Roomforthoughts: Labyrinth Psychotica,
the epistemology of an art experience in relation to the simulation of schizophrenic psychosis

Nikolova Kanary

Psychosis: any of several major mental illnesses that can cause delusions, hallucinations, serious defects in judgment and insight, defects in the thinking process, and the inability to objectively evaluate reality. In his award winning 2004 book Pure Waanzin: Een Zoektocht naar de Psychotische Ervaring [Pure Madness: A Search for the Psychotic Experience] the linguist Wouter Kusters tries to develop a language that is able to articulate what it is like to be psychotic. Kusters (2004, p16) argues that psychiatry is good at suppressing, controlling, healing and even preventing psychosis; but that it is unversed in understanding and describing the subjective experience of psychosis. Starting from Kusters’ criticism, one might ask the question how to contribute to a better understanding of the subjective experience of psychosis? Which tools could be used? Might an art experience provide new ways of understanding something that is so difficult to describe? While studying current development of psychosis simulators, Jennifer Kanary’s artistic research (roomforthoughts) argues for the use of installation art as a creative tool of knowledge in approaching an understanding of what it is like to be psychotic. Inspired by Clark and Chalmers (1998) she elaborates on how installation art could be used as an active cognitive extension of mental ‘pretense’, which could aid empathic understanding of the subjective experience of psychosis. (Kanary, 2008, p162) “When I say that installation art might be used as a creative tool of empathy, I envision the experience of installation art not so much as a simulation of psychosis, but as a network of emotions, thoughts and actions that provide analogous stepping stones towards understanding the complexity of that which is often described as indescribable.” (Kanary, 2008, p163) During the conference Towards a Science of Consciousness 2009 roomforthoughts will elaborate on how its artistic research might provide an alternative investigative tool for understanding first person experience of psychosis in another. Roomforthoughts aims for a pragmatic approach towards creating an artistic first-person method in which the artist and the artwork could play an important ‘second person’ role, using the term ‘second person’ as described by Jonathan Shear and Francisco J. Varela (1999) as an ‘empathic resonator’. By using the example of the work INTRUDER 2.0 roomforthoughts will explore how the work might form a bridge between first person data (the lived experience) and third person data (collected verbal reports) by holding both aspects as part of the artworks complete experience.

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