Foreword: Esther Sperber
Publisher: Karnac Books
A foreword is a collection of words that comes before; the text one encounters when opening the cover of a new book. A foreword is an invitation to follow the author on a journey of insights and ideas. Like a journey, a book also begins with hope of seeing new places, experiencing strange cultures, and discovering hidden aspects of ourselves. The foreword anticipates this voyage, sets expectations, and maps the road that will soon unfold.
Books, like journeys, have many different styles. Some books take us on a business-like trip – efficient, productive, and quick. Others resemble long vacations, meandering in and out of adventures, letting the landscape suggest the next steps on the travel path. Some books follow a direct road from the place of departure to the final destination while others happen upon encounters in an accidental manner. And like a voyage, a book also must bring us back home. We return carrying our new experiences; a photograph of a sunset, the flavour of an exotic dish, and the email address of a fellow traveller with whom we shared a long train ride. Of these memories, some will be cherished and passed on as heirlooms to the next generation. Other experiences will fade over time, adding just a slight tint to the colour of the trip.
Dr. Schinaia’s book takes us on his own personal journey through places, academic fields, and ideas that shape the way he sees the world. We are invited to join him, to travel in and out of his memories and to encounter a personal, rich, and colourful new world. It is a complex world that resists the usual separation into the intellectual disciplines our world is usually subdivided into.
There is always a risk when entering a new book or traveling through new territories and Schinaia reminds us that the only truth the traveller can reference is his place of origin. Our departure point becomes our anchor so we can dare to meet new encounters and deepen our understanding of worlds around and within us. We embark on this journey accompanied by our past and present, our homeland, our mother tongue, and professional discourse.
Schinaia tell us how the profound experience of immigrating informed his ability to venture from his original field of psychiatry into architecture, philosophy, literature, art, and poetry. Like Schinaia, I too am living on a continent far from my birthplace and speak an acquired language. And similarly, I have also ventured from my professional home of architecture into the world of psychoanalytic theory.
It was my wish to understand better the creative process in art and architecture that first brought me to the field of psychoanalysis. While traditional views of creativity focus on the artist as an individual and her mental conscious and unconscious capacities, I was drawn to the understanding of the self as described in relational psychoanalysis, which sees the self as always constituted in an intersubjective, co-created field, between self and other. Given the many participants in the design and construction process even of a simple building, this emphasis on the collaborative nature of innovation resonated with my experience as an architect (Sperber, 2013).
From this personal entry point I followed Schinaia on his exploration of “inside and outside”. The book studies the phenomenological experience of architecture, language, and psychoanalysis. It positions them as processes that investigate the complexity of the psychical and physical boundaries between self and other, our mind and the world, the exterior and interior. It reflects on a variety of transitional topics, such as immigration, interdisciplinary studies, languages and translation, and therapeutic encounters.
Schinaia values the position of the traveller who is always a stranger wherever he may be: “Those who immigrate to another country become foreigners for life.” Harnessing his position of otherness, he observes that which is invisible to the natives who comfortably inhabit their unquestioned culture and take their language for granted. With his cultural and professional baggage he sets out to contaminate the existing fields of discourses: “Through a continuous process of crossbreeding, the contributions from different disciplines … can lead to fertile connections and fruitful contaminations” (Chapter Two). It is in the borderline areas of each field that we find nomadic ideas that destabilise and open us up to new understanding.
When architecture and psychoanalysis are brought into conversation one notes some fundamental differences: “the architect transforms emotions into form whereas the analyst transforms emotions into languages” (Chapter Three). But as Schinaia continues to demonstrate, forms and language are not entirely different categories. In the process When comparing architecture and psychoanalysis he suggests that psychoanalysis relies on spatial forms such as “the city, the house, room window…” (Chapter Three). And just as building elements occupy the imagery of psychoanalysis, so do syntactic, linguistic structures operate at the base of the architectural creating cultural statement. [FS1]
This book, which crosses borders and fosters a conversation between unique languages, is also quintessentially Italian and European in its intellectual discourse. As a reader immersed in a North American, New York-centred, psychoanalytic conversation I find myself constantly translating a slightly foreign culture when reading this book. The book reveals a rich discourse, situated in a dense continent of open borders. It moves with ease between fields, quoting freely from philosophy, linguistics, literature, art, architecture, and psychiatry. I am disoriented at first by the many unfamiliar references and find momentary rest in the familiar voices of Freud, Winnicott, or Bion. But this discomfort is also accompanied by the joy of hearing the orchestra of voices that Schinaia brings in each chapter.
In her book Architecture from the Outside, Essays on Virtual and Real Spaces, the philosopher Elizabeth Grosz also chooses to study architecture from her own outside position as a philosopher. She posits that outsiderness is both paradoxical and perverse. “It is paradoxical,” she writes “insofar as it can only ever make sense, have a place, in reference to what it is not and can never be – an inside, a within, an interior.” (p. xv) [FS2] And it is perverse because while it is defined relative to an inside it does not need to be faithful to the consistency of this inside place (Grosz, 2001). A relationship based on paradox and perversity points to a conflict while also suggesting a relational dependence. Inside and outside can only exist together.
Grosz proposes a new way of exploring philosophy with architecture, as well as other interdisciplinary studies, which is also fruitful for the study of architecture and psychoanalysis. She suggests:
My central argument throughout is that architecture, geography, and urban planning have tended to neglect or ignore temporality or to reduce it to the measurable and calculable, that is, to space. It is central to the future of architecture that the question of time, change, and emergence become more integral to the processes of design and construction (Grosz, 2001. p.xviii)[FS3]
Grosz makes a profound claim that architecture has always avoided, perhaps repressed, the aspect of time that is inherent to any object or being in this world. She therefore turns to the study of temporality in architecture using her philosophical tools “reversing the usual specialisation of time with a temporalisation of space” (p. xx). Through temporality and embodiment the human situation can become a central actor in the experience of architecture.
If time and bodies become part of the theorising of architecture, replacing style, form, and the modernist idea of space, the particularities of each culture, race, and gender can no longer be ignored by architectural theory. It is this body, which is always sexed and raced, inscribed with personal and social memory, which inhabits and creates architecture. And it is this body that has always been the centre of the psychoanalytic exploration.
As Grosz has shown, temporality and transformation are central to the relationship of inside and outside. They expose time as an actor in interdisciplinary studies and architecture. A building is not a fixed edifice but is an event of becoming; it enables human experiences to come into being.[FS4]
Deleuze points to this temporal quality of a building when he writes: “An event does not just mean that ‘a man has been run over’. The Great Pyramid is an event . . .” (Deleuze, 1992, p.76)[FS5] A pyramid is an event insofar as an event is a position of form and matter in time. The pyramid, which stands erect in the desert for thousands of years, is a very static event. Nevertheless, this pyramid is not outside of time and it too will slowly transform under the sun, moon, and wind. By juxtaposing architecture and psychoanalysis Schinaia brings time and memory into our understanding of this ancient culture of building.
Although this book is titled Inside and Outside, it might have been called On Entering and Exiting. While the inside and the outside are nouns, suggesting a pair of interdependent yet separate locations, the terms entering and exiting are gerund forms of verbs that describe a process. Entering and exiting reveal the constant physical and mental motion and embed the temporal aspect that Grosz suggests. Of course, the prepositions inside and outside are also not fixed. They contain an essential interdependence, as there is no inside without an outside and no here without a there. We take our own “here” wherever we go, creating “otherness” around us, as we learn in this book.
The words entering and exiting might also create a mistaken impression that there are clearly defined borders between the disciplines that Schinaia is visiting. But the human mind and thought processes tend to exceed the academic and professional disciplines we have come to accept, and recent research supports the claim that innovation flourishes precisely in the borderline zones in between these boundaries. Despite the somewhat arbitrary delineation of disciplines, these categories also have merit. Professional disciplines, like languages, have a heritage and a personality. They are expressions of culture and participate in shaping that culture (Chapter Two). That is to say that language is universal and capable of translation, and yet is also embedded with that which is unique and cannot be said in a different context.
The desire therefore to explore the intersection of different fields must also acknowledge the places where these fields lack a shared terminology that is needed in order to foster a mutual dialogue; it must notice the moments of inevitable misunderstanding.
Anthony Vidler discusses another interdisciplinary relationship, that of architecture and film. Vidler suggests, that “we might treat these field relations as discursive, as conversations among previous and present specificities, as structured in fact on their several resistances, rather than ignoring and collapsing them” (Vidler, 2007, p.xii). [FS6] For Vidler, interdisciplinary work is best framed as a conversation. This conversation accepts the unique, non-translatable sensibilities of each discussant while also striving to foster a valuable dialogue of links and affinities. Nevertheless, as Vidler notes, an honest dialogic process must respect the inevitable gaps that will emerge when each field encounters the professional language of the other. [FS7] The conversation must not erase the limitations of a shared vocabulary.
From Grosz and Vidler I take two ideas that are central to the understanding of interdisciplinary work especially in relation to architecture. Grosz has demonstrated the centrality of time and temporality to the field of architecture and Vidler has shown the merit [FS8] of studying the dialogue between different fields without ignoring the gap in the interaction of two languages. Interdisciplinary work is therefore always a temporal event that unfolds like a journey and a conversation, transcending the simple boundaries of time and place, to engage in a study that links across languages, time, and geographic locations.
Psychoanalysis has developed a theory and methodology for engaging in long and complex conversations. It courageously explores intimacy, empathy, and understanding but also invites the full spectrum of human emotions; desire and aggression play out in the arena of transferences and mutual enactments. Psychoanalysis also resists the simplistic notion of time and place. The analyst respects the multiplicity of enacted transference as indicating both a here-and-now and the projections from then-and-there; the analysis is both a personal intrapsychic event and a mutually co-constructed shared dream. The psychoanalyst acquires a unique set of tools through her ongoing attentive listening to the words of others, noticing the stories that resonate and those that conflict with her own experiences. Psychoanalysis is also unique in its attention to a wide range of human thinking. It respects dreams and fantasy as no less real than rational, scientific modes of thinking.
We are therefore fortunate to join Schinaia in this book journey. His psychoanalytic expertise in the area of conversations, and the analytic appreciations for the vast terrain of human experiences both rational and fantasised, make Schinaia a trusted guide on this interdisciplinary voyage. We join him in a journey rooted in the human sense of time, and the intimacy of multi-vocal conversation.
An attempt to study the boundaries of two fields – architecture and psychoanalysis – would have been a sufficient task, but this book takes a step further to demonstrate an attentive dialogue that fosters a fluid process of entering, exiting and re-entering the many fields and voices it explores. This book is an invitation to follow a journey-conversation, unfolding over time, meandering in and out of times and places gathering insights, dreams, and memories along the way. It takes us along a road full of colours, smells, shadows, and water, revealing the complexity of these simple words – inside and outside.
Esther Sperber, architect, founder of Studio ST Architects (www.studio-st.com) and writer on architecture and psychoanalysis.
The full book is available on Amazon