Pathography of an Artist

Rowell's doctoral thesis produced in collaboration with Eb. & Db. from The Guild of Psychotherapists

These memories, of looking again and again at the same thing with the hope that this time something will be resolved, that an answer would be found. Something unremembered, something lost that can only lead to endless compulsive searching and never quite be put into words (Db., I. iv.). Perhaps something too terrible to be uttered (Db., I. viii.). Shame (Db., II. i.). Maybe I want to be left alone (Db., II. iii.). I have something to say to myself, but in private through a display of self-hatred and being seen in a distressed state (Db., II. ii.), a hatred of a big bit of myself (Db., II. vii.) where a part feels so much shame in all of this exhibiting in such a way (Db., II. ix.). A struggle between two (or three?) extreme sides of myself (Db., II. x.), This suggests vulnerability, something about being stripped right back (Eb., II. x.), longing to be nourished, even though involuntarily the rejecting of it (Eb., II. xi.). There is something disturbing in the combination of vulnerability, resignation and pain and also perhaps isolation (Eb., II. xvi). The suggestion of a lack of mirroring (Eb., II. xxi.), a rejection the mother's milk, or perhaps the 'feed' was poisonous or unpalatable (Eb., II.xxii.). Something about a struggle with powers beyond my control. It is hard for me to reconcile aspects of myself (Eb., II. xiii.). Something is coming out as language, the process is horrible and painful, yet I am doing something positive. Is this perhaps about my experience of therapy, a spewing out of words and feelings in the work (Eb., II. vii.). Does this suggest power through creativity? (Eb., II. xxiii.).

The happiness of me as a child, which I suppose might as well be any child, is hidden. My experiences as a baby are distant, deep and buried (Db., III. ii.), Was there ever an adult in my child's world? (Eb., III. ix.). I, as a small child in a small world, remote from reality outside, a child being kept very far away from reality (Eb., III. i.) well cared for, happy and charmed, if a little isolated in my soft world (Eb., III. iv.). The image of me as a child, so isolated and remote - 'in his own little world' (Eb., III. viii.). Caught in between what seems like a father and mother, with me in the middle (Db., IV. i.). It's intimate, a nice feeling maybe. However, this intimacy depends on exclusion as well (Db., IV. ii.). They do not co-exist. My experience? Is this part of my presenting problem? (Eb., IV. i.). Does everyone have to try very hard in my family to be what they are expected to be? (Eb., IV. iii).

Competition between my mother and father, mother facing the other way, the father and myself together (Db., IV. v.). This is how I feel perhaps, stuck in-between, unable to acknowledge the inevitable infinite dependence of them. My image is lost amongst my parents (Db., IV. vi.). I am wondering about the Oedipal experience (Eb., IV. xvi.), where the family needs the individuals and the individuals need the family, as a sort of detached inter-connectedness (Eb., IV. xiv.).

I am in a mirror, within a mirror. Have I succumbed to some sub-world, a sort of half life, a reflection which has lost its real? (Eb., XXII. iv.). A child fascinated by his mother's reflection (Eb., V. v.); but these are not true reflections, the mirroring has gone wrong somehow (Eb., V. i.). The reflections are not quite true and it is disturbing, troubling and hard to make sense of (Eb., V. viii.). Looking at something that should make sense but doesn't, quite. Is that this my experience? (Eb., V. ix.). How can I not manage - seemingly struggle but not manage - to see my face in the mirror? It's a hopelessly raw situation. Not being able to see the truth of my face (Db., V. iv.).I see two ways of communicating my experience - one speaks, the other doesn't (Eb., VI. i), it feels that there is a very important piece of communication being made by these two things, but not one that I can work with together therapeutically (Eb., VI. viii.), conflicting truths; or is it about trying to work out what the truth is? (Eb., VI. xii.). My thoughts dug up, buried for millennia and where through time, bits have got lost or eroded away. Where are those missing bits? Are they needed, to know me, or do their absence say much more then their presence? (Db., VII. ii.). In any case this is something dark and ancient existing in the present, I really want to exist in this present, yet giving so very little away(Db., VII. v.). A fragmentation (Eb., VII. x.). I am a person, but I don't know how to relate and don't know how to expectpeople to relate to me (Eb., VIII. ii.). An interdependence between these two - perhaps neither would exist without the other (Eb., , VIII. iii.). Nothing seems certain, clear or straightforward (Eb., VIII. viii.).

I have sought terms of reference, ways to live, mirroring within books (Eb., , IX. i.), but my features are blurred, a turning away from something that cannot be faced (Eb., IX. ii). Reflections of reflections in the mirrors that would in principle, go on infinitely. So something keeps happening, a cycle being repeated, with perhaps no way of changing (Eb., IX. x.). There is no face-on contact. Something too dreadful to look at, or does it reflect feelings of my isolation, or is it again, about feelings of shame (Eb., IX..iii.), of being owned by someone or something (Eb., IX..vi.). So again, two elements which cannot easily co-exist, the 'speaking' of an experience where there is a close relationship yet being in the dynamic where I cannot live and speak at the same time, one is damaging for the other (Eb., X. xi.). Play and imagination have been very important as a way of surviving (Eb., XIII. xv.). Things are not as they first appear, then. (Eb., XIV iii. ), I'm not really engaged (Eb., XIV. v.). Perhaps I am repeating my experience of bringing something precious to be admired and there being no interest. Or of using a medium such as art as a language to try to say something, but having it dismissed (Eb., XIV. vii.), I have the mother who cannot hear - or see (Eb., XIV. viii. ). Passivity perhaps, just sitting and waiting in this bleak place, a powerlessness, inevitability (Eb., XV. vii.), emphasising those feelings of inaccessibility and inevitability and the impossibility of making a connection, of being heard or communicated with. Perhaps I just cannot leave this place (Eb., XV. viii.). The oldness of it all and the sense of the past being present but at a distance (Eb., XV. xii.). Past generations (Eb., XV. ix.), that cannot be reconnected with. I'm unreachable (Eb., XV. x.). The mashed image of text and another image producing some sort of mirror. It's a kind of manufactured experience of what it felt like to me (Db., XVI. vii.). I spit something back, saying, 'now do you see? Now do you see how it feels?' Like lots of the other images it reveals me on another level - actually something quite aggressive, vengeful and manipulative (Db., XVI. ix.). I am trying to show you my hell. Perhaps I am excited by this - I must be (Db., XVI. xii.).We have gone from the unwelcoming enclosed to lighter and freer (Eb., XVI. iv.), suggesting that I have found a way of moving on in some way (Eb., XVI vii.).

Past and present selves - self as child and self as adult, or parent and child? Or as different aspects of the ‘self'. Am I saying that it has become possible to find a way of living with a part of the self, that there has been reconciliation? (Eb., XVII. xi.). Me without a face, over interpreted, over seen (Db., XVIII. iv.). As if going back in time!! (Db., XVIII ii.), to some of the echoes of earliertimes (Eb., XVIII. ii.). A story is starting to come together, in the bringing-together of many pieces (Eb., XVIII. i. ), although I don't actually know what the story is. Once again the blurred or 'faceless' face, suggesting there was perhaps no face or identity. So am I saying, something happened which threatened annihilation, but then it went into reverse and something was salvaged - it was damaged and is stuck together with damaged, torn bits of other experiences? (Eb., XVIII. v.). This shredding was destructive, what survived has colour and life and warmth (Eb., XVIII. viii.). So - again something about bits that didn't start out together, being assembled (Eb., XVIII. x.). Something about identity, sense of self? (Eb., XVIII. xix.). To weave something whole I must draw several threads in - threads from earlier sessions (Eb., XVIII. xii.).

I'm not sure this is what I want my audience to see (Db., XIX iii.), something nasty is staring back at me (Db., XIX. iv.). Hidden. (Eb., XIX. v.). Leaving something behind - my unconscious perhaps? this preoccupation with the past - trying to becoming part of the real world (Eb., XIX. vi.), something sensible and healthy is happening, but something else is discarded in that process (Eb., XIX. vii.). Would the project, exist without the viewer (the readers and I?)? Not in the same way, certainly (Eb., XIX. xiii.), there would be no words. It starts to be clear that this is a dialogue. Or should that be trialogue (Eb., XIX. xv.), something Oedipal (Eb., XIX. xvi.). Blurred between past and present. Or a refusal of both? (Db., XX i.). A blurring of present and past? Do I really want to go back there, to that memory? (Db., XX. iii.), a coldness of the relationship perhaps; in that place, in that family of not wanting to be there? (Db., XX. ii.). A blurred picture of me as a little boy (Eb., XX. ii.), that is all blurred(Db., XX. vii.). The muddling of the exposure (Db., XX. x.), because it is not a perfect or clear reflection(Eb.XX. iii.,). A silence, left with an unseen family (Db., XX. v.) and a losing of my identity(Eb., XX v.). Within my isolation (Eb., XX. viii.), we might see the fragility of me as the child,who should be carefree (Eb., XX. vii.), there is something missing. Fun? Companionship? (Eb., XX. ix.). Sadness (Eb., XX. x.).

There is always distortion (Db., XXI. i.). It seems important not to see my face, as perhaps there is no face to see (Db., XXI. ii.). I am there, but covered up, I am not completely destroyed but I am screened (Db., XXI. iii.), blacked out (Db., XXI. iv.). My face distorted over time in many different ways, just a shadow - me as the little boy gone (Eb., XXI. i.). What happened, I ask. Family dynamics, or school experience. I start as a boy and end up with a shadow of the boy (Eb., XXI. ii.). Sad (Eb.XXI v.).

It is as if I am being taken over or absorbed by my surroundings in a hostile way (Eb., XXII. i.), a reflection which has lost its real(Eb., XXII. iv.). But have I kept my reflection, and perhaps lost the original real self that was reflected?(Eb., XXII. v.). The pattern of the my background is carried over, that nursery experience that has become part of me,that is ingrained, impossible to wash away (Eb., XXII. vii.). Is it going to swallow me up, take me over?(Eb., XXII. xi.). I am this. I am lost, blurred, unable to see clearly something I am trying to look for, but which is long gone (Db., XXIII. iii.). It's something important, vital to represent, to speak of - if pictures were speech (Db., XXIII. ii.), but lost in the past (Db., XXIII. iv.). A successful failure to represent anything of this long lost me (Db., XXIII.v.).

Was I not allowed to have my own will, make decisions, have an identity? Were someone else's imposed upon me?(Eb., XXIII. iv.). Speech being taken away, castration through silencing? Or a battle of wills, a father who forced his will onto me?(Eb., XXIII. v.). Someone that controlled me and took away my identity? (Eb., XXIII. vi.), my creativity and fertility (Eb., XXIII. viii.). Swallowed, it has become part of me, so now being controlled by it somehow from inside (Eb., XXIII. xii.). Like a head attached to the wrong body: in the wrong skin, face blurred, a careless cut out, not the proper shape of my head (Eb., XXIII. xiii.). Chilling; my spontaneity controlled out of me (Eb., XXIII. xvi.).

So this is the end. (Db., XXIV. i.). My death of photography (Db., XXIV. iii.). Perhaps accepting as a photographer,but ultimately impotent (Db., XXIV. iv.). In the end, to admit that photography is useless. Is that the point? (Db., XXIV. v.). This search, this conclusion from the beginning? If so, what's use is the looking? (Db., XXIV. vi.). If there was a shadow of something else that hasn't been 'said', but I am unsure what 'it' would that look like? (Db., XXIV. viii.). What does it look like, I'm interested (Db., XXIV. x.), in knowing what's beyond the end (Db., XXIV. xi.). It would be nice to go somewhere from here (Db., XXIV. xii.). Have I escaped, got out of this nursery/childhood environment where these experiences, whatever they were, happened? (Eb., XXIV. i.). Or have I been disowned, by the family that this project is about? Do I want to forget about them and pretend they had never existed? (Eb., XXIV. ii.). Did I want to erase - or alternatively, carry them around with me? Who did the removing? (Eb., XXIV. iii.). And it hardly needs saying that an absence says as much, if not more, than a presence (Eb., XXIV. iv.).This controlling force that had to be left behind. Perhaps unconsciously this picture, that I am saying (Eb., XXIV. vi.), that the picture has to speak for itself (Eb., XXIV. x.).

(Db., & Eb., & Spencer Rowell 2012-2013)