Changing Anarchism: Anarchist Theory and Practice in a Global Age

By Jonathan Purkis; James Bowen | Go to book overview

Joanna Gore


8
In the eye of the beholder – child, mad or
artist?

Introduction

In a climate of capitalist control, exercised through education, notions of normality, categorisation, economic structure, inequality and so on, resistance manifests itself in many guises. This discussion concerns the role of art and how artistic expression can challenge dominant constructions of reality; specifically those adhered to by two sometimes remarkably similar institutions, the mental hospital and the school. Within Western societies these institutions are characterised by a structure, function and ideology which is intended to 'educate' or 'cure' inmates, moving them from invalid categories of 'negative subject' into institutional ideas of 'normality' and the 'ideal subject'. Artistic expression is often encouraged in this socialisation process and this is professionally justified through models of 'art therapy', 'art education' and 'client-led' or collaborative art practices.

I propose that it is possible to create a further, anarchist,1 model which is based on the 'validation' (rather than stigmatisation) of the (artistic) viewpoints of those individuals who are constructed as 'invalid' by the dominant definitions operating within these institutions. This 'validation' model owes something to the grassroots-based community arts movement in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s, which utilised different philosophies about the nature and purpose of 'art' in society. It also rests upon the now unfashionable radical psychiatric perspectives of R. D. Laing, Thomas Szasz and others, who perceived mental illness as being created by society rather than being the product of personal problems.

For the sake of brevity I refer to people who have been labelled as mentally ill as 'the mentally ill' and young people as 'children'. These are the 'categories' in which people may find themselves at certain times in their life course; they are not realms of being.

-145-

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