I’ve met lots of sculptures before, but had so far never interviewed one. The interview took the form of a psychoanalytic assessment over Skype. I truly talked to Anna’s sculpture through my computer for 50 minutes. Although it wasn’t very chatty, I felt it very eloquently hinted at some of the thoughts and events underpinning its depression.
Not everyone likes to talk to strangers, so I had to counterbalance the sculpture’s reticence with some leading questions of my own. Of course it isn’t a good idea to put too many words into the interviewee’s mouth – it’s infinitely preferable to allow the subject to find its own means of expression – but you have to start somewhere.
In any psychoanalytic assessment you’re trying to work out whether the sort of lopsided dialogue on offer is likely to be fruitful for the person. So while you may be asking them about their mum or their job, or tracking the timeline of their symptoms, you are also trying to gauge something about their capacity for introspection, their perplexity in the face of their own case, or their ability to question their own narratives.
I found Anna’s sculpture to be a frustrating, fascinating mixture of frankness and evasion. However, while I was struck by its mute communicativeness and would have welcomed the chance to spend a little more time with it, I also felt strongly that any attempt to ‘cure’ it would be not only pointless but unethical. Its symptom – its sadness – was so tightly bound up in its identity that any attempt at symptom removal would surely leave it catastrophically bereft. It would no longer be itself, and one could hardly guarantee that this new self would be any better. Therefore, at the end of the allotted time, I wished the sculpture well and left it to get on with its business.
Anouchka Grose is a psychoanalyst and writer practising in London. She is a member of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research, where she regularly lectures. She has written non-fiction – No More Silly Love Songs: A Realist’s Guide to Romance (Portobello, 2010), Are you Considering Therapy (Karnac, 2011) and Notes on Psychoanalysis: From Anxiety to Zoolander (Karnac, 2017) – as well as fiction – Ringing for You (HarperCollins, 1999) and Darling Daisy (HarperCollins, 2000). She is the editor of Hysteria Today (2015), a collection of essays on hysteria in the contemporary psychoanalytic clinic. Her journalism is published in The Guardian, and she also writes for numerous art and fashion publications. She has taught at Camberwell College of Arts and gives talks on art and psychoanalysis in museums and galleries, as well as sometimes speaking on the radio.