The Institute

It’s been said that my work is fragmented to the point of looking like it hasn’t been done by one artist. This was launched as a criticism, yet isn’t the demand to produce a coherent body of work tethered to the demands of capitalism and neoliberalism that we form a coherent identity, which we can then market? Social media needs this from us as well. The artworld in the west for some time has been defined by this injunction for artists to achieve a high level of individuation, hyper-individualism you could say. The worst fate for any artists is for their work not to be instantly recognisable as their own.

A life is supposed to be an arrow released at birth which doesn’t deviate in its trajectory to the end. We are supposed to know ourselves, what we are doing and where we are going. But most lives aren’t like that. They are more like an eruption of spores, shooting out in all directions, taking root at multiple sites, some of which flourish, and some of which don’t.

I have to resist the desire to make my work cohere, even though it causes me a lot of anxiety, and one of the ways I have made it possible to continue in this multi-identity is to find a fictional place to contain and frame the various aspects of the work so that they can live together, and this is the Institute. The Institute is a kind of mental institution for men, which also enables me to frame two other ideas that my work articulates, and they are masculinity and art as therapy.

I am uncomfortable with all these features of my work: that it is fragmented, that it looks like art therapy, and that it reveals a certain technology of masculinity. But as a psychoanalyst I know that if something is causing discomfort to be spoken to then it is probably the thing that most needs articulating.