Visual Arts Publications


Songs of the Self: Slightly Unbalanced

Document Type

Response or Comment

Publication Date

Summer 7-2009







First Page


Last Page



Slightly Unbalanced explores psychological states of being and neurosis. Splintered into four categories including, “Progenitors,” “Performance Video,” “Inner Monologues,” and “The House as Metaphor for the Mind,” the aforementioned artists confront, challenge, and articulate the nuances of emotional disorder(s) through autobiographical, confessional, and diaristic modes of communication. Besides inflating the common presumption of the artist as a proverbially ‘tragic’ figure, one who compromises psychological stability for their work, the artists in this exhibition draw attention to the vulnerability of the artist’s psyche and neurotic tendencies that so readily accompany artistic production and creativity. A number of works in the exhibition tread a fragile path between narcissistic drivel and the acute honesty and emotional intensity that comprise the better side of the so-called ‘confessional’ genre. I intend to make a sound comparison between works which follow this fragile trajectory and those which engage the psyche without surrendering artistic integrity. Like the exhibition, my review shall consist of four fragments pertaining to the subject/themes prescribed by the curators to which I have listed above, while scrutinizing works which ‘hit or miss,’ so to speak. As my current research interests engage contemporary confessional/autobiographical art, specifically works laden with psychodrama, this review provides a perfect opportunity to tackle some of the issues I have been working through during my academic pursuits.


Matthew Ryan Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in Art and Visual Culture at The University of Western Ontario.