Symposium: 24th November 2011, 1.30pm
Exhibition: 20th November - 16th December
Private View: December 1st, 6-8pm
In conjunction with the East London Archive
London Metropolitan University, Whitechapel
Dr Chris Oakley
Dr Nick Haeffner
At London Metropolitan University and part of the East London Archive.
The work in Shadows of Doubt relates to the East End of the film director Alfred Hitchcock’s 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. The symposium will look the relationship between childhood and artistic creation, memory as a fictive image and the role of architecture in filmic and photographic representation.
‘The infants initial world is made of symbols, created concrete objects made from his pre-verbal structuring. Does the artist hang on to this unique much earlier code of communication?’ Winnicott.
Much is debated about Hitchcock’s work and its representation. The images I show play with this idea of subjective experience of concrete objects, perhaps bringing external form from some inner state, not necessarily the ‘real’ external world but that of its interior, of inner experience. Can these pictures be seen as portraying the shapes of non-verbal imagery?
Segal, a Kleinian psychoanalyst stated that the rebuilding of these fragments of symbols of scattered objects is the creative act. Do these objects represent the filmmaker’s first ‘not-me’ objects, a subjective part of the infant’s memories of earlier experience?
The attempt is to recast subjective feeling states into more or less objective form as new photographic objects.
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 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 defenses 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.
Spencer Rowell 2011