Friday, February 24, 2017
Book Review: The Inkblots
Many years ago, when I was in school studying to become a Clinical Psychologist, I was learning about the various tests and assessments used to understand the human mind. One test in particular was extremely intriguing to me - The Rorschach Inkblots. What one saw in these ambiguous ink blots helped the psychologist read into one's thoughts and perceptions. Later, while researching for my Master's thesis about the role of emotions in choosing a visual art form, I looked for materials relating to Hermann Rorschach and found almost nothing. So, when I saw this book The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test and The Power of Seeing by Damion Searls, I knew I had to read it. And I am glad I did.
The author explored unpublished letters, diaries and previously unknown interviews with Rorschach’s family, friends, and colleagues to create this beautifully written and first-ever biography of Hermann Rorschach. Son of an artist and a visual artist himself, Rorschach absorbed not only the theories of Freud and Jung but also the aesthetic movements of his time, from Futurism to Dadaism. But he was convinced that the truth of who we are lies in our perception, in what we see rather than Freud's standpoint of what we say or slip. Thus he synthesized art and science into a set of ten carefully curated ink blots that could probe into the inner world of a person based on what they saw in each inkblot.
The Rorschach Inkblot test didn't remain confined to mental hospitals though. It spreaded far and wide into many walks of daily life and is still used today. This book explores not only Rorschach's life, the creation of the inkblot test but also the journey of the test itself. Wonderful and informative read for anyone curious about how science and art can come together.