Psychoanalysis & Postmodernism (1997).

My basic premise here is that art is a natural medium of healing and that what might be called the the ‘inner core’ of the painterly creative process in fact forms the authentic prototype not only for the ideas of transfiguration and transformation symbolised in religious ceremony and parable, but also for the implicit aspiration of therapeutic regeneration and transformation integral to psychoanalytic practice and procedure. It can be shown how both psychoanalysis and religion are rooted in archaic creative poetic structures and in creative healing ritual. In the twentieth century, modern abstract painting tried to reassert this archaic spiritual function of art by excavating the inner formal dynamics of the therapeutic creative nucleus through which the artist or spectator can engage in a truly radical and life-enhancing transformation. Modern abstract painting offered the receptive beholder the potential for a direct engagement with the peculiar phenomena of the oceanic feeling and of envelopment widely associated with such art. These phenomena are constituent to the ultimate psychic death and psychic resurrection implicit in the ekstasis at the heart of the fundamental human ecstatic creative experience.

Ekstasis can actually involve a powerful ‘out-of-body’ experience and a strong case can be advanced to argue that it forms the basis for all mysticism and religious experience throughout human history. In my research, I have tried to explain from a psychoanalytic theoretical perspective how such a phenomenon occurs in painting and have argued that painting is the authentic vehicle for it. In The Politics and Psychoanalysis of Primitivism (Ziggurat, 1996), I have described such ‘psycho-spiritual’ experience in the context of primitivism.

Basically, in the inner therapeutic creative core of painting, the representations of consciousness in the form of definite shape, line and those deliberate, consciously organised gestalt patterns, are obliterated and subsumed in an unconscious matrix. As they are fragmented and effectively dissolved, there is a psychic mirroring effect in the psyche of the artist. As those representations of conscious operation are neutralised in the externalised psychic model within the pictorial structure, there is induced a reciprocal response within the real psychic counterpart in which conscious ego functioning is momentarily immobilised. At the same time within this formal dynamic, the painterly representations of unconsciousness, in the form of raw, dislocated, displaced, confrontational, unconscious ‘inarticulate form’, are integrated within the matrix in the unico mystica and primal oneness recognised throughout archaic human history.

It is crucial to understand that this dynamic process can only be effected in terms of formal structure. In effect the structure of the artist’s unconscious psyche is externalised, re-materialised and embodied within the materiality of the paint structure. This exact mirror reflection of the psyche’s structure generates that sense of bonding and of total union represented symbolically in the religious symbolism of communion. As conscious ego functioning is momentarily closed down, and the unconscious psychic structure is effectively embodied externally, the psyche – or soul – appears to float free, in what is again represented in religious symbolism as an ascension. The transfigurative psychic resurrection is carried through as the mind, to all intents and purposes, is removed from the brain, restructured or reprogrammed, and returned transformed.

The reasoning why this dynamic and fundamental human process can only be executed in unconscious form and structure is based on the deep-rooted threat attached to it. The fierceness of primal anxieties must be negotiated in unconscious form in order to avoid at all costs any possibility of a reconceptualisation by the conscious ego. Unconscious form is the very language and exclusive mode of communication of the archaic unconscious psyche. Anton Ehrenzweig understood the indispensable unconscious formal structure of painting, and in his concept of structural repression, he explains how formal aspects are repressed from consciousness purely because they cannot be categorised by the narrow limits of the perceptual ego. Furthermore, both artistic creativity, and indeed the very quality of being unconscious, is not dependent on censorship against malevolent content, but automatically follows from a change in formal structure; that is, in the dissolution of conscious gestalts. Psychoanalysis, in both its operational practice and theoretical perspectives on art, has consistently failed to recognise this pivotal role of abstract form in the dynamics of creativity, preferring instead to deal with content, narrative and symbolism.

In my opening remarks I have very briefly outlined the experience of a creative essence and I have indicated that this can be analysed from a psychoanalytic perspective. However, it is not my intention here to look at this analysis. I have outlined the abstract nature of the creative structure in order to support the proposition that modern art, and in particular abstract painting, intrinsically communicated in the unconscious psyche’s own abstract language. Modern abstract art was fundamentally therapeutic and healing in intention, both for the individual and for the wider culture. Leaving aside the question of its dubious success in this transcendental mission, it is now more generally acknowledged that modern art did have this spiritual and healing aspiration. Modern abstract painters such as Mondrian, Rothko, de Kooning and Pollock, were all concerned with the spiritual connection embodied in their practice, and some, such as Philip Guston, were deeply troubled by what they saw as meddling with forces which should be left to God. By sharp contrast, however, postmodern art in general actively denies any spiritual and transfigurative potential of art, any possibility of unconscious cohesive integration, in what has been called ‘the triumph of the art of the fragment’.

Initially, postmodern art did serve a valuable function in its critique of late modern art’s degeneration into surface formalism. It also tried to confront the ease with which culture assimilated originally raw and uncompromising art intended to confront that culture with it inauthenticity and false veneer. A Jackson Pollock abstract expressionist painting, which once appeared so anarchic and subversive, now seems quite decorative, and would grace the wall of any office. Postmodern painting often tried to break this cycle by using the strategy of introducing style from the outset and so shortcircuiting the innate psychic response to convert art into styles. In consciously dealing with style in this manner, and by employing surface formalism and cliche as a critical instrument of parody, postmodern painting has a deliberate mannerist intention. Furthermore, in its political and ideological foundations and its dependence on postmodern theory, it fulfils some other basic requirements of art in phases of mannerism.

The key issue here, is that contemporary psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic theory follow in the footsteps of classical psychoanalysis in its uneasy and negative relationship with modern art, and in particular abstract art with its concentration on painting’s intrinsic formal language, which holds the real potential for authentic therapeutic regeneration and transformation, in favour of postmodern art and theory. This is, of course, to be expected in the sense that postmodern art is contemporary. As I have indicated, however, postmodern art is ideologically engaged in an active, cynical denial of any possibility of deep spiritual experience in art, and in general does not concern itself with the intrinsic unconscious language of painting. Postmodern art and theory would also often appear to view the unconscious itself as a flawed, romantic notion. Such a view has been aided and abetted by the methodology of psychoanalysis in its exclusive dealings with the dream, which is arguably semi-conscious or near to consciousness. This century the ‘unconscious’ has become a cliche. It is the artist who knows that in fact the unconscious proper is wholly abstract. So contemporary psychoanalytic theory is ‘hoisted with its own petard’ being in the paradoxical position of embracing preconceived ideological art and theory, which seeks to discredit its own pivotal discovery. However, it is in its collusion with postmodern theory, which itself spawns much postmodern art, that psychoanalysis betrays its characteristic connections with mannerism.

Contemporary psychoanalysis embraces postmodern art and its concerns with text, narrative, surface symbolism and sign, at the expense of art’s intrinsic unconscious form language which holds the only real potential for healing regeneration. It colludes with postmodern theory to fabricate an art deemed by the theorist to be ideologically appropriate for the culture. This is a classical strategy in phases of mannerism, and in this collusion, contemporary psychoanalysis and postmodern theory make ideal bedfellows.

If we look briefly at the definitive period of sixteenth century Mannerism, we can detect the basic characteristic parallels with contemporary mannerism. Sixteenth century Mannerist art, like postmodern art, followed a period of radical upheaval and achievement in painting. Both are concerned with style, although for different reasons. Mannerist painting of the sixteenth century positively aspired to build on and develop an even greater stylistic achievement than the High Renaissance that preceded it. Postmodern art employs superficial, surface pastiche to destroy any notion of authenticity. However, in both cases, whether by design or not, there is a relegation of those unconscious creative processes which can offer the potential for a psychic, spiritual rebirth. Whereas in the High Renaissance, style was a servant in the expression of an emotion attached to a deeply felt subject, in Mannerist painting style becomes the subject of the painting itself. The artist’s concern for a virtuoso stylistic performance demands an objective intellectual detachment and a dilution of empathy with the emotion of the subject.

The pastorale, a musical invention of sixteenth century Mannerism, is a totally artificial and deliberate pastiche of art in the place of genuine tragedy, which denies any emotional involvement of the beholder. John Shearman describes how Guarini’s Pastor Fido of 1586 is a desperately willed masterpiece heavily loaded with artifice. It anticipates critical reception in an elaborate preface and commentary; notes at the end of each scene far exceed the text in length. Every twist in the plot is rationalised, every metaphor is justified and attention is drawn to stylistic embellishment and classical precedent. The intense self-awareness and preconception during the creation of the work is due to the anticipated criticism of a sophisticated audience. For its reliance on an informed audience is a defining characteristic of Mannerist art.

Furthermore, in such works there is a consciously contrived complex ‘difficulty’, of eclectic diversity, interwoven multiple narratives and diversions and an emphasis on fragmentation in a denial of any structural unity, all designed to promote a collusion with the sophisticated audience. Mannerist art consciously avoided clarity in favour of a contrived difficulty in order to flatter the audience by its connoisseurship in sharing the author’s sophistication. The aim is to stimulate an intellectual response by creating difficult problems of understanding. Hyperbole, irony, displacement, oddities, bizarre and monstrous fantasies – all are drawn into the game. All this has echoes in postmodern art and theory, where there is arguably a collusion to translate a genuine difficulty of comprehension in respect of modern art, into a contrived difficulty and obliqueness in postmodernism. Shearman gives the classic example of some musical compositions from a phase of mannerism in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, with such a complexity of notation and rhythm that can scarcely have been performable, in works that were purely intellectual caprices.

In both the cases of Mannerist art and postmodern art, a type of psychic dissociation is in operation. There is a premeditated conscious deliberation which eliminates the possibility of unconscious integration. The idea that painterly style can be consciously predetermined and constructed, has been shown by Nietszche, and subsequently Ehrenzweig, to be a fallacy. Aesthetic style and beauty are, in fact, induced psychic responses, paradoxically to the threat of ugliness in raw, unconscious inarticulate form. So the split in dissociation which cuts adrift the unconscious catalyst responsible for generating an aesthetic response, inevitably leads to formalism, surface pastiche and empty sign. In postmodern art this dissociation is venerated in a celebration of mannerism. Donald Kuspit, in what amounts to a savage indictment of postmodern art, sees the postmodern artist as being little more than a cynical vulture feeding on the carcass of the avant-garde, producing a ‘schizophrenic art’ for a decadent schizophrenic society devoid of all spirituality, in what he describes as the ‘postmodern psychosis’.

In the category of actual ‘psychotic art’ and painting, there can be detected the characteristics of extreme dissociation. In the obsessive concentration of surface decoration, pattern and style, the psychotic artist constructs a defensive network to deny and repress unconscious inarticulate forms. The reflection of such strategies in the art of mannerism would appear to verify its root in psychic dissociation. This being the case, the question is again posed: why should contemporary psychoanalysis collude with postmodern art, which not only denies the spiritual and transfigurative power of art, but is also ironically founded in a psychic dissociation?

The answer to this critical question is to be found in ideology, dogma, religious prohibition, and in the very repressed unconscious of psychoanalysis itself. In the paper Psychoanalysis and Iconoclasm, I argued that the force of iconoclasm and its destructive anti-visual prejudice, still acts unconsciously in the methodology of psychoanalysis. In its determination to rely on the text, narrative, dialogue and linguistic theory, psychoanalysis is inadvertently implicated in a far older struggle. The Early Christians often exhorted followers to only carry in their soul the ‘incorporeal word’ and thought, and to condemn all pictorial representations of the holy. In this light it could have been anticipated that psychoanalysis this century would have such a powerful Jewish connection; in the Archaic religion of Judaism, the image is taboo; the Word, the text and the narrative are the only acceptable instruments of analysis. Why should this be so? Why should text and thought be acceptable in such argument whereas the painted image is stigmatised as idolatrous?

As I have indicated, it is because the inner core of the painterly creative process affords access to the supernatural through ekstasis, that the painter is accused of idolatry and the visual image is smashed by the iconoclasts. This painterly access threatens institutionalised control of such access. Again, iconoclasm did not wage war against the surface figurative symbol of the religious icon painting, but rather against the painting’s intrinsic materiality and facture, and abstract formal structure. It is in the painterly material texture, striation, impasto and pictorial structure, that the artist’s unconscious psyche is embodied in the ‘flesh’ of the painting. This psychic incarnation forms the basis for the religious idea of transubstantiation; Margaret Aston in her seminal work: England’s Iconoclasts – Laws Against Images, notes how reformers such as Calvin and Wycliffe clearly associated painting with the Eucharist.

This is why the abstract materiality of the painting is attacked, and the word, text, narrative, symbolism and conceptualism are promoted. For the puritanical Luther and Calvin, the text and narrative alone are the source of all meaning and truth. Psychoanalysis, from Freud, Jung, Winnicott, through to Lacan and Kristeva, has unconsciously disdained abstract formal expressionism as if a type of negation was in place. It is unwittingly implicated along with postmodern theory and postmodern art in what might be termed this contemporary iconoclasm, and it is perhaps a supreme irony that psychoanalysis appears incapable of understanding its own repressed unconscious.

A further indication of the underlying connection between iconoclasm, mannerism, psychotic art, postmodern art and contemporary postmodern and psychoanalytic theory, is the inclination of all of them to literalise and concretise unconscious creative processes. The psychotic clings to literalness and avoids metaphor because they are ultimately undecidable. What is unnacceptable is the unregulated and unruly metaphor which demands unconscious creativity. In much psychotic painting there is the prevalence of delusional religious systems which represent skewed literalisations of unconscious creative processes. For example, the famous schizophrenic artist Adolf Wolfli represents himself time and again in the saintly guise of St. Adolf symbolically undergoing destruction and rebirth, without ever engaging the unconscious abstract psychic death and resurrection, which would generate a real transformation.

In Iconoclasm vs. Art and Drama, Davidson and Nichols see it as highly significant that the iconoclasts were obsessed with the elimination of the image as an act of cleansing, and that idolatrous images were strongly associated with dirt and infection. They suggest that a ‘psycho-historical’ interpretation of the aggressiveness of Protestant reformers might reveal a collective disorder. The iconoclasts likened the visual image to pollution, excrement, filth, defilement, and reviled them as ‘dunghill-gods’.

In the 1960s., psychoanalytic theory was responsible for the idea that paint represented shit. In contemporary psychoanalytic theory, Julia Kristeva’s concept of ‘abjection’ is again a literalisation of the role of unconscious inarticulate form in the creative process. In its definition as that which disturbs identity, system and order, it functions identically to creative inarticulate form, and the connotations she draws with the improper, the unclean, filth, waste and dung, there is the same literalisation of unconscious creative threat made in another context by the iconoclast. Such a literalisation is again characteristic of mannerism, as is her transposition of Plato’s unconscious, invisible, formless and all-embracing chora, into the limited semiotic chora of linguistic theory.

The category of ‘abject art’, shown at the American Whitney Museum in 1992-3, is an art directly predicated on Kristeva’s notion of abjection, in a clear-cut example of mannerist collusion of art and theory. Similarly, much contemporary feminist art seems obsessed with bodily functions and products. In another concretisation of unconscious creativity, Gilbert and George’s 1996 exhibition showed huge plastic glossy images of turds which the viewing public, apparently serenely unaware of the joke being perpetrated upon it, dutifully lined up to view and shower with praise. Again, in the current Sensation Exhibition at the Royal Academy, the painter Chris Ofili actually affixes elephant dung to the surface of his canvasses, which in an act of pure mannerism, not only underlines its genuine aesthetic credentials, but also has the added advantage that the dung, being from an elephant, has far greater ideological credibility in its ethnic authenticity. Such factors are designed to be recognised and complimented by the sophisticated audience.

Whether by intention or not, these categories are structured similarly to psychotic art in a psychic dissociation. It has been argued that the psychotic has failed to learn repression. In fact, in the creative process, the externalised psychic structure embodied in the materiality of the paint and the pictorial space, is also a reflection of the ‘repressive mechanism’ itself. Such a structure can excavate the inner workings of the repressive mechanism by depicting in purely formal terms the development and evolution of unconscious form into shape and gestalt representing a process of symbolisation. The spectator locks into this vicariously, and is engaged in the psychic creative process. Ehrenzweig has shown that the creative process has three fundamental phases, and that the central abstract ‘manic-oceanic’ phase, is the deepest level of unconsciousness possible and is responsible for generating genuine symbol. His first and third phases correspond to Klein’s paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions. The important point is that the central abstact ‘manic-oceanic’ phase is essential to ‘process’ the raw, inarticulate and threatening concrete symbol of the paranoid-schizoid phase, into what Hanna Segal calls the genuine symbol or ‘symbol proper’, which can only exist in the depressive position. It can be shown that in the deepest unconscious ‘manic-oceanic’ position there is a complete conflation of meaning, there is no differentiation of gender and the roots of words combine opposite meanings as new symbols are created. It is the externalised workings of the psychic repressive mechanism which form the unconscious substructure or matrix of the painterly pictorial space.

Hanna Segal has recognised that all works of art incorporate raw, threatening concrete symbols which give painting its power and energy. However, if they are not combined with elements of more advanced symbolism in an unconscious repressive matrix which structures the pictorial space, they are just, in Segal’s phrase, a ‘meaningless bombardment’. Melanie Klein has shown that symbol formation is promoted by infantile anxiety being displaced on to a chain of objects. If the perceived threat of retaliatory persecution by an object is too great, then the creative process of dispacement is arrested and the infant is locked into the paranoid-schizoid position of concrete symbol, forming the seeds of adult psychosis. So theoretically, it is the failure to learn repression and internalise an unconscious repressive mechanism, which arrests the creativity of the psychotic artist. This is reflected in the fact that the output of many psychotic artists over a whole lifetime reveals a lack of evolution and development.

I have argued that the unconscious creative process is analogised in religious symbol and parable. This idea is given credibility by the fact that many early religious painters, such as Giotto or Fra Angelico, would juxtapose their figurative, symbolic scenes, with panels of essentially abstract expressionist painting. These panels were often misinterpreted as simulated marble, despite the fact that they were frequently placed in positions where marble would have been totally inappropriate. It has been more recently recognised by Georges Didi-Huberman and others, that the paint in these panels has been literally thrown and dripped in a similar manner to a Jackson Pollock abstract expressionist painting. In fact, the early religious painter positioned such panels of pure abstract material facture, with its implicit psychic death and resurrection, next to the panels of narrative and story which evolve from, and represent the unconscious creative process depicted in the abstract panels.In the case of psychotic art, as I have indicated, a skewed and distorted religious system and symbolism, accurately reflects a distorted and arrested creative process.

The theory of repression further explains why the iconoclast, the contemporary mannerist and postmodern theorist, literalise the creative process and perceive the image as infectious and polluting. Ehrenzweig has recognised that superego-induced repression enlists feelings of anal disgust to encourage psychic repression. To support such a contention, he explains the relationship between uncanniness and disgust. Feelings of uncanniness are connected to a ‘return of the repressed untransformed’. That is, repressed elements find their way into consciousness without the transformation and anaesthetisation of symbolism and other ‘conscious compromise formations’. Freud showed that such a return evokes feelings of disgust and uncanniness. Ehrenzweig relates how Freud pointed out that the German word grauen, meaning feelings of uncanniness, is sometimes rendered as grausen, meaning disgust. So there is a deep connection and use made of disgust in super-ego induced repression. Raw, inarticulate painterly form, projected in the first creative phase, acts as a ‘return of the repressed untransformed’ and as a concrete symbol, and in this role there is an inevitable connection with the origins of psychic repression and hence its loading of disgust and anxiety. Paint is not shit, but in its association with the genesis of psychic repression, it has been literalised as such.

This is how mannerism and postmodernism misinterpret the unconscious creative process and this misunderstanding extends into other areas where the artist manipulates repression and repressive responses to induce emotional and perceptual reaction in the spectator. Beauty and ugliness feelings are induced to support the repression of unconscious form, and it is in the act of repression that an aesthetic sensation is generated. Similarly, in terms of visual perception, the illusion of reality is isolated from what we discount or repress. The introspectionist psychologist showed, for example, that if we view a black object in bright sunlight, next to white object in the shade, they will appear vivid black and vivid white, despite the fact that they are in fact both exactly the same grey tone. It is in the act of repression of the surrounding bright light or shade, that the vivid local colour is maintained. Similarly, it can be shown that the very location of our reality, in the sense of plasticity and tangibility of objects, is a direct function of the degree of repression of anomaly demanded to isolate the simplest gestalt. These processes are fundamentally biologically adaptive. Einstein discovered the universe to be not only contentless, but also that density was all together a man-made invention.

The modern artist didn’t just illustrate so-called ‘visual reality’, but rather materialised, simulated and manipulated the physiological means through which we psychically construct the illusion of reality. For example, it can be shown that painters as diverse as Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso have used vague, superimposed, indefinite outline of objects to enhance their vividness and plasticity. There is induced within the spectator the innate and undeniable psychic response to repress the vacuous, diffuse outline and in this act of repression, the object springs into plastic vividness. Paradoxically, and by contrast, a thick definite outline only creates a flat, intangible object. It is because here the innate psychic repressive process is not called up and so the illusion of plasticity is not generated. Modern artists such as Cezanne made particular use of such psychic responses to create a vivid reality.

In the case of the abstract expressionist painter, such as Pollock or Guston, it is the actual unconscious repressive mechanism and structure of the unconscious psyche which is externalised and manipulated. I have argued that the modern abstract artist is involved in exactly the same creative process of acheiropoiesis as the religious icon painter. Acheiropoiesis means ‘without the agency of human hands’, and it is in the immobilisation of conscious determinations in the creative process in favour of unconscious processes, that it often seemed as if some divine force had taken a hand. As I have suggested, it is also in the externalisation of unconscious psychic structures that the spectator can be absorbed in the reflective psychic mirror, or ‘engulfed’ to use Adrian Stokes’s term, and experience a psychic transformation. It is here that the spirituality of painting resides.

In the context of postmodern art and theory, all these unconscious, authentically induced psychic responses are mimicked and parodied in mannerism. Jacques Lacan, for example, a central figure in postmodern and poststructuralist thought, understood that the modern artist could manipulate underlying repressive responses and induce psychic reaction in the way I have described. By his own admission, his literary style tries to emulate the unconscious, ambiguous and open-ended essence of modern art. He was fascinated by James Joyce’s stream of consciousness technique, which forms the literary parallel to the abstract ‘manic-oceanic’ creative phase, and acknowledged his uncertainty as to whether the reader should understand or be mystified by a text such as Finnegan’s Wake. However, he recognised that the avoidance of meaning inevitably embroiled the reader in a process of secondary elaboration, just as he himself had become embroiled. As a result, as I have suggested, the postmodern theorist translates a genuine complexity and difficulty in the case of modern art, into what amounts to a contrived obliqueness and difficulty in the mannerism of postmodern literary and theoretical texts.

This is not to imply that Lacan’s theory is meaningless, but rather that it is communicated in what Kuspit has called a ‘pretentious, pseudo-avant-garde wordplay’ in a ‘kind of schizophrenic language’. Lacan’s texts arguably go around and around in a closed system which only makes sense within itself; ironically this is symbolically reflected in Lacan’s own description of the closed system of self-defining signs. The parallel Kuspit draws with schizophrenic language is clearly apposite to my argument. I have argued that structurally psychotic art is similar to mannerism, and schizophrenic delire can also be shown to depend on concrete literalisation and the conscious rules of language at the expense of unconscious metaphor. Underlying this ‘pseudo-avant-garde wordplay’ is the ideological objective to emasculate the modernist text and to deny its progressive, autonomous and genuinely liberating and authentic spiritual creativity.

In other areas Lacan tries to emulate modernist creativity. His ‘mirror stage’ literalises psychic creative union, his ‘Borromean knot’ literalises the unfathomable unconscious ‘manic-oceanic’ interlinked skeins of dripped paint in a Jackson Pollock. Furthermore, Lacan’s analysis of Edgar Allen Poe’s Purloined Letter exposes the tautology of psychoanalytic interpretation of art which employs dynamic models originally drawn from creative structures and used to justify inevitable correspondences as valid new interpretations of the creative process. Again, in the collusion of art and theory, so symptomatic of mannerism, we have artists such as Mary Kelly and Bracha Ettinger, incorporating Lacanian texts and L-Schemas into their imagery, whilst poets such as Robert Hass write Lacanian poetry. As in 16th. century mannerism, such art depends on a sophisticated audience and flatters that audience in being able to share the sophistication of the artist. Such a fundamentally conceptual approach to art is, of course, rooted in the anti-art, dadaist position of Marcel Duchamp. However, Duchamp’s opposition to painting was predicated on a complete misreading of modern abstract art as superficial, visual, optical art. He missed its whole unconscious dimension.

In his essay: Sincere Cynicism: The Decadence of the 1980s., Donald Kuspit argues that in that decade, avant-garde art and society are reconciled for the first time. Prior to this point, the relationship was fundamentally confrontational; the meaning of postmodernism is that society and the avant-garde embrace one another. Culture embraces the idea of critical, oppositional art, and incorporates such art in a culture industry. Criticality and confrontation, which were perceived as the exciting and authentic values of modern art, become actively promoted as proof of a culture’s real authentic value and creativity. The once real anti-social threat of critical art now becomes institutionalised and stripped of real menace; art now mimics threat and criticality which are regarded as social assets. The cultural establishment promotes and nurtures anti-establishment art and in so doing castrates it. The artist’s castration and self-betrayal is rewarded by the illusions of fame and glamour which the modern artist only won through painful struggle. In effect, the whole authentic early development of radical modern art is staged over and over again in the parallel universe of the postmodern circus, performed by the poodle-artist for the delight of the sophisticated audience.

Contemporary psychoanalysis, is locked into this period of mannerism and colludes with postmodern art, which by ideological intention denies the therapeutic, healing and transfigurative dimension of art. In so doing, it not only exposes its own affinities with mannerism, but also rejects those authentic creative roots which could offer the potential for a regeneration of its own dynamic structures.



Stephen J.Newton, 1997.