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Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Tuesday July 30, 2002

Filed under: General — Tags: — m759 @ 12:12 AM

Aesthetics of Madness

Admirers of the film "A Beautiful Mind" may be interested in the thoughts of psychotherapist Eric Olson on what he calls the "collage method" of therapy.  The fictional protagonist of "A Beautiful Mind," very loosely based on the real-life mathematician John Nash, displays his madness in a visually striking manner (as required by cinematic art).  He makes enormous collages of published matter in which he believes he has found hidden patterns. 

This fictional character is in some ways more like the real-life therapist Olson than like the real-life schizophrenic Nash.  For an excellent introduction to Olson's world, see the New York Times Magazine article of April 1, 2001, on Olson and on the mysterious death of Olson's father Frank, who worked for the CIA.  Here the plot thickens… the title of the article is "What Did the C.I.A. Do to Eric Olson's Father?

For Olson's own website, see The Frank Olson Legacy Project, which has links to Olson's work on collage therapy.   Viewed in the context of this website, the resemblance of Olson's collages to the collages of "A Beautiful Mind" is, to borrow Freud's expression, uncanny.  Olson's own introduction to his collage method is found on the web page "Theory and therapy."

All of the above resulted from a Google search to see if Arlene Croce's 1993 New Yorker article on Balanchine and Stravinsky, "The Spelling of Agon," could be found online.   I did not find Arlene, but I did find the following, from a collage of quotations assembled by Eric Olson —

"There might be a game in which paper figures were put together to form a story, or at any rate were somehow assembled. The materials might be collected and stored in a scrap-book, full of pictures and anecdotes. The child might then take various bits from the scrap-book to put into the construction; and he might take a considerable picture because it had something in it which he wanted and he might just include the rest because it was there.”

— Ludwig Wittgenstein,
Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, 1943/1978


“Not games. Puzzles. Big difference. That’s a whole other matter. All art — symphonies, architecture, novels — it’s all puzzles. The fitting together of notes, the fitting together of words have by their very nature a puzzle aspect. It’s the creation of form out of chaos. And I believe in form.”

Stephen Sondheim
in Stephen Schiff, “Deconstructing Sondheim,”
The New Yorker, March 8, 1993, p. 76.


“God creates, I assemble.”

— George Balenchine [sic]
in Arlene Croce, “The Spelling of Agon,”
The New Yorker, July 12, 1993, p. 91

The aesthetics of collage is, of course, not without its relevance to the creation (or assembly) of weblogs.

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