Report on the ICLO-NLS screening of “Other Voices” with Ivan Ruiz
Dublin, 5th September 2013
The opening event of the ICLO-NLS 2013/2104 programme was a particularly auspicious moment, not solely in terms of the psychoanalytic community in Ireland, but for those in the English speaking world interested in hearing something of Psychoanalysis and Autism.
On the 5th of September, 2013 in association with the Instituto Cervantes Dublin, an open screening of the world premiere in English of the documentary Other Voices – A different outlook on Autism was held.
Those in attendance were joined by the film’s maker Ivan Ruiz who spoke frankly and engagingly about his film.
Chair of ICLO-NLS Florencia F.C. Shanahan opened proceedings introducing both the film and Ivan Ruiz. She stressed the importance of the film in engaging with the world of the subjects with autism, their families and psychoanalysis, but also in bringing to the fore the other often unspoken yet crucial dimensions that surround the clinic of autism, namely those of a political nature which drive the elements of diagnosis, method of treatment, resourcing and financial assistance.
Joanne Conway made a short address, noting the relevance of this documentary as a means to transmit something to someone – that is something about the position of psychoanalysis to support and uphold for each who undergo it, their idiosyncratic way of being in the world. She then introduced the formation of a Special Interest Group within ICLO-NLS pertaining to Child and Adolescent Psychoanalysis. This group comprises practitioners in the field – not solely from the Lacanian orientation – who seek to interrogate the challenges posed by this clinic.
After the viewing of the film a discussion with the audience took place. Ivan Ruiz spoke candidly about the making of this film, and his motivation to do so being drawn from both a personal experience of autism and psychoanalysis. Another motivation for him was the risk he perceived in society in terms of a change in the conception of what it means to be human – that is how the “subject” is more and more reduced to an ideology of statistical conceptions of what it is to be human. It is a risk for all subjects, but particularly for those with autism and that is why he wished, via the medium of this film, to reach a larger public. This film is a “response to this risk of our civilisation”. He stated he was not a filmmaker, which was disputed by one speaker from the audience – who spoke of the overwhelming and moving testimony of those who spoke, which as filmmaker he unobtrusively and respectfully conveyed.
The question of diagnosis was raised from the audience stressing that whilst psychoanalysis valorises singularity – a diagnosis can be “helpful”. Ruiz responded and stated that in the film, diagnosis is indeed important – and for psychoanalysis it is a means to orient a treatment – a treatment which does not erase the subject as for psychoanalysis each subject with autism is different. Ruiz noted that while we do not yet have a diagnosis for living – it is sure to be coming! Ruiz continued that The Autism does not exist – an Autism for all does not exist and that was an important message to transmit in the film, and so he purposefully did not include any autistic child in the film as there was a risk of creating an “image of autism”. This is not a film to show anything but “to hear something”. And yet each of the children named (by parents, grandparents and analysts) in the film is vitally present – as evidenced via another question from the audience.
An audience member was struck by intense desire articulated by those parents interviewed. Watching the film one is witness in part to the devastation, powerlessness and loss some parents experienced in being presented with a diagnosis of autism and with it a paucity of hope of anything beyond that for their child. But then there is a terrific turn in the piece whereupon an analyst speaking about her work with autistic children emphasises the particularity of each and the fact that each child has a name. The name of course being an ultimate signifier of the desire of the Other. After she speaks each parent in turn then introduces the viewer to their child via his or her name. As each parent names their child something amazing radiates from the screen. Smiles, laughter, love, a tidal wave of desire of each parent/grandparent for each child and their particular gifts and way of being. It is a visceral moment and a radical departure from the language spoken at the beginning of the documentary. It is palpable how psychoanalysis has supported both the singularity of the child and a treatment of the Other (parents) allowing for the creation/restoration of a radical and singular relationship. Ivan Ruiz commented on the dimension of desire in terms of autism as highlighted by the questioner – how in Lacanian psychoanalysis desire is usually only articulated in terms of the neurotic yet here we clearly see the place of desire for these subjects – one only has to listen to the young man Albert and his interest (among many) in Tin Tin – an interest of his father’s originally and one his paternal grandfather also supported/encouraged via his drawings. So something in terms of desire is transmitted and accepted to an extent by the subject. Ruiz noted that the effect of psychoanalysis here is to restore desire via the speech of the parents about each of their children.
What was also evidenced in the film was the particular demand on parents and analysts alike to invent a new clinic/treatment case by case. This approach encompasses vital work with parents and child toward the possibility of opening new pathways through which the parents (and others) may enter the world of the child.
Time was forever at our heels in this event and the discussion came to a close long before it was ever near ending. In closing Florencia thanked those in attendance with particular thanks to Ivan Ruiz, and noted that the questions of the evening pointed to some controversial points in the film equally for those who were psychoanalysts and those who are not, and perhaps point to those elements we each take on ourselves to understand.
The event was a great success, evidenced in the record numbers in attendance. This film is a testament to the lives of autistic subjects and their families. A testimony of their courage to persevere and hold fast to their struggle to uphold subjectivity above all and a powerful account of how an encounter with psychoanalysis can make a difference for each. This film must be heard.
Joanne Conway (ICLO)