Does forgetfulness in the form of senility return us to innocence? If we loose our words, is the rift healed? Is there a primal self beyond our intentional self that is more authentic?
In his latter years, artist Willem de Kooning developed what was probably Alzheimer’s disease. In Scar Tissue*, a moving and insightful book about a son’s experience of his mother’s dementia, Michael Ignatieff considers this:
De Kooning’s work raised the possibility that art might still exist where there is no artist; that a painting might still be painted where there is no self to do the painting. The illness might merely be paring away the reflexive, self-aware and cognitive capacities of the brain, leaving behind deep structures, either genetically inherited or formed in earliest infancy, which could continue to respond to the elemental geometry of colour and line. If this were true, de Kooning’s brush might no longer be connected to an intentional self, but rather to the deep structures of his own creative inspiration.
Where does art come from? From the intentional self or the primal self?
What exists beyond self-awareness and reflexivity? Is that primal connection with colour and line a manifestation of that space beyond joy? If not, what is it?
*Mini Review: Scar Tissue, by Michael Ignatieff – Intelligent, profound, as good a novel as I have read about the experience of dementia. Not an easy or comfortable book, it moves beyond the experience itself to consider the nature of human identity.