The Art of Pathography

The artists’ creation of a ‘true self-portrait’ is bound up in meanings of self-hood and individuation; by means of his/her practice becoming a method of developing the artists’ need for self-discovery. Through this self-exploration, the artefact becomes an attempt to reveal something of the artist, a therapeutic tool perhaps, by which the photograph is used as a form of depth psychology. A mixed methodology of autoethnography and thematic analysis is undertaken of the language of response – language generated from the viewing of purely visual data – to examine and record patterns or themes within this information that is relevant to the research question. Through this form of removed analysis - the interpretation of the photograph and not the artist - can a new internal world of the artist be revealed? Is there a particular reading that could be universalised or is this unique to me? Or is the analysis a series of projections, a more of an understanding of the readers? The concerns of this thesis are with the ways in which the production of these photographs and their reception can be incorporated into an art practice and a new self-portrait is revealed.

Friday, 17 August 2012

A New Projective Test

In this essay I shall describe the research in the context of it being a development of the Projective Test - that the written assessment are but projections of the reader. I will argue that the photographs produced in conjunction with their analytical reports, along with the remaking of the final artefact (which often includes an integration of the text) becomes a new narrative, that of a combination of the projections of the reader and their re-introjection by the artist.

The starting point of this project was originally acknowledged as an attempt to reveal an internal world of the artist. Through production of self-portrait photographs, in combination with their interpretation or analysis, a way of accessing, the revealing of and documenting aspects of the artists unconscious pre-verbal past - also, how these images and text based interpretations by trained psychotherapists, might influence future productions of images and through the  documentation of this process, create a new narrative; in doing so revealing new knowledge.

However, through the collaborative nature of the research, this process of analysis has become as much about what is projected on to the images by their analysis, as much as achieving a level of understanding of the internal world of the artist made from the reading of the photographs. The project has not only begun to reveal aspects of an understanding of the readers' internal world, but the combined phantasy of a how knowledge and understanding reveals itself through a shared reality; a combination of the viewer and the author and how these interpretations entwine themselves with the artist's visual world.

For the reader, the frustrating experience of writing about the photographs and not getting anything back[1] creates a paradox. In this relationship we need to ask, what are the interpreters possibly  writing about? Is it the photographs and what they represent, the readers notion of the photographer and what he might be saying, his unconscious communication; or is it perhaps simply their fantasies - something the images emote from their past? It is possibly more accurate to suggest that it is a documentation of all these things, emerging from a position somewhere between the two. Winnicott used the term The Potential Space[2] to describe this process of intersubjectivity. How does their expression fits into this mêlée of affective meaning? The interpreters are undoubtably writing about what I am trying to say, there is a genuine attempt, on my part to give meaning and 'realness' of expression,  to communicate aspects of my past through the images. However for the readers, not getting anything back requires that they must surmise, risk, guess even, what the image represents. They do this through the process of projection and introjection of their fantasies within this Potential Space, using the image as a mirror. Through the writing of the text, a description of this shared experience is revealed. In this realm of intersubjectivity, all three participants, the artist and both readers, share the same language of psychoanalytical theory and practice, share a familiar journey of clinical practice in their training and influences.[3] In psychodynamic terms, the responses are familiar, accurately highlighting some elements of the artists pathology. I will be looking at the concept of the shared creative experience, the potential space, the intersubjectivity of shared experience, in a future essay.
Am I transferring my feelings on to the reader and in turn the reader is documenting through projection and introjection their desires, needs and frustrations reflected back from the image. What is reflecting back, in the psychodynamic realm, is an interchange between these two things. Through creative play and this process of projection and introjection, important aspects of the relationship are revealed.

For the purpose of this essay, I will discuss from the position of the artworks being a specific type of projective test and in doing so, a way of accessing aspects of the readers' projections. I will research further the notion of intersubjectivity within this project and with this knowledge, in conjunction with a review of the artist intent and documentation of the remaking of pieces produce the final conclusions.

The projective test is a concept used in psychology. The test uses visual modality of the patient, along with interpretive responses from the psychologist, as a way of gaining insight into the psychopathology of the patient. In it, the subject is asked to respond to images, which are described as 'vague material', visual, non-specific, ambiguous images that would induce a narrative from the patient, these responses can then be interpreted. These tests are usually presented in a therapeutic environment, interpretations are written up as the test progressed. Through their stories and from these interpretations, along with other aspects of the subjects personality, patients are assessed. These assessments reveal unconscious motivations and defences on the part of the projector. Further understanding of these stories are made by the reintroduction of the patient to their narratives by the interpreter.

The Rorschach Inkblot Test

Probably the most famous of such tests is the Rorschach Test, otherwise known as the 'Inkblot Test', where near symmetrical shapes, produced by folding a sheet of paper containing wet ink, in half and presented to the patient in sequence are used. Developed by the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach in 1921, the test developed into 10 specific inkblots. The resulting shapes, printed on to card, are shown to the subject in order and responses made by the patient noted verbatim. Describing the ambiguous nature of the designs offers an insight into the subjects personality, characteristics and emotional functioning. In the 60's the test was widely used, usually in a therapeutic setting, often with the subject sitting with his/ her back to the interpreter in a relaxed yet controlled atmosphere. Responses to the cards where seen as a form of free association and these initial responses are documented. There is an opportunity to re-engage by re-presenting the cards, offering an opportunity to discuss what they originally saw and explain why. This is known as the enquiry stage.
The results are used to gauge motivations, response tendencies, cognitive operations, affectivity, personal and interpersonal perceptions. The series of cards offering an opportunity to observe clustering process, highlighting defence mechanisms and recurring affects. The external stimuli in the enquiry stage will induce needs, base motives and conflicts.

The Thematic Apperception Test 

The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) was developed in the 30's by Henry A. Murray and Christiana D. Morgan at the Harvard University. Less ambiguous in nature, situations, in the form of illustrations, could be interpreted by the reader in relation to past experiences and current motivations, this is seen as a more psychodynamic approach than the Inkblot Test. The illustrations devised for this test derived from magazine photographs of the day, it was noted that the decision to use illustrative versions of photographs, as more simplified illustrations, provided more deviant stories, that where more negative. Patients where able to associate with content that comprised people and places, they would tell a story more easily and in doing so, their defences would be lowered and needs and motivations would be highlighted. Because the cards where provocative, yet ambiguous being asked to comment on the outcome of the description of each individual card was an important way of creating a unique narrative from the pictures. The main questions at the outset of the test are stated as,

     What has led up to the event shown
     What is happening at the moment
     What the characters are feeling and thinking
     What the outcome of the story was

Again clinical understanding was made of the responses; of the clients projections and although there are scoring systems in place, as with the Inkblot, these are rarely used. Clinical interpretations would be made of the narrative and these used in conjunction with other observations.

The TAT projection test, along with the Inkblot are still used quite extensively in areas of dream interpretation and although not seen as scientifically important provides and creates another extended use of projective evaluation, developed and mainly carried out in a therapeutic environment as a way of learning and getting qualitative data about a patient  in the form of unconscious motivations that revolved around relationships in the world of the patient; these ambiguous scenes initiating creative play and in doing so accessing creative thoughts and emotions. As interpretations can clearly vary from one examination to the next, the scoring of such tests have always been highly subjective and have always been seen as problematic to extract quantitive data from such encounters. Empirical viability and validity of TAT and Inkblot test was not accepted as reliable in isolation, however used in conjunction with other therapeutic contact this form of projective testing can offer viable and reliable information. The interpretations would indicate meaning based clinical judgement rather than an understanding from presumptions about meaning; which would be the case of a more objective test.

These tests are popular in the field of psychology as a way of beginning of an understanding of a client, although they show no supportive evidence in a scientific realm, the lack of any scientific evidence is why these reports offer a "projective paradox". Although difficult to quantify, as with much qualities data, these tests are seen as having  access to unconscious motivations within the subject otherwise hidden from conscious awareness. Both the Rorschach Inkblot and the Murray TAT projective tests would be therefore seen as 'free responsive tests' as opposed to 'objective tests' (A multiple choice questionnaire for instance). It is augured that the test has produced evidence of clarity around dependency, studies on hostility and anxiety, also providing a valuable resource in communication with schizophrenics and seen as a valuable vehicle in the communication between client and therapist offering a route to insightfulness, empathy and sensitivity to the therapeutic process.

The moving from indiscernible shapes, as with the Inkblot Test, to illustrations that are less ambiguous with the TAT (that uses the language of humanity that of the human form in context of his/her environment) to this project, shows an extension of projective testing to a specific art led process. The importance is the ambiguity of the stimuli that enables the data to emerge and how this is integrated into the overall pathology of the artist integrating with the interpretations.

Session X
This project offers a new projective technique, an extension of the Inkblot and TAT tests. By maintaining a relatively narrow focus[4] on chose of readers, of their theoretical understanding, their use of language and interpretations made through the lens of psychoanalytical theory, a shared understanding of latent content is made. When these images are presented for analysis, they are in a relatively raw, unfinished form, using free association, the primary process, as spontaneously as possible and by incorporating as many elements of the primary processes as possible (see future essay). Having been assessed, I will re-make the work for final presentation. This will represent a purely secondary process of integration of the artwork and the text into the final piece. This final piece will represent an accurate image of the artists intent, in collaboration with the readers phantasies of my intent, a shared reality.

Spencer Rowell 2012

[1] I have noted the concept of the blank screen and how this frustration can reveal itself in a previous essay; the notion of the unconscious communication between a living, feeling and present (although perhaps silent psychotherapist), in the presence of a client, is very different form of encounter as an unresponsive blank screen photograph. How in the case of the artwork not giving anything back, projections of the interpreter are probably the main source of feedback.
[2] Winnicott described this space of creative play between mother and child and indeed client and analyst as the Potential Space. An area of shared intersubjectivity where individuals can play together; in this shared space new knowledge and understanding an emerge.
[3] The work is described through a shared language of the British Independent School of thought and language; for instance the references to theory are definable through a shared interest in the interpretations and they present aspects of the artists internal world, insight into the artists psychopathology.
[4] The self-portraits are presented in a certain frame (the term used literally and in the therapeutic sense), produced by an artist in training that parallels that of the readers, the text is offered in the language of the British Independent school of psychoanalytical theory, creating a focus to the research project and in some way of enabling an understanding of the projections and how they are integration of the readers input.