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.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Mum, Dad and I

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[1] 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[2], 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

[1] 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)
[2] The language of psychodynamic psychotherapy, is used as a descriptive mechanism of communication as paralleling the client /psychotherapist relationship.

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