Friday, February 4, 2011

Mental Disorders and Art, Savants and Flow

Does having a mental illness make you a better artist? Hell yes it does. Van Gogh was in a mental asylum when he was inspired to paint Starry Night. Heath Ledger drove himself insane when he committed to portray the Batman villain Joker. Hemingway killed himself when he could no longer write. All three of these artists had severe mood disorders, which ultimately help create their masterpieces.

Of course one does not need to have a mental issue to make great art. People of comparative talent such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Johnny Depp, and James Joyce all lack mental illness. But I want to put mood disorders aside for the moment and focus on a mental illness that can make art the only capable thing someone can do. It's called savantism.

Savants have a special mind. They are capable of doing few great things, but lack the ability to almost anything else. Steven Wilcher, aka the living camera, is one such example. He is autistic and is a savant (it's important to note that not all savants are autistic and not all autistic people are savants). Steven Wilcher can look at something, then paint it from memory at a later date (the link in the title will take you to the YouTube video).

There is also Daniel Tammet, but Daniel is no artist. He is a mathematician. Yet, the way he comes up with solutions is anything but scientific. You see Daniel Tammet views numbers in his mind as landscapes. He says Pi is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen (A link in the title will also take you to the YouTube video). Science, for all its wonders, can only answer so many questions about Savants. They are still truly a wonder.

Personally, I believe that there is a part of the brain that artists go to while creating art. This part of the brain is the catalyst for what psychologists call flow. Flow is the mind acting on an almost sub-conscious level. Artists, and Athletes alike, are vexed when their in a moment of action. A running back is unable to think about juking right or left to avoid a tackle. He simply jukes, as if it was some type primal reaction. The artist does the same. Writers and painters can spend days enveloped in there work without even realizing it. Savants, I believe, live in a constant state of flow. Their minds automatically respond to external stimuli and then apply it to their set skill.

There is a common belief that Sylvia Plath loved being depressed. I believe she was obsessed about constantly staying in her flow. So my question is does an artist's mental disorder contribute to the flow, or vice versa? And how can one use the skills of a Savant to educate people on flow?

No comments:

Post a Comment