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: 'The Purge'

Lutz, in his review of the catharsis state (1999), says,

"The emotions we feel as we relive past experiences are simply a coming to consciousness of one's desires. We cannot feel the same emotions because they are long gone. Emotions cannot be stored for years in our bodies, waiting to reappear, like a virus or bottled up carbonation. We might cry, of course, in a way very similar to the way we cried when our desires were first frustrated, but not because the tears have been waiting somewhere inside us during the intervening years. We cry because the events or the desires still invoke powerful feelings when they are remembered or recognised, in part because our understanding of the events has not evolved."

Can the process of such image-making be of psychological benefit to the creator? Is it possible to adequately visualise repressed, or otherwise inadequately emotionally and un-processed material? The production of such art may be a cathartic experience, an act of venting. By accessing the ‘true self’, perhaps one can express oneself through the process.

Pascal's law states that when there is an increase in pressure at any point in a confined fluid, there is an equal increase at every other point in the container. This hydraulic metaphor is often attributed to Freud’s use of the word catharsis, the release of energy, or of ‘spurting out’, effectively reducing the pressure of the 'bottled up' emotions.

Patients’ talk, therapists listen. Purging the affects of our deeply rooted experiences are the basis of the therapeutic process. From Breuer’s conversations with Freud in the late 1800’s, where he had identified symptoms of paralysis, fits and states of mental confusion in ‘hysterical women’. Their studies and treatment began the mechanism of the ‘talking cure’. This method was also referred to in their day as the ‘Cathartic Method”.

Catharsis is described as the act of expression, or more accurately as the experiencing of deep-rooted experiences, events in ones past that have been repressed or ignored. This can, in the therapeutic setting, be a slow or gradual ‘letting off steam’ or can be, often, an uncontrollable dramatic outburst. This cathartic aggression, as it can be named, is a way of reducing psychological stress.

As infants, we express these conflicts easily, involuntarily discharging these affects from emotion stimulus. As we grow, we learn to control these outbursts, as, in the west particularly, they are often associated with anger. We learn to suppress these dramatic outbursts. Our career’s might remind us of the inappropriateness of these outbursts and we learn to bottle them up. The unearthing of these repressed emotions in the therapeutic situation could also be interpreted as the revealing of ‘symbols of memories’ SR and their visualisation of such could be seen as the representation of such emotions. These unearthed visual memories may not be literally real, they can be seen, perhaps more accurately the process of there construction can be seen, as vehicles for re-constructing a two dimensional representation of the emotion associated with the repressed feeling. These are significant relived events, experienced with their associated emotions.

Venting is seen as a more immediate expression of emotional stimuli rather than catharsis`, which once accessed could be from events and memories previously been suppressed, not dealt with, or inadequately processed, probably over a period of year.

It has been, perhaps, the inability to access these affectual experiences rather than the literal-ness of there expression through an image. With further exploration as the patient returns from the regressed state, resolution can be found.

Says Eugene Gendlin (1996)

"One relives the past in catharsis just as it actually happened but with the great difference that one expresses and finally feels emotions that were blocked at the time. To some extent this happens in all therapy."

There is a generally held belief that the expression of these ‘held’ emotions is better for our health than bottling them up. However it is the emotion attached to the event that eventually materialises, unless there is a verbalization, or working through, of the suppressed event then some believe that this venting is of little use and can actually heighten tension. ‘The venting hypothesis’ proposed in 'Expressing Emotions', 1999 Kennedy-Moore & Watson argues that in the therapists room, any dramatic outburst or venting can take several sessions to discuss before any relief or partial resolution found.

The inadequate processing of past trauma eventually must be expressed. Eugene Gendlin (1996) says,

"One relives the past in catharsis" "just as it actually happened but with the great difference that one expresses and finally feels emotions that were blocked at the time. To some extent this happens in all therapy."

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