In depth: Spectanalyst is a series of intimate portraits embodied by Christopher Simpson. A host of unique characters reveal themselves in delicate encounters that give audiences a privileged position as a spectator and psychoanalyst.

Spectanalyst is a neologism encapsulating the concepts that arise from evoking a spectator who attends to a fictional character seeking the entertainment of drama and playfully positioned in the role of a psychoanalyst. It is a way of alluding to the ambivalence of the subject addressed in characters’ speech beyond their conscious reckoning and facilitates an exploration of the interacting layers of consciousness inherent in viewing dramatic fiction.

Treating characters as ‘subjects’ with an unconscious who do not own their own speech, we both believe and don’t believe, hear more in what they say than they can know, hear more in what they don’t say than they can account for. We can sense that, invisibly present in the scene, implicated as a silent and essential third, we may in fact be the true subject of address for the characters we are witnessing. They speak to an unseen analyst in the scene and we oscillate as Spectanalysts between being the audience, a hearing witness, the analytic subject-supposed-to-know and the mysterious Other destination of address unknown to the characters themselves. It suggests the agency of the audience as active hearers whose act of hearing may in fact render characters’ utterances meaningful, a symbolic position, absent within the scene but fundamental to the possibility of meaning arising itself. For whom are the characters speaking if not for an unknown Other? Who can a character’s speech ultimately be intended for if not the audience, the spectator, the very same audience outside the character’s imagining?

Fictional characters, like the constructed conscious fictions of the ego to which we adhere, are not aware of whom they are addressing unconsciously. These characters, invested in the imaginary realm of identifications, whilst explicitly addressing their psychoanalyst interlocutor within the scene, address us implicitly, positioned in the symbolic register of meaning outside of and alien to experience itself. Whilst an audience has an intra-psychic and inter-subjective experience of a character, the audience is figuratively placed in an elusive symbolic position necessary to but beyond and outside of both. In other words, an audience may have a complex of internal associations arising from contact with a character and will also be interacting with the character as an other, like or unlike them, but the Spectanalyst is situated as both an audience charged with a stream of identificatory associations and real body experiences as well as being a placeholder for the possibility itself of a character’s possibility as a subject to be heard…

What are people doing with what they confess and what are we doing with what we hear? The arena of psychoanalysis, in which the primary invitation to an agency of free association affords the possibility of discovering inexplicit paradoxical desire hidden within explicitly uttered desire, is a ripe ground for the exploration of what it is to be a person, what it is to seek change, what it is to suffer and what a subjective transformation might be. Each character seeks to accomplish something through the act of speech, seeks to work anew their relation to themselves, to others and ultimately to an as yet unnamed Other. Psychoanalysts attend to the singularity of utterances, the gaps, fissures and cracks in what someone says or does. Indeed, the one who hears confers meaning and Spectanalysts, spectator-analysts, are invited to construct their readings.

The avowed earnestness of this approach doesn’t ignore the reality that not everyone wants to be mindful while watching fiction! Some may in fact seek fiction to forget themselves so to speak, to lose themselves in another world. The notion of the Spectanalyst respects and acknowledges the ordinary facility with which we observe others in life, invests in fiction as potentially offering audiences an intimate interaction with their sense of self via an imagined other realm. Whether or not the audience reflexively entertains its position as one that brings subjective drama into being everyone reads. We might say that psychoanalytic attending is a trope playfully evoked here to suggest an uber-in-role-audience, conscious of the unconscious, alive to the vicissitudes of desire, hearing critically, psychoanalytically, at the intersection where an egoic fictional imaginary register meets a symbolic register of subjective truth.

If the Spectanalyst is a spectator who is already mindful of dramatic fiction as inherently constructed for them, an other, an other already aware of itself as the audience, the addressee, aware of itself as constructing an implicit text from the explicit material of the evident text, as an active listener positioned as one-who-knows, positioned not so much as the recipient of a text belonging to a dead author but as the auditor, the one who could hear what there is to be heard…then we can infer that the characters depend upon such hearing, are born in order to be heard, are engendered as enactments of what being heard in a certain way might be like and might do.

What is the agency that discloses itself mysteriously within a character’s speech? The subject of the unconscious may indeed speak within ordinary speech, and we must admit that audiences within psychological realism rarely speak back, offer interventions, interpretations, punctuations or ‘cuts’ as a psychoanalyst might. Spectanalyst enacts the therapeutic encounter, and may accomplish a meaningful resemblance to moments within a psychoanalytic encounter, but it suspends or invites a questioning of what psychoanalysts do with what they hear.

In the case of ERROL WATKIN: I’m just beginning to say something…there is no engagement through speech by the analyst and indeed the only editorial cut is precisely at the juncture in Errol’s text when he has heard himself and fully assumed his longing to be heard. The fixity of the gaze, the unflinching insistence of the regard, may perhaps be the witness that Errol precisely pleads for, may belong to a spectator who does not close their eyes in order to punctuate their own affective experience of his distress. The ‘cut’ in Lacanian psychoanalysis is the moment at which the psychoanalyst terminates the session so as to radically punctuate what the analysand has said in such a way as to bring particular attention or rupture to what has been uttered. It is a provocation to interpretation, a setting into motion of inquiry in the analysand as to the polyvalence or unconscious import of an utterance. In this instance the single and final editorial cut may suggest that Errol’s lyrical stream has in fact punctuated itself, that at the close of the long take his utterance has spoken to itself, within itself, and that his address to the Other, beyond the presence of the psychoanalyst, has exposed itself to him, that he has visited flashingly, fleetingly, the terrain of an utterance that alters him and his sense of his subjective position.

And so to the essential crux of Spectanalyst: Change… Characters seeking change embodied by an actor who changes himself in order to serve their myriad virtual inner worlds in a fictional inhabitation of subjective transformations accomplished through compassionate witness and the creative force of speech.

In this work an actor enacts his own creative and authorial agency outside the precarity and unpredictability of his notoriously unstable profession! There may be a meta-fiction at play: an actor seeking change embodies change. It is precisely in giving these fictional characters a credible existence within a realm compelling to me, that I, now addressing you directly in the first person, afford myself a voice and a hearing. I may yet come to recognise, appreciate or acknowledge the magisterially demanding Other I am addressing in this work but in so far as I may lay claim to conscious desire, you reader, are my intended addressee, and it is to you that I entrust my beloved characters. May your generous witness of them return something of yourself to you, or rather, in hearing with all the responsibility that hearing an other entails, may you return to yourself. As elaborated by Agamben, the Latin word for witness, testis, refers to testimony, and signifies the person who in a trial is in the position of a third party. The Greek word for witness is martis, martyr, and is derived from a verb meaning ‘to remember’. A witness is a martyr offering a testimony that serves the function of remembering from the place of the other. Despite compulsive lures of narcissistic involvement the work of the actor is to bear witness to the other, to inhabit a testimony that remembers the audience to themselves. May my work of seeking and embodying witness prove to witness you.

Errol Watkin: I’m just beginning to say something…