Chapter 2

The ‘Mad Artist Syndrome’

2.2 Why an artist might like to be seen as mad

' At least my neurosis is creative. It could have been writer's block.' Woody Allen

It seems odd that someone might not attempt to correct a false assumption about or judgement of their character. However, there are of course reasons why artists will sometimes go along with this .

Firstly it might help an artist to cope with criticism from and expectations of the masses, if they assume him/her to be mad (see Chapter 1.2.). No one expects a mad person to be able to express profound theories or motives. Thus an artist might feel quite happy not having to explain his/her every move and thought, and to be human for once. The sense of irresponsibility must be attractive to someone whose job it is to analyse, confront, question and subsequently create new and great things because it allows them to act silly and say stupid things like everybody else. This is not to say that every mad artist was or is just escaping an all too pressurising reality. Eccentricity and outstanding progressiveness are often perceived as mad and the affected person might not care enough about what society thinks of him/her to be bothered to correct the misunderstanding.

In addition, it would probably be rather difficult to amend an error like this , once it has established . Isn't it characteristic of the mad that they are unable to recognise their illness?

On the other hand the connection between genius and madness is so commonly held, even if unjustified, that if an artist is described as mad it is assumed that he/she is also a genius.

"Stumbling behind my own voices" and "the voices that fly in front of me" surely is a precise description of the inspiration of genius and madness, which proves how thin the path is that separates one from the other. A known fact for over 2000 years which has since often been remarked "nullum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fuit" said Seneca.

In being labelled as mad some artists see the freedom to do something truly outstanding without having to understand, justify or explain it.