Thursday, 13 November 2008

Introduction to Psychoanalysis and Art

by Melanie Gilligan

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) Father of Psychoanalysis. He was a conservative art collector. Liked primitive art, wrote a text about Leonardo Da Vinci. Huge impact on popular culture, before him no/less ideas about what our subjectivity is. Process of thought from life affecting behaviour.
Context, end of 19th century Vienna, decline of social structures in the Austrian empire. Beginning point - same time as Modern Art wanted to break open, breaking with tradition.

So, they share a historical beginning and artists were drawing directly on Freud's psychoanalytical theories - surrealism. origins/dreams/fantasies/sublimation. Also terms from psychoanalysis entered art theory language - Hal Foster.

Basic concepts
The unconscious - mental functioning that you are unaware of. Sending thoughts and feelings into the conscious mind.
Repression / neurosis (symptoms) - powerful emotional energy. Painful memories, damaging to the mind are buried. In the context of the time - strict adherence to social norms, keeping in check. Also valid today.
Clues are interpreted by analyst and pressure can by relieved by talking, free association, hypnosis.

Photos by Jean-Martin Charcot of hysterics. Josef Breuer - colleague, the case of Anna O.

Avant garde art was also happening at the time - Picasso, Matisse toying with Primitivism - as a way beyond Western social conventions, more pure - immediate, instinctual.

Art of the Insane
Hans Prinzhorn collection. Art Brut - Paul Klee, Max Ernst, Jean Dubuffet.

Dream Interpretation
The royal road to the unconscious. Dreams illustrate the logic of the unconscious - visual experience, symbols with emotional charge/metaphors/resembling poetic speech.
Visual images juxtaposed in poetic ways. Breakdown of meaning, logic links are lost. Maps of intimate connections significant for the dreamer.
Breton-outside aesthetic/moral interpretation.
Kant - Modernism - disinterested play of thought.
Giorgio de Chirico - pre surrealist.
Free play, unconscious/uncontrolled, intuition not rational thought.
Max Ernst - collages juxtaposing different realities - recombining in a surrealist way.

Maybe two 'uses' of psychoanalysis for artists:

1. Idea of the unconscious as a method for generating new images, biographical details of the artists life - is this interesting? e.g. Automatic writing - unlock areas of the psyche - Giselle Procenos - Femme infant - through her innocence untainted creativity, less logic bound.

2. Using it as a tool to critique the power structures that create identities. e.g. Feminist viewpoint might be that male dominated, women sublimated, objects of desire. Gender relationships of power.

After the war brought about a variety of influences into the collective unconscious e.g. Cobra, Art Informel, Jackson Pollock etc.

More politically/socially concerned. Feminism, process and performance art 60s and 70s was critiquing patriarchal (
Adj.1.patriarchal - characteristic of a form of social organization in which the male is the family head and title is traced through the male line

Jacques Lacan - moving Freud's idea forward.

Basic concepts
Mirror stage - experienced in childhood as the child sees him/herself in the mirror. Establishing their own identity/subjectivity - individual. Stable coherent version of ourself. This is the moment you enter the subjective order and you keep this in your imagination throughout your life.
The Gaze - concept - visual aspect of yourself. The uncanny feeling that your gaze is looking back at you. Anxiety, vulnerability. e.g The Ambassadors by Holbein.
Mary Kelly - Post-partum document 1973-79, lectures on Lacan.
Barbara Kruger - 'Your gaze hits the side of my face' 81-83.

Video - The Aesthetics of Narcissism by Rosalind Krauss - 1st issue of October.

Melanie Klein - Psychoanalysis of children - Object relations theory. D W Winnicott.

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