Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Dance of Life

This is a small extract (the first three paragraphs) of an essay I wrote for the MA course I did years ago. A recent post on Edvard Munch on Facebook compelled me to dig this out.
Dance of Life (Edvard Munch)

In the beginning of the 20th century in Western society, thinkers, writers and artists began to push the traditional boundaries of organizing knowledge and the arts. Together they radically re-defined, reshaped and recreated knowledge and various art forms. Whilst the Cubist painters analysed and re-assembled objects, aspects of which were depicted on canvas, Sigmund Freud (Ferrier & Pichon, 1988) was analysing the human psyche, re-assembling and appropriating ideas into a new body of language concerning the unconscious mind, the libido and the Oedipus complex etc. that were depicted in the dialogue of the psychoanalytic process, namely Psychoanalysis.

The concept of 'talking cure', the psychotherapy that was unheard of previously, typified the trend of the new wave of modernity where every aspect of existence was to be re-examined with new frames of reference. In Freud's case, he offered an argument for the existence of an unconscious mind where most of our behaviour is determined, a new frame of reference that was in direct opposition to positivism dominating Western thought in the 19th century. Freud's theories may have given explanations in terms of psychopathologic symptoms currently seen in people, which may have perhaps manifested in his time as socially and culturally induced symptoms. Of such people, Freud's contemporary, the Expressionist-Symbolist painter Edvard Munch (Ferrier & Pichon, 1999) inaugurated the 20th century with a painting called 'The Dance of Life' that ecapsulated the ambivalent souls of the time, whose despair hid behind the lifeless hedonistic occasion, the Messiah was at the background, fading away from people's consciousness.

This painting appropriately prophesied the psychotherapeutic destiny for the century to come. The simple formula such as 'repent+believe+be forgiven=eternal life' had been held valid for centuries for mending even the deepest grievances, the strongest regrets and the darkest despairs, was now overthrown by the trend of thought that man has the power to create, improve and to reshape their environment and life aided by new ideas, scientific knowledge and technology. Freud's Psychoanalysis came in season, or rather, it found meaning in the context of the particular culture and time of history. The Freudian language of psychotherapy provided new lexicons for the mind of the 20th century that  gave rise to new psychological concepts that laid the fundamental structure of most other psychotherapeutic approaches to come. Using the basic mode of treatement, scores of other approaches were gradually developed and continue to be so, though each has its own theoretical assumptions and epistemological stance that induces specific values reflecting the context of the societies and history from which they derive......

Ferrier, J.L. & Pichon, Y.L. (Eds), (1999), Art of the 20th Century, Borgaro: Editions du Chen.