⁞ Spencer Rowell’s therapeutic process ⁞

altfamilyalbum_02_purge© Spencer Rowell, from the project Pathography of An Artist, 2013-14.

Description: Session II (Ibid.) Rejecting the mother’s milk, perhaps the ‘feed’ is poisonous or unpalatable – yet what is rejected is full of light. (Eb., II. xx.) A triptych, religious-looking but based on a very non-sacred, commonplace piece of furniture. A dressing table, where a woman made themselves up, brushing hair, perfuming, covering up their blemishes, smells of sweat and whatever else. But instead of privately getting ready, this is a very public undressing with us as an audience. (Db., II. iv.)

excerpt of Spencer Rowell’s Externalise Me, Internalise You, as read in Uncertain States.

As much as psychoanalysis is concerned with the interaction between the outer world and its relationship with an inner world (how we take in and make sense of external events and how we put our inner thoughts and understandings back out into this outer world), my research documents a process by which, through the production of self-portraits and their assessment by psychotherapists, photographs may form a representation of an inner world of the artist and its relationship to external objects. Through practice, moving from a position of being psychically hidden, to a place of being observed; and through the production of these photographs and their exhibition, a way of gaining awareness of inner states. The process may be viewed as an artist’s emergence from this place of psychic retreat to a position of awareness and through this use of the camera combined with the mediation of the viewer, to be seen as a form of therapeutic process.

Each individual image offers a snapshot into these inner worlds and when these lost object representations are viewed as a whole, in sequence, over time, the narrative of an internal world may become more real to the artist and the viewer. The external world now becomes portrayed as a narrative of internal objects, vividly brought into reality through interpretation and exhibition. It is in the bringing together of these part objects, that a more complete image can emerge; to be seen in one light so-to-speak. Is this therapeutic work simply a form of self-imposed fragmentation followed by reparation, or is it, through the inevitable temporary loss of inner self, a form of diffusion and re-identity, or do I display my images, because of my incapacity to differentiate subject (the photograph) and object (internally me), from reality (externally me as the print) and phantasy of the image, (what it is/I am about?).

[…]

session8© Spencer Rowell, from the project Pathography of An Artist, 2013-14.

Description: Session VIII (Ibid.) And there could be an eye on the right, in the hair – this makes you reassess which part of the head you are looking at, the front or the back. Nothing is certain or clear or straightforward. (Eb., VIII. viii.) There are not there. (Db., VIII. ii.)

In psychoanalytical terms, Projection and Introjection are seen as representing opposite sides of this same coin; an unconscious form of communication and the basis of art appreciation and interpretation. In this context I will suggest that Projection and Introjection, used in this mature way, is more than simply an opportunity to appreciate and gain another level of understanding between the artist and the photograph but the photograph and the assessor/viewer, an opportunity to understand something of the inner and outer worlds of both artist and viewer; It is a place where ideas can merge and interrelate.

This process has its roots in early infant – mother relations; the infant cannot say how he feels, he simply makes his mother experience the same feeling. This communication is seen as them connecting in a deep and unconscious way, the mother will react, this will facilitate the infant’s psychic growth; the same happens in the therapeutic setting between analyst and analysand. Projection takes aspects of one’s internal world and puts them onto external subjects; an unconscious process of excretion and expulsion. I am also interested in how this relates to the reverse enactment; where the internal world of the viewer is incorporated into the image being viewed, It is this ‘output’ from the viewers’ internal world (the viewers’ own projections) presented as the written report, which can be seen as ‘input’ into the final assessment. Projection and Introjection is an intercommunicative process of shared understanding, it becomes a creative interplay of shared experience. This process as it occurs in child development can be dissected into three phases (Ogden, 1982), where the child as projector, ridding himself of unwanted bits, deposits into (not just onto) the receiver and recovers a modified version of these projections; without this third phase, the process is not of therapeutic help to the projector. This concept also parallels that which is undertaken by this project, where the photographer deposits into an image un-resolved, un-differentiated parts of his pre-verbal past, these messages are presented via a print for assessment and finally the artist recovers a modified version in the form of language. From this third phase the photographer seeks more awareness which is subsequently incorporated into art practice.

To look at Projection in theoretical terms, we see it along with Introjection as an organising structure; a process by which there is a constant interplay across shared boundaries. A bringing together of un-differentiated differences, it is the way the artist sees his world and how the viewer, in phantasy perceives that same world – that together they have the capacity to bring this shared experience together. Through this process we describe the world in subjective terms, by playing, inherently organising and continually unconsciously reflecting on the individuals internal world. Without Projection and Introjection there would be no comparison, no feedback, even in phantasy. Creativity is the inhabiting of these cross-borders, it is the art of playing within a shared experience. Any creative development comes from the constant interplay of Projective and Introjective structures; in this shared environment, communication of internal objects and their relationship with the outside world is experienced. The viewers’ interpretation of mywork is a process of formulating these internal boundaries. When confronted by an image, an unconscious personal representation is called for, a boundary is set; ‘this is I’ and ‘that is he’. A disidentification process, where the ego says, ‘I distinguish between self and object, I will create a boundary’. (Sandler, J. 1988). By instigating the notion of play the viewers’ boundaries become merged and temporally suspended with the image. Here the viewer brings life experience to the engagement and there is a sense of the artist analysing the viewer. This process is what Sandler calls ‘sorting out’, where ‘aspects of the object–representation are incorporated into the selfrepresentation and vice-versa.’ (1988) p26. This process is the basis for empathy in the consulting room.

But in context of the analysts’ interpretation of these photographic images, it is the reaching beneath the surface into what is the subterranean world of the artist in combination with the viewer, that is this shared experience. The ‘sorting out’ from which we want to gain knowledge, the shared world of artist and viewer, it is this externalisation of the work and expectations of a response that is described as creative interaction.”

[…]

session17© Spencer Rowell, from the project Pathography of An Artist, 2013-14.

Description: Session XVII (Ibid.) In Picture 1, no-one was looking out to sea, I don’t think, but that is happening here. As if the focus has changed from the past or present, to the present or future. Or the other way round. Either way, there has been a change. (Eb., XVII. ii.)

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