Utrecht Art Artist Oil color leaderboard 728x90

The Art of Confusion – by Robert Genn

The Art of Confusion
by Robert Genn

While looking at art in art galleries, I also look at people looking at art. Artists, of course, tend to look at art for different reasons than ordinary folks and are, therefore, more difficult to study. Among ordinary folks, a wide range of discernible reaction and readable body language is apparent. Some reactions seem to be almost totally based on what people have been told or learned. I call these "programmed reactions." Other more direct and "pure" reactions range from awe to disgust. Thankfully, they often include joy. Some viewers have a visceral reaction that may even be accompanied by a temporary or prolonged state of trance. Jaws drop, bodies go limp and people are seen to sit or stand, not quite knowing what's happening.

The active ingredients of this sort of trance are feelings of confusion.

The much discussed and debated 20th century psychoanalyst and clinical hypnotist Milton H. Erickson had quite a bit to say about confusion. A consummate joker, even in his own practice, he used confusion and its incumbent trance to quickly open a window into his clients' psychotic or neurotic state.

A typical Erickson trick was the "confused handshake"--known among our friendly shrinks as "handshake induction." On meeting someone for the first time Erickson would reach out a hand only to grasp on to the other person's wrist. Then he would withdraw his hand in a sort of sensitive and sneaky way, trailing a finger or thumb lightly over the recipient's palm or finger tips. Surprised and disoriented by this unconventional touch, most recipients were at least temporarily set off in a state of trance.

Fact is, a state of trance (and thus psychological control) is readily effected by this sort of confusion.

I thoroughly recommend the hobby of watching people in galleries. In those arts where standards of craftsmanship and creative competence might be expected, a work of art with little or no craftsmanship or apparent competence has a good chance to beguile. Thus, a piece exhibited in a prestigious museum reaches out to the viewer like a handshake ready to be grasped and greeted--then rewards the viewer with something other than expected. Even uninterested viewers can be delivered a life-enhancing (or mind-bending) transportation that brings on a sense of awe.

Best regards,


PS: "Use of the confusion technique has many times effected exceedingly rapid hypnotic inductions under conditions such as acute pain and even in hostile, aggressive and resistant persons." (Milton H. Erickson)

Esoterica: Just as evangelicals, politicians, salespersons and psychiatrists can use baffling thoughts, images and ideas to accomplish their objectives, artists can employ similar means to attract and hold attention. Confusion is created by ambiguity, complexity, pattern interruption, insult, ignorance, contradiction, poor taste, shock, beguiling illusion, surprise, incompleteness and the propagation of riddle and mystery--all ploys that are familiar and readily available to visual artists.

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

Post to Twitter

Leave a Response