September 30, 2011 - February 3, 2012
.In 1911, a Swiss psychiatrist and artist, Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922), began experimenting on the “chance forms” of inkblots on cards—along with wooden silhouettes and other methods to elicit responses from his patients. His efforts fostered a new breed of psychological probes aimed at reaching previously inaccessible layers and levels of the unconscious self.
Rorschach’s cards were so successful that a myriad of other psychologists built on them. One of the most remarkable of these later projects arrived on the scene in 1935 with the Thematic Apperception Test. Instead of abstract blots yielding short responses, this new test centered on representational images that stimulated patients to tell stories. Created at Harvard by the lay psychoanalyst and artist Christiana Morgan along with psychologist Henry Murray, their TAT cards are still, along with those by Rorschach, standard bearers of psychological testing.
Likened to X-rays of the inner life, these instruments promised to capture what no other tool could access – the secret self. The story of the triumphal rise as well as the periodic setbacks of the projective test movement is evidence of the heady confidence of the Twentieth Century human sciences to be able to extract and access the most human parts of human beings –scientifically.
From the genesis of the tests in passionate personal relationships to the recent Wikipedia furor over posting the Rorschach images, "X-Rays of The Soul" sought to capture this neglected history’s equally utopian and dystopian elements. Explored, imitated, adapted, contested—the projective test retains its grip in science, hospitals, courts, popular culture and art.