Susan HOGAN : Feminist Approaches to Art Therapy

Publication Information : Book Title : Feminist Approaches to Art Therapy. Contributors : Susan Hogan – editor. Publisher : Routledge. Place of Publication : London. Publication Year : 1997.

Foreword Deborah Lupton

The practice of art therapy may take place on two different levels. One is the personal : the use of art, writing or performance by individuals experiencing psychological or physical trauma, distress or social disadvantage in the attempt to express visually or verbally their embodied sensations and emotions. This art may not be seen by others (beyond the therapist or perhaps others in a therapy group) ; its purpose is purely self-expression and catharsis. The practice of art therapy at this level, therefore, tends not to challenge the broader social and cultural conditions in which the individual finds herself constructed as ‘other’. Indeed, such practices may actually work to individualise social and economic disadvantage by focusing the person’s problems at the level of her personal biography and personality. The other use of art therapy is the overtly political, in which art is used to express and critique the socio-cultural context in which pain, illness, disability or social stigmatisation or inequality are experienced. This type of art is primarily designed for public display in the attempt to instigate social change. It may critique current visual and linguistic representations, seeking to overturn them or alter them. Activist art seeks to challenge dominant practices in the medical or psychiatric treatment of illness and disability, or to draw attention to the ways in which certain social groups such as women, the poor, the disabled, gay men and lesbians, the elderly, the unemployed and immigrants are routinely stigmatised and disadvantaged in the dominant culture.

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