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Lecture One: Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis is a vast and complicated subject which can’t be covered in it’s entirety within a single lecture, this lecture will provide a brief over view of what psychoanalysis is and how it can be applied to art and design thinking

Psychoanalysis is the theoretical study of what it is to be a human subject, we are all human subjects, this will be explored through looking at the theories of both Sigmund Freud and Jacque LaCan

Psychoanalysis was it was first conceived was developed as a form of therapy and an attempt to establish an understanding of the human mind from birth, additionally psychoanalysis tries to create an understanding of the role of the unconscious mind in our everyday lives

Much of the theory surrounding psychoanalysis focused on the ideas of sexuality and gender identity

It is primarily concerned with constructing an understanding of the complexity of human subjectivity and what it is to be human?

Subjectivity - We are all subjects, as human we are human subjects, living within a social order

Personalities and identities and subjective ideas

Initially it was developed as a form of therapy and theory of the mind, it was not designed to create a perspective within the art and design world, however it has been adopted by artists within the work and is used by those who work in advertising

As a theory, it established that we are not completely in control of what we do, they way we think, the way we behave, we are not directly in control of everything that we do

Freud initially developed the theory of the unconscious mind, before theorizing about psychoanalysis he treated hysteria patients, patients who had psychological issue, but he was particularly interested in those patients who developed physical conditions as a result of their mental condition

Freud began to analysis both his own dreams and the dreams of his patients, he analyzed these dreams in terms of their hidden associations and ‘wish-fulfillment’

Freud theories this analogy called ‘the dynamic unconscious’ this was a place in the mind which stored all of the ideas and thoughts that were wrong and unacceptable in everyday life, thought and feelings we are not meant to feel, they are suppressed in the dynamic unconscious, as they are unsuitable for the conscious mind. Freud said this part of our mind is developed through our infancy to protect us. Freud also said that the unconscious mind is like chaos and without language, however the conscious mind has a connection to the unconscious and this is sometime made apparent though slips and ticks. These slips and ticks are more apparent within hysteria patients and the suppressed feelings become repressed through a freudian slip.

A slip is when you accidentally say something without thinking, you don’t have control over it, it just slips out, these sometimes happen within a sexual context.

It is important to note that the dynamic unconscious doesn’t control us

Stages of development that Freud suggested that we must go through as human beings to make us into functioning reasonable thinking adults

Initially infants have a lot to learn, they must learn about there body, emotions and feelings and who it is in relation to others

Freud suggested that this development process is rife with misunderstanding, misconstrued and contradictory thoughts and feelings, as infants try to make sense of there biological and instinctual selves they create associations and assumptions which are often incorrect.

The developing child goes through three stages, Oral, Anal and Phallic a child also develops complexes which also must be dealt with in order to function correctly, Oedipus complex, castration complex and penis envy.

A sexual identity I one we assume of our bodies, this is an assumed identity developed through our infancy

Often having contradictory and inappropriate results through infancy

Oedipus Complex is when the child feels sexual and loving feelings towards the mother and resentment towards the father (not incestuous) this is as a result of mixture of emotions the child feels that are misunderstood. A male child places loving feelings with his mom, and resents father because of the position he is in, it creates a feeling of ‘to want’ and ‘to be wanted’

The development of male and female identities centre around the penis, through the castration complex, boys have a fear of being castrated and girls accept that they have already been castrated, the phallus the acts a symbol of power. However as male children fear they maybe castrated they associate with the father again as they see they made it without being castrated.

When female children see they don’t have a penis, they accept they have been castrated and once again associate with the father, the female identity is created though realization that they don’t have a penis. Girls develop Penis envy when they realize they do not have a penis and this is how she relates to her father.

This suggest why women have traditionally throughout history have always been viewed as the lesser sex in comparison to women.

A growing infant must overcome all of these issues in order to grow into a healthy adult

The child must experience and overcome these mixed feelings and misconceptions in order to gain a sexual identity and a speaking position within the order of language and society.

Misconceived/contradictory ideas of gender, power and identity continue to work unconsciously throughout our lives.

The Uncanny - this relates to the aesthetic world, the uncanny refers to psychoanalysis being applied to the visual world, The uncanny is often also referred to as the ‘Unhomely’

Uncanny is used to describe something that is both familiar yet unnatural, it the experience of something simultaneously being familiar and unnatural and often creating and uneasy feeling, it is where the boundary between reality and fantasy break down

Surrealist artists such as Salvador Dali used the theory of the uncanny within there work, they often use something familiar and subvert it with something unnatural

Freud develop two models to construct his theory of the human conscious, one being ‘Id, ego and superego’ the other being ‘unconscious, preconscious and conscious’

Unconscious – Hidden, repressed, chaos. Where things are stored that are unacceptable to our conscious selves.

Preconscious – Unconscious yet not repressed. Where memories, word associations, etc. are stored and are thus recalled from.
Conscious – Our outward self, personality, identity.

Id (unconscious) – represents the biological/instinctual part of ourselves.

Ego (conscious) – represents the individual/personality of ourselves.

Super-Ego(social order)– represents the part of ourselves in relation to others, to social order and to language.

Jacques LaCan also theorized about psychoanalysis however his writing are much more complicated than that of Freud’s and therefore harder to understand. LaCan came from a philosophical background and therefore he uses complicated language to describe his ideas.

However it is suggested that LaCan wrote in this way to mimic the chaos of the unconscious mind

LaCan often presents multiple interruptions of what he was writes and suggests, this is to signify the contradictory and paradoxical form of the human mind.

After the death of Freud, many of the ideas of psychoanalysis became lost of distorted it was LaCan who restored his ideas about psychoanalysis. However LaCan presented them in a new by using Semiotics and structural linguistics to create analogies about the human mind.

LaCan suggest that our subjectivity is engrained with language and without language we are not subjects

LaCan describe what he calls ‘the mirror stage’ This is stage in human infancy that a child recognizes it’s reflection in the mirror and it own reflection in relation to other people, his mother, father and siblings. This is the stage at which the child also sees him or herself outside ones self. However this puts the child in an emotional dilemma as they are no longer at the centre of their world and this can create feelings of loneliness.

Rivalry – while the child may recognize it’s own image it is still limited in movement and dexterity.

Thus...resulting in the formation of Ego which aids(and continues to aid) a reconciliation of body and image/subject and other.

Captation – the process by which the child is at once absorbed and repelled by the image of itself (the specular image)

Lacanian Unconscious - LaCan says that the unconscious is structured like a language. Like Freud said the unconscious doesn’t have language but it is structured in a similar way to language.

The unconscious is the discourse of the Other. The Other refers to the super ego which is outside of ourselves and is part of our social order and language.

Highlighting the ways in which meaning in encoded within
linguistic signs – written or spoken words.

Unconscious details are encoded in various ways as they slip into consciousness.


Metaphor – a word is used to represent something else which possess similar characteristics.

Symptoms are translated elements of unconscious material adopting a metaphor-style coding.

Desire - Metonymy–apart of something used to represent the whole or the whole used to represent a small part. Meaning is displaced along a series of associations – a signifying chain.

Desire for objects (including people) are displaced desire for what cannot be attained...unconscious desire

LaCan also developed the concept of the Phallus, not to describe the penis but as a way of understanding the penis as a symbol of identity, difference and lack.

Potential Lack - Men

Actual Lack - Women

The phallus provides a speaking position within culture, it is hard to argue against and is well reasoned, this symbolic representation provides an identity within culture.

Words only mean something in relation to each other, the Phallus can never be possessed, as a symbol of power and identity it can never be possessed.

Freud’s the order of reality:

The Real - That which cannot be symbolised/signified • Where our most basic, animal selves exist

The Imaginary - The order which exists before symbols and signification.

Where the Ego is born and continues to develop, No clear distinctions between self and others / subject and object.

The Symbolic - ‘The order of the Other’, Exists outside ourselves language exists before and outside of us. The order that allows us to exist within a culture of others.

Psychoanalysis in art and design - It helps us to contextualise and understand the human mind. We as designers create things out of our subjectivity. The model based theories that psychoanalysis provide allow us to think deeper about the things we look and how we can look at them through models presented in psychoanalysis.

Edward Benays - Applied the theory of psychoanalysis to advertising and PR and was known as the godfather of PR. He created campaigns that tapped into peoples hidden wants and desires. Advertising has since become about selling a lifestyle and not a product. This technique is created through a form of manipulation.

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