The Installation at Interplay

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Ephemeral yet deeply felt

I tilt towards epiphany

when sounds can stink and touch my throat

remotely groping sanity.

Much of such rich synchrony

is wrinkling into symphony

of multiple personas.

“Disorder” springs and threatens me

when they snatch and take my freedom.

A wretch, now, I fetch the score

but will always-only fail.

My tale unrails the system,

when crystals crumble order.

Burdened here, I flounder,

ever standing under

the weight of wonder’s world.

Here surly, curled up toil

bars my route with tape

entwined around the nape

grinding up my neck.

I try to heckle faculties

that wreck my plans

and take my hope,

coping with ineptitude

(crudely stewed with blued-up mood)

that’s rudely reawakened.

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Here I paint my universe,

its curses and reversals,

nursing all those plans that failed,

rerailed, rewound, and cast abound

so I had to start again.

My paint performs the consequence

and holds me ever after:

reforming stints

and crafting tents

that hint at lending starter-vents

which rent my tinted laughter

till it comes to graft new shafters

that support my thought

and hold its tautened rifts

until I find my voice.

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Choice becomes permissible

through testing moistened icicles

as paint protrudes the surface-rules

and pokes right through my flesh.

A bush for meshed up messed up floss,

Glossy now, set free and tossed unto

the rostrum of a public view,

newly crude but stewed and glued

by stimulus for the senses.

There are spaces for their Interplay

where winter days’ sparse rays of daze

are gazing at the paintings’ phase

of blazing ingenuity

fluidly accessible if

one dares to grasp the oracle

and open up the eyes.

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The epic at (and beyond) The Met.

A Making Sense colloquium

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Friday 12/07/13

The morning after the night before! The day is upon us! Here we go! Bring it on! This morning I feel ultra-alive. I’ve just had a cold shower. Brrrrrr!! Now my heart goes ping, my mind does zing, and I’m brim full of joy to start the brand new day. Emotions are running high and there’s a lot of tension and pressure in the air. Xéna and I prepare provisions and material for our performance and direction of the day’s event. Ahem:

This year’s theme concerns how art can inspire, saturate and activate the different ways that we perceive the world. Do we have 5 senses – sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste? Or 6? What about emotion, empathy, imagination, memory, and how we exist in time? We intend to experiment and expand our sense stimuli today, and build a collective interface that redefines how art stimulates us. Participants are not passive listeners, but invited to act out, perform and react with an active participation. Rather than listen, we invite you to collaborate. We will do this by offering performance, presentation, interactive workshop, exhibition, installation and dance in multiple dimensions. It is the participants’ job to activate and utilise the crescendo of insight that we are offering today, in order to build a creative and ground breaking method of understanding how art helps us to make sense of the world. We have a jam-packed day ahead, with no room for deviance. It’s going to be intense. I promise you’ll be knackered by the time we get to our colloquium dinner later. To kick things off we have curator, critic, artist Robert Storr, who is one of the most influential Americans in the art world. Dean of art at Yale since 2006, former curator at MOMA and director of the 2007 Venice Biennale, Storr is going to speak about the dynamic aesthetic experiences he created in Venice, under the rubric of ‘Think with the senses, feel with the mind, art in the present tense’.

Well, that was the plan. In the end I improvised my introduction, bumbled out something slightly irreverent/irrelevant, and then my hero took over (thank goodness). His presentation was immense. He talked about the opposition and binary between what is known as ‘Outsider art’ or ‘Art Brut’ and insider art, or art and culture intertwined in the academy, museum and art world. This is particularly relevant because Outsider art is given prominence at this year’s Biennale in Venice. Now, he said, Art Brut is defined by what it is not. It was termed as such by Dubuffet in 1951 as an anti-cultural position. To invigorate art is to de-culturate it, so it is untainted by culture. There is a purer state of creative need. And yet this supposedly anti-cultural group, who established Art Brut, was created and embraced by highly cultivated people who were embroiled in what they are reacting against. This is full of contradictions.

For me, Lorna (i.e. this is my thought, not necessarily Storr’s), the source and purpose of art is to found an interface between contradictions. A surface trajectory that paves a path between opposing phenomena, ideas or substances, which provides neutral, interactive contact with them both, offering a new way which is freedom and truth. Storr talked about art without a method, which is compelling for those who create it and compulsive to those who look at it. Art in spite of itself, helplessly created. Pure creative energy, if expressed without dilution or overlay, is preferable to the art made by those conscious of conventions in which they work.

More inspiring utterings continued. Storr discussed De Kooning’s figure drawings, done at a time of possession by psychological illness, and asked: is his art his art, if psychological illness is such an important factor and changed his work so much? There is diminishing control over his work, building a new understanding of art, and a new understanding of his (lack of) conscious self. Is it the mind who is master of the creative impulse, or a reflex eruption of creativity? In Storr’s opinion, there is always a method of judgment involved in (good) art. De Kooning and Pollock’s works, for example, look like whiplash spontaneity, a flair flare, when in fact they were very reflected. There is muscle memory, which disposes control over pressure or speed. It looks like it is improvised on the spot, when in fact it is automatic, and trained over and over again. Art Brut, or Outsider artists depend on automatic chance, whereas Insider art is programmatic. But this binary is false, since there is bleeding and interaction between chance and intention on both sides.

You choose the arbitrary in order to control the undetermined, but not to be arbitrary. If you have an impairment, you work around it. All artists are intelligent, self-conscious people. This was a somewhat controversial statement and lead into rumbling concerns regarding who or who is not an ‘artist’, and the binary split that remains between art made and exhibited inside or outside of the academy or (capitalist) art world. There are many different methods of artistic practice. In my mind, following Joseph Beuys, we are all artists, and I would not like to restrict the liberating possibilities of art practice according to a selective, judgmental hierarchy, whereby only a few ‘intelligent’, trained individuals qualify to make the grade. But this is not what Storr was trying to say. Everyone may be artists, everything may (potentially) be art, but there are different modalities, merits and failures of art.

There are different kinds of art, for different audiences. We all have an opinion, which is unique and perhaps contrary to another’s. At the colloquium these diverse opinions were raised – for example, in Storr’s and O’Cain’s talks, they think very differently about Richter, and there were other conflicting tastes, thoughts and views.

But this is one of the aims and intents of the Making Sense colloquia: to present a safe and proactive space whereby various dissimilar or unusual sentiments, attitudes and reactions can be expressed. Rather than imposing a hierarchy or dictating a certain view, resolving conflict, or offering timely resolution to arising oppositions, our purpose is to provide a platform for issues to be opened. Here is the opportunity to state your case, react to others, and think anew. Since the colloquium took place plenty of participants have indeed expressed their views, in an email exchange. Some of these views are revelatory, being gratified, inspired and stimulated by Making Sense; others are disgruntled, disappointed, with noses turned up at the problems they perceive from how we managed the day and its contents. This exchange is insightful. On the one hand it demonstrates the success of our venture, which is to provide an interactive and accessible forum for difference, and make multiple viewpoints and sensibilities accessible and possible; on the other it points out problems with the organization of the event, which we need to address.

Meanwhile, in response to an ongoing question that was raised throughout the day, I listened to my intuition: Who is an artist? The artist creates out of a necessity. I can’t do, or be, otherwise. Whether or not I have been trained or exhibited my work, inside the art world, I can call myself an artist because it encompasses, feeds and drives my passion and my vision for being in the world at all, after all, at last.

At the colloquium the second keynote speaker was Frank O’Cain, who presented after lunch. He was eloquent and a stimulating orator, surrounded by a swarm of followers, who came to kowtow in adoration from the Arts Students League.

O’Cain said: When I see great art it keeps me alive, it gives me purpose. The creator is the shaman of our time. He did a demonstration, which involved drawing the figure with charcoal on a large piece of watercolour paper. The line is a shaman, you become magic because you do it. All great art is built on space and light. Rembrandt understood the integrity of space. At this point I felt a bit diminished, since I’m not terribly good at figurative drawing (at all), and I disagree with the idea that this is the base for all artistic utterings. Surely there is more to understanding the world than figurative drawing! What about new media, or other ways to express synaesthetic and fractal dimensions, that won’t fit into form? O’Cain told us that Richter was ‘silly’, a ‘criminal’ who plays with ‘smears of paint’. This opinion was a direct contradistinction to Storr. How subjective.

And yet, surely this is the great gift of art: it allows everyone to have their own opinion, state it and differ with others. The artwork enables an interactive platform for this meeting place of different opinions. Such a platform is a surface plane, not for guerrilic conflict or destructive antagonism, but somewhere for debate, discussion, expression and creativity. This is why art is liberal and liberating.

Unfortunately there were technical difficulties at the lecture room we hired at The Met., which hampered Leon Tan’s otherwise profound, responsive and provoking presentation, in particular. In fact this video screening and talk, Making and Unmaking Sense, was powerful because of the way that Tan presented the clinical and ethical problems with pharmacology and the DSM. With his colleague, Virlani Hallberg, Leon based the talk on a screening of excerpts from Receding Triangular Square, in which habitual relations between moving image and sound are disrupted in order to facilitate seeing and hearing anew. In some ways the minor technical difficulties we were having aided this new method of seeing and hearing, since making sense in the gap between what we saw and what we could hear promoted a new and different mode of contact with the world.

Any problems which arose in the organisation of the event did not deter our overall game plan. By raising them the colloquium achieved one of its aims, which was to offer a space for debate and reaction to the ways that the art world and the real world (which is different) manages, dictates and markets a so-called (selective, hierarchical, binary, judgmental and punitive) ‘vision’ of what counts of and can be done with art, per se.

Before lunch was a treat: John and Annette Lee’s beautiful, fleshy roundtable Smell, Taste and Touch. They brought gustatory, olfactory and tactile offerings for us to chew, swallow, sniff and stroke. It was a breathtaking, simple, raw experience of country life, pure life in its elemental form. We guzzled all the crumbly biscuits, sniffed the herbs, fondled the leaves and twigs and enjoyed exercising our respective, often mal-stimulated sense organs. Such a calming and nourishing opportunity provided a sublime aesthetic experience that centered and restored the colloquium, reviving our spirits that had been feed, roused and disgruntled during the morning’s proceedings.

After lunch was O’Cain’s talk, and then two concurrent workshops. These were interactive and we all became collaborators in performances. I flitted around between the two of them, and enjoyed each tremendously. One (Terri Suess, Birgit Matzerath, and SYREN Modern Dance: Music, Dance, Draw!) involved a recital of poetry and a piano recording of some beautiful music, which the dancers responded to, improvising and floating into extraordinary, corporeal, graceful dimensions across the studio space. Participants were given some paper and coloured pastels, asked to sketch their reaction to such beautiful stimulus. I quickly scribbled some dashes of yellow and bounding lines in my notebook, feeling inspired by a sudden rush of energy that alighted from the interaction between the music, poetry and dancers.

Then I rushed into the other workshop (Jack Becker: Collaborative Labyrinth). This involved creating and then meandering meditatively through a labyrinth with sound-cancelling earphones in a completely dark room. Sensory deprivation. This was a very moving and compelling experience. Upon leaving the darkened room we had to write down three words on a Post-it Note. Mine were: lightening, thunder, prison. In more detail, I heard thunder in my head, that rumbles of those darkened times which shook me to my core. I saw flashes of lightening on the shells of my irises, and it felt like being constrained in a metaphysical prison. It frightened and compelled me.

My reaction to the rest of the colloquium was somewhat carnal and Joyce-an in its expansive, non-literal stream of consciousness:

Michael Delacruz’s presentation was an operetta with SYREN dancers, set against a skylight carving tones with space, moving clouds of taste, basking in the warmth of emanating strength with lengths of limbs that bring me forms that sing, tingling with sensations, long for intrepidation, decrepit torn out thorns of sadly groaned soliloquy, with darkened mourning shapes, restated and reborn, newly shorn. And the figures’ shadows paint through the light of the projection and paint movement and gesture on the video. I hear their breaths and feet sliding on the carpet as the bodies shift and mime in pain at war and sadness and in conflict amongst the wails and wilting flower heads. Instead they stroke the floor and heave in air. The energy is set in time a moan of Persian. Clapping rhythm, a children’s game in time to doge-al funeral chants. It’s meant to unrelent, cast pain, but then, create pure beauty and a consonance, an elegance, a community called freedom. Sound – video, colours, song, music, moving image, verse, tragedy, sincerity, fuzzy, blurred, pixated screen, water ripples. Three women dance. Separately but so together, a triptych. Touching the audience – so close, whilst their shadow touches the video image. Woe is thrown around the floor with grace that weeps at epic gates of judgment, hell, damnation on the edge of lamentation. What is lost and what lost there is emotion in the turmoil. Misery overcome, flowing, shedding tears and descending into darkness. And so: ‘preserve us unshaken in peace’.

How melancholic, but so powerful. This lead into a roundtable discussion, where we discussed ideas such as organizing a multi-sensual art fair, partnering with museums and arts organizations to bring experiential art lessons into schools, online and into the public space.

Soon it was time for the artists in residence and philosophers in residence to present their tokens, which provided a Making Sense of Making Sense and tied up the day. First off was the courageous Janice Perry. Before I knew what was happening I realized that she was stark naked! She’s taken off all her clothes! Now this was a political statement. Perry wished to bring back the body, and specifically the woman, into proceedings. She pointed out that the keynote speakers, and all the speakers, in fact, had focused on and applauded (or demised) male artists. No mention of female artists. What does it mean to be a feminist, and a woman, in the art world, in the world itself, today??? Are we still ignored or excluded? Perry wanted us to sit up and notice her, as a woman, a female artist. And queer as well. Certainly, this was a surprise. Although her body was actually hidden behind the lectern.

But she made a statement, raised a point, and in so doing utilized the powerful platform provided by the Making Sense colloquium. Here is the poem, of ‘aphorisms spewed out by the speakers throughout the day’, which she recited, in front of a backdrop video showing a Met. security guard walking down the hall looking at children’s self portraits:

Desperate fear is different

Backlash against intellectual rigour

(It’s) Either/or

Retreat to individual insight

(Make a) Conscious decision

Instruct

(He’s) Playing a game with himself

Tearing apart the beauty of womanhood

Intention

The mind and the hand

Judgments

It all happens at the same time

(It’s) Highly intellectualized

Conceptual

All of the above

Roll the dice

(Take a) Leap of the imagination

Comfortable

Expressive

(A) Connection

(To the) Psyche of the viewer

Psychological Context

Remove the idea of the Artist

The thingness of things

(The) sound of sound

Deny gesture

Anti-art does not abolish the complicated

(It’s the) Process of culture-making

Reset the point

I know his process, I saw the movie

You don’t want to become the author of the next locked position

Artists who didn’t produce any work of consequence

Executing an intention

Image making

Corporate culture

Who cares?

Art makes the ordinary

The power of the ordinary

Surrender

Art picked me

Subconscious constructs

Habitual relations

The psychology of local people

I accompany her when she does ceremonies

You can easily lose yourself

It’s impossible

I heard a lot of nonsense today and I enjoyed it

Then it was our dancer in residence, Rachel Tess. Time for some more stream of consciousness rambling (it was an incredibly moving performance):

limbs spring

fear rigid

contorted angular shapes

clothes fold and fling

with abrasive sounds

slow motion

molding time and breath

she shakes on line with

stretching shifts of bones

that slide and glide across

the space

we come closer:

warmth heat

connection

stiffness

body

we come closer:

even closer

the dance is bigger and

bigger and

I hear the heat

arising neat

a feat embracing

tastes now racing

as the heart beats on time

to sing with every movement

rhymed the to to-gether

signed aligned

and futures never

grimed between

the cartilage

of bones that mime

our heritage

coming ever closer

soon we will

hold hands

disbanding all inconsonance

singing in a circle

fertile, free

a family

entwined and

procreative.

To sum up, philosophers Rita Peritore and Florian Forestier came from France to deliver their pensive reaction to the day. Rita talked about how sense is natural, in excess, and shared. As such it promotes justice. There is an explosion and opening of sense through the symbol and through speech. Our perception is the narrowing of a lens in amidst the flux that incorporates duration, a backlash against intellectual rigour.

[…]

I am now in the middle of Central Park, where Caroline Wendling is leading a meditative walk around or amongst the elements. It is raining, and drops blob onto my notebook, gently smudging these words I am writing. This is a peaceful, relaxing, and beautiful occasion. I get to inhale scents and see different colours. I stroke and crush a leaf with my fingers until it releases its smell, which seeps through my alert nasal glands and beckons comfort to contain me.

[…]

After Caroline’s wonderful, calming walk amidst the greens and light rainfall in Central Park, we went out to dinner. By now I was shattered, so this was fairly uneventful. So I made my way back to the apartment (via rain now pouring, wet feet, and losing patience waiting for a non-existent bus, an expired metro card and eventually resorting to a taxi (which I never do)), feeling ready for bed.

Now it is time to process what happened and the sense made at this year’s colloquium. It has raised a large degree of feedback, some applauding and very positive, inspired by the event, others feeling that it had failed to achieve its supposed aim of stimulating ‘the six senses of art’. This has been hard to hear at times, but the fact that the colloquium opened a space for all kinds of reactions is an achievement in itself. It was important – and difficult – to raise problems and questions. We can learn and grow from their statement.

This we intend and have already begun to do. Next year we hold our colloquium in New Delhi, India: Making Sense of Crisis: Art as Schizoanalysis. This will be an exhibition at KHOJ International Artists’ Association and a colloquium at the India International Center (IIC), New Delhi. The exhibition and colloquium will adopt the theme of art-making as a means of responding humanely and critically to social crises and traumas.

There is more processing, learning and action to be done. We have not finished thinking about the sense that was or was not made at this year’s colloquium. It was a powerful, moving experience. It has raised important questions and opened a space for debate, discussion and difference of opinion. In that way the colloquium engaged with and created an interface upon which reform, and freedom, become possible. This is the purpose, and truth, of art. Here the world makes sense.

Testing my revised plan for ‘Making Sense: Art Practice and Transformative Therapeutics’

Here is an outline of my revisions to the plan I propose for the book I am writing, which is based on my doctoral thesis. My proposal is currently being considered for publication with Bloomsbury, and has undergone rethinking my original work and including new material, following recommendations from the Readers who reviewed my original proposal (and previous comments from my unsuccessful application for publishing this book with Edinburgh University Press). But the point of Making Sense remains, I hope? Tell me what you think…IMG_1598

Introduction

This book is divided into two halves: the first considers how art practice provides an agency of transformative therapeutics in a clinical sense (that is, either inside or outside of the psychiatric clinic) and in terms of healing for the individual subject. The second part of the book considers how art practice provides an agency of transformative therapeutics in a larger, social context, as a critical method of thinking and epistemology about the world we inhabit. Both of these viewpoints then define how art helps us to make sense of the world.

In the introduction I present the main terms I use throughout the book (sense, making sense and transformative therapeutics) and also my methodology for establishing my central thesis: how art practice provides an agency of transformative therapeutics that helps us to make sense of the world. To establish the critical and practical position for Making Sense I pave a path between contemporary art practitioners and poststructuralist aesthetic theories through psychoanalysis. The aim for this project is to instigate a process of (and desire for) discovery and healing (or ‘transformative therapeutics’), which is applicable to the reader who connects with and learns about themselves and the world by engaging with the investigative and critical approach, through the agency of art practice, that forms and fuels the content of this book.

The introduction begins to develop an understanding of how we can use art as a method of healing and as a critical method of research (the two ways by which I define ‘transformative therapeutics’). Firstly this is considered in relation to the subject, and an individual’s healing, which can take place both inside and outside of the clinic. I begin by using specific cases of art psychotherapy, with examples where making art has been therapeutic in a clinical, psychiatric setting. I then consider the therapeutic agency of art practice outside the clinic, via Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of schizoanalysis, which destroys the clinic (although I question this) and open out how art practice can provide an agency of transformative therapeutics on a larger scale that can instigate social change. At this point I develop Making Sense through making art as a critical method of ‘material’ thinking that can provide a sense of politics, territory and a real epistemology, beyond the subject who performs the act of creating or viewing an artwork.

In the introduction I also define my position with regards to the suffering, illness, or pain, which art is said to alleviate, heal or cure. Defining cure does not involve a teleological (mis)understanding of progress, but a neurodiverse understanding of self-awareness, and a politics of care. I am not approaching cure from the viewpoint of a clinician (although I go through pharmaceutics in the final chapter). I do not want to impose psychological normativity. Here I engage with Lucille Holmes’ work on art and perversion, and build a schizoanalytic (rather than psychoanalytic) trajectory.

Part One: Transformative Therapeutics as Healing for the Individual

 

1. Making sense of transference: how art can nourish the senses

This chapter considers what happens when we interact with an artwork and asks the question: how and why does art affect us? The purpose of this question is to begin laying out how an artwork can stimulate the agency of transformative therapeutics, which is seen in this chapter through the ways that an aesthetic encounter ‘nourishes’ the senses. I interrogate the sensory experience of visual perception, which happens when we look at an artwork. This involves considering phenomenology (through structuralist and poststructuralist thinkers such as Bergson and Deleuze), neurobiology (through Barbara Stafford), and the judgement of taste (through François Cheng and Kant). By using the sensuous example of viewing and being affected by a selection of paintings by French neo-Romantic painter Jean-Bernard Chardel, I show how encountering an artwork can nourish the senses and in this way provide an agency of transformative therapeutics.

I then consider how making an artwork can nourish the senses. This involves examining the psychology of the process of art practice, and considering what happens when, say, we paint an image. I develop the concepts of transference and countertransference, through Joy Schaverien, to understand how an artwork can transfer, hold, transform and evoke attributes and states, causing growth and transformation for the person who makes this object, and for the viewer who encounters and perceives it. I consider the picture as a ‘scapegoat transference’ and a talisman. I then situate this as an agency of transformative therapeutics, particularly in relation to French photographer Jean Frémiot’s work with disadvantaged adolescents. Frémiot shows how making art can provide special attention, a new worldview, and, indeed, an ethics of taking care that nourishes the senses and creates a new mode of existing.

2. Making sense inside the clinic: episodes of art psychotherapy

In the second chapter I situate the agency of transformative therapeutics of art practice as it may take place inside the psychiatric setting of the clinic. This chapter is about art psychotherapy, which I introduce and describe how it can help people overcome difficulties, illness, and suffering. I do this by including vignettes of my own formal experiences of art therapy and psychoanalysis, showing how art practice involves desire and subjectivity, and leads to growth and transformation, with the influence of (and problematic dependence on) the art psychotherapist. This enables me to further consider and define the concepts of healing, growth, transference, subjectivity and desire. In theoretical terms I use Joy Shaverien (via Jung), Lucille Holmes (via Jacques Lacan) and Griselda Pollock (via Kristeva) to analyse my experiences of art therapy in terms of its clinical setting. This setting raises problems, and at the end of this chapter I question whether art’s agency of transformative therapeutics is dependent on the clinic. My critique here raises Deleuze and Guattari’s efforts to destroy the clinic and, in particular, psychoanalysis with their practice of schizoanalysis.

3. Making schizo sense: destroying the clinic

This chapter is about Deleuze and Guattari’s project of schizoanalysis, and the concepts of ‘counter-actualization’ (which is a synonym of healing) and the ‘desire machine’ (the motor and fuel of counter-actualization). Deleuze and Guattari’s intent with these ideas is to destroy the clinic, which they argue causes rather than cures psychiatric illnesses. In this chapter I define schizoanalysis, going through Freud, Klein and psychoanalysis, and Kant, questioning how this is a useful or applicable practice beyond its task to destroy Freud and the clinic. Schizoanalysis wishes to source ‘a place of healing’, or agency of transformative therapeutics, by engaging with the schizophrenic and liberating them from their clinical detainment. There are problems with Deleuze and Guattari’s argument for this position, with their dependence on (and exclusion of) the schizophrenics Artaud and Schreber. I raise these problems, and then use Deleuze’s morality in The Logic of Sense to resolve them and source the transformative therapeutics of art practice, using the example of the schizophrenic artist Adolf Wolfli, and the movement of Art Brut.

4. Making sense outside the clinic: Lacan’s sinthome

Now that we are outside the clinic I show how art can take the place of the analyst for the ethical treatment of the symptom. This chapter is about Lacan’s concept of the ‘sinthome’, which he raises in his work on James Joyce. I engage with another schizophrenic artist, Kyle Reynolds, who uses painting as a method of healing that has enabled him to evade hospitalisation and manage his psychosis for over a decade, outside of the clinic (and without any formal intervention of an assigned art psychotherapist). Lacan’s sinthome helps me to define how art practice makes sense outside the clinic. The inclusion and application of Lacanian theory is potentially problematic to Deleuze and Guattari (based around Lacan’s defining desire as a lack, whilst Deleuze and Guattari define desire as inherent production), although Guattari was trained by Lacan and his influence is still apparent in the schizoanalytic project. I use Zizeck here, to question and resolve the difficulties of juxtaposing Lacan with Deleuze and Guattari, and to continue building the independent agency of transformative therapeutics. I then utilise another example, from Brazilian psychoanalyst Suely Rolnik, who talks about how she initiated an episodic practice (and healing) of schizoanalysis, by the intervention of Deleuze, outside the clinic.

Half way through the book we are outside the clinic and can build, transfer and expand this agency of transformative therapeutics beyond providing care and healing for the individual subject. Now we can establish the transformative therapeutics of art practice as a critical method of research on a larger scale, which can instigate social change and help us make sense of the world at large.

Part Two: Transformative Therapeutics as a Critical Method of Thinking

 

5. Making sense of territory: the painting event

In the fifth chapter I propose art practice as a method of ‘material thinking’ (via Paul Carter), which is informative about how the world exists and is territorialized. In this chapter I examine art practice as a critical method of research and develop the concept of ‘the painting event’ to define the process of creating any artwork. I show how this process marks territory and, in so doing, provides a method of thinking (or practice as research) that offers a transformative therapeutics. I look into the movement of ‘Process art’ and Robert Morris’ ‘Anti-form’, to move our understanding of how an artwork has its affect away from the final object formed, and onto what might be achieved or provided, as a method of thinking in itself, during the process of its creation.

This chapter offers the dual perspective of the aesthetic (or the reception, consumption and reflection of artworks) and the artistic (or the production and the creation of artworks). Between both these perspectives lies a way of thinking about sense that helps us to think about territory and how we inhabit the world. Here transformative therapeutics is sourced from art practice as a method of thinking about and marking territory. In this chapter we use art to learn how we inhabit the world. We consider our place in the world through the process of making art. In this sense, meaning is practice-based and it provides an aesthetic ecology. I establish these ideas by utilising Simon O’Sullivan’s Deleuzian-inspired work on ‘geoaesthetics’, through the paintings of Caroline Rannersberger.

6. Making political sense: String Games

In Chapter 6 I consider how art practice provides an agency of transformative therapeutics through the technology and politics of play. To start, I examine a new media performance-installation by the Canadian artist Vera Frenkel. During the creation of this work in 1974, String Games: Improvisations For Inter-City Video, there is a sharing of the sensible, an invention, improvisation and transmission of meaning, and a technology of play, which is how I demonstrate that the artwork makes political sense. Playing String Games provides inter-personal (and inter-state) healing that demonstrates topical social change. This is political sense.

During the event of this work Frenkel choreographed space, time and the senses through playing a game of cat’s cradle, via inter-city video, between two rival cities in Canada. I show how the process and installation of this performance makes substantial insight through its political sense: we learn how to improvise language, with its gaps for expressing the dissensus and difference of identity, and create a holistic sense of space that forms a ‘community of sense’. In this way Frenkel’s artwork provides a transformative therapeutics and a political community for its participants. The work is set in relation to the capitalist monopoly of the medium, governed by Sony’s overbearing control with this elementary form of ‘Skype’, and also in the economic rivalry between the two cities, Toronto and Montréal, which Frenkel here engages diplomatically, on each side of String Games.

I use Rancière’s notion of the ‘partage du sensible’, or the ‘distribution of the sensible’ to consider the boundaries of our active participation and place within the world. Rancière helps me think about what is fundamentally at stake in Frenkel’s art performance, seeing its political sense as a sharing of the sensible and in terms of its technics – the technology of the game and of the inter-city video facility. I then show how such a technics provides transformative therapeutics, which demonstrates how this artwork offers a Making Sense of, and in, the world. The point is to find a method and way of thinking that helps us understand and extend the emancipatory potential and transformative, therapeutic power that can be gained from the political sense of Frenkel’s work.

Donna Haraway’s work on playing string games becomes a useful way of thinking about politics and the primacy of technology and game-play in our definition of politics. In all these cases I develop how the artwork offers an affective therapeutics and transformative sense about the world. The psychology (and transformative therapeutics) of play involves Joy Schaverien’s work on Sand Play and helps us understand the political sense and opportunities for transformation provided by playing and performing String Games.

7. Making sense at the limit

In this chapter I show how art practice provides an agency of transformative therapeutics as a method of palliation, mourning, and ‘being in the present’. Firstly, I consider how an artwork can offer us an intimate sense of the ineffable threshold of existence, or an experience at the edge of our existence, at the limit of what is real. Secondly, I demonstrate how the process of making an artwork can provide a form of therapeutic palliation, as the capacity to enable a method of ‘being in the present’ in relation to this limit. By examining an encounter with Sophie Calle’s installation Couldn’t Capture Death, Calle’s artistic process, and then turning to American video-installation artist Bill Viola (who also works on the threshold), through the aesthetic theory of Jean-Luc Nancy, this chapter aims to develop the ongoing hypothesis that engaging with art can provide the transformative therapeutics that defines our Making Sense of the world.

In theoretical terms this chapter aims to open and develop the dimensions of Nancy’s aesthetic theory on how an encounter with an artwork presents the ‘threshold of existence’, and also how an artwork provides a ‘technique of the present’. With critical reference to Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and by examining the enclosed space and aura of works by Calle and Viola, set in Robert Storr’s curation of the 2007 Venice Biennale, this chapter thinks about how encountering these works provides a poignant sense of our finitude during and beyond their event in Venice. We gain a sense of how an encounter might provide a making sense of the world at the limit, our limit. Then I open this discussion onto how the process of making these artworks provides an ethos and technique of existing, or ‘being in the present’, by using direct interviews with Calle and Viola, and developing a discussion about technology through Jean-Luc Nancy and Heidegger. I also utilise the psychoanalytic theory of Darian Leader, which considers art in relation to mourning and the mother figure, and helps us to understand the transformative power and therapeutic sense of Calle and Viola’s works. We discover how art practice can provide transformative therapeutics in the way that it offers a way of life, and here conclude with Foucault’s hypothesis of seeing the artwork as a ‘technique of the self’.

8. Making sense with the Pharma

In this chapter I use the term ‘Pharma’ to account for pharmaceutics and the drug industry, and also the ‘pharmakon’, which is a dual sided concept that can indicate both a poison and a cure. Sourcing the curative pole of the pharmakon is the object of this chapter. Stiegler partakes in this search in his What makes life worth living: Pharmacology. The title of this book captures the extent of our situation: Stiegler says that the misery of the present (the ‘disenchantment of the world’) has led us to lose the sentiment to exist, and now we just don’t know why life is worth living. This situation introduces our need for the curative pole of the pharmakon.

The search for cure leads me through Winnicott and Schaverien on the transitional object. Winnicott shows us how we can use an artwork to supply a resource for re-enchantment and the curative situation of the pharmakon. We see how art uses creativity and play to define meaning, sense and healing.

Winnicott’s psychanalysis raises the clinical setting and leads us to consider the role that pharmaceutics has to play in the search for a cure. Although, by now in the narrative of the book, we are supposedly outside the clinic, healing and therapeutics might seem to rely to some extent on the drug industry, which can resolve the ‘chemical imbalances’ that are said to cause some mental illnesses. Here I consider whether, as Stiegler argues, the use of psychiatric drugs is amplified to make people functional members of the workforce, so that ‘normality’ is controlled or manipulated by capitalism and consumption (via Stiegler, and also Ben Goldacre’s Bad Pharma). This continues my critical questioning of psychological normativity, healing and cure. I use Stiegler’s pharmakon to build a politics of care, Taking Care, which employs a neurodiverse perspective that is fuelled (again) by art practice as a sensuous, hands-on process of transformative therapeutics. In relation to this pharmaceutics are still necessary and important, although controversial and problematic. Making Sense has limitations: it can’t replace drugs, but it can still occur outside the clinic, independent of the professional, and be applicable for everyone.

 

Conclusion: Making Sense of the World

In this book we have developed an understanding of how an artwork can have an affect on us, and we have been through different kinds of art psychotherapy that provides healing, psychological self-awareness and growth. We have then located therapy outside of the clinic, and our agency of transformative therapeutics has extended beyond the individual case examples to provide a critical method of thinking about society that can affect the world at large. At the end we question the remaining disenchantment of the world, and the influence and dependence on the drug industry, which pose limitations to Making Sense. But we have still located and begun to understand how art practice can provide both a method of being in the world, understanding it, and an agency of transformative therapeutics that is applicable to all.

The purpose of this book is to inspire and stimulate this accessibility and encourage the reader to experiment with art practice as research and locate this agency. The proof of its potential to offer a way of being in and transforming the world that is universally accessible depends on continued stimulation and experimentation, which is an on-going, nascent inquiry that extends beyond the confinement of this book.

My conclusion is that we are all artists and we can all access and stimulate the desired-for growth and transformation that is provided by art practice. At this point my book launches a new and equally-accessible aesthetico-therapeutic paradigm. Here the world Makes Sense.

Making Sense with entropy: Tunisian Collaborative Painting

(for Bikram yoga, click here: https://lornacollins.com/2013/03/03/bikram-yoga/)

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I am applying to participate in an artistic retreat at Wysing Arts Centre, in Cambridge. To make this application I need to propose a workshop. There will be a lot of brilliant applicants and I am unlikely to secure a place, although I would really like to go. The retreat is on theme of “Tracing the Tacit”. My proposed workshop needs to be on one of the sub-themes of Entropy, Chance, Disorientation or Silence. I have chosen Entropy, and propose an edition of David Black’s marvellous Tunisian Collaborative Painting workshops. Please look at my proposal and tell me how I might improve it. The deadline for applications is the end of this week. For more details, see:

http://www.wysingartscentre.org/whats_on/retreats/escalator_retreat_13_-_call_for_proposals

  1. Workshop Proposal

This is a participatory performance exercise in which I gather individuals at ‘Escalator Retreat 13’ together as strangers who meet, collaborate and create a painting. This collaborative experience interprets the concept of entropy, meaning inherent disorder and friction, as a necessary stage in the development of a process, namely art-making, that then provides a restorative and replenishing social act.

‘Tunisian Collaborative Painting’ is an art form that was developed by Hechmi Ghachem in the 1980s, responding to the dictatorial government and oppressive political regime in Tunisia. It allows a group of people (artists or non-artists) to work simultaneously on a canvas without discussion or planning, following a simple set of predetermined rules. As a consequence, the process of painting involves strangers meeting and creating together in a way that enacts the disorder of their random alliances, as posed by their gathering at Wysing. The canvas becomes a meeting point for these public performers, who, whilst painting together, embody and situate the arguably lonesome, marginal, starving edges of a society. The canvas and its occupants become an Augusto Boal-ian Theatre of the Oppressed, where different cultures, identities, opinions and styles come together, whilst strangers meet and work through their sometimes opposing viewpoints and visions. This process then responds to divergence with an economy of contribution, rather than capitalism, and a truly democratic constitution.

This worthy political effect occurs during my workshop as a result of passing through the entropic, chaotic visual mess of individuals’ random and differing marks in the canvas. Since any person can paint over or change another’s marks and create an entirely different effect, the painting process might become a violent act, which produces disorder in the closed system of the shape of the canvas. However, as no single person is responsible for the whole composition, there is the elimination of desire in the creative act. There is no ego, and from the collaborative experience (with its necessarily entropic process) a painting created by a group of individuals resembles the work of a single artist. Thus, instead of the unravelling of the order of a system (i.e. the canvas) into inherent disorder, the expenditure of energy that occurs whilst each participant puts marks on the canvas, and their collaborative teamwork, results in a an efficiency for this system, which can now express both the individuality of each participant and their unity as a whole.

In this way my workshop will show how order can only be produced by increasing entropy; just so the final painting, with its cohesion, can only occur as a result of the chaotic, aggressive and entropic process that occurs whilst making it. As a result, we will discover that disorder is only a limited perspective of order, and vice versa, whilst passing through entropy is a necessary stage towards one and the other. Meanwhile, participants discover a new way of working together and create an artwork that testifies to their different identities and the ways that these congregate at Wysing.

  1. How this proposal within the retreat is relevant to my practice at this particular moment

The participatory workshop of ‘Tunisian Collaborative Painting’ I propose for ‘Escalator Retreat 13’ represents a timely culmination of my artistic research into Making Sense. This is an expanding collective of artists and thinkers who have gathered in response to my research and art practice, to develop an act of reflection that is at once sensual, conceptual, accessible, and interdisciplinary. I organize annual colloquia that found a junction between theory and practice, in collaboration with philosophers Jean-Luc Nancy (in Cambridge), and Bernard Stiegler (at the Centre Pompidou in Paris) with Elaine Scarry (at Yale), and this year we are holding the event at The Metropolitan Museum, New York, with Robert Storr. These colloquia draw together professionals engaged in the worlds of art, philosophy, critical theory and psychology to provide live source material for invigorating debate and creative research, forming an interface between artistic creation, theoretical debate, and academic scholarship.

At last year’s colloquium I collaborated with David Black, an American painter who highlighted the significance of Tunisian Collaborative Painting at a pivotal time in the Tunisian Revolution. We held two Tunisian Collaborative Painting workshops, where participants discovered a diplomatic sense that translated across their different, disordered and divergent ways of thinking. This experience showed me how such an activity, of directing strangers to paint together, could develop and disseminate a language and semiotics that is diverse, creative, transformative, and inclusive. This practice then demonstrates how art-making can be used as a means of responding humanely and critically to social crises and traumas – the living reality of the inherent disorder and conflict that defines the entropy that besets our very being-in-the-world. This is the mode of ‘real’ that I bring to Tracing the Tacit: my workshop of Tunisian Collaborative Painting poses a diplomatic and regenerative response to the ‘universal’ law of perpetual decline.

I need to take part in Escalator Retreat 13 to bring to fruition my ongoing artistic scholarship with Making Sense, make new connections, collaborations and prove how this is possible through the process of making art.

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