David MacWilliam

Unfolding: David MacWilliam

Luck-Lie Behaviour
August 2012
catalogue essay, Jeanne Randolph

Fifty-three per cent of Americans saw a bat. Thirty-nine per cent of the French saw a butterfly. There is no record of what the other thirty-seven per cent of Americans saw. There is no record of what the other sixty-one percent of the French saw. We do know exactly what all those people were looking at: Rorschach Inkblot number one. One look was all you got when the Rorschach Test was still a secret. If you look a second time you will already be thinking too much. Consciousness, especially Reason, will immediately pave over the Subconscious, which is where the bodies are buried.... the landscape for a shallow grave and for cemeteries too, is usually horizontal. Do people living in the Swiss Alps consider normal landscapes, even burial plots, to be vertical? Hermann Rorschach was Swiss. The hills around his secondary school were six hundred meters high, three hundred times higher than Rorschach, a man not even two meters tall in his best boots....a two-meter tall molehill would be impressive whereas the “anthills” that compass termites build can attain two meters one mouthful of clay at a time...."a mouthful of clay” in Latin, buccea fictilibus, is a long-forgotten insight that refers to orators. Rhetorical skill induced listeners to make of the oration whatever they desire, to reshape the imagery and ideas to suit their own motives.... it is possible that Rorschach Test card number ten would be identified as a compass termite with a mouth full of clay. The blue or deep green splashes of Rorschach Test card number ten had often been likened to an insect. In the twenty-first century anywhere in the world perhaps people seeing not only Rorshach Test card number ten, but also looking at Test cards number three and number nine would see an entire unadorned bug face. Looking closely at bug faces, especially with a microscope, could not have been common in Swiss secondary schools in the late nineteenth century.... in the late nineteenth century Swiss secondary schools klecksographie, ink blotting, was common. Hermann Rorschach enjoyed klecksographie so ardently his classmates called him Klex....in 1921 he should have been crowned Rex Klex. That was the year the first set of Rorschach cards, in Rorschach’s magnum opus Psychodiagnostik, was published. Also in 1921 T.S. Eliot’s “The Metaphysical Poets” first appeared in The October 20th London Times Literary Supplement. Eliot had included lines from “A Valediction, of Weeping,” [1633] by John Donne:

On a round ball
A workeman that hath copies by, can lay
An Europe, Afrique, and an Asia
And quickly make that, which was nothing, All...

On an inkblot, workmen that had copies by, can lay a Subconscious, and quickly make that, which was nothing, all. One such workman was the Danish-Swiss psychologist Evald Bohm. His Lehrbuch der Rorschach-Psychodiagnostik was published in 1951. By then the statistics of inkblot interpretation were numerous enough for Bohm to draw lines around all the separate territories that humans perceive on every Rorschach card....territory 22 of Bohm’s Tafel 3, for instance, is Libellen-Zwischenfigur, dragonflybetween- figure site. Just as basically everyone sees the map of Italy in the shape of a boot, all the psychoanalysts up to 1951 had always perceived the shape of territory 22 as a dragonfly, just like all their analysands did...dragonflies, butterflies, compass termites, the cross-section of a round ball, humans, moles, and zillions of other animal, vegetable, mineral and mathematical entities embody bilateral symmetry.... the reflection of Swiss mountains on a calm Swiss lake presents bilateral symmetry. Perhaps turning the Rorschach cards horizontal reveals Rorschach’s love of hiking in the hills. In his own Subconscious everybody else’s Subconscious might have been a mountain range above a lake. A horizontal Rorschach card could appear as the reflections of Joe Pye Weed and Swamp Milkweed reflected in a pond that also mirrors the purple clouds of dragonflies. Or you could see the reflection in a brown puddle of a mole on a mound of aerated soil, or a compass termite facing east from his tower of clay. No botanist can identify these tangled vines. No zoologist can identify the species of dragon that opens its ink-blue jaw. No geologist can explain these umber cliffs along the shore. The ornithologist is stymied by the cobalt blue waterfowl with huge black beak, its double gleaming on the still surface of the water....on the still surface of the page, on the still surface of a digital screen, inkblots after all are flat images, shapes whose texture and depth are illusory. The inkblots had been there all along as culture, not as science. Inkblots can be copied or connoted in paint, fibre, celluloid, porcelain, copper, glass and all the rest. Their effects, RGB or gray scale, are the effects of a McLuhan-cool medium. The inkblots were there all along as suggestive, not precise, evocative not indexical, as approximation not measure, as form not content. These qualities insured inkblots to be inherently resistant to objective evidence of anything....these qualities insure that the visual arts are inherently resistant to objective evidence of anything, except that there is such a thing as a visual artist. To say of an artist they have a mouthful of clay is to invoke an ancient Roman metaphor. It doesn’t reflect twenty-first century lingo....clay is not a common trope in twenty-first century lingo. We, or rather our printers, continue to need ink. We also have plastics, sub-atomic particles and pixels. If we take a second look at inkblots, if we scrutinize them, will we see cement sidewalks, oil spills, jet contrails, electron microscope views of viruses, tire fires, CT scans, manga heroes, hair transplants, guns, skyscrapers, the Hadron Collider, food porn, the stuff in our world?...the stuff in our world, say the evolutionary biologists, still emanates from our Cenozoic nervous system. The stuff in our nervous system, say the neurologists when talking of axons and dendrites, is a three-dimensional net made of protein, fat and salt water. The net does not form a round ball. Our brains have bilateral
symmetry it is true, but they cannot be depicted with Euclidian geometry. Our brains are like large lumps of weirdly-formed clay....Intelligent Design probably refers to a deity who put a dab of wet clay on a sheet of papyrus and then folded it. Presto! A bilaterally symmetrical homo sapiens.... the deity could make all kinds of animals that way. How could a curious deity ever stop dabbing and folding? Ad infinitum, like free association, where does it end? Or does it end?...free association was also a Swiss children’s’ game. According to Ellenberger in The Discovery of the Unconscious the young Carl Gustave Jung loved that game. Rorschach must have seen copies of Jung’s 1906 Studies in Word Association. It too was like a mirror. Just for a moment each word, like each inkblot, would become the mirror image of your psyche. A kind of bilateral symmetry you might say. And what comes to mind seeing Jung’s Standard Word Association Test (admittedly not listed here slowly one word at a time):

Head green water to sing dead long
pay window
friendly to cook
to ask cold stem to dance
village lake
sick pride to cook ink
angry needle
to swim voyage
blue lamp
to sin bread rich
tree to prick pity
yellow mountain to die
new custom to pray money
foolish pamphlet despise
finger expensive bird to fall
book unjust frog to part
white child to take care
sad plum to marry
house sweetheart glass
to quarrel
fur big carrot to paint part old
flower to beat
box wild family
to wash cow friend
luck lie behaviour
narrow brother to fear stork
false anxiety to kiss bride pure
door to choose hay