the art of projection

"Art of Projection (Projektionskunst) – the exhibition of a proportional extended visible image, which with the help of a magic lantern or of recent projection instruments is thrown as the magnification of certain objects on a white surface" - Meyer’s Conversation Lexicon of 1908

“We get behind the demons, as it were, when we recognize them as projections of hostile feelings, which the survivors cherish against the dead.”

“The process completes itself rather through a particular psychic mechanism, that we are used to calling “projection” in psychoanalysis. The hostility, of which one knows nothing and wants to know nothing, has been thrown out of the inner sphere of perceptions [inneren Wharnehmung] into the outer world, by which one releases its from one’s own person and shoves it off on another person. Not we, the survivors, are glad that we are free of the dead one; no, we mourn him, but he has, curiously enough, become an evil demon, to whom our bad luck is pleasing, and who seeks to bring us into the realm of death. The survivors must now defend themselves against the evil fiend…” – Freud (my translation)

Oh the monsters! Under the opera. Under the pornographic novel. Under the constitutions. And under the monsters, the great grind of life in the old order, on the great estates – taxes and labor duties without end in Hungary, Moldavia, Wallachia, Poland… Slavery in Santo Domingo., famine in Bengal…

Freud takes the term from Bleuler, seizes it in a leonine pounce. For here, on the surface, in the shimmer of everyday life of verbal slips, infantile dirty jokes, the herky jerky motion of trams, office politics and thick, thick drapes, here it is that you find the denials, the “I hate to say this”, the “I don’t mean to criticize” – the I don’t mean in general. The demiurge unconscious stirs. Is it awake or asleep?

For Freud, the demons are a projection-creation, and projection itself is the expression of ambivalence. Here, of course, everything seems clear. Locke’s blank sheet of the mind – that white surface - has now been extruded – a screen - as part of a technical process in which images are thrown against it and exaggerated in size. And if we were living in a world that was simply determined, this would suffice. But we are, always, living in a world that has been overdetermined.

For in that world (and aren’t we working in Nemesis’ wake?) the living live with each other in a whisper of suppressed desires, hostilities, purposes, and purposive inattentions – knowing or suspecting what we claim we never knew or suspected, each about each. While one aspect of projection involves transmuting the satisfaction that one has survived the dead into their hostility, another aspect involves the denial that the formerly living loved one had definite moments of hostility, or definite moments of the wrong kind of love. Those evil eye fugues.

And what do we know about other people anyway? Freud notes that projection, in the narrow psychoanalytic sense, is part of a greater system of projection.

“The Projection of unconscious hostility by the tabu of the dead on the demons is only a single example out of a series of processes, to which must be attributed the greatest influence on the shaping of primitive spiritual life. In the above mentioned cases, projection serves to close a conflict of feelings; it finds a natural application in a number of psychological situations that lead to neurosis. But projection is not created as an instrument of defence, it also comes into play, where there is no conflict. The projection of inner perceptions (Wahrnehmungen) to the outside is a primitive mechanism that, for instance, also underlies our sense perceptions – and that thus, in the normal course of things, has the greates part in the shaping of our outer world. Under not yet satisfactorily fixed conditions, our inner perceptions of feeling and thought processes become sense perceptions projected outside, applied to the shaping of the outer world, while supposedly remaining in the inner world. This may hang together, genetically, with the fact that the function of attention originally was not turned to the inner world, but instead to the stream of stimuli from the outer world, and of endopsychic processes received only reports about the developments of pleasure and pain. Only with the development (Ausbildung) of an abstract thought language, through the tying together of the sense remnants of word ideas with inner processes, did these themselves become perceptible.”

The trope of the abstract being taken from, projecting, the material – that place where we begin the white mythology – is transformed, here, into a relation of the outer and the inner. Although the inner, Freud carefully notes, isn’t some counterprojection of the outer. If it becomes perceptible, it was operating before the moment of perceptibility.


P.M.Lawrence said…
Pouncing is done from ambush, but - unusually for cats - lions are cursorial predators (when they hunt at all, as opposed to driving some smaller predator away from its kill).
roger said…
Thanks for the lion info, Mr. Lawrence. You know, I've only seen the poor beasties in cages and on tv - never out there in the bush.
P.M.Lawrence said…
Yesterday I saw a stuffed lion at a taxidermy stall at a gun show.