For Want of Ambiguity: Order and Chaos in Art, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience 9781501348839, 9781501348860, 9781501348853

For Want of Ambiguity investigates how the dialogue between psychoanalysis and neuroscience can shed light on the transf

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For Want of Ambiguity: Order and Chaos in Art, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience
 9781501348839, 9781501348860, 9781501348853

Table of contents :
Introduction: (Re)making meaning
1 Shaping private demons
2 A play of selves: Art as play
3 Narrating the self
4 Mapping: The need for borders
5 The fluidity of time and space in art, psychoanalysis, and neuroscience
6 Resisting representation
Conclusion: Order and chaos or framing ambiguity
About the authors

Citation preview

For Want of Ambiguity

PSYCHOANALYTIC HORIZONS Psychoanalysis is unique in being at once a theory and a therapy, a method of critical thinking and a form of clinical practice. Now in its second century, this fusion of science and humanism derived from Freud has outlived all predictions of its demise. Psychoanalytic Horizons evokes the idea of a convergence between realms as well as the outer limits of a vision. Books in the series test disciplinary boundaries and will appeal to scholars and therapists who are passionate not only about the theory of literature, culture, media, and philosophy but also, above all, about the real life of ideas in the world. Series Editors Esther Rashkin, Mari Ruti, and Peter L. Rudnytsky Advisory Board Salman Akhtar, Doris Brothers, Aleksandar Dimitrijevic, Lewis Kirshner, Humphrey Morris, Hilary Neroni, Dany Nobus, Lois Oppenheim, Donna Orange, Peter Redman, Laura Salisbury, Alenka Zupancˇicˇ Volumes in the Series Mourning Freud, Madelon Sprengnether Does the Internet Have an Unconscious?: Slavoj Žižek and Digital Culture, Clint Burnham In the Event of Laughter: Psychoanalysis, Literature and Comedy, Alfie Bown On Dangerous Ground: Freud’s Visual Cultures of the Unconscious, Diane O’Donoghue For Want of Ambiguity: Order and Chaos in Art, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience, Ludovica Lumer and Lois Oppenheim Born After: Reckoning with the German Past (forthcoming), Angelika Bammer The Analyst’s Desire: Ethics in Theory and Clinical Practice (forthcoming), Mitchell Wilson At the Risk of Thinking: An Intellectual Biography of Julia Kristeva (forthcoming), Alice Jardine

For Want of Ambiguity Order and Chaos in Art, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience Ludovica Lumer and Lois Oppenheim

BLOOMSBURY ACADEMIC Bloomsbury Publishing Inc 1385 Broadway, New York, NY 10018, USA 50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP, UK BLOOMSBURY, BLOOMSBURY ACADEMIC and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published in the United States of America 2019 Paperback edition published 2020 Copyright © Ludovica Lumer and Lois Oppenheim, 2019 For legal purposes the Acknowledgments on p. xi constitute an extension of this copyright page. Series design by Daniel Benneworth-Grey Cover image: shows a detail from Kankai (the sea), 1990, oil on canvas. Kazuo Shiraga, private collection. Courtesy of Axel Vervoordt Gallery. Photo © Jan Liégeois All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Bloomsbury Publishing Inc does not have any control over, or responsibility for, any third-party websites referred to or in this book. All internet addresses given in this book were correct at the time of going to press. The author and publisher regret any inconvenience caused if addresses have changed or sites have ceased to exist, but can accept no responsibility for any such changes. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Lumer, Ludovica, author. | Oppenheim, Lois, author. Title: For want of ambiguity: order and chaos in art, psychoanalysis, and neuroscience / Ludovica Lumer and Lois Oppenheim. Description: New York: Bloomsbury Academic, Bloomsbury Publishing Inc, 2019. | Series: Psychoanalytic horizons | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018058744 | ISBN 9781501348839 (hardback) | ISBN 9781501348853 (epdf) | ISBN 9781501348860 (xml-platform) Subjects: LCSH: Order (Philosophy) | Art—Philosophy. | Psychoanalysis and art. | Neurosciences and the arts. Classification: LCC B105.O7 L86 2019 | DDC 302.2/223—dc23 LC record available at ISBN: HB: 978-1-5013-4883-9 PB: 978-1-5013-6758-8 ePDF: 978-1-5013-4885-3 eBook: 978-1-5013-4884-6 Series: Psychoanalytic Horizons Typeset by RefineCatch Limited, Bungay, Suffolk To find out more about our authors and books visit and sign up for our newsletters.

For our families

Being is what is constantly putting form into danger. SAMUEL BECKETT


Figures  viii Foreword by Semir Zeki  ix Acknowledgments  xi

Introduction: (Re)making meaning  1 Shaping private demons 


2 A play of selves: Art as play  3 Narrating the self 




4 Mapping: The need for borders 


5 The fluidity of time and space in art, psychoanalysis, and neuroscience  99 6 Resisting representation 


Conclusion: Order and chaos or framing ambiguity  147 Notes  151 Bibliography  167 About the authors  177 Index  179


1.1 Yerbossyn Meldibekov and Nurbossin Oris, Cardinale 1, from the series Giacometti 1.2 Ida Barbarigo, Demoni svaghi (Saturno) 1.3 Barbara Hammer, Sanctus-­frame 2.1 Cindy Sherman, A Play of Selves 2.2 Cindy Sherman, Untitled 2.3 Jo Anne Schneider, Doll 3.1 Lois Greenfield, Bill T. Jones 3.2 Xavier Le Roy, Self Unfinished 3.3 Francis Bacon, Three Studies for Self-Portrait 4.1 Diamante Faraldo, A nord del futuro 4.2 Ai Weiwei, The Unilever Series: Sunflower Seeds 4.3 Hyungkoo Lee, Altering Facial Features with RH5 5.1 Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe, stills from video Cafe Elefant 5.2 Braco Dimitrijevic´, Triptychos Post Historicus or The Late Years Bananas on the Line Again 5.3 Ori Gersht, Liquidation, The Mountain 5.4 Clarity Haynes, Michael 6.1 Agnes Martin, Loving Love 6.2 Shozo Shimamoto, performance at 2nd Gutai exhibition, Ohara Kaikan, Tokyo, October 1956 6.3 William Kentridge, production still from I am not me, the horse is not mine, lecture/performance

16 17 22 31 43 45 54 65 73 85 92 96 107 113 117 118 131 141 145


I am very pleased that a book on ambiguity in the context of neuroaesthetics has been written and especially pleased that it has been written by friends. One of the primordial functions of the brain is to acquire knowledge; to do so, the brain must stabilize the ever-­changing world and therefore the ever-­changing information reaching it. This is not a trivial task. Perhaps the most extreme example of how the brain stabilizes the world in order to obtain knowledge about it is to be found in color vision. The wavelength composition of the light reflected from objects and surfaces changes continually, depending on the illuminant in which a surface is viewed, without changing the perceived color category to which an object’s surface belongs. This is often referred to as color constancy, though it is perhaps better referred to as constant color category; this is because though the color category remains constant under different illumination conditions, the actual hue, or shade, changes when surfaces are viewed in different illuminants. There are, however, many instances when the brain cannot easily categorize a stimulus; in such conditions, it is confronted with more than one possible interpretation. How to deal with this? If the brain were to accept only one interpretation as being valid, it could soon end up in trouble. It has therefore developed a very efficient strategy to overcome this difficulty. In such situations, it accepts two or more interpretations as equally valid, but only one can occupy the conscious stage at any given moment. The examples here are many, including the bi-­stable or metastable paintings of Salvador Dali, among others. But this is only one category of ambiguity in art or, more broadly, in vision. There are many examples of completely finished works which allow for multiple interpretations. A classic example is to be found in some of the great paintings of Johannes Vermeer, among them The Music



Lesson (collection of Her Majesty The Queen) and The Girl with the Pearl Earring (Mauritshuis, Den Haag). Many different interpretations can be given to these masterpieces, depending upon time and mood. Here again there is no correct interpretation, because all interpretations are correct. The difference between them is that only one can occupy the conscious stage at any one moment, before ceding the stage to another, equally valid, interpretation. A third type of ambiguity lies in leaving a work of art unfinished— something that is common in the work of the great masters, including Michelangelo and Cezanne. The unfinished status of works such as the Pietà Rondanini of Michelangelo again allows for multiple interpretations. It is nearly impossible to force a viewer to entertain a single interpretation. Hence, the instability that the brain uses as a mechanism for obtaining knowledge about the world when it cannot force the information reaching into one interpretation is highly stable in its instability. And it is this stable instability that can enhance immeasurably the value of a work of art. As Schopenhauer once put it, when viewing a work of art, “Something, and indeed the ultimate thing, must be left over for the mind to do.” Through this stabile instability, which is what ambiguity is, our appreciation of works of art is immensely enriched. Which is why the discourse on ambiguity is so essential in discussions on art. Semir Zeki University College London November 2017


Many are those who have contributed to this volume, in one way or another, over time. They include Samuel Abrams, Sheldon Bach, Delia Battin, Phyllis Beren, Richard Brockman, Hallie Cohen, Marta Dell’Angelo, Peter Dunn, Sidney Feshbach, Judith Hanlon, Leon Hoffman, Francis Levy, Sarah Nettleton, Rita Reiswig, Carla Rentrop, Helen Taylor Robinson, Peter Rudnytsky, Sam Samper, Susan Sherkow, Iris Sugarman, Eric Weitzner, and Lynne Zeavin. Long conversations with Sara Boffito were a source of inspiration, and parent–infant observations with Henry, Vivienne, Shannon, and Joe Meland were particularly enlightening. We are most grateful to the many artists whose work is reproduced in this volume and thank them and/or their estates for the appropriate permissions. And last, but no doubt most important of all, we thank each other for the pleasure and learning that came with working together.

Introduction (Re)making meaning

“What I do keeps the wolf from the door,” British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh recently explained to the novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard. The Norwegian writer was in Albania to interview and observe Dr. Marsh who was there to operate on that amalgam of neuronal and non-­neuronal cells (totaling approximately one hundred billion in all) that make up the adult human brain. Fascinated not only by that most complex of organs, but also by why one would want to take to it knife, drill, and saw, Knausgaard probed the meaning for Marsh of keeping “the wolf from the door” and he sought the motivation behind the work, neurosurgery, meant to accomplish that feat. What he determined was this: “We use systems to keep the wolf from the door. . . . And systems are nothing but vast complexes of notions and concepts. Everything that helps us lose sight of the petty, pathetic, and meaningless parts of our own selves. That is the wolf.” The wolf, he came to understand, is “the awkward, twisted or stupid part of the soul, the grudges and the envy, the hopelessness and the darkness, the childish joy and the unmanageable desire.” In other words, that long-­time canine adversary of humans metaphorically represented, for Marsh, “the part of human nature that the systems have no room for, the aspect of reality that our ideas, the firmament that the brain vaults above our lives, cannot fathom. The wolf is the truth.” But why the need to keep it at bay? The more he thought about it, it seemed to Knausgaard that being a neurosurgeon allowed Marsh a sense of control, control over the smallness of some of our most “human” feelings, affective responses, behaviors, and control over life itself and death. Being a surgeon gave meaning to his life, extracted that meaning from within him, and placed it into a system: performing neurosurgery “kept the wolf from the door.”


For Want of Ambiguity

Yet being a surgeon also disclosed how meaningless it all is: “Tumors grew randomly, people died randomly, everyday, everywhere,” Knausgaard wrote. And what made Marsh superior to so many, the writer came to understand, was precisely that, while one could hide from the meaninglessness (by keeping it “from sight behind numbers, behind statistics, behind the plastic drapes” that render the patient faceless), Marsh chose not to. Rather, he “used his insight into it to fight against everything that concealed it, the institutionalization of hospitals, the dehumanization of patients, all the rituals established by the medical profession to create distance and to turn the body into something abstract, general, a part of a system.” Marsh, it would seem, kept the wolf at the door while simultaneously bidding him entry. Knausgaard ends the account of his time with Marsh—his privileged access to the man that took place both outside and inside the operating room, his privileged access to what felt to him like another room into which he had peered but that, instead, was the human brain—as follows: “Marsh had operated on an infant, only a few months old, and the operation went badly; the child died on the operating table. Marsh went in to see the parents in person. He told them that he had made a mistake, and that their child had died.” And then: “He cried with them.” That was the truth. And Knausgaard concludes, It began to get dark around me. A man came pushing a stroller between the tables. A boy was sitting in it; he might have been a year and a half, and when the father sat down at a table, the boy stretched his hands out to him. The father loosened his straps, lifted him out and set him on his lap. He fooled around with him for a while, and the boy laughed. That, too, was the truth.1 What the above metaphor of the wolf neatly illustrates is the need innate within every human being to give form to feeling, to shape symbolically what it feels like to be human. Human experience is devastating: children die of brain tumors. Human experience is joy-­ filled: children sit on our laps and laugh. Meaning, however, is not inherent within experience, however much it seems to be. Thus we make meaning and re-­make meaning depending upon how we contextualize a given experience at any given time and, also, on the kind of meaning-­making to which (by virtue of memory consolidation



and re-­consolidation, to name but one constituting factor) we are generally disposed. And therein lies the conundrum with which we are faced: Do we hide from the uncertainty and chaos of meaninglessness by formulizing, systematizing, dehumanizing in whatever way we can? Or do we find ways to make it tolerable, worthwhile even? Albert Camus, at the close of one of his best-­ known essays, leaves Sisyphus at the foot of this existential mountain where, again and again, the burden of non-­meaning, of vanity, returns. “One always finds one’s burden again,” Camus tells us. Yet Sisyphus “concludes that all is well,” that the struggle toward the top of the “night-­filled mountain” whose heights he will endlessly climb “is enough to fill a man’s heart.” Indeed, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy,” are the words with which Camus brings his essay to a close.2 We aim in this book to explore the need for symbol and metaphor—experienced as the Sisyphean effort to understand, which alone is satisfying notwithstanding the futility of that effort— and the gratification therein. And we aim to investigate how that need, physiological and developmental, is lost to another over time: the need to set the ambiguity of symbol and metaphor in certainty. It is in confronting the impulse to reduce ambiguity—in confronting the valuation of fixity over uncertainty—that we see how art broadens the parameters of human experience. Keeping the wolf at bay, in other words, may be accompanied by interaction with it, play with it, such as we find in much contemporary visual art. How we conceive of ambiguity has everything to do with the natural inclination to find order by transcending the disorder to which we are also inclined. And it has everything to do with the natural inclination to transcend that order, which situates our existence on the edge of a tension between order and disorder, order and chaos, and defines who we are as a species. Ambiguity, in a word, relates to homeostasis, the relative stability of those physiological processes whose interdependence keeps us alive, but not only with the classical idea of homeostasis as “a non-­conscious form of physiological control.”3 An organism certainly seeks food when energy is low and does so without conscious deliberation. Yet, as Hanna and Antonio Damasio have shown, the notion of homeostasis also accounts for a more complex reality, one that pertains to humans in particular and possibly to all vertebrates: while homeostatic feelings, such as thirst, hunger, desire, and so on are automatic physiological mechanisms that regulate bodily needs,


For Want of Ambiguity

they also involve a mental component that emerges in consciousness to motivate the organism to become “a potential agent of its own regulation.”4 It is at the intersection of physiological response and creative experience that we consider the proclivities toward order and chaos and how the tension between them is explored both in art and psychoanalysis. To enlarge knowledge in one discipline, it has become all too commonplace to turn to another with the result being a kind of epistemological contamination. Our purpose in this book, however, is not to explain the artwork we look at through either psychoanalysis or neuroscience. Rather, we argue that art, like psychoanalysis, is a loosening of borders which limit agency and the sense of self and that insofar as it has to do with the mind it has to do with the brain from which mental processes are inseparable. Just as an aesthetic image is not to be looked at pixel by pixel, but within the larger sphere of exchange where dynamic potential and possibility are endlessly freeing, psychic development and awareness, infused as they are with perceptual and cognitive function, are at play in both the making and reception of that image. Marcel Duchamp told us as much in his 1917 response to the invitation to submit a sculpture to the Association of Independent Artists in New York: he sent a urinal, conceptually not unlike his other “readymades.” Without the creative act both on his part (its presentation and signing of “R. Mutt”) and on the part of the viewer, the urinal would have remained a urinal. And it is within that creativity that psychoanalysis and neuroscience meet. Empirical studies in neuroscience have made significant inroads into the functioning of our perceptual capacities and of various other components of the human nervous system. They have begun to provide quantities of data that tell us stories, more or less complete, about how human beings live, interact, and move within the world. So, too, art—one of the highest expressions of the complexity of humankind and a sophisticated means of representing sensation and emotion—provides us with precious information about the functioning of the brain and, ultimately, of the human being in which it resides. Moreover, contemporary art, on the divide separating planning and execution, idea and creative act, reveals much about dynamic processes, conscious and unconscious, processes whose neural basis these empirical studies elucidate. The result has been a radical departure in the kinds of scientific questions



asked about the brain and, indeed, in our view of brain functions and functioning. We have come to understand from the dialogue between art, neuroscience, and psychoanalysis that the brain, as underscored by British neurobiologist Semir Zeki, is not a “passive chronicler” of what happens in the external world; rather, it actively participates in creating the world we experience by its perceptual, cognitive, and affective elaboration of physical reality. And we have started, also as a consequence of the dialogue, to address questions that had previously seemed too subjective and therefore too far removed from the realm of objective scientific enquiry, questions having to do with the neural correlates of love, desire, and beauty, as explored by Zeki and a number of others. In fact, the neural underpinnings of identity and empathy and of social interactions have all become matters for experimental study, especially since it turns out that activity in the brain corresponding to many such states can not only be mapped but also quantified, thus objectifying the subjective truths we feel. But, as we hope to show, the tale of human experience is intricate and there is the pitfall of reductionism in brain mapping and other kinds of correlation. For the very notion of the feeling self is not real; it too is a metaphor, a likeness, to something else. It too, therefore, implies continual negotiation: self and identity are negotiated and re-­negotiated in accord with the permeability of the borders between an individual and his or her environs at any point in time. Art is a means of such negotiation. The dialogue between neuroscience and psychoanalysis is as well, for it helps us not to replace necessarily reductionistic experiments with rigid paradigms, but to set the results of these experiments in broader and more complex contexts so that we may think about the analysand in new ways. As David Olds has written, accumulated data from the sciences profoundly affect how psychoanalysts “think about brain and mind,” and this alone is changing analysts themselves, their own minds. “It is changing the context in which [they] understand what it is to be a living entity, a mammal, a human being.”5 Psychoanalysis will necessarily evolve as a consequence. In fact, it already has. In the past several decades, data relating, for example to mirror neurons; to procedural memory, learning, and other cognitive processes; and to affect, have resulted in changes both in the theory and practice of analysis. To cite Olds again, one notes “a more active and interactive stance toward the patient by


For Want of Ambiguity

the analyst; the shift from a libido-­economic model to one based on information, meaning, and narrative; the development of a ‘two person’ psychology, according the relational matrix greater prominence; and the increased importance of brain and body in the analytic situation, seen most concretely in the more common use of psycho-­tropic medication as part of the treatment.” Neuroscience not only contributes directly to psychoanalytic theory and technique, but indirectly as well: “via the impress of changes in the zeitgeist,” the cultural change in contextualization of the neuroscientific data on the part of clinicians. “[M]any now accept,” Olds observes, “that change in a brain function—in this case affect and affect regulation mechanisms—alters the dynamic formulations we can make and the kinds of interpretations we might venture.”6 Similarly, neuroscience, when confronted with the dynamic forces of human subjectivity such as are revealed in the analytic consulting room, is obliged to consider the uncertainty of the “hard sciences” and adjust hypotheses in accordance with developmental, environmental, and other influences on the human brain. Listen to Jean Roiphe: It is “important to keep in mind, as the acclaimed neuroscientist Eric Kandel has noted, that at this point in history, we humans change more by cultural evolution, expressed in the transcriptional function of our genes, than by biological evolution, expressed in their template function.” The “leap from animals to humans,” she further warns, is “a quantum one” and, she continues, “this is to say nothing of the small matter, were we to consider only the human species, ‘of get[ting] over the hump from electrochemistry to feeling,’ to quote the philosopher John Searle.”7 Psychoanalytic theories of feeling, of emotion and affect, abound. Freud’s own evolved over the course of his writings and even reflect some inconsistencies in his thinking. Basically, however, he considered affect, as Roiphe puts it, “as a registration, in the form of pleasure or unpleasure, of the underlying state of satisfaction or unsatisfaction of the drives, conveying information as to how an individual is doing at getting its biological needs met.”8 Affective neuroscientists hypothesize models of how this information is conveyed and why, though what they postulate varies widely: Jaak Panksepp, for one, turned to the activity in the subcortical regions of the brain to explain the core instinctual phenomena that motivate our feelings and behavior, basing his notion of human affective states on their evolution from other, lower-­level mammalian brains.



Joseph LeDoux, however, offers a two-­part theory of affect that distinguishes between, on the one hand, instinctually motivated non-­conscious states and their concomitant behavioral responses as generated subcortically and, on the other, “the conscious ‘feeling’ aspect of emotion, one’s subjective sense of being anxious or angry or desirous,” which, as Roiphe succinctly describes it, is “an adaptive evolutionary add-­on,”9 a neo-­cortical occurrence. The point, though, is this: it would seem that feelings are what allow us to experience our own aliveness; insufficiently strong, they deplete our sense of identity and self. And the making and reception of art may be means of intensifying the very feeling states that allow for the knowing of oneself otherwise than what is customary for a given individual. Focusing on art through the exchange between psychoanalysis and neuroscience affords appreciation of the complexities of human experience insofar as metaphor and symbol are precisely what every human being makes use of as he comes to know and understand the world and develop an increasingly mature place within it. At the same time, however, this interdisciplinary focus on art affords appreciation of human experience as unique to the individual as it is universal. How this interdisciplinarity impacts our understanding of human identity and experience, then, is what is revealed in the making and viewing of the contemporary art contemplated here. In “Le Chef-­d’oeuvre inconnu,” Balzac wrote of the genius of Raphael: “His great superiority is due to the intimate sense which, in his works, seems set on breaking through form.”10 This idea of “breaking through form” is one impetus for this volume in which visual art—from photography to painting, dance, and installation pieces—is shown to open up fresh possibilities for considering the complexity of being human. To the extent that the dialogue between neuroscience and psychoanalysis sheds light on the transformational capacity of contemporary art, new questions arise as to how “breaking through form” leads to new ways of thinking and achieving insight. In lifting the veil of certainty and revealing the flash of the obvious, to put it somewhat differently, the interchange between these disciplines on the subject of art makes us see “reality” (our surroundings and ourselves) from new perspectives. With the tools provided by neuroscience and psychoanalysis, and the dialogue between them, the metaphors and symbols of the artwork reveal the


For Want of Ambiguity

imperative of experiencing new ways of being in the world. How contemporary art lives on the border between perception and imagination, between the physical and the metaphysical, in a word, is the subject at hand. A word about the structure of this volume. We will refer throughout the book not to the mind-­brain, as is increasingly done today, but to the mind-­brain-body system, a term more congruent with what we are proposing. Furthermore, each chapter, its concepts and the dialogues through which they are explored, takes its inspiration from the works of art discussed. Just as play, with its metaphors and symbols, is used by the child to move toward more abstract and complex ways of communicating and interacting, the metaphors carried by the artworks reproduced here lead us toward more complex ways of thinking about the human being precisely as a mind-­brain-body system. Just as play, a novel form of behavior and a new type of interaction, liberates the child from the constraints of the environment, art liberates us from the constraints of the universal compulsion to trap forms into comforting a priori meanings. In his 2010 Nobel lecture, Mario Vargas Llosa observed: [T]hanks to literature, to the consciousness it shapes, the desires and longings it inspires, and our disenchantment with reality when we return from the journey to a beautiful fantasy, civilization is now less cruel than when storytellers began to humanize life with their fables. We would be worse than we are without the good books we have read, more conformist, not as restless, more submissive, and the critical spirit, the engine of progress, would not even exist. Like writing, reading is a protest against the insufficiencies of life. When we look in fiction for what is missing in life, we are saying, with no need to say it or even to know it, that life as it is does not satisfy our thirst for the absolute—the foundation of the human condition—and should be better. We invent fictions in order to live somehow the many lives we would like to lead when we barely have one at our disposal.11 It is our contention that the individual, who spends life suspended between order and chaos, intent on organizing every detail of her existence, needs to escape the condition of temporal linearity that



relentlessly moves only toward death. With the tools provided by neuroscience and psychoanalysis, and the dialogue between them, the metaphors and symbols of the artwork—literary or visual— reveal the imperative of experiencing new ways of being in the world.

1 Shaping private demons

When I went to the old Trocadero, it was disgusting. The Flea Market. The smell. I was all alone. I wanted to get away. But I didn’t leave. I stayed. I stayed. I understood that it was very important: something was happening to me, right? The masks weren’t just like any other pieces of sculpture. Not at all. They were magic things. . . . Those were primitives, not magic things. . . . They were against everything—against unknown, threatening spirits. I always looked at fetishes. I understood; I too am against everything. I too believe that everything is unknown, that everything is an enemy! Everything! Not the details—women, children, babies, tobacco, playing—but the whole of it. . . . But all the fetishes were used for the same thing. They were weapons. To help people avoid coming under the influence of spirits again, to help them become independent. They are tools. If we give spirits a form, we become independent. Spirits, the unconscious (people still weren’t talking about that very much), emotion—they are all the same thing. I understood why I was a painter. All alone in that awful Museum, with masks, dolls made by redskins, dusty manikins. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon must have come to me that very day, but not at all because of the forms; because it was my first exorcism-­painting—yes absolutely!1 Being is chaotic. What we do in every area of life, as well as in so many professional arenas—from physics to painting, from chemistry to sculpture, from neurobiology to psychoanalysis—is seek meaning to make sense of that chaos and find symbols and metaphors to aid in our articulation of it. From thermodynamics to neuroscience,


For Want of Ambiguity

metaphors, symbols, and formulae serve as powerful tools for understanding, for meaning is ontologically stabilizing and homeostasis constitutes our ultimate biological objective. It is to that end, in fact, that we as a species conceptualize and narrate the chaos of being, the experience of being me. In seeking certainty, in struggling against its antithesis, we represent and thereby order what might otherwise have nefarious repercussions, such as anxiety and dread. In the artist’s studio, as in the analyst’s consulting room and the scientist’s laboratory, we give form and cohesion to me/not me experiential boundaries. But where art, and psychoanalysis as well, differs from other forms of creative thinking (and science is nothing if not creative) is in allowing ambiguity to surface and finding the value therein. For art, like psychoanalysis, enables us to look at the world more freely, which is to say without fear of uncertainty, and interact with it in new ways. Indeed, as Picasso makes eminently clear in the statement above, artistic process is remarkable for its capacity to eternalize the tension between order and chaos. Creating art already engages the individual in a stunning struggle: finding the right medium, materials, shapes, and colors is its own complex series of acts. And artists not only give form to their “spirits”—their threatening demons—through the manipulation of the medium, there is also the sharing of that form which in itself erects new tensions: tensions between the intentionality of artist and viewer, which is to say between the world as one individual “knows” it and its re-­ constitution by another in accordance with what is perceived as residing in the artwork. However commonplace the idea that the viewer participates in the creative process and makes meaning by resonating with the expression of the artist, consider for the moment neither the need to share nor the needs of those who bear witness, but the invitation of the artist, Picasso or any other, to himself: the invitation to discover new possibilities, to give shape to his private meanings, demonic or not. The point, as Joel Whitebook has recently written underscoring the thought of Hans Loewald, is “not to idealize unconscious-­instinctual life—to celebrate the ‘demonic’ and ignore its dark side.” Rather, it is to acknowledge, to work with, to play with material that “must be symbolized, sublimated, and integrated into ‘new synthetic organizations’ of the psyche,” organizations “in which the ‘vital links’ between ‘the lowest’ and the ‘highest in human in nature’ are preserved.” As Loewald suggests

Shaping private demons


and Whitebook reminds us, it is not a question of dominating the demons, but of “ ‘coming to terms’ with the material unconscious-­ instinctual life by representing and articulating it.”2 This is precisely what we see in the developing child who, to master emotions, learns names to describe them. So, too, adults need words and symbols to process experience; we need metaphors to make sense of internal feelings. If art were to disappear from the world, objects would lose their potential of being something other than what they actually are. For it is due to the relations generated by art (relations between the artist, the artwork, and the viewer, and between intrapsychic and cultural space) that possibilities emerge for everything to become something different; it is through a creative and transformative gesture that an object acquires the power to arouse a multiplicity of emotional reactions and possible interpretations. And it is through such a gesture that we are freed from the persistent “strain of relating inner reality and outer reality,”3 as D.W. Winnicott described the tension we aim to put in high relief in this book: the tension that defines our social norms, our gender identities, our sensations of pleasure and, to cite Freud’s term, unpleasure. Art, like dreams and fantasy, and like the analytic session as well, opens the possibility of removing oneself from the suffocating contingency of reality and the ineluctability of human destiny. So, too, perversions represent a temptation of the mind to surpass the tension of boundaries, in this case those of what is considered “normal” sexual behavior. As Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel has noted, “Man has always endeavoured to go beyond the narrow limits of his condition. I consider that perversion is one of the essential ways and means he applies in order to push forward the frontiers of what is possible and to unsettle reality.”4 As aesthetic pleasure relies on ambiguity, so “the pleasure connected with transgression is sustained by the fantasy that—in breaking down the barriers which separate man from woman, child from adult, mother from son, daughter from father, brother from sister, the erotogenic zones from each other, and, in the case of murder, the molecules of the body from each other—it has destroyed reality, thereby creating a new one, that of the anal universe where all differences are abolished.”5 Giving shape to our demons or “spirits” becomes a tool for reaching independence and freedom, the freedom to create different viewpoints and to shift from one perspective to another.


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Jenny Saville, a British artist born in Cambridge in 1970, paints huge canvases representing flesh and bodies in layers, as if representing different realities. “I deliberately worked on these paintings at different times,” Saville revealed in an interview, “leaving them and coming back to them. Looking at photographs of earlier paintings taken as I was doing them, I realized I’d missed possibilities because I was so focused on working to an end. . . . With these paintings I wanted to keep all the possibilities alive. I like it like that. It’s much easier to finish something than to leave it incomplete.”6 Keeping possibilities alive is the matter of each analytic session. It is, actually, the aim of psychoanalysis. We adopt patterns in order to survive, we relate to people according to established behaviors that even become patterns, and we adopt defensive mechanisms that we tend to repeat over and over through the course of our lives. Psychoanalysis helps us overcome these constancies; it gives us the freedom to choose among different possibilities of being, relating, perceiving, and interacting. The brain is wired to recognize patterning in order to optimize how we decipher the environment. When we look at ambiguous figures, such as the Necker Cube, what we see are images representing stable stimuli that can be elaborated by the brain in different ways that determine our perception of them. In a world that drifts continuously through change, metaphors and symbols become something to hold on to, a saving bannister. Every individual, every family, every country even has different ways to use symbols and metaphors. “I live in a country where everything changes continuously, our values change, our heroes, even our language and our alphabet,” Yerbossyn Meldibekov has written of Kazakhstan.7 At the FiftyFirst Venice Biennale in 2005, Meldibekov’s work became the symbol of the Central Asia Pavilion, the desecrating icon of the dialogue-­dispute between the new national realities that had recently appeared on the world stage. Exploring the difficulties of creating a national identity in post-­communist Central Asia, Meldibekov makes use of the remains of the old communist ideology. Raw materials (such as wood, stone, sand) and animals belonging to the Steppe (horses, camels, sheep), fundamental to the nomadic life inherited from Gengis Khan and Tamerlane, are the natural elements of Meldibekov’s creative language.

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Discussion with Slavic specialists Nina Colantoni and Damiano Rebecchini resulted in the idea the photo series “Giacometti,” produced by Meldibekov in collaboration with Nurbossin Oris represents a reinterpretation of classical European culture as seen through the eyes of Gengis Khan. Meldibekov desecrates the refined beauty of Giacometti’s art to offer us a new idea of beauty and the naked body. To strip, undress, did not mean to Gengis Khan to uncover or unclothe; rather, it was associated with the act of cutting, tearing apart, and lacerating. Leaving behind the Western dualistic way of thinking about body and soul, content and form, the contemporary nomadic man has a more direct and intuitive conception of the environment and a profoundly different relationship with his own body. The body is almost absent in nomadic culture, as are cities, architecture, and sculpture, as are the borders of land traversed. Meldibekov put it thus: “In the nomadic tradition boundaries do not exist. The body is absent. The individual body does not exist, only the collective body exists, as the combination of all of the servants submitted to Gengis Khan. And the constraint of the city, the town, the village does not exist, architecture doesn’t exist, as doesn’t sculpture, or a landmark or frontiers.”8 The new Central Asia, Gengis Khan’s land, is a land looking for its own national identity, its alphabet, its unique way of living Islamic tradition, its singular artistic language. It is a land shaken by conflict and well represented in all its nudity by the artwork of Meldibekov and Oris. Meldibekov and Oris’s work represents an expressive language foreign to Western culture. From their migratory soul emerges a new concept of beauty and a new way of representing the body and of inhabiting cities. The borders of both land and human flesh vacillate and disappear. And it is from this dissolution that Meldibekov and Oris’s work takes shape to assume, as a consequence, the tones of a universal language. The two artists observe masterpieces of Western art from an Asiatic perspective and reinterpret Western traditions with a language in a sense barbaric. The work of Alberto Giacometti, Donatello, Gunther Uecker, and others is recreated with materials from the Kazakh land: organic matter, dead bodies, dead flesh (see Figure 1.1). It is as though the refined surface covering the precious European art were destroyed and the internal substance extracted in all its crudity, like flesh issuing from an open wound. Meldibekov and Oris make use of the antique nomadic act: they flay, strip, eliminate, cut, raze, and burn,


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FIGURE 1.1  Yerbossyn Meldibekov and Nurbossin Oris, Cardinale 1, from the series Giacometti, 50 × 92 cm, photo on aluminium, 2008. Courtesy of the artists.

and through these acts they give new voice to a culture vastly unknown to the Western world. And they depict the struggle of Central Asia to understand what it is becoming. In what may be called a more metaphoric fashion, the ninety-­sixyear-­old Venetian painter Ida Barbarigo reveals her art as an act of

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exorcism that enables her to confront the most intimate images from her present and past, her feelings and her memories. From this confrontation are shaped deformed bodies, those of such divinities as Saturn and Dionysus emerged from history to tell a story of destruction and fear (see Figure  1.2). In Barbarigo’s paintings history and autobiography intertwine. With ironic gestures, she

FIGURE 1.2  Ida Barbarigo, Demoni svaghi (Saturno), oil on canvas 130 × 81 cm, 1998. Courtesy of the artist and Fortuny Museum, Venice.


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transforms her most devastating internal tensions and untangled knots into something that can be confronted, perceived, and possibly understood. “The demons are playful, they pinch you on your shoulders, they run away and hide, but ready to attack you again. It is the irony that makes them tolerable.”9 Barbarigo was born in 1920 into a family of artists, sculptors, architects, and poets, an environment where beauty and culture were the backdrop, the humus she had to feed upon and emerge from. A seductive, exceedingly intelligent woman whose gaze penetrates whatever touches it, Barbarigo’s paintings reflect her ways of seeing: “you always look at the same things, over and over, you walk to the same place, you sit on the same bench, you look at the same glass, you hold it and you turn it around, and suddenly you say che bello.”10 A sudden revelation, beauty breaks into an object, and that object becomes the point of connection between what it is and what one sees, between the visible and the invisible. Almost a form of play, the art of Barbarigo is a match for our most profound fears. This, perhaps, is what brought painter and art therapist Edith Kramer to highlight the tremendous therapeutic power of art and creativity in a clinical setting.11 Kramer thought the value of art therapy resided in the value of art and creativity itself, and she developed a new art therapy program in 1974 in the Department of Child Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein Medical College in New York based upon the assumption that art, in itself, is healing and organizing and could thus be used to enhance ego functions. Art permits us to observe, she maintained, by affording us distance both from our internalized objects and our own selves and through this distancing process we are able to become comfortable with the workings of our unconscious and acquire the ability to organize it. Her therapeutic method “makes use of the opposing forces inherent in all art activities—on one hand the pull toward regression, on the other, the urge to progress in the direction of formed expression,”12 what we call the tension between chaos and order. Kramer observed that every child is inclined to prefer a different medium, be it pencil, clay, or paint, and their choices most often reflect some internal states. Pencil, for instance, is the most controlled medium. Paint is more emotional, and when color is introduced a greater array of effects becomes involved. Watercolor, moreover, offers little control; more ego functioning is therefore required to keep the painting organized. Clay, however, may be viewed as a more

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regressive medium, but one that is remarkably organizing. With clay one can make mistakes, do and redo, add pieces, rip them off. The choice of expressive materials has a history as long as that of our own evolution. Homo faber used to choose the stone he wanted to employ and he engraved it. In this very wish “to choose” we see the first clues of the emergence of artistic creativity. And later in history, this “choosing” would be followed by the desire for perfection— perfection in the manufacturing of materials, perfection in the art itself (that excellence to which every masterpiece aspires). Children, then, learn to organize their psychic world through art and to make sense of it. They do so by creating play. Art, as play, helps the child gain distance from the narrative and learn to symbolize, to pass from the semi-­symbolic to the symbolic. Drawings, fantasies, and role-­play are creative acts that help children define themselves and their identity; they are transforming just as art lends itself to greater identity, personal and social, individual or collective. Interestingly, scribble—the same from one culture to the next—is not only motor release: the child is aware of the trace that his movement leaves, just like our ancestors who, in one of the most primitive forms of art, left traces of their passage in the caves. Children learn how to associate a meaning to their movement: “Look! It’s a frog, it’s jumping,” they might say while showing a drawing and waving a hand up and down. Later, drawings evolve into forms. Space is used freely at first; then the composition becomes structured. As scribbles enable the child to organize himself in space, so words help him situate himself in time. Thus we see that organization in space and time happens through movement, that movement functions as action, as we will see in chapter 5. There is a curious process, contrary to that of development, which is observed in patients with Alzheimer’s. It is now known that in Alzheimer’s disease abnormal depth perception contributes to a number of visuospatial deficits. This impairment is largely due to disturbances in stereoscopic vision and depth perception.13 Patients with Alzheimer’s seem slowly to lose the ability to draw in the same, but reversed, order through which children acquire those abilities. In 2004 Katie Maurer and David Prvulovic published a paper in the Journal of Neural Transmission in which they showed how “patients suffering from Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD) have increasing difficulties to orient in space and often fail to recognize


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basic realities and even their closest relatives. These symptoms lead to severe deterioration of everyday life and finally to total dependence.” In that paper, they presented the case of the artist Carolus Horn who contracted AD. “The qualitative and quantitative analysis of changes in his artwork during disease progression gives an impressive insight into the patient’s visual world and how it becomes increasingly affected by delusional misperceptions, spatial errors and changes of colour-­perception in the course of the disease,” they wrote. “Carolus Horn’s artwork lets us see the world through the patient’s eyes and by that it helps us to better understand the consequences of visuospatial and cognitive changes in AD.”14 What is astonishing to note is that the decay in the structural compositions of Horn’s paintings, as well as in the color contrast, the downsizing of objects and the precision of gesture correspond—in reverse—to children’s development and the refinement of their drawing abilities. The medium an artist uses can be her or his own body. When the body itself generates internal conflicts—as might a sick body, an aging or abused body, a differently abled body, and so on—the giving of form and meaning to inner fears may involve a process of projection, as conceptualized by Freud in “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” (1920), for instance. Freud considered that, through the mechanism of projection, thoughts, motivations, desires, fears, and feelings that cannot be tolerated as one’s own are dealt with by being placed in the outside world, attributed to someone else. What is too uncomfortable for the ego is thereby repudiated, split off, and placed in the other. Projection is a defense mechanism, an exteriorization of an internal process: We need not be surprised to find that, whereas the neuroses of our unpsychological modern days take on a hypochondriacal aspect and appear disguised as organic illnesses, the neuroses of those early times emerge in demonological trappings. Several authors, foremost among them Charcot, have, as we know, identified the manifestations of hysteria in the portrayals of possession and ecstasy that have been preserved for us in the production of art. If more attention had been paid to the histories of such cases at the time, it would not have been difficult to retrace in them the subject-­matter of a neurosis. The demonological theory of those dark times has won in the end against all the somatic views of the period of “exact” science.

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The states of possession correspond to our neuroses, for the explanation of which we once more have recourse to psychical powers. In our eyes, the demons are bad and reprehensible wishes, derivatives of instinctual impulses that have been repudiated and repressed. We merely eliminate the projection of these mental entities into the external world which the middle ages carried out; instead, we regard them as having arisen in the patient’s internal life, where they have their abode.15 Freud’s idea that intolerable fears, desires, and thoughts are placed in the outside world to be tolerated is found in the work of British artist Tracey Emin who, in 1996, locked herself in a room inside a gallery for fourteen days. Emin had nothing with her but empty canvases, paint, and tools. Her objective was to reconcile herself with her art. Through a series of lenses inserted in the walls, Emin could be viewed completely naked, ridding herself of her painting demons. “Starting by making images like the artists she really admired (e.g., Egon Schiele, Edvard Munch, Yves Klein), Emin’s two-­week art-­therapy session,” as described by the Saatchi Gallery, “resulted in a massive outpouring of autobiographical images, and the discovery of a style all her own.”16 So it is that “Not to be afraid most of my life has been built on fear” appears as a detail in Emin’s Exorcism of the Last Painting I Ever Made (1996). Barbara Hammer’s Sanctus is a nineteen-­minute sixteen-­ millimeter film, based on the work of Dr. James Sibley Watson, who, in 1950, X-rayed people while they were performing tasks such as swallowing water or shaving (see Figure  1.3). Hammer’s work represents an exploration of the invisible at work beneath the skin—an attempt to uncover the mysteries of a body that can be, at times, our best friend or our worse mortal enemy. Hammer dedicated her artistic career to the exploration of the invisible, the unknown, the unspoken, the hidden, the ambivalent—the investigation of what is too taboo to be brought into consciousness. She flirted with death, with nudity, sometimes with the deformity, even, of the human body, to the extent of transforming death into an aesthetic experience. The X-rays of the body that the artist often uses in her work become a “potential space” (as Winnicott called it), an arena between me and not-­me where pain and beauty are displayed and transformed into an experience that can be tolerated: “I try to transform death into a positive process,” Hammer has said.17


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FIGURE 1.3  Barbara Hammer, Sanctus-­frame, © 1990. Courtesy of the artist.

In the work of both Emin and Hammer, in sum, we see how shaping private demons, giving them form, renders the unbearable bearable. We need to extract meaning from our environment in order to survive, but we also have the same need with regard to our internal states. Our feelings, fears, and emotions need a shape and a name, possibly even a reason to exist. But the capacity to symbolize may be seriously compromised by traumatic experience. The breakdown of symbolic functioning due to trauma may, in other words, undermine the capacity to consider the lived experience in such a way as to avoid further suffering. As explained by Susan Levy and Alessandra Lemma, “The capacity to symbolize allows an individual to represent an experience mentally rather than concretely. In the aftermath of a trauma, painful and disturbing images, thoughts and feelings are often unable to be held in the mind in a way that distinguishes them from the actual reality of the event. They cannot be contained as memories. Instead these thoughts and images become concrete, live flashbacks that typically intrude

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into consciousness as a literal re-­experiencing of the event.”18 Trauma may thus be said to manifest itself in a preverbal way, not only as unspoken feelings, but also as images. The neuroscience of trauma provides insight into the physiology of post-­traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with a large number of studies showing that repeated or chronic stress profoundly changes the very structure and functioning of the nervous system. PTSD seems to be maintained by deficient extinction memory. (Extinction memory, the reader will recall, was made famous by the dog conditioned by Pavlov to salivate upon hearing a particular noise. When, after a while, the noise was repeatedly sounded but no food was forthcoming, the dog eventually stopped salivating [extinction]. PTSD seems to reflect a failure to extinguish this “conditioned fear.”) In one such study, researchers used a cued fear conditioning design with extinction and post-­extinction phases to provoke the return of fear and examine the interplay of the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal regions of the brain. Their findings suggest that a deficient maintenance of extinction and a failure to identify safety signals contribute to the symptoms associated with PTSD.19 Dysregulation in the prefrontal cortex, moreover, has often been cited as related to the symptoms of PTSD in that there is reduced executive functioning and verbal memory performance, as well as abnormal task-­specific activity in that region and in the anterior cingulate cortices.20 Amygdala dysregulation has also been shown to be central to the pathophysiology of PTSD and to represent a critical treatment target. Subjects suffering from the disorder can learn through neuro-­feedback to regulate their emotions, thereby increasing the connectivity between the prefrontal regions of the brain involved in emotion regulation and the amygdala.21 Traumatized children, for example, are characteristically constricted and often emotionally and cognitively disorganized.22 They fear what they might reveal and one looks to repetition in their drawings for an indication of a kind of reenactment of the trauma. Yet artists (whether children making “art” or professionals) learn to symbolize again in a very concrete way (for art, as a metaphor, is concrete while also highly symbolic) and, through the process of reconcretization, art may be healing or otherwise therapeutic. As art viewers, we recognize in all sorts of artwork (literary, visual, or sonorous) our own deepest demons; we find a shape for our own unformed discomfort.


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At times, one senses the need for a certain kind of music as it unleashes a particular feeling. The musical form—already circumscribed in the rhythmic shape of the composition—gives form to something within us that we are unable to release on our own. This, in a word, is the universal dimension of all art regardless of genre: it frees feeling within us, allowing the listener or spectator to externalize it. A comparable process occurs in psychoanalysis. When something disturbing happens to a child, the child may be upset but lack the ability to express what has upset her. The parent or caregiver helps the child to recognize what is occurring and to give it a name. It is similar with adults: experiences may take over our lives and reshape our way of being, behaving, or relating, though we are not aware of what they are. The analytic process aims to locate what lies behind emotional and behavioral responses: fears and anxieties are, in a sense, expelled and sense made of them. Through confrontation with them, the dynamic to which fear and anxiety has given rise may be changed. In this way, both art and psychoanalysis are transformative: Each gives shape to what is disturbing within and extracts it. Yet ejection alone is not sufficient for the transformative process to be completed. There needs to be someone else on the other end of the process. Consider the patient so abused and traumatized by an uncle living under the same roof that she persistently dissociated; she would detach from her immediate surroundings and often “forget.” Having had absent and unavailable parents, she now found a friend who would hold in memory for her what she could not. The artist who makes something and needs to share it similarly needs another to hold it. In both instances, there is the fundamental need to be kept in mind, the need to create what can be perceived and in some way “used” by another individual. There is in the artist, moreover, a need that extends beyond the need to share. Unlike an event set in time and space, a transaction wherein something is made and given over to another, the artistic process involves an offering that continues. Similar to the giving of a gift or the delivering of a piece of mail, the creation of art is an act, but an act that in the very giving to another is ongoing. Rothko famously said that without the eyes of the viewer, the painting dies. Giving the psychoanalytic patient a space in which to free associate, explore, give shape to his demons, and play (for play is an integral

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part of psychoanalysis) is in itself transformative. For the analyst’s keeping in mind what the patient shares and returning that sharing to the patient with a new coherence is reformative. In the very exchange between patient and analyst, in other words, the transformation occurs. The act of giving to the analyst opens up in the patient a new way of looking. More precisely, the analytic process involves the ability on the part of the analyst to keep things in mind and then give shared material back such that new ways of seeing are opened up for the patient. Just like the viewer of Rubin’s celebrated optical illusion who suddenly perceives between the two facial profiles a vase that will forever after remain within memory, the analytic patient will forever carry within a new way of seeing, and not only a new way of seeing, but as important or perhaps more so, a newly acquired capacity to tolerate the ambiguity. What is initially presented to the analyst is not erased for the patient through the analytically transformative process; rather, it is otherwise and henceforth experienced, as tolerance for ambiguity has grown stronger. In his quest for an independent sense of self, the child learns to see himself reflected in his mother’s face, thus transforming perception into apperception: “when I look I am seen, so I exist.”23 The mother is a mirror, reflecting the child’s needs and feelings. The face of the mother reflects back to the baby what the mother is seeing on his face. Art as well is a mirror. Winnicott himself cited the work of Francis Bacon as an example.24 Bacon wanted glass to cover his paintings so that the viewer could see himself reflected in the work. In the introduction to the Francis Bacon catalogue raisonné, John Rothenstein wrote, “to look at a painting by Bacon is to look into a mirror, and to see there our own afflictions and our fears of solitude, failure, humiliation, old age, death and of nameless threatened catastrophe.”25 So, too, therapy can serve the function of a mirror with the therapist reflecting back to the patient what the patient has given to the session. But premature interpretation can annihilate the patient’s creativity just as titles, knowledge of art, and iconic symbols can adversely affect the experience of art by narrowing the aesthetic experience. The attribution of meaning to an artwork can be freeing when meaning is mobile, fluid, and useful, as when the therapeutic interpretation is viewed as a recontextualization. When the need, if not obsession, to ascribe meaning to art extends beyond


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recognition or description into the realm of fixity, it limits the viewer’s own creative process, the viewer’s own participation in the art at hand. The link between sense-­making and pleasure has long been explored with the effect of titles, in particular, on the perception and appreciation of paintings at the center of inquiry. We would agree with those who have found that indeterminate meaning, its continued elaboration over and above the ascription or setting of meaning, is generative of pleasure.26 Yet we also believe that a kind of pleasure—one, however, associated more with satisfaction, with tranquility even, as opposed to stimulation—is derived from the assignment of meaning.27 As seen above in the example of Picasso walking through the museum, the continual change that sweeps through us, and through the world around us, settles within us because our nervous system has been modeled in such a way as to extract a kind of stability out of what is not stable at all. In fact, it is the constancy created by our nervous system, by its stabilizing capacity, that enables us to experience ourselves, and not only the world at large, in a more or less constant way. Furthermore, human beings are naturally social and inclined toward communication with others. From where does this communication spring if not from the need to wrest meaning from everything surrounding us? Despite the ubiquity of entropy and the pull toward disorder, the human brain strives to create the image of a coherent whole. This converting of chaos into order and semantic harmony, to put it another way, is aided by verbal information and by the social interaction that accompanies it; communication, in sum, contributes to the organization of meaning and to the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral experience. A child comes into the world and is immediately bombarded by sensations, impressions, and experiences that require organizing and categorizing, and that remain incomprehensible if not systematically ordered. This is a creative process in that the infant orders the elements of her experience and experiences through that ordering the emergence of organization. “This global subjective world of emerging organization is and remains the fundamental domain of human subjectivity,” Daniel Stern has written. “It operates out of awareness as the experiential matrix from which thoughts and perceived forms and identifiable acts and verbalized feelings will later arise. It also acts as the source for ongoing affective

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appraisals of events. Finally, it is the ultimate reservoir that can be dipped into for all creative experience.”28 At the beginning of the last century, Freud proposed the notion that we aspire to attain equilibrium not only externally, but internally as well. Indeed, the goal of psychoanalysis is to further the attainment of internal balance when conflict has set it off course: Jacob Arlow and Charles Brenner described it thus: “[I]nstinctual wishes, which were previously repudiated by the ego because of the anxiety they aroused, will, as the result of analysis, become accessible to the more mature parts of the ego and will become integrated with them. Instead of conflict between ego defenses and repudiated id derivatives, there will be some kind of harmony between ego and id.”29 The harmony we seek within ourselves is reflected in the struggle and compromise between our more bestial instincts and our conscious and rational intellect, which compels us, at every step, to deal with the outside world. The fundamental need for order was the premise of the famous pedagogical method of Maria Montessori. Children, Montessori showed us, cannot find their way in a world without order, and in Montessori schools, therefore, everything has its proper place and rules require children to put materials very much as they were before they were used. The rules that make it possible to maintain order also serve as an antidote to disorder, whether material or mental, and children acquire the ability to think abstractly as a consequence of learning patience and developing the capacity to wait. When the ability to abstract is curtailed, when the brain of a child is deprived of this capacity and disorder reigns, the guiding thread that connects different experiences is not found, pattern and repetition go unrecognized, as we see in autistic children. The nervous system of the autistic child then invents coping strategies that manifest as obsessions and compulsions in search of the stability that cannot be found. To the autistic brain, mother vanishes forever when she leaves the room; the world changes with every walk to school. Everything is a surprise and new each day. Reassurance against such overwhelming newness must then be sought in obsessive and repetitive modes of behavior, for they offer the security of which the child is thereby deprived. Retreat to the same corner, to the same toys and the same colors, while protective, also results in significant perceptual deprivation adding to the disorder and confusion that the constant search for symmetry aims to undo.30


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As we see, there is in every human being a need for order, for organization, for structure, a need to understand and to make sense, but also the need to transcend that order through play with chaos, the acquisition of new knowledge, and, ultimately, to be creative. As Dante reminds in The Divine Comedy, “Consider your origins: you were not made to live as brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.”31

2 A play of selves: Art as play “Art knows us better than we know ourselves,”1 the German philosopher T.W. Adorno famously wrote. Two questions arise from that claim: How does art know us? And: What does art know? What art knows—our “selves”—raises yet another question, the meaning of “self,” while knowledge of “self” through the making or viewing of art calls for the probing of process. What we display of self in a work of art is most often consciously unknown. It may be a somewhat cloudy or more hidden, unthinkable part of who we are, what we feel our self to be. It may be our habitual way of looking at ourselves or limited to a particular moment in time. But the point is that what gets externalized through the creative process is not limited to the artist alone. That an intense internal pressure compels an artist to create, that giving shape to one’s deepest fears and fantasies (to our private demons, as discussed in chapter 1) is a means of releasing in a controlled way what feels uncontrolled and overwhelming, is an experience shared by the viewer. Recognition by the spectator of disturbing emotions or impulses, aggression say, may give rise to pleasure, pain, or something in between. Always, however, it involves an intuition of relatedness. Freud spoke of sublimation. He also recognized how art provided the viewer with the socially approved occasion for intense emotional reaction. The artist, he wrote, possesses the mysterious power of shaping some particular material until it has become a faithful image of his phantasy; and he knows, moreover, how to link so large a yield of pleasure to this representation of his unconscious phantasy that, for the time being at least, repressions are outweighed and lifted by it. If he is able to accomplish all this, he makes it possible for other people


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once more to derive consolation and alleviation from their own sources of pleasure in their unconscious which have become inaccessible to them.2 The American photographer Diane Arbus (1923–1971) is best known for the pictures she took of the marginalized: little people, exceptionally tall people, naturists, transgender people, and others society deemed at the time so far outside the norm as to be freakish. Though her work has been exhibited widely (at the Venice Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and elsewhere) and while it has been the subject of numerous critical studies, it remains controversial. Critics have focused on what some see as lack of beauty, pessimism, absence of compassion, and a repulsive victimization in the misbegotten physiology of her subjects. At the same time, others write of a compelling style and technique and of the ethical significance of her picture-­taking. Interestingly, it was not until journalist Arthur Lubow’s recent biography, Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer, that what the photographs reveal of the artist herself was brought to the fore. Elsewhere, Lubow has claimed that Arbus’ career, from the start, offered proof to the artist not only of who she was, but that she was. As interested as she was in her subjects, they too were interested in her; of this she made sure by seductive or otherwise attention-­ getting attire. Arbus, Lubow argued, was truly sustained by her “lively interaction” with those she photographed: “Her reflection in the eyes of others formed her self-­image.” In fact, he suggests, the idea that “her explorations in the margins of society, communing with professional freaks and mentally unbalanced eccentrics, deepened her depressions,” that they ultimately contributed to her death by suicide, is but “a commonly held misperception.” Her self-­ image was fragile, and it was the fascination of others that gave it strength.3 Another iconic American photographer (and filmmaker), but one who is her own prime subject, Cindy Sherman (b. 1954) has maintained that the portraits that propelled her into the spotlight (they date to the late 1970s) were an effort “to obliterate” herself. Insistent, moreover, that her early satirical photographs had nothing autobiographical about them, she has said, “I use myself the way I would use a mannequin.” In 1999 she told art critic Blake Gopnik, “I like to work completely alone, so instead of using models I use

A play of selves: art as play


myself.” Of late, however, she has come to see that that early work contained more of her “self” than she originally thought. For A Play of Selves, an assemblage of seventy-­two photographs, she took hundreds of shots in which she posed in a variety of costumes to represent the sixteen characters that make up her scripted tale (see Figure 2.1). One senses in this early work, if not the stabilizing of her self-­image as with Arbus, a self-­referentiality born of a similar desperation: “It was easy to erase myself and put on somebody else’s face,” she told Gopnik more recently, for the continual shifting of images of herself—“ ‘How about this face, or that character?’ ”— was a means, however ironic, of drawing attention to herself, the youngest of five siblings, who felt herself to be the “straggler” left behind. And that attention was confirming.4

FIGURE 2.1  Cindy Sherman, A Play of Selves, 1976. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.


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Hide-­and-seek or similar games allow the child to build a sense of object constancy. They afford the child an understanding over time that when, for instance, mother hides behind her hand, only to reappear a moment later with a “peek-­a-boo,” she has not left and abandoned him forever. Sherman’s masking of “self” in a camouflaged representation of the other, the aesthetic gesture that characterized Sherman’s work over several decades, has evolved in her latest work into images of even more explicit, if less derisive, role-­playing. In taking on the persona of “veteran leading ladies of cinema’s Golden Age,” as Gopnik describes the artist’s newest photographs, in “turning herself into avatars of Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo and others in their twilight years,” Sherman is seeking not so much to situate herself in relation to the other as to reconcile an older “self” with a younger one. And she does so through the aging of others, through masquerading as those like herself who have “achieved success and come out the other side.”5 Sherman’s efforts to know her “self” through caricature, through “play” with multiple selves (she appears in her photographs as seductress, matron, clown, and other popular cultural icons of women), like those of Arbus to find her “self” through its reflection in others, are illustrative of the Adorno citation with which we began. But what is that “self,” that “I” which Adorno has said art knows better than we do? One’s sense of who one is and what one feels is variously described psychodynamically and neurobiologically, the former informed by the psychoanalyst’s observations and interpretations of subjective experience, the latter by the neuroscientist’s gathering of objective evidence. The neuroscientist seeks the origin of “self” in the working of the nervous system, primarily by looking at the ways in which the brain is physiologically configured and reconfigured over time and by observing the interrelation of multifaceted memory systems. The psychoanalytic theorist, traditionally, has sought the meaning of “self” in the interaction between unconscious and conscious representations, motivations, and desires that, when all goes well, progress from an emerging awareness of the distinction between me and not-­me to a sense of autonomy, a feeling of inner cohesiveness. While a number of such theorists have proposed variations in the concept of “self,” with some attempting to parse its component parts, most agree the “self” is, at once, “realistic and

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subject to defensive distortion” and “stable and changing based on both internal and external circumstances.” Most agree as to its “complex developmental history that includes inborn characteristics, maturations, and internalized interactions with others.”6 That developmental history is considerably impacted by an individual’s capacity for adaptation to the environment. Nonetheless, the debate over nature versus nurture would appear to occupy no less significant a place today in how we conceive of the enhancement of and impediments to growth than it has in times past, the relative weight of constitutional and environmental factors still being impossible to measure precisely. Issues such as drive versus object relations, the significance of the oedipal phase, and the relation of fantasy to the unconscious (fantasy being equatable with the unconscious, as the followers of Melanie Klein would have it, as opposed to a content of it, as Freud saw it) still divide the clinical community at large. Yet, if there is contention today concerning its purpose (why we actually engage in it), there is no debate regarding the importance of that prime facilitator of psychic growth, that enhancer of the sense of “self” that is play. Play, though a novel form of behavior, is a universal activity. Through the symbolic activity of play, children learn how they are different from others. At first, the representation is semi-­symbolic with the little girl, say, playing with a doll that represents the mother–daughter relationship. The child is the mother and the doll the daughter. Later, there may be two dolls, one the mother, the other the daughter. Through a fuller symbolic representation—in role-­playing and other forms of make-­believe—the child begins to define her identity and strengthen her sense of “self.” As play becomes freer, the child slowly distances herself from the narrative; with her sense of “self” growing stronger as it detaches from the story, fantasy predominates over imitative role-­playing to become more imaginative. Developmentally speaking, in other words, play is an elemental tool we employ to progress over time to increasingly symbolic and abstract modes of mentation. Children’s play is transformational in numerous ways, among which are the fantasy and sublimation that give rise to a lessening of tension between formlessness and integration. Indeed, from the earliest stages of infancy through the various phases of maturation, the child is naturally creative. Creating a relationship to the world is the first task imposed by the dawning of


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awareness that one is separate from mother. Creating that relationship means finding ways to accept and adapt to frustration and disillusionment, for primary among the lessons to be learned about reality is that it is not congruent with our earliest feeling of omnipotence. Many infants make use of what Winnicott called the “transitional object” to move into the external world and to strengthen awareness of the formless “not me” that precedes the development of a more integrated self. Over time, affection for the blanket, the stuffed animal, or other “transitional object” gives way to more symbolic play with the doll or other toys until new interests begin to predominate. What determines the progression from me at center stage to the “not-­me possession,” what allows for the increased use of symbolism and the elaboration of fantasy through which the sense of self is enhanced in relation to the larger world, is the freedom inherent in the activity of play. We will return later to the relation between freedom of expression in the therapeutic setting and in art, but suffice it to say here that freedom of thought and expression is not as simple a concept as one might suspect and that such freedom is the fundamental resource of play that makes psychoanalytic and artistic process analogous. Freud showed what is withheld from the process of free association to be invaluable to the treatment for the unconscious conflict such withholding reveals. But other freedoms are critical as well. Psychoanalyst Sarah Nettleton writes of “the freedom to interrupt a line of thought without explanation if other thoughts break in,” of “freedom from the conventions of ordinary relational language,” and of freedom “from the social requirement of considering the other person’s needs.” It is the “freedom not to make sense,” though, that for our present purposes is key.7 Freedom from reason is as defining in child’s play as in analysis, and it is precisely what constitutes originality in art, in modern art (with its neo and post iterations) especially. Originality signifies unique or inventive, which subsumes liberation from expectation, sociocultural or aesthetic, and sometimes is such that it not only surprises but also shocks. Both Arbus and Sherman are often truly outrageous in their work. However different their art—the one bordering on the surreal through eccentricity, the other bordering on the surreal through sardonic deconstruction of popular culture—the unconventional

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frames their pictures. And in that unconventionality, in the very way they make use of the medium of photography, there is much that is comparable to the venturesome spirit we associate with playing. Daring to expand the boundaries of the “real,” each has found in liberation from the ordinary, above all else, new ways of self-­ knowing. “They remind me of myself,” Arbus said of the Jersey City triplets she photographed in 1966. Even the most outlandish of her pictures, one critic has noted, are like self-­portraits: “windows transmuted into mirrors.”8 Sherman’s portraits obviate the need for such transmutation. What Freud adapted to the treatment situation was essentially a form of play. Indeed, all psychotherapy takes places in what Winnicott called “the overlap” of the play area of the therapist and that of the patient. In psychoanalytic work, it is essential for both analyst and patient to be able to play. When a patient is unable to play, part of the analytic process will be to enable him or her to do so. Playing is therapeutic precisely because it is inherently creative and “it is only in being creative that the individual discovers the self.”9 A woman in her late sixties came to treatment presenting with significant anxiety and depression owing to a severe medical illness. Her depression was so inhibitive that it prevented her from being attentive to anything occurring around her. Each session consisted in a frightened account of her feelings of desperation and worthlessness. She was unable to reflect on the past in any meaningful way, as she appeared unable to remember it. It was through the activity of card playing, as unusual as that was, that the analyst was able to reduce her “blindness” to the outside world and the patient succeeded, slowly, in being able to talk about work, friends, memories, and conflictual relationships to family members. Only in the “unintegrated state of the personality,” as Winnicott refers to it, can the creativity take place that enables the individual “to postulate the existence of the self.” In the therapeutic setting, creativity becomes part of the patient’s psychic reorganization through regression, through a kind of disintegration, an interlude of “relaxation” (as Winnicott calls it) when “the opportunity for formless experience and for creative impulse, motor and sensory, which are the stuff of playing” is afforded. It is then that true discovery emerges. So, too, art interweaves subjectivity and self-­ reflecting observation.10 Of this, the work of both Arbus and


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Sherman is exemplary. As in the therapeutic setting—where play (with words as symbol and metaphor) affords a new type of interaction and the patient, just as the child liberated from the constraints of the environment when playing, achieves insight through exploration—art re-­forms one’s relation to the external world and reality. Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp describes play as a primary instinct, a primitive urge associated with a system of neural circuits whose arousal enhances human social behavior and leads to the feeling of joy. The brain at play, in fact, allows for the operation of other emotional systems, primarily social ones, Panksepp has explained,11 rendering it evolutionarily necessary. While Panksepp identifies different kinds of play—such as investigative play or object play (a dog playing with a squeeze toy, for example)—to date no brain systems have been demonstrated for these. But physical (rough-­andtumble) and social play, the kind children instinctually engage in, is indeed fun and, because it is associated with positive emotions, its neural circuitry is known. Play, as Panksepp sees it, is primitive behavior in the sense that it is based on memories instilled via evolution in the brain. Like the experience of emotion, play is a function of our most ancient brain regions and therefore to be viewed from a Darwinian perspective. Mark Solms has similarly described the evolutionary importance of play linking it with the pleasure it affords: ask children what they want to do, what they like most, he has often observed, and they will predictably say, “Play!” Asked why, they will just as predictably respond, “It’s fun!” For Solms play is a matter of finding limits: “how much pleasure,” how much “exuberant joy,” of being chased, of tickling, will the child be allowed to have? That is the limit they are testing. When the frontier has been reached, play ceases and what he suspects of being yet another instinctual emotional system—dominance—takes over, with the positive feeling in one player turning to a negative one of fear, sadness, or anger. Indeed, when children are permitted to do as they wish, play can lead to arguing and worse. It therefore serves the social maturational process in that, as Panksepp puts it, it takes “you to the edge of your emotional knowledge, so you can learn what you can and cannot do to others.”12 We leave until chapter 4 discussion of how we play with our physical limits as well; how, in search of mature identity,

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we play—stretch and experiment—with the limits of the body itself. For the moment, we would emphasize the claim of Panksepp and Solms that, of all the instinctual emotional systems (Panksepp has long identified seven13), play is the one most intimately related to art. It is so precisely because both play and art, they argue, are fundamentally about finding, within the safety of a zone of unreality, the limits of the imaginary as they relate to the reality of life. Art, in a word, as we understand from evolutionary biology, flirts with fantasy on the very edge of reality.14 The question becomes that much more vital when we consider newer forms of creative expression offered by contemporary art: performances and installations that extend beyond the museum or gallery space to enter our lives in a very different way. Vito Acconci— poet, performer, architect, or, as he describes himself, “art-­doer”— having changed the course of art history in the 1970s with some truly memorable performances, decided to abandon the art scene to enter the world of architecture. It was then that he created Acconci Studio, stating that he did not want his persona to be identified with his work. Acconci was, in a sense, his art, though the idea made him uncomfortable. Acconci’s biography leads us to rethink the relationship between art and reality: When art is life, can we still say that art is unreal? René Magritte, exploring the relationship between objects and their representations, both linguistic and pictorial, concluded that language and visual image are in a symbolic relationship, one that is thereby relative and variable, with “real” things. Magritte’s research serves as a reminder of the separation between meaning and perception that occurs during development when we, as children, first begin to engage in pretend play. As the Russian social psychologist Lev Vygotsky put it, “In play the child sees one thing but acts differently in relation to what he sees. Thus, a condition is reached in which the child begins to act independently of what he sees.”15 When a child, playing, uses a stick as a fishing rod, that child is separating meaning and objects, mimicking Magritte’s famous painting This is not a pipe, where the drawing of a pipe divorced from its name suggests the fragility and unreliability of mimetic representation. It is true that the painting of a pipe is not, and never will be, a pipe! “The use of speech for the ordinary purposes of life imposes a limited meaning on words designating objects,” Magritte himself


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said. “It would seem that everyday language sets imaginary boundaries to the imagination.”16 Yet the child learns how to play with those boundaries, blurring the border between reality and make-­believe when he pretends to eat on a nonexisting table, when absent objects are imagined. Nonetheless, we could say that art is above all perceptual experience, and what that implies about the empirical relation between sensation, expectation, and memory makes its unreality far more complex than it might otherwise seem. Let us consider the claim that at least some art is not real for being, by definition, imaginative and therefore linked to play, whence its pleasure. However similar to or representative of reality it may be, for Solms it remains “as if.” Moreover, like the rough-­ and-tumble play of children that results in the domination of one over the other (the determination of who is “king of the castle” and who “the dirty rascal”), so too the playfulness of art meets its limit, Solms suggests, in dominance: the valuation of one artwork or one body of work over another. Solms goes so far as to suggest “there might be a separate ([eighth]) emotional system for social dominance/territoriality/power,”17 further confirming for him the limit of art as play, its boundary with the real. What needs to be drawn here, however, is the line between art and aesthetics. Clearly, they are not intrinsically related—one being applied to the other, rather than being of it—which renders the notion of art’s separation from reality ever more problematic. We recall, with intellectual historian Susan Buck-Morss, the etymological meaning of “aesthetics”: it derives from aisthitikos, Greek for that which is “perceptive by feeling.” Thus, writes BuckMorss, “Aisthisis is the sensory experience of perception.” The “original field of aesthetics is not art but reality—corporeal, material nature,” she explains, citing Terry Eagleton who wrote, “Aesthetics is born as a discourse of the body.”18 Insofar as they cannot be acculturated, “the senses maintain an uncivilized and uncivilizable trace, a core of resistance to cultural domestication. This is because their immediate purpose is to serve instinctual needs—for warmth, nourishment, safety, sociability—in short, they remain a part of the biological apparatus, indispensable to the self-­preservation of both the individual and the social group.” Indeed, it is because aesthetics has intrinsically little to do with art itself that “one might rather place it within the field of animal instincts.”19 But we speak here of the feelingful response of the viewer, the perceiver’s sensorial

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response to, say, a photograph or a painting. The viewer may or may not be the artist herself (the artist, after all, is also a viewer as she works), but responsiveness in the artist and in another viewer of the art, though both creative it need hardly be said, are not one and the same. What we are driving at is that art is experiential in a way that aesthetics is traditionally not thought of as being, but that, as we know from contemporary performance art and more, experience implicates the real. That said, Acconci and other contemporary performance artists throw this very notion to the wind insofar as aesthetics, in their work, becomes profoundly experiential too. One has only to think of Marina Abramovic´’s performance pieces to see just how experiential aesthetics can be. But the very appeal of art and the endurance of its practice throughout history may be said to lie precisely in its making visible the reality of experience. This is not to say that our habitual notion of reality may not in some way be undone by what we view. Consider the work of Arbus: “In recording the facts and continually reminding us that facts lie at the root of what we’re looking at, her photographs,” her daughter, Doon Arbus, has said, “undermine our concept of reality and turn it on its head. Things we took for granted as mundane begin to make us marvel; dualities of the mind or of the spirit find their physical manifestations, while what we once believed to be the exclusive province of dreams turns out to exist right in our own neighborhood with its feet planted firmly on the ground.”20 Art, by extension from poetry, emerged as a concept from the Aristotelian notion of poïesis (ποίησις), a derivative of the ancient Greek ποιέω meaning “to make.” The act of making art, however abstract the artwork’s meaning, is an act of expansion, not of constriction or in any way limiting the real. Sherman’s art with its “playing of selves” (playfully) makes this very point. The subject of her art, she portrays herself again and again taunting and even flaunting—both within each work and from work to work—this or that. The reality she is spoofing in her work is that much more evident for her artful contesting of it. When Solms speaks of art as not real insofar as the imagination is productive of a realm comparable to but not one with the empirical world, he would appear to be referring not to art per se, but to the attitude of the player (artist or viewer) and to his acceptance of the rules of the game. It might even be more accurate to say Solms is speaking of aesthetics, the sensorial discourse that is


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an engagement with—a transporting beyond or transference to— the materiality of the artwork. There is recognition on the part of the landscape painter, in other words, that the landscape depicted is “unreal,” as there is recognition on the part of children pretending to be cowboys and Indians that their battlefield of the Wild West is “unreal.” But it is the attitude toward the painting or toward the game that delimits its reality, an attitude that defines the activity as “play.” In psychoanalysis, “reality” may also be thought of in terms of creative process (aesthetics); not, of course, in terms of the aesthetics of beauty but of the organization of perception and fantasy, the forms given to sensory experience and their intensity. Even the transference of feelings from a primary caregiver to the analyst or the engagement of the analyst as a “new object” are forms given to feeling; they are ways of structuring and re-­structuring one’s inner world such that “reality” takes on different shades of meaning for which we offer theoretical constructs that are aesthetic in their own right. In a similar way, art is not in or of the object produced, but has more to do with the feeling that emerges as the viewer sees or the artist makes it. Underlying this book is the conviction that, as play furthers growth of the child through the increased capacity for symbolization, art promotes growth of the artist and viewer alike through the increased capacity for experiencing the world in new ways, the increased capacity for feeling alive—differently. In a word, insofar as art is essentially experiential, it is not unreal. Imaginative? Yes, of course. Illusory? Yes, but . . . it is not so to the point where illusion is said not to be lived experience, unarguably truly real. Two points come to mind. The first regards the real–unreal (real– imaginary) binary itself. Is it useful, accurate even, to begin with? Is it not, rather, something art precludes by its relational or intersubjective nature? Art is art—which is to say actualized—when perceived, whether by the viewer or by the artist herself. (For, we re-­emphasize, in the process of creation feed-­forward is feed-­back dependent.) The second is the vagueness of the terminology; what are the meanings of “real” and “unreal” (or “imaginary”) as they relate to art, to psychic phenomena, and the relation of both to the neurobiology of the brain? We leave to the philosopher or aesthetician the second, but offer a word about the first: contemporary theoreticians strive today

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to move beyond the dichotomous conceptualization of the arena occupied by the psychoanalytic dyad. As Richard Gottlieb has put it: We have made some progress but still have a way to go in developing vocabulary and concepts that can adequately describe the two-­person field—the workings of the dyad—in psychoanalysis. We have ideas such as “third” and “thirdness” that transcend the binary; “projective identification” gets at a recursive mutual influencing but relies on the binary project/ identify; “mirroring” as a way to think about very early mother-­ infant exchanges is another effort. . . . Winnicott gave us important language and concepts that help; for example, his famous “there’s no such thing as a baby” (meaning that it’s the baby/mother that needs to be conceptualized/theorized); or his contribution of the transitional object, “the first not-­me possession” that finds its existence between infant and “reality” or internal and external. He was struggling against the constraints of our restrictive binaries and made significant progress.21 Art, as we have said, is comparable to psychoanalysis in its use of play. It is also comparable in harboring “in its own substance elements of the empirically existent,” as Adorno eloquently claimed.22 Italian psychoanalyst Giuseppe Civitarese has written of: “The paradox of an object that is there but not there yet, which is not seen as having its own existence, and yet . . . is about to be.”23 Like Civitarese and other clinicians seeking to develop “vocabulary and concepts that can adequately describe the two-­person field— the workings of the dyad—in psychoanalysis,” we seek to contribute something on a par for the experiencing of art, which implies, if not abandoning the dichotomy in question, a loosening of the borders. In saying that art affords new ways of experiencing or being in the world, we are pointing to the transformational capacity of artistic process. And in aiming to lift the veil of certainty with regard to meaning of symbol and metaphor in the artwork and making room for ambiguity, we are endorsing the idea that motivates any artist: namely, that reality is neither this nor that, but something ambiguously in between. Through the deliberate confusion in his plays between what is occurring on stage and what in the audience, Samuel Beckett says


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as much. Mouth, the speaking subject in his 1972 play Not I, for example, refers often in her monologue to “buzzing” and to “a ray of light,” both of which are fictive images and also what transpires in live performance. Stage time is also thrown into question in the somewhat earlier Play where the spotlight projected on each of three heads protruding from identical urns not only prompts their speech but is addressed as “you.” The convergence of visible and audible signifiers (from costumes to props) and the simultaneity of speaking and doing (the saying of what is occurring before us in time and space), such as one finds in Beckett’s late play A Piece of Monologue, are but additional instances of what critic Ruby Cohn termed “theatereality.” The neologism is apt. In the fusion of situation (one’s presence in the theater) and the fiction portrayed on the stage, the very need for the dichotomy is undone and this to the benefit of the spectator who thereby becomes a true participant. With her playful self-­consciousness, her aggressive if seductive challenge to the viewer that her adoption of various personas entails, Cindy Sherman, who has been called “our greatest female impersonator,”24 makes a similar point. Her continual photographic depiction of her self as selves deflates, paradoxically, the binary construction of self and other as Beckett deflates that of art and reality. In Sherman’s work self and other are but one (see Figure 2.2). Like the child who dresses in the clothes of her mother and walks the floor in high-­heeled shoes not merely to enact the wish to be grown-­up, but to enhance the feeling of who she is by deepening her understanding of who she is not, the artist playfully tests the limits of “not-­me” to arrive at the feeling of “me.” Such is imagination at work, which brings us to this: considering the origin of the word “play” (plegian, Old English: to exercise) and its meaning in the many kinds of phrases in which the word appears in English today (one plays with an idea, one plays an instrument, one plays a game or sport, one plays a role, various kinds of powers or influences are said to be at play, and so on), one wonders as to the inevitability of the link between art, in its relation to play, and pleasure. Art as play presupposes the making of art as a necessarily pleasurable experience. Christopher Bollas has been said to describe “an intrinsic pleasure in the freedom to articulate the internal world, something that is well known to psychoanalysts and analysands but rarely discussed.”25 The same sort of pleasure is

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FIGURE 2.2  Cindy Sherman, Untitled, 2007/2008. Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York.

supposed of art because of its expressivity, its giving form to the dynamic and otherwise potentially imperceptible aspects of our emotional life. Many an artist, however, describes just how painful an experience it may actually be. Biographer James Lord has written of Giacometti’s extreme anxiety, to cite but a single example, which Lord witnessed when he sat for a portrait: “When I would arrive at the studio for a sitting, Giacometti would disconsolately occupy himself for a half-­hour or more doing odds and ends on his sculpture, literally afraid to start painting. When he did bring himself to get into painting, the anxiety became severe.”26 While Giacometti agonized over the possible disappearance of what he was painting, whether person or object, others despair of getting the depiction just right. (Painted canvas, musical score, choreographed movement, or words on a page: the agony is the


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same. For play includes struggle and struggle includes frustration. We are all familiar with Flaubert’s desperate need for “le mot juste.”) The drive to create, moreover, may be experienced as a compulsion, not pleasurable in its fight to externalize internal forces, the demons to which we refer above. The point, though, is that the pleasure, euphoria even, of making or viewing art lies in its sensory nature, not in the interpretation of meaning; it resides in what James Joyce called art’s “clear radiance,” that moment when the image is first apprehended “luminously by the mind which has been arrested by its wholeness and fascinated by its harmony.” That, claimed Joyce, is “the luminous silent stasis of esthetic pleasure.”27 So, too, in her celebrated book Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag argues that what is truly liberating in art is transparence, “experiencing the luminousness of the thing in itself.”28 We find as much in Plato’s Republic, where the philosopher defines “intuition” as a fundamental capacity of human reason to comprehend the true nature of reality, the supreme, ultimate, and most profound form of knowledge. It is within that translucence, outside the hermeneutic, that the artist (and the viewer) may be said, we would add, to play. Sherman herself has identified it as that moment in the creative process when, “like magic,” she sees what she wants and her “intuition takes over—both in the ‘acting’ and in the editing.”29 One never knows exactly what the people in Sherman’s photographs are doing or why. This often frustrates her viewers who want explanations: narratives, titles, whatever will give them some degree of certainty. Sherman, however, insistently says she seeks “ambiguity,” and that any form of narrative is to come not from her but from the viewer. Critic Jerry Saltz has offered the viewer of Sherman’s work a word of advice: “[D]on’t think in traditional terms of plot, continuity, character development, whatever. Her people are actors and inventions, each a tabula rasa and an open program for unformed archaic phantasmagorias.”30 The point is well taken: Sherman’s striving for ambiguity is what makes her art a kind of meta-­art, a commentary on how the viewer’s experience of art, his willingness to remain before her work in uncertainty, is the origin of change in one’s relation to self and world. But the question remains: Is pleasure intrinsic to play; that is, to play as it occurs in art? That such play is not necessarily pleasure

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affirming, that it may in truth be threatening, is seen in a pastel and pencil drawing where that benign exemplar of play, a doll, is depicted as broken (see Figure  2.3). Ominously, play here has become an adult’s exploration of a child’s loss of comfort, of learning the dangers of being alive. In the broken feature of the doll (its right eye), the artist, Jo Anne Schneider, confronts a prodigiously troubling force made all the more disturbing by its coupling with an open eye that, ostensibly blind, is also not “seeing.” As in Giacometti’s work, where eyes are repeatedly surrounded by shadow or partially covered, such as in his

FIGURE 2.3  Jo Anne Schneider, Doll, 1986. Courtesy of the artist.


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1935 self-­portrait and his 1954 portrait of his wife, one eye in Schneider’s work is missing the interior, and again, an eminently ghostly surface, with its soft tones and texture, coordinates in the drawing with the powerful negativity, the emotionally painful disruption that is sightlessness.31 We consider this further in the context of chapter 4, but the point we wish to make here is that the closed eye, capable only of inner vision, and the open eye gazing on nothing within or without, playfully if distressingly, shut the viewer out while simultaneously engaging him in a play of seeing not seeing. Play, then, extends in Schneider’s work through irony to not-­ pleasure-related emotional regions as a domain of painful possibilities—loss and other kinds of danger—is entered. (Not only is the eye broken, but also the right side of the nose is enigmatically distorted.) But approaching art for the purpose of interpreting it— decoding its symbols, translating its metaphors—is, as Sontag has said, “reactionary, stifling” and constitutes a “revenge of the intellect upon the world.”32 Such is by no means our intent here. Nor do we seek to know to what extent play in the rendering of the image—or in play with a viewer made to see not seeing—might have succeeded in purging the feeling of threat or loss (of sight, of peacefulness, of childhood). Whatever sublimatory or transferential gratification was (by the artist) or is (by the viewer) to be had remains unknown, and the viewer (perhaps no more nor less than the artist) will experience the art, its pleasure and its pain, as an instance of ambiguity. The point, though, is this: play is a function of ludic urges genetically embedded in the nervous system. The ludic urge, in brief, is the arousal of particular brain circuits triggered by the pleasure associated with play. But the making of art—playful in its articulation of the previously unarticulated, playful in its representation of external reality in symbol and metaphor, playful in its responsiveness to the art that precedes it, and playful in its making order of internal chaos—is not necessarily pleasurable. Why? Wherein does the contradiction reside? We have noted play in the ironic self-­affirming art of Arbus whose photographic portraits of attention-­drawing others entailed, she made sure, bearing witness to her. We have noted play in the entwining of selves and preoccupation with identity to which Sherman has devoted her career. And we have noted, however briefly, play in the paradoxical focus on seeing not seeing and in the thematic of Schneider’s drawing, in the emblematic doll, broken.

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French philosopher Henri Maldiney has said, “Every form is a source of opening”33 and there, we would argue, lies the answer to our question. Rather than an end point, the giving of form, as evident in the art of all three, is a point of departure and what is embarked upon is newness of feeling and thereby newness of experience. “Feeling” is an inadequate signifier of what is meant by our use of this word, as Bollas has said of its use by Francis Bacon, who wrote, “Art is a method of opening up areas of feeling rather than merely an illustration of an object.”34 We do not speak here of feeling in the sense of art-­as-expression of emotion or affect, which would imply that art was contiguous, if not congruent, with something constituted a priori. Rather, we speak of it as generative of layers of psychic sensation that, by accessing regions of memory, conflict, or desire, through the encounter with art, arise from within. The idea of art’s rendering accessible what lies within is hardly of our own era. It can be traced, in fact, to Plato’s theory of anamnesis as developed in the Dialogues where the soul is said to be immortal and learning to be not the result of teaching, but the remembrance of what was known in a previous incarnation. Moreover, if Plato would have the work of artists strictly censored if not expelled from the ideal Republic, it was because he feared the power of art to incite our emotions, risking disharmonious effects. Fast-­forward to our own time, or at least to the last century, and to the idea that we “forget” not simply the unimportant but what is too charged with “unpleasurable” meaning. Considering the art of the creative writer, Freud wrote, “A strong experience in the present awakens in the creative writer a memory of an earlier experience . . . from which there now proceeds a wish which finds its fulfillment in the creative work. The work itself exhibits elements of the recent provoking occasion as well as of the old memory.”35 Freud proposed that creative writing, similar to the daydream, takes the place of childhood play and that its pleasure derives from that element of play. He also suggested, however, that the writer’s work liberates “tensions” in the reader’s mind, freeing him from the repulsion and shame caused by his own fantasies in their raw or unaesthetic form. The literary work of art, like the visual, allows for a “return of the repressed,” which may in itself be disturbing (or not) as we considered in our discussion of giving form to private demons. Some, today, describe a rather different process by which art permits a connection with what was previously too threatening to


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recollect. Dissociation is a normal defensive process that, as described by Philip Bromberg, is “a fluid and creative dialectic between self-­states,”36 though it can extend well beyond its function of assuring stabilization of the self. The artist, literary or visual, who is able to produce (linguistically or otherwise) images that embody this internal dialectic between what Bromberg terms “normally incompatible self-­states” awakens in the reader or viewer “a corresponding self-­state disjunction”37—a dissociation which may also be disturbing and thereby not necessarily pleasurable (though it says nothing whatsoever of the value of the work of art). Optimally, though, the corresponding dialectic “entails an ability to tolerate and even enjoy . . . the shifts between one’s own different self-­states.”38 For the resonance with dissociated experience, with experience shut off from conscious awareness, once brought within the field of attention, like the renewed encounter with the repressed, is generative of new ways of feeling and thus of relating to self and other. In its resemblance to analytic experience, aesthetic experience may be conceptualized as a way of making tolerable what was distanced from the psyche—either repelled from it or buried within it—and turning it into something knowable and existentially useful. Louise Bourgeois offers an elegant illustration of affect relegated to the background of experience. She speaks here of her husband: “Sometimes I feel that I am blind when I look at Robert. I look and look and I cannot respond. It is as if he was on the other side of a panel. I cannot touch him with my eyes. It is a paralysis of the eyes.” Similarly, there is the “vulgarity” of a friend’s voice that she can “see” when on the telephone with him but that she cannot “hear” when “see[ing] him.” She explains: “when the stimulus is too much the organism protects itself like eye pupils that contract to let in only what they can tolerate.”39 One might speak analytically of dissociation (a notion whereby intolerable experience is unformulated, unsymbolized, and nonideational) or of repression (the concept whereby what was conscious has subsequently been removed from that level of awareness). Call it what one will, theorize it in accordance with one’s analytic orientation, but that which cannot be held in awareness for its destabilizing effect can be reconstituted, we would argue, through the—if not similarly insightful, often otherwise exhilarating—experience of art.

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Consider the 1912 lecture “On the nature of visions” in which Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980) considers the kind of knowing that comes from seeing and notes that “the state of awareness of visions is . . . a level of consciousness at which we experience visions within ourselves.” This experience is described as an in-­sighting, a means of seeing the self within the seeing of what is other. The form of visions, their patterns and also their significance, modify consciousness, the artist explains, such that there is “change in oneself.” Kokoschka expresses the dynamic enabling of art, what ultimately for him was a sublimation of incapacitating trauma and a facilitating of recovery, as follows: “My mind is the tomb of all those things which have ceased to be the true Hereafter into which they enter. So that at last nothing remains; all that is essential of them is their image within myself. The life goes out of them into that image as in the lamp the oil is drawn up through the wick for nourishing the flame.”40 This visual source of self-­knowledge, envisioning as a knowing-­invision, is akin to the process of discovery that optimally occurs in psychoanalysis. Samuel Abrams terms it “insighting,” using the nonexistent transitive form of the word “insight” to signal not the acquisition of insights but the capacity for “discovering, integrating, or knowing in a new way.”41 The point is that it is precisely the nonhierarchical relationship, the partnership that Abrams defines as essential to psychoanalysis and that Kokoschka defines as his experience of making art, that allows for the “in-­sighting”/“insighting” that is the very determinant of new ways of knowing. Joseph Beuys has said of his performance piece “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare” (1965) the following: The idea of explaining to an animal conveys a sense of the secrecy of the world and of existence that appeals to the imagination. Then, as I said, even a dead animal preserves more powers of intuition than some human beings with their stubborn rationality. . . . The problem lies in the word “understanding” and its many levels which cannot be restricted to rational analysis. Imagination, inspiration, and longing all lead people to sense that these other levels also play a part in understanding. . . . I try to bring to light the complexity of creative areas.42


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The analytic case of Elisabeth von R. is familiar to many as a chapter of Breuer and Freud’s Studies in Hysteria. Abrams writes of it as follows: In 1893, Elisabeth von R. was referred to Sigmund Freud because of hysterical symptoms. Before she even stepped into his consultation room, Freud had a set of assumptions that accounted for her disease and the accompanying symptoms. . . . Freud had not only a pre-­existing theory of pathogenesis but also a theory of therapeutic action. If he could join the here-­and-now symptom with the there-­and-then affect, he theorized, the “sluices of motility” would be opened, and the patient would become well. Yet much has been learned about mind and brain since Freud’s time, Abrams reminds us. “Psychoanalysis has come to be recognized as a far more complex enterprise than was initially thought. In fact, it is hardly justified to use the term ‘psychoanalysis’ for what Freud did with Elisabeth in 1893.”43 The hierarchical relationship that characterized Freud’s technique is no longer seen as fundamental to the therapeutic process, whatever the analyst’s orientation. Equality, rather, is what promotes self-­discovery, as in the experience of making or viewing art where the absence of authority is the source of the very ambiguity that allows for growth. It is from the absence of authority, in fact, and from doing away with the idea of understanding as “rational analysis,” that possibility arises in both psychoanalysis and art. For subjectivity is prioritized in the nonhierarchical partnership of artist and viewer, or artist and artwork, just as it is in that of analyst and analysand. This alone prevents us from conceiving of an objectification of the psychic world of an individual, from thinking, in other words, in terms of a brain that could be mapped onto a corresponding mind. We will return later to this, but suffice it for now to say, as has Jan De Vos, that “subjectivity has never been fMR’ised.’ ”44 The concepts of mirror neurons, embodied simulation, and other models of how we perceptually encounter other minds significantly contribute toward our understanding of intersubjectivity and the psychology of affective responsivity. But that responsivity can never be neutralized as though it were lacking in affective motivation. Solms has rightly claimed that in both the aesthetic and the psychological arenas, the intentionality of the subject is attributed, spatially projected into

A play of selves: art as play


the object, whether the object is another mind or a work of art. Therein lies his argument that embodied simulation, the bodily response of mirroring in the subject to what is perceived in the object, is not empathic: “[T]he empathizing subject ‘feels its way into’ objects, not the other way around,” as Solms has said. “When the objects in question are other minds, the subject may get the intentional feelings of the object wrong. This is misperception of feeling. But when the objects in question are inanimate artworks, the subject always gets the feelings wrong (artworks do not really possess intentional feelings).”45 It would seem that this is quite literally what is at play in Cindy Sherman’s embodiment of dissociation, her binding of subjectivity as if to protect it from the projection of the other into feeling states that cannot be truly known by another. Masks are a metaphorical covering of some aspect of the self, and Sherman plays with masks, literal and figurative. Her points about popular icons of women in the Western world are well taken. On another level of mentation, however, the viewer may associate to the act of covering and, at times, be mindful of the associations. Whether the association remains unattended to or comes to exist as a fantasy in preconscious if not conscious awareness, the dialectic between hidden and revealed is as a lens that opens onto a prism of possibility. The ambiguity at play in Sherman’s work extends from form as commentary to form as opening: the inauguration of new kinds of experience, new meanings, and new self-­world relationships. In the preoccupation with aging evident in the more recent work where she appears as a number of select, highly acclaimed aged others, the feeling evoked by Sherman’s work is all the more powerful for the fame of those impersonated. And that Sherman works with a camera lends to the forms’—born of imagination and from which imagination originates—immediacy, the actuality of real-­time experience, not comparable to art of any other medium. We have suggested that Sherman’s “play of selves” is play not only with this or that self as me, but as “not-­me,” a notion first described by Harry Stack Sullivan as a dissociative defense. In his own view of dissociation, “not-­me,” explains Donnel Stern, is unformulated experience that is harbored by every personality, though its intensity varies considerably: “One will not, cannot be this person, because when one was, life was not bearable; and yet, if not-­me enters consciousness, one is that person.”46 Does Sherman’s


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playfulness in masquerading as other, her dress up and “make believe,” have as much to do, metaphorically speaking, with signing off from this me as with signing on to that one? How does this unanswerable question bear upon the experience of the viewer of Sherman’s art? How, in other words, does her masking and impersonating resonate with the viewer’s own play with identity and its affective associations at any given time? And how might such a resonance impact one’s response more generally to the art in question? Consideration of how the self is narrated in art, as it comes to be in the analytic setting, is the subject of the following chapter, a chapter intended to assist us in answering such questions with regard to a number of artists for whom making art is a way of challenging the non-­self and expanding the sense of selfhood. For the notion of confirmation and integration of the self, such as it occurs in any creative medium, sustains the human mind as it strives in its resistance to ambiguity to make order of chaos. The orchestral symphony is perhaps the most obvious example of tension between order and chaos with its reduction of psychophysical tension through structure and composition—that is, its investment of the mind with the pleasure of stability—giving credibility thereby to another of Adorno’s apothegms: “We don’t understand music, it understands us.”47

3 Narrating the self

In 2012 a symposium was held in Italy that brought together a number of neuroscientists and visual artists.1 When a member of the audience asked the panelists what would happen if art were suddenly made to disappear from the world, responses centered, as would be expected, on the loss of beauty. But the shift was meaningful, if subtle, when one of the panelists replied into the microphone that he held in his hand, “If art suddenly were made to disappear from the world this microphone would be only a microphone because we would lose the metaphoric and symbolic power of art to give objects, our selves even, the possibility of being something other than what they are meant or assumed to be.” No less than objects, our “selves” are transformed, in a sense, as we create, whether as artists or viewers. The choreographer Bill T. Jones’s work is about just that: who we are as we perceive and process our life experience, and how that identity is altered by its expression in words and movement. The self is a construct comprised of the many internal representations (conscious and unconscious, bodily and mental) that have retained a degree of constancy since childhood. What Jones explicitly confronts in his work is the interplay of perception and identity with imagination, an interplay upon which the relationship of self and world is based. He does so unequivocally with regard to himself, his dancers, and the spectator as well, revealing intersubjectivity to be essential to the embodied work. The recipient of numerous awards (a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, two Tony Awards, the National Medal of Arts, and an Obie Award among them), Jones has created over a hundred dances for his own group—the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company—and several


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others (the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, The Boston Ballet, and the Berlin Opera, to name but a few). Characteristic of his choreography is the merging of story with art, the finding in historical event or biographical vignette the creative impetus of the dance. Unlike classical ballet where story serves as a tool for the creator and performer to display the magnificence of their art, story in Jones’s choreography is the very means by which movement is transformative and the intersubjective relation of the individual to others made restorative (Figure 3.1). Indeed, so essential to his work is its transformational dimension that one critic has gone so far as to ask, with regard to one of Jones’s best-­known dances, “is it really art?” In a 1994 article in The New Yorker magazine that garnered much attention at the time, Arlene Croce posed the question of Still/Here, a dance that had its American premiere that year.2 Jones had been holding what he called “Survival Workshops” in cities across the country, sessions with small groups of people suffering from cancer, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and other life-­threatening

FIGURE 3.1  Lois Greenfield, Bill T. Jones, © 2004.

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illnesses, and filming the sessions. In these four-­hour-long gatherings Jones asked of the participants very precise questions pertaining to their diagnosis: how they had learned of it, where they were at the time, what the room in which they were told was like, who had informed them of it, and what they had done upon hearing that they suffered from an illness that would end their life. He even asked them to imagine their death: “Take us to your death,” he instructed them. “You’re not going to have this chance in life. This is the one you want: You can own it—it’s yours. What are the people around you saying? What are you thinking? What’s the last thing you see, the last thing you say?”3 From what ensued at the workshops, Jones created the dance of which Croce wrote, integrating with the participants’ imagined responses—expressed both in words and in movement—music and video images as well. Unlike other critics who praised Still/Here for its sensitivity and originality, Croce found this work entirely unacceptable as art, for even if the workshop participants are not actually the on-­stage performers, they are present in the videos and the focus is on them as much as on those whose movements we observe. “They,” she wrote, “are the prime exhibits of a director-­choreographer who has crossed the line between theater and reality—who thinks that victimhood in and of itself is sufficient to the creation of an art spectacle.”4 If Croce was harsh, it was not what she wrote that created the stir but, rather, that she refused to see the piece; she found it unacceptable, “undiscussable” even, though discussing it was clearly what she was doing, at least its conceptual reason for being. In his essay on Jones’s dance of mortality that appeared in the same magazine the week prior to Croce’s, Henry Louis Gates Jr. had described Still/Here as “less a poetics of death than a poetics of survival.” Acknowledging that the process by which Jones gathered material for his work “can sound almost cruelly exploitative,” Gates rightly assured his reader “the results are not”: “In each workshop, there is a moment when the participants form a chain and begin to literalize Jones’s request to take us to their deaths. It’s an image— that of a small group of triumphant souls, weary but determined, arms linked in a gloriously liminal dance with death.”5 And it is perhaps to that, above all else—to the image of connection, of communion, occurring through the intertwined movement of


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bodies—that the audience responds. There is nothing sentimental in the choreography (or any aspect of this mixed media work) or, for that matter, in any of Jones’s other profoundly personal dances. Rather, the deeply emotional dances into which verbal narration often plays so significant a role are moving precisely because Jones, however paradoxically, distances himself from any direct expression of feeling to allow the movement to retain a purity that might otherwise be diminished.6 Such is the abstraction Plato envisioned when invoking his notion of beauty, a kind of perfection to which artist and viewer can collaboratively, if sensually and imaginatively, relate. The work is a narrative, many narratives, chronicling loss, but what is extraordinary is that the mourning is for one’s self. Jones knows only too intimately what mourning another entails, having lost his long-­time collaborator and life partner, Arnie Zane, to AIDS. The potential loss of self, however, is ever present for him in that Jones is human immunodeficiency virus–positive, as he has made known. Yet through the relation of his dancers to one another in space and the rhythm of that relation as it changes in time, he creates what surpasses bereavement and transcends defeat. One workshop participant, for example, shared that, though “still here,” he was “ready to go, like an angel.” And that is how Jones’s dancers together embodied the going, the movement from here to there: spiritually. Called upon to enlist their own innermost resources, those who had never before danced were, in the sessions with Jones, told to “let the feeling come out of [their] minds and memory,” to “come out through [their] arms.” And so it did. Whether what became a choreographed response to the diagnosis of catastrophic illness (a response that takes, in Part I of the dance, the form of movement infused with stillness) or a choreographed expression of living in anticipation of impending death (still a living, nonetheless, and therefore yielding, in Part II, to movement more animated), the dance succeeds for its integrity, its humility, and, potentially, for the empathy it arouses (“potentially” because it is difficult to define empathy in terms of physiology). This is the empathy/coordination/responsiveness of each performer for the other whose story he or she is engaged in telling; it is the empathy/ resonance of the viewer responsive to the moving bodies on stage as to the voices and images of the workshop participants intermittently heard and seen on a screen. Neither limited to a form of cognition

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that would exist in isolation from the lived body and its mechanisms of motor response nor reducible to a form of embodiment that would impute to the mind a physicality it does not have, it is rather an empathy whereby body and mind truly resonate as one. The literature on empathy variously emphasizes visceral (affective) versus cognitive aspects of the projection of feeling onto what is observed. As Douglas Watt has noted, however, “Human empathy probably reflects variable admixtures of more primitive affective resonance mechanisms, melded with developmentally later-­arriving theory of mind and perspective taking.”7 We would agree insofar as affect has to do with both the feeling state of the subject and with cognition, the awareness of the other as separate from the self. That awareness is a developmental achievement to which empathy cannot be reduced any more than it can be to the biology of the body. But our interest here is in one feature of the admixture of which Watt writes: the sense of identity from which empathy emerges, the evolving story of lived experience that gives rise to identity and, by extension, how that sense of self may take shape (be transformed) in art. The narrative or core self—who one is—is what makes an individual more than a physical brain capable of affective resonance with another, which is to say, more than the endogenous state from which empathy arises and more than the awareness of the other as other. In a word, it is what makes an individual a “me.” And it is the narrative self that Jones, himself a dancer of exceptional grace and elegance, puts on the stage to unveil both the uniqueness of the individual and the inherent sociability of the human being, the intersubjectivity which his dances so often embrace. The ability of one mind to “know” another has long been debated. As traditionally endorsed by cognitive neuroscience, intersubjectivity is fundamentally propositional and, in a sense, solipsistic: understanding the other (social cognition/mentalizing/ theory of mind) is a function of the mental processing of symbolic information, in the form of verbal or nonverbal (such as gestural or emotional) communication. A more recent view supports the idea of cognition as an ensemble of neural networks or modules in which theory of mind is one among others.8 Vittorio Gallese offers another alternative which considers as pivotal the “role played by the lived body in the constitution of the way we understand the world of others.” The mirror mechanism—for whose discovery in monkeys Giacomo Rizzolatti and others became known in the early 1990s—


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necessitates a focus “not on the brain in isolation,” but “on its tight interrelated connections with the body.” In fact, as Gallese sees it, it was the discovery of mirror neurons which led to empirical research generating an understanding of the rudimentary aspects of intersubjectivity, for the mirror mechanisms mediate embodied simulation, the process whereby from the sense perceptions of the motion of others we feel the same activity within ourselves. Gallese’s bottom-­up perspective is a second-­person view of the intersubjective experience. As he explains, bodily selfhood has two functions: “On the one hand, it constitutes the basic sense of self. On the other, it shapes our perception and pre-­reflective conception of others as other selves incarnated in a motorly capable physical body with capacities and experiences similar to ours.” The mirror system offers an important way of considering how we interact and how we acquire knowledge of the other through the body. Only partially, however, does it shed light on the way in which an empathic response is elicited. There are moments in which an emotional reaction cannot be explained in terms of mirroring. A patient comes to mind: a woman in her fifties came to treatment seeking help for depression, difficulties with decision-­making and relationships, self-­doubt, and “talking about her emotions.” Her platonic object relations appeared healthy. Yet her family and romantic relationships were lacking. The patient showed very limited access to her emotional life and poor capacity for insight. Her words were measured, and it became clear she was terrified by the impact of her thoughts and actions on the people she cared for. Presenting with oedipal and narcissistic issues, she did not seem to have a solid sense of who she was. Rather, she seemed to have a “diluted/unintegrated” personality, which made describing her difficult, as was remembering the content of the sessions. Interestingly, at a time when the therapist changed office locations, the patient repeatedly inquired about the analyst’s seemingly considerable happiness in the new space. Some months later, speaking about a friend to whom she was developing a romantic attachment, she said, “I am not really sure I like him; he is too happy for me.” Her inability to connect, or to empathize, with other people’s happiness, and the anger that it triggered, subsequently reached an unbearable level. How might such a reaction be explained in physiological terms? What happens to the mirroring system when a happy, smiling

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face triggers anger in another person? By way of a number of different sensory, cognitive, and motor modalities, people express emotions and understand other people’s emotions, including facial expressions. There is a precise link between emotion, theory of mind, and social cognition; emotional understanding is crucial to empathic behavior and theory of mind. A child learns to understand, evaluate, and decipher his own emotions and those of others. This emotional component is potentially, but not solely, what resonates in us when we view art. Surely this notion of “second selves” offers a more authentic explanation of intersubjectivity than the “detached, propositional deliberation on the experiences of others”9 heretofore offered by cognitive neuroscience, though it cannot be ignored that other minds are by definition unknowable and that even their very existence is empirically unverifiable, however empathically it may be known. Nonetheless, one is tempted to ask whether it might not have been the contribution of the most elemental kinesthetic resonance (the rudimentary work of mirror neurons) to the intersubjective relation of dancer to dancer and spectator to dancer in Still/Here that led Croce to question the valorization of the work as art. Conceptually speaking of course, for Croce, we remember, did not view the dance before writing of it. The integration of lived experience within the work—as in Still/Here or, as we saw in the previous chapter, Cindy Sherman’s play with her own image in her art, and Beckett’s “theatereality” —provides explicit evidence of how we access art by way of our bodily selves. It restores the body to the totality of the mind-­brain system from which it is all too often conceptually separated. And it reveals how the creative process is transformative. Considering the first, we cite Maurice Merleau-Ponty who, in his celebrated essay, “Eye and Mind,” wrote, “It is by lending his body to the world that the artist changes the world into paintings.”10 The same is to be said of the dancer and his or her art (indeed, of all performance artists) where it is the animation of the body, not its component parts— not a mind, a brain, or even a mind-­brain, but a bodily self, a mind-­brain-body system—that inhabits, to make metaphorical and symbolic use of it, space: “I do not see [space] according to its exterior envelope; I live it from the inside; I am immersed in it. After all, the world is all around me, not in front of me,” wrote the philosopher.11


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Also important when we “experience” art is the body. The viewer in front of the artwork has an emotional reaction, something closer to an intuitive process than to rational knowledge. Intuition is the subjective experience of a process that is rapid, non-­rational, and inaccessible to consciousness. There is usually no insight into any kind of logical relation, but simply an impetus, judgment, hunch, or behavioral response. Intuition is a process that takes place in the more visceral regions of the nervous system—the insular cortex and the basal ganglia, for instance—those parts of the brain having to do with bodily functions. Intuition, then, is an embodied feeling/ knowledge. Regarding the second, how the work of art acts on us, and promotes our multiple interpretations that change with the passage of time, has everything to do with the ego functions of emotion, memory, and perception, and thus the affect that is inseparable from the conscious states from which they arise. Moreover, to the extent that the affective state of the other modulates the mirror mechanism (the intercorporeality that is the basis of intersubjectivity), we see that the supposed boundary between dance or theater and the reality too readily presumed external to it is rigidified. Ambiguity loosens the tension between them to defeat the ontologically reductive nature such rigidity imposes. Storytelling itself is a means of achieving that ambiguity, as Jones demonstrates in his very recent work Analogy, the first part of which is called “Dora: Tramontane.” “When I move my arm, we all have an arm: We can feel this. When I run, we can all feel it,” Jones said in conversation, unwittingly supportive of Gallese’s notion of the intersubjective relation between bodily selves. But what happens when the dancing relates to another era, say 1942, a time of inconceivable savagery, when numerous lives of his mother-­in-law Dora Amelan’s family, among so many others, were lost after deportation to Auschwitz? Dora’s memories provide the recited text, the stories that stimulate in dancer and spectator alike mental experiences, affective and imagistic, that awaken in Jones an anger he associates to own life experience, the anger he felt as a black dancer struggling to make it in a world of white dancers, the anger he felt as a homosexual in a world of heterosexuals: “I’m bitter as hell yet about slavery,” he has said. “I’m really angry. I’ve accepted that I’m always going to be angry.” In the second part of Analogy called “Lance: Pretty a.k.a. the Escape Artist,” Jones focuses on his nephew, a young man with a bright

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future as a dancer and songwriter who succumbed to drugs and prostitution, ended up with AIDS and paraplegia, and at the time of this writing is not far from death. Interviews with both Dora and Lance are part of Analogy, as the Survival Workshops are of Still/Here.12 How are these crossing of boundaries between art and reality transformative? How is the integration of the interviews into the dance works supportive of the idea that intersubjectivity consists in an embodied relation, a simulation between bodily selves? And how fragile is the boundary between that simulation and the affective response it has been said to evoke? The answers to these and similarly complex questions are the matter of neuroaesthetics, a young discipline that seeks understanding of how our brains respond to art. But surely they have something to do not only with the intimacy of Jones’s artistry, but with the endless inventiveness with which he transmits lived experience through his choreography and theatrical direction. Surely they lie in the transcendence of terminal illness, barbarity, prostitution, and drug use through the purity of the movement itself, in the compassion of the spectator for Dora, Lance, and also Jones himself. Jones’s interweaving of stories and movement is clearly transformative in its liberation—through the giving of form and possible meaning—from the pain of which he speaks; it is transformative in its deliverance, by means of a personal emancipation sought on behalf of an entire race, from anger wrought by enslavement as by the vulnerability of youth; and it is redemptive in its release from loss, the loss of some of those loved by Jones and of the many not known by him at all. Abbas Babajani-Feremi has written, “Comprehension of narratives constitutes a fundamental part of our everyday life experience. Although the neural mechanism of auditory narrative comprehension has been investigated in some studies, the neural correlates underlying this mechanism and its heritability remain poorly understood.”13 Using high-­quality functional magnetic resonance imaging datasets from the Human Connectome Project in which a story-­based paradigm was utilized for auditory narrative comprehension, researchers have shown that narrative comprehension may be associated with activation of the established language regions that include the superior temporal gyrus, the middle temporal gyrus, and the inferior frontal gyrus in both brain hemispheres. They have further revealed that narrative comprehension may well be associated


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with activation in areas beyond the established language regions, such as the medial superior frontal gyrus, the middle frontal gyrus, and the supplementary motor area. Their study potentially clarifies the functional contributions of linguistic and extralinguistic cortices during narrative comprehension.14 Despite an increasing number of publications, the neural correlates of narrative production and comprehension remain, as noted by Babajani-Feremi, “poorly understood.” Using positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging, others have attempted to characterize the neural mechanisms underlying these complex behaviors. During one particular experiment subjects told and listened to fictional stories. In addition to traditional areas associated with language (the left inferior frontal and posterior middle temporal gyri), both narrative production and comprehension activated regions associated with mentalizing (the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, precuneus and inferior parietal lobules) as well as neocortical premotor areas (such as the presupplementary motor area and left dorsal premotor cortex). Both in telling and listening modalities, the language system would seem therefore to be integrated with regions that support other cognitive and sensorimotor domains.15 If we can assume a deep connection between language, sensorimotor, and cognitive function, such as mentalizing, it is as though we can almost feel (in the body) another person’s narrative. But what has this to do with art, with performance art more specifically, and that of Bill T. Jones in particular? We cited earlier Balzac’s observation regarding the painting of Raphael: “His great superiority is due to the intimate sense which, in his works, seems set on breaking through form.”16 It is our contention that lifting the veil of certainty allows us to see reality from new points of view, and the notion of “breaking through form” is clearly one mode of experiencing incertitude and ambiguity. In creating his 2012 work Story/Time, Jones experiments with the meaning and complexity of form through the introduction of chance. Inspired by composer John Cage’s 1958 Indeterminacy, described by Felcia R. Lee as “a series of one-­minute spoken-­word stories that was different each time it was performed,” Jones’s work has the choreographer himself on stage, seated at a desk, where he reads his own sequence of stories surrounded by his company. “Each performance is [seventy] minutes long and includes [fifty to

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seventy] stories, as well as silences,” Lee has explained.17 As in Cage’s piece, chance determines the selection of stories and the order of their reading; moreover, the music does not provide accompaniment to the choreography insofar as they are not reliably attuned to one another. What appealed to Jones about Cage’s work was the inclusion of the performer in the meaning-­making process, for the audience necessarily brought to the performance its own sense of the relation between sound and story.18 The appeal, in other words, was the resolutely intersubjective nature of the work and its minimally formalist structure. It is precisely to this end—the discovery of how narrating the self (in relation to others) can be transformative and new ways of being in the world found—that performance artist and dancer Xavier Le Roy dedicates his creative energy. Unlike other visual arts (except for acting), dance fuses the artist and his medium, as well as the artwork itself, in a single entity. Muscles, tendons, and the like are the vehicle of the kinesthetic response to what the viewer perceives visually, while the dancer him- or herself does not. But the movement of the dancer—the dynamic interplay of tension and release, the purposeful yield to gravity and recovery from that gravitational pull, and other ways in which the body changes shape and passes through space—is not limited perceptually to the eye. Rather, the visual apperception may be accompanied by a mode of response on the part of the observer for which gestalt psychologist Rudolf Arnheim sought an explanation over a half-­century ago. Arnheim wrote of movement patterns, “the dynamic properties,” created through perceptual forces intrinsic within the composition of visual art such as painting. He considered at length the tension produced by the “sympathetic resonance” which may arise in the perception of movement (whether of another body, a flashing light, or any anything else). And he regarded as fallacious the assumption “that experiences of tensions will arise more directly from kinesthetic percepts than from visual ones,” noting that the “physical forces that move muscles, joints, and tendons are not transmitted by the sensory nerves to the brain. Only information about their effects—that is, about the extensions and contractions they produce in the body—is so transmitted. If these messages are accompanied by experiences of tension, this surely is not due to a direct grasp of muscular energy, but to perceptual forces aroused within the cortical brain centers by the


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stimulation.”19 His point was that the visual perception of art, whether kinesthetic or not, is intrinsically dynamic and that dynamic tensions are the result of visual patterning of perceived locomotion directed by association to remembered experience, a prereflective awareness of what that tension previously felt like. What Le Roy is after is the undoing of the familiar, the overreliance upon memory and association. His effort is to find ways of working, of moving, and of viewing that, unknown, implicate not embodied simulation, the replication or mirroring of motor sensation in which kinesthetic response originates, but disembodiment, if such can be imagined. Like Jones, for whom the indeterminate begets innovation, Le Roy is a breaker of form, but the form he ruptures is that of the bodily or core self and the representation of selfhood it engenders. With a background in science (he holds a doctorate from the University of Montpellier in molecular biology and spent several years working in that field), he began choreographing and dancing professionally in 1991. He has created numerous pieces, solos, and group works, and established an impressive international reputation based on his innovative exploration of our modes of perception and of the possible offering of new ways of perceiving. Le Roy is also deeply concerned with the notion of production, what it means in the context of creative process, and the relation between the creation of a work and its eventual performance. His investigation of both perception and production is intimately linked to questions of identity and intersubjectivity, the relating through art the experience of self and its interplay with the self of the other. What might narrating the self signify in the context of dance that deconstructs the known parameters of the body image? What might it mean in the context of dance that disrupts all known relationships between spectator and performer, between sociocultural determinants of product and production, and metaphor and reality? Order in art allows us to absorb the structure of a work and the components of that structure; it allows us to “read” the work through the dependence of its constituent parts on each other and the ways they unite. When there is a “lack of coordination among partial systems of the body or the mind,” Arnheim reminds us, the medical community often refers to a disease as a “disorder.”20 The same sort of tension emerges from art in which coordination of its ordinarily relatable elements is lacking. The result is a kind of chaos that, whether appealing or off-­putting, invites the observer into a new mode of experiencing the world.

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Self Unfinished (1998) is a work by Le Roy that shows the dancer’s body transformed over time into an unidentifiable but clearly inhuman reconfiguration that moves (on the floor and along the wall) on all fours (see Figure 3.2). In a personal communication to Le Roy, American choreographer Yvonne Rainer commented on there being no clues as to how the spectator is meant to interpret what she called “the mechanical-­man beginning,” later counter-­balanced by “a return to ordinary task-­like activity: walk, sit, turn off tape machine.” Regarding the dancer’s unusual play with his clothing, a simple swathe of fabric used to cover the upper half his body such that he appears to have four legs and which ultimately uncovers a body further unrecognizable as human, she added: “By the time you’re into the contortions with the dress, we’re given this extraordinary hybrid creature which confronts us with a multiplicity of interpretations. For me it alternated variously as insect, martian [sic], chicken, watering can, caterpillar into pupa, et  al.”21 Rainer’s response exemplifies our need to find in the unexplored terrains of art symbol

FIGURE 3.2  Xavier Le Roy, Self Unfinished, 1998. © Katrin Schoof. Courtesy of the artist.


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and metaphor for the familiar. Yet Self Unfinished (performed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and elsewhere) need not inspire such a search as Le Roy aims to show us in this performance. His effort to understand how the body relates to movement (outside of its anatomical determinants), and how sociocultural concepts may be embodied in images of the self, the foci of his experimentation, alter our very mode of perception by allowing us, as he has said, “to escape the production of metaphor and to look for ways to open up the possibilities of perception.”22 Indeed, this is a work that, above all else, informs the spectator that ambiguity and even not knowing are conceivably preferred places to be. In 2000, an event in Berlin featured the first performance of a work called Self Interview, a solo dance by and for Le Roy that incorporates a text by the same name played on a recorder. The text of Self Interview23 consists of a series of questions relating to another project called Extensions, conceptualized as “the product,” and to the production of this one as well. The questions posed in the text have also to do with the representation of the body and the production of that representation from which it cannot be separated. Le Roy wonders aloud, in the taped interview with himself, why our bodies are what they are—organs enveloped by skin—but stresses the fluidity of the body image, its capacity to accommodate to a range of objects and discourses. “Anything that comes into contact with surfaces of the body and remain[s] there long enough will be incorporated into the body image,” he says, referring to “clothing, jewelry, other bodies, objects, texts, songs” and more. These things in some way “mark the body, its gaits, its postures, its talks, its discourses, its positions,” and so on, which results in the observation that “subjects do not walk in the same way or have the same posture when they are naked as when they wear clothing.” It seems simplistic to conclude, as he does, that “the body image is as much a function of the subject’s psychology and socio-­historical context as of anatomy” and that there are various kinds of “non-­ human influences woven into us.” Yet the idea that the anatomical image of the human body is dynamic—that is to say, fluid, not perceptually fixed—that it can “shrink or expand,” that it “can give parts to the outside world and can take other parts into itself,” and this based upon consumerism, upon commerce and trade, is anything but simple. To create a project such as this money had to be found. Seeking subsidies entails applying, which in turn entails

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describing a project not yet created, a product not yet produced. The project consisted of two phases: the first a venture called EXTENSIONS#1 and the second the development of multiple performance events with different participants over time. What fascinates is that the objective as defined by the proposal for funding, the goal discussed in the performance itself of Self Interview, was the realization of “transformations, reproductions, developments, recyclings” of either the first phase or of the project as a whole. That objective, in other words, is what is viewed at the moment of performance creating a Pirandello-­like anomaly: if not characters in search of an author, then a product in search of a producer, a dancer in search of a choreographer, a project in search of funding, with the irony that what is presented as in-­progress is in actuality done. Self Interview, then, is the performance of a story, not its retelling, but its actual unfolding; the story is the product, the artwork—no less than its creator—in perpetuity unfinished. And the principal element of the unfinished is the uncertainty, the surprise that embryonically lies within. Body image as it relates to performance is the focus of the production, an organic product inseparable from its rehearsal. The point Le Roy is making is that rehearsal is what the dancer repeats; it is what is known and what is comfortable. But his interest as a choreographer, especially one who is also a scientist, lies elsewhere than in the habitual. What he seeks is processes of working which exceed expectation and anticipation, which exceed even the memory of affective states or their manifestation in the body. To arrive at such “unknown spaces,” as he calls them, he must surpass socialization and acculturation, he must “de-­institutionalize the relationships between people,” for knowledge and power, problems of authority, risk contaminating the project (as they initially did, he reveals). What ultimately allowed for the project’s success, interestingly, was precisely the notion of play, for play (in the form of games or play with rules) bears distinct similarities to and differences from our daily lives. As such, it is a construct that permits us to conceptualize roles as we play them in life and on the stage. It was play that became the frame within which investigation of the body and its representation could simultaneously serve as a method of composition and of performance. It was play that led to a change in social organization, one which Le Roy himself could not anticipate. There was no question of knowledge being


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transmitted, therefore, from the initiator of the project. There was nothing but spontaneity and experimentation, a disembodying of “the authority of simulation.” Another of Xavier Le Roy’s works that integrates text with dance for the purpose of exploring the interaction between perception and imagination is Product of Circumstances, a performance piece created in 1999. Also woven throughout the work are moments from earlier works by Le Roy in which his upper arms appear fixed against his torso, with his elbows imagined by him to be his shoulders. This was a response to questions emanating from his work in science—namely, whether greater specificity with regard to cellular changes in the body, whether the endeavor to create a homogenous picture of laboratory study results when heterogeneity was more apparent, whether statistics are necessarily trustworthy, and so on are the only ways in which the body is to be understood. Is biology’s organization of the human body the only way to represent the body, to image it? As thinking became for Le Roy “a corporeal experience,” as he put it, his body “became simultaneously active and productive, object and subject, analyzer and analyzed, product and producer.”24 We would draw the reader’s attention to the words “analyzer and analyzed” in Le Roy’s formulation. In whatever context he may be using these words, clearly they underscore our analogy of art to psychoanalysis. Just as Le Roy seeks to deinstitutionalize relationships and the hierarchy imposed by authority in his performance art, the psychoanalyst seeks not to impart knowledge from a position of power but to assist the patient in attaining insight. Le Roy left science to explore body image and identity through his own body, through the play of his performing body with that of others, though he did not leave the scientific method. The movement of his early works took bodies apart as might a biologist. And he concluded that performing such movement— that “deconstructing and reconstructing [his] body to produce movement sequences”—was a way of looking anew at the body-­ mind dichotomy. The idea he was working with was this: “[J]ust as the mind organizes the rest of the body’s tissues into a life process, sensations and perceptions, to a large degree, organize the mind. Sensations and perceptions do not simply give the mind material to organize; they are themselves a major organizing principle.”

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Le Roy’s point, explained in the score for Product of Circumstances, exemplifies precisely the tension with which we are concerned in this volume: that between the mind’s organizational propensity, on the one hand, its extraction of patterns to order, make sense, and build relational modalities, and, on the other, its inclination to transcend these patterns, to submit to the pull toward new knowledge, new sense-­making, and ultimately toward creativity and change. While we would specify that this tension is not actually of the mind as such, but of the mind-­brain-body-­nervous-system in its entirety, we find in Le Roy’s work the embodiment of the breaking through form characteristic of modernism. Moreover, this break with tradition and opening onto the new is analogous to the psychobiological tension upon which psychoanalysis itself was founded. In fact, it may not only be analogous to it but exemplary of it insofar as the “tension-­increasing dynamic” of eros (the life force introduced by Freud early in his theorizing on the free versus bound energy modalities of psychic function) is an “anti-­entropic force that counteracts the entropic tendencies of the death instinct,” as Joel Whitebook has written.25 This opposition between the life and death instincts, this tension-­building struggle where entropy and anti-­ entropic forces are at play, is experienced, Freud reasoned, as a struggle between isolation and union, narcissistic aloneness and vitalizing investment in others. But it is observable also on the level of the cellular organism itself: Freud argued that “when some germ cells break away from the organism of which they are a part,” Whitebook explains, “they do not follow the internal path of the death instinct. Instead, they unite with other germ cells, and through this union create an increase in tension and initiate a new chain of vital development.”26 In what Whitebook describes as “attachment theory on a cellular level,”27 Freud argued that only by uniting with another organism does the germ cell defend against death. We would note, however, that not only is death defeated in the coalescence of organisms and even their germ cells, but tensions are increased by the union of differences vital to each and that these tensions are generative of what Freud referred to as a “strengthening and rejuvenating effect”28 a creative process not unlike that of art and of psychoanalysis. Consider how this plays out in a more recent work by Le Roy called Low Pieces (2009–2011), which opens and closes with conversation between the performers and the audience, subverting


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theatrical convention that would separate any question and answer (or “talk back”) from the performance itself. By virtue of Le Roy’s incorporating this exchange within the performance (both at its start and finish) as opposed to holding it after the work was performed, the experiential norms of dancer and spectator are undone. What is more, intercepting the two conversations is a somewhat startling transformation of the dancers with whom the audience is conversing into naked bodies seen crawling along the floor or perched in various positions. Of interest to us here is how the choreography integrates dancer and viewer to blur the boundary between them and create a kind of chaos out of the dancer–viewer dichotomous order that the creative process, occurring within the act of performing, transcends. Le Roy the biologist was doing science in the laboratory, not rehearsing to do it. Similarly, his choreography, a constantly evolving process, is not a moment fixed in time to be repeated later just as it was before. His “performances” implicate spectators in ways they would not otherwise be, for they create in their imagination what they feel is occurring and what they perceive/imagine as occurring is never again the same. If Le Roy is asking in his work how movement and representation relate, he is also observing that the experience of self and one’s self-­image are never immutable. Nevertheless, through art, as he had through science, Le Roy discovered he could not entirely escape expectation. Something is recognized as what it is because one has the experience of having perceived it in some similar way before. That, of course, begs, for him, the question of whether anything can be really new. Just as you cannot separate the product from its production, you cannot separate the production from the subjectivities performing and receiving it, and while perception can be altered, subjective experience itself, imbued with memory, can never be completely revised. What, then, is the meaning of originality in art? If our imaginations provide the symbolic meaning for what we see in the theater or on the canvas, and we do so based on recognition and expectation, wherein does real innovation reside? For Le Roy it is in the transformation of modes of perception and in the transformation of relationships. The connections between subjectivities, between subjectivity and modes of production, and between subjectivity and product are all thrown into question in his work. And, interestingly, his efforts return us to the matter of play. Play, as we said earlier, is

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generally considered unreal, a kind of “second reality,” as Le Roy calls it, “something which is not really real.”29 At the same time, though, it is entirely real because it exists as play only if you engage in it. Le Roy’s choreographic art is a study, such as one might undertake in science, of the interconnectedness of the authentic and the inauthentic, the rehearsed and the performed. Like play, the study requires recognition of the rules of the game, recognition of the way things are—namely, that narrating the self is what the artist does, but that it is the viewer’s presuppositions and associations that fill in the gaps of the unknown. To deconstruct those constructions is to play by breaking the rules—changing the human body in ways it cannot be changed and performing a product that is but is not one—thereby bringing play to an end, though in Le Roy’s world of dance it continues nevertheless. Just as movement is the mode by which the dancer explores somatopsychic phenomena in space, and verbal (and nonverbal) expression is used to investigate those phenomena in psychoanalysis, the image serves the painter as a means of formulating subjective experience. No more discursive than choreography or free association, the painting projects “felt life,” as Henry James put it, such that the viewer can grasp what it is the artist is feeling. Francis Bacon (1909–1992) said as much when he revealed that he aimed not to illustrate reality, but “to create images which are a concentration of reality and a shorthand of sensation.”30 That “shorthand of sensation”—what feeling feels like—is the element common to all the arts and what they share with the analysand’s articulations as well. The embodiment (and narration) of subjective feeling is precisely what is listened for in the consulting room and what is viewed in the artwork. If Descartes’ legacy to the Western world was knowledge grounded in the certainty of the cogito, the certainty of one’s own existence as a thinking as opposed to a feeling being, it was ultimately displaced three centuries later by the embodied knowing of sensing, such as Bacon aimed to capture in the painted image. The most primitive dimension of feeling, feeling raw as unprocessed by the mind, feeling raw as unreflected by remembrance or other cognitive functions, was his primary objective; to produce feeling on the canvas rather than reproduce it defined the purpose of his art. But Bacon also aimed to arouse a visceral sensation in the


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viewer. “To see is to touch with the eyes,”31 the French psychoanalyst Didier Anzieu wrote apropos of the painter’s work, confirming the immediacy of the kinesthetic response Bacon sought to stimulate in the spectator. In an interview with David Sylvester, Bacon spoke of trying “to unlock the valves of feeling and therefore return the onlooker to life more violently,”32 accounting for the energy and movement that characterize his fleshy portraits and also for his references to the “nervous system” when he speaks of their organic origin. Through the immediacy of the senses, Bacon draws the viewer into this most existential, as opposed to illustrative, of aesthetic environments. Embodied simulation or something more akin to unconscious communication? Embodied simulation, owed (as noted above) to the mirroring function of certain systems of neurons in the body’s nervous apparatus and the intersubjectivity implicated therein, is undoubtedly one of the possible sources of our empathic sensitivity to the metaphoric referentiality of art. Yet surely there is more than can be accounted for by the mirroring mechanism alone: there are tonality and texture, for instance, and there is the interplay between perception and imagination, as between reality and illusion, in the regulation of emotion. What, in other words, can be said of the mirror mechanism in the context of the relation between exteroceptive and interoceptive stimuli? Writing of psychoanalysis, Juliet Mitchell stated, “When in clinical sessions, the analyst listens with ‘free-­floating attention’ to the patient’s ‘free associations,’ something from the analyst’s unconscious picks up something from the patient’s.”33 Surely there is something comparable in the viewing of art. The notion of projecting “felt life” through painting, of art as a means of unlocking feeling, implies the idea of a narrating self, a need to define the frontiers of who one is and is not. It implies as well the listener of that story and thus a relation between them. How one relates, via conscious or unconscious means, in any given experience, aesthetic or other, necessarily takes in the entire body system, inclusive of all modes of mental processing, which is why we argue for recognition of the mind-­brain-body system totality. Self-­portraiture, with its simultaneous engagement of sensory and psychologically motivated phenomena, is a case in point (see Figure 3.3). The need to “see” oneself on the canvas has any number of possible origins, but the need to render one’s self more cohesive, to remove the self from the threat of fragmentation and the non-­self,

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FIGURE 3.3  Francis Bacon, Three Studies for Self-Portrait, 1979, © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved/DACS, London/ARS, NY.

figures prominently among them. (We saw as much with regard to the photographs of Arbus and Sherman.) Critic Richard Dorment has written of Bacon’s “struggle to achieve a separate and secure identity,” noting that we have to learn “to distinguish between our own bodies and those of others, to work out that our bodies not only have weight and mass, but also boundaries, limits, perimeters.” Yet, if Bacon’s figures in a 1985–1986 triptych Study for a Self-Portrait, observes Dorment, are “embryonic shapes” that try desperately—and fail—“to form a single, secure identity, then they speak of a universal human condition, the aboriginal calamity with which we struggle all our lives.”34 While he would agree that the universal human condition— above all, the violence of its inherent meaninglessness—predominates in his painting, Bacon would unconditionally resist the view of his work as having anything to do with a narrating self, both for its implications of illustration and expressivity. Beyond such implications, however, the notion of narrating the self would ring true for Bacon when distinguished from the nonself, a state of ontological evacuation as integral to the story of identity as the narrative of self and one that informs Bacon’s many self-­portraits, particularly those of his later years. The covering over of parts of his body, the shielding of half his face or the blotting out of some of its features, is especially compelling in Bacon’s work and it is so for reasons unrelated to any storyline that might lessen the authenticity of feeling, with its intensity and immediacy of impact on the “nervous system” of the viewer, a characteristic of aesthetic experience to which he often alluded.


For Want of Ambiguity

Milan Kundera has written of the “horror” with which Bacon’s pictures entitled Studies of the Human Body filled him: “But is ‘horror’ the right word?” he asks. “No. For the sensation that these pictures arouse, there is no right word. What they arouse is not the horror we know, the one in response to the insanities of history, to torture, persecution, war, massacres, suffering. No. This is a different horror: it comes from the accidental nature, suddenly unveiled by the painter, of the human body.”35 Others might call it fear, not horror. Fear of loss, of fragmentation, of losing sight of her self both literally and figuratively, has been movingly described by Louise Bourgeois, an artist who did not make pictures of herself though nothing she did make was less a means of documenting who she was to herself than such pictures would have been: where am I, I desperately search for a mirror, I have the twizers [sic] but I cannot see myself I lost myself finally I place my hand behind the red magnifier and I see a very small reflected face and I feel better I still exist, fear of having lost myself and, of disappearing out of sight—phew I had a real scare—. . . I do not want to forget Louise anymore she is all I have.36 Bourgeois’ fear relates to the loss of an objectified self, an insufficient and desperate self who fails at being the kind of person, the kind of wife and mother, she expects herself to be. Her fear relates to the anxiety of annihilation, insufferable guilt, and aggressive wishes. And it relates to her depressive states, her mourning of psychic cohesion, as we know from her innumerable journal entries and the notes she kept of her thirty-­two-year psychoanalysis with Henry Lowenfeld. Fear, as embodied in Bourgeois’ three-­dimensional work, several of which she considered self-­portraits though only part-­objects (breasts and penises in some) are represented, is nowhere apparent in the self-­portraits of Bacon, though the persistence with which his features are made to disappear and the consistency with which he portrays the self as absent, or in a state of disintegration, is striking. What is in essence a mutilation of the self-­image is in his work of an entirely other order: the representation of the absence of representation (reminiscent of what is known as a negative hallucination, the undoing of the reality of a perception). Why then

Narrating the self


the reference to the sculptor? Because in the preoccupation with self in the work of both artists the force of the image—not only its quality of directness, but the violence of its impact upon the viewer—is devoid of recourse to cerebral interpretation; it speaks openly, honestly, and immediately to the senses. At the same time, an ordering of chaos imposed by each artist on an initially out-­ofcontrol impulse is apparent. Born in Dublin into an English aristocratic family, Bacon was raised in a puritanical and repressive environment by a father who beat him (or had him beaten by the groomsman) and a mother with whom he had limited contact. Suffering from asthma which kept him isolated, he was eventually thrown out of the home when his father, repulsed by his son’s nascent homosexuality, found him dressing in his mother’s clothes. With time spent in Berlin and then Paris, he ultimately chose to reside for the major part of his life in London. One sees in Bacon’s many self-­portraits—and, though he loathed his own face, innumerable were such paintings after the death of his lover, George Dyer, in 1972—what one might attribute to the lack of parental mirroring, the need to construct an integrated self through the eye of the viewer. The emptiness revealed in the depiction of his facial contours and the paradoxical renderings of mirrors that do not return the anticipated reflection, however, may not be reducible to such a hypothesis, to the idea of the lost or dysfunctional object. More significant than such speculation, we would argue, is how the experience of these paintings may enhance the viewer’s own sense of being in the world. Moreover, psychohistorical hypothesis is not our purpose here. And, as Mitchell Wilson has explained, the loss of the object is the fate of us all: In this era of theoretical pluralism, one thing that psychoanalysts seem to agree on is that the human subject emerges in relation to a limit: the movement from dyad to triad, from preoedipal to oedipal, from the Imaginary to the Symbolic, from the paranoid-­schizoid to the depressive position. These are different psychoanalytic idioms that describe the same trajectory of the subject. In this trajectory, the primary object—usually figured as the mother—is forbidden. The primary maternal object is lost.37


For Want of Ambiguity

In Bacon’s painting the loss of the object—“a necessary condition . . . for the development of symbolic capacities”—is revealed as the means by which the artist, like the child in psychoanalytic thinking, emerged from a world of incompleteness into a world of creativity, of play, and of growth.38 The relationship of narrative to art is complicated. The relationship of the self to narration more so. Conflict resolution, object reparation, and the like often frame the psychoanalytically oriented critic’s writing; there are, however, physiological determinants of aesthetic experience and counter-­transferential determinants as well. And then there are the realities of space and time. The pictorial arts, painting and photography, involve the organization of space, while dance is organized in time. But the reverse is true as well. The difference between them is that the theater arts prescribe the order in which the component parts are perceived, while a picture does not determine the sequence in which the eye grasps the various segments of the composition. While one or more elements may predominate in a painting or photograph (the mask in a Cindy Sherman work catches the eye at first glance), no part of the work is fixated upon outside of the relationships established with the others. In dance, a movement theme may be introduced at the start and then brought back at later moments in its original form or in variations of it. Time dictates perception as the dance takes place before us. And yet, as in the picture, the configuration takes on a totality that dispels the distinction and renders it insignificant.39 Consisting of personae that evolve throughout life, the self is a composite of selves centered on a primary sense of who one is. A construction of the brain, the result of relationships with other “selves” and with the environment, it reveals an understanding of what kind of being we are. Psychoanalytic and philosophical writings devoted to the construct proliferate, with theorists seeking to formulate the distinction between self (the totality of one’s feeling of who one is) and ego (a component part of the psychic structure) and to delimit the parameters of self-­representation, self-­esteem, self-­ consciousness, true and false self, self-­states, and more. We prefer to use in this book the concept of self in its broadest sense, that of the mind-­brain-body system that makes up the uniqueness of an individual and is composed of images (realistic or distorted, conscious and unconscious) that have retained a degree of constancy since childhood. This is what the artist, in giving form to the subjective

Narrating the self


feeling of me-­ness, is doing when they recount deeply personal stories from life, as does Bill T. Jones; when they explore different and complex ways of perceiving the body, as does Xavier Le Roy; or they paint self-­portraits, especially in great succession, like Francis Bacon. In sum, the artist is narrating the self as a totality in ways that cause the viewer to engage with her own self and its relation to the world in ways she has not done before. In fact, both the artist and the viewer are narrating not simply the totality of self but the history of its development. The self becomes itself by repeatedly moving toward integration from unintegrated states, as Winnicott described it, a process we would liken to the aesthetic search for form. This interplay between integration and disintegration, the creation of borders and their overcoming, will be our focus in the chapter to follow.

4 Mapping: The need for borders

The Western world is fascinated by maps and mapping. What is essentially a preoccupation with the delineation of borders and boundaries has multiple origins and serves numerous objectives. But what exactly is meant by mapping? And what are the principal reasons we engage in it? Boundaries restrict; they marginalize; they augment our self and communal identities. They also contribute to the belief (valid or not) in the inherent value of proprietorship. In so doing, they calm the anxiety that chaos can produce. Yet mapping is also a developmental need; it is a tool that children learn so as to trace the borders of their own identity. While identity evolves over time and the need to transform it into a stable representation endures throughout our lives, it is in childhood that we come to understand— through cross-­modal interaction, through the understanding that what we see and what we touch is one and the same, through proprioceptive feedback and synaptic reinforcement and pruning— how to map and thereby master the different parts and functions of our bodies and thereby selves. Nonetheless, the edges of the self are soft and malleable. It is on that delicate border anatomically constituted by the skin that the discomfort of the evolving self is enacted in tattoos, piercings, and even cutting, and the skin is used, by both artist and adolescent alike, as a canvas on which to paint a self-­portrait. Indeed, the skin is the battlefield on which is displayed the quest for a coherent representation of oneself. It was not for nothing that Didier Anzieu wrote of the “skin-­ego,” a term used to refer to the psychic


For Want of Ambiguity

representation of the bodily surface. Just as the ego encompasses the mind and the skin encompasses the body, the “skin-­ego”—like his related concept of “psychic envelope” and Esther Bick’s notion of “psychic skin”—was said by Anzieu to act as a border between the inner and outer world, the frontier where affect and cognition negotiate with what lies beyond subjective experience while always being a part of it. The interconnection between internal or subjective experience and experience that is externally focused is, of course, of great interest to neuroscientists who have uncovered a variety of neurophysiological mechanisms that allow our brains to organize perceptual input. Consider, for example, the complex process of color perception. Color is the subjective perceptual experience that results when wavelengths of light are reflected from a surface to the retina at any moment in time. Despite the fact that the amalgam of red, blue, and green light, say, is never the same from one instant to the next, our brain is able to cancel out these continual shifts and assign consistency of color to a particular surface. This capacity of the brain is not confined to the perception of color. Just as we see colors, we see objects from perspectives that vary according to the distance from the perceiving subject, conditions of lighting, and so on; yet this does not stop us from recognizing these objects instantly. Employing neuronal mechanisms that are still largely a mystery, we “know” the object is a chair regardless of its position in space, its distance from us, its size, its color, or specific form. In the same way, the envelope that is our skin constantly negotiates between shifts in input from the world and our subjective experience of internal bodily and psychic happenings. Winnicott, a pediatrician as well as psychoanalyst, stressed the importance of containment, of boundaries and the “holding environment,” in both child development and the analytic process, for the mirroring of formlessness and disintegration provides a place in which form and integration may safely arise. The need to map territory and all that act comprises—naming, declaring borders, and segmenting space—is a universal human need and, also, Winnicott specifies, one of the first and most important things we learn as infants. As infants, we map our world to learn where the borders between our mothers and ourselves are located, just as we do to understand where we end and the furniture around us begins, how the rooms we inhabit are delineated, and so on. These borders,

Mapping: the need for borders


so essential for our early comprehension of the me-­versus-not-­me world, are transformed throughout our lives as we fight for delimitations of all kinds. Alongside this need to establish borders and know where we end and the rest of the world begins is a concomitant need to transcend these same borders, to interact with the outer world that is constituted by people, objects, and presences of all kinds. And within this transcendence and those interactions is a measure of chaos, a chaos that manifests in innumerable ways at different times, emanating from the inevitable messiness of close emotional ties as well as inherent ambiguity in attributing symbolic meaning to objects at hand. It is, in sum, in the very tension between the orderliness of mapping and the chaos of transcending the map that we live our lives. Psychoanalytic treatment can help us navigate the maps, their transcendence, and the insights we find along the way. In so doing, it opens up new possibilities of being in the world. Once such possibilities are presented to us and we are aware of them, we are freer to make choices. Some contemporary psychoanalysts speak of “self states,” particularly of those states wherein parts of the self are perceived as alien, as belonging to the not-­me. The adolescent who witnesses her bodily changes, for example, must come to mentalize those changes and integrate them within a coherent picture of who she is. Psychoanalysis is a process that helps the individual symbolize that part of the self perceived as not belonging, thereby widening the borders of self. It is a process that ensures what Thomas Ogden calls “the provision of a ‘place,’ ”1 a state in which one feels safe enough to draw into a unitary whole what has been siphoned off. In recent years, mapping of the brain has become the key strategy for conceptualizing central nervous system functions and for understanding different perceptual, cognitive, and emotional processes. Brain mapping divides this organ into functionally specialized areas where cells perform different tasks, as shown by Semir Zeki with regard to the occipital lobe in the early 1990s.2 As Zeki said of the visual cortex, “This theory supposes that different attributes of the visual scene are processed simultaneously, in parallel, but in anatomically separate parts of the visual cortex.” And vision is not the only functionally specialized part of the cortex: “cells dealing with a given modality, such as vision or audition, are assembled together to form an area. Cells dealing with a given


For Want of Ambiguity

submodality of vision, such as motion or colour, are also assembled in areas.”3 Mapping has been exceedingly useful to our understanding these tasks and their relation to the overall architecture and functionality of the brain. Nevertheless, while anatomically separated parts of the visual cortex, for instance, process different attributes of the visual scene, it is how this processing and its activation relate to other features of what has traditionally been called “the mind” that remains enigmatic. And psychoanalysis serves as a reminder to neuroscience that these other features are exceedingly complex. To think about the complexity of the visual process, we must abstract from the functionally specialized maps. That is, we must adopt a level of abstraction that will allow us to think about the human being’s nervous system in the multifaceted ways it requires. Already in his writings on aphasia, Freud saw the need to “introduce . . . functional factors in place of the topographical ones.” Writing of speech disorders, he claimed, “The forms described as subcortical and transcortical are not to be explained by a particular localization of the lesion but by conditions of reduced capacity for conduction in the apparatus of speech.”4 But the point is that, while brain mapping was essential to the discovery of functionally specialized areas in the brain, it is abstraction from the mapping that is essential to the deeper penetration of the meaning of “self.” This is not a new way to look at the brain-­body-mind system; it is, however, one of which we repeatedly need reminding. Karen Kaplan-Solms and Mark Solms do precisely that in Clinical Studies in Neuro-Psychoanalysis. Freud observed over a century ago “psychological faculties break down according to the logic of their own functional laws, not according to the laws of cerebral anatomy,” they explain. “Freud observed that psychological faculties are never destroyed by localized brain lesions—they are not simply removed like pieces from a jigsaw puzzle. Rather, they are distorted and changed in dynamic ways that reflect a mutual interdependence with other faculties.”5 Just as Freud used dynamic and genetic explanations to uncover the mechanisms of psychic pathologies and design a model of the mind, we have come to understand that the brain as well follows dynamic laws; as a result, it is impossible to explain a phenomenon as complex as visual perception simply by looking at the functioning of the visual system. Listen to British neuroscientist Karl Friston, who—with regard to what is known as the MT area of the visual cortex (also known as

Mapping: the need for borders


V5) traditionally associated with the perception of motion (first identified in owl monkeys, later found in macaque monkeys and humans too)—explained: [T]he functional specialisation of motion-­selective units in MT has been characterised with remarkable finesse (e.g. Liu & Newsome, 2003), yet lesions to MT alone are not sufficient to produce stable deficits in motion perception. Results like these suggest that several neuronal systems may support the same function (i.e. degenerate many-­to-one mappings). Conversely, one cortical system may contribute to many functions: motion cues serve many purposes in primate vision. Consequently, akinetopsia, a defect of movement perception due to cerebral lesions, may comprise a range of motion-­related defects.6 Mapping is not unlike talking about globalization while looking at the world as an atlas of borders and countries. To think globally, we must extract ourselves from the borders that enclose us. Of course, the borders are there, just as different cultures and different languages are there, but thinking globally requires conceptualizing otherwise. We are reminded here of what Simone Weil wrote in Gravity and Grace, “The world is the closed door. It is a barrier. And at the same time it is the way through.” And, “Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but it is also their means of communication. . . . Every separation is a link.”7 The interaction between spectator and artwork may promote a similar loosening of borders, a loosening of the boundaries that separate areas of semantic meaning. It is through the viewer’s creative effort, combined with that of the artist, that Duchamp’s urinal, to cite an example, acquires a metaphorical power that enables it to become not only something other than a urinal, but a work of art. For the artwork bestows a stable semantic representation on shifting or ever-­changing frontiers. Few things are more anxiety-­ producing than uncertainty, than the ambiguous, and such mapping provides a way out from the zone of ambiguity. It is through the creative gesture, in other words, that the artist solidifies an instability akin to a fundamental existential angst. As André Malraux famously wrote, “The great mystery is not that we should have been thrown down here at random between the profusion of matter and that of


For Want of Ambiguity

the stars; it is that from our very prison we should draw, from our own selves, images powerful enough to deny our own nothingness.”8 Alighiero Boetti, an Italian artist and member of the Arte Povera movement, dedicated his artistic research to the tensions between order and chaos inherent within the delimiting of self and the absence of such specificity. As he explained, “I think that everything has its opposite contained within it, so the best thing to do is reset concepts, to lay them out and unfold them, just like you would a piece of paper. Thus a pair of concepts or a type of concept can be ordered or disordered, without ever favoring one of the two counterposed terms, but rather always looking for one in the other: order in disorder, nature in artifice, shadow in light and vice-­versa.”9 Individuality and collectivity, perfection and error, and other such oppositional forces are very much at play in his creative endeavors as well. Alighiero and Boetti—as he referred to himself in recognition of art’s capacity to create the self, a notion implied by twinning— invariably confronted the chaotic political situations of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Among the most famous of his works is a series of embroidered maps of the world (known as Mappe) showing borders and national flags of the years 1971 to 1994, not unlike the Afghan war rugs produced in response to the violent invasions of Afghanistan. Admonishing the spectator, memento mori, they remind us that nothing exists forever; everything changes: nations, borders, cultures, and identities. So, too, the young Italian sculptor Diamante Faraldo carves in marble territories delineated and marked by historical events. Setting the fluidity of time in the stability of the artwork, he gives form to internal conflictual forces and creates borders to contain ideas, feelings, dreams, and fears. The giving of form, the recognition of meaning, the establishing of borders—all are acts of exorcism for Faraldo. “My wish is to give form to something I see,” he has said. “If these forms did not emerge, they would devastate me internally.”10 Faraldo distills thought and emotion in a sculptural form from which an unchanging, reassuring visualization is extracted by means of prolonged observation. Contemplation—the gaze paused over time and focused on the object—renders, in a kind of fixity or permanence, what would otherwise remain in flux. Observing his work is like entering a place in darkness, a place where one is blinded by the impossibility of recognizing outlines and shapes, and where only through continued

Mapping: the need for borders


FIGURE 4.1  Diamante Faraldo, A nord del futuro, wood, iron, and inner tube, 530 × 246 cm, 2007. Photo Antonio Maniscalco. Private Collection.

visual seeking does an object begin to emerge from within the obscurity. Only through prolonged contemplation does Faraldo’s work speak to those who view it (see Figure 4.1). In a sense, this artist requires his viewer to look at his work with closed eyes, for it is only in that manner of viewing that one succeeds in seeing what lies inside, that one reaches what is imprisoned deep within. In Faraldo’s work we recognize our prototypical, indeed our most intimate, thoughts and feelings. His work represents, in a word, a kind of genesis of form. As Balzac wrote, “Form in his figures (as with us) is a symbol, a means of communicating sensations, ideas, the vast imaginings of a poet.”11 As the visualizing process reconstructs from the lines, colors, and other essential elements of which it is composed the visual “scene” at hand, Faraldo’s sculptures reveal what lies behind their status as objects and enable the viewer to reconstruct meanings and feelings that can be ascertained only through contemplation of the sort stimulated by his work. It is this that establishes the relationship between what is seen and what is felt. As Faraldo himself has rightly said, “Seeing thus becomes recognizing, which to me means giving new strength to objects.”12 Oscar Wilde explained it as follows:


For Want of Ambiguity

I said in Dorian Gray that the great sins of the world take place in the brain: but it is in the brain that everything takes place. We know now that we do not see with the eyes or hear with the ears. They are really channels for the transmission, adequate or inadequate, of sense impressions. It is in the brain that the poppy is red, that the apple is odorous, that the skylark sings.13 Neurophysiologically speaking, this is precisely how vision is defined. Vision is a process of recognition whereby a relationship is established between the components of a visual scene—perceived at any given time—and accumulated knowledge residing in memories of past experience. Brain systems connect visual information to mnestic (or memory) traces by a process of continuative and integrative elaboration in order to reconstruct coherent, and thereby reassuring, perceptions of the world around us. Through the continual transforming of information emanating from outside (and ultimately from inside as well), we receive a multitude of images onto the retina from the world around us, which compels the nervous system persistently to seek constant, unchanging elements and properties that enable us to recognize the world. As building blocks of emotional knowledge, Diamante Faraldo’s archetypal works are as we imagine these unchanging properties to be: like the human brain, his art extracts the essential features, the unchanging properties, of a visual scene, but also transcends them so as to reconstruct them as we imagine them to be. The artist looks, observes, sees, but what he ultimately puts into his work is his own internal vision of his surroundings and what he feels. To put it somewhat differently, at the very same time the artist looks both outside and inside, as in the 1935 self-­portrait by Giacometti referred to earlier, an image in which the face shows “one eye open on the world: intently questioning it, insistently searching” while the “other is closed in darkness, turned inwards towards the inner self, and just as determined as the first to break through, to understand, to know,” as Charles Juliet described it.14 The artist Jo Anne Schneider similarly described the creative process in a statement published in a 1979 exhibition catalog: Do you feel trapped in the kitchen? Why do you choose to paint such ordinary objects as an aluminum pot, a worn shopping bag, or an empty box with a discarded piece of ribbon? These are the

Mapping: the need for borders


questions I am asked over and over and I want to cry out—Don’t you see it is not only a pot or a bag or a box. It is a form, simple, unadorned, pure, filling a space. It appeared on the canvas because it corresponded to an inner image that needed to be expressed. The picture developed slowly. . . . Each picture is a journey back and forth from the known to the unknown.15 This description resonates with Freud’s idea of a preconscious state, where primary and secondary processes come together and inner and outer reality meet. What is preconscious is described as having the potential for consciousness. Our waking (preconscious) thinking behaves toward any material it perceives in just the same way the function we are considering behaves toward the content of dreams. It is the nature of our waking thought to establish order in material of that kind, to set up relations with and within it and make it conform to our expectations of an intelligible whole.16 We now know that the brain constantly needs to organize sensory data. As Zeki has written: Acquisition of knowledge is a principal function of the brain, and the brain does so in a seemingly highly efficient way. The efficiency is due in no small measure to the use of concepts, of which there are two kinds, inherited and acquired. These two kinds are intimately linked and indeed one could not exist without the other. The inherited concepts organize the signals coming into the brain so as to instill meaning into them and thus make sense of them. The acquired concepts are generated throughout life by the brain and make it significantly independent of the continual change in the information reaching the brain; they make it easier for us to perceive and recognize and thus obtain knowledge of things and situations.17 Another interesting view as to how our nervous system might satisfy this need comes from the predictive coding hypothesis of Friston wherein internal models of the world are updated by sensory information that minimizes free energy, the discrepancy between sensory input and predictions relevant to it. Perceptual information is composed not only of sensory data, but of emotional and visceral data as well, of the internal state of the organism, to put it more precisely. It is therefore our contention that the complexity of seeing


For Want of Ambiguity

cannot be fully appreciated without recognition of the dynamic ways in which perceptual activity is informed by affect and various kinds of cognition as well. The sense of self is a construction of the brain made up of interactions between various kinds of input coming both from inside the body and the external environment. How this construction takes place, how we develop a sense of self-­identity, is still a focus of neuroscientific investigation, but we can conclude thus far that the formation of a sense of self results from the structure of our relations with the environment and, also, interaction with other selves. It is as social animals that we develop cognitively and emotionally, that we display our inner intentions and thoughts all the while reading, understanding, and anticipating the intent of others. As Vittorio Gallese has noted, “Our capacity to conceive of the acting bodies of others as selves like us depends on the constitution of a shared meaningful interpersonal space. The shared intersubjective space in which we live since birth enables and bootstraps the constitution of the sense of identity we normally entertain with others.”18 Moreover, “[r]ecent findings in cognitive neuroscience shed light on the existence of a common neural mechanism that could account for action and intention understanding abilities both in humans and non-­human primates.”19 Following the discovery of the particular class of neuron known as “mirror neurons” in the premotor cortex of the macaque monkey, Gallese proposed a model of embodied simulation (as we saw in chapter 3), a model he determined to be a key functional mechanism of intersubjectivity by means of which actions, emotions, and sensations of others are mapped by the same neural mechanisms that are normally activated when we act or experience similar emotions, actions, and sensations.20 Indeed, neuroscience is now shifting from a single-­brain to a multi-­brain frame of reference in which the neural processes occurring in one brain are united with those in another brain by way of signaling. In this way, what has been called “brain-­to-brain coupling” determines the social behavior of an individual and the socially shared behaviors of a group or culture, acts that in isolation could not have arisen.21 An individual afflicted with any of certain genetic conditions that alter the physiology might well be unaware of what is occurring in the environment at a cognitive level, but her body, nevertheless, is communicating to her brain/mind, affecting her way of perceiving

Mapping: the need for borders


herself and her surroundings. Each of us has a unique way of relating to others, of thinking about oneself in relation to others. That almost goes without saying. But a model of the mind-­brainbody system helps us refine our thinking about the complexity of the internal (psychic) and external (social, professional, and so on) life of, say, a patient. One with a neurophysiological disease, for example, a patient who is severely impaired, will likely have a distinctive way of attaching to and separating from parents and caregivers. Reduced mobility can contribute to a shaping of the perceptual system that modifies both emotion and behavior. It is easy to acknowledge but insufficiently articulated that knowledge of oneself is deeply embedded in how one’s body itself relates to the world. We see as much in the self-­portraits of many visual artists, as per our earlier discussion of Arbus, Sherman, and Bacon, all of whom appear to be struggling to define a secure identity. Writing of Bacon, Richard Dorment has noted the need “to work out that our bodies not only have weight and mass, but also boundaries, limits, perimeters.” Bacon’s figures mostly lack “solidity in their wobbly outlines,” Dorment has observed; they lack “corporeality in the way the bodies and faces are partially erased by smears of dragged paint.” Indeed, considering “the naked man sitting on the lavatory in the left-­hand panel of the 1964 triptych Three Figures in a Room,” Dorment draws our attention to the “boneless” and “distorted” image that “looks as though his body could be poured into a container to keep him from oozing away. His hands and feet don’t end in contours, they simply fade away.”22 Psychic function has much to do with the relation between our bodies—how they actually are as well as how we perceive them—and the world outside the self. The borders of the self often need to be reshaped, and this requires a constant negotiation between our own needs and the needs or demands of others (our families, our tribes, our cultures, and societies at large). In contemporary art, especially in times of political oppression, this tension between subjectivity and objectivity, individuality and collectivity, is captivatingly played out. Consider Following Piece by Vito Acconci (to whom we referred in chapter 2), a work performed daily over the period of a month in 1969. Shadowing a stranger through the streets of New York City until he or she entered a private space, the artist, as he


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described it, experienced a sense of being no longer in the service of his self: “I am almost not an ‘I’ anymore; I put myself in the service of this scheme.”23 His body, his movements, and self-­control surrendered to the body, movements, and control of another person. Over the course of his career Acconci explored the body’s occupancy of space, the relation of his own flesh, as private entity, to buildings and other entities that are public: “Out of space. Out of time. (My time and space are taken up, out of myself, into a larger system).”24 In 1960 Acconci went so far as to take his art out of the gallery. It was very shortly thereafter that Anthony Caro (1924–2013), recognized as one of the twentieth-­century’s most important sculptors, won the attention of the public and critics with a show at the Whitechapel Gallery. In that 1963 exhibit, Caro displayed large abstract pieces that, having no pedestal, stood directly on the ground, enhancing their engagement with the spectator in a one-­toone dialog. Doing so, Caro opened the way for future developments in three-­dimensional art. As Samantha Holmes once stated with regard to a sculpture of her own undertaken for a public park in New York City, “Public art has a unique power to impact its audience because it confronts the viewer within the visual and emotional context of his own life. Unlike the quarantine of the white-­walled gallery space, public art catches him mid-­thought, mid-­experience—immediately establishing a more personal relationship between object and viewer.”25 Yayoi Kusama took public art even further when, in 1967, she staged suggestive avant-­garde performances in locations around New York City, from the Stock Exchange to Central Park to the Museum of Modern Art. Kusama painted the naked participants’ skin with polka dots or dressed them in her customized fashion clothes, creating provocative situational performances that merged her inner artistic preoccupations with socio-­cultural realities, countering aesthetic and societal expectations. Children aged between twelve months and two-­and-a-­half years begin to play with objects and move them around in space. That is also the time when their first “drawings,” or scribbles, do not normally stay within the confines of the paper. Development entails the finding of boundaries. Interestingly, when Vito Acconci began his artistic career as a poet (in the late 1960s), he experimented with the placement of words on the page, words used not to tell a story, but to produce a reaction in the reader as signs or gestures. Acconci

Mapping: the need for borders


conceived of poetry as an action, a performance almost, and when the page became too small to contain the words, to contain their movement, he brought them to the three-­dimensional space of public readings. He never considered art-­making, verbal or visual, a private endeavor. Even the act of masturbating was transformed by Acconci into a public performance, and when he later founded Acconci Studio, bringing together a group of architects, he transposed his inquiry into the tension between private and public buildings and their place in space: A public space is occupied by private bodies. Those private bodies have hidden feelings, and private lives, and secret dreams. Underneath the manners, underneath the civilities, underneath the appearances, underneath the clothes, is a seething mass of anger and desire. The terrain of a public space is a plane, a platform, that supports bodies; the terrain might have walls, either physical or metaphorical, it functions as a container of bodies. But the platform quakes, the container trembles at the boiling point. The wonder of the city is: with all these bodies crowded next to each other, one on the top of the other, why aren’t they all tearing each other’s clothes off, why aren’t they all fucking each other, left and right (and up and down, and in and out, and back and forth . . .)? The wonder of the city is: with all these bodies blocking each other, standing in each other’s way, why aren’t they all tearing each other apart limb from limb, and wolfing each other down? Public space is the last gasp of the civilized world; public space is the Great White Hope; public space is belief and religion; public space is wishful thinking.26 A similar tension emanating from the search for boundaries is to be found in the contemporary work of Ai Weiwei, who painted bowls appearing to contain rice but instead are filled with pearls. A single freshwater pearl, utterly precious in itself, becomes insignificant in a mass of other pearls. This, however, is the story told not only by this dissident Chinese artist metaphorically struggling for individuality, but the story of every child, the developmental history of each as he strives for separation from mother and individuation of his own identity. Ai Weiwei grew up at the margins of Chinese society, learning about art and drawing from banned artist friends of his father, among China’s greatest poets, who was accused of


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being anti-Communist, exiled, and prohibited from publishing. Ai Weiwei sees art as a tool for the changing of reality, both political and cultural, and as the only possible means of achieving freedom, as he told art curator Hans Ulrich Obrist in a now famous interview.27 In the renowned installation Sunflower Seeds (Figure 4.2), made in 2010 in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in London, Ai Weiwei produced millions of individually sculpted porcelain seeds, each similar but also unique, with the idea of questioning the relationship between the individual and society. The seeds covered a surface of one thousand square meters and weighed one hundred and fifty tons; it took almost sixteen hundred artisans and over two years of work to create each of the tiny sculptures. This artwork serves as a reminder of each of the 1.3 billion Chinese whose individuality gets lost in and among the undifferentiated crowd. Tension between individuality and collectivity has been much explored by Russian artists (as we will discuss in chapter 5). It is intriguing that when Russian artists first bought video cameras on

FIGURE 4.2  Ai Weiwei, The Unilever Series: Sunflower Seeds, 2010, © Ai Weiwei/Tate Photography.

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the black market, they immediately used them for the purpose of turning the lens on themselves. They used them to make the statement: “I exist.” Video became the medium that recorded the passage from the Soviet to the post-Soviet era, and the change in the role of the artist that followed is notable. The camera was the tool that allowed artists to be listened to and to listen to themselves. With the camera, Russian artists voiced their deepest feelings and created new narratives that explored the novel role acquired by the individual in this profoundly changed social system. “Even in the absence of others,” to cite Donnel Stern, “we learn about ourselves by imaginatively listening to our own thoughts through the ears of the other. At the beginning of life, we need a witness to become a self. Later, patients listen to themselves as they imagine their analysts hear them, and in this way create new narrative freedom.”28 The history of twentieth-­century Russian art tells a similar story. Winnicott speaks of a fear of fragmentation, of difficulties in integrating different parts of the self, of one’s own body, even of one’s different roles and identities. John Berger once wrote of van Gogh that, for his entire existence, the artist was forced to live and gamble with the risk of “losing himself.” The bet, Berger maintained, is visible in all his self-­portraits. Van Gogh saw himself as a stranger, as someone who happened to cross his own path. His identity, deprived of contours, allowed him to be extraordinarily open and permeated by anything upon which he laid his eyes. The pieces of the self, for reasons that vary, may fail to integrate and an individual may spend a lifetime on the verge of the “fear of disintegration.” Patients describe the uncomfortable feeling of being different personas in different contexts, of “taking up a role” as they walk in into a particular environment, of compartmentalizing their life in some spaces that are “more real” than others. They fear regressing to a time when integration had not yet taken place, when the borders between self and other were still undefined, when the caregiver, holding the infant in her arms, was holding that little body together. As Ogden put it, “Holding involves the provision of a place (a psychological state) in which the infant (or patient) may gather himself together.”29 Winnicott wrote of the very common experience of the patient who proceeds to give every detail of the week-­end and feels contented at the end if everything has been said, though the analyst feels that no analytic


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work has been done. Sometimes we must interpret this as the patient’s need to be known in all his bits and pieces by one person, the analyst. To be known means to feel integrated at least in the person of the analyst. This is the ordinary stuff of infant life, and an infant who has had no one person to gather his bits together starts with a handicap in his own self-­integrating task, and perhaps he cannot succeed, or at any rate cannot maintain integration with confidence.30 But neurophysiological research on receptive fields suggests that the brain itself constantly maps and remaps as spatial boundaries are redefined at any moment in time in accordance with, for instance, the proximity of others. This may provoke movement in the body or even the use of material extensions of the body as tools. Neuroscientific evidence, in other words, has shown that the boundaries of the receptive fields of certain neurons adapt to include changes in the peripersonal space. As noted by Patrick Haggard, Atsushi Iriki and coworkers have reported that the visual receptive field of a monkey’s parietal visual-­tactile neurons enlarged along the axis of a rake soon after its use for retrieving distant food pellets. The same visual receptive fields shrunk following passive tool wielding, recorded immediately after tool use, thus showing a tool-­use-dependent extension of the visual-­tactile space immediately surrounding the hand. In this context, the successful use of a tool, as an extension of the corporeal boundary, requires integration of (at least) visual, tactile, proprioceptive and motor aspects.31 The point, once again, is that there is increasing neuroscientific evidence that the need for mapping, for defining borders, has a basis in neurophysiology, but the need to transcend those borders is no less significant. This need for transcendence has been expressed by many young people who describe their discomfort as a kind of weight inside their body whose skin does not accurately correspond to what that weight, their very selfhood in fact, is considered to be. “Transgender” is a complex term that refuses the binary system of gender definition and embraces the ambiguity felt by those who feel other than the gender assigned by birth. Adolescence is that time in life in which

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choices are made, possibilities reduced, consolidation promoted. More and more, young adolescents are requesting puberty blockers and surgery hoping to find congruence between their external appearance and their internal feelings. The quest for continuity in an individual’s history is what the psychoanalytic process aims to support. The analyst’s interpretations are directed toward the construction of a coherent narrative of the patient’s life and, it is anticipated, will contribute to building not only continuity in the patient’s history and its relation to his family and culture, but in the deepest relation between his internal and external reality, thereby reducing the tension between order and chaos and ultimately promoting tolerance for ambiguity. Observing a child in the first few days of life, we appreciate how the new-­born embarks on a process of differentiation. At first, he seems like a kind of sphere. Flesh, limbs, and head are of a whole; movements are gross, unrefined, and approximate. By the second week, however, the infant seems to move every inch of his body, as if every muscle has come to life and a self-­containing body has yielded to something quite different. Establishing his first relationship with the surrounding vacuum, the infant gives the impression of exploring the immediate environ with little movements, as if trying to make sure that the space/air around his body is still there. Work with analytic patients reveals the tension between the search for continuity and the need to transcend one’s own borders. Only when we reach an integrated image of ourselves do we become free enough to change, to move beyond the behavioral and emotional responses that are overly self-­protective (defensive) and inhibiting of growth. Developmentally speaking, it is when the child becomes able to extend beyond his self and assimilate the perspective of an other without the fear of disintegration that transcendence has been sustained and its tension with the need for boundaries diminished. Korea is the world capital of plastic surgery. In 2014 alone 1.43 million girls had what’s known as double eyelid surgery in the attempt to look “less Asian.” Hyungkoo Lee (b. 1969) is a contemporary Korean artist who visually plays with the idea of transforming the body’s normal anatomical composition into abnormal configurations. Stimulated by the desire to overcome a phobia associated with a move to study, as an Asian person, in the United States, his work reflects the need to come to terms with the irrationality of bodily change to conform.


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Lee found himself one day in the subway holding the handle rail side by side with a very large American man. Noticing with sadness that his hand was twice as small as the man’s, he decided upon returning home to work on a device which would enlarge his hand, a device built from a plastic Coke bottle and a whiskey glass and later entitled Device That Makes My Hand Bigger. With the bottle filled with water, the forearm was made to look considerably thicker, and with the help of an optical device the hand appeared to have but three fingers. The device installed, Lee felt his feeling of inferiority lessen and he retitled the work Self Satisfying Device. Subsequently, his curiosity about the effects of enlarging parts of the body having extended to what is considered to be the most important part of the body, the face, Lee created the “Helmet” series (see Figure 4.3).

FIGURE 4.3  Hyungkoo Lee, Altering Facial Features with RH5, 150 × 120 cm, C-print, 2013. Courtesy of the artist.

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Installing an optical device in a transparent plastic helmet and using different lenses, Lee enlarged and reduced different facial features or the face in its entirety. His altering of features can be read as the striving to conform, while seeking difference and individuality, as the struggle with what Dorment has called, with regard to the human condition, “the aboriginal calamity” which is “the stuff of the greatest art.”32 Lee’s devices and machines enlarge, distort, and transform different parts of the body. Walking around in them, he documents his performances with video and photographs of a spectacular rigor and perfection. The abnormal, altered, absurd, and imbalanced proportions of the images become natural, and technically perfect, representations of the fragility of our universal existence.

5 The fluidity of time and space in art, psychoanalysis, and neuroscience

We have looked at the mapping of space, the creation of boundaries that increase our individual and collective autonomies. And we have considered the impact of the tracing of borders upon the anxiety of chaos, whether existential or perceptual. Emphasizing as well the need innate within human beings to transcend the very borders that are calming—that provide holding environments for those self-­states wherein one’s sense of emotional safety is threatened—we explored the tension between order and chaos that gives rise to form and structure in the artwork, much as it does in the psychoanalytic process. Struggling against the perils of fragmentation and seeking freedom in recontextualization, the maker and viewer of art, like the analytic patient, maps and remaps visual and narrative fields through the creation of metaphor and symbol. Such mapping, however, is not uniquely spatial; it is also temporal. A fundamental task of the nervous system is the coordination of neuronal function with the temporal organization of behavior, the relating of “here and now” to the memory of past events for the purpose of planning future responses. This is what Gerald Edelman calls the “remembered present”: “Looked at from the inside, consciousness seems to continually change, yet at each moment it is all of a piece—what I have called ‘the remembered present’— reflecting the fact that all my past experience is engaged in forming my integrated awareness of this single moment.”1 It is our sense of past and future that defines our relational interactions and, by


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offering us an historical perspective influenced by culture, education, and upbringing, enables us to forecast. To put it otherwise, the ordered whole, as revealed by Edelman, is a modulation of our actions in accordance with the unstructured elements of our internal and external worlds. A child’s first words are most often “mama,” “dada,” or other names for persons or inanimate objects. Yet one wonders why there is a privileging in this early speech of people and objects and where the focus on verbs—in other words, action—and, thereby, temporality may reside. When the baby begins to represent mother with a symbol, usually the word “mama,” she has learned something about the existence of separate beings in space, that there are borders between her self and others, and begun to know where she ends and the other begins. Proprioceptively, through tactile exploration and cross-­modal integration of different sensory modalities, she shapes the borders of her self. The negotiations needed to define a self have indeed much to do with space and the understanding of where and how bodies and objects are located. But what of action? How do we come to acquire a sense of moving through space, of going from one place to another, and a sense of the passing of time implicit within such an act? How does a child come to understand time and her relationship to it? It has long been said that the child’s developing sense of causality, of the relations that unfold “over” or “in” time, are at the origin of her temporal understanding. When a baby cries, she is in discomfort. She knows she is in need of alleviation of the discomfort, though she knows not whence it comes. Mother tries to interpret the child’s crying and if it appears that hunger is the cause, the “good-­enough mother” appears with her breast. If mother has interpreted the crying correctly, the distress abates. Slowly the baby develops an ability to expect; she cries expecting the mother to appear. As she experiences need and learns how to transform her “wish” for need fulfillment into the act of crying, into expecting and then having, she begins to develop a sense of things happening in time, in a sequence, one after the other. But is the baby’s act of crying truly the first hint of the creation of a sense of time? Is crying to be considered the first symbolic representation that enables the baby to link an internal feeling with an external event? Surely, without the response from the outside world and her ability to integrate internal feeling states with action outside herself, the infant would not be able to

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create this temporal sense, a sense built upon (or “through”) relationships as well, for it is very soon after birth that children begin to discriminate between inanimate and animate objects, those objects that potentially come close and also move away.2 Indeed, we know that social responses in infants are triggered by objects that move on their own and not by objects that require external mobilization,3 as it is such self-­mobilizing objects that might be capable of meeting expectation. Infants seem to be very aware of their movements from early on, and by five to six weeks a child’s motor reactions stop being reflexive and become more intentional; reactions to mother become more controlled. Evidence of this is to be found in preverbal body language that has been demonstrated to be strictly linked to movements and gestures.4 Yet the question arises as to whether the wish for a desired outcome is truly the origin of the process of understanding time. Is the longing for a desired outcome and expectation of it, and the development of a word for the person who will bring the wished-­for substance through space and time to the child awaiting it, the earliest source of the temporal sense? Or is there something more primitive at play? While any mother knows that babies’ sleep patterns are not regularized at birth, that they become so with maturation of the nervous system, there is evidence that maternal, placental, and fetal physiology (the increase and decrease of cortisone in the mother, for example, and the production of melatonin in the ovary and placenta) have much to do not only with homeostasis, but with circadian rhythmicity in both mother and fetus.5 Evidence exists, in other words, that some form of a temporal sense precedes birth. It is in the constructed self, however, that any real consciousness of time, over and above the sensorial experience of it, originates. It is with the capacity to anticipate the relation between cause and effect, in other words, with the growing tolerance of mother’s absence, the lessening of the anxiety associated with separation, that awareness of time and one’s existence in time develops. This is what Edelman posits in his notion of “the remembered present” cited above. In fact, Edeleman goes so far as to claim that one of the main functions of consciousness is precisely to maintain an integrated perception of one’s self in time. Through the untangling of our apperception of the spatiotemporal universe via the disciplines of chemistry and physics (Einstein’s


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defining of space-­time equivalence, for instance, and Ilya Prigogine’s work on indeterminacy), collectively we moved toward the possibility of a more dynamic understanding of our surround. Similarly, it is from the child’s untangling of her relationships with things and others not herself that coherence in individuality develops. For some, however, maintaining psychic coherence is challenging amid the chaotic forces of life and the shifting of internal states. The psychoanalyst’s office can provide a place where a freeing of the usual boundaries of time, and of space as well, and the loosening of these strictures, however ironically, allows for the patient to create greater coherence of self in time and space. The office of an analyst is a highly constructed space. Much thought is given to what art will appear on the walls and what else might be placed, neutrally or revealingly, in the office. Of course, the space is co-­constructed interpersonally, which is of the utmost importance as well. Analysts do not give out information about themselves because it is vital that the patient not know the particulars of the analyst’s life in order for her to more easily access her own unique story. This aids in fostering a unilateral relationship wherein the space created through the analysis opens onto new ways of understanding. In withholding personal information, the analyst gives importance to the fantasies the patient has about the analyst and the thoughts and memories that are triggered by the objects in the space and by the conversation or free association. The less “real” the connection to the space of the analysis, the more patients are free to explore their own narratives. Transference condenses the infinite number of possibilities into one place, as the analyst becomes a stand-­in for mother, father, sibling, husband, or wife, while a “new object” relation that goes far beyond transference is built. Space and time are the Kantian filters through which we put ourselves into the world. But in the analytic session something is freed with regard to both. As the analyst refrains from inserting his or her own story into the space, the patient becomes free to move around metaphorically, free to play. Free association is one of the ways the patient plays in the open time/space of the analytic session. For it is through such associative expression that patients are able to float freely, to pass from the past to the present, from a mood to an affect, from an anecdote to a memory. There is, briefly put, a fluidity of thought in free association that is very different from the

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confines of a structured conversation. Moving spatiotemporally in this fluidity are memories, thoughts, feelings, dreams, fantasies, and observations about the physical space in which the session occurs as well as questions and thoughts about the analyst that are often transference-­oriented. The spatiotemporal dynamic that occurs in the consulting room is similar to that which occurs in art. The viewer, like the artist, looks at artwork and makes connections; she makes sense of it for herself. Viewers remove it from the frame, the theater, or whatever may encompass it to open it up to their own engagement. Similarly, analysts receive what patients offer—often chaotically or in ways that at least feel chaotic to the patient—make sense of it, and by making observations about patterns they find in what the patient shares, return that material to the patient in a kind of order, as something that makes sense. The patient can then decide what to do with it. The analyst, in other words, creates a coherent pattern out of chaotic exposition and gives it back to the patient to reintegrate into the narrative of his or her life in a more coherent way. Sheldon Bach has described the similarity specifically with regard to poetry: “Poetry attempts to take disordered fragments of experience and allow them to order themselves into some meaningful whole, much as psychoanalysts do with memories or unformulated experience. Poetry often calls up chaos, and by allowing chaos to exist it witnesses the process of its embodiment into meaningful structures, much as we hold psychotic experiences until they can structure themselves.”6 The analyst, therefore, is the antithesis of the narrow-­minded viewer of art who, upon seeing a drip painting of Jackson Pollock or a geographic composition of Piet Mondrian, might well say, “That’s not art! Any child could do that!” Looking at a Pollock, a Mondrian, or a readymade of Marcel Duchamp, to cite a further example, the viewer receptive to the art in much the same way the analyst is receptive to the chaos that will be structurally embodied over time sees the gestures behind the artwork, the series of decisions, thoughts, and choices that creating art entails. The receptive viewer would certainly capture Duchamp’s gesture of “cleptomania mentale” (mental kleptomania), as the artist’s readymades have been described by Achille Bonito Oliva, and would transform it into a new way of understanding a bicycle wheel or urinal. Similarly, the analyst sees not simply what the patient


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presents, but takes into careful consideration the many aspects of the patient’s life (thoughts, conflicts, behaviors) that have not been brought into the analytic space, aspects that lie behind the seemingly simple act of conversing in an analyst’s office. The analyst sees the patient’s material as something far more complex and views the struggle inherent in the situation, the choices the patient has made over what to share and what not to share with the analyst, as of value in and of itself. The struggle to be free becomes wondrous in itself. For the analyst, the task is to be a creative listener in the same way that viewing art is a creative act when it is generative and transformative. Michelangelo Pistoletto’s mirror paintings illustrate the point. The mirror paintings, consisting of cutout images of people painted onto tissue paper and applied to a mirrored surface made of highly polished steel, represent the underpinnings of both Pistoletto’s artistic creativity and his theoretical considerations. Absorbing the present time and the actuality of space wherein anything can potentially happen, they constitute a “self-­portrait of the world,” as the artist calls them. Every viewer, every passerby, is reflected in them and becomes, thereby, part of the work. The environment is also reflected on their surface, creating a space where life and art can meet and opposites come together: static/dynamic, surface/depth, absolute/relative. Much like the analytic encounter where the analyst gives back to the patient a new and different meaning that affords a viewing by the patient of his own story from another perspective, the viewer and artwork, as Pistoletto has described it, relate to each other in this way: I find myself inside the picture, beyond the wall that is perforated (though not, of course, in a material sense) by the mirror. On the contrary, since I cannot enter it physically, if I am to inquire into the structure of art I must make the picture move outward into reality, creating the “fiction” of being myself beyond the mirror. At the present time it is easy to play on the identity between reality-­object and art-­object. A “thing” is not art, the idea of that same “thing” can be art.7 In his Nobel Lecture of 1987, Joseph Brodsky elegantly proclaimed the following:

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If art teaches anything (to the artist, in the first place), it is the private nature of the human condition. Being the most ancient as well as the most literal form of private enterprise, it fosters in a man, knowingly or unwittingly, a sense of his uniqueness, of individuality, of separateness—thus turning him from a social animal into an autonomous “I.” Lots of things can be shared: a bed, a piece of bread, convictions, a mistress, but not a poem by, say, Rainer Maria Rilke. A work of art, of literature especially, and a poem in particular, addresses a man tête-à-­tête, entering with him into direct—free of any go-­betweens—relations.8 The relationship of viewer to artwork contributes to a transformation of the sense of self precisely insofar as viewing art, an aesthetic experience creative in itself, provides a unique occasion for the reinforcement of individuality, the acquisition of freedom, and the affirmation of autonomy. Anyone can see Duchamp’s urinal as a urinal; in fact, it is one. But not everyone can see this object as something different from what it is. Seeing unconventionally—as we do in art as in psychoanalysis—frees us to feel as unique individuals. Symbols and metaphors, we would argue, are what give us the opportunity to reinforce our individuality. When I learn to see things from another perspective—when I learn that recontextualization implies understanding differently—I reinforce my difference from others; I reinforce my autonomy. As symbolic representation enables children to move towards abstract thinking and theory of mind and to recognize their own selves as different from other selves, so art, as a way of representing metaphorically, strengthens an autonomous, often original, way of thinking. We have said that selfhood arises as unity with mother begins to fade, for it is then that the self begins to acquire sense and objects to acquire shape. Objects become invested with a notion of permanence in space and time that reinforces in the child the idea that the world is populated by things separate from her body (undifferentiated from her psyche) and that those things do not disappear when they exit the field of vision. And we have said that children learn how to differentiate themselves from others through symbolic representation. Initially this occurs in a semisymbolic way of playing as when the small child creates a story in which she uses


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herself, together with objects (such as dolls or other figures), to represent and explore the dynamic interplay of relationships or of her interaction with the world. Over time, the child puts distance between herself and the narrative and the self is strengthened as it detaches from the story. Only in certain pathological states does the subject continually put herself at the center of the narrative, a form of play characterized by a full, not partial, symbolic representation. Distancing is what leads eventually to theory of mind and mentalization, the ability to attribute different states of mind to others. But the construction of a world inhabited by self and others may be at risk, for the ability to maintain a coherent representation in space and time is not a trivial achievement and may be jeopardized by life’s contingencies. A preliminary trial is the encountering of one’s reflection in the mirror. Upon separating herself from surrounding objects, the child needs to reappropriate into her sense of self an outside representation—her mirror image. A phenomenon similar to this affirmation of a sense of self through distancing unfolded in Russian art, as we saw previously, when artists in what was then the Soviet Union needed to emerge from within the collective narrative of the system in order to claim their existence as individuals. Initially, the video camera was turned toward the self and the artist used it to make a statement: “Look at me; I exist as an independent ‘I.’ ” Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe (1969–2013) was the first such video artist to emerge in the postSoviet era and was a passionate activist for gay rights in Russia. Performances in which he portrayed famous political and historical figures (Dostoevsky, Charlie Chaplin, Jesus, Hitler, and the Pope, among others) contributed to the creation of his reputation as one of Russia’s foremost artists. After Perestroyka everything became possible. There was complete uncertainty about the future and, finally, there was space for the creation of new, individual but multiple, identities (see Figure 5.1). For Mamyshev-Monroe the boundaries between public and private life were blurred much like those of the analytic patient who, in telling a story, sets himself at a distance from the story itself. In psychoanalysis, this may become like a game in which the relation between the inner emotional world (built upon a collection of past experiences) and the external one, the environment, is vague. The process of externalization, of giving a form to this internal world in order to separate from it, is akin to that of the child playing with

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FIGURE 5.1  Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe, stills from video Cafe Elefant, 2004. Courtesy XL Gallery and Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe Foundation,

dolls; in placing pieces of her inner life into a narrative, the patient externalizes them as the child does when she assigns her own emotions to the toy doll. These acts allow patient and child to assume new and different roles and places in relation to their thoughts and feelings. Space and time are our means of shaping perception, knowledge, and even emotion. This is the task of the nervous system which coordinates neuronal functions with the temporal organization of behavior; this relates, in other words, “here and now” to the memory of past events in order to plan future responses. One of the major challenges of the brain is maintaining a stable representation of the self in space and time. And the construction of a personal narrative heavily relies on that. We need to integrate different events and different aspects of ourselves in a coherent narrative. Ambiguity and instability may challenge this coherence, destabilizing our individual identities while also opening the possibility of new experiences, introducing the coexistence of different kinds of engagement. The coexistence of differences is a developmental achievement that manifests itself in the acquired ability of the child to tolerate ambivalent feelings of love and hate and in the capacity for symbolic playing, such as using a banana as a phone, when objects may become something other than what they are meant or assumed to be. Indeed, developmentally speaking, the coexistence of differences represents a significant challenge: love and hate come together when the child learns to tolerate ambivalence; they take the form of


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ambiguity for they concern conflicting feelings. Ambivalent feelings toward mother or father can be frightening in that they might imply rejection of one’s own self, a major source of threat. The tolerance for ambivalence and ambiguity often presupposes a capacity to tolerate the coexistence of conflictual inputs/feelings/situations, like good and bad, at the same time. The need for stability furthers the resolution of these conflicts directing them toward certainty, categorization, and recognition of familiar cues. The coexistence of different possible truths is precisely what is emphasized in much modern and contemporary art. Listen to Duchamp: “If we give the attributes of a medium to the artist, we must then deny him the state of consciousness on the esthetic plane about what he is doing or why he is doing it. All his decisions in the artistic execution of the work rest with pure intuition and cannot be translated into a self-­analysis, spoken or written, or even thought out.” To complete the creative process, “to determine the weight of the work on the esthetic scale,” the spectator must play a role. “All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.”9 Art is a three-­way dialogue: between artist and artwork, between spectator and artwork, and between artist and spectator. Like art, psychoanalysis is strictly linked to a notion of intersubjectivity. As Thomas Ogden has noted, citing Bion, “It takes [at least] two people to make one.”10 Ogden has written of psychoanalysis as “a lived emotional experience” that “cannot be translated, transcribed, recorded, explained, understood or told in words. It is what it is.”11 The same may be said of art. As Edelman puts it, “[H]igher-­order consciousness involves the ability to be conscious of being conscious, and it allows the recognition by a thinking subject of his or her own acts and affections. It is accompanied by the ability in the waking state explicitly to recreate past episodes and to form future intentions.”12 Edelman’s model of the self is based on its conceptualization as an evolutionary structure. His theory of memory, as discussed in Neural Darwinism, culminated from his thinking that memory involves the regrouping (or re-­collection/recollection) of experience. Like Freud—who wrote of the reinscription of memory in accordance with later experience (Nachträglichkeit)—Edelman views memory as retranscription.13 When Einstein defined space-­time equivalence,

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he gave the universe an historic and dynamic dimension precisely by showing that we live in a constantly evolving system. When Ilya Prigogine described chemical systems (or “dissipative structures”) subjected to conditions of imbalance as having potentially different evolutionary forms, he too was proposing the possibility of multiple solutions and thus the “historicity” of these systems’ states. Since balanced systems are static, they could not have an historic dimension. How, though, is this space-­time equivalence, which has radically changed our way of conceptualizing the world, expressed in terms of neurophysiological function? What meaning does this equivalence have for the emotional and behavioral life, the creative life even, of a human being? Space and time are unequivocally linked to memory: the brain reconstructs a visual scene by imagining this scene as previously perceived by the eyes. It is therefore hardly surprising that they are supported anatomically by a cerebral structure whose function is fundamental to the mnestic process—the hippocampus. A patient who presents with a deficit in temporal memory often presents with a deficit in spatial memory as well, as seen, for example, in his difficulty not in executing but in planning to execute motor behavior. Interestingly, a team of scientists headed by Nobel Laureate John O’Keefe at University College London discovered what are referred to as “place cells,” hippocampal cells in the rat that correlate with the rat’s location in the environment. Through the close association of their cellular function with the rat’s behavior, “place cells” reveal encoding of spatial information within the same hippocampal structures required for the acquisition of knowledge about and remembering of spatial configuration. Together, the finding of “place cells” and evidence provided by clinical studies have led to the hypothesis of a circuit supporting spatial navigation and helping to create internal maps of the outside world. Studies of patients with brain lesions have further revealed the role of the hippocampus with regard to memory and spatial function. This has led to the notion that the human hippocampus, in view of its involvement in spatial mapping (virtual or real), plays a fundamental role in the storing of memories of places explored. The hippocampus would thus appear to be the foundation of the space-­time system involved in the remembering of events.14 Like “place cells” encoding spatial experience, single neurons known as “time cells” have been shown to encode temporally


For Want of Ambiguity

structured experience. Also located in the hippocampus, they too point to the significant role played by the hippocampus both in episodic memory and spatial mapping and “suggest that the fundamental function of the hippocampus is to establish spatio-­ temporal frameworks for organizing memories.”15 Space and time are thus fundamental in the life of a human being not only as a type of knowledge upon which we base, a priori, our perception of the external world, as Immanuel Kant proposed in The Critique of Pure Reason. Rather, they are also fundamental as parameters upon which we base the perception of our own awareness. While the temporal dimension generates awareness of our projection toward an unknown future (motivating the personal formulation of belief, metaphor, and symbol as well as the collective formulation of values), the spatial dimension reveals a process of self-­recognition in relation to the external environment and one’s movement in space. It might be said that human beings seek escape from awareness of this projection toward the future through the nonlinear space-­ time zone of art and even through the distorted space and timeless zone of dreaming. Rather than as modalities of escape, however, as flight from the angst of such projection, the otherness of art and dreaming may be conceived of differently: as an integration of possibilities, possibilities opened within the actuality of one’s own space-­time experience through awareness and allowance of ambiguity, which implies a degree of freedom from fear. If, as Glen Gabbard and Thomas Ogden have written, “The timelessness of dreams allows one to simultaneously elaborate a multiplicity of perspectives on an emotional experience in a way that is not possible in the context of linear time,”16 so too the timelessness of art and its infinite number of possibilities for the shaping of space allow for avoidance of the spatiotemporal movement toward the end, but they too are also liberating. For some, however, what is essentially a creative way of being is not achievable—for those, for instance, for whom trauma has frozen the past and thereby foreclosed present and future. Influenced by the work of Edelman, Arnold Modell, in Imagination and the Meaningful Brain, has shown how metaphor facilitates present experience by comparison with unconscious memories of the past. In the traumatized individual, however, the past is deprived of the plasticity needed for that connection with the present. Memories of trauma—which is to say, memories of traumatic responses, for the

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trauma lies not in the event itself but in the individual’s response to it—are often rigidified. “Neither adaptable nor generative,” qualities useful to the creation of new experience, Donnell Stern has written, such memories of past experience come to be recontextualized through psychoanalysis, a process that helps to create metaphors and thereby new possibilities for experience. Stern has also suggested this as a principle use of clinical treatment: “[P]sychoanalysts listen to patients in the way that allows patients to listen to themselves. In such listening, links between past and present are forged, and metaphor comes into being.”17 Similarly, it is by enhancing our metaphorical association to the past, enlarging our experience of space and time in the present by forging new metaphorical connections between past and present, that art is made. Aesthetic experience, whether that of the artist or the viewer, allows us to recontextualize our emotional, cognitive, and perceptual readiness to apprehend events in particular ways. If psychoanalysis affords the patient stuck in repetitive behavioral and relational patterns awareness of the potential offered by recontextualization, so too art promotes awareness of “the possible” with the result that new ways of apprehending one’s self in space and time—indeed, new narrative forms and new meanings—are created. “The true power of history does not lie in the physical facts,” Braco Dimitrijevic´ has said. “It manifests itself through the psychological effects brought about by the event. People write their impressions, claiming them to be scientific because real history is made of many possibilities, pluralities and impressions. Let us call it a quantity of subjectivities. What we call History is nothing more than one subjectivity which is imposed on the whole world as objective opinion.”18 Dimitrijevic´, who was born in Sarajevo (the former Yugoslavia) in 1948 and currently lives and works in Paris, married classical masterpieces of Western art (from Leonardo’s Madonna to Pablo Picasso) with everyday objects and fruits, questioning what the real value of history is, and ultimately that of a work of art eternally consecrated to history. In his series of works Triptychos Post Historicus, exhibited in museums throughout the world, Dimitrijevic´ demonstrated that every object can carry a multiplicity of meanings (see Figure 5.2). Thus what he calls “post history” is the time for a multitude of coexisting truths:


For Want of Ambiguity

I have always maintained that in Baroque times, it is possible that at least one artist was making monochrome paintings. Such boldness would have been in direct opposition with the richness of baroque, a sort of statement that says, “Now I’m going to make some black monochromes!” The possibility of this being the case has always been swept aside because our civilization is based on exclusion.19 Different truths, across time, are related to each historical era and to each phase of the artists’ and viewers’ own lives. While the adolescent will be preoccupied with how things “should be,” an older person will have a very different preoccupation, illustrating the complexity of our all seeing the world as the same place in which we all live. To different generations the world appears regulated by different moral and ethical rules, dominated by different cultural values and aesthetic parameters. Braco Dimitrijevic´’s work attempts to make different kinds of subjective truths coexist at the same time. The potential of an individual to experience time and space and the events that occur within them in new nonlinear ways brings to the fore the delicate balance between order and chaos—an equilibrium that resides in the human being’s very capacity for transformation—at play in both art and the psychoanalytic process. In The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), Freud identified the mechanisms governing the dream-­work: condensation, displacement, figurability, and secondary revision (or prewaking interpretation). The dream-­work replaces ideational content with an image or a sequence of images. And latent (as opposed to manifest) content is condensed and transformed into an alternative kind of representation. Dreams modify logical connections by condensing and displacing them in space and time, like a painter. We have said that a traumatic event, as immigration (voluntary or involuntary) can be, can alter one’s capacity to experience space and time and the connections between past and present or future events. Trauma may be transgenerationally transmitted, thus contributing to the blurring of borders both in time and in space. And a fixation on the past may prevent a person from fully experiencing the present. Moreover, as Susan Berger has written, “Firm and clear boundaries are necessary to the establishment of individual identities as well as family and group identities. While blurring and loss of boundaries are inevitable in the process of their

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FIGURE 5.2  Braco Dimitrijevic´, Triptychos Post Historicus or The Late Years Bananas on the Line Again. Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1981. I: Premonitory Portrait of Apollinaire, Giorgio de Chirico, 1914. II: Jean-Hubert Martin’s telephone. III: Bananas. Color photograph, 160 × 120 cm. Courtesy of the artist.


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development, there seems to necessarily be a greater blurring and loss of boundaries in families struggling with traumatic experiences.”20 Trauma brings fear and fear carries with it anxiety; both impact how parental tasks are executed. “Intense and inconsistent parental behaviors can easily dominate families dealing with a history of trauma, causing a lack of the predictability that is so crucial for the development of secure attachment in children.”21 A male patient in his thirties emigrated at an early age with his parents from a country in a state of war. Seeking treatment to explore difficulties with romantic relationships, he seemed to experience confusion with regard to self–other boundaries. He appeared to have trouble differentiating his feelings from those of others. When anxious he retreated into magical thinking and quasi-­ delusional ideas. A formal thought disorder was at first diagnosed. Indeed, during the first five to six months of treatment it was extremely difficult to follow what he was saying. He rarely referred to the past and repeatedly spoke in a more or less chronically hypomanic way of superficial things, showing no interest in what the analyst said to him. This patient presented with conflicts centering on separation from parental figures and independence. His relationships, as well as his highly defensive behavioral patterns, appeared focused on a need for control and passive-­aggressive dynamics. Of note was this man’s use of space and time during the sessions. Intrusions were frequent at first, messages, emails, and calls after hours. Sessions often dragged on longer than the usual time frame and changes in schedule were often requested. Moreover, this patient seemed to “appropriate” the space of the office, using every chair, touching objects, moving things around, and often unplugging electronic devices to charge his phone or tablet. As therapy progressed, he could begin recalling the traumatic circumstances and events around the immigration. The story became part of his narrative as opposed to being “a story of the past belonging only to his parents,” “a burden that they should carry” and not he. Calls and messages stopped as well as the frequent changes in the session hours. In fact, the patient became very aware of the passing of the hour and often he himself called the end of the session. His relationships improved dramatically as did his professional life. One task of psychoanalysis is to help patients give continuity to their life. Consider a patient who was surprised by his analyst’s

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ability to recall all his narrative material, his many stories, but equally surprised by her inability to temporally locate the major events of his life. He came from a chaotic environment, from a fragmented family in which roles were confused and confusing. In “On Being Forgotten, and Forgetting One’s Self,” Sheldon Bach writes of the “discontinuities of the self” that some patients experience and that seem related to the mother’s inability to construct and retain a “vivid, cohesive, and reliable memory” of her child. This gives rise to the fear of disappearing from the world, of being forgotten, “a wordless fear of falling in an endless tumble out of his mother’s mind and into the oblivion of nonremembrance.”22 “You are my memory” was one patient’s articulate expression of her analytic experience. The following vignette further illustrates the complexity of memory, with its two components of encoding and retrieval, as it relates to emotion and affect, each of which appears to play a vital role in modulating the recovery of memories. A high-­functioning professional male in his twenties who, overall, had good relationships with his colleagues and friends, but was unable to form a satisfying romantic liaison, consulted an analyst who experienced an unusual response to their earliest sessions. Though he described feelings of depression, the analyst found his affect utterly flat. Remarkably, after each session, she found herself unable to reflect on the sessions for she had no memory whatsoever of anything the patient had said. She concluded, after devoting considerable time to the question of why she could not recollect any of the material, that she was experiencing a countertransference resulting from her perception of the patient as “empty and disconnected” and his projecting that emptiness onto her. In a consult with another analyst, however, she was told, “Of course, you can’t remember anything of these sessions. You don’t have an emotional hook!” What was meant by an “emotional hook”? How might it be related to memory? And what does any of that have to do with ambiguity, with neuroscience and art? The concept of holding in memory is vital both developmentally and in a clinical context—a person needs someone else to hold him or her in memory—the child, to develop and grow, and the patient, to progress in treatment. Memories are given to the other person or collected from the other person and held together, as pieces and fragments of stories. The mother/analyst becomes the memory that


For Want of Ambiguity

holds the child/patient together. To create a coherent narrative, memories need to be organized and grouped around emotional and affective hooks. An Israeli artist based in London, Ori Gersht uses video and photography to explore connections between past and present, connections that extend beyond what is visible. In Kosiv, a village located in what today is Western Ukraine, German and Ukrainian soldiers in 1941 killed twenty-­two hundred Jews and abandoned their bodies in a pit in the forest. The few who survived were forced to hide until the spring of 1944. Among them was Gersht’s father-­ in-law. In 2005 Ori Gersht went back to that village to pay tribute to the memory of the many who died there. Kosiv no longer carried any signs of that tragedy (see Figure 5.3). Of the photographs he took there, he has said, One of my concerns in these photographs was how to capture in the present the horrors of the past. . . . The camera can only depict the here and now, in this instance a pastoral Brueghelesque landscape, but my experience of these places was conditioned by what I knew and this therefore loaded these places with subjective meaning. My intention was to create images that would fuse the objective [reality] with my psychological state, images that simultaneously absorb the landscape and project upon it.23 A young patient, talking about some of her friends, recently said, “They’re not homosexual. They’re not transgender either. They are nonbinary, gender fluid.” The grace and subtlety of this description are striking. With a growing number of fathers involved in childcare and a growing number of women in leading positions outside the home, we are indeed all fluid and nonbinary. We recall that parental care is transforming of our chemistry and, when we turn to physics, we see all the more how accurate is this description of humans. Nonbinary and fluid, which brings us full circle to complexity and chaos. Fluid dynamics is a branch of physics that deals with liquids or gases in motion. The behavior of fluids set in motion is described by what are known as the Navier-Stokes equations. These are differential equations that have known solutions only in simple cases of nonturbulent, steady flows. For more complex cases involving turbulence, as is in weather systems and in aerodynamics,

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FIGURE 5.3  Ori Gersht, Liquidation, The Mountain, Lambda Print, 80 × 100 cm, 2005. Courtesy of the artist.

the motion of fluids can become highly unpredictable and chaotic, despite this motion’s being governed by deterministic laws of physics. And despite genetic determinants, gender too can be fluid. . . . On how many applications for students, job seekers, and others, must one select how to describe oneself from among a growing number of pronouns: he, she, they, and more? This in itself shows how reductive language can be. To describe fluidity, we need complex equations. We need a language that, like the Navier-Stokes equations with their nonlinearity, would form an unpredictable system in which the different variables (of gender) are so coupled together and mutually interdependent, that changing one has an effect on the rest, which in turn affects the source too. The lack of predictability as tied to the nondeterministic and unstable nature of such a system was the source of much feminist writing, particularly in France, in the latter part of the twentieth


For Want of Ambiguity

century. The work of Luce Irigary, Julia Kristeva, and Hélène Cixous comes first to mind. Irigary’s titles in themselves already reveal what that language might look like: Ce sexe qui n’en est pas un (This Sex Which Is Not One), J’aime à toi (I Love to You), and Être Deux (To Be Two) express the transformational force of encountering not an other, but a self whose own boundaries are ambiguous. Reconceptualizing identity and difference has had a profound impact on the art of many contemporary artists, such as Clarity Haynes whose photographs and installations focus on feminist and gender-­related topics born of a culture whose patriarchal values and norms are giving way to something else (see Figure 5.4). The pace of change in our world is accelerating, which means our perception of time is evolving. So, too, the space of the world is

FIGURE 5.4  Clarity Haynes, Michael, oil on linen on board, 11 × 14 in (27.9 × 35.6 cm), 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Invisible-Exports Gallery.

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shrinking. We therefore need to be adaptive and to mobilize our synaptic plasticity more than ever before. Children are diagnosed with all sorts of attention disorders, but it might be that schools do not reflect the speed of the environment in which children are growing. Their learning abilities are perhaps faster than the stimuli that schools can provide. Emphasis must be placed on process, on the continuous transformative process that is life, for in the fluidity of our existence as human beings—in the dynamic, complex, and unstable nature of being alive—we find the need for continual readaptation, such as we face at the present time. As in psychoanalysis, whose significance resides in process and process only, the work of art actualizes the tension between order and chaos that constitutes the very ambiguity against which mapping, boundary setting, and the search for certainty struggle to survive. Neuroscience has increasingly sought to shed light on this struggle. Karl Friston, for one, has aimed to provide a new understanding of action, perception, and learning based upon a unified theory of brain function. This theory emanates from the “free-­energy principle,” a principle of optimization whereby energy needed to produce certain action is minimized to maintain stability, and Friston offers it as evidence of the self-­organizing objective of biological systems. As we have seen throughout this volume, the human being is constantly exposed to potential external and internal change. Resisting the pull toward instability and the natural inclination to succumb to the perceptually changing environment requires a low level of entropy, as illustrated by Friston with the example of a fish out of water. Such a fish would be in a state of surprise (high entropy), both emotionally and statistically speaking! Biological systems, according to Friston, try to reduce entropy and surprise with predictive coding (as referred to briefly in chapter 4), thus violating the second law of thermodynamics. And they do so by way of the “free-­energy principle,” which is to say they minimize surprise by minimizing free energy. Human beings can achieve this state of low entropy and surprise by changing the two things upon which it depends. We can alter sensory input by acting on our surroundings or we can change our internal state.24 Friston’s Bayesian brain hypothesis is cited again here for it renders explicit the biological pull toward living on the very edge of order and chaos that drives both psycho­analysis and art.


For Want of Ambiguity

There appears in the Torah the recommendation that the human being free himself from space in order to live in time, “to prefer mutability to static perfection,” as Nadine Shenkar writes, and “a work of art cannot have its own essence as its ultimate aim, . . . it aspires to transcend the rigidity of art and to convey the fluid dynamism of life.”25 It cannot be a coincidence that the first Jewish artwork was actually neither a painting nor a sculpture, but an installation—the Tabernacle, or Tent of Dwelling, the mishkan, a mobile structure and spiritual center representing the “microcosm of the world.” For five hundred years, it was assembled and disassembled in different places and, with man standing within it, the mishkan has been said to represent “the spinal cord of space-­ time.” Relativity, in a word, was thus understood by the Jews and translated into art.26

6 Resisting representation

The final chapter of this book—the impetus for which has been the need for and the “breaking through” of form—takes as its point of departure a question: What is an image? Otherwise put, what is the structure of an image; of what is an image composed? We have looked at the human need to give shape to the chaos of being. We have looked as well at the function of symbol and metaphor, both in terms of psychological development and physiological need. And we have explored how psychic growth (emotional and cognitive) and our perceptual capacities (the functioning of the human nervous system) interact in human experience as self and identity are negotiated and renegotiated over time. We have claimed that art is a domain in which the experience of being human is revealed as open to alternative ways of being in the world, for certainty is curtailed in the making and reception of art and ambiguity is given its due. It is from this ambiguity, the ambiguity of the creative/ aesthetic experience, we have said, that there is much to be learned about relating to self and to other, in short, about life. But does aesthetic experience imply the existence of something called an “image”? In actuality, the difficulty of responding to the question of what we mean by the term derives from the relationship between image and representation. When we speak of an “image,” do we mean what the mind’s eye has before it (an internal image) or what exists on a canvas or stage? Are they truly separable? When we speak of “representation,” do we refer to a re-­presentation, be it verbal or visual, of something external to the creation? Or do we recognize the incompatibility of the notion of world with that of representation insofar as all imaging occurs as a temporalizing and spatializing act? For imaging is not only an act that takes place “in” time and


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space, but one that defunctionalizes and restructuralizes our relation to both.1 Moreover, can we conceive of imaging as an act independent of somatopsychic states of being? Further complexity derives from the very difficulty of conceptualizing central nervous system functions solely in terms of the symbolic representation of the brain itself. We noted previously that the brain is organized into functionally specialized areas according to the different tasks performed by the neurons. And we observed the usefulness of such mapping as a first step toward an understanding of these tasks and their relation to the overall structural and functional architecture of the brain. Nonetheless, we emphatically stress that it is in recognizing how this architecture not only relates to, but is intimately integrated with, features of what we call “mind” (features that are both multidirectional and unpredictable) that we achieve greater understanding of human experience. We must abstract from the maps, we have argued (by which was meant withdrawing from the particular to extend to that deeper notion of integration), so as to conceptualize the nervous system in the significantly more complex ways the experience of being human requires. From this it follows—insofar as the map itself is a representation—that, in asking about the composition of an image, we must avoid resuscitating the same dualistic and reductive thinking we are striving here to diminish. To do so, the phenomenology of the visual image (external or internal) can only be regarded in the context of subjective experience irreducible solely to its physical stimuli, what some philosophers refer to as qualia. Need we be reminded that Narcissus fell in love neither simply with his reflection in the pool nor with the actuality of himself, but with the valorization of that reflection, the meaning he assigned it, which is to say his experience of it? (One wonders, incidentally, why that tale has found such continuous expression in so many mediums, from ballet to literature, film, and beyond. What motivates the persistent fascination with this particular myth?) Was there inherent in the experience of Narcissus some perceived truth to which that meaning was attributable? Was there, in other words, a congruence between the thing-­in-the-­world and its mental representation (truth understood, thereby, in accordance with the medieval notion of adaequatio intellectus ad rem)? Or was there, rather, an element of truth inherent in the experience by which some dimension of being was disclosed, by which some aspect of his self–

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world relation was revealed (with truth understood in accordance, rather, with the ancient Greek notion of althethia, unconcealedness or disclosure, a notion that Martin Heidegger revitalized in his twentieth-­century ontological hermeneutics)? Is reality the model for the image, for what might more accurately be termed “representation,” in other words, or might it not somehow be the other way around? For, certainly, what comes (or not) to awareness is modulated both by one’s emotional and physical states at any given moment and, also, by attention: Am I happy, sad, angry, or feeling something else? Am I cold, tired, thirsty, and so on? Moreover, in a typical test of awareness, if I look at basketball players, I do not see a moonwalking bear! So, too, intentionality plays a role (the hunter in the forest sees birds I do not see). What comes to awareness is also modulated by interactions with others and by memory as well. Even intuition plays a role. There is the feeling that arises at a subcortical/bodily level (something simply “feels” right or wrong) and precedes conscious reflection. One thinks of a photograph, and the meaning of representation seems eminently clear. But might the photograph, like the film image, not be more accurately understood as a model for reality— given the complex roles played by the viewer’s internal and external states—and, in fact, might not the same be said of all visual representations no matter the medium? Is the answer not one or the other, therefore, but both? Silvio Wolf has asked, “Is our point of view responsible for what we actually see?” and “Do we only see what we think?” The ambiguity of “point of view” is wonderfully illustrative of the question at hand, for the photographer, like the cinematographer, is fundamentally a shaper of form. He necessarily has a point of view (the subjective dimension) and creates from a point of view (the position in space from which he views the scene to be shot). “The limits of our vision, the constraints of the medium and ultimately the way we interpret Reality, dramatically determine our knowledge and understanding of the external world,” Wolf tell us. “Seeing is a creative act: we make up what we see more often than see what is actually there. Our glance only grasps highly reworked subjective fragments, shadows and reflections, ‘ideas’ of the world: our understandings of what we call Reality.”2 This is to say that images—photographic, filmic, painted, or other—are created in the mind, through which we “access and


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acknowledge Reality.” They “result from the connection between two worlds: the manifold external one and our lightless inner one.” Thus truth has little place in art. As Picasso put it, “Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”3 And yet, the image is perceptually derived (we make images from memories) and, at the same time, perceived (we observe images visually). In that sense there is certainly truth, if by truth we mean validity, inherent within them. To the extent that their value may be said to reside in the meaning we attribute to them, however, their lack of truth is as significant as that inherent within it. Insofar, in other words, as it is through interpretation—or, more precisely, contextualization— that, to cite Wolf once more, “we can grasp what we see and what we think,” images at once disclose and conceal. This is as pertinent to abstract as to realist art and, as cyclical as the process may sound, it is in “the finite forms of our images” that the “multiple ways” we see them are unveiled and that we “visually approach the infinite complexity of the Real.” Once again, it is paradoxically the photographic image that best illustrates the point. As Wolf astutely notes, “The photographer blows up the image to see as deeply inside as he can, but trying to reveal its inner truth destroys its physical structure.” Where then, if not in its revelation of reality, does the power of the photographic image reside? As much in what is left out of the image as in what is contained therein, “in the unclear areas, the accidents, outside the borders and within its structure, in the silence embedded in the secret of its language, in its interpretive depth.”4 And yet, this way of thinking returns us to the very dualisms to which we do not ascribe. Seeking a means beyond this impasse, Maurice Merleau-Ponty famously wrote of the trope of the hidden and the revealed, the visible and the invisible, that has to do neither with a Kantian metaphysical constraint on the knowable nor with an aesthetic constraint on the representable. Rather, it has to do with the fundamental interrelation of being and creating: “Being is what demands creation of us so that we have experience of it,” he wrote, referring to the inquiry into being that constitutes the foundation of the creative act.5 Entering the space circumscribed by the creative imagination is to enter the realm of uncertainty; it is to enter the

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arena that preexists the need for simplification—the need for disambiguation—that separates signs for what they are meant to designate, representations from what they are meant to represent, the seer from what he sees. The image may be said to be the mediator, the purveyor of reciprocity or dialectical exchange between artist and artwork, between observer and artist. It occurs in time and space in that it engages awareness, which is always awareness of something, a temporal and spatial projection of the mind toward the object of perception, as we know from Franz Brentano, whose notion of intentionality laid the groundwork for phenomenology. The image thereby is fundamentally irreducible to anything outside it; it is but what it is and nothing more. It obliges the viewer to see without knowing of what is seen. This capacity of the image to constrain the viewer to see without knowing something more or something other, to dwell within the dilemma posed by the image of seeing without knowing, has been described by artist Georges Didi-Huberman as “the power of the negative.”6 But just how successful is the constraint imposed by the image, the failure of representation? Does the challenge to rational thought, the unintelligibility of form and the irreducibility of subjectivity to anything but a first-­person perspective, ultimately triumph over the iconic? Can one ever see outside of a however subliminally delineated context that informs the viewer’s seeing? Like the viewing of an image, psychoanalytic praxis struggles to conceal as it reveals. What we owe to Freud’s genius perhaps more than anything else is the recognition of just how determinedly the analysand strives (primarily in the treatment relationship) to resist disclosure as myth the scenario he has both written and performed. Yet it is the analysis of the resistance, the revelation of the scenario as created, that growth is achieved. Psychoanalysis is conditional, therefore, upon the same paradox that is the very measure of the existence of art: in revealing, the work of art reveals itself as revelatory; in enlightening, it is artistic process that is itself enlightened.7 In psychoanalysis, as in art, it is a matter of seeking an integrative space through the dialectical interplay between the real and the imaginary, the lived and the symbolized, the known and the unknown. In dream interpretation, hidden meanings are understood as the distortions of condensation and displacement come into view. Free associations, likewise, “invite the most disparate unconscious


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products to consort with each other in the democratic playground the free associative atmosphere promotes,” as Eugene Mahon has said. So too transference, that “metaphor in action” in which “the image of the analyst is being condensed and confused with parental images from the analysand’s past,” offers a comparable neither here nor there, neither this one nor that one, but an ambiguously in between.8 But let’s look more closely at what keeps mental images out of awareness, how free association—to the extent that one can ever really freely associate—lets them in, and how that process is comparable to imaging in art. What keeps internal representations and fantasies out of awareness raises the question of the so-­called hard problem: the question of what consciousness is. Consciousness as such is to be distinguished from particular forms of awareness, for we conceive of reality in terms that our perceptual capacities confer on it. The material world is conceived of (mentally represented) as congruent with what we see (as opposed, for example, to what we touch or smell) because vision is our dominant perceptual modality. “We might experience and think differently if we were bats,” Mark Solms has written. “We would likewise have a totally different conception of reality if we possessed, say, only a sense of hearing; then we would presumably think that reality consists essentially in something like sound waves.”9 And yet, humans are synesthetic beings, which is to say we listen to music and think a thought, envision something by way of a smell, and so on. Setting aside the rather rare condition which causes uncommon experiences in one sensory modality to be stimulated by another, a condition now increasingly understood neurocognitively, we consider human development to be synesthetic in origin because how we come to differentiate between self and world and to achieve coherence in our understanding of reality is by learning as infants that the pacifier felt in the mouth, say, is the very same object that can be seen in the hand. Support for such cross-­modal learning, recognition of the significance of such fundamental interaction between the senses, comes from Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and others who have challenged traditional paradigms of the brain in which the focus is on “the presence of sharply defined visual, auditory, and somatosensory domains populated exclusively by modality-­specific neurons (i.e., neurons responsive to sensory stimuli from a single sensory modality).”10

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Nevertheless, as with a photograph, which reveals as much by what is left out as by what is contained within the image, the materiality of reality, Solms tells us, varies in relation to the magnitude and position of the observer. If you expand the magnitude of the object by means of an electron microscope (thereby reducing the magnitude of the subject, relatively speaking), matter seems to lose its solidity and tangibility. Likewise, if you change the position of the object relative to the sensory surfaces of the observer, it acquires different ‘material’ qualities—for example, when you listen to an object rather than look at it, it becomes transitory.11 How, moreover, would that same object be experienced if humans viewed from a horizontal rather than an upright position? The so-­ called objective world, then, has everything to do with perception (as we know from Impressionist painting). But it also has everything to do with cognition—remembering and expectation—and is thereby not fixed in the way we suppose it to be. In much of her painting, in her late work especially, Agnes Martin (1912–2004) sought to dissociate from that world, from the perceptibility of objects and, indeed, of all phenomena associated with daily living. Her effort was to express not the personal, but the universal states of joy, of love, of innocence untarnished by the impurities of ego-­saturated existence. Her means to that end was to refute the image or, more accurately, express a kind of imageless image. Such expression (linked for her with thinking emptiness) brought her a sense of satisfaction whose origin was twofold. On the one hand, achieving in her work an absolute state of formlessness meant attaining a level of perfection that she claimed to be not of the observed but the observer, not of the object but the mind. Art, for Martin, was about beauty, and to depict that beauty was to stimulate in the viewer a state of awareness open to what she called “inspiration.” “When a beautiful rose dies,” she wrote, “beauty does not die because it is not really in the rose.” In the mind, beauty is a “mental and emotional response,”12 a reaction partaking of perfection and attainable only when influence by the objective and material world is not permitted to interfere: “Concepts, relationships, categories, classifications, deductions are distractions of mind,” and only when free of such distraction is the mind open to “inspiration”


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and aware of beauty, of the excellence of art.13 The formlessness Martin created on the canvas was therefore gratifying for its accomplishment of exactitude, flawlessness achieved through complete and utter detachment. On the other hand, it brought her satisfaction in the triumph of uniformity over internal fragmentation and quiet over excessive stimulation. It is all too easy to allow the viewing of Agnes Martin’s work— whether the grids she began painting in the late 1950s and stayed with for several decades or the softer work of her later years whose perfection is of a less exacting but more sublime nature—to be informed by the psychosis that plagued her. Indeed, the harmonious, blissful even, paintings—the imageless images—may have been related to the trance-­like catatonia she experienced. Their calm may also have provided tranquility against the chaos of hallucinations and other inner turmoil and, alternatively or additionally, had something to do with her otherwise self-­effacing tendencies and extreme asceticism. (At one point, she tried not talking for three years; at other times, she limited her food intake to two or three items for extended periods.) Perhaps more than masochism, renunciation for Martin was a path to purity, much like her spiritual penchant for Buddhism, much like the ecstatic formlessness of her late art. If she identified with Abstract Expressionism far more than Minimalism, it was because, like the refutation of the material world and the emptiness, the ennui, the so-­called negative symptomology of many with schizophrenia, what was most important to her in the work of other artists she admired—Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Barnett Newman14—was the sense of anonymity. Vital to her in the work of these painters was, as she wrote, that it presented “an undefined amount of space, unlimited space, or spacelessness.”15 This was what she was after even in the limitless adjacent squares she configured ad infinitum, reaching an ultimate state of shapelessness or nonconfiguration. However measured the format, nothing is more silent and silencing, more disciplined and demanding, and thereby as restrictive and withholding than the grids she repeatedly executed. As Olivia Laing has noted, the solitude and the quiet of Martin’s work, her paintings of absolute aloneness (which she fervently sought in her life) and consequent tranquility, “did not arise from a life replete with love or ease, but rather out of turbulence, solitude and hardship. Though inspired, they represent an act of dogged will

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and extreme effort, and their perfection is hard-­won.” Martin believed, Laing tells us, “that she was hated as a child. Silence was her mother’s weapon and she used it ruthlessly.” If her mother, as she claimed, abused her emotionally and got pleasure from hurting others, her harshness also instilled “self-­discipline, while the enforced solitude fostered Martin’s self-­reliance.”16 Might that self-­ sufficiency, however, be more accurately described in terms of the isolation that results from suspiciousness and paranoia? And what are grids if not compartmentalization? Donald Fineberg, Martin’s psychiatrist, has attested to the artist’s difficulties with social contact and more: “Putting things in separate boxes is the ambivalence characteristic of psychotic ambivalence. A neurotic ambivalence is like uncertainty, I want this, but I want that. . . . But psychotic ambivalence is things are in separate boxes. Agnes had that.”17 Yet, while it is tempting to let Martin’s biography determine our viewing of her work, it serves no real purpose other than, perhaps, to instill within our seeing an appreciation of the extent to which her intense exploration of the grid likely served as a means of feeling less helpless, more in control. The relation of her biography to her art is essentially speculative and in no way enhances our experience of her painting. In fact, it may well inhibit the strength of its uniquely transformative pull. Knowing of the artist’s “urge to distill positive content from the oceanic states of mind she couldn’t help experiencing,” as Peter Schjeldahl has put it, of her managing “to derive a philosophy, amounting almost to a gospel, of happiness”18 despite the suffering caused her by psychosis, risks straining how we are affected by her art. For the selflessness to which she aspired in her work renders her abstractions remarkably stimulating of new experiential modes of being. “You must discover the artwork that you like, and realize the response that you make to it,” she said to artists. “You must especially know the response that you make to your own work. It is in this way that you discover your direction and the truth about yourself. If you do not discover your response to your own work, you miss the reward. You must look at the work and know how it makes you feel.” To the non-­artist, she said as much: “[Y]ou can make discoveries about yourself by knowing your response to work that you like.”19 What Martin is considering is the coming to knowledge indirectly that characterizes both art and psychoanalysis. Listen to Theodore Jacobs: “Both poet and analyst must tolerate uncertainty, confusion,


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antiquity, mystery and the anxiety of not knowing what is happening, where one is with a patient, or where one is in the act of creation.” When he appeared for a supervisory session “armed with a notebook full of detailed, obsessionally recorded, process material,” Jacobs was told he must stop the persistent note taking. “You are using it to ward off the anxiety of not knowing,” his supervisor admonished. “You have to learn to tolerate the chaos.” Both analysts and artists, be they poets or otherwise creative, have also to tolerate contradiction—ideas, images, and incongruities of all kinds—and maintain in suspension the kind of logical reasoning that risks leading to what Jacobs calls “premature closure.” Analysis is no less therapeutic for the analysand’s speaking at length about everyone other than herself and, often, about anyone other than her analyst. On the contrary, it is often precisely in this way that she reveals much about herself and what she perceives in her analyst. Approached indirectly, both individuals are resistant to conscious representation. So, too, poetry, Jacobs explains, “works by indirection, by using metaphors, simile, and symbol” to allow the message to come through.20 Martin’s resistance to representation, her egoless painting, is comparable. As Holland Cotter has said of Martin’s work, it “is as abstract as abstract gets, yet her presence in it is palpable.”21 Martin herself has concurred: My paintings have neither object nor space nor line nor anything—no forms. They are light, lightness, about merging, about formlessness, breaking down form. You wouldn’t think of form by the ocean. You can go in if you don’t encounter anything. A world without objects, without interruption, making a work without interruption or obstacle. It is to accept the necessity of the simple direct going into a field of vision as you would cross an empty beach to look at the ocean.22 Her words recall those of Maurice Merleau-Ponty who, in his celebrated essay “The Eye and the Mind,” cites Paul Valéry: “The painter ‘takes his body with him,’ says Valéry. Indeed we cannot imagine how a mind could paint. It is by lending his body to the world that the artist changes the world into paintings.”23 The point, therefore, is this: the imageless image, formlessness, is biomorphic. It is the feeling that emerges when one “accepts[s]the

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necessity of the simple going into a field of vision” as if crossing “an empty beach to look at the ocean” all the while acknowledging the memories and affects that contextualize the visual experience as our own. Martin speaks of “inspiration” and the need to capture that in her painting. It is a word Merleau-Ponty has said “should be taken literally,” for “[t]here really is inspiration and expiration of Being, respiration in Being, action and passion so slightly discernible that it becomes impossible to distinguish between who sees and who is seen, who paints and what is painted”.24 The 1999 picture entitled Loving Love (see Figure  6.1) is an impressive example of Martin’s painting in her later years. Whereas

FIGURE 6.1  Agnes Martin, Loving Love, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 601∕8 × 60 inches (152.7 × 152.4 cm), 1999. 2001.15. © Agnes Martin/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


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the elegant highly ordered grids of the 1960s had often been associated with the self-­referentiality of Minimalism, it was the horizontal circumscriptions of her post–1974 canvases (painted when she returned to making art after a hiatus of seven years) and her increasingly abstract painting that was to become more demonstrative of “inspiration” and the non-­representational dimension of her art. It was after the work of her very early years which tended more toward landscapes and the figurative (work that she ultimately destroyed), and after the mid-­career explorations of the relation between vertical and horizontal planes, that Martin’s painting became ever more egoless. Decreasing the size of her paintings from the six-­foot square she habitually favored to five, and focusing on but a single visual structure, the horizontal stripe, we see in the late painting but a vague resemblance to the grids. And although in some of her final works, painted not long before she died in 2004, she referenced the more audacious geometric forms of earlier years, much of the late work is exceedingly more relaxed. Indeed, Loving Love, astutely described by Natalia Lauricella as a “monochromatic light blue wash” that is “bisected by two horizontal white and blue strips,”25 is as resistant to representation as a painting can be. In being so, however, it is less an imageless image than the exposure of a process, the process of its very achievement. As such, it is reminiscent of what Georges Bataille called “l’informe figure de l’absence” [the formless figure of absence],26 for the formlessness of which Bataille conceived was not the absence of form, but the means of its iteration, the forming of form. The image of Loving Love is not an “image” in the autonomous sense; it is rather a feeling that gives rise to the viewer’s contextualization of his field of vision. In fact, it is in distinguishing between reality and our perception of it that the need we consider fundamental—the need to understand the aesthetic image as lived experience—is obfuscated. The image can never achieve absolute meaning and cannot be conceived of as a representation of something outside it precisely because it is constituted experientially. In this sense we expand upon the bridges Eric Kandel has built between the cultures of art and brain science in his recent work by claiming that abstract art not only, as he so rightly says, “show[s] us the world in a completely unfamiliar way,” that it is a “new way of representing the world,” but that it offers a new way of being in the world.27

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In accordance with the tradition of continental philosophy since Husserl, the image (in a painting, say) is autoconstitutional in the sense that it is created of temporal and spatial properties deriving from the material world on which it is founded, but differing from the material world in its fundamental structure—that, precisely, of ambiguity. When the image is considered neither as sign nor symbol, but as communicative of a certain manner of being in the world, one among others, the image comes to be viewed as expressive of its own expressivity. And therein resides the very ambiguity that—as in psychoanalysis where patterns that have been constructed in a repetitive way are deconstructed by the analysand’s own ultimate choice—leads the artist or spectator to “see” in a new way. But what of the internal image, what of the image not seen in the painting but in the “mind’s eye”? How does it differ in its perception from that which is external to the mind-­brain-­body system? Or does it not in any essential way? Perhaps above all else, what Martin’s Loving Love reveals is how painting opens onto what is seen. The spectator does not appropriate anything depicted on the canvas; rather, she becomes aware in looking at something of which she herself is a part. So, too, the internal image, that representation which exists as a feeling that emerges from memories, affects, linguistic structures, associations, and more. For the internal image is multidetermined, generated also by the not-­to-be-­underestimated role played by inference dating to our earliest, preverbal years. Memory retrieval, a significant component of the internal image, may be limited by the failed internalization of primary objects, by what Freud referred to as negative hallucination (failure to perceive the perceptible that results from other than a physiological deficit), and by a host of conditions related to neuronal systems and their interrelated psychic processes. The point, however, is that what constrains awareness provokes the question why. Psychodynamically speaking, the what finds its answer in the defensive mechanisms of denial, repression, dissociation, and other such protective mechanisms. For some, the answer to why resides in Freud’s structural theory of the mind. Freud conceived of the ego and superego as the means of taming our libidinal and aggressive drives, the ego allowing for the differentiation between what is internally generated and what is “real” outside the self, and the


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superego imposing moral constraints in the service of the same adaptive and self-­regulating objectives. For others, this mental hierarchy has outworn its clinical usefulness. Contemporary theorists of psychoanalysis vary considerably in the way they view the mind, with those committed to object relations, self psychology, and the relational and interpersonal perspectives forcefully challenging the value of Freud’s ego psychology and drive theory. But such distinctions have little or no bearing on the fundamental distinction between conscious and unconscious thought that constitutes the very foundation of psychoanalysis. And what has come to the fore in recent years—the idea that psychodynamic constructs, however accepting or rejecting of drive theory or even of the primary and secondary processes of mentation Freud ascribed to the id and the ego, respectively, have neurobiological substrates—allows us to rethink Freudian concepts in a more integrative way. We looked in chapter 4 at how mapping the human brain has aided our understanding the tasks of the functionally specialized areas into which the brain has been divided and their relation to the brain’s overall architecture and functionality. And we noted that, while anatomically separated parts of the visual cortex, for example, process different attributes of the visual scene, just how this processing relates to other constituents of what has traditionally been called “the mind” (and the visual process) remains enigmatic. We considered, moreover, psychoanalysis as a reminder to neuroscience that these aspects are oscillatory and multidirectional and that, without sufficient attention to development and psychodynamic processes, without considering the human being’s nervous system in the more complex ways it requires, mapping runs the risk of being self-­serving and reductionistic. It was our contention in that chapter, in sum, that the complexity of seeing a work of art cannot be fully appreciated without recognition of the dynamic ways in which perceptual activity is informed by affect and various kinds of cognition and emotion. The value of investigating consistencies between psychoanalytic constructs and neurophysiological functions is not to be underestimated, however, and we would stress the potential of such exploration to enrich understanding of the affective and cognitive workings of the mind-­brain-body system. Therein emanates the potential, the only possibility as we see it, of our understanding of

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the phenomenology of aesthetic experience. Indeed, one possible line of inquiry is the relation between free association and the network of brain regions known as the Default Mode Network (DMN), a network of highly correlated areas that includes the medial prefrontal cortex, the posterior cingulate cortex, the temporo-­parietal junction, the lateral temporal cortex, the superior frontal gyrus, and the hippocampus.28 One of numerous networks showing resting state connectivity—that is to say, connectivity between areas that occurs when the individual is unfocused, undirected toward any externally imposed task—the DMN is thought by some to be akin in its reverie-­like or mind-­wandering activity to the freely associative thinking that takes place in psychoanalysis. A fairly active mode of inactive mental processing, by which is meant that it reveals on scanning a relatively high degree of neuronal connectivity while being removed from goal-­directed or task-­oriented cognition, the mind in this mode engages spontaneously in introspective, autobiographical memory (self-­referential recall), and creative exploration or imagining. This poses the question of its relation to the kind of freely associative thinking that takes place as the aesthetic image is both created and viewed. The DMN is said to have, in the words of Robin Carhart-Harris and Karl Friston, “more connections with other brain regions than any other brain network, implying that it encodes a broader model of the world.” And “DMN-related behaviours,” they note, “have an expansive temporal focus, concerned with matters removed from the present moment.” Moreover, the network “attempts to simulate the future—which is an endeavor fraught with uncertainty—being removed from the moment and unanchored to a regular (sensory) stream of evidence.”29 There is increasing evidence that the DMN plays a critical role in a number of neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders insofar as it is appears to be vital for memory consolidation, which impacts the broad-­ based continuous sampling of the external and internal environments, the processing of emotionally salient stimuli, the interplay between emotional processing and cognitive functions, and working memory.30 Decreased functional connectivity in the DMN in individuals affected by Alzheimer’s disease has been consistently shown, particularly between the posterior (precuneus and posterior cingulate cortex) and anterior (anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex) regions.31


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Freud related memory to the “reality principle,” the principle of mental functioning whereby an idea is deemed true, regardless of the degree of pleasure or unpleasure it evokes, if it accords with the “memory-­traces of reality.”32 What is not true, incongruent with such “memory-­traces,” is virtual or imaginary. And he claimed thinking itself to be “exploratory” in the sense of imaginary action. Thinking, or imagining, restrains motor discharge onto activity, he maintained, and “is essentially an experimental kind of acting.”33 In a sense, thought that “move[s]freely from idea to idea in an exploratory manner,”34 as does mentation characteristic of the DMN, loosely legitimizes Freud’s view of thinking as experimental or imaginary action. Edward Albee said that the purpose of art has “something to do with creating order out of chaos” to which he added, “I remember [Samuel] Beckett was asked once why he kept writing plays since he was such a pessimist and he said very simply, ‘If I were a pessimist I wouldn’t write,’ ” meaning that “creating order out of chaos” is a means of creating change.35 Beckett’s work, perhaps more than any other, provides a window onto that very system (the DMN) that is highly activated when an individual’s focus is not task-­determined or engaged with the external environment—in short, when an individual has nothing to do. Waiting for Godot was famously described as a play “in which nothing happens twice.”36 In truth, in Beckett’s entire fictive universe nothing much happens at all. For the most part, Beckett’s voices, for they are not characters as such, are not focused on or involved in the exterior world. Never do they act in accordance with externally driven motivation. Rather, it is their own internally focused tasks that provide both the content and the form of Beckett’s work. Consider Mouth, the lone speaker in Beckett’s late play Not I, or Winnie, a woman buried first to her waist and then to her neck, in Happy Days. Like the Unnamable, Murphy, Woman in Rockaby, and so many of Beckett’s other fictive beings, they are focused uniquely on their associations, on the internal tasks that are very clearly defined as those of the DMN: “autobiographical memory retrieval, envisioning the future, and conceiving the perspectives of others.”37 This is what these speaking subjects do. This is all they do. They talk—and what they utter is awareness of feeling states that evokes associations to memories, thoughts of what is yet to come, and how others see them. It is as though Beckett were giving aesthetic shape to the DMN of the brain.

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François Ansermet and Pierre Magistretti have argued that “[t]hrough the mechanisms of plasticity, experience inscribes traces in the neural circuits,” and that “certain of these traces which can be directly recalled to awareness, underlie memory and learning.”38 In opening the text onto the associative functioning of the mind-­brainbody system, Beckett opens it onto the inscription and reinscription of traces bringing to light new ways of thinking about fantasy in his fiction. In an 1896 letter, Freud already outlined to his friend the German otolaryngologist Wilhelm Fliess, how our internal world is created through the laying down of memories, not as fixed remembrances, but as “traces” continually reconfigured: “As you know,” he wrote, “I am working on the assumption that our psychic mechanism has come into being by a process of stratification: the material present in the form of memory traces being subjected from time to time to a rearrangement in accordance with fresh circumstances—to a retranscription. Thus what is essentially new about my theory is the thesis that memory is present not once but several times over, that it is laid down in various kinds of indications.”39 What is now known is that experience is indeed inscribed and reinscribed in neuronal circuits such that, through association and alteration of an original memory, it is recoded to take on a new form. It would seem that this was known to Beckett without his knowing he knew it, that this is what he neared in his narrative focus on—and, indeed, preoccupation with—the dynamic process of memory retrieval and the reformation of memory through imaginative association, the fabling of those who inhabit his work. For, insofar as mental simulation of self-­relevant constructions (past or future) characterizes this network of intrinsic or functional connectivity, the DMN, Beckett’s subjects’ musings put in high relief the very state of the daydreamer, of the mind wanderer, the state now identifiable by imaging the undirected brain in the scanner. Not identical with the freely associating mind of the analysand (never entirely free of ego and superego constraints), the wandering mind of Beckett’s speaking subjects is nonetheless stunning for its similarity to the associating mind of the analysand who reconstructs a narrative in much the same way. Paul Jenkinson and Martin Conway have recently proposed the idea that “memory serves as a database of the self.” This is a notion that does not seek to emphasize the role of psychic conflict (conscious or unconscious) in the representation of reality (as would


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the classical psychoanalyst). And it is a notion that does not approach memory and self in isolation from each other (as might the cognitive scientist).40 “[A]utobiographical memory,” they explain, “is neither a pure reproduction of past events, nor a purely present creation. Rather, it is a relative reconstruction of the past in the light of the present.”41 The underlying motivation for the reconstruction has much to do with aligning the past with current self-­images. This is precisely what Beckett’s speaking subjects do as they tell and re-­tell, form and re-­form, their memories and confabulations. “Yes, I remember,”42 utters the narrator of Beckett’s short novel Company (1979). And what he remembers are, on the one hand, fictionalized auto-­biographical moments, details taken from the author’s life and reworked as fable, and, on the other, previous fictional renderings, scenes borrowed from the author’s own earlier work. No doubt, the most often cited of these remembrances is when the narrator of Company tells of emerging as a small boy late one afternoon from a store. Holding his mother by the hand, “looking up at the blue sky and then at [his] mother’s face,” he asks if the sky “is not in reality much more distant than it appears.” For some reason the child is unable to fathom, the question angered his mother exceedingly: “[S]he shook off your little hand and made you a cutting retort you have never forgotten,” Beckett wrote. Almost three decades earlier, in Malone Dies, Beckett had already written this: One day we were walking along the road, up a hill of extraordinary steepness, near home I imagine, my memory is full of steep hills, I get them confused. I said, The sky is further away than you think is it not, mama? It was without malice, I was simply thinking of all the leagues that separated me from it. She replied, to me her son, It is precisely as far away as it appears to be. She was right. But at the time I was aghast.43 And in the even earlier text entitled “The End” (that dates to 1946) we find the same, if somewhat more brutal, scene: Now I was making my way through the garden. There was that strange light which follows a day of persistent rain, when the sun comes out and the sky clears too late to be of any use. The earth makes a sound as of sighs and the last drops fall from the emptied

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cloudless sky. A small boy, stretching out his hands and looking up at the blue sky, asked his mother how such a thing was possible. Fuck off, she said.44 Beckett’s own memory was exceptional. Why, then, is memory such a pre-­occupation in his work? Why, in other words, would a writer endowed with so rich a memory (and so visual, and likely photographic, a memory at that) put the anxiety of remembering at the very forefront of his art? One might look to a disturbance in object representation that some in the psychoanalytic arena relate to the internalizing of early parenting. Hints of that do appear in this author’s work. Consider, for instance, this passage from his first published novel, Murphy: When he was naked he lay down in a tuft of soaking tuffets and tried to get a picture of Celia. In vain. Of his mother. In vain. Of his father (for he was not illegitimate). In vain. . . . He tried again and with his father, his mother, Celia, Wylie, Neary, Cooper, Miss Dew, Miss Carridge, Nelly, the sheep, the chandlers, even Bom and Co., even Bim, even Ticklepenny and Miss Counihan, even Mr. Quigley. He tried with the men, women, children and animals that be-­long to even worse stories than this. In vain in all cases.45 Or this one, a description of fictive photographs from the much later play “A Piece of Monologue”: “There was father. That grey void. There mother. That other. There together. Smiling. Wedding day. There all three. That grey blot. There alone. He alone. Not now. Forgotten”.46 But, once again, psychobiography is not of interest to us here. The point, rather, is that what keeps mental images out of awareness and what lets them in—the thinking conceptualized by Freud as freie Assoziation (the connecting of ideas) or freier Einfall (the tumbling into consciousness of unanticipated thoughts)47—was clearly considered by Beckett comparable to the making of art itself, a creative process that is exceedingly self-­reflective on the page and on the stage. We are reminded here of the Hegelian notion of Aufhebung, the means by which the object is negated in its limited individuality, preserved in its essential being, and elevated to a higher reality. Thus Mallarmé could famously write of la fleur that becomes, through art, “l’absente de tous bouquets” (the ideal flower


For Want of Ambiguity

not found in real bouquets), the movement of the imagination as it associatively brings to awareness what has been denied conscious apperception and sustains it in the higher-­order image that is aesthetically shaped. Resisting representation refers, then, to the art image which never really is one for its not being set however much we believe it to be so, but fluid or mutable in accordance with the viewer’s own emotional and perceptual activity and concomitant associations. Agnes Martin’s preoccupation with the impersonal, whether in the measured lines of the grid or the evanescent abstractions lacking any kind of figurative reference, is exemplary. And in psychoanalysis we find an analogous situation insofar as the very processes that render it therapeutic (the transference, the freely associative expression, and other aspects of the treatment situation) serve to unveil the dynamic interplay of the hidden and the revealed, the experiential as opposed to the supposed re-­presentation of the “real.” The Gutai movement that began in Japan in the 1950s is another artistic case in point, for Gutai stressed not only the value of experimentation and of interrogating the meaning of art itself, but the method of creation as part of the art work itself. The body for the Gutai group was viewed as integral to the making of art— indeed, what the members of the Art Association of Gutai created was a kind of performance art—precisely because the body’s situation in space and time and its relation to the material employed in the art-­making offered a challenge to any preconceived notion of art as an object constituting an image in itself. The power or force of the image, in other words, was to be found in the experience of its making. If there are congruencies with the work of some American abstract artists, Jackson Pollock, say, whose imageless imaging resisted representation by emphasizing within the work the movement that made the image, or with the art of the French nouveaux réalistes (in particular, that of Yves Klein), what distinguished Gutai was the notion of community, community not at the expense of the individual but as a collectivity of individuals whose importance depended upon the kinship. In the interplay of body and material and the collective concretizing (Gutai translates in English as “concrete”) of the relation between matter and spirit, Gutai artists found a means of defying fixity, retaining fluidity, and focusing on the expansive nature of creative drive (see Figure 6.2).

Resisting representation


FIGURE 6.2  Shozo Shimamoto, performance at 2nd Gutai exhibition, Ohara Kaikan, Tokyo, October 1956. Courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery.

Like the psychoanalyst for whom creativity is essential to life (Winnicott was notably the most explicit of those analysts articulating this idea), the Gutai artist viewed the creative act as endemic to day-­to-day existence. Where psychoanalysis offers change, where it is therapeutic, is in the apprehension, the deep emotional understanding, of the significance of contextualization: different context implicates different meaning. Where art resembles psychoanalysis is in the understanding that form itself, the very shape of the image (however fluid it may be), determines meaning and that form is no more certain than thought or feeling. It, too, changes in accordance with the mode of perception, with the emotional context in which it is perceived, with the impact of line


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and color and their association to memory. What we imagine and what we experience directly are by no means the same, as we know from the analytic process. An analysand, for instance, has the feeling the analyst dislikes her. But what she is experiencing does not conform to that feeling. Nothing the analyst is saying or exhibiting in facial expression or any other way denotes negativity or disapproval. Yet the expectation of disapproval, based on an early relationship, gives rise to a kind of certainty that will ultimately be deconstructed through awareness of the distinction between the feeling space occupied imaginatively in the present moment and the actuality of the experience. Not only do feelings laid down in the past, consolidated as emotional memories, not need to determine present reactions, and relations even, but they can be reconsolidated, thereby opening up the possibilities for new kinds of relational experience to others and to the world. The choice of an artist’s medium—whether paint, sculptural matter, sound and rhythm, or the body itself—as well as its shaping, may be shown to originate in the same sort of internalization. Leaving aside content for form, for a look at what an individual’s past experience contributes to the choice of idiom and the shape given the idiom at hand, we see that inspiration derives from highly evocative early events that were in some way transformative. The British sculptor Barbara Hepworth has described how, in the words of Sarah Nettleton, she acquired her instinctive sense of form by being driven, as a child, over the landscape of her native Yorkshire, absorbed by the physical movement over undulating hills and valleys. She was aware that as she grew into a sculptor, the internalization of these early physical, spatial experiences produced a strong individual aesthetic in her work—rounded shapes, soft and curving, some on a monumental scale. In other words, the early evocative experiences that spoke so strongly to her particular idiom became established as psychic structures that went on to generate the characteristic form of her sculpture.48 “ ‘The sensation has never left me,’ ” she has written. “ ‘I, the sculptor, am the landscape.’ ” Alexander Calder, who has also described his inspiration, wrote of his creative process “as stemming from the image of celestial

Resisting representation


bodies floating in space, viewed in relationship to one another and constantly in motion,” to cite Nettleton again. Calder’s kinetic sculptures are characteristically “suspended in a delicate balance” that similarly reveals an innate sensibility nourished by internalized aspects of the external world, features that resonate with the core sense of self.49 So, too, does psychoanalysis disclose what Christopher Bollas has called “the aesthetic organization of the self.” The form of an analysis, Bollas rightly claims, is not determined by interpretation, to which we would add that neither is the form of art. Rather, just as the analyst’s presence constitutes a form, the experience of which may itself be transformational, the analysand “takes the analyst through a process that derives entirely from the patient’s aesthetic in being.” In other words, “[t]he analyst comes to sense the basic assumptions peculiar to the analysand’s being, out of which he develops a sense of his patient’s idiom.”50 And it is from within the “idiom,” or nucleus of self, that new connections are made with the unconscious to expand the patient’s experiential horizon, rendering the psychoanalytic process eminently creative and thereby pleasurable (as well as, at times, anxiety-­provoking and otherwise distressing), much like the processes of making and viewing art. In fact, it is the creative expansion of the unconscious that allows, both in art and psychoanalysis, for the transformation of self that defines the very freedom with which we are concerned in this volume. If we reject psychobiography as a principal mode of entry into an artist’s work, it is because the unconscious object reparation it consistently presupposes is not determinative. Fundamentally ignorant of the uncertainty subtending both the physiology of the neuronal networks comprising the mind-­brain-body system and its psychology, such a perspective focuses on content at the expense of form, the latter a dynamic shaping and reshaping that opens the core self up to recontextualization, liberating in ways the former impedes. Moreover, prediction is the cognitive arena in which sensory perception is thought to occur. But the essential paradigm of this arena is probability, a necessarily ambiguous state owing either to the possibility of insufficient information for reasonably accurate estimation or to the labile structure of its temporal under-­ pinning, the prospect of change in time. “Uncertainty is an essential category,” William Kentridge has said, noting that “you can see the world as a series of facts or


For Want of Ambiguity

photographs or you can see it as a process of unfolding.” For Kentridge, who draws and creates theater pieces and films, the way we make sense of the world is precisely the way one constructs, say, a film. A film is created of “fragments that one reinterprets retrospectively,” thereby changing their temporal location. Films, in fact, demonstrate how we make sense of the world as opposed to informing the viewer of the world’s supposed meaning, a meaning somehow intrinsic to it. Visual metaphors are Kentridge’s way of defying what he has called the “demagoguery of certainty,” whether philosophical, political, or any other. We take fragments and “combine them together to make a sense,” Kentridge has observed and, having no other choice, we do this throughout our lives, thus constituting, like the artist (indeed, the maker of collages), “a completely fragile construction of thoughts and ideas and thinking.” Kentridge further explains, “That’s the way in which the space of the studio becomes a demonstration of things much larger than the studio, much larger than the particular drawings”.51 Kentridge wonders, “How much of the world do we need to understand or know of the world, to understand? And how much of the outside world is lodged in us already?” The audience then bears witness to “an assortment of torn paper shapes” that set themselves on a screen in the shape of a horse (Figure  6.3): “Fragments leave the screen, reducing the horse until it is made up of four pieces of paper—a neck, a back, two legs. WK looks around. The screen is blank. WK moves to ladder. Hesitates. Moves ladder. Pauses. Moves ladder again. Is lost.” The monologue continues: Is this about a generous viewing? Or an irresistible urge to make sense? One sees a series of abstract black shapes, and one will force them into a meaning for oneself. So that even as one tries to say, no, it’s a series of sheets of black paper, that are being torn and manipulated, one cannot stop oneself seeing a figure, a shape, a horse, a form. Kentridge’s point is well taken. We need the image, the narrative shape it might offer, and thus we create it ourselves: What is this pressure for meaning? It’s about the pressure for meaning we have inside of us, where you finish everybody’s sentences. You finish them literally, if they stop halfway through.

Resisting representation


FIGURE 6.3  William Kentridge, production still from I am not me, the horse is not mine, lecture/performance, 2008. Courtesy of the artist.

But otherwise even as they are speaking, we are predicting the rest of the sentence. It’s as if we have sent someone ahead, to the road ahead, to look around the corner and see what is coming, and come back and report to us what is there. And with this push for meaning we latch onto any half-­word or half-­image and make sense of it. And once a meaning is found, we hold onto it even as it disintegrates.52 This holding onto meaning is the very thing Agnes Martin so vehemently disavowed. Inspiration—“what takes us by surprise”— is what moved her, and “the push for meaning” resisted by Kentridge was for Martin, as well, anti-­art: “At night the intellect goes to sleep and gives inspiration a chance,” she claimed. “When people have a decision to make, they say they will sleep on it; that is the part of the mind that’s responsible for artwork.” Inspiration for Martin was neither a process of ideation nor an emotional experience of a personal nature. What she affirmed were happiness, innocence, and other universals extending beyond influence of either the internal world of an individual or the external world of a culture. Such are states of being grounded not in experience yielding to narrative or


For Want of Ambiguity

figuration but, rather, in abstraction and the impersonal, whether the bonding of grids in which structure itself is sealed—“My god, am I supposed to paint that?” she asked herself when she envisioned a grid, exacting as it was in precision and, in the late work, color— or the opening onto the intuitive and deeply spiritual.53 Some, as remarked above, might relate Martin’s representation-­ resistant paintings (particularly those of her later years) to her episodes of wandering or to the catatonia and what she called “trances” that characterized her psychosis. The tightly bonded grids may be seen as defending against the intrusions of obsessive thinking or hallucinatory perceptions, and the imageless images against the ideas she worked hard at obliterating. “I have practiced not thinking, until now I can not think for the whole morning,” she told an interviewer. “In fact, I do not think when I paint.” She kept her mind empty, she said, and chose not to live in the zone of depression that lies “below the line.” Instead, she said, “I just live in the upper section with love and beauty and happiness.”54 Her work might be seen as displaying the absence not only of engagement with the external world but also of an inner sense of self. We, however, would concur with her biographer who claims,“It would . . . be grossly irresponsible to approach Martin’s paintings as ‘schizophrenic.’ ”55 For, while they may have been informed by isolation and solitude, by the selfless state that plagued her, they were ultimately the expression of the uncertainty, the unknowing, the ambiguity in which she located the aesthetic dimension of being human, a dimension we have explored throughout this volume. Of the viewer, Martin herself said it best: “I want to repeat: there are no valid thoughts about art. If your sensibilities are awake you will respond.”56

Conclusion Order and chaos or framing ambiguity

Moving away from the notion of “mind” as a concept unintegrated within the brain-body system, we have seen that maturation and experience potentially render the individual and his or her mental “contents” fluid, and it is this fluidity that allows for the rise of order from chaos and the reverse. In our discussion of self and the sense of identity, we have included memories, unconscious fantasies, and self- and object-­representations, but with an awareness throughout that, as Eric Weitzner puts it, “these various mental contents are complex and fluid, and are selectively activated in different situations,” making for the expression of diverse aspects of the self “at different times and in different interpersonal contexts.”1 Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the creative process, the making and viewing of art, where aspects of the self are expressed and also developed in a kind of play, much as they are in the play of the child. We have seen that children develop the use of symbols and move from pre-­symbolic to symbolic play. In the passage from one kind of play to the next, the child responds to the forward pull of development and strengthens her sense of who she is. It is our contention that art offers the spectator a comparable opportunity given the fluidity of one’s self-­perception in space and time, the fluidity of identity, and the fluidity of the sensibility that shapes the embodied self. As in psychoanalysis, where the dyadic interaction provides a new relational object even as it recreates the old, art introduces a means of engaging with a reality that is reflected in an aesthetic work that in no way represents it. Both psychoanalysis and art are inherently ambiguous by virtue of their metaphorical


For Want of Ambiguity

nature. Whether in the treatment situation or in the making or viewing of art, bringing order to chaos and surpassing it—through the breaking of behavioral patterns or traditional aesthetic forms— increases agency and personal freedom. In fact, treatment is therapeutic precisely when the individual’s patterns of being in the world—patterns of relating to others and to one’s environment— are modified such that they cease being repetitive and serving a maladaptive function. And art making/viewing is therapeutic when unformulated affects find expression in embodied structures and spatial configuration. It has been the objective of this book to show that not only awareness but also acceptance of and even respect for ambiguity, such as it is both in art and in psychoanalysis, is profoundly liberating. The literature on therapeutic action— the movement in which psychic freedom becomes operative—is extensive. How this freedom is obtained through aesthetic/creative experience is not. Closing this gap has, in part, been our objective. It has also been our aim to show that the imagination can neither ignore nor be reduced to the neural substrates of the brain. Change is at once aesthetic and scientific for, while its genesis resides within the functioning of the body, its achievement lies outside it. We have seen in this volume, moreover, that the relation between art, psychoanalysis, and neuroscience resides in the tension between order and chaos. Just as we have not attempted to use psychoanalysis to understand art, for psychohistory/psychobiography bears no essential relation to psychoanalytic process, we have not attempted to explain art neuroscientifically. The objective of what is today called “neuroaesthetics” has much to do with the identification of the neural substrates engaged in the making and viewing of art. There is no doubt that this is a worthwhile pursuit, but it is one that is easily misunderstood. Identifying the neurobiology of aesthetic experience does not aim to account for the complexity of feeling that art, for both creator and spectator, elicits. It is the “intricate synthesis” (as Suzanne Langer called it some sixty years ago) of feelings, memories, emotions, and ideas that generates order from chaos and gives unity to our inner life and coherence to our sense of who we are as individuals while it is in the transcendence of that synthesis, we contend, in ambiguity, that the essence of creativity lies. (As we have shown, creativity is not only endemic to the making of art, but potentially to its viewing as well.) The transcendence in ambiguity is not revealed in locating neural functions as correlates of aesthetic



experience any more than locating moments in the past of an individual would be psychodynamically therapeutic divorced from the exploratory process itself. And yet, there can be no accounting for creativity without consideration of the brain mechanisms that are intimately connected with—indeed, part and parcel of—the mind-­brain-body system understood as a comprehensive whole. How “living in the world feels” to a person has no inherent form. Art provides unity to what words cannot describe and, as we have aimed to show through the selection of artworks displayed in the preceding chapters, it reveals its own struggle to give form to that feeling. Neuroaesthetics and neuropsychoanalysis are invaluable if relatively young disciplines that seek to describe the relation of mental function to the brain by uniting the empirical data of neuroscientific research with clinical evidence. Neither, however, can fully disclose how artistic creativity feels. The components of the inner world of the individual are nameless not because they cannot be given form; on the contrary, for that is what art, like psychoanalysis, does. But ordinary discourse, our means of naming, is not by its very existence endowed with the “emotional hook” referred to earlier. No more than the self of the analysand, the self that makes and views art will not be disclosed by locating it within its neurobiological capacities, however much they are determinative, but within the actuality of its experience. It seems fitting, therefore, to conclude with Freud’s words, “it will be difficult to escape from what is universally known; it will rather be a question of new ways of looking at things and new ways of arranging them than of new discoveries.”2


Introduction   1 Karl Ove Knausgaard, “Witnessing Brain Surgery,” The New York Times Magazine, January 3, 2016, 34, 52.   2 Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus & Other Essays (New York: Random House, 1955), 91.   3 Antonio Damasio and Hanna Damasio, “Exploring the Concept of Homeostasis and Considering its Implications for Economics,” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization (2016); 126.   4 Ibid.   5 David D. Olds, “Interdisciplinary Studies and Our Practice,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association 54:3 (2006): 858.   6 Ibid., 859, 856.   7 Jean Roiphe, Discussion of Jaak Panksepp’s “The Neuroscience of Emotional Feelings” (presented at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, January 8, 2016).   8 Ibid.   9 Ibid. 10 Honoré de Balzac, Selected Short Stories Contes Choisis, ed. and trans. Stanley Appelbaum (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2000), 98–99. 11 Mario Vargas Llosa, “In Praise of Reading and Fiction,” trans. Edith Grossman (Nobel Prize Lecture, Stockholm, December 7, 2010), accessed May 18, 2017, literature/laureates/2010/vargas_llosa-­lecture_en.html.

Chapter 1   1 Quoted in Patricia Dee Leighten, Re-­ordering the Universe: Picasso and Anarchism, 1897–1914 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 87.



  2 Joel Whitebook, Freud: An Intellectual Biography (London: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 166–67.   3 Quoted by Whitebook, ibid., 369.   4 Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, Creativity and Perversion (London: Free Association Books, 1985), 1.   5 Ibid., 3.   6 “Jenny Saville: ‘I Like the Down and Dirty Side of Things,’ ” The Telegraph, June 24, 2014. art-­features/10920986/Jenny-Saville-I-like-­the-down-­and-dirty-­sideof-­things.html, accessed May 18, 2017.   7 Private communication.   8 Private communication.   9 Private communication. 10 Private communication. 11 Edith Kramer and Jill Scher, “An Art Therapy Evaluation Session for Children.” In Art as Therapy, edited by Lani Elaine Gerity (London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2000). 12 Ibid. 13 Mario F. Mendez et al., “Depth perception in Alzheimer’s Disease,” Perceptual and Motor Skills 83 (1996), 987–95. 14 Katie Maurer and David Prvulovic, “Paintings of an Artist with Alzheimer’s Disease: Visuoconstructural Deficits During Dementia,” Journal of Neural Transmission 111 (2004), 235–45. 15 Sigmund Freud, “A Seventeenth Century Demonological Neurosis,” SE 19 (1923), 72. 16 17 Private communication. 18 Susan Levy and Alessandra Lemma, The Perversion of Loss: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Trauma (New York: Brunner Routledge, 2004), 6. 19 See Manon Wicking et al., “Deficient Fear Extinction Memory in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 136 (2016), 116–26. 20 See Ashley N. Clausen et al., “PTSD and Cognitive Symptoms Relate to Inhibition-Related Prefrontal Activation and Functional Connectivity,” Depression and Anxiety (2017), March 29. 21 See A. Nicholson et al., “The Neurobiology of Emotion Regulation in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Amygdala Downregulation via



Real-Time fMRI Neurofeedback,” Human Brain Mapping 38:1 (2016), 541–60. 22 See, for example, A. Lieberman and P. Van Horn, Psychotherapy with Infants and Young Children: Repairing the Effects of Stress and Trauma on Early Attachment. (London and New York: The Guilford Press, 2008); C. Garland (ed.), Understanding Trauma: A Psychoanalytic Approach (London and New York: Karnac, 2002). 23 D.W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality (London: Routledge, 1971), 114. 24 Ibid., 117. 25 Quoted in ibid., n. 1, 117. 26 Cf., Helmut Leder et al., “Entitling Art: Influence of Title Information on Understanding and Appreciation of Paintings,” Acta Psychologica 121 (2006), 176–98. 27 Cf., Russell, P.A., “Effort After Meaning and the Hedonic Value of Paintings,” British Journal of Psychology 94 (2003), 99–110. 28 Stern, D., The Interpersonal World of the Infant (New York: Basic Books, 1985), 67. 29 Jacob Arlow and Charles Brenner, “The Psychoanalytic Situation,” in R.E. Litman (ed.), Psychoanalysis in the Americas (Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1996), 30–1. 30 See Ludovica Lumer and Susan Sherkow, “The Golden Brain” in Proportio, Catalogue 56 Biennale d’Arte di Venezia (2015). 31

Chapter 2   1 This apothegm, as well as several versions of it, appears in Adorno’s papers relating to his book Current of Music, edited by Robert Hullot-Kentor for the Adorno Archive.   2 Sigmund Freud, “The Paths to the Formation of Symptoms,” SE 16 (1917), 376.   3 Arthur Lubow, “Depressed. Separated. Free,” The New York Times, May 29, 2016, AR17.   4 Blake Gopnik, “Ready for her Close-Up,” The New York Times, April 24, 2016, AR18.   5 Ibid.   6 Elizabeth L. Auchincloss and Eslee Samberg, Psychoanalytic Terms & Concepts (New Haven and London: Yale University Press), 232.



  7 Sarah Nettleton, The Metapsychology of Christopher Bollas (London: Routledge, 2017), 64.   8 Anthony, Lane, “In the Picture,” The New Yorker, June 6 and 13, 2016, 94.   9 D.W. Winnicott, Playing and Reality (London: Routledge, 1971), 54. 10 Ibid., 64. 11 Jaak Panksepp, Affective Neuroscience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 283. 12 Jaak Panksepp, “The Importance of Play,” interview with Jaak Panksepp, Brain World, posted December 7, 2010. http://­jaak-panksepp-­the-importance-­of-play/. 13 SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC/GRIEF and PLAY. The capitalization reflects Panksepp’s intent on having a specialized language to distinguish the nomenclature of these primal emotional systems from ordinary connotations. 14 See Mark Solms on art and play: courses/ medicine-­and-the-­arts/0/steps/3149. 15 Lev Vygotsky, Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press 1978), 97. 16 René Magritte, “La Ligne de Vie.” Lecture delivered at the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, November 20, 1938. 17 Personal communication. 18 Terry Eagleton, Ideology of the Aesthetic (New York: Wiley Blackwell, 1990), 13. 19 Susan Buck-Morss, “Aesthetics and Anaesthetics, Part I.” http:// susanbuckmorss. info/text/aesthetics-­and-anaesthetics-­part-i/#fn:16, accessed May 19, 2017. 20 Doon Arbus, “Afterword,” in Diane Arbus, Untitled (New York: Aperture, 1995), n.p. 21 Personal communication. 22 Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, transl. Christian Lenhardt (London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), 7. 23 Giuseppe Civitarese, The Violence of Emotions (New York and London: Routledge, 2013), 142. 24 Jerry Saltz, “Cindy Sherman: Becoming,” New York Magazine, February 20, 2012: 88–92. http://prod-­ metropicturesgallery_com/CS_NewYorkMag_Saltz_2012.pdf, accessed May 19, 2017.



25 Nettleton, op.cit., 72. 26 James Lord, A Giacometti Portrait (New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1965), 26. 27 James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, ed. Chester G. Anderson (New York: Viking Critical Library/Viking Press, 1968), 213. 28 Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation and Other Essays (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1966), 13. 29 Bomb quoted in artnet news. cindy-­sherman. 30 Jerry Saltz, “Cindy Sherman: Becoming,” Artnet Magazine, http://­sherman-at-­ moma-2-23-12.asp, accessed May 19, 2017. 31 See Lois Oppenheim, The Painted Word (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000), 148–55. 32 Sontag, op. cit., 7. 33 Henri Maldiney, “Espace et Poésie,” in Espace et Poésie, ed. Michel Collot and Jean-Claude Mathieu (Paris: Presses de l’Ecole Normale Supérieure, 1987), 89. Translation ours. 34 Francis Bacon, “Statements, 1952–1955,” cited by Bollas, in The Christopher Bollas Reader (London and New York: Routledge, 2011), 196. 35 Sigmund Freud, “Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming,” SE 9, (1908), 151. 36 Philip Bromberg, Awakening the Dreamer (Mahwah, NJ, and London, 2006), 5. 37 Ibid., 56. 38 Ibid., 59. 39 Louise Bourgeois, The Return of the Repressed, Vol. II, Psychoanalytic Writings, ed. Philip Larratt-Smith (London: Violette Editions, 2012), 95. 40 Oskav Kokoschka, “On the nature of visions,” trans. H. Medlinger and J. Thwaites, in E. Hoffman, Kokoschka: Life and Work (Boston: Boston Book and Art Shop, Inc., n.d.), n.p. 41 Samuel Abrams, “Offerings and Acceptances: Technique and Therapeutic Action.” In The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 51: 71–86. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 77. See also, Lois Oppenheim, Imagination from Fantasy to Delusion (New York and London: Routledge, 2013), 52–63.



42 Kathryn Brown, ed., Interactive Contemporary Art: Participation in Practice (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014), 225. The performance took place in 1965 at Galerie Alfred Schmela in Dusseldorf. 43 Abrams, op. cit., 73–74. 44 Jan De Vos, “What is Critique in the Era of the Neurosciences?” In Neuroscience and Critique, Jan De Vos and Ed Pluth, eds. (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), 36. 45 Mark Solms, “The Problem of Other Minds: a Neuropsychoanalitical Perspective.” Invited presentation to the symposium: “Empathy: a neurobiological capacity and its cultural and conceptual history,” at the Zentrum fuer Literatur- und kulturforschung, Berlin, 2013. 46 Donnel B. Stern, “Partners in Thought: A Clinical Process Theory of Narrative,” The Psychoanalytic Quarterly 78 (2009): 716. 47 Theodor Adorno, Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music, transl. Edmund Jephcott (Cambridge, UK, and Malden, MA: Polity Press, 1998); 15.

Chapter 3   1 Symposium held at Il Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci in Prato.   2 Arlene Croce, “Discussing the Undiscussable,” The New Yorker, December 5, 1994, 54.   3 Henry Louis Gates, Jr. “The Body Politic,” The New Yorker, November 28, 1994, 122.   4 Croce, op. cit., 54.   5 Gates, op. cit., 122.   6 Cf., Anna Kisselgoff, “Bill T. Jones’s Lyrical Look At Survivors,” The New York Times, December 2, 1994, http://www.nytimes. com/1994/12/02/arts/dance-­review-bill-­t-jones-­s-lyrical-­look-at-­ survivors.html.   7 Douglas Watt, “Toward a Neuroscience of Empathy: Integrating Affective and Cognitive Perspectives,” Neuropsychoanalysis 9:2 (2007): 119–40.   8 See Vittorio Gallese, “Bodily Selves in Relation: Embodied Simulation as Second-­person Perspective on Intersubjectivity,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 369 (2014): 20130177.



  9 All quotations by Gallese in this paragraph are from the paper cited above. 10 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Eye and Mind,” in The Primacy of Perception, ed. James M. Edie (Northwestern University Press, 1964), 162. 11 Ibid., 178. 12 The material for this paragraph comes from Wyatt Mason, “The Transcendent Artistry of Bill T. Jones,” The New York Times Magazine, June 6, 2016, 70–5. 13 Abbas Babajani-Feremi. “Neural Mechanism Underling Comprehension of Narrative Speech and Its Heritability: Study in a Large Population,” Brain Topography, 30:5 (2017): 592–609. 14 Ibid. 15 Nuria Abdul Sabur et al., “Neural Correlates and Network Connectivity Underlying Narrative Production and Comprehension: A Combined fMRI and PET Study,” Cortex (2014), 107–27. 16 Honoré de Balzac, Selected Short Stories Contes Choisis, ed. and trans. Stanley Appelbaum (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2000), 98–9. 17 Felicia R. Lee, The New York Times, January 18, 2012, http://www. nytimes. com/2012/01/19/arts/dance/bill-­t-jones-­will-be-­onstage-in-­ his-new-­work-story-­time.html. 18 Ibid. 19 Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1954), 400–1. 20 Rudolph Arnheim, Entropy and Art (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1971), 13. 21 Email from Rainer to Le Roy, December 22, 1999, http://www. xavierLe e553d8be&lg=en. 22 Interview with Dorothea von Hantelmann 09.11.2002/version 30.01.2003, http://www.xavierLe 34dae5be38976cf5426dec4dceb5cb&lg=en. 23 All citations in this and subsequent paragraphs are from Self Interview, November 27, 2000, unless otherwise indicated, http:// www.xavierLe 8b6e571a686728&lg=en. 24 “Score for Product of Circumstances (1999),” http://www.xavierLe page.php?id=63e83a12f776477d633187bdfbdb1c24c130d a87&lg=en.



25 Whitebook, Joel. Freud: An Intellectual Biography (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 2017), 371. 26 Ibid. 27 Ibid. 28 Sigmund Freud, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” SE 18, 55; quoted by Whitebook, ibid., 372. 29 Interview with Dorothea von Hantelmann 09.11.2002/version 30.01.2003, http://www.xavierLe c775674ebd34dae5be38976cf5426dec4dceb5cb&lg=en. 30 Quoted by Peter Fifield in “Gaping Mouths and Bulging Bodies: Beckett and Francis Bacon,” Journal of Beckett Studies, 18 (2009); 58. 31 Didier Anzieu and Michèle Monjauze, Francis Bacon ou le Portrait de l’Homme Désespéré (Paris : Seuil/Archimaud, 1993), 69. 32 Cited by Christophe Domino, Francis Bacon: Painter of a Dark Vision (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc; and London: Thames and Hudson, 1997), 98. 33 Juliet Mitchell, “The Sublime Jealousy of Louise Bourgeois,” in The Return of the Repressed, Vol. I, ed. Philip Larratt-Smith (London: Violette Editions, 2012), 54. 34 Quoted by David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon (London: Thames and Hudson, 2000), 223–4. 35 Milan Kundera, Tate Etc. Magazine, 14 (Autumn 2008). 36 Juliet Mitchell, op. cit., 13. 37 Mitchell Wilson, “Introduction: Working with the Analyst’s Disappointments, Grief, and Sense of Limitation in the Analytic Process,” JAPA 63 (2015); 1170. 38 See ibid., 1171. 39 Cf., Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception 363–5.

Chapter 4   1 Ogden, Thomas. Winnicott and the Psychoanalytic Tradition: Interpretation and Other Psychoanalytic Issues (London: Karnac, 2007), 80.   2 See Semir Zeki, A Vision of the Brain (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 1993).   3 Ibid., 5, 147.



  4 Quoted by Karen Kaplan-Solms and Mark Solms, Clinical Studies in Neuro-Psychoanalysis (New York and London: Karnac, 2000), 17.   5 Ibid.   6 Karl Friston, “Learning and Inference in the Brain,” Neural Networks 16 (2003): 1326.   7 Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, transl. Arthur Wills (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 200.   8 Quoted by Robert J. William, Quo Vadis: New Directions in the Search for Answers (Lincoln, NE: Writer’s Showcase, 2006), 187.   9 Alighiero Boetti, Dall’oggi al domani, ed. Sandro Lombardi (Brescia: Edizioni l’Obliquo, 1988). Passage transl. by Elizabeth de Bertier for Venice Biennale, 2017. 10 Private communication. 11 Honoré de Balzac, The Unknown Masterpiece, transl. Ellen Marriage (New York: Macmillan, 1901), 8. 12 Private communication. 13 Oscar Wilde, De Profundus, ed. Robert Ross (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1920), 82. 14 Charles Juliet, Giacometti (New York: Universe Books, 1986), 31. 15 Jo Anne Schneider, Women Artists of Eastern Long Island, exhibit April 21–May 13, 1979, at the Moran Gallery (The Museum Section), Guild Hall, East Hampton, New York. 16 Sigmund Freud, The Interpretations of Dreams, SE 5, (London: Hogarth Press, 1900), p. 499. 17 Semir Zeki, Splendors and Miseries of the Brain: Love, Creativity, and the Quest for Human Happiness (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 21. 18 Vittorio Gallese, “Embodied Simulation and Its Role in Intersubjectivity,” in The Embodied Self: Dimensions, Coherence and Disorders, eds. T. Fuchs, H.C. Sattel, and P. Henningsen (Stuttgart: Schattauer, 2010), 78. 19 Vittorio Gallese, “Motor Abstraction: A Neuroscientific Account of How Action Goals and Intentions are Mapped and Understood,” Psychological Research 73 (2009): 486. 20 Ibid., 494. 21 Uri Hasson et al., “Brain-­to-Brain Coupling: A Mechanism for Creating and Sharing a Social World,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 16:2 (2012), 114–21.



22 Richard Dorment, “The Body and Soul of Francis Bacon,” The Telegraph, February 7, 1998. 23­collection-online/search/ 283737, accessed May 19, 2017. 24­culture/conceptual-­ performance/a/vito-­acconci-following-­piece. 25 Personal communication. 26 Vito Acconci, “Making Public: The Writing and Reading of Public Space,” September 1993. Unpublished. Courtesy of Vito and Maria Acconci. 27 See Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ai Weiwei Speaks (New York: Penguin Books, 2011). 28 Donnel Stern, “Partners in Thought: A Clinical Process Theory of Narrative,” The Psychoanalytic Quarterly 71–6 (2009), 701. 29 Thomas Ogden, “On Holding and Containing,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 85 (2004): 1352. 30 D.W. Winnicott. “Primitive Emotional Development,” in Through Pediatrics to Psycho-­analysis (New York: Basic Books, 1975), 150. 31 Patrick Haggard et al., Sensorimotor Foundations of Higher Cognition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 188. 32 Dorment, op. cit.

Chapter 5   1 Gerald Edelman, Wider Than the Sky (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 8.   2 See Elizabeth S. Spelke, Ann Phillips, and Amanda L. Woodward, “Infants, Knowledge of Object Motion and Human Interaction,” in Causal Cognition: A Multidisciplinary Debate, eds. D. Sperber, D. Premack, and A.J. Premack (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 44–78.   3 See Elizabeth O. Hayward and Bruce D. Homer, Infants’ Sense of People ed. Maria Legerstee (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).   4 Colwyn Trevarthen, “Form, Significance and Psychological Potential of Hand Gestures of Infants,” in The Biological Foundations of Gestures: Motor and Semiotic Aspects, eds. J.-L. Nespoulous, P. Perron, and A. Roch Lecours (Hillsdale, NJ: Psychology Press, 1986), 149–202.



  5 R.J. Reiter et al., “Melatonin and Stable Circadian Rhythms Optimize Maternal, Placental and Fetal Physiology,” Human Reproduction Update (March-April 2014), 24132226/?i=6&from=circad ian%20cycle%20womb, accessed May 24, 2017.   6­shop-of-­the-heart-­poems-of-­ memory-and-­desire, accessed May 22, 2017.   7 Michelangelo Pistoletto, I plexiglass, Galleria Sperone, Turin, 1964,, accessed May 22, 2017.   8 Joseph Brodsky, Nobel Lecture December 8, 1987, http://www.­lecture. html, accessed May 22, 2017.   9 Marcel Duchamp, The Creative Act, Lecture at the Convention of the American Federation of Arts, Houston, Texas, April 3–6, 1957. Published in Art News 56.4 (1957). 10 Cited by Thomas Ogden in Reclaiming Unlived Life: Experiences in Psychoanalysis (London and New York: Routledge, 2016), 94. 11 Thomas Ogden, “This Art of Psychoanalysis: Dreaming Undreamt Dreams and Interrupted Cries,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 85 (2004): 1. 12 Gerald Edelman, op. cit., 9. 13 Cf., Arnold Modell, Imagination and the Meaningful Brain (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006). 14 See Bruno Poucet et al., “Spatial Navigation and Hippocampal Place Cell Firing: The Problem of Goal Encoding,” Reviews in the Neurosciences 15 (2004): 89–107; Roy Kessels et al., “Varieties of Human Spatial Memory: A Meta-­analysis on the Effects of Hippocampal Lesions,” Brain Research Reviews 35 (2001): 295–303; Vietminh Paz-Villagran et al., “Independent Coding of Connected Environments by Place Cells,” European Journal of Neuroscience 20.5 (2004): 1379–90; John O’Keefe et al., “Place Cells, Navigational Accuracy, and the Human Hippocampus,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Biological Sciences (1998): 1333–40. 15 Howard Eichenbaum, “Memory on Time,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 17.2 (2013), 81. 16 Glen Gabbard and Thomas Ogden, “On Becoming a Psychoanalyst,” in Relational Psychoanalysis 5, eds. Lewis Aron and Adrienne Harris (New York and London: Routledge, 2014), 409. 17 Donnel B. Stern. “Witnessing Across Time: Accessing the Present from the Past and the Past from the Present,” Psychoanalytic Quarterly 81 (2012): 56, 60.



18­ with-Braco-Dimitrijevic. 19 Ibid. 20 Susan S. Berger, “Whose Trauma Is It Anyway? Furthering Our Understanding of Its Intergenerational Transmission,” Journal of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Psychotherapy 13 (2014): 178. 21 Ibid., 180. 22 Sheldon Bach, “On Being Forgotten and Forgetting One’s Self,” Psychoanalytic Quarterly 70 (2001): 741. 23 Ori Gersht, email communication to Al Miner, in Ori Gersht: History Repeating (Boston, MFA Publications, Museum of Fine Arts, 2012), 26. 24 Karl Friston, “The Free-Energy Principle: A Unified Brain Theory?” Nature 11 (2010): 129. 25 Nadine Shenkar, L’Arte Ebraica e la Cabala (Milan: Spirali, 2000). Translation ours. 26 Ibid.

Chapter 6   1 The reader is referred here to the philosophical writings of Jacques Garelli.   2 Silvio Wolf, “The Truth of the Image,” Dear Dave Magazine 21 (2016): 36.   3 Pablo Picasso, in The Arts (1923), conversation with Marius de Zayas; quoted by Wolf, ibid, 37.   4 Wolf, op. cit., 37.   5 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Le Visible et l’Invisible (Paris: Gallimard, 1964), 251.   6 Georges Didi-Huberman, Devant l’Image (Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1990), 174.   7 Cf., Jacques Garelli, La Gravitation Poétique (Paris: Mercure de France, 1966), 9.   8 Eugene Mahon, “On Poetry and Psychoanalysis,” paper presented at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, October 18, 2016.   9 Mark Solms, “A Neuropsychoanalytic Approach to the Hard Problem of Consciousness”, The Journal of Integrative Neuroscience 13:2 (2014): 174.



10 M.T. Wallace et al., “A Revised View of Sensory Cortical Parcellation,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 101:7 (2004): 2167–72. 11 Mark Solms, The Feeling Brain: Selected Papers on Neuropsychoanalysis (London: Karnac, 2015), 184. 12 Agnes Martin, “Beauty is the Mystery of Life,” quoted by Hilton Als, “The Heroic Life of Agnes Martin” in The New York Review of Books, July 14, 2016, the-­heroic-art-­of-agnes-­martin/, accessed May 19, 2017. 13 Agnes Martin, “Beauty is the Mystery of Life,” http://www.artbook. com/blog-­excerpt-agnes-­martin-beauty-­is-the-­mystery-of-­life.html, accessed May 19, 2017. 14 Cf., Nancy Princenthal, Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art (New York and London: Thames & Hudson, 2015), 210. 15 Ibid. 210. 16 Olivia Laing, “Agnes Martin: The Artist Mystic Who Disappeared Into the Desert,” The Guardian, May 22, 2015, https://www.­martin-the-­artistmystic-­who-disappeared-­into-the-­desert, accessed May 19, 2017. 17 Princenthal, op. cit., 163. 18 Peter Schjeldahl, “Drawing Lines,” The New Yorker, October 17, 2016, 107 and 106. 19 Martin, “Beauty is the Mystery of Life,” blog-­excarpt-agnes-­martin-beauty-­is-the-­mystery-of-­life.html 20 Theodore Jacobs, “Discussion of ‘On Poetry and Psychoanalysis’ by Eugene Mahon,” presented at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, October 18, 2016. 21 Holland Cotter, “The Joy of Reading Between Her Lines,” The New York Times, October 7, 2016, C21. 22 Agnes Martin, %20Martin%20-%20Writings%20-%20Agnes%20Martin_djvu.txt. 23 Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Eye and Mind,” in The Primacy of Perception, ed. James M. Edie (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press 1964), 123. 24 Ibid., 129. 25 Natalia Lauricella, “Wordless and Silent: Artworks by Agnes Martin in the Guggenheim Collection.” November 19, 2014, https://www.­and-silent-­artworks-by-­ agnes-martin-­in-the-­guggenheim-collection, accessed May 19, 2017.



26 Georges Bataille, “Le silence de Molloy,” Critiques, 1951, 389, quoted. by Geneviève Chevallier, “Performing the Formless,” in The Edinburgh Companion to Samuel Beckett and the Arts, ed. S.E. Gontarski (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), 435. 27 Eric R. Kandel, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), 5. 28 E.A. Vessel et al., “Art Reaches Within: Aesthetic Experience, the Self and the Default Mode Network,” Frontiers in Neuroscience 7 (2013): 5. 29 R. Carhart-Harris and K.J. Friston, “Free-Energy and Freud: An Update,” in Fotopoulou et al. eds., From the Couch to the Lab: Trends in Psychodynamic Neuroscience (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 224. 30 See Akansha Mohan et al., “The Significance of the Default Mode Network (DMN) in Neurological and Neuropsychiatric Disorders: A Review,” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine (2016), 49–57. 31 See Tommaso Gili et al., “Regional Brain Atrophy and Functional Disconnection Across Alzheimer’s Disease Evolution,” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 82 (2011): 58–66; and Anne Hafkemeijer et al., “Imaging the Default Mode Network in Aging and Dementia,” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (2012): 431–44. 32 Sigmund Freud, “Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning” (1911): SE 12, 221. 33 Ibid. See, also, The Interpretation of Dreams. SE 5, 599–600. 34 Carhart-Harris and Friston, op. cit. 35 Lois Oppenheim, ed. Psychoanalysis and the Artistic Endeavor: Conversations with Literary and Visual Artists (London and New York: Routledge, 2015), 11. 36 Vivian Mercier, “The Uneventful Event,” The Irish Times, February 18, 1956, 6. 37 Randy L. Buckner et al., “The Brain’s Default Network: Anatomy, Function, and Relevance to Disease,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2008): 1. 38 François Ansermet and Pierre Magistretti, Biology of Freedom: Neural Plasticity, Experience, and the Unconscious, trans. Susan Fairfield (New York: Other Press, 2004), 195. 39 Sigmund Freud. Letter from Freud to Fliess, December 6, 1896 in The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess, 1887–1904, ed. and trans. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1985), 207.



40 Paul M. Jenkinson and Martin A. Conway, “Memory and the Self,” in Fotopoulou et al. eds., From the Couch to the Lab, 386. 41 Ibid., 393. 42 Samuel Beckett, Company in Nohow On (London: Calder Publications, 1992), 12. 43 Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies in Samuel Beckett: Three Novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable (New York: Grove Press, 1959), 261. 44 Samuel Beckett, “The End,” in Stories and Texts for Nothing, 50. 45 Samuel Beckett, Murphy (New York: Grove Press, 1957), 251. 46 Samuel Beckett, “A Piece of Monologue,” in Rockaby and Other Short Pieces by Samuel Beckett (New York: Grove Press, 1981), 72. 47 Sarah Nettleton, The Metapsychology of Christopher Bollas (London: Routledge, 2017), 64. 48 Ibid., 22. 49 Ibid., 22. 50 Quoted in ibid., 23. 51 From video interview, William Kentridge: “How We Make Sense of the World,” Huffington Post Arts & Culture, http://www.huffingtonpost. com/louisiana-­channel/william-­kentridge-how-­we_b_5940768.html, accessed May 22, 2017. 52 William Kentridge, I Am Not Me, The Horse Is Not Mine, in OCTOBER 134, (2010): 40. 53 Quoted by Princenthal, op. cit., 93 and 94. 54 Video with interview, camera, and editing Mary Lance. Shown in conjunction with the Agnes Martin retrospective exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 7, 2016–January 11, 2017. 55 Princenthal, op. cit., 173. 56 Quoted in ibid., 261.

Conclusion   1 Eric Weitzner, discussion of a paper presented at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, May 9, 2017.   2 Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, SE 22 (London: Hogarth Press, 1933), 60.


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Ludovica Lumer is a neuroscientist who earned her PhD from University College London where she worked in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology conducting seminal research in the field of neuroaesthetics on the relationship between visual perception and artistic representation. She coauthored (with Marta Dell’Angelo) C’è da perderci la testa: scoprire il cervello giocando con l’arte (2009), the first introductory book on neuroscience for children, using art as a pedagogical guide to understanding brain function, and (with Semir Zeki) La bella e la Bestia (2011), a book on neuroscience and contemporary art. Dr. Lumer has long collaborated with renowned international art institutions on curatorial and educational projects. Additionally, she has lectured for many years in the Psychology Department of Milano-Bicocca University. Dr. Lumer currently lives in New York where she is in private practice as a psychoanalyst. Lois Oppenheim is University Distinguished Scholar, Professor of French, and Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Montclair State University where she teaches courses in literature and inter­disciplinary psychoanalysis. She earned her PhD from New York University and trained at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. She is both Scholar Associate Member of that institute and Honorary Member of the William Alanson White Society. Dr. Oppenheim has authored over ninety papers and authored or edited fourteen books, the most recent being Psychoanalysis and the Artistic Endeavor: Conversations with Literary and Visual Artists (2015), Imagination from Fantasy to Delusion (2013)—awarded the 2013 Courage to Dream Prize from the American Psychoanalytic Association—and A Curious Intimacy: Art and Neuro-­psychoanalysis (2005).


Abramovic´, Marina, 39 Abrams, Samuel, 49, 50, 155, 156, 158, 167, 169 Acconci, Vito, 37, 39, 89–91, 160, 167 aesthetics, 38–40, 154, 168 affect, 5, 6, 7, 25, 47, 48, 50, 57, 60, 80, 88, 102, 115, 134 Albee, Edward, 136 Alzheimer’s Dementia, 19 ambivalence, 107–8, 129 Ansermet, François, 137, 164, 167 Anzieu, Didier, 72, 79–80, 158, 167 Arbus, Diane, 30–2, 34–5, 39, 46, 73, 89, 173 Arbus, Doon, 39, 154, 167 Arnheim, Rudolf, 63–4, 157, 158, 167 Arte Povera, 84 Babajani-Feremi, Abbas, 61–2, 157, 167 Bach, Sheldon, 103, 115, 162, 168 Bacon, Francis, 25, 47, 71–7, 89, 155, 158, 160, 167, 169, 172, 176 Balzac, Honeré de, 7, 62, 85, 151, 157, 159, 168 Barbarigo, Ida, 16–18 Bataille, Georges, 132, 164 Beckett, Samuel, 41–2, 59, 136–9, 158, 164, 165, 168, 169

behavior, 6, 8, 13, 27, 33, 36, 59, 88, 89, 99, 107, 109, 116 Berger, Susan S., 112, 162, 168 Beuys, Joseph, 49 Bick, Esther, 80 binary, 40–2, 94 Boetti, Alighiero, 84, 159, 168 Bollas, Christopher, 42, 47, 143, 154, 155, 165, 174 boundaries, 12, 13, 15, 35, 38, 61, 73, 79, 80, 83, 89–91, 94, 95, 99, 102, 106, 112, 114, 118 Bourgeois, Louise, 48, 74, 155, 158, 168, 173 Brentano, Franz, 125 Brodsky, Joseph, 104, 161, 168 Bromberg, Philip, 48, 155, 168 Buck-Morss, Susan, 38, 154, 168 Cage, John, 62–3 Calder, Alexander, 142–3, 165, 168 Camus, Aalbert, 3, 151, 168 Carhart-Harris, R., 135, 164, 168 Caro, Anthony, 90 Chasseguet-Smirgel, Janine, 13, 152, 169 Civitarese, Giuseppe, 41, 154, 169 Cixous, Hélène, 118 cognition, 56–7, 59, 80, 88, 127, 134, 135, 160, 171, 175 Cohn, Ruby, 42 Colantoni, Nina, 15 condensation, 112, 125



Conway, Martin, 137, 165, 169, 171 cortex, 23, 60, 62, 81, 82, 88, 134, 135 Cotter, Holland, 130, 163, 169 Croce, Arlene, 54–5, 59, 156, 169 Damasio, Antonio, 3, 151, 169 De Vos, Jan, 50, 156, 169 Default Mode Network, 135–7, 164, 171, 173, 176 Didi-Huberman, Georges, 125, 162, 169 Dimitrijevic´, Braco, 111–13, 173 disembodiment, 64 displacement, 112, 125 dissociation, 48, 51, 133 Dorment, Richard, 73, 89, 97, 160, 169 drive, 33, 44, 134, 140 Duchamp, Marcel, 4, 83, 103, 105, 108, 161, 169 Eagleton, Terry, 38, 154, 169 Edelman, Gerald, 99–101, 108, 110, 160, 161, 169 Einstein, Albert, 18, 101, 108 embodied simulation, 58, 64, 88 emotion, 4, 6, 7, 11, 23, 36, 47, 59, 60, 72, 84, 89, 107, 115, 134 empathy, 5, 56–7 fantasy, 8, 13, 33, 34, 37, 40, 51, 137 Faraldo, Diamante, 84–6 feeling, 2, 5–7, 24, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42, 46–8, 51, 56, 57, 60, 71–3, 76, 77, 93, 96, 100, 123, 129, 130, 132, 133, 136, 141, 142, 148, 149 Fineberg, Donald, 129 Flaubert, Gustave, 44 Fliess, Wilhelm, 137, 164, 170 free association, 34, 71, 102, 126

free-energy principle, 162, 170 Freud, Sigmund, 6, 13, 20, 21, 27, 29, 33–5, 47, 50, 69, 82, 87, 108, 112, 125, 133–7, 139, 149, 152, 153, 155, 158, 159, 164, 165, 168, 169, 170, 176 Friston, Karl, 82, 87, 119, 135, 159, 162, 164, 168, 170 Gabbard, Glen, 110, 161, 170 Gallese, Vittorio, 57–8, 60, 88, 156, 157, 159, 170 Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., 55, 156, 170 gender, 13, 94, 116–18 Gersht, Ori, 116, 117, 162, 170 Giacometti, Alberto, 15, 16, 43, 45, 86, 155, 159, 171, 173 Gottlieb, Richard, 41 Gutai, 140–1 Haggard, Patrick, 94, 160, 171 Hammer, Barbara, 21–2 Haynes, Clarity, 118 Heidegger, Martin, 123 Hepworth, Barbara. 142 Holmes, Samantha, 90 homeostasis, 3, 12, 101 Horn, Carolus, 20 Husserl, Edmund, 133 identity, 5, 7, 14, 15, 19, 33, 36, 46, 52, 53, 57, 64, 68, 73, 79, 88, 89, 91, 93, 104, 118, 121, 147 imagination, 8, 38, 39, 42, 49, 51, 53, 68, 70, 72, 124, 140, 148 interpretation, 25, 44, 75, 112, 124, 125, 143 intersubjectivity, 156, 159, 170 Irigary, Luce, 118 Jacobs, Theodore, 129–30, 163, 171 James, Henry, 71


Jenkinson, Paul, 137, 165, 171 Jones, Bill T., 53–7, 60–4, 77, 156, 157, 171, 173 Joyce, James, 171 Juliet, Charles, 159 Kandel, Eric R., 6, 132, 164, 171 Kant, Immanuel, 110 Kaplan-Solms, Karen, 82, 159, 171 Kentridge, William, 143–5, 165, 171 Klein, Melanie, 33 Klein, Yves, 21, 140 Knausgaard, Karl Ove, 1, 2, 151, 171 Kokoschka, Oskar, 49, 155, 171 Kramer, Edith, 18, 152, 172 Kristeva, Julia, 118 Kundera, Milan, 74, 158, 172 Kusama, Yayoi, 90 Laing, Olivia, 128–9, 163, 172 Langer, Suzanne, 148 Lauricella, Natalia, 132, 163, 172 Lee, Felcia R., 62 Lee, Hyungkoo, 95, 96 Le Roy, Xavier, 63–71, 77, 157, 172 LeDoux, Joseph, 7 Levy, Susan, 22, 152, 172 Loewald, Hans, 12 Lord, James, 43, 155, 173 Lowenfeld, Henry, 74 Lubow, Arthur, 30, 153, 173 Magistretti, Pierre, 137, 164, 167 Magritte, René, 37, 154, 173 Mahon, Eugene, 126, 162, 163, 171, 173 Maldiney, Henri, 47, 155, 173 Mallarmé, Stéphane, 139 Malraux, André, 83 Mamyshev-Monroe, Vladislav, 106, 107 Marsh, Henry, 1, 2


Martin, Agnes, 127–33, 140, 145–6, 163, 165, 167, 171, 172, 173, 175 Maurer, Katie, 19, 152, 173 Meldibekov, Yerbossyn, 14–16 memory, 2, 5, 23–5, 32, 38, 47, 56, 60, 64, 67, 70, 86, 99, 102, 107–10, 115–16, 123–39, 142, 161 Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 59, 124, 130–1, 157, 162, 163, 173 metaphor, 2, 3, 5, 7, 23, 36, 41, 46, 64, 66, 99, 110, 111, 121, 126 mirror neurons, 88 Mitchell, Juliet, 158 Modell, Arnold, 110, 161, 173 Mondrian, Piet, 103 Navier-Stokes equations, 116, 117 Nettleton, Sarah, 34, 142, 143, 154, 155, 165, 174 neuroaesthetics, 61, 148, 177 neurobiology, 11 neuropsychoanalysis, 149 neuroscience, 4–7, 9, 11, 23, 57, 59, 82, 88, 99, 115, 134, 148, 177 nonbinary, 116 Obrist, Hans Ulrich, 92, 160, 174 Ogden, Thomas, 81, 93, 108, 110, 158, 160, 161, 170, 174 Olds, David D., 5–6, 151, 174 Oliva, Achille Bonito, 103 Oris, Nurbossin, 15, 16 Panksepp, Jaak, 6, 36, 37, 151, 154, 174 perception, 8, 14, 19, 20, 25, 26, 37, 38, 40, 53, 58, 60, 63, 64, 66, 68, 70, 72, 75, 76, 80, 82, 83, 101, 107, 110, 115, 118, 119, 125, 127, 132, 133, 141, 143, 147, 152, 157, 158, 163, 167, 173, 177



Picasso, Pablo, 12, 26, 111, 124, 151, 162, 172 Pistoletto, Michelangelo, 104, 161, 174 place cells, 161, 174 plasticity, 110, 119, 137 play, 3, 4, 8, 12, 18, 19, 24, 28, 29, 32–8, 40–2, 44–9, 51, 52, 59, 65, 67–71, 76, 84, 90, 101, 102, 104, 106, 108, 112, 115, 136, 139, 147, 154, 174 Pollock, Jackson, 103, 128, 140 preconscious, 51, 87 predictions, 87 predictive coding, 87, 119 Prigogine, Ilya, 102, 109 projection, 20–1, 51, 57, 110, 125 Prvulovic, David, 19, 152, 173 PTSD, 23, 152, 169

self-states, 48, 76 Shenkar, Nadine, 120, 162, 175 Sherman, Cindy, 30–2, 34–6, 39, 42–4, 46, 51, 52, 59, 73, 76, 89, 154, 155, 175 Solms, Mark, 36, 126, 154, 156, 159, 162, 163 Sontag, Susan, 44, 46, 155, 175 Still, Clyfford, 128 subcortical, 6, 82, 123 sublimation, 29, 33, 49 Sullivan, Harry Stack, 51 Sylvester, David, 72, 158, 176 symbol, 3, 7, 14, 36, 41, 46, 65, 85, 99, 100, 110, 121, 130, 133

Rainer, Yvonne, 65, 105, 157 Ramachandran, Vilayanur S., 126, 176 Rebecchini, Damiano, 15 Rizzolatti, Giacomo, 57 Rothenstein, John, 25

Valéry, Paul,130 van Gogh, Vincent, 93 Vargas Llosa, Mano, 8, 151 Vygotsky, Lev, 37, 154, 176

Saltz, Jerry, 44, 154, 155, 175 Saville, Jenny, 14, 152 Schjeldahl, Peter, 129, 163, 175 Schneider, Jo Anne, 45–6, 86, 159 Searle, John, 6 self, 4, 5, 7, 25, 29–35, 38, 42, 44, 46, 48–53, 56–9, 63, 64, 66, 70–7, 79, 81, 82, 84, 86, 88–90, 93–5, 99–102, 104–8, 110, 111, 114, 115, 118, 119, 121, 122, 126, 128, 129, 132–5, 137–9, 143, 146, 147, 149

theory of mind, 57, 59, 105 thermodynamics, 11, 119 transgender, 94 trauma, 22–3, 49, 110–11, 114

Watt, Douglas, 57, 156, 176 Weil, Simone, 83, 159, 176 Weitzner, Eric, 147, 165 Weiwei, Ai, 91–2, 160, 174 Whitebook, Joel, 12–13, 69, 152, 158, 176 Wilson, Mitchell, 75, 158 Winnicott, D.W., 13, 21, 25, 34, 35, 41, 77, 80, 93, 141, 153, 154, 158, 160, 174, 176 Wolf, Silvio, 123–4, 162, 176 Zeki, Semir, 5, 81, 87, 158, 159, 176, 177