Billy Corgan Was Psychoanalyzed In Public at the Rubin Museum This Past Weekend


“The first thing that struck me was the boat,” said Billy Corgan, onstage Saturday at the Rubin Museum, where he was being psychoanalyzed. In front of him was an image from C. G. Jung’s The Red Book. The illustration was of a vessel at sea, with a spear-clutching man perched on its bow. Beneath swam a large fish with teeth. “I think Egypt…boat…death…crisis of doubt…the confrontation of faith. I think of the myth of Orpheus,” Corgan said. “Do I need to be committed?”

Maybe. The discussion, between Corgan and psychoanalyst Morgan Stebbins, was in honor of the Carl Jung’s recently unearthed 90-year old manuscript The Red Book, currently on view at the Rubin Museum. As part of the exhibition, artists such as David Byrne, Sarah Silverman, Charlie Kaufman, and others, are paired with a psychoanalyst to interpret a painted dreamscape from The Red Book–thus, hopefully, sparking a free-flowing dialogue between Jung’s imagery and themes and the mind of the guest on the couch. For this particular rockstar-turned-spiritualist/altogether-heightened being, diving into the depths of consciousness and unconsciousness is nothing new, of course. “This is not an easy journey,” Corgan said at one point. “But it is a fantastic journey.”

And so by way of Jung we, along with Corgan, went through the trenches of faith, God, doubt, “laptop relationships,” abuse, fame, death, and dreams of plane crashes. In lieu of say, talking about the theoretically pending new record from the Smashing Pumpkins, Corgan discussed his rhyming poetry and childhood. “What about confronting the monster?” Stebbins asked, attempting (in vain) to refer the discussion back to Jung and the psychoanalyst’s image of a vampire-like fish.

“That’s a tough one, and I’m not talking about the obvious monsters,” Corgan said, equating Jung’s fearful vision to a former lover. “I lived with a monster in New York.” The musician added that what he really sought in a girlfriend was the possibility of speaking to the deeper, more innocent, being within. The similarity of this sentiment with one of the artist’s most famous songs–Siamese Dream‘s “Disarm”–did not go unnoticed. Said Corgan: “Sometimes I have to say I don’t want to talk to you…can I talk to the 4-year-old you?”

As the conversation went on, the back and forth between Corgan and Stebbins became more and more, er, intense. What, for instance, was Billy Corgan’s childhood like?

“My step-mom would tell me that she would get complaints from adults that I stared too much at them,” the Smashing Pumpkin recalled. “‘Can you tell him to stop staring at me?’ they would tell her. That has followed me all of my life. I realize I’m a mirror.”

“You look hard,” Stebbins said, referring to the quality of Corgan’s insight into other people. Things were beginning to unravel. Time was almost up. “Would you like to continue?”

“It’s a free session,” Corgan said.

Indeed, Stebbins replied. “I’m sending you the bill.”