Above: Bohemian (painter), 1922. Credit: public domain/August Sander.


Gaslight: manipulate someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity (ODE). You are mad. You are just a psycho. Who cares what you think, you are a weirdo. Are you insane? You are just too weird. These are the kinds of statements which are indicative of a person coming under gaslighting attack by the use of mental health slurs. That is to say, a person's views being belittled or dismissed because they are, it is proposed, irrational. A person who is not in their right mind--too unconventional or bizarre to take at all seriously. Dismissing a person in this way can often be a subtle form of control whereby, at some point, the victim/person being abused can begin to doubt themself and actually start to believe the slurs.

Getting gaslit, or gaslighted, is something that we in the visual arts tend to take as something that goes-with-the-territory. And the territory is this: we are persons to whom the conventional way of going on is not of that much interest. What is of interest is experimentation, innovation, and doing things differently. All creative professionals have to live with human members of the conventional conformist majority belittling and mocking them from time to time--it is often in trivial ways but, as Jo Brand has noted so memorably (thinking about the feminist cause), it is the constant flow of acts of micro-violence which do have an incremental effect (like calling a woman Love or saying "silly cow" and so many others), i.e., "I know it's not high-level but it doesn't have to be high-level for women to feel under siege ... if you are constantly being harassed even in a small way that builds up." And so it is too for the creative non-conformist bohemian: it's not high-level, but it doesn't have to be high-level for the creative soul to feel under siege.

For us in creative arts, being subtly undermined and mocked is something that we have grown very accustomed to because when you think originally and innovatively you do also tend to dress innovatively and differently, and you also tend to behave less conventionally than many of the square types. And conventional people don't like it, it gets them feeling uncomfortable. Their happy place is fitting in and being lost in a crowd. The creative mindset is often in tension and opposition to that. To live creatively means that there will always be haters and mockers and denigrators. Part of being at an Art School is the enjoyment of knowing that you are not alone in getting gaslighted for being creative. We get used to acts of micro-violence against our creative outlook and creative behaviour; we have to learn to gird ourselves (prepare; brace) for snide remarks and put-downs. Whilst always remembering that these idiot comments from boring idiots are worthless and actually prejudiced. So, when someone tells you, seriously or in jest, "You're different aren't you!" it's always important to remember: the creative non-conformist is always going to be Kicking Against the Pricks!

(11 October 2018)