⁞ 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.)

٠ Can love restore the ‘primitive-ego’? ٠

opnamedatum: 26-10-2006© Sanne Sannes, The face of love, 1965

SanneSannes16© Sanne Sannes, Untitled, 1962-65

Can love restore the ‘primitive-ego’? is obviously not a question I have the answer for but, nonetheless, it is one that is worth revisiting now and then. It’s not difficult to understand that ‘falling in love’ is an event that messes with the boundaries of the ego. However, it’s not as easier to grasp what exactly happens to us when a lover alternates between subject and object. In Civilization and its Discontents (1929), Freud argues that there is only one state (non-pathological) where the ego seizes to keep itself clearly and sharply outlined and delimited. Freud is referring to the state of ‘being in love’, to which he adds that: Against all the evidence of his senses, the man in love declares that he and his beloved are one, and is prepared to behave as if it were a fact.

Having a sense of one’s own ego means that, somehow, one manages to distinguish between internal and external stimuli. A construction of an ego also implies the recognizance of things existing in the external world as objects, as well as the abidance to the pleasure-principal, meaning to avoid events and things that might cause harm or pain. What interests me is this freudian idea that the primitive pleasure-ego gives way to a more mature ego because it ‘succumbs’ to the reality-principle:

Originally the ego includes everything, later it detaches from itself the external world. The ego-feeling we are aware of now is thus only a shrunken vestige of a far more extensive feeling – a feeling which embraced the universe and expressed an inseparable connection of the ego with the external world. If we may suppose that this primary ego-feeling has been preserved in the minds of many people – to a greater or lesser extent – it would co-exist like a sort of counterpart with the narrower and more sharply outlined ego-feeling of maturity, and the ideational content belonging to it would be precisely the notion of limitless extension and oneness with the universe. (Freud)

Freud then goes on to explain that when faced with the question of ‘what does a man demands of life’ – the answer being happiness -, one easily comprehends that there is a deep struggle at the core of our being, since we live by the pleasure-principle and we desire to experience intense satisfaction but the ways through which we attain pleasure are often criticized/outlawed by society.

If we accept the notion that love is, today, a kind of healthy way to restore the ego, i.e., to restore its harmony with the external world, opening a whole new sort of possibilities; and if love, sexual love, gives us our most intense experience of an overwhelming pleasurable sensation, then, Freud asks, why abandon this path for happiness? The answer being: We are never so defenceless against suffering as when we love, never so forlornly unhappy as when we have lost our love-object or its love. 

Though it may seem over-simplified, Freud argues that it’s this genuine search for happiness that drives humanity to center its life around ‘genital love‘. The problem arises when one reflects upon what this does for the ego, since such a subject leads a life that is very dependent on an external object – the object of love. But this isn’t the only reason for shortening the experience of ‘sexual love’, for love opposes the interests of culture; on the other, culture menaces love with grievous restrictions.[…] culture obeys the laws of psychological economic necessity in making the restrictions, for it obtains a great part of the mental energy it needs by subtracting it from sexuality.

A lot more could be said about the restrictions imposed by the so-called civilized societies upon the sexual behaviors that fulfill the pleasure-principle. Overall, this is just illustrates the process of evolution that served the reality principle and the functioning of an organized and capitalist society at the expense of human happiness. If when a love-relationship is at its height, no room is left for any interest in the surrounding world; what would happen to society if, in fact, it valued the time needed to love?

SanneSannes3© Sanne Sannes, Untitled, 1962-65

Sanne Sannes 1963 Lovers© Sanne Sannes, Lovers, 1963

┐ Object on Screen └

mtstill from Untamed Heart, 1993

II. Pleasure in Looking/Fascination with the Human Form
A. The cinema offers a number of possible pleasures. One is scopophilia. There are circumstances in which looking itself is a source of pleasure, just as, in the reverse formation, there is pleasure in being looked at. Originally. in his Three Essays on Sexuality, Freud isolated scopophilia as one of the component instincts of sexuality which exist as drives quite independently of the erotogenic zones. At this point he associated scopophilia with taking other people as objects, subjecting them to controlling and curious gaze. His particular examples center around the voyeuristic activities of children, their desire to see and make sure of the private and the forbidden (curiosity about other people’s genital and bodily functions, about the presence or absence of the penis and, retrospectively, about the primal scene). In this analysis scopophilia is essentially active. (Later, in Instincts and their Vicissitudes, Freud developed his theory of scopophilia further, attaching it initially to pre-genital auto-eroticism, after which the pleasure of the look is transferred to others by analogy. There is a close working here of the relationship between the active instinct and its further development in a narcissistic form.) Although the instinct is modified by other factors, in particular the constitution of the ego, it continues to exist as the erotic basis for pleasure in looking at another person as object. At the extreme, it can become fixated into a perversion, producing obsessive voyeurs and Peeping Toms, whose only sexual satisfaction can come from watching, in an active controlling sense, an objectified other.

At first glance, the cinema would seem to be remote from the undercover world of the surreptitious observation of an unknowing and unwilling victim. What is seen of the screen is so manifestly shown. But the mass of mainstream film, and the conventions within which it has consciously evolved, portray a hermetically sealed world which unwinds magically, indifferent to the presence of the audience, producing for them a sense of separation and playing on their voyeuristic phantasy. Moreover, the extreme contrast between the darkness in the auditorium (which also isolates the spectators from one another) and the brilliance of the shifting patterns of light and shade on the screen helps to promote the illusion of voyeuristic separation. Although the fiIm is really being shown, is there to be seen, conditions of screening and narrative conventions give the spectator an illusion of looking in on a private world. Among other things, the position of the spectators in the cinema is blatantIy one of repression of their exhibitionism and projection of the repressed desire on to the performer.

mjstill from La meglio gioventù, 2003

B. The cinema satisfies a primordial wish for pleasurable looking, but it also goes further, developing scopophilia in its narcissistic aspect. The conventions of mainstream film focus attention on the human form. Scale, space, stories are all anthropomorphic. Here, curiosity and the wish to look intermingle with a fascination with likeness and recognition: the human face, the human body, the relationship between the human form and its surroundings, the visible presence of the person in the world. Jacques Lacan has described how the moment when a child recognises its own image in the mirror is crucial for rhe constitution of the ego. Several aspects of this analysis are relevant here. The mirror phase occurs at a time when the child’s physical ambitions outstrip his motor capacity, with the result that his recognition of himself is joyous in that he imagines his mirror image to be more complete, more perfect than he experiences his own body. Recognition is thus overlaid with misrecognition: the image recognised is conceived as the reflected body of the self, but its misrecognition as superior projects this body outside itself as an ideal ego, the alienated subject. which, re-introjected as an ego ideal, gives rise to the future generation of identification with others. This mirror-moment predates language for the child.

Important for this article is the fact that it is an image that constitutes the matrix of the imaginary, of recognition/misrecognition and identification, and hence of the first articulation of the ‘I’ of subjectivity. This is a moment when an older fascination with looking (at the mother’s face, for an obvious example) collides with the initial inklings of self-awareness. Hence it is the birth of the long love affair/despair between image and self-image which has found such intensity of expression in film and such joyous recognition in the cinema audience. Ouite apart from the extraneous similarities between screen and mirror (the framing of the human form in its surroundings, for instance), the cinema has structures of fascination strong enough to allow temporary loss of ego while simultaneously reinforcing the ego. The sense of forgetting the world as the ego has subsequently come to perceive it (I forgot who I am and where I was) is nostagically reminiscent of that pre-subjective moment of image recognition. At the same time the cinema has distinguished itself in the production of ego ideals as expressed in particular in the star system, the stars centering both screen presence and screen story as they act out a complex process of likeness and difference (the glamorous impersonates the ordinary).

C. Sections II. A and B have set out two contradictory aspects of the pleasurable structures of looking in the conventional cinematic situation. The first, scopophilic, arises from pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight. The second, developed through narcissism and the constitution of the ego, comes from identification with the image seen. Thus, in film terms, one implies a separation of the erotic identity of the subject from the object on the screen (active scopophilia), the other demands identification of the ego with the object on the screen through the spectator’s fascination with and recognition of his like. The first is a function of the sexual instincts, the second of ego libido. This dichotomy was crucial for Freud. Although he saw the two as interacting and overlaying each other, the tension between instinctual drives and self-preservation continues to be a dramatic polarisation in terms of pleasure. Both are formative structures, mechanisms not meaning. In themselves they have no signification, they have to be attached to an idealisation. Both pursue aims in indifference to perceptual reality, creating the imagised, eroticised concept of the world that forms the perception of the subject and makes a mockery of empirical objectivity. During its history, the cinema seems to have evolved a particularization of reality in which this contradiction between libido and ego has found a beautifully complementary phantasy world. In reality the phantasy world of the screen is subject to the law which produces it. Sexual instincts and identification processes have a meaning within the symbolic order which articulates desire. Desire, born with language, allows the possibility of transcending the instinctual and the imaginary, but its point of reference continually returns to the traumatic moment of irs birth: the castration complex. Hence the look, pleasurable in form, can be threatening in content, and it is woman as representation/image that crystallises this paradox.

excerpt of Laura Mulvey‘s seminal article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema“, originally published in Screen 16.3 Autumn 1975 pp. 6-18

┐ The Shinning, “a film made by a bored genius” └

The Overlook Hotel. It was a great name for the snowbound setting of Stephen King’s novel, “The Shining,” and it remained an ominous moniker in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation. Now, thanks to Rodney Ascher’s documentary, “Room 237,” it’s a fitting echo of a document defined by an affection for, and scrutiny of, details which have been overlooked in the overall cultural interpretation of the horror classic.

Subtitled “Being an inquiry into The Shining in 9 parts,” Ascher’s film is exactly that. Made up entirely of film clips (most from “The Shining,” some from other Kubrick films, even more from unrelated films like “All the President’s Men” and “Apocalypto”) and audio interviews from those who have become experts of sorts on the subject: ABC correspondent Bill Blakemore, history professor Geoffrey Cocks, playwright Juli Kearns and more.

Depending on the speaker, the film is really about the genocide of Native Americans; for others, it’s clearly about the Holocaust. Or maybe it’s Kubrick slyly demonstrating spite for King’s original novel, or maybe the auteur is actually apologizing to his wife and the world for helping to fake the moon landing, given his experience in sci-fi with “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Some hypotheses are more far-fetched than others, but they all invite a new reading into a slippery study of psychological instability, and Ascher dispatches a welcome sense of humor about overthinking things on occasion to keep matters from getting too “freshman dorm room” for their own good.
source: sundance review by William Gross

str**ming of “Room 237here

┐ Gaëtan Gatian de Clerambault └

JoanCopjec_sartorial-superego_00850070097779-3ee8-4911-abd5-9be08b1ee79820120305145042_011JoanCopjec_sartorial-superego_007© Gaëtan Gatian de Clerambault, photographs
taken between 1914 and 1918, while C was in Morocco recuperating from a war wound.

“…consider the relation of this figure to the photographs taken by Clerambault. Does this historical fantasy of colonial cloth underlie his photographs? Do we see in them not, as some of them seemed earlier to suggest, a cloth defined by its utility but rather by the way it curtains off an inaccessible pleasure? There is some reason to believe that this is so, for we discover in Clerambault’s work the rudiments of just such a fantasy. Cloth was of interest to Clerambault not only as an ethnographic issue, but also as a clinical one: for in the course of his psychiatric studies, he noticed that several of his women patients expressed a peculiar passion for cloth. On the basis of these observations, he isolated this passion as a definable clinical entity: a specifically female perversion that resembled, in many respects, the male perversion of fetishism. Clerambault wrote very confidently, however, about why the two perversions ought not to be collapsed, stating the fundamental distinction thus: while for the male, fetishism represents an “homage to the opposite sex,” and thus puts into play an entire fantasy of love, of union with the opposite sex, the perverse female passion for cloth is rooted in the very refusal of this fantasy. The dream of union, of shared love, plays no role either in the genesis or in the sustaining of the perversion. “With no more reverie than a solitary gourmet savoring a delicate wine,”52 the woman enjoys the cloth-for itself, not for any imagined connection it might have with the opposite sex, not because it has any existential or symbolic relation to a male object of desire.

In other words, Clerambault conceived the female passion for cloth as selfish. The perversion that simply uses cloth to obtain orgasmic pleasure is seen as useless in terms of its ability to secure the common happiness of men and women. It is for this reason that Clerambault refers to the perversion as an asexual fetishism; what is missing from it is the sexual relation.

Is this not, mutatis mutandis, a clinical version of the colonialist fantasy of a cloth that acted as barrier to union? Is this symptom not the exception, the surplus sexuality that makes the utilitarian dream of reciprocal relations possible? And are we not, then, presented with this very fantasy in Clerambault’s photographs? My brief answer is: yes and no. Although this fantasy does indeed provide the historical basis of the photographs, we find in them, I would argue, not only another version of the fantasy, but additionally and precisely a perversion of it. For these 40,000 photographs focused on one rigidly adhered to object-choice -cloth -betray not simply a fantasy of cloth, but a fetishization of it. But how is such a distinction to be drawn?

Freud formulated an exact, if too concise, definition of the difference between neurosis and perversion: neurosis, he said, is the negative S of perversion. It is perhaps this definition that Lacan had in mind when he distinguished neurotic fantasy and perversion thus: perversion, he said, is “an inverted effect of the phantasy. [In perversion] the subject determines himself as object in his encounter with the division of subjectivity.”

excerpt of The Sartorial Superego by Joan Copjec. Source: October, Vol. 50 (Autumn, 1989), pp. 56-95

┐ Otto Gross – Analysis and Radical Politics └

@ Monte Veritá

“I have only mixed with anarchists and declare myself to be an anarchist,” Otto Gross said in 1913. “I am a psychoanalyst and from my experience I have gained the insight that the existing order … is a bad one. … And since I want everything changed, I am an anarchist” (Berze/Stelzer 1999, p.24)”. He was the first psychoanalyst to link analysis with radical politics and wrote: “The psychology of the unconscious is the philosophy of the revolution” (Gross 1913c). So, when Coline Covington recently wrote, “Analysis is essentially a tool for revolution (Covington 2001, p.331)”, she was just echoing something that Gross said nearly 90 years before. He was not just a psycho-analyst – he was a psycho-anarchist and thus stands for the subversive potential of analysis – which earned him the epithet of the “devil underneath the couch” (Raulff 1993).

Although Gross played a pivotal role in the birth of what today we are calling modernity, with wide-ranging influences in psychoanalysis, psychiatry, philosophy, radical politics, sociology, literature, and ethics, he has remained virtually unknown to this day. Already in 1921, less than a year after Gross’ death, the Austrian writer Anton Kuh wrote of him as, ‘a man known only to very few by name – apart from a handful of psychiatrists and secret policemen – and among those few only to those who plucked his feathers to adorn their own posteriors’ (Kuh 1921, pp.16-7). Today, still, most analysts have never heard of Otto Gross, or their knowledge is confined to, ‘Isn’t that the one who became schizophrenic?’ To a large extent this is the result of an analytic historiography which Erich Fromm has rightly called “Stalinistic” (Fromm 1957, p.133): dissidents become non-persons and vanish from the records. This practice of purging history makes the story of Otto Gross a secret one: it was hoped that we would never know.

Yet Adam Philips recently said: “There is no future for psychoanalysis if it doesn’t want to look in other places for regeneration, and particularly if it doesn’t look to the places it wants to exclude. By its own logic, that’s where the life is, that’s where the action is” (Philips 1997, p.164).

Psychoanalysis was created as a tool to create a better future by turning from the present to the past. It is a “looking backwards to the future” (Handy 2002). What was repressed, powerfully returns, and thus the past gets continually created anew. History has exactly the same function on the collective level. The historian Edmund Jacobitti calls it “composing useful pasts – history as contemporary politics” (Jacobitti 2000). Mindful of this, let me take you “where the action is” – to look at the repressed aspect of analytic history that is Otto Gross.

Of course, his story was not always a secret one. There was a time, in the first decade of the last century, when the greatest minds in psychoanalysis were full of the highest praise for Otto Gross. In 1908 Freud wrote to Jung, “You are really the only one capable of making an original contribution; except perhaps O.Gross” (Freud/Jung 1974, p.126). A few months later, after Gross had been in an analysis with Jung that at times became what we would today call a mutual analysis, Jung replied to Freud, “In Gross I discovered many aspects of my own nature, so that he often seemed like my twin brother” (ibid., p. 156). Thomas Kirsch (Kirsch 2000) in his recent study of “The Jungians” does not mention Gross, although, in view of these feelings expressed by Jung, Gross might well be called the first Jungian. The writer Emil Szittya (1886-1964) even went as far as calling Gross “a friend of Dr. Freud and the intellectual father of Professor Jung” (Szittya n.d., p.211). As late as 1986 the eminent scholar of psychoanalysis Johannes Cremerius wrote about the C.G.Jung of 1909, ‘He is still completely and entirely the pupil of Otto Gross’ (Cremerius 1986, p. 20). So we might as well call Jung an early Grossian. In 1910 Ferenczi wrote to Freud about Gross, “There is no doubt that among those who have followed you up to now he is the most significant” (Freud/Ferenczi 1993, p.154). Ernest Jones in his autobiography wrote: Gross “was my first instructor in the technique of psychoanalysis” (Jones, 1990, p.173) and he called him “the nearest approach to the romantic ideal of a genius I have ever met” (ibid.).

excerpt from article “The Devil Underneath the Couch: The Secret Story of Jung’s Twin Brother”, by Gottfried HEUER

┐ Pat Brassington └

© Pat Brassington, Untitled, from the series Cambridge Road, 2007

© Pat Brassington, Untitled, from the series Cambridge Road, 2007

“In most of her ‘artist’s statements’ and the rare interviews in press, Brassington mentions her engagement with both surrealism and psychoanalysis. But there is no allegiance, no endorsement, no salute to the father. Everything is troubled in one way or another: from horror imagery that is violent and abject, through the hauntingly strange and uncanny, to the hideous, the hilarious and the banal. Brassington interrogates and extrapolates on the psychoanalytic in extreme ways: orifices exhale, threaten and protrude; the feminine is hysteric, phallic, powerful; the father is demented, perverted (the père-version of the father) and menacingly psychotic.
Feminists have often critiqued Brassington’s work with reference to Julia Kristeva’s thesis about the subversive potential of the pre-Oedipal space and experience where the abject is a threat to the social order.7 The abject is what spills out from the body and cannot be contained: tears, vomit, sexual excretions, blood. It is characterised by the body seeping from its own containment (the skin), and tumbling into the social world unannounced. The abject body creates a kind of awe and fear in the viewer and as such has a radical edge in representation. Like the pre-Oedipal space before language, the abject threatens to topple polite social conventions.8 But, like the surrealists, Brassington interacts with psychoanalytic experience rather than adhering to any particular school of thought. As an artist aware of feminist art criticism, she undercuts the misogyny sometimes associated with the surrealists’ representations of feminine sexuality and their romantic notion of the female muse who was invariably fetishised through male desire. In her work sex, sexuality, desire and the sensual are evoked in a series of bizarre mise-en-scènes that present flashes and glimpses of dreamlikestates. These invoke hysteria and psychosis but do so by looking at fears, fantasies and traumas with a gaze that is importantly awry. This skewed perspective on the psychosexual landscape allows the artist to become a kind of conjurer.”

Excerpt from a paper by Anne Marsh, very worth reading

Pat’s work at Stills’ Gallery

║ Sarah-Mace Dennis ║

© Sarah-Mace Dennis, Asylum Bathing Area #1, from the series Tracing the trail of the dead, 2004

© Sarah-Mace Dennis, Asylum Corridor #2, from the series Tracing the trail of the dead, 2004

«Hysteria, as the word suggests, was originally thought to emanate from the uterus and so was considered a specifically female malady. It is a condition that can, of course, overtake both genders, but tends to be associated with less sophisticated subjects and highly constrained, authoritarian contexts. In medieval times certain symptoms of hysteria (such as the loss of bodily sensation) were seen as direct proof of a witch. 19th century medicine constructed a complex hegemonic pathology around hysteria. In the 20th Century it was a phenomenon associated with Hitlerian oratory and Beatle-mania.

Madness in general and hysteria in particular are the subject of Sarah-Mace Dennis’ works in this exhibition. While the artist draws on many of the theoretical ideas that arose from the deconstruction of the power plays of illness by postmodernism, she does not present a conventional feminist analysis. Her images evoke the frustration and anxiety which one can imagine triggering a hysterical episode – as the individual’s subconscious secretes a shell of symptoms in abrogation of personal responsibility – but this vulnerability is set in a soft nostalgic light, warm and diffuse. The expressive poses and haunted eyes suggest the romantic abjection of a Pre-Raphaelite heroine. A moral object lesion wrapped in an erotic cipher. The paradoxical sensibilities at play in the work are heightened by the use of photomedia, which carries the tenacious aftertaste of veracity long after it has been digested as visual fiction. I am reminded of the immersive tragedy of high opera. But then, the best operas, though themselves fictions, reach through the imaginary to touch on the truths of the human condition. Here it is best not to analyze the facts of the image so much as sense the affect.»

Alasdair Foster, from his catalogue essay Departure Lounge

More of Sarah’s work can be seen here
Inward / In-ward (Madness and its Ghostly Echo), regarding this series can be read here