconstruct and search for any deficiency.
Subjective responses come from a place that pre-exists the use of language and it is this area of communication I am interested, in both the session and in the unconscious communication of, in particular, a self portrait photograph. Can these pictures be seen as portraying the shapes of non-verbal imagery? Can they in sequence produce an alternative family album?

From Mirroring and Attunement to Creative Expression
During this early and important stage, while the mother is so intently indentified with the infant, the baby internalises the maternal form and is experiencing an essential phase of early symbol-formation. This is the precursor for linking of inner experience with external forms. At the pre-verbal level, where image based forms are fashioned by the mother at a time when the baby is clearly differentiating himself from her and beginning the stage of separation from her and creating a sense of self.
Mirroring, in context of the emotional mirror, is where the baby sees his own face in the face of the mother. It marks out the mental space between mother and baby (Winnicotts’ ‘Potential space’). As well as the baby feeling an essential sense of connection, rapport, and through resonance and attunement (mother infant communication) it creates a direct line of conscious and unconscious communication between the two. This subjective engagement differs from language, in that this is an objective line of communication where the words conjure up learned symbols.
Winnicott (1967a) proposed that the mothers face, with its rich variety of emotional responses, was a principle means through which the preverbal infant obtained emotional ‘feedback’ about himself. Being the child’s first mirror, what the infant sees in the mother’s expression is related to what she perceives as the infants ‘experience’.
In a therapeutic session and during any empathic engagement, the analysand tries to put inner experience into words, although this can be done in many other non-verbal ways. In mirroring we attempts to reflect the perception of the inner state. In attunement we attempt to imagine what is the inner state being experienced. This identification provides the external view of the inner experience.
‘In attunement, a similar situation prevails. First the mother identifies with the baby’s experience (emotion), then recasts it in her own idiom and replays it to the baby. If the baby can experience the mothers enactment in a resonant way (ie corresponding to something in the infant), at that moment, baby and mother, like the artist and the audience, will be momentarily linked through the created (maternal) form’ p10

Attunement is effectively outside the mothers’ sense of awareness. It is spontaneous and intuitive. Stern states that the attuned mother ‘tracks the changing contour of the infants state and Spontaneously enacting the baby’s feelings’.
When one talks to a patient, he knows I am listening to him if I create an image or symbol that resonates with him, he will sense I am in touch with him. This is the nature of art and its affect on the viewer. Responsive dialogue involves a match, or ‘fit.’ The proposed research is less about looking for mother, than looking for my own reflection of myself in mother.

A Sense of Self. Winnicott
‘To put things in this way begins to make the link with art more apparent; there is an emotional reaching out towards the subject, with perhaps the expectation of a response; a medium that allows itself to be transformed; and a ‘finding’ or creating within that medium of significant forms that reveal the subject to himself. Winnicotts’ model readily transposes into the language of art’

The real focus for Winnicott is this notion of ‘fit’. A vital ‘something’ in our own experience. The creation of maternal nurturance within the objective canvas, often creating, what would be a subjective disturbance.
The critical importance of Winnicott maternal responsiveness runs through all of his work, but whereas in early theories he stressed the physical, he has more recently focused on the non-verbal, adaptive communication, thus shifting from the relationship between mother and breast to non –verbal dialogue with the mothers face. He likens the mothers face to an emotional mirror and suggests that the infant sees, and begins to experience himself, through the visual medium of the mother’s responsive expressions.
‘The infants initial world is made of symbols, created concrete objects made from his pre-verbal structuring, as language appears he now faces another world, made half by other, restructuring his world in the fashion of language that carries other meanings. Does the artist hang on to this unique much earlier code of communication?’

A Need For Reparation. Klein
In Klein’s view, the creative act is driven by guilt or concern. Segal, a Kleinian, states that symbolism within the artwork is based more on absence and the loss of the object. The rebuilding of these fragments of scattered objects, is the creative act. It is this attempt to repair, to make reparation to the object that becomes the artistic endeavour.
Segal, extends Klein’s theories into the study of art and writes of the fact that artistic creation is inextricably linked to the capacity to symbolise. Art involves representation- not necessarily of the external world but that of its interior, of inner experience. ‘The “Significant form”, where a viewer recognises an arrangement as an inevitable sequence.’

In a generalised way, the Kleinian concept of creativity comes from a sense of lack, and replacement of what is missing, it reinstates the missing experience, and replaces the adaptive mother with a more perfect version.
This differs from the Winicottian model of creative production, the development of mother –infant relatedness from a time that the mother and baby is merged as a single object. The assumption by Klein is that the mother baby link is broken and is already be in the position of the necessary reparation.

The Artistic Endeavour
Peter fuller perceived the relevance of Winnicott work of the painter Natkin, and is very eloquent as regards Winicottian theories on the relation between preverbal communication and visual expression. Fuller, (1980) suggested that the picture surface could be thought of as a face like structure, with which the artist communicates in ways that reach back to earlier experience with the mothers face. Where the maternal response is out of the infants control the artist can modify the surface until it gives back to him the responses that he needs
The artist operates in dialogue with the canvas and creates an illusionary and expressive surface through his technique. Eventually ‘the canvas surface’, wrote Fuller, ‘becomes a surrogate for the good mothers face. ’Through this, it would seem, artistic creation has a therapeutic function for the artist Winnicott states, that if the maternal mirroring fails, then the infant looks around for other ways of getting something of himself back from the environment.’
Wright says the artist, in this space, is poised on the edge of ‘no mother’ (the un-attuned mother), so hence the compulsion to go on creating. From a certain perspective a transitional object can be seen as an external form of internal memory or feelings. The baby retrieves an experience in the absence of the mother, touching and observing this object brings her back, the infants way of remembering her.
‘The panic of facing the blank canvas is a re-enactment of the primitive anxiety of the non-adaptive mother, the distracted mother when the medium gives the artist what he needs then he experiences joy and self-realization’.

Finding This Voice
The therapist finds his voice with his client essentially as an artist does; creating a joint metaphorical and creative language. Ordinary language, is essentially practical and concerned with external reality, it is object related and it needs considerable adaptation before it can be used to embody subjective phenomena, like symbols and art.
Language, of course, offers us an important form of shared communication regarding external objects however, non-verbal communications of symbols offer us a much more profound insight into inner objects and feelings. It has the power to move, to pierce (Barthes term) the inner self and of others.
Finding this authentic voice is a not easy, never more difficult than in the therapist room, of finding a common voice with that of the client. A persons true self lies deep in this preverbal world, the world the artist accesses, it is here that the persons important and often most difficult feelings to communicate lay beyond the reach of ordinary language.
This core value of non-verbal communication convinces the client you are authentic, as with artwork, the showing of the true self is what’s authentic. We also achieve self-acceptance through this relationship; this recognition is a place where the self is made.
This joy of being recognised (by the artist) of being responded to (heard) is the confirmation that is so desired, a confirmation of self or the creation of the good enough even perfect maternal object. From the Winicottian perspective this is the adaptive mother giving what the child requires, as opposed to the Kleinian model where guilt and reparation are the motives for the production of the work.

Individual experiences are of course significant to the creator, but so often with creative work, there is a ‘fit’ or an unconscious ‘knowing’ with that of the work and the viewer. Shared pre-verbal experiences, shared attunement. If a portrait is based on this structure of non-verbal presentational of symbols the ability of the ‘fit’ between mother and child, the creative endeavour can provide fertile material. If this creative material is accessed, this pre-verbal symbol formation can it be assessed and used to offer an insight into our early life experiences.
Being of such an objective nature, photography is a particularly difficult medium to integrate ones subjective gestures of the individualism of the artist. Winnicott realised this integration of the objective and subjective view an important feature of the creation of symbols, he spoke of it as ‘primary creativity, a realm of illusion, a place of transitional objects and from a much earlier stage of the child’s omnipotence.’

Perhaps the work created by the artist, of a surrogate mother, creates a more perfect object and contains more of the artist self than the artist can communicate verbally. Through its formation, refining and experimentation, the reflections one would have preferred begin to emerge. A maternal extension of self.
Through symbols, the artist gives a voice to the inarticulate to communicate to the viewer, on one hand we raid the inarticulate and on the other wait for the mother (adaptive) to bring the form of the feeling to us. Like trying to recapture a lost memory, we will hope and wait to have it released, producing what Winnicott would call our transitional objects.
Through production of these photographs, I will bring external form from inner states., these transitional objects are the first ‘not-me’ objects, a subjective part of the infants memories of earlier experiences. The function is to recast subjective feeling states into more or less objective form as photographic objects. A bridge to our earliest experiences.
It is important to stress the importance of these photographic representations’ importance of the shared experience, rather than simply becoming a vehicle for self-examination, self-analytical exorcism and an individual journey of self-awareness. Winnicott saw this symbol communication as the primary form of communication in us all, the preverbal world being the foundation in the formation of self and of symbolic representation. These primitive communications are based on shared preverbal symbols and communicated non-verbally and not intellectually via words..
The joy of being recognised also serves all our narcissistic needs for recognition, acceptance and uniqueness. The artists inhabit these forms and continue to refine the process slowly in doing so, becoming more fully himself and have a more meaningful contact with other human beings.

Spencer Rowell 2011

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Mirror Therapy- From the Notes of Jo Spence

Kind Permission Terry Dennet- The Jo Spence Archive

Mirror Practice notes- - Self Portraiture therapy

Desensitisation---- release emotions-- change tight body language-- re model old image into something else-- say Yes when my face and body says No ------To look -----when my mind says don’t look---- at that mutilated Breast

To change the visual concept from ------- dependant self pitying victim--- to a positive a survivor----Cancer War Hero--put on some medals-- a soldier’s hat???-- People used to look up to War heroes didn’t they--- not any more though!!!!!!

Qualities to think about

The Mirror is dumb non evaluative and non human - whatever I do in front of it -

It can’t be critical like a person- It is not my Mummy or Daddy -- mirror pictures are-a private self activated show --just for me until I want to invite others in.

Mirror images cannot be saved for others to see later ---so it is safe to be uninhibited and show /release my most exposed self--? Important when Im vulnerable to work alone for a session??? But needs courage--do/will I always have the courage to face reality alone??

Mirror image is a reflection of the living image in real time ----but as ephemeral as real time--- it is not automatically preserved- except-imperfectly-in memory

The Photographer as a Resurrectionist--- not a body snatcher --- not TAKING pictures but reconstituting events

The Camera process can encapsulation real-time aspects-- but only as a dead embalmed cultural artefact------- photographs are pieces of paper-- why do people forget that ----So our task as photographers is to resurrect these dead things- to use our Art to get the shapes encoded in the paper to express something of the realities of the former living essence we confronted with our camera---

Thank God for a shared process of communication----- What would we do without it--and who will truly read our images and our intent when we do not share the same cultural codes?

Mirror image -a part self- a shadow self-- looks real -- moves in time and space but only a reflected illusion -- therefore some of my pretend situations and constructed image rehearsals will be no less real than others- I can choose my visual reality-- dress up ---makeup --all appear real -- but all are illusion in the mirror

The Mirror and the Camera Set up Camera with bulb release to click any useful images first start with mirror rehearsal --No Photos--- only looking

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Review: 'Shadows of Doubt' Revue-Evening Standard

Sue Steward Evening Standard

Shadows of Doubt, Darnley Road Gallery - review
Serendipity was at work with this small, very brief but intriguing exhibition built around the actual and possible East End landmarks of Alfred Hitchcock's childhood. News of the discovery in New Zealandof his silent film "The White Shadow," made in the Islington Studios in 1923, coincided with the opening night.
David George and Spencer Rowell share a fascination with Hitchcock's early years in East Londonand their impact on his films. They approaches differ but both draw on locations mentioned in biographies and by Hitchcock himself, and the links between the psycho-geography and the actual places where the greengrocer's son lived until he was 16.

David George takes the more literal approach, creating sinister, cinematic images around East London and the East Endat night. Illuminated only by the city's sodium-yellow, they suggest scenes from the films - some more accurately than others.
At Wanstead Flats Easter Fair - which the boy must surely have visited - George shot from across the fields, leaving the Fair silhouetted against the yellow sky, outlining caravans and rides. The superbly appropriate stencilled letters shout "THE SCREAMER" from the horizon. At Limehouse Steps, reference to The 39 Steps are obvious. Here, he waits for the tide to ebb and standing on pebbles, focusses on the threatening stone walls and steps where pirates were drowned and corpses slung. Out near Epping Forest, Hitchock's father William drove his son on his fruit and veg cart. David George stands behind a burger van, lighting the scene with passing car headlights which add tension - and ensure the van's CCTV camera is in view.

These mergers of real life and fantasy rely on the suggestion that the places were embedded in Hitchcock's memory and his films. Spencer Rowell's interest lies in the interior, psychoanalytical interpretations of the director's life, particularly the impact of his Catholic upbringing on his work. His triptych of large, dream-like scenes are located in Hitchcock's school chapel at St. Ignatius's College, Stamford Hill, and inside the local family church. Rowell immerses himself inside the scene, seated on a chair, back to the camera and over illuminated to ghostliness in the claustrophobic bell tower. Here, the lighting is perfectly noir-ish without need for black and white film, and light beams through shuttered windows and the open door. His final touch - laying shredded blown-up prints of the scenes over the scenes - adds another layer of mystery and interpretation.

"Shadows of Doubt" (from the film "Shadow of A Doubt") applies to the doubt surrounding the chosen locations but crucially, to the extent to which they feature in Hitchock's films and the doubt in all of his mysteries. Similarly, in this exhibition. An expanded version in September, will be accompanied by films and talks around the subject. Follow the story in the photographers' Uncertain States publication.

Until August 12. 07771 784 931

Exhibition: 'Shadow of Doubt' Interim show August 2011

Shadows of Doubt:

A psycho-geographical journey through Hitchcock’s East End childhood.

Photography by David George and Spencer Rowell. Curated by Dr. Nicholas Haeffner. Presented in conjunction with the London Metropolitan University’s East End Photographic Archive.

Introduction by Michael Upton

The work in Shadows of Doubt relates to the East End of the film director Alfred Hitchcock’s London childhood. It uses images of the built environment as a starting point for an exploration of relationships between physical place, memory, psychological development and aesthetic sensibility. This exhibition is a work in progress for a larger show in November and December of this year.

The photographers have each approached the project with one rule- David George has photographed exterior places. Spencer Rowell has focused on interior spaces. This expedient division is consistent with their broader practice and interests; David in the sublime psycho-geographic essence of nocturnal places, Spencer in relationships between photography, psychoanalysis and childhood memory. Yet with Hitchcock as a common catalyst this has resulted in work which shares a sense of fear, apprehension, suspense and mystery appropriate to the director’s vision and public persona.

Alfred Hitchcock was so effective in creating a version of his childhood based on a handful of anecdotes which suited his promotional ends, that it is easy to forget that he spent sixteen years in the east end of London. Hitchcock’s biographers have portrayed these years in varying ways to support their interpretations of the director and his texts. Donald Spoto’s lonely ‘Fred’ dwelt in dark and oppressive rooms above a shop, while ‘Alfie’s’ world in Patrick McGilligan’s version was brightened somewhat by seaside trips to Cliftonville and family get-togethers in Putney. Many of the actual places which constituted Hitchcock’s childhood realm have vanished. A Jet garage occupies the site of the greengrocers shop at 517 Leytonstone High Road where Hitchcock was born; the Green Man pub which the family frequented is now an O'Neills; the Police Station where his ‘wrongly accused’ motif was inspired is fast becoming commercial premises and much of Limehouse has been raized and regenerated.

Given the scarcity of reliable factual and physical evidence these subjective images, (consciously or subconsciously mediated through Hitchcock’s texts), his biographical legend, and the artists’ own visions and experiences arguably offer as truthful a representation of Hitchcock’s childhood as any objective documentary account.

Spencer Rowell on Shadows of Doubt

Did Hitchcock offer us an insight into his internal world through his films?

Were they a way of showing us his own internal conflicts, of creating a life’s work of scripted realisations of his early life experiences?

‘You must know’ Hitchcock is reported in saying, ‘that when I'm making a movie, the story isn't important to me. What's important is how I tell the story.’ Psychodynamic analytical theory would have us believe that the telling of any story, within a certain frame, is indeed, an insight into early life experiences.

Hitchcock was raised as a strict Catholic and within an authoritarian matriarchal family, the influential males in his life where either priests or policemen. His preoccupation with guilt may have been further developed by his evangelisation and education, from 1908 onwards, at St. Ignatius College, Stamford Hill, London (pictured), where it is said, that the Jesuit fathers dispensed corporal punishment with pious rigor. In the words of Hitchcock, ‘It wasn't done casually, you know. It was rather like the execution of a sentence . . . You spent the whole day waiting for the sentence to be carried out.’

There is a sense that there is a search for spiritual redemption in his work; most of his films display some sense of sin, guilt, atonement and redemption, perhaps this is a response to his Catholic sensibilities.

This interim project looks at my curiosity of how it may have been for him as a child, a highly subjective and contemporary view of his earliest influences, an understanding of how, psychologically, Hitchcock’s ability to respond to these complex and emotional influences, may have surfaced as sublimation and humour, two mature defense mechanisms, where socially unacceptable impulses or idealisations may have been consciously transformed through work; a way of diversion, of modification into a culturally higher or socially more acceptable activity.

Were these defenses really concealing a deeper trauma in order to avoid any unpleasant consequences of confronting inner conflicts?

Of course, we will never know. Hitchcock’s most able talent was to create illusions, this ability to create suspense and of us questioning his (and our) motives, is what he did best.

David George on Shadows of Doubt

Educators and psychologists have long known that childhood environment informs adult behaviour so it is pertinent to argue that the same environment would mould personal aesthetic and artistic sensibilities. Look at George Shaw’s paintings done in Airfix paint palette of the mundane and melancholic housing estates of his childhood or Ridley Scott’s nightmarish opening shots in “Bladerunner” of a city of the future, squarely based on the night time industrial landscapes on the mouth of the River Tees where Scott grew up, to see evidence of childhood geography feeding into adult creativity.

The idea of the “Shadows of Doubt” project was to try to photographically capture Alfred Hitchcock’s childhood East End as one of the elements that shaped his filmmaking. This was not an easy task as most of the information about Hitchcock’s childhood is at best sketchy, and at worst unreliable. This is coupled with the relentless way London has been knocked down or blitzed and rebuilt in the intervening 100 years destroying large areas of London relevant to his early years.

I decided the best way to revisit Hitchcock’s childhood London was to walk the areas I knew he inhabited (Wapping, Wanstead Flats, Whipps Cross, Limehouse and Leyton) and photograph elements of these urban landscapes that I understood were contemporary and therefore familiar to him, places that he would still recognise if he were alive today.

The resulting photographs are hopefully a small vignette of the psycho-topographical backdrop to Alfred Hitchcock’s formative years in London’s East End.