Jane McAdam Freud on art and psychoanalysis

November 18, 2009

Situated among the countless arts organizations in New York City are enclaves of passionate culture hounds who gather under the auspices of psychoanalytic training institutes. “There are approximately 38 (such institutes) in Manhattan alone,” notes Alan Grossman, LCSW, director of the NY Counseling Center’s Training Institute. Joan Erdheim, PhD, President of the Psychoanalytic Society of the Training Institute for Mental Health (TIMH) noted that along with their primary purpose of educating mental-health professionals in the techniques of psychoanalysis, “Ten to fifteen percent of such institutes provide a rich variety of cultural programming.”

And while I am in New York I am taking advantage of as much of this cultural programming as possible. Although regretfully I didn’t have the opportunity to see some of the events listed in this Huffington Post article – particularly an evening with Jane McAdam Freud the british conceptual artist and great granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. There is a transcript of here interview here in which she weaves art, politics and psychoanalysis into a seamless whole making me wonder why it is that psychoanalytic thinking seems so alien and separate from our daily comings and goings. I particularly liked her definition of the role of artists

Very interesting the idea that artists might be consulted, our ideas tapped. I believe that we (artists) pick up on the collective unconscious that contains no time in a constructed sense and so we are a conduit for ideas and actions (potential and actual) in the ether. The artist’s sensibility and imagination are such that we operate like a collective voice for all that cannot be spoken or even thought (thought being a conscious act). All that is unexplained, perhaps unexplainable in terms of human behaviour and motivation that could be put down to a spiritual or other force is in my view, unconsciously driven. The unconscious operates much like we believe God operates but without the sentimentality. Art is not sentimental. It doesn’t judge either. It simply presents with all the human integrity possible what is in the ether, i.e., what everybody may feel on some level.
It is the nature of artists to think independently and so have imagination without judgment in other words not to come down on either side but simply to explore and present ideas.
Artists have been and still are seen (in the time they live, i.e., not necessarily in hindsight) as mad, bad and sad. This is a description of non-conformity. Difference spells fear. Unfortunately due to very little publication or positive education about artists’ intentions, this myth prevails, adding a sort of credence in the face of a public information void. These beliefs are not of course applicable to the enlightened, the intellectuals or the art-related institutions that conversely hold art in very high esteem as a cultural imperative. Art is culture. Culture is Art. (By art I mean all its expressions: 2D, 3D, film, music, literature, etc.).

and the value of psychoanalysis and other forms of psychotherapy

Everyone can benefit from psychoanalysis, a time to reflect, to mourn and grieve the mountain of losses one incurs “daily” over a lifetime – after all every decision evokes a loss of sorts. In each choice made we reject all the other possibilities. It is a pity that there is such a stigma attached to mental health issues. Society would benefit if we treated going to the psychoanalyst as sensible, just as going for a regular check-up to the physician is sensible. We could involve psychotherapy in the preventative medicine programme: after all it is to prevent getting ill that we go for a regular check-up. We go for a fitness check so that we can work on the areas that are getting flabby and need more work.

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