During the lecture of 7th November 2013, we looked into Sigmund Freud and Michel Foucault, and how they interpreted ‘the subject’. Being a person who has grown up in a house with a psychiatrist, these names were very familiar to me, and so were some of their practises. What I did learn, and interpret from the lecture however, I did not expect:
Freud is probably most famous for psychoanalysing dreams. In looking into some of his writings, for example ‘The Human Subject’ and ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, he challenges the interactions between a subject’s reality, and their subconscious. In his work as a psychologist, Freud discovered that with most ‘hysterical’ and ‘ill’ patients, the majority of which, female, that once a patient had aired their trauma, e.g. dreams or hallucinations, their mental health seemingly got better. A hypothetical narrative is formed around the trauma, i.e. dream, and it can be processed easier. In once sense, it could be said that a problem is solved, due to careful guiding in the ways of narratives, in order to be understood and dealt with accordingly and properly.
In relating this to art, the above statement could be put into this perspective. The problem would be being an audience in need something yet unknown. The narrative would be the piece of art. Then the interpretation of the art, by the audience, means they would then be manipulated into processing a relevant emotion or acting in response. In this form, an artist is a middle-man; an artist creates the narrative. Looking deeper, if an artist has no agenda given to him from a higher authority, for example a client, then this means that [he] paints [his] dreams. This therefore makes an artist the dreamer.
Foucault tells us that we are all social subjects of institutions, which means we must conform to remain in said institution, or be seen as ill or a disgrace. To fit into social conformities, a person merely has to continue with life as is laid out for us by the discourse of our institutions (including family life, being a student of a university, sexuality, etc). Those who don’t conform, are seen as ‘ill’ and can be cast out, disowned or become a taboo.
An artist’s job is to dream, and express these dreams physically. Expressing this could mean veering off from the paths we should be following consciously, to remain in life’s institutions. If dreaming, and expressing those visions, are not conforming to reality, should an artist be seen as mentally deranged? Granted, creatives, including myself, are all a little insane, but does that mean we need to be cured? If all the world wants is conformity, then the world would be silent and under communist regime. Curing all those who do not conform would just leave the world more broken than it is now. This surely means it is not ethical to wake the dreamer.
Reality can be a harsh punishment once our eyes are opened. As a newborn baby, eyes must sting as they see for the first time. Likewise, when innocence is lost, it also stings. If to remain naive is wrong, then why does it hurt to learn? I was once told that the difference between normal people and creatives, was that one never stopped dreaming. If growing up means that we lose sight of our hopes and ideologies, then we shouldn’t. People who have grown up and lost their innocence, need to be reminded of those days.
The film, ‘Finding Neverland’ is a tale of a play-writer giving the gift of innocence back to a child. We are all children in our own right, but sometimes we need that guidance to return to that state. An artist paints the dreams we no longer see, to close our eyes once more to harsh realities. If for a few seconds, a subject can be brought back to being their pure self, then an artist has done their job.
As artists, we must embrace the responsibility we have on our shoulders. It is a heavy weight to carry, but we must. We are the narratives of time gone by and the architects of the bridge to being able to cope. We are the reminders of innocence and naivety once lost. We are the cure for a world of conformity.
Prière de Toucher by Marcel Duchamp, 1947, as seen here, (and reinterpreted in Sarah Lucas’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle (shown here), 2000, as seen at the Freud Museum), can be interpreted as the openess of the ability to touch, but questions whether it is right. The temptation of adjusting something so easy for the taking is too simple. Once touched, in that respect, something cannot be untouched. A dreamer when woken, can not return to the dream they were woken from.
We should not be woken.
May the dreamers never be woken.