integer on 8 Mar 2001 08:41:10 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: madness and art + punish

brian carroll

>nn > where is madness in art +?
>nn > + certainly must ask - where is madness in all this +?
>bc >
>bc > [requested the full article but received no response...]
>David Maclagan looks at the links between creativity and psychosis.

a zm!le back. [!.m bl!nd]


this process of assimilation, which takes place in depth, 
requires a state of relaxation that is becoming rarer and rarer. 
if sleep is the apogee of physical relaxation, boredom is the 
apogee of mental relaxation. 

>Art and madness have such a long history, 

lets read

   > My deteriorating mental/emotional state is hurting my
   > partner Susan.
   > I am not sure what is happening to me.
   > The amount that our relationship has affected myself and others
   > frightens me.
   > I feel an extremely emotional attachment to my work, music, life. My
   > desires lead to internal conflicts which are unresolvable.

   artists! puh.

   > No matter what I do I am hurting others.

   aren't we all dearezt?

   > Again, I must apologize for any pain or trouble I cause you. It hurts me
   > to do so.


   > -Joshua


>going all the way back to Plato's ideas 

if men + women are to lead the same lives the family must be abolished.
but the sex instinct has to be satisfied + kontrolled 
and neu citizenz produced. plato therefore substitutes for the family 
a system of eugenic breeding analogous to to to to to [what +?] that used
in breeding domestic animals.

                more on this `topik` shortly [very verdi + lovely]

>about the different forms of mania (one of which would today be called
>poetic inspiration), that their association seems necessary and inevitable.
>Artistic creativity, since the Renaissance at least, has a long tradition of
>being linked to extremes of passion and eccentricity and hence seen as
>dangerously close to a madness once thought to have a passionate basis. With
>modern psychiatry and the medicalisation of madness, a certain class of
>art-work has emerged, tying these strands together: 'psychotic art', work of
>remarkable artistic power created by patients designated as mad.
>Psychotic art satisfies several fantasies about art and madness
>simultaneously. It appears as something like the (il)logical conclusion to
>all that is most wayward and idiosyncratic about artistic creativity, an
>image of how originality can go over the top or over the edge: at once a
>warning and a challenge. But it has also been seen from the other side, as
>offering a window into what would otherwise be inaccessible: its
>extraordinary images seeming to give on to the private worlds of delusion,
>hallucination or delirium.
>This association of 'art' and 'madness' conjures up the fantasy of
>elaborations and investments in both form and content that are uncoupled
>from normal constraints or inhibitions: works created out of a more 'inner'
>necessity than usual exist on the tantalising edge between public and
>private. Part of the fascination of psychotic art is that we can imagine
>that we are eavesdropping on some solitary monologue, allowed to trespass on
>someone's inner world.
>According to Deleuze and Guattari, such 'inner' worlds are seldom as private
>or subjective as they are assumed to be: 'It is characteristic of the libido
>to occupy the social field in unconscious forms, to rave about
>civilisations, continents and races and to have an intense 'feeling' for
>world futures.' (Anti-Oedipe p 117 my transl). Adolf Wolfli's work, with its
>geographical, scientific and cosmic excursions, seems a perfect illustration
>of this. 
>Another fantasy that psychotic art encourages is that someone has lost
>control of the normal devices of expression or communication, so that what
>is usually subordinated to some end or purpose (decoration or ornament, for
>example) seems to behave as if it has a mind of their own. What was
>originally a signature in the corner of the Voyager Francais' painting
>develops into a complex pattern that completely takes over his work. How can
>we tell whether the obsessive, relentless character of some psychotic art is
>due to some overpowering internal pressure of thought, that bends everything
>to its need, or whether the process works from the outside in, prompted by
>accidental marks or the hypnotic effects of their repetition?
>The actual art-work of madness, for all the obstacles it presents to
>conventional modes of 'reading', is still on the edge of comprehension,
>rather than beyond it (I think this is the meaning of Foucault's claim that
>'where there is a work, there is no madness').
>But the fantasy remains that madness is an extreme, even more driven, form
>of the inspiration that propels most artists (one thinks of Wolfli grumbling
>that he had so much work to do that it would be enough to drive him mad, if
>he were not mad already). On the contrary, deep inside many 'ordinary'
>experiences of art-making there are forms of 'madness', not necessarily
>pathological, but involving the temporary dissolution of many of the normal
>boundaries between inside and outside, real and imaginary, that in a more
>permanent form are characteristic of psychosis. This secret, invisible core
>of madness, affects any spectator open to it, rather than its more
>spectacular institutionalised versions, that constitutes the real link
>between art and madness.
>Some features of the popular idea of links between art and madness:
>We should reconsider some of these popular or habitual fantasies about art
>and madness that continue to influence our thinking, images, rather than
>facts or experience; but that does not diminish their power, indeed it might
>be said to augment it.
>First is the idea that artists are constitutionally abnormal or exceptional:
>they see, feel, think more intensely than other people (the Jackson Pollock
>syndrome). Then there is a darker, more judgemental version of this: artists
>are neurasthenic, hyper-sensitive, unstable or driven by a compulsion that
>over-rides commonsense, decency, or usual consideration for others (the
>Gilbert and George syndrome). Then there is the idea that artists live in
>worlds of their own, confuse inner and outer realities, and find meaning in
>obscure things (the Tate pile of bricks syndrome). Finally, there is the
>notion that artists suffer, not just because of such internal or
>psychological factors, but through external ones -- misunderstanding, lack
>of appreciation and financial hardship (the Van Gogh syndrome). This
>suffering is often thought of as a kind of stimulation for their art (the
>nightingale sings more sweetly when impaled on a thorn).
>In a slightly different form many of these fantasies also apply to madness.
>Like the artist, the mad person is supposed to be a prey to unusually strong
>feelings: sometimes joy, but usually rage, despair or terror. These feelings
>are excessive and imaginary, and may be aggravated by the fact that the mad
>person seems to have lost contact with (external) reality and does not see
>the world as we do: behaviour or language is abnormal, leading us to
>conclude that they suffer from distortions of perception of thinking, or
>have delusions and hallucinations. Their world of delusion is not only
>symbolised by their actual confinement in a psychiatric institution, it may
>indeed be aggravated by it.
>Artists are imagined heroically as being fuelled by a compulsion to create,
>or more tragically, as preys to inspiration: driven in one way or another to
>make art for reasons they can barely explain. Psychoanalysis often gives a
>special twist to these peculiarities, suggesting that the unconscious motive
>behind artistic creation is some trauma or deficit in early life, whose
>effect can be detected in certain irregularities or repetitions in the
>resulting imagery.
>If psychosis is imagined to involve the overwhelming of ego-control by
>unconscious forces, then it is no surprise that psychotic art is imagined as
>being even more compulsive, driven by some instinctual or automatic process,
>independent of conscious control.
>In many ways the image of the psychotic artist is a mirror-image of the
>artistic genius: someone who creates in a spontaneous, uninhibited way, but
>who often appears tormented or crucified. So it is hardly surprising that in
>the first half of this century psychiatry seized on psychotic art as
>providing direct evidence of the typical processes of mental illness. Yet
>even among officially designated psychotics, those who created art were
>already a minority (in Prinzhorn's time (c.1920) he estimated perhaps 2 per
>cent). Whether creators such as Wolfli or Aloise were or were not psychotic,
>to some extent their art-work could be subject to the same diagnosis.
>There are a number of ways these links between art-works and mad mental
>states may be thought of. First, they may be looked at from a symptomatic
>perspective. In psychoanalytic readings of art the symptoms are usually
>neurotic: they make themselves felt through interference with a work's
>intentional aspects, rather than in an unadulterated form. But in psychotic
>art stylistic features, such as distortion, overcrowding, sexual symbolism
>or impenetrable obscurity are more directly aligned with the psychiatric
>symptoms of mental illness. Prinzhorn, in his pioneer work 'Artistry of the
>Mentally Ill' (1922), elaborated the most sophisticated version of this,
>although in the latter part of his book he effectively undermines its
>clinical reliability. Other psychiatrists were less subtle: a number of
>books from the same period in which features of early Modernist art
>(Cezanne, Kandinsky) are bluntly diagnosed in psychiatric terms (e.g.
>schizoid tendencies).
>Significantly, the stumbling-block for both modern art and psychotic art,
>according to Prinzhorn, was the attempt to depict a world of 'pure psychic
>qualities' without recourse to any existing conventions. If such features of
>the 'inner world' cannot be immediately expressed, then what tends to take
>their place are 'instinctual mechanisms', such as rhythmic repetition,
>physiognomic perception, or stylistic formalism.
>Nevertheless, both expressive art and psychotic art still tend to be seen as
>direct imprints of the artist's 'inner world': all the more so when madness
>involves those spectacular contaminations of outer-world perception labelled
>hallucination or delirium. At its most naive, this 'window on the mind'
>model assumes a facsimile identity between the art imagery (presumably, but
>not necessarily, figurative) and the artist's dream, vision or
>hallucination. Less dramatic versions concentrate on the inflection of
>component features such as line, colour or composition, seen as involuntary
>and expressive signatures of the artist's self.
>Trained artists are supposed to have the skills to convey whatever mental
>state they experience (hence their use in mescalin experiments such as those
>carried out by Guttmann and Maclay in the 1930s), therefore they might be
>expected to give the most vivid 'picture' of madness. A celebrated example
>of this is William Kurelek's 'The Maze'; yet the more one looks at the
>carefully staged vignettes inside the artist's head, the more contrived they
>appear, and the more manipulative their effect feels
>An art-work can also be seen as an exaggerated or distorted expression, in
>terms of its departure from some kind of norm or expectation. Such
>distortions may be accidental, or involuntary and thus symptomatic; or they
>may be more deliberate, and thus ambiguous or ironic. Without background or
>context it is difficult to decide on the balance between these. The
>psychiatric use of art-works as diagnostic indicators seems to depend on the
>dubious assumption that representations of the human figure by patients
>without any art training will normally have regular shape and proportions,
>and that any departure from these can be directly related to disturbance or
>Even if we shift the emphasis from examples predicated on deficit or failure
>(for example Navratil's early diagnosis of Johann Hauser as suffering from
>'innate constructive apraxia' (1978)) to ones that involve exaggeration or
>excess, we are still left with the question, whether the sorts of
>disturbance at issue here are only to be comprehended within psychiatry's
>framework of psychopathology. In their different ways, Foucault, Deleuze and
>Hillman have each challenged any straightforward identification of 'madness'
>in its creative manifestations with mental disorder or psychopathology.
>What kind of 'Madness'?
>The 'madness' these features connect with is a much broader and more diverse
>phenomenon than that categorised in modern psychopathology. Plato's
>varieties of 'mania' are forms of divine visitation or enthusiasm, connected
>with love, atonement, divination and poetry. True, they are dangerous and
>may be both effect and cause of some injury to the liaison between body and
>soul; but they are associated with excess, possession and with something
>beyond the norm, whereas other forms of 'anoia' (un-reason) stem from
>ignorance or deficiency.
>All enquiries to:

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