The External Authority

Father and Son (c)2014 Ant Pearce

Father and Son (c)2014 Ant Pearce

An imprisoned existence is probably not the way most of us see our own lives, but Ant’s view that “man is condemned to exist imprisoned” is not far from the mark when we consider the struggles involved in attempting to live life on our own terms. There is always a barrier to achieving this end. Interpreting Freud’s Id, Ego, and Super Ego structure, Ant’s work centres on the outside restrictions imposed from childhood by the ‘external authority’. Also influenced by the writings of Dostoevsky, Kafka and Camus, his work presents the notion “that the omnipresent external authority is what brings about man’s aberrant destructive behaviours.”

  1. Your External Authority series is an elegant expression of Freud. Can you tell us how your method of thread drawing helped you to convey such a complex psychological concept in simple terms?

The thread drawings came about through experimenting with the materials over 3 stages. Once I had developed the technique to a level I found interesting I needed to find something to associate the result with. Having studied aspects of Freud’s ideas regarding the model of the human mind during my MA dissertation I felt that the two seemed to match. It was a case of working backwards, finding a viable explanation to back up the visual work rather than coming up with a visual solution for a specific set of ideas, as is so often the case.

  1. In much of your work you deal with the ‘external authority’ as the controlling force of our desires and behaviour. Where does personal responsibility and choice come into that dynamic?

I do not believe it is my place to comment on an individual’s personal responsibility and choice. That is the responsibility of the individual. I simply try to observe and reflect.

  1. Much of your work seems to question underlying issues and motivations in human activity. What are your thoughts on repetition and repression?
Blue Shark IV (detail) (c)2013 Ant Pearce

Blue Shark IV (detail) (c)2013 Ant Pearce

This has been the most difficult question to answer, or at least the one I had to think about most. I read the words “we repeat because we repress” but struggled to understand them. Having discussed this, with a trusted friend and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, in relation to my own behaviour as well as behaviour documented by Freud regarding children in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, I have concluded that repetitive behaviour is driven by two main principles – firstly that the result will be different from the last time, and by that I mean what is ‘desired’ in the mind of the person repeating – this seldom if ever happens. Secondly and more importantly, it is about control, or the ‘illusion’ of being in control and moving through a state of displeasure to a state of pleasure. The only aspect of my work which I see that touches on ideas of ‘repetition and repression’ is this ‘illusion’ that we as human beings are in control of ourselves, let alone anything else, and the inevitable fact that we will return to a state that is inanimate.


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