SELFOBJECT, ART OBJECT
“Can anything be so elegant as to have few wants, and to serve them one’s self?”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Usually when I get a drawing idea, I write it down, a graph or two plus a quick doodle to review later. Step two is to make another drawing in the same notebook, a penciled then inked sketch that’ll scan. The scanned image is opened in digital drawing program and re-inked and roughly colored. I fool with layers, effects and adjustments until I get something I like. Finally I write something up that hopes to explain and maybe even justifies these efforts.
They all seem like ground-breaking earth-shaking masterpieces when the idea is verbal, but as they become more visual, the best mellow to merely clever and are posted; the worst, those that that fade to self-pity, mercifully remain in a folder on my hard drive. More than the usual numbers have been doing the latter lately.
So I thought I draw that process of drawing, in a drawing. Random—OK not so random, I googled “self and other” as a starting point—surfing lead me to Heinz Kohut who named several selves. They are shown here. On the left, the nuclear self, a self-pitier, a depressive realist to label him more positively, repeating his tales of woe and demanding empathy from a virtual self which is the note book standing in for “shrink anthypophora” who answers himself as is asked. And there stands, in the back ground, a grandiose self, an easel as “real” artist metaphor.
More Kohut; there are some parts of you—your ambitions and ideals–that are really out there, i.e. not really you. He calls these selfobjects. As a consequence of this distance, you have less control over them than you’d like. This has always been the case for you. Life is frustration, but some frustration is necessary to get your ambitions pared down to attainable levels as well as aligning your ideals with the world’s reals. Too much frustration though and you retreat rather than recover.
Art is, for sure, a selfobject it is out there and it is a real world manifestation of your ambitions and ideals. But it’s different because, as I read this, selfobjects are sneaky and not recognized as such, unless the relationship is over. Is, then, an art object not a current selfobject but a rejected one, realized and made real?
Back to the drawing. And the self here drawn as simply point of view; as a mere point it has no dimensions, is more nothing than something. The particular view into and though the stereotypic studio-consultancy is just one of many possible chosen before you even considered looking here. It’s where the virtual-self (the therapist) empathizes with both the nuclear-self (the mad man) and the grandiose-self (the artist); it’s where that modernist hero-trio semi-merges, via art, into a text that attempts to describe a still fragmented elusive postmodern cryptid.
The hearts, stars and dollar signs, symbolizing love, fame and money, are from a fantasy board game popular in middle-class homes called “Careers”—remember those?—where you could chose the relative amounts of each you needed to win. The lines on the canvas are a similar fading memory of modernism, a last-ditch, desperate and ultimately futile attempts to do something better, more beautiful or truer.
“Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities.” Freud said that; you could say the same for art.