4 Responses to 4 Questions for 4 publications
‘Our Day Will Come,’ University of Tasmania, Hobart
Question 1: What is a School?
At its most radical, psychoanalysis is odd in that it is an exchange for which the person paying, the analysand, receives nothing. Her money is not exchanged for knowledge, techniques, tips, answers nor anything else. It is in this sense that psychoanalysis is a process without compensation. Why? Here, the purpose of psychoanalysis is not to provide a model of fair exchange or just compensation. On the contrary, it is the logic of exchange and compensation which is precisely the problem to be overcome: the analysand suffers, in her life, from the search for recompense and guarantees. Thus the analyst is not there to boost the confidence of the analysand; the analyst should be neither expert nor authority because it is in the shadow of expertise and authority that the analysand suffers. The analyst is thus in a strange position: she is there to interrupt the analysand’s speech, to try to make manifest for the analysand that which is taken for granted in what she says and does. At the end of the process of analysis the analysand does not get answers to her questions but is cured of the debilitating grip her questions have over her. In other words, the analysand does not learn something new but unlearns something old.
It is, then, no wonder that schools for psychoanalysis are problematic: whatever psychoanalysis has to teach, it is not knowledge. Rather than acquiring facts, the analysand has what she knows negated: it is precisely in her unexamined everyday habits that her unhappiness reproduces itself. Inasmuch as psychoanalysis is concerned with unconscious thought, conscious thought becomes a hindrance. The time of psychoanalysis is the slow process of coming to the realisation that what is obvious for the analysand, what is taken for granted, is false. And whilst the analyst can be taught about psychic structures, processes and so on, on the one hand, and about not being an authority, on the other, what she cannot be taught in advance is how to respond to a specific analysand with a specific history and discourse.
What has this to do with art education? Art education has a similar problem to psychoanalysis when it comes to teaching facts and techniques. Art is not a set of skills and knowledge. But if it is difficult to teach art, this is not because of the old-fashioned idea that art is a ‘natural talent’ or any other romantic nonsense of this sort. Rather, the trouble for the artist, as for the analysand, is that unarticulated assumptions are embedded in her everyday, practical habits. It is my contention that the art student, as the analysand, is hamstrung by what is taken for granted: her assumptions about what art is and what it is to be an artist. In such circumstances learning is a process of unraveling or undoing: the negation of a set of expectations which are themselves the negation of alternatives.