Pedagogy of Unity/Oneness and Pedagogy of Independence/Otherness

P. Picasso, “Mother and Child”, 1971

We see that the mother creates a physical and a psychological space for the baby – a kind of artificial womb where the baby can feel not restricted and at the same time safe and encouraged to be. But what is the difference between a physical and a psychological space? Psychological space is equivalent of physical space in the area of baby’s feelings, sublimation of the physical realm into baby’s psyche (or psychological reflection of physical being in the baby’s soul).

Mother’s visceral care for her baby transforms her head and face into an axis stabilizing the position of her body as baby’s abode. The front of her face is “squeezed” by her two profiles – one (let’s call it her left profile, which we see on the right part of her head) is turned away from the baby to protect him from the intensity of the mother’s dedication, the other (her right profile which we see on the left side of her head) is turned toward the baby in her solemn contemplation of its very existence. Mother’s face, according to this painting, is two-profiled – only profiles can reflect the dynamism of her posture in the direction of her baby; her full face (what is left of it) belongs to her beloved.

Picasso makes both – mother and baby, naked, to, probably, emphasize the mystery of their intimacy of oneness. The mother keeping her baby is not nude. Her nakedness is naughtily marked by Picasso by her profane point. The (impeccable) nudity of the mother with baby is impossible: it could mean obedience of her body to the viewers’ gazes (betrayal of motherhood). Mother belongs to her baby and only after to the eyes of the world.

The mother doesn’t have a face of her own – only two eyes guarding the surrounding as two sentinels. She doesn’t need to watch the painterly space – no danger can be expected from there, it is closed off. The danger can come only from one direction – from openness to the public, and her watchful gaze makes her a bit cross-eyed.

The lower part of the mother’s face is, so to speak, in the shadow of tireless alertness of her care about baby’s wellbeing. Her own needs are not important to the point that the very anatomy of her head is formed by her concern about the baby. The shadowy protrusion of her lips (of her left profile which we see on the right side of her head) compressed by the expression of kissing the baby, is not directed towards the baby – it‘s as if blocked/controlled by one of the three spheres around mother’s head. What are these spheres? They are, it seems, the mother’s energetic fields oriented to protect the baby, unconsciously created by her as permanently changing the shape membranes of her protection over its being. The sphere to the right of her head (which we see on the left) is the observing/”supervising” aspect of her alertness, the sphere to the upper left from her head (which we see to the upper right of her head) is the mental aspect of her never ceasing concentration on her baby as a kind of a protecting cloud over its head, and the sphere to the lower left of her head (which we see on the lower right of her head and behind the baby’s head) is the emotional side of her care. This last sphere of protective energy which separates the baby from the mother’s left cheek as a kind of a padding is that what diverts her kiss by “protecting” baby from mother’s too passionate emotions.

Baby’s eyes do not see yet – its gaze barely recognizes the objects of the world. We feel that they look, they put the gaze into a labyrinth of visual objects – the baby exercises its looking to which seeing as such (understanding what it sees) is barely added. While mother’s eyes are symphony of experience, babies are reduced to tiny pupils.

While mother’s legs support the baby’s being, her middle body nurtures his presence in the world. She is the immediate environment of the baby’s world. She is the gaze of baby’s eyes, the warmth of its existence, the hugeness of its tininess, and powerfulness of its helplessness. She is the model for baby’s future, its future ability to love of its potential for love. She is for the baby the first incarnation of its future unity/togetherness with the world and life.

P.Picasso, “Fatherhood”, 29 Sept. 1971

While the baby in “Mother and Child” sits on her belly, to the heart side of her, the child of the man in “Fatherhood” sits on his right leg, and we feel the strain in his whole body, as if, the boy wants to crawl down and leave father’s lap. While the mother keeping her baby is not wearing a hat and having only her hair-comb (does this crown mark her womanhood or her motherhood?), the father here is marked by his hat as a sign of completeness of his individuality regardless of the existence of his child. With the mother the baby is the absolute center of her being as Earth in relation to Sun in Ptolemaic system, but here we see an amazing… equality between the son and the father, equality of two creatures, as if, left to their separate destinies. In both paintings Picasso depicts very good and benign parents – the mother who is completely dedicated to the wellbeing of her baby, and the father who doesn’t try to dominate his son. The father, as if, silently communicates to the son his feeling that they are not one, that they are separate organisms, that they are together but not the same – they are two others. Of course, to be on the father’s lap is not as comforting and “comfortable” as to be on the mother’s. The child unconsciously feels that father is not giving any of his “territory”, that he just shows the otherness of his personality.

Father’s face is rather kind, may be, even simpleminded. But what Picasso wants to say by making his right cheek-bone (that we see to the left of his face) protruded to the degree of distorting the form of his face? Is it because the child’s cheek near it? Traditional male doesn’t like to be too “physically loving” with his son; what, is he a mother? He is not a woman. That’s why his hat reminds of the musketeers’. Just because this father has a machoistic streak in his personality, the cheeks of father and son, as if, radiate a mutually repelling energy – father’s face becomes deformed while the son wants to slip away.

The face of the father doesn’t express a vigilant concern about his son who is much older than the baby in “Mother and Child”, now time comes to learn about alternative to a type of human connectedness symbolized by motherhood. Father instinctively keeps himself not psychologically fused with the child. His nose stubbornly occupies its place. It seems it signifies the father’s masculine self-assertiveness (with its comic connotations). Father’s gaze is not so much strained as impressing/imposing itself. Father-musketeer is, obviously, proud of having a son. While in the previous painting the mother’s hands are not limiting the baby’s movements and at the same time they’re big, strong and soft, the father has a more holding position, but at the same time his hand is much gentler than the mother’s (the modality of existence of father’s left hand is not that of a fighting or working but that of playing). Father’s independence and “otherness” makes child frightened – he feels the desire to run away. His frightened face is not an expression of regular fear – he, obviously, is not afraid of his father. The boy feels internal fear – of being close to this strange alien creature: his father, who, of course, never frightened him in a direct sense.

The father is not holding the boy but his hand is too close to the flute that the boy holds. It is as though the father and the child are unconsciously rivaling who will have the flute. We understand that the father never forcefully took away the flute from the boy. Picasso is not interested in depicting obvious relations and external situations – he likes to detect the internal, especially the unconscious motivations and positions. We can say that the father and his son are as if compete for the flute as a symbol of phallic power – a power more imaginary than real and rather real in being imaginary than anything apparent. The child has an independence need signified by this toy-flute – the symbol of being autonomous from the parents and adults in general. His relationship with his father includes a distance based on their silent recognition of the existence of their individual wills.

But where is the father’s right hand? Why didn’t Picasso make it part of the painting? Is it because for a macho man his most instrumental hand psychologically important as a symbol of his achievements, of his identity as being successful? Such a father unconsciously makes a point that to be with child is not so difficult – “it can be done even with one hand”.

Father’s beard signifies the border between his personality and his child’s being. According to the child’s unconscious – the flute is a kind of symbol of a contest, like king’s scepter. The child feels (without being aware of it) that he must win the phallic object from the father, become adult man. While in both paintings the baby’s and the child’s fingers of their right hands are clenched in a holding manner, the fist of the elder child is more assertive and even aggressive – it knows what to grab: the flute, even from his own left hand just because father’s hand is right next to it.