Legacy of art making: Finding the world
Sagan, O. (2020) Legacy of art making: Finding the world. In: Walker, C., Zlotowitz, S. & Zoli, A. (eds.) New ideas for new times: A handbook of innovative community and clinical psychologies (In Press).
Arts in Health has become both an umbrella term for a variety of creative interventions in health settings and for a disciplinary arena in which the borders of psychology, therapy and community arts practice are blurred, indeed contested. In its many practices, the roles of patient and expert are reimagined and relationships renegotiated. There is often an allegiance, albeit one often not articulated, to Freirean and Feminist pedagogy where learning is experiential and has the potential to be transformative. Such practices are underpinned by a tacit acknowledgment that the nature of ill-health is complex; and that understanding it better requires individual biographies and trajectories to be seen as embedded within a given socioeconomic climate and culture. This chapter draws on a community-based arts project in which artists with histories of mental health difficulties collaborated in the making of a film about their practice. Described elsewhere (Sagan 20011; 2012; 2014) the project is revisited to foreground one aspect of the data, that of the legacy of art making practices in terms of a shift in understanding of the self and other. This legacy can include a heightened political and moral awareness and a more meaningful engagement in various forms of activism and resistance. This, it is speculated, is a more sustainable and conscious engagement as it is embedded and embodied as part of a person’s narrative identity. The chapter revisits the narratives of the participants who reflect on art making, personal discovery, community activism, and giving an account of oneself (Butler, 2005). This experience is considered through a psychoanalytic phenomenological lens (Atwood & Stolorow, 2014) exploring how subtle shifts in the relationship with(in) I and I and Thou (Buber, 1958) occur. This is specifically explored via Hannah Arendt’s (1973) work on loneliness and the ways in which a political system can alienate and isolate people. The ‘loss of the world’ (Arendt, 1968) experienced acutely in mental illness is considered, and it is suggested that a restoration of a sesnse of the world can be achieved through art making practices. Psychoanalytic phenomenological thinking that brings together psychoanalytic understanding of inter and intra-relationship with the conceptualisation of our Being-in-the-world (Heidegger, 1962) offers a useful framework for exploring complex human experience on the borders of mental reparation, agency and personal transformation. It offers a means by which we can also illuminate legacy changes in the way we think of ourselves, others and the world and critically re-consider our community participatory interventions.