Brexit/Schreber

My psychoanalytic understanding is central to my practice because before becoming an artist I was a psychotherapist. I am interested in the relationship between myself, as the artist, and the observer, and in what takes place in the imagination of both of us. Imaginative ideas and phantasies exist in what is experienced as a real space or room in our minds. The observer is invited into this space in my mind, containing imaginative ideas, when looking at my artwork. This is a reciprocal process, as the observer has to allow his own imaginative room to be entered and refurnished by me. In the case of sculpture, this metaphorical space is more readily understood, as the work exists in real space.

My intention in creating this my recent work Schreber, depicting disoriented space full of disjointed structures, was to reflect the current political turmoil in the wider world. But while making it, I became unwell with a high temperature and delirium, and I became aware of feelings of anxiety and fragility. This experience gave me an insight into delusional states of mind where imagined ideas and phantasies relating to real events are not located in the area of the mind designated for the imagination, but are instead experienced as having actually taken place.

I wanted to prevent the unstable cardboard structure from falling apart through the use of steel rods, bolts and Meccano. I was preoccupied with how the elements in the sculpture were attached to each other and I lost sight of the totality of my sculpture. This reminded me of Freud’s analysis of Schreber who had a psychotic breakdown and then meticulously recorded his delusional ideas. Freud believed that delusional states were the minds attempts at recovery. Schreber’s ideas did have their own internal logic and coherence, but his delusions entailed losing sight of external reality. The assiduously joined elements in my sculpture reflect the logical internal connections in Schreber’s mind, but the totality can be seen as portraying a disoriented and delusional state of mind.

I would like to investigate psychoanalytic and related themes, such as the blurred boundaries that exist in dreams, psychosis and dementia. I would also like to explore the possibility of working collaboratively with other artists, in which we would be both artists and observers in a shared metaphorical space.

Can you psychoanalyse objects?

I do not think you can psychoanalyse objects; but some of the techniques used by psychoanalysts are relevant when relating to objects. Freud discovered an analytic method using free association, acute observation and transference as a means of reaching the unconscious mind. Observation skills are central to understanding the relationship between the analyst and patient. The analyst takes into account the way the patient looks, talks and behaves in the consulting room. He also considers his own feelings and responses to what is communicated by the patient. I think similar processes take place when relating to objects. When confronted by an object I explore what it is made of, how it is formed and what it looks like. It may carry associations or have some symbolic meaning for me, which will affect how I respond to its aesthetic. The history of the object - where did come from and when - are questions in the forefront of my mind, as is who was the person that made it. In analysis the personal history of the patient, events in is his life and family of origin are important facts to think about because they colour the relationship between the analyst and patient.

Objects carry a wealth of meanings because we all project feelings of desire and longings into them. Freud understood this and he realised that his patients transferred powerful feelings, often from childhood, onto the analyst. Freud soon understood that this transference could be used therapeutically and in order to encourage this he asked his patients to free associate or to say whatever came into their minds (a sort of verbal doodling). When looking at objects we do not censor our responses, so we can love or hate them freely. For example, a wedding ring is associated with love when given by a person with whom we are intimately involved, however a very different set of feelings can be aroused if the relationship has turned sour or ended acrimoniously.

Becoming more aware of objects, their significance and meaning led me to explore the social history of the Asylum. In so doing I came across some information about the Victuallers and the one that caught my attention was that they received free medicine and medical care. I searched for an object that I

could use to symbolise medical care and came up with the idea of using the stethoscope. The early stethoscope was composed of many different forms, circular and conical, as well as tubing. It employed a variety materials such as wood, ivory, aluminum and rubber and the result was an aesthetically intriguing object. The stethoscope was used to listen to the chest and by so doing to discover what ailments afflicted the victuallers. There is a parallel here with psychoanalysis as the analyst listens to the patient and tries to understand what is going on inside his mind.

You cannot psychoanalyse an object, but you can analyse yourself and your responses to it.