Literature review - outlining key concepts
Case studies connecting artistic processes and the field of psychology.
In this next section I will define the artistic process through the perspective of bridging our internal and external worlds, drawing on concepts from the field of psychology.
Firstly, I will define the process of art creation and what artistic expression does. By searching for studies in other fields I discovered texts in psychology, which have observed the process of artistic creation and the reason behind it. I am interested in research from the field of psychology that analyses creative processes and defines them. In psychology, artistic processes can be seen as a way of bridging the external world with the artist's internal world, thereby creating individual logic and organised chaos. (Kogan, 2018; Stratou, 2014; Hagman, 2010)
In Ilany Kogan's book Canvas of Change: Analysis Through the Prism of Creativity, (2018) she compares Freud's take on creative process psychoanalysis from his essay “Leonardo da Vinci, a memory of his childhood” (1910) and Segal's proposed theory based on Melanie Klein's terms of the creative process.
In Kogan's words:
“Freud proposed that art springs from the personal consciousness of the individual and that the impulse of the creative genius arises from the human tendency to immortalise the self. Rank maintains that the artist expresses his being in his work (Chapter One), and that art represents a constructive victory over Oedipal experiences in the form of individual new creations. He regards this activity as something both individually and socially valuable. According to Freud, the artwork presumably sheds light on the artist’s inner state of mind. The pathographic model assumes that the enquirer will be able to uncover repressions, complexes, and anxieties by studying the artist’s work, and that these works can be interpreted in light of biographical information. In the absence of clinical data, the pathographer uses the external as a pathway to the internal.” (2018, Chapter 1, p. 4)
In comparison to other philosophy, in this case Segal's take on Melanie Klein's terms, Kogan writes :
“While the classical view of symbols led to the belief that art— a symbolic activity par excellence —is a wish-fulﬁlment and has little to do with ego development and the establishment of a sense of reality, Klein and Segal claim that it is through his creative capacity that the artist is able to establish harmony between the inner and outer world. Whereas Freud regards the source of the artist’s creative capacity as something of a mystery, the Kleinian view places it within the context of fundamental developmental processes that establish a rich, communicative phantasy life and a realistic relationship to the external world.” (2018, Chapter 2, p.14.)
I decided to observe my own artistic process based on the theory of defining the artistic process as processing the chaos within the artist's internal world and bridging this with the external world
In the following section, I will introduce my working methods for the creation of the music, which are analysed in relation to my research question.
As previously mentioned, there has been research done about artistic creation and creativity in the field of psychology, which talks about the artist creating bridges and understanding between the external world and the internal world (Kogan, 2018; Stratou, 2014; Hagman, 2010). It is a reflection on how art can help process difficult emotions as contradictions between the two worlds.
Art and creativity is a tool of processing difficult emotions because it is a form of expression for mental health and a venture for self-realisation and externalisation (Kogan, 2018). Based on Kogan's book “Analysis Through the Prism of Creativity” (2018), Chapter 2, where several analytical models of creativity were explained and compared. A relevant analytical model in Klein's book explored creativity as a reparative process, helping the artist to build harmonious bridges between the inner and outer world, (Kogan, 2018). I hope to achieve a perspective of hope and harmony through my processing of difficult emotions and societal issues. The Kleinen model emphasises the reparative processes, which involves the artist searching for symbolic expression to create a world of their own in order to repair what they experiences in their shattered internal world (Kogan, 2018).
The same concept of building bridges between the inner world of the creator and the external world of our sometimes harsh reality is described in the essay “Seeing into Ubiquity” (2014) by Danae Stratou as part of the essay collection “Art in the global present” by Papastergiadis. In the author's words:
“I imagine two parallel realities in the way that we view the world. There is the world inside and the world outside us. It is through the senses that we are able to connect the inside to the outside world. My whole life, including the choice to become an artist, has been an attempt to research, to understand, and to connect these two parallel realities. To bridge what is within to what is without.” (Stratou, p. 179, 2014)
In the book “The Artist's Mind : A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Creativity, Modern Art and Modern Artists” (2010) by George Hagman, the same perspective of inner and outer world came up in this book, which explores and compares the psychoanalytic point of view of the artist's creation and audience perception, through a variety of psychologist theories. A quote from chapter 3 “Art and the artist's mind”:
“They (D.W. Winnicott and Marion Milner) describe how the artist is in a dynamic encounter with the real world, inner and outer impacting and changing each other and bringing about in the potential space between (a space with both physical and psychological dimensions) a brand new object - the artwork.” (Hagman, p. 21, 2010)
I was inspired by a number of artists and specific artworks as I conducted artistic research on my own processing of the external world.
Examples of other artist's work.
In the following section I will analyse work by two different artists who reflect the idea of working between inner and outer worlds.
MARI KALKUN - KEELEGA-MEELEGA
When thinking of lyrics, I was inspired by Estonian singer-songwriter, Mari Kalkun. In January 2023 I attended Ethno Estonia music camp where Mari visited us for one evening and shared her music with us. During the sharing she was explaining about the power of words. Putting thoughts into words is an action that yields great power, and speaking those words makes the thought come to life. Singing the words not only makes the thought come to life, but also the thought has a secondary power of expressive emotional information.
“When words meet music, a special transaction occurs between rhythmic, harmonic and verbal signification.” (Kennedy, Gadpaille, p. 9, 2013).
Mari believes everyone should sing in their mother tongue, because then the words yield the most strength. Even if the listener does not understand the language, the power and emotion can be felt and understood either way through the communicative, expressive power of music.
Mari's songs are largely inspired by nature, Estonian poetry and folk music. Many of the lyrics are written by local poets carrying the feeling of rural life, the forests, the landscape (marikalkun.com). As a powerful lyricist and philosopher, she is a strong story teller as well. The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania share a similar history of German and Russian occupation over several centuries. Mari Kalkun was explaining the history of Soviet occupation in Estonia during and after the Second World War. During that period there were anti-soviet resistance partisans called the Forest Brothers. The Forest Brothers fled and hid in the forest, swamps and other rural areas to escape the soviet regime and rebel against the Soviet regime (Buttar, 2013). This history is shared in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and I have heard stories from these dark times since I was a child. But I had never heard these stories being told from a point of view of mysticism, painting our dark history in an appealing way to foreigners making it a colourful, adventurous story.
Her song Keelega-Meelega (With Tongue and Mind) captures the essence of the ancient wisdom with strength for processing life and keeping motivation to carry on with hope. The song speaks that strength comes from speaking our minds in our own language, keeping our identity. The lyrics were composed by Mari and based on the combination of Võru and Estonian languages. This song inspired me to approach processing societal issues and difficult emotions from a positive perspective, keeping hope as the main motivator. I interpret the message of the music as a mantra and perspective for connecting the internal and external world with hope.
The rhythm of the song is rooted in the tempo of walking at a steady pace, as she performs the song standing, playing kannel (a traditional Estonian plucked string instrument), singing and she has ankle bells attached to her left leg. In the middle part of the song where she starts naming elements of strength and life, she starts walking on the spot, triggering the ankle bells to ring on the backbeat of the rhythm. This musical element is a strong symbol for the message of the song; with a good tongue and mind I can go on.
KIRILS ĒCIS - KĀ UZTURĒT SAPRĀTĪGAS ATTIECĪBAS AR NESAPRĀTĪGU PASAULI?
The poem “Kā uzturēt saprātīgas attiecības ar nesaprātīgu pasauli?” (How to maintain a sane relationship with an unreasonable world?) by contemporary Latvian poet Kirils Ēcis is another example of artwork that greatly inspired me to pose the research question: How can art and music enable us to process difficult emotions and societal issues and give us hope?
For the 2022 edition of the experimental multidisciplinary arts festival Optižūns, we, the curators, had discussed the idea of approaching the festival from a dramascript point, viewing the festival day as one event with a variety of occurrences happening within the event. Each year we offer a theme, an open ended concept as a starting point for the artists. For the festival of 2022 we decided to involve a poet to write a theme script, dedicating to each artist or group a section of the script. We approached Kirils Ēcis and he came up with a collection of instructions under the umbrella title “If the Obstacle Refuses to Move Aside”. Each instruction could be interpreted literally, abstractly, and of course, philosophically.
One excerpt stuck with me in particular: “Saglabā saprātīgas attiecības ar pilnīgi nesaprātīgu pasauli” (Maintain a sane relationship with an absolutely insane world!) (Ēcis, K. p. 17, 2022). This instruction was delegated to a duo of visual artists Emīls Kocers and Katrīna Levāne, who interpreted the work by making cubes in various sizes out of chicken wire and hanging them in the branches of a big oak tree. I interpret the cubes as cages or boxes, and how we trap thoughts and emotions and put them into frames, to get some order or logic behind, to create a sensible relationship with an insensible world, trying to bridge the external world with the internal. The cubes hanging from the branches of an oak tree for me are a visual representation of how we hold all these boxes in our minds and souls, we continuously grow and branch out, and collect more and more boxes.