I received feedback on my second chapter from my Director of Studies. Very fair and helpful but it filled me with dread in relation to losing the plot and the focus of the thesis. It is more difficult to write a thesis-as-piece-of-work than a thesis report. I know the challenge would be here all along. I have had it pretty easy until now, no data gathering in the conventional sense, no number crunching, no narrative analysis, no conventional, run of the mill method. Because of this, it is not, at the time of analysis and evaluation that I am finding it difficult. What I do requires a lot of thinking and a lot of looking because it is evanescence. It disappears in my hands as I write. Then, at times, it also surprises me.
Writing is a process of discovery for me and, right now, I am attempting that dialogue chapter that seems to be the kernel of it all. 9,000 words of kernel, though. I learn what I have done through its writing, no matter how grueling it is. In order to do good writing (and this is all about a particular kind of good writing) I have to do a lot of re-writing. So not only I get the horror of the blank page, the knots in the thinking, the conceptual abysses where words are definitely not enough, I also have to establish a relationship with the writing, one that will stand many re-reads. If I get bored with it, so will my readers. If I am not seduced, tricked, tripped by my words, who will? This thought is specially compelling for me now that the external examiner has taken shape. I always wanted her, but thought she would not be able to do it. Well, it turns out she is interested and the pressure is on. She is a writing specialist (amongst other things), you see.
Anyway, my trick to keep my focus in my task is to work images in parallel to the words; to see as much as to write, and to think through both. It does not mean I talk about the images but the contribution to knowledge is definitely manifest in those photos. This is what I discovered in chapter 2. So here’s what I have been looking at closely, my double screen, my double mirror image. I recommend opening it in a new window.
Laura González. Valentino. Photograph, 195 x 73 cm. 2009
The tapping of television into the mystery of the psychotherapy session, into what goes on behind closed doors in the consulting room, was something waiting to happen. TV bosses have funded explorations into the world of gangsters, undertakers and death, the medical body, forensics, mental powers and numerous other enigmatic professions. A while ago, HBO launched In Treatment, a drama starring Gabriel Byrne and focusing on the therapist-patient relation. I have not yet seen much of it (other than youtube’s gifts), as it is not aired in the UK, but the choice of actor delights me. I have a transference relation with Byrne, one that is conflictive, of love and aggression at the same time. He doesn’t remind me of my psychoanalyst in any way, yet he does. He has that listening face.
The show itself is about relationships, most and foremost, the therapeutic relationship. There are 5 patients per season, and we go through things with each of them, in the way an analyst may do and with the same draining effect. We experience the doctor’s countertransference, and his own need for therapy. For visual reasons, I suppose the writers have opted for patients not to lie on the couch, but rather get face-to-face therapy. The former may be a step too far and no matter how interesting the subject is, they have to make TV and rank in the ratings table… Still, I hope the complexity of the human mind, the tensions, the conflicts, the contradictions are portrayed as they are, with no regard for resolution à la House. Don’t get me wrong, I love House, especially in its similitude with that favourite of mine, Holmes. Its roundness, the fact that it answers every question about each patient’s illness satisfies me, although only for 5 minutes. Sex and the City characters, on the other hand, never got what they wanted and, if you could cope with it, the show actually had something to say to you, a delayed gratification which the film completely and utterly threw away. A shame; the Carries and Charlottes of this world, never get married or have kids, and fiction can do something to help us understand and live with that. I am looking forward to In Treatment just to see whether it goes House or SATC’s way. If it is the latter, I hope to be able to learn something about myself; if it is the former, well, we will still have Gabriel Byrne.
I am an artist and writer. My recent practice performance, film, dance, photography and text, and my work has been performed, exhibited and published in many venues in Europe and the US. I have spoken at numerous conferences and events, including the Museum for the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, the Medical Museum in Copenhagen, College Arts Association and the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society. When I am not following Freud, Lacan and Marx’s footsteps with my camera or creating performance works as part of my Athenaeum Research Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I teach postgraduate students at Transart Institute.