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.
Image: exhibition views: a timeline, looking forward and back…
I 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.
I selected photographic portraits found in late 1940’s fashion publications, and interpreted their vintage aesthetic as links to past lives, to experiences of war and the period of optimism and creativity that followed. Using Photoshop technique, I added and altered, to juxtapose components in surreal montage. I drew on other Jungian archetypes as well as the shadow, such as: the ‘apocalypse’, ‘heroine’, ‘trickster’, ‘mother’ and ‘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.
Visitors could use headphones to access the audio component. Reference to selected popular American songs, once sung by female style icons of the era, crossed the senses to convey bygone ideology, emotional mood and atmosphere.
The song lyrics infer connections as well as subtle differences between ‘now’ and ‘then’ in personal relationships, social values, attitudes and aspirations.
Particular examples from the era can be seen and heard at YouTube:
The 2018 centenary celebrations of women’s suffrage brought a timely context in which to review the ongoing female r-evolution: to reflect on progress in the realms of gender equality, social relationships and individual purpose. I aimed that the merging of temporalities would provoke reflection and ensuing conversations around the ways that personal and social lives have changed – and are still changing.
Is there a possibility to assess the darkness of the 21st century female’s shadow: our collective veil of illusion? Will there continue to be nothing but blue skies, from now on? If we use imagination to reach across the boundaries that define the passage of time to ask questions, what might the young women I have pictured, born in 1920’s and 30’s, most value, dislike, or fear about life now: if they were still young today?
Image: ‘Blind Eye’
No light without shadow.