The Four Temperaments

How to start an artwork? You find yourself sitting in front of an incredibly white and incredibly blank piece of paper and don’t know where to begin. Ever had that feeling?

When the choices seem unlimited and decisions are difficult to take, I calm myself down by telling myself: Just start with the preparation, the rest will come. So, this is what we did at what if?:

Cathy van Eck, David Stalling, Barbara Lüneburg,

Cathy, David and Barbara pondering

Our artist team met for the first time in April. We brainstormed, discussed and dismissed, drew sketches, put them on the wall, consulted our computers, went for ice cream, watched people on the street…all in search of the big question “How to grasp ‘identity’?”

We were looking for a frame to give ourselves to make the first steps easier. A window to diminish the unlimited options of looking upon ‘identity’. It did not really matter what this window would look like. As long as we would find something that encouraged us to find words, images and sounds for questions such as “who am I, who do I want to be and why am I the way I am?”

We found ourselves the ‘four temperaments’ as an artistic frame. An ancient concept of human personalities or as they say ‘humours’, whereby each of the four types of humours corresponds to a different personality type.

Today, I would like to share with you what I found about the four temperaments on the internet:


The sanguine temperament is fundamentally impulsive and pleasure-seeking; sanguine people are sociable and charismatic. They tend to enjoy social gatherings, making new friends and tend to be boisterous. They are usually quite creative and often daydream. However, some alone time is crucial for those of this temperament. Sanguine can also mean sensitive, compassionate and thoughtful. Sanguine personalities generally struggle with following tasks all the way through, are chronically late, and tend to be forgetful and sometimes a little sarcastic. Often, when they pursue a new hobby, they lose interest as soon as it ceases to be engaging or fun. They are very much people persons. They are talkative and not shy. Sanguines generally have an almost shameless nature, certain that what they are doing is right. They have no lack of confidence.

Cathy van Eck

Cathy van Eck works on the software programming for her flying gestures.


The choleric temperament is fundamentally ambitious and leader-like. They have a lot of aggression, energy, and/or passion, and try to instill it in others. They can dominate people of other temperaments, especially phlegmatic types. Many great charismatic military and political figures were choleric. They like to be in charge of everything. However, cholerics also tend to be either highly disorganized or highly organized. They do not have in-between setups, only one extreme to another. As well as being leader-like and assertive, cholerics also fall into deep and sudden depression. Essentially, they are very much prone to mood swings.


The melancholic temperament is fundamentally introverted and thoughtful. Melancholic people often were perceived as very (or overly) pondering and considerate, getting rather worried when they could not be on time for events. Melancholics can be highly creative in activities such as poetry and art – and can become preoccupied with the tragedy and cruelty in the world. Often they are perfectionists. They are self-reliant and independent; one negative part of being a melancholic is that they can get so involved in what they are doing they forget to think of others.


The phlegmatic temperament is fundamentally relaxed and quiet, ranging from warmly attentive to lazily sluggish. Phlegmatics tend to be content with themselves and are kind. They are accepting and affectionate. They may be receptive and shy and often prefer stability to uncertainty and change. They are consistent, relaxed, calm, rational, curious, and observant, qualities that make them good administrators. They can also be passive-aggressive.”

We had found ourselves a portal into the realm of ‘identity’ and could take our first steps. Last week, the arts team, Cathy, Anthony, David and I gathered again in Vienna. We were putting together first sounds, worked on gestures, and on a first sketch of 10 minutes length which we would like to test in Vienna on 26th of September in public. It starts with the melancholic temperament and develops into a dream sequence.

And this is where you might come in. We are looking for text material to put into our video. It should be about what we dream for in our life. Have a look at our call for entries. Please, stay tuned.


About barbara_lueneburg

My personal characteristics: curiosity and passion for the arts. My professions: (electric) violin | sound art | research.

There are 4 comments

  1. Clio Montrey

    I can see characteristics of myself in all of these to a point, but “sanguine” seems to fit best. I find it interesting, though, that certain characteristics are seen as being fundamentally paired with others, which for me does not always agree. I wonder how other people see it!

  2. Clio Montrey

    Reblogged this on MusiClio • Clio Montrey and commented:

    Here is a blog well worth following. I’m involved with this amazing artistic/research project, which explores the question of identity using the arts as a lens. It also builds bridges between art and audience. Check it out, follow, and comment. The more participation, the better! 🙂

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