Artist + Analyst : The Project
Hello, dear friends,
It's been awhile since I have reached out in this format. My writing and research interests have been evolving, and I haven't quite been sure where they were heading. I find myself increasingly interested in this intersection of creativity, art, and psychoanalysis, particularly in what analysis can learn from artists and the creative drive.
This has emerged from two places:
1) My own recognition of how engaging in a creative act (usually either writing or analytic formulation) somehow results in feeling just "right," attuned, put back together in some magical way; and
2) A realization of how, in my private practice, my patients seem to turn to the creative life as they begin to get better--how they intuitively become less defined by other's rules and social conditioning in favor of a looking inward that produces something radically singular, wholly their own.
These two insights led me into long conversations with dear friends for over a year now. From these conversations, I have come away with the conviction that creativity is, indeed, our highest form of intelligence, and that this ability to create is closely linked to one's intuition (not a remarkably popular term these days).
Freud (and Lacan following him) is known to have remarked that artists precede analysts in their knowledge of the unconscious. In other words, we psychoanalysts are always a step behind artists in what we do not know and perhaps in what we will not let ourselves know. At a time when contemporary psychology is bogged down in the biological and cognitive, I wanted to take up Freud's observation and see what I found. My new project: Artist + Analyst was borne of this desire.
Via conversations with several artists, a series of seven questions and prompts were designed to explore creativity in those who place their art as central to their lives. Each of the questions touches on a main tenet of psychoanalysis: The body, language, dreams, the beyond of speech, the ego, the unconscious and sexuality, and subjectivity. Artists were asked to respond to the questions/prompts with the first thing that came to mind, with the option of simply abandoning all of the questions in favor of stream of consciousness writing if they so desired.
On my side--the analyst's side--the intention is simply to read the responses with free floating attention as they come in over the next few months to see what emerges--perhaps a new knowledge, but also new questions. There is, of course, the content of the artists' answers, but there is also the real responses of the artists to the project, to the questions, and to the experience of attempting to place their thoughts into words. My interest does not lie in analyzing the contributors or engaging in psychobiography; rather, I am interested in this place where art and language meet and how that gets taken up by artists as well as the space beyond language. The desire is not to decipher the mystery of art but rather to amplify it — To engage art as that which is radically singular and counter to the master's discourse. In this way, psychoanalysis itself is an art and a subversive act.
The project has only just begun, but I have been delightedly overwhelmed by the responses I have received from the many artists who jumped in eagerly to engage. Amongst the first are a singer and multi-instrumentalist, a drummer, a cut up artist, filmmaker, and psychoanalyst, an author and writer, a hair artist, a master concert pianist, a painter, a sculptor, a poet, and a mixed media artist. And this is but the first round.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I am. Here, in this project, is where I have located a place of resistance to the insanity of the day.