‘Since culture is essentially a social phenomenon, the individualistic preoccupations of psychoanalysis must be balanced by contrasting contributions from social studies. And since existence is not exclusively mental, the psychic preoccupations of psychoanalysis must be balanced by material ones. We must, in short, work towards a psycho-social-materialists synthesis’
I will use this quote – a call for if not a transdisciplinary approach, then certainly an inter-approach – to lead into some conclusions to this series of blogs, and to pose some questions of art and psychology.
Firstly, we look to artists for many reasons, they fulfil for us many cultural roles; but we must not forget that they are also human and they will encounter the same problems as us, the audience, and will be just as resistant to change as the next person. We as the audience must not collude in their message but find our own narrative in the art experience and we must accept that art is one of a number of resources we have to both change ourselves and our society but that as with therapy, it can only ‘help’ not ‘solve’.
Secondly, if we accept that emotion is created in the interaction between the audience and the art object, it follows that its presentational context is key, but the exhibition space is a separate space from lived experience, which governs how we react to/with the art, does not open up contingency. Furthermore, the ‘tenetisation’ of ‘Art’ does not allow for Lacan’s notion that meaning is individual or ambiguous, for meaning is prescribed to us by experts.
It is only with contemporary participatory art do we see a move from this dialogical relationship with art that is effectively ‘othered’ to a relational one, with the ‘expert in the room’ being the artist, the participants and the work they create. Participatory art informs us that any interpretation is ‘right’, as with Lacan, that experience is both imaginary and unique. Thus participatory arts practice needs special study as art psychology has not looked at this yet and I would argue, is not equipped to – only a transdiscipline such as that of the psychosocial could do this as understands interrelation between self and others.
Thirdly, investigation is needed on to what degree artists ascribe identity to their work and to which audience find identity in it, on site-specific, community, participatory works, who for and how the work is made, and the set of experiences these engender
My first question of this series of blogs is what can such knowledge do to help us that work in the arts work better?
For us as a working sector I also pose the question of how can this knowledge and any debate stemming from it, help us work with artists better? Does this explanation of creativity resonate with you and is it relevant to contemporary practice? Does this differ across art forms? Is loss indeed the starting point?
The art experience is an ambivalent one; we can seek it out or we can actively avoid it as it could be confrontational or painful. How do our sectors work with increasing access, participatory and community arts and art therapy accord with this way of approaching audience interaction? There is a recognised audience resistance to going to designated art spaces – is this because they are spaces perceived to be contingent, a ‘special’ space where change could happen, change which may not be welcomed?
The next go on to question from the psychoanalytical perspective.
This is a Western and white response to art, the therapeutic relationship and the psychosocial – responses to art are culturally specific at a certain level, so how would the ‘art experience’ read in other cultures, if at all?
Does the notion of artists articulating that which we, the audience, cannot, offer us too obvious/easy opportunity for mirroring? Does it get us off the hook of our own ‘surrender and reflection’? If it does, is this the role of the Mother in translating emotional trauma for us, into art?
If that is the case, do we recognise the ambivalent state in the artist and allow them the cultural privilege to create, be open to contingency and therefore intrapshyically change on our behalf’s?
Does involvement in participatory, dynamic, continuously-evolving art alleviate the sense of loss for an artist, forestalling the completion of a piece?