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Working and the Death Drive: On Literature and Children with Behavior Disorder

With reference to Mannoni (1979), it is argued that the clinical practitioner must, based on his own experience, continuously “retranslate” his theoretical language into his mother tongue. As an example, this paper focusses on how the author retranslates the Freudian notion of the death drive and Lacan’s category of the real, based on his educational and therapeutic work with children with behavior disorder. It is argued that these theoretical conceptions cover something that is not there but that nevertheless is operative. What is one to do when confronted with something that is not there but nevertheless is operative? The answer proposed is that one has to inscribe the subject in the sexual relation through the act of writing. This directive is illustrated via clinical work with children suffering from a psychically “silent” mother and is argued through a revisiting of the work of Fernando Pessoa.

Outsider Art: On the Importance of Repetition in the Artist’s Work and on the Traces of Matter in his Mastersignifier

In the context of the debate on the art value of outsider art (in the two following senses: valuable art versus devalued art, and the value of outsider art for art history) the author investigates the central place of repetition for the artist in the creative process. Firstly, the surplus-aesthetic-value of an outsider-work-of-art is partly assigned to the manifest repetition that is found in this work. Support for a connection between aesthetics and repetition is found, on the one hand, in the work of established artists like Andy Warhol and, on the other, in Lacan’s seminar L’ éthique de la psychanalyse (1959-1960). Secondly, repetition, as it manifests itself in art, is interpreted as being the frame of the fantasy that protects the subject but that also simultaneously compels him or her. This compulsive repetition is often related to the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father as anchoring point for the fantasy in the work of outsider art artists. Different forms of the repetitive and compulsive appearance of the Name-of-the-Father are illustrated using short vignettes about outsider art artists. Thirdly, the fundamental importance stressed of the material that is repeatedly and compulsively incorporated as object a is established. It is proposed that this material, via association, can be transformed into an independent thinking language from which, via repetition, the master signifier and the signature of the artist develop.

Adolf Wölfli’s Creation as an Attempt to Establish Time and Space

Based on a chronological reading of Adolf Wölfli, it is demonstrated that his work was a response to a psychological necessity to install the dimension of time. Following a brief sketch of his life, the effect of Wölfli’s encounter with the psychiatrist Morgenthaler is considered. More specifically, the effect this encounter had on stylistic aspects of his work are highlighted. Special attention is given to the “autobiographical” aspect and, in this context, it is argued that the imaginary journey which Wölfli describes can be interpreted as either an attempt to construe himself a past, or, via the paradox of sublation, as an attempt to install the dimensions of time and space. This is related to Wölfli’s capture by the desire of his mother for whom he took the place of a brother who had died earlier. In the face of these two failed attempts, it seemed that signing his work with “St Adolf II” could temporarily guarantee him his place in the family tree and furthermore could guarantee the difference between himself and his brother “St Adolf I”.

The Psychotherapeutic Labour of the Subject within Visual Creative Therapy

This paper explores what happens in the subject when creating visual art. It is argued on the first level that there are four steps in the creation process: (i) forming the image; (ii) creating the object; (iii) the decision to finish; and (iv) the separation. On a more advanced level, one needs to be aware of the essential difference between the status of the creative process in neurosis and psychosis. It is argued that within a neurotic structure the process of creation (sublimation) witnesses the acceptance by the subject of the emptiness of the Thing behind the object created, whereas within a psychotic structure visual expression should be considered a symptom, a therapeutic phenomenon. Insight is gained into the specific way in which linguistic mechanisms enter visualisation through the case of Friedrich Schröder-Sonnenstern, a German psychotic outsider.

On the Status of Outsider Art: Traces of a Critical Reflection

From a background in art history, more specifically, from a background of research in contemporary art and the state of art during and after WWII, the author starts with the observation that a sharp delineation between the creative expression of psychiatric patients and art is difficult to determine in some cases. A description of the status of outsider art needs to take into account that, on the one hand, to collect the plastic expression of psychiatric patients, naive art, folk art, popular culture and ethnic or tribal art under one umbrella is untenable and that, on the other, every form of expression could occupy its specific place in the field of tension between art and psychiatry. It is argued that the plastic expression of psychiatric patients, beyond its private status and provided one takes into account the ethical rules, has a dynamic status depending on the angle from which it is approached. From this perspective the plastic expression of psychiatric patients can be considered as: (i) self expression with a psycho-medical and private status which in the context of possible relevant research belongs partially to the public domain; (ii) the result of the intersubjective or social dynamic with mixed (private and public) status or possible socio-cultural status; (iii) object of aesthetic experience with a public and social status; (iv) stimulus for artists in their exploration of the language of expression, and; (v) commercial and collectible object.