Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside awakes
Carl Jung, October 1916, Letters, Vol 1, page 33
These are the words Selen Minotaur has chosen to frame her exhibition The Inner Path, which opened within a skybox gallery space at Frank Atisso’s Art Korner Gallery on March 17th 2022.
The quote is from one of a series of letters Jung wrote during correspondence with Fanny Bowditch Katz, an American woman who had suffered a severe breakdown following the death of her father in 1911 (she she was 37 at the time), and who was referred to Jung for treatment in 1912. At the time Jung wrote these words, she had actually ceased direct therapy under his guidance (for which she had travelled from the US to Switzerland in order to receive), but she and Jung continued to correspond in regards to her condition for several years.
Over the years these words have become relatively well-known, appearing as they do on posters and pictures of the motivational kind. This is actually a shame, because in reducing Jung’s words to something to be framed and / or hung on a wall, we reduce their essential truth from something to be genuinely explored to a statement we can look at and nod towards sagely in a strokey-chin moment and without ever progressing further towards understanding and moving beyond that affliction.
And what is that affliction? Our increasing inability to really understand who we are by looking within. We are complex beings, each with his or her struggles, hurts, wants, needs, conflicts. At some point, we all have what Jung refers to as a “confrontation with the unconscious” that can leave us lost, vulnerable, uncertain, lonely, depressed, isolated, empty, and more. Indeed it is something that can happen ore than once through our lives – and something increasingly exacerbated in the way we are persistently bombarded by ideas that the path to happiness and peace lay through the acquisition of wealth and things, that we can never truly or fully be happy unless we have X, Y or Z and / or that spirituality can never be achieved unless we conform to this or that doctrine, and so on.
Yet, as Jung knew only too well – thanks to his own experiences in 1913, and which affected him through the next several years, helping to formulate his ideas through self-examination, military service and in trying to help patients like Fanny Bowditch Katz – the genuine path to understanding ourselves, to gaining balance (mental and spiritual) – lies within ourselves.
I realise the under the circumstances you have described you feel the need to see clearly. But your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.
Without, everything seems discordant; only within does it coalesces into unity. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside awakes.
Carl Jung, October 1916, Letter, Vol 1, page 33.
Through the seven rooms of The Inner Path, Selen similarly challenges us through images and props and metaphor to look within, to understand what makes us who we are, and undertake a journey of self and release. Starting in greyscale monochrome and progressing through the first hints of tone and hues and finally arriving in full colour, these are images that reflect elements of the journey, the rooms in which they hang additionally presented with sculptures and pieces intended to tip our thinking back and forth, encouraging responses and interpretations rather than presenting outright directions.
Some of the symbolism might at first seem easy to grasp: the progression from greyscale to colour reflecting our rise to self-awareness, the presence of yin/yang representing acceptance of the “negatives” and “positives” we possess, and so on. However, things here are far more nuanced, the metaphors more subtle than might at first seem to be the case, as with the words within the first room and the sculpture of the caged figure (the latter, for example juxtapositioning the idea that as long as we look inward, we will remain caged and confused, trapped within self, with the reality of Jung’s words that only through continued navigation of self heart (/soul), can we genuinely start to reach any sense of understanding, balance and release).
The inner path we travel when we look within ourselves is unique to each of us, even if – should we compare – there are similarities in encounters we each have along the way. As such, just as Selen offers suggestions and uses visual metaphors throughout The Inner Path, and prompts rather than explicitly directs, so I am reluctant to impinge more of my own thinking on all that is offered through this installation.
Instead, I encourage you to go along yourself when free of physical distractions, and walk the halls of The Inner Path with open eyes and mind, giving your inner self a chance to speak as the images and setting prompt. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself passing through the rooms more than once, as this is an installation which, if we allow it, will speak to us constantly.
- Art Korner Gallery (Deju, rated: Moderate)