Florence, May 2017

Psychoanalysis & Art: "Senses and soul"

M. Cristina Dalla Villa interviews Claudio Di Benedetto

Maria Cristina Dalla Villa had an opportunity to talk to Claudio Di Benedetto the man in charge of Collections and Services of the Gallerie degli Uffizi. He is an Honorary Academician of the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno and president of the Italian Chapter of the Joseph Crabtree Foundation. He is chairman of the Organizing Committee for the Seventh International Symposium on Psychoanalysis and the Art..

Q: Psychoanalysis and the Arts is the fascinating title of the symposium that will be held at the Istituto degli Innocenti later this month. What are the origins of this combination, as it were, that becomes even more explicit in the theme "Senses and the Soul"?

A: Following the success of previous symposia held here, now the splendid, and refurbished Istituto degli Innocenti will be the setting, from 18 to 20 May, for the Seventh International Symposium on Psychoanalysis and the Arts. Florence, in fact, has been playing a long and pioneering role in the subject of the relationships between art and psyche: starting in the early years of this millennium, Graziella Magherini, Antonio Paolucci, Adolfo Pazzagli, and other friends founded the interdisciplinary association "Arte e Psicologia" (now known as the International Association for Art and Psychology), that has filled places and time with fascinating contributions and topics in a crescendo of national and international interest, relationships and synergies. Over the years these have expanded bringing on board outstanding figures from the United States and elsewhere (I just want to mention Harold Blum and Laurie Wilson). The "relationship" and the connections between these two [macro] disciplines are even closer than they may seem even if we limit ourselves to considering scientific vocations on the one hand and the humanistic callings on the other. The relationship of artistic creation and perception with each person's inner world (both those who create and those who perceive) is both unavoidable and practically infinite. This year's title - "Senses and the Soul", - stresses the role of perception, uniting all of us (with more or less healthy senses and souls) with all creative forms of expression and the arts, and therefore, human civilization: poetry, the visual arts, music… everything that strikes the senses and reaches the soul - in a positive or negative way.

Q: Looking through the program we are truly impressed by the fact that the papers will cover topics ranging from Vermeer, to Pop Art, to music and even to fetishes… Since you will be concluding the symposium how will you get to a logic that unifies it all?

A: Good question! In fact, the program is rich, well-structured and  interesting in terms of subjects and speakers - covering, as you mentioned, a vast horizon of topics and of seemingly parallel lines that will never meet. Actually, "tout se tient" and the sedimentation of languages, styles, forms and sounds is an unicum that holds the history of humanity together and justifies the recourse to artistic creations to assure and sublimate our pure, simple - and extremely necessary! - survival... Naturally, I don't know what my conclusions will be (and they will actually be shared with Laurie Wilson, co-chair of the symposium). You see, at this point I only know the titles of the papers and, in some cases, the speakers' credits. Let's say that now, with all the effort that went into organizing the symposium (which would not have been possible without our colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic, and ENIC) is behind us, it's time sit down among the audience - as we are also anxious to listen and to learn. And I am sure that this will happen with the added value of agreement or respectful dissent. So, this question should be asked again on the afternoon of May 20th.

Q: In some way you also touch on politics in a plenary session dedicated to "Fascism in Music" with the Carmina Burana that often return to our stages in various forms: what do you think?

A: The statement that "politics" and art have always been closely connected and that art has often been (and still is) an expression of agreement or dissent, for or against "power" shouldn't sound banal.  Psychology, psychoanalysis and psychiatry have been (in more recent times, obviously) friends or enemies of power. Our symposia have always been apolitical - naturally, but that does not mean that they have not been driven by minds that are very aware of the dynamics of the social and civic sphere, and not only how it is interpreted or portrayed. I apologize for quoting myself if I mention that in the Sixth Symposium held in 2014 it was I who dealt with the topic of artistic perception as pleasure - aside from the contextualization of its creation - and the subsequent shadow that can be cast on the pleasure when we learn things about the authors'  views, the political context of their era and their work. I used Wagner as my example. Now, about this year, I don't know how David Rosenmayer will deal with Carl Orff's famous "Carmina Burana". And, as I said before, I will listen carefully - and very curiously to the arguments and opinions that will follow.

So, I will summarize by saying that from 18 to 20 May eminent specialists of the psyche and of art - in its most varied forms, will hold and enliven useful and interesting discussions. The city as a setting, the fascinating places and topics - will, I am certain, contribute to renewing this pact with Florence for the future as well.

Translated by Julia Hanna Weiss

foto enic

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