STILLNESS THROUGH ART
Stillness Through Art invites creatives, artists and educators on a journey exploring how art can help us overcome eco-anxiety and reach serenity, inner balance, and peace. Workshops and meditative drawings activities are offered for free to East Gippsland residents affected by the drought and bushfires, thanks to the generous support of FRRR and East Gippsland Shire Council

 

Stillness Through Art acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which this programme is being delivered, from the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. We extend our acknowledgement to the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which this programme is delivered. We pay respect to their ancient and continuing cultures, their connections to this precious land, and to the Elders, past, present and emerging.

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Second Forest Therapy and Wellness SUMMIT

19/06/20 by Sofie Dieu

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How can mental health research strategies support community art projects?

17/06/20 by Sofie Dieu

In July 2016, I met Pr. Katherine Boydell from the Black Dog Institute (BDI) who was then working on Keeping the Body In Mind programme. It was the first time I heard about such a holistic approach to mental health research. One of the programme’s key activities I was particularly interested in was the creation of a body map.

Body mapping is a way to tell a story through colour and symbols. The participant draws his/her life size body outline on a large piece of paper and fills inside and around that body shape with elements that visually represent her/his story. The media most commonly used are collage, colouring and drawing. In the context of Keeping the Body In Mind, the body mapping and narrative interviews that lead to the final composition reflected key elements that formed an integral part of the participant’s recovery process. 

Pr. Katherine Boydell compares a body map to “totems that contain symbols with different meanings.” She also precises that for fully grasping the significance of a body map, the viewer must place the artwork back in its creative process and take into account the maker’s personal narrative. 

Keeping the Body In Mind is a great example of art being more frequently integrated in mental health research process to create and disseminate knowledge about an individual’s lived experience, experience of an intervention, treatment or support. From my artist’s perspective, I wonder how in reverse, research activities such as body mapping, can influence the visual arts? How could the invention of personal or collective symbols be integrated in the development of a cathartic artwork? Could drawing and the use of specific colours be tools to record a community traumatic experience?

In my artworks, symbols and colours play a central role in the construction of the stories I portray. The closest I came to using symbols the way they support body mapping activities was in October and November 2019. I ran a series of textile workshops for first generation Australian women. First, we discussed how to embroider symbols that would best translate their experience of displacement. Then I would teach participants a suitable embroidery technique to help them draw with thread and a needle. Finally, the embroideries were collected and sewn together to form a collective artwork: a 3 meter diameter dress.

Though I wonder, could mental health recovery systems shape and support further how I collaborate with communities? If so, what would be the strategies I need to put in place? How would I preserve the integrity of my art practice and avoid falling into the trap of the artist playing the art therapeut? Could these new strategies be at the start of a project with communities affected by natural disasters?

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