1. Art, Identity and Community: Toward a Poetics of Illness and Healing
    Laurence Kirmayer, Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University

    Art plays a unique role in human experience both as an individual and a social mode of expression and communal activity. All societies have traditions of fashioning objects, language, and performance in ways that serve to transmit culture, explore the world, entertain, and edify. Active engagement with the arts can transform suffering, give meaning to affliction, and support recovery. This conference will bring together artists, scholars, researchers, and professionals involved in mental health to discuss the role of the arts in cultural psychiatry. Art can be used to build and express individual and collective identity, as a creative process that yields new ways of experiencing the world, as a social and political intervention to critique or challenge existing frameworks, and as a modality for therapeutic interventions. Sessions will explore topics related to several broad themes:
    1. the nature of creative artistic and aesthetic processes of invention, enactment and improvisation;
    2. the role of the arts in constructing and expressing individual and collective identities—especially, public, social or political uses of art to raise awareness and challenge marginality and oppression;
    3. the arts as media for articulating, understanding and coping with the experience of mental health and illness;
    4. art making as a creative medium for individual therapeutic exploration, growth, and transformation and for collective conflict resolution and mental health promotion.

    To view the video of Jon Henrik Fjällgren's perfomance on Sweden's Got Talent, click here: youtube.com/watch?v=NQqwiG-lLOI

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  2. Reflections on Art as a Healing Process
    Gilah Yelin Hirsch, California State University Dominguez Hills

    This presentation will focus on imagery as a vehicle for physical and emotional healing. I will describe the way my work has evolved over an extended period of time, blending science and art to reveal relationships between form in nature, form in human physiology and behavior, as well as the forms that are present universally in all alphabets. Drawing from years of solitary wilderness sojourns, as well as experience in diverse world cultures, including Tibetan Tantric visualization and Kabbalah, I will address the ways that the work seems to give access to the hardwired wisdom of the body as the repository of intuition and intrinsic knowledge – leading toward health and behavior benefiting the greater good.

    Gilah Yelin Hirsch, BA, MFA, is a painter, writer, theorist, filmmaker, lecturer and Professor of Art at California State University, Dominguez Hills (Los Angeles). She works in a multidisciplinary manner including art, design, anthropology, architecture, theology, philosophy, psychology, psychoneuroimmunology and world culture. An internationally exhibiting artist in over 200 exhibitions since 1968, Hirsch’s paintings have been acquired by many major public and private collections, including the Skirball Museum, Los Angeles; Alexander Braun Collection, Budapest; Bank of America National Banks; and the University of California Medical Arts Collection, Los Angeles. Hirsch’s work has been reviewed extensively worldwide, has appeared on covers and within dozens of international
    publications, including articles on her work, Hirsch’s own articles and theoretical papers have been published in scholarly journals including Leonardo (MIT press). She recently authored the book Demonic to Divine: The Double Life of Shulamis Yelin (Vehicule Press). Her film Cosmography: The Writing of the Universe is an investigation into the relation between origin of alphabet, pattern in nature and the neurology of perception and cognition. Her current film, Reading the Landscape, brings these concepts to children of all ages in sixteen languages and cultures. Hirsch’s more than 150 awards, honors, grants, fellowships and residencies include the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine’s (ISSSEEM) Alyce and Elmer Green Award for her “innovative
    blending of science and art” and an award from US National Endowment for the Arts. Hirsch’s awards and residencies include the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine’s (ISSSEEM) Alyce and Elmer Green Award for her “innovative blending of science and art”; US National Endowment for the Arts; CLASS Foundation, CO; Banff Center for the Arts, Canada; MacDowell Colony, NH; Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio, Italy; Tyrone Guthrie Center for the Arts, Ireland; St. Martin's School of Art, London, England; Rim Institute, AZ., Morris Graves Foundation; Songambele Arts Festival, Kenya.

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  3. Art and the Person of the Therapist
    Jaswant Guzder, McGill University

    The presentation will include my paintings and drawings in multiple media, including canvas, paper and handmade books done in parallel to a career as a therapist. These works come from a personal healing space or a temenos that allows unfettered access to inner worlds that emerge to be reworked or to be expressed in ways that remain ‘unprocessed’. The process of art making is as temporary or “in the moment” as the process of deep listening in my role as a therapist. This world of art making is for me an inner healing essential to my capacity as a therapist. My psychoanalyst colleague from India, Sudhir Kakar has said that creativity “offers a haven from the storms of emotional life and the swirling of subterranean passions”. My identity is formed of many dissonant experiences, cultural worlds and incompatible ideas that never seem achieve any resolution but rather coexist in a disarray of balances and imbalances, melancholic periods and productive integrations, which are reflected in my art making
    as an experience. The energy or compulsion to make drawings has always been with me and pervades my being. Perhaps, the bicultural realities of my life have generated this drive, reflected as much in my note taking during lectures as in the times where I am immersed only in the art making. The making of art is also a struggle to experience moments of lucidity, a way to find some center of gravity within myself. The clinical experience of therapy leaves so much that is felt yet remains unthought, including deeply shared traumatic “noise”. My life as a painter has helped me to shift from that felt unthought into a creative transitional space that contains contradictions without resolution in thinking.

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  4. Improvising Intersubjectivity: Trust, Paranoia, and Theory of Mind
    Ian Gold & Eric Lewis, McGill University

    The new field of Improvisation Studies theorizes the improvisative, particularly collective improvisation, as a potent site for identity formation, community building, intersubjective dialogue, and the real-time negotiation of self and other. Improvising ensembles form bonds of trust, and mediate sonically aspects of their selfhood to others, while receiving such information in return. The powerful social underpinnings of improvisation have led theorists to talk of the curative powers of improvisation, but a systematic investigation of its therapeutic potential has not yet been undertaken. In this paper we explore the capacities of improvisation to build social bonds and argue for its therapeutic potential.

    # vimeo.com/133033766 Uploaded 33 Plays 0 Comments
  5. Giving a Voice? Art, Exclusion and Caring Illusions
    Cécile Rousseau, Caroline Beauregard, Marie-France Gauthier, Anousheh Machouf & Tomas Sierra

    In immigrant neighbourhoods, immigrant and refugee youth who attend special classes because of learning and behavioural difficulties, suffer from a double exclusion linked to their minority status and to their academic delay. This presentation will describe the implementation and the results of a randomized control trial to evaluate the efficacy of drama workshops to reduce the symptoms and impairment of youth in 30 special classes in Montréal. During the intervention, the structural violence and the hurt associated with exclusion were enacted by the youth and shattered the team and the teachers’ sense of safety. Although the results showed that the drama intervention was beneficial for first generation immigrants, they also suggested that the availability of an expression space may have reactivated feelings of impotence and anger associated with the life experience of second generation youth. These observations confirm the powerful role of art in the face of social exclusion, and suggest that in situations where impotence dominates and possibilities of transformation are slim, artistic expression may be considered as a doubled-edged sword.

    # vimeo.com/133033770 Uploaded 71 Plays 0 Comments

Advanced Studies Institute (ASI) 2015 The Arts in Cultural Psychiatry: Identity, Creativity and Transformation

Art plays a unique role in human experience both as an individual and a social mode of expression and communal activity. All societies have traditions of fashioning objects, language, and performance in ways that serve to transmit culture, explore the…


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Art plays a unique role in human experience both as an individual and a social mode of expression and communal activity. All societies have traditions of fashioning objects, language, and performance in ways that serve to transmit culture, explore the world, entertain, and edify. Active engagement with the arts can transform suffering, give meaning to affliction, and support recovery. This conference will bring together artists, scholars, researchers, and professionals involved in mental health to discuss the role of the arts in cultural psychiatry. Art can be used to build and express individual and collective identity, as a creative process that yields new ways of experiencing the world, as a social and political intervention to critique or challenge existing frameworks, and as a modality for therapeutic interventions. Sessions will explore topics related to several broad themes:
1. the nature of creative artistic and aesthetic processes of invention, enactment and improvisation;
2. the role of the arts in constructing and expressing individual and collective identities — especially, public, social or political uses of art to raise awareness and challenge marginality and oppression;
3. the arts as media for articulating, understanding and coping with the experience of mental health and illness;
4. art making as a creative medium for individual therapeutic exploration, growth, and transformation and for collective conflict resolution and mental health promotion.

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