As Nihilsentimentalgia’s early readers know well, at the core of this platform is an interest for the idea of phototherapy and, consequently, different approaches to the idea of self. Throughout the years, I’ve done my experiments using photography as a personal therapeutic tool and I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t really work for me, since it does not heal and maybe a therapeutic tool that does not aspire to healing is worthless. Having said this, such a conclusion is personal, so it cannot translate to how phototherapy works on others.
My struggle with the photographic medium is somehow similar to what Robin recently addressed. Because photography, for me, is a very intellectual mechanism of expression, I cannot relate to it in a way that I consider therapeutic. Rather, I sew, and in the making of the work I let the materials decide where they want to go. It seems more organic, more truthful and, thus, more revealing.
Talking about truth in art is as difficult as it gets, but so is in therapy. One doesn’t go to therapy if not to achieve some kind of higher understanding, be it spiritual, psychological or metaphysical. In art, as in therapy, we play by different rules (or no rules at all, depends on the producer or the therapist). We may want to question our desires and the environment we’re in but, in the end, we want to expand the boundaries. I do believe that being an artist is the ultimate experience of liberty, but most people often mistake art and culture, immediately condemning art to play by the collective rules, which fortunately it does not have to.
One of the fundamental reasons why photography does not work as a therapeutic tool, for me, and sewing does, is that I cannot approach photographic creation without grounding it on a linguistic structure. So, I’m constrained by an idea of truth that struggles with mimesis, with representation itself, with semiotics and linguistics. On the other hand, while sewing I am able to change (and challenge) my mental structure and let intuition, intellect and body rhythm interact in a playful way. I’m sure this happens to other people who use photography as a therapeutic tool but, unfortunately for me, I cannot.
In an article where Boris Groys questions if art can be a medium of truth, the author addresses the ethical circumstances in which artists operate. I struggle not to evoke Dubuffet understanding of culture, but I must not. So, getting back to Groys, what he proposes is that we consider art as a field of exception because “in our contemporary world art is the only recognized field of personal responsibility” and then he goes on to argue that such a responsibility must impact others. The question he then raises is if art can promote social change. Trying to answer this, he mentions something Malevich once said that I much appreciate:
Kazimir Malevich believed that the greatest enemy of the artist is sincerity: artists should never do what they sincerely like because they probably like something that is banal and artistically irrelevant.
Although I can disagree with the choice of the word ‘sincerity’ to express this relationship between makers and their doings, I do agree that to be original one needs to let the materials emancipate their context. Some would say the artist needs to mature, the author needs to find his/her own set of rules, but I’d like to suggest that the materials themselves, have a sort of will, a desire (or lack of) for a certain path.
Groys’ arguments follow with his usual approach to the impact of internet (to which I fail to relate) and he reaches the following statement, that I find very problematic: “Today, however, being a subject has less to do with ontological protection, and more to do with technically protected secrets”. Although the context in which this sentence is written relates to the public edification of the subject, I do think it exposes a common failure to address artists, producers and subjects who operate in a different framework and, by doing that, we enter a fallacy, presupposing that what artists create is for others to SEE or LISTEN to. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with this, but I think art, as a medium of truth, needs to operate within a different set of rules, with its own ethics and, in that sense, it cannot put its aims outside itself.
Note: In June a decade will have passed since I first started Nihilsentimentalgia, so for the next few months I will be revisiting some of my early posts, which were very poorly done.