Image: ‘Venus Rising’
Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.”
C.G. Jung, 1938.
Through his study of the unconscious, the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung defined the shadow as the unknown, dark side of personality: part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, perceived shortcomings, as well as instincts, creative impulses and sources of renewal. He considered that the shadow side can be positive or negative and is prone to psychological projection, where people may see their own insecurities as flaws in others. Jung believed these projections can both protect and damage individuals by acting as a constantly thickening veil of illusion between the ego and the real world. Some Jungians maintain that the shadow also holds the shadow of society, fed by neglected and repressed collective values.
I’ve developed a series of digital images as interpretations of Jung’s theory of the shadow. I exhibited a selection of these at University of Central Lancashire in May 2018, following an AA2A residency.
Image: exhibition views: a timeline, looking forward and back…
I interpreted photographic portraits found in late 1940’s fashion publications, and their vintage aesthetic, as links to past lives, including to experiences of war and the period of optimism and creativity that followed. Using Photoshop technique, I have added and altered, to juxtapose time in surreal montage. I drew on other Jungian archetypes as well as the shadow, such as: the ‘apocalypse’, ‘heroine’, ‘trickster’, ‘mother’, ‘maiden’. Jung suggested that archetypes are inherited potentials: universal patterns, or models of people, behaviour, personality, that can be triggered within the psyche.
Envisioning the ambiguous presence of the shadow side, opens up perceptions of its existence not just within individuals, but on an exponential scale within contemporary cultural phenomena. Social media, News, Big Data, surveillance, democracy, globalisation, consumerism, are dynamic, mass channels where the collective unconscious is both active and susceptible.
It is a frightening thought that [woman] man also has a shadow side to [her] him, consisting not just of little weaknesses – and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to [her] him, as an individual, it is incredible that [she] he should ever in any circumstances go beyond [herself] himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster; and each individual is only one tiny cell in the monster’s body, so that for better or worse [she] he must accompany it on its bloody rampages and even assist it to the utmost. Having a dark suspicion of these grim possibilities, [woman] man turns a blind eye to the shadow-side of human nature.”
Jung, C.G. “On the Psychology of the Unconscious” (1912) In CW 7: Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. P.35