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, 23 June 2012

Self-appraisal of presentation made at the AMD/ASD PhD Student Conference 14th June 2012.

14th June 2012.

I was nervous, feeling I was trying to deliver too much information. The more successful presentations, in my view, were more simple and tried to keep focus on the research question and methodology. Generally I felt that I was having a difficulty defending my presentation. This was due to the fact that I am still unsure of my question and how it will add to future knowledge. Quite a drawback!

However, having talked to Stuart Evens and Nick after the presentation, I was led to believe that this was not so unusual and they seemed quite positive, Stuart explaining that the presentation was interesting, having lots of ‘bits’ that needed simplifying and that I just need to find the ‘glue’ and Nick suggesting that the outcome could be of value to other therapists working in the area of photo-therapy.

These where the questions posed in my presentation:
Research Question           
Can the documentation of image production through the use of the camera as a therapeutic tool, deepen our understanding of human functioning? By paralleling the therapeutic engagement in the consulting room, can it create a new narrative, its process documented through continued assessment and adaptation?

Research Method
Mixed. The reason for combining both quantitative and qualitative data, is to better understand this research problem by converging both quantitative images (broad theoretical trends) and qualitative data (detailed views), as with the language emerging from the images.
(John Creswell, Design research, 2009 p.135)
The intent of this concurrent mixed method study is to document the production of self-portraits alongside their interpretation by the author and other trained psychotherapists. Throughout this study, a third party collaborator (psychoanalytic reader) will be asked to measure the relationship between the analysts subjective comments and the artists self-portraits, over time.

To achieve a higher level of abstraction, where patterns, themes and clusters of knowledge can be seen and documented. Psychoanalytic theory is used as a lens, through which to observe this data of both image and text. New images create interpretations which in turn creates a new narrative.

Aims and Outcomes
Through production of these photographs, I will give external form to inner states. My concern as an artist are with the ways in which the production of these photographs, their reception, analysis and relation to analytical theory, can be incorporated into an on-going art practice.
I offer this project as a way of introducing the reader to the concept of pre-verbal communication and its importance in both aesthetic production and art appreciation, how this is translated into language and documented.

My Assessment
To work towards the “making of an original and significant contribution to knowledge and understanding in the relevant field of study as judged by independent experts applying accepted contemporary international standards”.
And it is not:
"The degree is not awarded as an expression of the aesthetic value, social worth or cultural significance of particular achievements, i.e. for high professional competence and peer recognition alone." (Biggs, 2000).
And one of the statements made about it in the University of Queensland Doctor of Philosophy Handbook (page 1) reads:
“The doctoral thesis provides evidence of a contribution to knowledge with a level of originality consistent with 3-4 years of full-time study and supervised research training”.

A Few Key Questions
I would like to clarify the actual research question and whether its practice based or practice led. Why my methodology and not another, justify my methods? The contribution to knowledge, who takes this research on? What sorts of contribution are typically made in dissertations?
It can be seen as:
A re-contextualization of an existing technique, providing language, to gain awareness from content (images), as opposed to providing language and knowledge from a therapeutic engagement. Language that can be established as offering insight and new knowledge. The image offers affective meaning and affective communication from the artist.
Implementation of theoretical principle: showing how it can be applied in practice; making a physical representation of established psychoanalytical theories.
Empirically based (or language based) characterisation of a phenomenon of interest (therapeutic value of photographic production)
Well-founded critique of existing theory or evidence (e.g. correlating the results of a number of existing studies to show patterns, omissions or etc.)

'Art-practice-led' or 'Art-practice-based'
If a creative artifact is the basis of the contribution to knowledge, the research is practice-based. If the research leads primarily to new understandings about practice, it is practice-led.
"Research which is initiated in practice, where questions, problems, challenges are identified and formed by the needs of practice and practitioners; and, secondly,
‘That the research strategy is carried out through practice, using predominantly methodologies and specific methods familiar to us as practitioners in the visual arts and design." (CRIAD, 2000).
My Art-practice involve the making of artwork (Practice based), and is a major part of the research process. Information is derived from the images (Practice led). This process is documented, however, in context of a narrative produced (the image informs the next) this part can be seen as a Practice-led project.
Practice-based Research is an original investigation undertaken in order to gain new knowledge partly by means of practice and the outcomes of that practice. It includes artefacts in the form of photographic images, whilst the significance and context of the claims are described in words. A full understanding can only be obtained with direct reference to those outcomes. These outcomes from the research process will be included in the submission for examination and the claim for an original contribution to the field are held to be demonstrated through the original creative work.
The outcomes and primary focus of the research is not to advance knowledge about practice, or to advance knowledge within practice. So I conclude this is not a practice –led thesis.

Is everything practice led? May involve practice. The project will be enhanced and modified. The camera is used as a research tool. Practice based ... Theory led project. Practice informed…. Informed by knowledge of practice. Modify, practice based to theory led Practice feeds work Meaning comes from theory.

Conclusion (suggested in the form of an 'elevator pitch')
My research is a combination of my interest in the self-portrait photography and psychotherapy. How a lens-based artist might exhibit their internal world externally through the combination of photographic self-portraits and their interpretation, how this can be documented over time, thus paralleling the process in psychoanalysis.
Through collaboration with The Guild, I produce self-portraits that area interpreted as sessions, by two analysts, once monthly over two years. With these interpretations the images become represented as language. The documentation of this process (1)as individual encounters and 2) a narrative over time) is described through the lens of psychoanalytical theory.

Spencer Rowell 2012

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Externalise Me, Internalise You.

Projection, Identification, Projective Identification. Edited by J. Sandler (1988)

As much as psychoanalysis is concerned with the interaction between the outer world and its relationship with an inner world (how we take in and make sense of external events and how we put our inner thoughts and understandings back out into the outer world), I am intrigued how this parallels photographic self-portraiture along with its assessment as a form of internal self-expression. This project and the production of self-portraits and their assessment offers an opportunity to build aspects of the self and observe how they relate to external objects from a more objective viewpoint.

Is this work simply a form of self-imposed fragmentation followed by reparation, or through the temporary loss of inner self, diffusion and re-identity? Do I display my images, because of my incapacity to differentiate subject (the photograph) and object (me), from reality (the print) and phantasy of the image, (what it is about?). Through what process do I, as the artist, discard unwanted parts of myself, in the form of photographs, and value taking in, in the form of language, interpretations. Also, what of the interpreter in this mĂȘlĂ©e? In losing my state of independence, through dependence on the analysts’ responding to my work, how do I, in phantasy, transmit my thoughts into their minds; do they contain those thoughts and return them to me? As I ponder these reflections of theirs’ and I offer more images that in turn, have potential of more discoveries and awareness to my inner world, does an alternative picture emerge, a narrative of sorts, in me and also perhaps, a narrative of them?

The Guild becomes the container and the frame, where the image is scrutinised by the examiners. In an attempt to understand the complexities of the interactions between these internalisations and externalisations and the subsequent modification of the sequence of images produced, will the documentation and the final exhibition show by means of visual representation and use of text, a more accurate image of internal representation?

A sequence of these images over time offer perhaps, more of an opportunity for reflection, but how is this image really me, you may ask? Self-portrait photography as a method of communication can of course be the act of making more concrete that experience of our internal world, a way of putting undigested bit-parts of experience and other inner experiences into an object, the print to be viewed. Self-portrait photography can display that interchange of self and non-self, the act of creation, in picking up bits that are in existence and re-forming them into something original, a form of photographic communication, used as a way of getting these experiences understood and along with there interpretations, to have them returned in a more manageable and different form, that of language. Does this project give me the opportunity to discard affect into an ‘other’? Externalise it perhaps temporarily, and once outside of self, give me the capacity to think and reflect, does it becoming a de-toxifying process? The process of documenting this Projective-Introjective dance, the former as an image sent to The Guild, then re-introjected in the form of language as it returned from The Guild, along with the assessors projections could be one way.

Projection and Introjection are seen as representing opposite sides of the same coin, an unconscious form of communication and the basis of art appreciation and interpretation.  In this context I will suggest that Projection and Introjection, used in this mature way, is more than simply an opportunity to appreciate and gain another level of understanding, between the artist and the photograph, the photograph and the assessor, an opportunity to understand something of the viewer.
Projection and Introjection is the process by which we can describe interactions between the inner (including intra-relativeness) and outer worlds of artist and viewer, a place where they merge and interrelate. This communication of aspects of self is ‘a rapid oscillation of projection and introjections’, says Money-Kyrle (1988), ‘unconsciously acquiring affective experience’. This process has its roots in early infant/mother relations, the infant cannot say how he feels, he simply makes his mother experience the same feeling. This communication is seen as them connecting in a deep and unconscious way, the mother will react that will facilitate the infant's psychic growth; the same happens in the therapeutic setting between analyst and analysand. This project seeks to engage with the viewer in a similar way, to engage on this unconscious level through Projection and Introjection.

Projection takes aspects of one's internal world and puts them onto external subjects; an unconscious process of excretion and expulsion. In this project, we include the reverse enactment; where the internal world of the viewer is incorporated into the image being viewed, it is projected also. It is this 'output' from the viewers’ internal world into the report, the viewers’ own projections, which can be seen as 'input' into the final assessment. Projection and Introjection is an intercommunicative process of shared understanding, it is a creative interplay of shared experience.

The process as it occurs in child development can be dissected into three phases (Ogden, 1982):
1) The projector rids himself of unwanted bits;
2) Deposits them into (not just onto) the receiver;
3) Recovers a modified version of his projected bits.
Without this third phase, the process is not therapeutic or helpful to the projector.

The above therapeutic process parallels that which is undertaken by this project:
1) Where the photographer disposes into an image un-resolved, un-differentiated parts of his pre-verbal past;
2) These messages are placed via a print ‘into’ The Guild;
3) The artist recovers a modified version in the form of language.
From this third phase the photographer seeks more awareness from subsequent portraits.

So projection and introjection are a related process, the communication of relationships between internal objects and with that of the outside world and vice versa. It regulates the individual’s interaction with the outside world and the observations of which in the therapeutic situation, will build a picture of that internal space. In both analysis and in the viewers’ interpretation of my work, this is done by the process of formulating internal boundaries, it involves creating an image of self, of that self’s relationships and the interaction between the two. When confronted by this image, the viewer often is in an initial state of confusion; an unconscious personal representation is called for. A boundary is set; ‘this is I’ and ‘that is he’. This is a disidentification process, where the ego says, ‘I distinguish between self and object, I will create a boundary’. (Sandler, J. 1988) pxx. By instigating the notion of play alongside often intense concentration, the viewers’ boundaries become merged and temporally suspended with the image. Here the viewer brings life experience to the engagement, there is a sense of the artist analysing the viewer. This process is what Sandler calls ‘sorting out’, where ‘aspects of the object–representation are incorporated into the self-representation and vice-versa.’ (1988) p26. This process is the basis for empathy in the consulting room.

To look at Projection in its broadest terms we see it, along with Introjection, as an organizing structure, in constant interplay across shared boundaries. A bringing together of un-differentiated differences, it is the way the artist sees the world and that of how the viewer perceives the same world, that together they have the capacity to bring them together and ask questions. Through this process we describe the world in subjective terms, by testing, inherently organising an continually unconsciously reflecting on the individuals internal world. Projection without Introjection would be a pointless affair, no comparison, no feedback, even in phantasy. Creativity is inhabitating these cross borders, it is the art of playing in a combined experience, The creative development comes from the constant interplay of Projective and Introjective structures in this shared environment.

But in context of the analysts’ interpretation of these photographic images, it is the reaching beneath the surface into what is the subterranean world of the artist in combination with the viewer, that is this unconscious process. The ‘sorting out’ from which we want to gain knowledge of the internal space, this is the shared world of artist and viewer, it is this externalisation of the work and expectations of a response that could be described as creative interaction. As viewers, don’t we go to art galleries to give and to receive? The viewers experiences coupled with the ideas of the artist (often misunderstood, confused expressions) are locked in an unconscious conversation, in phantasy, enabling union and a level of understanding, this is a re-enactment of a pre-verbal, or early infant experience.

The artwork also acts as a temporary container, where this lack of initial understanding is held, my need to return to the artwork for further understanding, or to relate to it as being part of a sequence and through the reverie of the engagement with the assessments, gain access to a direct descendant of inner worlds, a pre-verbal state that I am attempting to disentangle. One role of the analyst is to simply hold on to the therapeutic content while the patient process it, a temporary container, enabling the client to maintain an ability to think.

The viewing of the work is a difficult process for the analysts’, it involves them getting caught up in the affectual nature of object relations. Many of the images will not ‘pierce’, to use Barthes term, they will dissolve, counter, overlap and often create ambivalence of the viewers’ experience of communication. Though this play and interaction, I am asking them to see something; a representation of my internal world and in it, how theirs intertwines with it.

The viewer therefore creates and crosses these boundaries set up by the artist and through internalisation and externalisation responds to the work. Projection and Introjection must be seen as a developmental and in a differentiating perspective on image engagement; it is this concept that is behind creative engagement.

‘The interplay of introjective and projective mechanisms weaves a pattern of relatedness’s to the world of objects and provides the fabric out of which the individual fashions his own self image’ … ‘Out of this interplay also develops his capacity to relate to and identify with the objects in his environment.’’ (Sandler, J. 1988) p35

Through interpretation, and over time however, as in therapy, from a combined narrative, awareness emerges. It is essential to acknowledge the importance of the observers’ projections in the formulation of conclusions for this project as it being of a shared experience. Art appreciation requires projection.

Spencer Rowell 2012