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, 27 October 2012
Saturday, 20 October 2012
Wordle is a website for generating 'word clouds' from text. This representation gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.
I have pre-prepared the text, deleting certain commen words, connective words, common verbs, the definite article, also punctuation and singularised the plurals of words.
These are:- a, is, of, and, in, to, this, it, be, that, there, was, an.
This 'Wordle' represents the text produced by the readers up to 'Session X'
Sunday, 7 October 2012
Ibid. Session -VIII, Eb –VIII (2), Eb –V (12), Eb –III (34).
Nothing is certain or clear or straightforward.
This is a person, but we don’t know how to relate to them and don’t know
how to expect them to relate to us. There is something of interdependence between
the two –
Perhaps neither would exist without the other.
Saturday, 29 September 2012
Friday, 28 September 2012
Monday, 3 September 2012
This is how I see myself now, at this moment, expressed as a self-portrait; my internal world seen in my reflection.
This is how the readers see this image of myself, expressed as words from the maternal and paternal; an integration of their own projections.
Both photographer and reader anticipate the next encounter and show more of ourselves; the photographer integrates the language of these metaphorical parents, into the final narrative and present them as a collaborative account of intersubjective experience; an Alternative Family Album. Spencer Rowell
'In active intersubjective engagement, both parties orient themselves to the next turn, interpreting the intentions of the other and anticipating the upcoming next turn in crafting there response. This dynamic interactional process relies on commonly shared implicit 'procedures', learned in early interactions with caregivers'.
The Pragmatics of Therapeutic Interaction: An Empirical Study. Georgia Lepper 2009
I will be referring to the above paper, as it has been a useful focus on the methods used to incorporate the language of assessment into individual pieces and the project as a whole. Her study uses pragmatics to discuss the way selected verbatim dialogue between therapist and client can be used to negotiate the meaning of a specific symptom and create understanding. It is a report on how the therapeutic process can be 'observed and studied as an interactional achievement, grounded in general and well studied procedures through which meaning is intersubjectively developed and shared' ( Lepper 2009). I will explain how this process can be used to incorporate into art practice.
My project looks to demonstrate and document the experience of the combined intersubjective world of artist and reader, a collaborative interaction and how this process can be incorporated in a systematic way, influencing the final production of work; the study of the artist /psychotherapist interaction and its development described in psychodynamic terms, looking at projections in the relationship between them and their relationship in the final presentation.
This short essay will aid a provisional chapter layout for my thesis, enabling me to focus on aspects of research and formulate a way of setting out the information currently synthesised and perhaps more importantly, how the text, and its description, can be assimilated into the ongoing art practice and how it is structured into the written work.
'There is a sense of crisis in the relationship between clinical practice and psychoanalytical theory', states Lepper, in her paper. Mainly around the area of empirical knowledge and ways of providing quantitive information from qualitative, often highly subjective data. She suggests that any additional research obtained in this area of interaction can be seen as a useful addition to this discussion, of its overall coherence and its contemporary use in today's therapeutic engagements; this practice offers an additional viewpoint. This process has relevance in the study of Psychoanalytical theory in that it offers another important view, to be taken alongside other methods, it shows an important alternative view into the ideas of intersubjectivity and art appreciation.
'The convergence of evidence from several data sources [which] will prove the best support for theories of mind proposed by psychoanalysis' Jimenez, 2006.
The client analyst interaction is littered with metaphor of language and of the image and it is in the discussion of this shared world of intersubjectivity where change and understanding occurs. This interaction requires playing creatively. In this space, through this exchange of dialogue, a representation of the clients internal world emerges and by the use of these definitions and of language, a shared experience becomes apparent. The images presented, data collected as interpretations and how it is integrated into the art practice represents this intersubjective world.
It is in this exchange, in psychotherapy and true of my project, that individual encounters bare meaning but also that past sessions inform the next; it is in this joint expectation that a shared narrative begins to develop. The therapists skill is to stay informed by their past engagements, without focusing on specific information, to hold a general picture in mind that is eventually honed into an image that will, when reflected back to the client, be of some use to them. Drawing parallels with my art practice, the images are seen as individual engagements, but only come together as final 'picture' or narrative in the final exhibition, where the adapted images are developed and displayed, in order, to reveal the picture of the artist as a whole. As with therapy, the personality develops into a sense of realness in conjunction with the therapist, a development of the listeners subjectivity and that of the artist developed alongside each other; a joint narrative of experience.
As with Leppers paper, of gaining an understanding using the process of pragmatics, where understanding is overlaid on to the examination of verbal exchanges on a turn-by-turn basis, this study endeavours to contribute to the mechanisms of the artist /analyst relationship processes in a similar way. The artist and reader both, as they attempt an understanding through turn-by-turn interpretations, of spoken language and its integration back into image production.
Twelve images will be selected from the twenty four produced over the period of this project. Chosen on the basis of a recurrence of themes, consensus of opinions between readers or parallel ideas of engagement, the re-making of these images will represent this combined narrative. Their interpretations will be written up in detail, images reworked through the assimilation of the readers interpretations and presented as a joint narrative.
Background to research
There is much debate around the interactional nature which form much of the foundations of psychodynamic work with patients. The ideas of transference, countertransference, projection, introjection and projective identification - which can be described as simply intuition, empathy, general interpersonal communications or simply gestures - the intersubjective domain of social interaction. How we take in information and put out our version of events makes up the majority of what we do as adults and this interaction can be traced back to our earliest relationships, from our earliest dyadic interrelations.
This is the intersubjective matrix of the therapeutic environment and at the heart of artistic interaction. This research offers an opportunity to document the intersubjectivity through images and language, referencing the changes throughout this process and responses to the final artwork, the shared narrative.
'Language is not simply a package in which communications are wrapped, but the medium in which experience is bought to light in the process of being spoken or written' Ogden 1999 p. 201
The 'experience' is bought to light through the production of these individual images, however, the language of the interpretation is an expression of the readers' engagement and it would be simplistic to suggest it was simply a verbalisation of the meaning of the images presented. The relationship between this language and the artists intent is verbalised via the transference and also through the process of projection; this sits at the heart of psychodynamic debate and also a means of how the artist has made manifest his or her latent content to the viewer. This research, takes as its stating point that the original artwork is an action toward such awareness and the process of integration of interpretations the dialogue that instigates change. This is described by Lowewald (1960), stating that '[the] psychoanalytic process [as] the significant interactions between patient and analyst which ultimately lead to structural changes in the patients personality' p.16 that 'integrative experiences in analysis are experiences of interaction' (p24)
Method. The Data.
The first step of any research is to systematically sample the data. As mentioned there will be 24 images and transcripts to chose from, however the chose of images will be decided apron in conjunction with another Psychoanalytical reader from four main observations or strategies, to focus on the actual area of intersubjectivity that is the main focus of the production and theoretical basis of this thesis.
The focus will be on twelve or these pieces of work and their interpretations. They will be chosen to illustrate the process of the intersubjective process resulting in the production of the final exhibition and the written thesis that underwrites it. The twelve images will be chosen by how easy it feels to integration the interpretations into the work, how adaptive this secondary process is, more specifically they will have:-
1. Shared theory of interpretations of understanding made by maternal and paternal readers, a consensus of opinion between readers.
2. Artists intent experience portrayed by one or both readers.
3. Recurring themes, psychopathology or specific defences highlighted.
The documentation of this process is to illustrate what is being communicated, how these are communicated and interpreted how they are interpreted into the creative process and they are linked. Also, any combined or repeated projections will be isolated and described as auto biographical nuances of the readers and form an important part of the study.
Data analysis. Discussion: Implications for the Psychoanalytical interpretation in Art Practice and Research
'Psychoanalysis, like any other field, requires careful descriptive work.' (Kaechele et al., 2006 p. 811 Secondary reference)
The research set out to explore and document the change of narrative, viewed in a collaborative nature, of the interaction between art process and it's interpretation; self reflection is met with language and responded to by creative production. Using methods to explore and support the empirical dialogue between and psychodynamic relationship between artist and viewer, mirroring the turn-by-turn encounter in the therapeutic interaction, it focuses on the intersubjective. In this therapeutic conversation artist and reader as speakers in engagement and anticipation, employ strategies to achieve there own, projection, defence, autobiographical needs; also veiled are the strategies with which the readers struggle (notes on additional communications) throughout this process of this shared environment.
Psychoanalysis, as with art presentation is not a simple dyadic experience, it is also a intersubjective shared social process, I have chosen to integrate elements of this shared experience into the making of the work. It highlights the internal world of the artist as the artist offers up revealed defences and also the internal world of the reader projected upon the work.
This research will demonstrate that it is possible to observe and document the dynamic process of a collaborative art exercise, from a turn-by-turn process of development of ideas, enriching the ideas of Psychoanalytical theory and clinical practice in the realm of image making; using images as a means to offer an understanding of the role of intersubjectivity in the art process. As the title suggests, an inference to parenting is made, as a mutually constructed process by which the reader interprets the intention and an ongoing dialogue ensues, allowing my practise to gain, as with Freud's reference to dreams, another 'Royal road to the unconscious' (Freud 1899)
Spencer Rowell 2012
 The term pragmatics refers to the field of study which spans philosophy, psychology and linguistics. 'the science of language as it is used by real live people, for their own purposes and within their limitations...' (Mey, 1993, p. 9)
 The language of psychodynamic psychotherapy, is used as a descriptive mechanism of communication as paralleling the client /psychotherapist relationship.
Friday, 17 August 2012
In this essay I shall describe the research in the context of it being a development of the Projective Test - that the written assessment are but projections of the reader. I will argue that the photographs produced in conjunction with their analytical reports, along with the remaking of the final artefact (which often includes an integration of the text) becomes a new narrative, that of a combination of the projections of the reader and their re-introjection by the artist.
The starting point of this project was originally acknowledged as an attempt to reveal an internal world of the artist. Through production of self-portrait photographs, in combination with their interpretation or analysis, a way of accessing, the revealing of and documenting aspects of the artists unconscious pre-verbal past - also, how these images and text based interpretations by trained psychotherapists, might influence future productions of images and through the documentation of this process, create a new narrative; in doing so revealing new knowledge.
However, through the collaborative nature of the research, this process of analysis has become as much about what is projected on to the images by their analysis, as much as achieving a level of understanding of the internal world of the artist made from the reading of the photographs. The project has not only begun to reveal aspects of an understanding of the readers' internal world, but the combined phantasy of a how knowledge and understanding reveals itself through a shared reality; a combination of the viewer and the author and how these interpretations entwine themselves with the artist's visual world.
For the reader, the frustrating experience of writing about the photographs and not getting anything back creates a paradox. In this relationship we need to ask, what are the interpreters possibly writing about? Is it the photographs and what they represent, the readers notion of the photographer and what he might be saying, his unconscious communication; or is it perhaps simply their fantasies - something the images emote from their past? It is possibly more accurate to suggest that it is a documentation of all these things, emerging from a position somewhere between the two. Winnicott used the term The Potential Space to describe this process of intersubjectivity. How does their expression fits into this mêlée of affective meaning? The interpreters are undoubtably writing about what I am trying to say, there is a genuine attempt, on my part to give meaning and 'realness' of expression, to communicate aspects of my past through the images. However for the readers, not getting anything back requires that they must surmise, risk, guess even, what the image represents. They do this through the process of projection and introjection of their fantasies within this Potential Space, using the image as a mirror. Through the writing of the text, a description of this shared experience is revealed. In this realm of intersubjectivity, all three participants, the artist and both readers, share the same language of psychoanalytical theory and practice, share a familiar journey of clinical practice in their training and influences. In psychodynamic terms, the responses are familiar, accurately highlighting some elements of the artists pathology. I will be looking at the concept of the shared creative experience, the potential space, the intersubjectivity of shared experience, in a future essay.
Am I transferring my feelings on to the reader and in turn the reader is documenting through projection and introjection their desires, needs and frustrations reflected back from the image. What is reflecting back, in the psychodynamic realm, is an interchange between these two things. Through creative play and this process of projection and introjection, important aspects of the relationship are revealed.
For the purpose of this essay, I will discuss from the position of the artworks being a specific type of projective test and in doing so, a way of accessing aspects of the readers' projections. I will research further the notion of intersubjectivity within this project and with this knowledge, in conjunction with a review of the artist intent and documentation of the remaking of pieces produce the final conclusions.
The projective test is a concept used in psychology. The test uses visual modality of the patient, along with interpretive responses from the psychologist, as a way of gaining insight into the psychopathology of the patient. In it, the subject is asked to respond to images, which are described as 'vague material', visual, non-specific, ambiguous images that would induce a narrative from the patient, these responses can then be interpreted. These tests are usually presented in a therapeutic environment, interpretations are written up as the test progressed. Through their stories and from these interpretations, along with other aspects of the subjects personality, patients are assessed. These assessments reveal unconscious motivations and defences on the part of the projector. Further understanding of these stories are made by the reintroduction of the patient to their narratives by the interpreter.
|The Rorschach Inkblot Test|
Probably the most famous of such tests is the Rorschach Test, otherwise known as the 'Inkblot Test', where near symmetrical shapes, produced by folding a sheet of paper containing wet ink, in half and presented to the patient in sequence are used. Developed by the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach in 1921, the test developed into 10 specific inkblots. The resulting shapes, printed on to card, are shown to the subject in order and responses made by the patient noted verbatim. Describing the ambiguous nature of the designs offers an insight into the subjects personality, characteristics and emotional functioning. In the 60's the test was widely used, usually in a therapeutic setting, often with the subject sitting with his/ her back to the interpreter in a relaxed yet controlled atmosphere. Responses to the cards where seen as a form of free association and these initial responses are documented. There is an opportunity to re-engage by re-presenting the cards, offering an opportunity to discuss what they originally saw and explain why. This is known as the enquiry stage.
The results are used to gauge motivations, response tendencies, cognitive operations, affectivity, personal and interpersonal perceptions. The series of cards offering an opportunity to observe clustering process, highlighting defence mechanisms and recurring affects. The external stimuli in the enquiry stage will induce needs, base motives and conflicts.
|The Thematic Apperception Test|
The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) was developed in the 30's by Henry A. Murray and Christiana D. Morgan at the Harvard University. Less ambiguous in nature, situations, in the form of illustrations, could be interpreted by the reader in relation to past experiences and current motivations, this is seen as a more psychodynamic approach than the Inkblot Test. The illustrations devised for this test derived from magazine photographs of the day, it was noted that the decision to use illustrative versions of photographs, as more simplified illustrations, provided more deviant stories, that where more negative. Patients where able to associate with content that comprised people and places, they would tell a story more easily and in doing so, their defences would be lowered and needs and motivations would be highlighted. Because the cards where provocative, yet ambiguous being asked to comment on the outcome of the description of each individual card was an important way of creating a unique narrative from the pictures. The main questions at the outset of the test are stated as,
What has led up to the event shown
What is happening at the moment
What the characters are feeling and thinking
What the outcome of the story was
Again clinical understanding was made of the responses; of the clients projections and although there are scoring systems in place, as with the Inkblot, these are rarely used. Clinical interpretations would be made of the narrative and these used in conjunction with other observations.
The TAT projection test, along with the Inkblot are still used quite extensively in areas of dream interpretation and although not seen as scientifically important provides and creates another extended use of projective evaluation, developed and mainly carried out in a therapeutic environment as a way of learning and getting qualitative data about a patient in the form of unconscious motivations that revolved around relationships in the world of the patient; these ambiguous scenes initiating creative play and in doing so accessing creative thoughts and emotions. As interpretations can clearly vary from one examination to the next, the scoring of such tests have always been highly subjective and have always been seen as problematic to extract quantitive data from such encounters. Empirical viability and validity of TAT and Inkblot test was not accepted as reliable in isolation, however used in conjunction with other therapeutic contact this form of projective testing can offer viable and reliable information. The interpretations would indicate meaning based clinical judgement rather than an understanding from presumptions about meaning; which would be the case of a more objective test.
These tests are popular in the field of psychology as a way of beginning of an understanding of a client, although they show no supportive evidence in a scientific realm, the lack of any scientific evidence is why these reports offer a "projective paradox". Although difficult to quantify, as with much qualities data, these tests are seen as having access to unconscious motivations within the subject otherwise hidden from conscious awareness. Both the Rorschach Inkblot and the Murray TAT projective tests would be therefore seen as 'free responsive tests' as opposed to 'objective tests' (A multiple choice questionnaire for instance). It is augured that the test has produced evidence of clarity around dependency, studies on hostility and anxiety, also providing a valuable resource in communication with schizophrenics and seen as a valuable vehicle in the communication between client and therapist offering a route to insightfulness, empathy and sensitivity to the therapeutic process.
The moving from indiscernible shapes, as with the Inkblot Test, to illustrations that are less ambiguous with the TAT (that uses the language of humanity that of the human form in context of his/her environment) to this project, shows an extension of projective testing to a specific art led process. The importance is the ambiguity of the stimuli that enables the data to emerge and how this is integrated into the overall pathology of the artist integrating with the interpretations.
This project offers a new projective technique, an extension of the Inkblot and TAT tests. By maintaining a relatively narrow focus on chose of readers, of their theoretical understanding, their use of language and interpretations made through the lens of psychoanalytical theory, a shared understanding of latent content is made. When these images are presented for analysis, they are in a relatively raw, unfinished form, using free association, the primary process, as spontaneously as possible and by incorporating as many elements of the primary processes as possible (see future essay). Having been assessed, I will re-make the work for final presentation. This will represent a purely secondary process of integration of the artwork and the text into the final piece. This final piece will represent an accurate image of the artists intent, in collaboration with the readers phantasies of my intent, a shared reality.
Spencer Rowell 2012
 I have noted the concept of the blank screen and how this frustration can reveal itself in a previous essay; the notion of the unconscious communication between a living, feeling and present (although perhaps silent psychotherapist), in the presence of a client, is very different form of encounter as an unresponsive blank screen photograph. How in the case of the artwork not giving anything back, projections of the interpreter are probably the main source of feedback.
 Winnicott described this space of creative play between mother and child and indeed client and analyst as the Potential Space. An area of shared intersubjectivity where individuals can play together; in this shared space new knowledge and understanding an emerge.
 The work is described through a shared language of the British Independent School of thought and language; for instance the references to theory are definable through a shared interest in the interpretations and they present aspects of the artists internal world, insight into the artists psychopathology.
 The self-portraits are presented in a certain frame (the term used literally and in the therapeutic sense), produced by an artist in training that parallels that of the readers, the text is offered in the language of the British Independent school of psychoanalytical theory, creating a focus to the research project and in some way of enabling an understanding of the projections and how they are integration of the readers input.
Wednesday, 11 July 2012
John Cage and W.R. Bion: An Exercise in Interdisciplinary Dialogue
Adela Abdella (2011)
‘I was destroying something for them, and they where destroying something for me’ (Kostelanetz, 1988, p.131) said the musician John Cage, while working in collaboration with his orchestra.
The purpose of this paper is to gain some understanding of the nature of the concept of negative capability (coined by the poet John Keats in1817), and its relation to my project. Negative capability is the concept of the fostering of uncertainty, or having openness to the unknown and to embrace the value of an uncertainty of outcome while engaged in this collaborationist research project. The author converges psychoanalytical theory and practise with the production of self-portraits and their interpretation, this mimics the process in the consulting room and it is here where it is common for the analyst to tolerate this unknowing, holding both his own and clients anxieties while in search of new knowledge. During this process of thinking, new ways of experiencing are offered, a journey to more authentic experiences and of personal growth.
‘Creative people who possess the capacity for negative capability in high degree seem to conceive of themselves as part of the macrocosm and to lack that sense of opposition between their ego and both the outside world and their own unconscious which renders the majority resistive to their own imaginative potentialities. This enables them to allow themselves to make imaginative statements which have both private and universal meaning’ (Rycroft p,167)
The therapeutic exchange is a form of interdisciplinary dialogue, but describing it in terms of both comprehension and understanding is but a dangerous illusion. This is a thesis of both an artist and psychotherapist who seeks to enter into a dialogue between these two fields of knowledge, the holding of an auto-reflective attitude towards photography, which demands the freedom to use and recreate inherited knowledge in a personal and innovative way. It proposes also to use this creativeness in analytical thinking with that of the interpreted photographic self-portraits and their display.
In discussing two seemingly different practices, that of analytical practice and music composition, in her paper, John Cage and W.R. Bion: An Exercise in Interdisciplinary Dialogue (2011), Adela Abdella discusses some creative similarities,
‘…looking for meeting points, listening to other disciplines and to our own echo during this dialogue, putting our theories and models to work in such a way as to let them grow through contact with other fields of knowledge’ p475
In this paper, Abella draws comparisons with the work of the psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion and John Cage, a composer of avant garde music. Abella argues that in both cases, they propose that spontaneity is an illusion while searching for a new and the unknown (p. 480), a disruptive state where physic pain is synonymous with creative and psychic growth. The contrary reluctance to face the unknown ’taking refuge in certainty’ (Bion 1967a p. 158) has a defensive, disruptive character without potential.
Cage states that the ‘changes that had taken place in this century… are such that art is not an escape from life but rather an introduction to it’ (Kostelanetz, 1988, p. 226).
‘I want to give up the traditional view that art is a means of self expression for the view that art is a means of self-alteration, and what it alters is mind… We will change beautifully if we accept the uncertainties of change’ (p. 230)
In comparison, Bion’s view of psychoanalysis is
‘In psychoanalytic methodology, the criterion cannot be whether a particular usage is right or wrong, meaningful or verifiable, but whether it does, or does not, promote development’ (Bion1962b p. ix)
Bion and Cage are advocating the suppression of the creativity of the artist to allow in that which is the creative in the reader; as also happens in the therapeutic exchange. Then the project becomes a collaborative project as the joint narrative unfolds. Cage would acknowledge that the performer allows for the self expression of the audience, Bion would restrict the intervention of the analyst’s activity, a non-expression or silent attitude of the analyst, in order to leave as much space as possible for the patients personal worlds.
The function of the images produced and the documentation of their reception is not to seek awareness per se, but to change the mind so that they can be open to experience, to allow other possibilities; those that haven’t otherwise been considered. This is the nature of the search for new knowledge, to open our eyes to the complexity of personal imagery, to work in an environment that cannot be simply or quickly satisfied. Openness to the new and unknown, free of memory, although taking advantage of it. Images that are too emotional or too intentional try to dominate people, they try to engage the readers to such an extent that they cut off this unconscious interdisciplinary dialogue. Of course, one of the problems with interdisciplinary comparisons is that there will be different results when realised among other fields; the same idea can have different destinies, depending on the creative personality of the one applying it and the one who reads, the medium of the field allowing different realisations of the same artwork.
In Cage’s thought provoking statement ‘The function of art is to hide beauty; that has to do with opening our minds, because the notion of beauty is just what we accept’ (p 85), highlights the importance of drawing conclusions too soon of a collaborative process. Bion would say the trying to search for the patient’s truth, instead of resting on the dangers of known truths. ‘We are incapable of learning if we are satisfied’, indicates Bion.
‘The verbal expression can be so formalised, so rigid, so filled with so many existing ideas, that the idea I want to express can have the life squeezed out of it’ Bion 1967a, p. 141) Although art production and awareness fosters curiosity, the problem for Bion is that the use of language impedes. ‘The over stifling nature of words can create there own illusions’. Cage says ‘when you succeed in defining and cutting things off from something, you thereby take the life out of them. It isn’t any longer as true as it was when it was incapable of being defined” p119
A disciplined attitude to the work, allowing discovery, uncertainty and being in unfamiliar territory will open up new opportunities, the need to avoid too quick, too superficial and thus too partial understandings is unhelpful, the paradox of mental discomfort keen to contribute, struggle to read, to frustrate the process of the revealing of knowledge or not. ‘The shaking up of certainties to reveal ready made truths enliven a blunt and stifled mind’.
The work of this thesis is to provide or underpin a piece of interdisciplinary dialogue, both enriching and also in this process limiting it. Questions raised will be, are there substantial convergence between the production of self-portraits and there interpretation and are these on a superficial level or do they, viewed through the lens of psychoanalytical theory, convey some fundamental aspects of thinking of both producer and reader?
Keats’s theory of negative capability, where the ability to allow oneself to be ‘in uncertainties of emotions in universal terms, distinguishing between the universal and the individual’, is the nature of this project and having negative capability as the intuitive process of being in an uncertain state, in that the hope that new meaning as outcome will emerge, is of value. where art meets life.
Spencer Rowell 2012
Charles Rycroft. The Innocence of Dreams (1979)
As a society, we set such high value on verbal and written expression of language. Outside the artists environment of art and poetry, little attention is made to the interpretations of dreams or other forms of unconscious communication, seeing them perhaps on the one hand irrational, imagined symbols, against the other, the rational language, the world of the grounded and realistic. Of course we are all communicating in both these ways, creative interplay is rife, and as an artist and psychotherapist, it is I who wants to document this process of where image becomes language.
Our dreams, which I shall call creative imaginings that we present to the world, are free from conscious manipulation; they are where we wish to be, what we wish for or hope to be or not to be. They are places we once knew, or states we would want for are imagined, a place to share with people we love and warn against places we might find ourselves with those we wouldn’t want to be with. Imagination can be interpreted as an awake version of dreams experienced in sleep. We lose the ability too recognise the importance of these affective messages as images or symbols; these messages free from the veils of our defence.
Rather than sleeping dreams, this project consists of gaining insight from the visual representations of hypnagogia and hynopompic experience. It is the realisation of images that emerge from a dream-state, those images that might appear while falling asleep or images immediately accessed upon awakening. This ‘threshold consciousness’ as it is known, can be described as a point at which ego boundaries are loosened; it could be described as when one might have more openness to sensitivity or to be in a state of a more heightened suggestibility. It has long been thought that the hypnagogic state can provide insight into a problem. The best-known example being August Kekulé’s realisation that the structure of benzene was a closed ring while half-asleep in front of a fire and seeing molecules forming into snakes, one of which grabbed its tail in its mouth. Many other artists, writers, scientists and inventors—including Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Walter Scott, Salvador Dalí, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Isaac Newton, have credited hypnagogia and related states with enhancing their creativity.
These creative imaginings can be used to allude to ideas, narratives, recollections and feelings. During these transitional states, this semblance of undefended imagination, as they travel from unconscious to a pre-conscious state, loose the capacity for reality testing - they are initially seen as hallucinations, however there is within them an act of knowingness, a display with indifference that is uncontaminated by self conscious will.
The self-portrait is a way of observing these phenomena that we make for ourselves. These images, freely associate and to an extent are free from defence, (which may come into play to disown responsibility), they create an opportunity to get more of an objective look on our innermost feelings. To be, in the words of Rycroft, ‘a momentary glimpses of the dreamers total imaginative fabric, glimpses into the fabric, where are woven all memories, expectations, wishes and fears’. (p. xi)
There is an aspect to these images that are alien to me, that they are my dream-self as someone other than myself. Initially there is no connection; they could not possibly reveal anything of myself. They are as aspects of myself that hasn’t yet been assimilated into myself. Jung, Calvin Hall and others have recommended that dreams should be studied not singly, but in a series.
These unassimilated parts of self are sent for assessment, a form of fractured objectivity about oneself. If these individual images have any meaning or message, then the way these messages are communicated must apply to the process as well. A self-conception process begins; enhanced by making others witness these un-assimilated parts, (as we do in therapy), a way of discovering different aspects, or symbols, that are not initially understood.
Freud would describe dreaming more in terms of hallucinations, a mechanism to repress wishes. The symbols produced would be described as a neurotic symptom, created from this repressive agency. The two distinct types of mental functioning where Freud described as primary and secondary processes - the primary process being characterised by condensation, displacement and symbolisation, the secondary process being governed by logic, speech and language. These primary processes described by Freud are a mode of thinking very different from conscious thinking, they are the mechanisms of the unconscious mind; they are both primitive and archaic. The internal agency would distort, repress dream imagery into unrecognisable and generally unrecognisable parts, this agency he called the censor and later the super ego.
Condensation and displacement are the prime mechanisms of the primary process, these are no more than wish-fulfilment hallucinations and are, according to Freud, characteristic of unconscious thinking. Condensation is where two or more images are fused together to create effectively a composite, who’s meaning is from both. It is common for people to be fused, often with aspects of self and others. When an object or feeling is displaced on to something it symbolises or refers obliquely to something else, becoming a symbolic substitute. Displacement is the process of symbol formation; it can also represent creations of figures of speech such as a metaphor in language.
If in `Freud’s terms dreams are the product of a neurosis, then all daydreamers are neurotic. The question arises, what is it within the artist accesses these symbols is able to use artistic expression to act as such a representation of the human condition, without implying that it is simply the pathology of the creator. It is this lack of image integration of these un-integrated parts that in our imagination resembles our dreams.
So a dream to Freud was a repressed wish that was veiled, to produce manifest content from latent content, an interpretation was needed; to unscramble these bit-parts and distortions imposed on by the censor. Free association is the technique Freud used to access this latent content. By following the first line of communication or idea in the analytical situation the journey to manifest content begins. The translated content from this primarily visual content expressed in discourse Freud called secondary revision.
The Jungian term for secondary revision would be amplification. Jung placed more importance on dreams and considered them as much a product of the dreamer as of the collective unconscious. The fractured images re-combined, fragments from external images, along with universally occurring experience. He also considered us dreaming continually while awake, the chatter of consciousness simply drowning them out. More to do with psycho-physical rearrangements and integration, than with hallucinatory gratification and of repressed wishes that Freud believed. But what of the creative imagination of the viewer? These images create transference between the image and the viewer and as a series, the part objects can be formed into a more rounded picture, they become part of the combined experience projected on to the photograph. This combined knowledge is a mental picture created of the intersubjective space between the object and viewer. By observing the narrative, over time, discerning meaning from previous work; this becomes the knowledge that underpins future interpretations.
Connection between creative imagination and dreaming long recognised by writers and artists themselves however legitimate to discuss the nature of this relationship. This project can seen as a fusion of concepts of images ideas, (condensation) replaced by language (displacement) and symbolising other representing another symbolisation in the presence of the viewer, observing the relationship between these two selves in dialogue, the unconscious revealing, the transition to consciousness, the narrative of primary processes becoming of communication to secondary processes.
The self-portraits I produce are not dreams, however they come from this place of half-light, as an intra-personal communication, a communication between two aspects of the same person. These could be seen as messages from one part - self to the other, symbolic messages. Interpretation could bring an intuitive understanding of these metaphors and symbols, a reflexive mental activity, one part observing, one of reflecting upon; an internal discussion with objectivity. To amplify or create a secondary revision, analysis of these images becomes text and this is used to make a set of statements about a combined narrative, a constructed metaphor, the project becomes an interpersonal communication when assessed.
Biography imagined, becomes a shared biographical experience.
Spencer Rowell 2012
Spencer Rowell 2012