Response art is art created with a patient or some aspect of clinical work in mind.
Post-session response art
Response art is also known as clinical processing (with art), post-session art or countertransference art the impetus to creating art is informed by a clinical encounter. Post-session art making is performed more specifically to CONTAIN strong feelings elicited during therapeutic work with challenging patients or situations. For some it is a means of binding and diffusing what otherwise could be overwhelming; a means of managing the vicarious impact of traumatic stories (work with the terminally ill, abuse survivors or difficult interactions with borderline personality disordered patients are prime examples).
Insight seeking is the next most frequent approach to response art. To do so the therapist can use one or more of the patients way of visually expressing himself to develop his own picture. At times it means borrowing a theme or the patient’s symbols, at others working in the same media or mimicking methods (use of space, use of color, mark making); the goal is clarifying some aspect of the relationship or some part of the patient’s life. Art therapists have found that making their own artwork was helpful « in aiding empathy and clarifying confusion » (Wadeson, 2003, p.208). Such a practice helps in the development of is termed Aesthetic Empathy, a connection at the sense level. The acrylic painting on the left is a recent work of mine after an encounter with an 11 year old riddled with fears and at times crippled by anxiety. I used his themes: aliens, invasion of earth, dying, falling, being grabbed by ‘evil things’ etc. The image is cartoon like (not my regular style) and child like. The head is large and dominant (symbolic of how much thinking space is used by fears and worries). The expressive blue eyes convey worry/concern at something off the canvas, while the creatures that surround him appear to be recurrent if not permanent fixtures. Recent worries and ever present fears color the boys reality. The painting provided a bold and graphic depiction of the two main areas of fears (recurring and recent). A diagnosis of PTSD followed in time after this painting.
Processing and clarifying countertransference feelings through art making are additional dimensions that can be explored in seeking insight. It can also serve as another level of information when discussing cases in supervision.
Some authors only include post session processing, others speak of response art as both post session and in-session art making with a patient/artist.
In-session response art
Some art therapists make in-session art alongside the patient as a form of response art. In session the art making can help model ways of working, can serve as a supportive ego or what Edith Kramer (art therapy pioneer) calls third hand interventions (supportive hand), a hand the patient can lean on to further his/her work. In session art making can also serve as a non verbal communication device, as the therapist responds through his own artwork to some aspect of what the patient/artist is working on. It becomes a form of expressive non verbal communication, which may at times work as visual paraphrasing that is quite useful for example, with teens who are unable or refuse to verbally share their issues. Often interest is aroused and a conversation about the content of the image ensues. These visual dialogues become indirect communication, mediated by the artwork. Some time ago I was working with an emotionally volatile child of 12 who could react with much aggression and threats if he was not getting his way. Once he threatened to hit his therapist if she would not let him leave immediately. I offered him various materials to contain and express his strong feelings but he would not have any of it. I then suggested that as an artist I try to capture how he was feeling in an artwork. Capturing his curiosity while using plasticine, I modeled a growling creature with teeth and in the stomach cavity shaped a very young child hurting. The boy who observed my work intently while still standing near the door, looked up at me and most surprised said: »How did you know? » I invited him to tell me more about what he saw and appropriate the work adding to it if he felt it was missing something. He could not be reached by words at the time. The artwork functionned as a visual mirror that reflected back how he was feeling. From that point on, he was aware that his therapist could figure out and understand how he was feeling.
To read more on the subject;
Beers-Miller, R. (2007). The role of response art in the case of an adolescent with developmental trauma. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association,24(4), 184-190.
Fish, B.J. (2009). Harm’s touch: the gifts and costs of what we witness. American Art Therapy conference, November 2009, Dallas Texas.
Kielo, Joanne B (1988) A study of art therapists’ countertransference and post session imagery. Masters thesis, Concordia University.
Wadeson, H. (2003). Making art for professional processing. Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association,20(4), 208-218.
12 mai 2011