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, 14 May 2011

Text: ‘He searched everywhere’

The Jungian-trained psychiatrist Antony Storr has defined individuation as,

"Coming to terms with oneself by means of reconciling the opposing factors within". He continues: "We are all divided selves, and that is part of the human condition. Neurotics, because of a deficiency in the controlling apparatus (a weak ego), suffer from neurotic symptoms, as we all may do at times. Creative people may be more divided than most of us, but, unlike neurotics, have a strong ego; and, although they may periodically suffer from neurotic symptoms, have an especial power of integrating opposites within themselves without recourse to displacement, denial, repression and other mechanisms of defence. Creative people, and potentially creative people, therefore, may suffer and be unhappy because of the divisions within them, but do not necessarily display neurosis."

Storr continues,

"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...”

Compartmentalism is a subconscious process to defend against anxiety. It is an attempt to simplify things, to inhibit attempts to mix these parts that cognitively will simply create too much pain to be reconciled.

In psychoanalysis, upon being confronted with clients presenting issues, it is perhaps natural for them (clients and therapists) to split these topics into manageable parts, hoping that any conclusions can be reassembled into the whole. This division into smaller parts, is a survival mechanism, the self will only become one, once the parts have been introduced to each other within psychological dialogue. When these ‘parts’ are bought together, often, inconsistencies occur. It is the interaction of these smaller parts and conflicts of behaviour being bought together, that ‘cognitive dissonance‘ occurs.

These are uncomfortable feelings that come about from trying to hold these conflicting ideas ‘within sight of each other’ (ref) clearly after some awareness has been experienced.

Experiences clash with expectations, one might say, ‘this is not the person I wish to be’. SR

This incompatibility has its roots in the non-integration of our polarised selves as an infant. It is a simplification, however, that our ‘all good’ and ‘all bad’ are placed into separate containers, however, this contradiction of behaviour is made bearable through denial or through a state of indifference.

One can act with certain morals and behaviours in one part of life and have other rules in other parts. SR

In extreme cases, this would be described as splitting, a term first used by Janet (ref) and acknowledged by Freud (ref) where he referred to it as,

“ The resolving of ambivalence 'by splitting the contradictory feelings so that one person is only loved, another one only hated’ Or, with opposing feelings of love and hate, perhaps 'the two opposites should have been split apart and one of them, usually the hatred, have been repressed

This theory is given more significance by Klein. (Ref) who argues,

'The earliest experiences of the infant are split between wholly good ones with "good" objects and wholly bad experiences with "bad" objects’, as children struggle to integrate the two primary drives, love and hate, into constructive social interaction. An important step in childhood development is the gradual depolarisation of these two drives'

Can psychoanalysis seek resolutions of these contradictions in the therapeutic space, or can the revelation of self through the introduction of separate states in art play a role? Why has art and other forms of self-expression found an important role in society, and what do we search for during this process? What knowledge is imparted and also received from the appreciation of such artwork?

Freud essentially brought his mind as a scientist to the understanding of the subconscious. Through his interpretation of dreams (Ref) he believed the subconscious could be known.

In dream interpretation, where Freud transforms the latent content, it is recollected, with the associated feelings, however, not always communicated. Through the mechanisms of condensation, displacement and representation, we are adept at hiding the latent content, what Freud calls the dream censor. Thus dreams are the signs or symptoms of the unconscious rather than the deliberate structured symbols of it. Art reveals and communicates. It communicates aspects of the artist and perhaps this may also include the unsolved issues of the artist.

Freud discovered useful insight between the unconscious and the conscious. It lies in verbalising, naming and symbolisation. If successful, objectification of these neuroses, by creating these artistic symbols we give names to the artists neuroses. By putting them to paper, the production of a photograph for instance, we make the symbol more tangible. These more concrete symbols also have a power of communication that dreams cannot.

In viewing an image, our attention is drawn to a shape, a line, a face. This unconscious ‘laying over’ of images on to pre-loaded images and shapes in our subconscious shortcuts to our desires, associated feelings

The tendency to appreciate requires a sense of abstraction, one can ‘see’ beyond the surface of the work to the unique attributes that reside within the work.

This play is of course what happens in the therapist’s room. Art can give knowledge, not of objective law or science but of lived experience and of quality of experience. It transmutes this power on to the viewer as the artist’s work takes form, as the therapist brings the sub-conscious to light in the session with a client.

Art may, therefore, as does psychotherapy aim to do, reveal the presence of the sub-conscious, name it through symbols and then integrates it into these symbols and those opposing elements of the subconscious

No comments:

Post a Comment