Monday, April 14, 2008

Him as artist

Last week I attended Matt Mullican’s artist’s talk at Exit Art, intrigued by his experiments making drawings while under hypnosis. Some are on view at the Whitney Biennial.

For the almost two-hours, he was in a trance state, although not a deep one, and traced his evolution as an artist. Since the 1970s he has been exploring his inner reality, which he has externalized like a personal cosmology. These take the form of diagrams, outdoor floor maps, poster-signs, and now, performance.

While I find the drawings beautiful, the performance we viewed was shocking. Taken over by what he call “him,” he obsessively kissed the wall, slapped his head, took imagined showers, cried “no” in anguish, only to immediately declare that he felt great. This was his unconscious, his buried self, unmediated. But, it comes off as seriously mentally ill.

What’s the point? I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps to call public attention to the idea of the unconscious, of layers of what we call reality. To what end? I suppose, to expand our sense of self.

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