Mad Genius? / 12 October 2014
Thanks to Colin Hambrook, I was asked to be part of a panel discussion on the concept of the Mad Genius at the Basement in Brighton on October 8th.
The blurb of the event posted: 'The recent death of Robin Williams has strengthened the associations of creativity and mental illness but is the image of the troubled genius useful, and is there any truth in it? Is the image of the troubled genius an unhelpful, inaccurate cliché, or actually a way of re-evaluating the diversity of mental perspectives embodied by artists and those experiencing challenging or unusual mental conditions?' Marc Steene, Dr Rob Poole, Colin Hambrook and David Woods were the others on the panel.
It was unanimously agreed that the 'mad genius' label is dangerous, and the three reasons that kept coming up was the fetishisation of the mad, the pedestal the person will be put on, and how it still makes the person 'the other'.
I agree with all that but my position remains ambivalent. To me, it is a seductive label and all the arguments against it just pushed me on the swing but not off it. The fetishisation of the mad goes beyond the geniuses.
The 'mad' apparently don't own their minds or their identities. It is an alienating label but maybe some of us want to be alienated, and not assimilated, and we can customise our pedestals with stairlifts and glitter. If I was accepted by society, I would look to see what part of my soul was lacking.
My psychosis can go but the world will still make me mad. Mad genius is a seductive label because what do you put in the gaps on your CV? Being mad means your identity is dragged backward through shit and sunshine. Adding on genius elevates that humiliated identity.
It was interesting the debate centred around that it wasn't a good label or identity, but I did pose a question no one seemed to answer: what's the alternative, if you dropped 'mad' and didn't fit into 'sane', what the fuck do you do with your mind, life, identity and work pension?
I am no genius, but I am definitely mad. I pose a question to my readers: what do you call a person who wants to put reality over her knees and smack his naughty arse?
Until I get an answer, I will continue to screw lightbulbs into the sky.