The Century of the Self

The film “The Century of the Self” by Adam Curtis was a very interesting and insightful look at different aspects of oneself in Great Britain and America. Since Sigmund Freud introduced his theories of psychoanalysis, this affected society in a variety of forms, including self-evaluation and expression. In terms of Art Education, the ideas of psychoanalysis and whether or not to express hidden desires could lead to interesting artwork. Art education should allow freedom of expression or repression in artwork, teaching students to express feelings in their work in a healthy, creative way.

The film introduced psychoanalysis and everything that came with it as a result. At one time, it was socially acceptable to repress hidden “dangerous” feelings, and later it was thought innermost emotions were not the danger, but instead society was. Conditioning the world are elements of psychoanalysis that is reflected in our society. Politicians, advertisements, subliminal messaging, product placement, all of these are tools that the government and corporations used to “control” and manipulate the human population to think a certain way. Even some art educators are guilty of stifling creativity and forcing students to conform to a certain way of thinking in art and practice of style, rather than celebrating the identity of each student.

I believe that the principle of the Freudians and the repression of hidden desires of the self is damaging. An art student, or any artist for that matter, should be in control of what material they are making and what statement they wish to make when creating. The film depicted in the 70s and beyond, an interest in finding an identity and self-evaluation. That is much more important and successful than repressing ones true self. If a student wants to make artwork that is deemed disturbing by the masses, but expresses the emotions of the artist, they should not be limited. If a student wishes to just paint and not have any particular artist statement, just free expression, which should be acceptable as well. For an artist to flourish, they must be in control of what their work conveys. Believing that innermost desires are harmful and should be repressed distorts flourishing. A student should have the freedom to show emotions throughout any art form they choose, and should not be limited in their creative expression because society determines their desires are a threat.

Of course we are able to be counter engineers of consent and make the world less distorted. The people of society have been and continue to be influenced by the government and corporations, so I believe teachers can govern the students in a consenting way without total control. Art educators can encourage students to channel feelings into artwork instead of repressing and being controlled by society. No one needs to conform to society, especially in art. In my opinion, to make the world a less distorted, improved place, we need to be honest. What is more distorted than a fake reality? If everyone is afraid of expression and have a personal identity, no one will be true to themselves. What kind of a world is that? Art should be a place of freedom and a getaway of pressures of society. Despite what the film has portrayed, I believe educators can make the learning environment an autonomous, control free zone of learning and creativity of self expression.


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