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Abella, A. (2010). Contemporary art and Hanna Segal's thinking on Aesthetics. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 91(1):163-181.

(2010). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 91(1):163-181

Interdisciplinary Studies

Contemporary art and Hanna Segal's thinking on Aesthetics Language Translation

Adela Abella

From the point of view of the history of ideas in psychoanalysis, a major shift may be described from Freud's starting point considering art as sublimation of sexual desires on a largely objectal level to later developments emphasizing the presence in art of destructiveness and narcissistic conflicts. Segal's contribution represents a watershed in this evolution. Following Klein, Hanna Segal suggests considering art in relation to depressive anxieties and reparation in such a way that artistic activity may be seen as an attempt ‘to restore and re-create the loved object outside and inside the ego’ which implies a successful work of mourning accompanied by symbol formation. For Segal, these reparative processes are conveyed through formal beauty which represents the victory of reparation over destruction. Nevertheless, contemporary art demands that we consider the intervention, in art, of more raw and less symbolized/sublimated processes, including acting-out in often primitive, psychotic or perverse ways. Thus this paper unfolds in two directions: on the one hand, it examines the differences and continuities between Freud's and Segal's thinking whilst, on the other, the author presents some alternative ideas which stress the search for truth and new thinking in contemporary art.

(Final version accepted 22 May 2009)

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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