Thought experiment: A new cure for depression:
The only cure for depression is suicide.
This is not meant as a bad joke but as the serious proposal of suicide as a valid option. Unless the option is entertained seriously, its therapeutic value is lost. No threat is credible unless the threatener means it.
The treatment of depression requires a reversal of the usual therapeutic rationale. The therapeutic rationale, which has never been questioned, is that depression is a symptom. A symptom implies an illness; there is something wrong with you. An illness should be treated.
Suppose you are depressed. You may be mildly or seriously depressed, or suicidal. What do you usually do? Or what does one do with you? Do nothing or something. If something, what is done is always based on the premise that something is wrong with you and therefore it should be remedied. You are treated. You apply to friend, counselor, physician, minister, group. You take a trip, take anti-depressant drugs, change jobs, change wife or husband or "sexual partner."
Now, call into question the unspoken assumption: something is wrong with you. Like Copernicus and Einstein, turn the universe upside down and begin with a new assumption.
Assume that you are quite right. You are depressed because you have every reason to be depressed. No member of the other two million species which inhabit the earth - and who are luckily exempt from depression - would fail to be depressed if it lives the life you lead. You live in a deranged age - more deranged than usual, because despite great scientific and technological advances, man has not the faintest idea of who he is or what he is doing.
Begin with the reverse hypothesis, like Copernicus and Einstein. You are depressed because you should be. You are entitled to your depression. In fact, you'd be deranged if you were not depressed. Consider the only adults who are never depressed: chuckleheads, California surfers, and fundamentalist Christians who believe they have had a personal encounter with Jesus and are saved for once and all. Would you trade your depression to become any of these?
Now consider, not the usual therapeutic approach, but a more ancient and honourable alternative. the Roman option. I do not care for life in this deranged world, it is not an honourable way to life; therefore, like Cato, I take my leave. Or, as Ivan said to God in The Brothers Karamazov: If you exist, I respectfully return my ticket.
Now notice that as soon as suicide is taken as a serious alternative, a curious thing happens. To be or not to be becomes a true choice, where before you were stuck with to be. Your only choice was how to be least painfully, either by counseling, narcotizing, boozing, groupizing, womanizing, man-hopping, or changing your sexual preference.
If you are serious about the choice, certain consequences follow. Consider the alternatives. Supposer you elect suicide. Very well. You exit. Then what? What happens after you exit? Nothing much. Very little, indeed. After a ripple or two, the water closes over your head as if you had never existed. You are not indispensable, after all. You are not even a black hole in the Cosmos. All that stress and anxiety was for nothing. Your fellow townsmen will have something to talk about for a few days. Your neighbors will profess shock and enjoy it. One or two might miss you, perhaps your family, who will also resent the disgrace. Your creditors will resent the inconvenience. Your lawyers will be pleased. Your psychiatrist will be displeased. The priest or minister or rabbi will say a few words over you and down you will go on the green tapes and that's the end of you. In a surprisingly short time, everyone is back in the rut of his own self as if you had never existed.
Now, in the light of this alternative, consider the other alternative. You can elect suicide, but you decide not to. What happens? All at once, you are dispensed. Why not live, instead of dying? You are free to do so. You are like a prisoner released from the cell of life. You notice that the door to the cell is ajar and that the sun is shining outside. Why not take a walk down the street? Where you might have been dead, you are alive. The sun is shining.
Suddenly you feel like a castaway on an island. You can't believe your good fortune. You feel for broken bones. You are in one piece, sole survivor of a foundered ship whose captain and crew had worried themselves into a fatal funk. And here you are, cast up on a beach and taken in by islanders who, as it turns out, are themselves worried sick - over what? Over status, saving face, self-esteeem, national rivalries, boredom, anxiety, depression from which they seek relief mainly in wars and the natural catastrophes which regularly overtake their neighbours.
And you, an ex-suicide, lying on the beach? In what way have you been freed by the serious entertainment of your hypothetical suicide? Are you not free for the first time in your life to consider the folly of man, the most absurd of all the species, and to contemplate the comic mystery of your own existence? And even to consider which is the more absurd state of affairs, the manifest absurdity of your predicament: lost in the Cosmos and no news of how you got into such a fix or how to get out - or the even more preposterous eventuality that news did come from the God of the Cosmos, who took pity on your ridiculous plight and entered the space and time of your insignificant planet to tell you something.
The consequences of entertainable suicide? Lying on the beach, you are free for the first time in your life to pick up a coquina and look at it. You are even free to go home and, like the man from Chicago, dance with your wife.
The difference between a non-suicide and an ex-suicide leaving the house for work, at eight o'clock on an ordinary morning:
The non-suicide is a little traveling suck of care, sucking care with him from the past and being sucked toward care in the future. His breath is high in his chest.
The ex-suicide opens his front door, sits down on the steps, and laughs. Since he has the option of being dead, he has nothing to lose by being alive. It is good to be alive. He goes to work because he doesn't have to.
The AA2A at Chelsea has gotten off to a slow start, awaiting inductions etc. But I feel I have all I need now. The access to the library and archive, equipment and edit suite is pretty much all I need, with the addition of booking out spaces for filming and performance.
Much of this will come in the new year, considering the term is now over.
There are some great spaces I'd like to put forward proposals for using, and I'm crossing my fingers for some results.
The sound piece is coming together slowly (juggling a job and a group project at the same time as this residency is proving challenging). I have edited down 1.5 hours out of the 4 so far, collecting the bits that are of interest.
- Giving people a Lapyan (sp) in business. An incentive.
- Positive atmosphere without necessarily giving a reward vs. Negative atmosphere but giving a reward (bonus, etc)
- People prefer ego strokes to pay increases
And many other big topics. I will elaborate and show examples as the edit becomes more solid. I will be combining with other sound works, and potentially my own recordings when it begins to take shape.
I wanted some historical background around performance art, to ensure I felt comfortable in what could make my performance successful. I read through 'Performance: Live Art Since the 60's' and the use of the body, the very political, and shock factors used weren't really relevant to the wider realms of my practice. But there were a few pieces that kept me curious, again, there is always the issue of the documentation being all that's left, an object in itself.
Rhoda in Potatoland (1975)
For instants - Part 3: Song writing for 3 light sources
American Moon (1960, 1976)
Save the Woods (1973)
Committed to the idea that art has a capacity to transform people - socially, spiritually and intellectually. Beuys created what he called "social sculptures" lectures, collaborative protest activities. Symposia on art and politics.
Refuge Wear: Collective Survival Sac (1997)
I've got the shakes (1995)
Foreman's theater is currently as layered, fragmented, and obsessive as it was thirty years ago, with its reccuring themes of intellectual doubt and a search for life's meaning.
7 Streams of River Ota (1994-96)
200% and bloody thirsty (1987)
"Three drunks in bad wigs caroused in a sea of secondhand clothes, repeatedly re-enacting the events surrounding the death of one of their friends.
A Life of One's Own
"This book is the record of a seven years' study of living. The aim of the record was to find out what kinds of experience made me happy..."
A user's guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia.
Deviations from Deleuze and Guattari
p.1 "The "schizophrenia" Deleuze and Guattari embrace is not a pathological condition. For them, the clinical schizophrenic's debilitating detachment from the world is a quelled attempt to engage it in unimagined ways. Schizophrenia as a positive process is inventive connection, expansion rather than withdrawal. Its twoness is a relay to a multiplicity. From one to another (and another...). From one noun or book or authot to another (and another...). Not aimlessly."
p.99 (chapter - monstrosity) "Thought is the unhinging of habit. As a body matures, it develops a repertory of stimulus - response circuits. The regularity of the normalized situations within which the body is placed is inscribed in it in the form of autonomic reactions. Same input, same output. Same stimulus, same response. On schedule. The circularity of the everyday. Training. "Growing up." Reactivity. But somethin ghappens when habits of speech and action start to accumulate. Each scheduled stimulus takes its place in a growing constellation of others "like" it, to which there is a correspondingly increased constellation of "like" responses. The task of training is to ensure that the "appropriate" response will be matched to the stimulus more often than not."
p.104 "Cherish derelict spaces. They are holes in habit, what cracks in the existing order appear to be from the molar perspective. The site of a breach in the World As We Know It is a dysfunctional for molar purposes, and is therefore perceived by good/common sense as a simple negative: a lack of functioning, a wasteland.
p.138 "Capitalism's strength, and its fatal weakness, it to have elevated consumption and accumulation to the level of a principle marshaling superhuman forces of invention - and destruction. the abstract machine of consumption-accumulation has risen, Trump-like in all its inhuman glory. Its fall will be a great deal harder.
Madness and Modernism
Insanity in the light of Modern Art, Literature and Thought
"The growing consciousness is a danger and a disease." Nietzsche
"Madness is irrationality, a condition involving decline or even disappointment of the role of rational factors in the organisation of human conduct and experience: this is the core idea that, in various forms but with few true exceptions, has echoed down through the ages.
"(In nearly all cases, however) the essential nature of madness itself has been conceptualized as a diminishment or an overwhelming of one's very persnhood, as a decline in freedom of action, conscious reflection and qualities of intellect and spirit [that] have been considered the funamentals of our humanity since time immemorial." p.2
"The notion that too much consciousness might be a thoroughging illness (as Dostoyevsky's narrator puts it in Notes from the Underground) has been, then, a common enough idea in the last two centuries, yet it has had little impact on the understanding of the psychoses: the truly insane, it is nearly always assumed are those who have failed to attain, or else have lapsed or retreated from, the higher levels of mental life. Nearly always insanity involves a shift from human to animal, from culture to nature, from thought to emotion, from maturity to the infantile and the archaic. If we harbour insanity, it is always in the depths of our souls, in those primitive strata where the human being becomes beast and the human essence dissolves in the universal well of desire." p.4
"What if madness were to involve not an escape from but an exacerbation of that thoroughgoing illness Dostoyevsky imagines? What if madness, in at least some of its forms, were to derive from a heightening rather than a diminishing of conscious awareness, and an alienation not from reason but from emotions, instincts and the body?"
"Often enough schizophrenics feel not farther from but closer to truth and illumination." p.6
"Schizophrenic individuals often describe themselves as feeling dead yet hyperalert - a sort of corpse with insomnia; thus one such patient spoke of having been "translated" into what he called a "death mood", yet he also experienced his thoughts as somehow electric - heated up and intensified." p.8
Need to read: Birth of Tragedy by Nietzsche.
I have posed upon myself a ridiculous idea, that How To Get Results With People can work across all abilities and mental states. It is of course an absurd deconstruction of the purpose of Jeff Salzman's lecture. The juxtaposition of the repetitive actions of schizophrenia patients (see video below) and the instructional methods used within the lecture causes for me an element of pattern, as both provide an individual with actions to take.
In the video, the doctors exploration of echopraxia gives me a method which I'd like to work with. Echopraxia is the involuntary repetition or imitation of the observed movements of another. It is closely related to echolalia, the involuntary repetition of another's speech.
I am essentially aiming to repeat, imitate Salzman's speech as a sort of mantra, for transformation of myself. These actions are mirrored perfectly with hebephrenic patterns.
I know I'd like to use this footage in the work, as projections or as part of a body of video works.
I've got back into the Prelinger Archives - there are visuals and sound that I'd like to extract from much footage surrounding business, success, and mental health (or mental states).
Below is a selection of what I have discovered so far, and I will add to it as things progress. For me I will begin to cut and group these elements to allow me to create a dialogue between the loosely linked subject matter.
I'd like to use some of this: http:/
An early example of 'simple' advice that will 'change your life forever', including statistics and the definition of success. This may not feed into the final performance, but will probably be used to inform that work, as well as for juxtaposition within filmed video pieces. I can't seem to find much about who is speaking but I'll have to do some more research if it doesn't mention it at the end.
Some links below that will allow me to contextualise with other historical examples.
The business of American Business 1972
Rileys business venture
In my practice repetitive movements or patterns are of interest to me - the schizophrenia symptoms resonates for that reason, but also shows quite a stark reality for those in institutions in the mid-20th century.
How To Get Results with People (1987) is a four hour lecture by Jeff Salzman, teaching people in businesses how to better manage their working relationships to get results, success and higher productivity. And, at the core of all these aims, money.
My basis for the work How To Get Results With People - although looking at the business and success side of self help - has hugely autobiographical undertones, in that the idea of self help has always eluded me. It feels an impossibilty. A course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which largely teaches you to help yourself, made me more aware of my anxieties, and essentially less able to help myself. This may just come down to my nature, the ever-present desire to deconstruct, to understand, and to be aware. However, the constant overstimulation of our minds leaves us wanting, needing more, seeking answers, and where possible, quickly and easily. Hence the understandably popular genre self help.
The industry, which when you walk into a bookshop now is ever expanding in its content, is absorbed by the majority of western society. Just take your pick of the subgenres; business, money, weightloss, finding inner peace, sex, relationships. Yet what do we gain from this deconstruction and step by step instruction? How does what sits on paper actually translate in our daily lives?
Renata Salecl looks at exactly this in The Tyranny of Choice. In the Guardian's review of her book, Killian Fox says,
"Several years ago, an American magazine editor named Jennifer Niesslein decided to iron out all the imperfections in her life. Using only the advice contained in a stack of self-help books, she set about cleaning her home, losing weight, becoming a better partner and parent and generally cultivating a more serene approach to existence. After two years of trying, she found that she was less contented, not more, and started suffering from panic attacks."
Salecl mentions that "The idea of choosing who we want to be and the imperative to 'become yourself' have begun to work against us, making us more anxious and more acquisitive rather than giving us more freedom". This feeds very much back into my own observations about myself - this heightened awareness of the self, the pressures to conform to many contradictary and opposing models.
Self help will be something I explore for many years in my practice. For How To Get Results With People I am very much looking at the human desire for success, and how 'success' is largely related to money, growth, yet is not necessarily imperative to happiness or fulfillment. On the flipside to this, the consequences (anxiety, depression, other more severe mental states) are of a huge interest to me. Many of these states are the hangovers from the under/overstimulated mind. The mind that evolved instead of the body, full of ideas, evoking change and invention. The increasing degradation of mental health in western society is something I explore as a tangent, something which loosely connects to this strand, but is more about the scientific and physical actions that take place when undergoing stress and in more extreme cases, psychosis.
I wish to use the model within HTGRWP to forge my own success, through artwork and through my interactions with students, staff and fellow artists in the residency. The work, while ultimately becoming a body of video, performance and writing, is also embodied in all the interactions I have in between.
How to Get Results With People: How to Build Your Leadership, Power and Visibility on the Job
During my residency I plan on developing a video/performance work, ‘How To Get Results With People’ based on a motivational 1980’s lecture of the same name by Jeff Salzman, founder of the company Careertrack. I often use outmoded theories, and look at how its application to present day can create a skewed reality, apt for analysis and critique. I wish to explore the notions that this lecture produces, particularly those ideas of success. I can see if, through an artwork, I can get the results with people that Salzman speaks of. There are many questions that the industry of ‘self-help’ raises, and its influential interaction with the working world and society at present.