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Photo Credit: Sandra Noeth

Sandra Noeth is a dramaturge, cultural scholar and curator based in Berlin.

Her research interests include “integrity and protest in relation to the human body,” the connection between aesthetics and politics, and “bodies in bordering situations” (CREATE Ireland + Dublin Dance Festival).

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Photo Credit: Siobhan Davies Dance and Dublin Dance Festival

As part of her residency with Dance Limerick and Dublin Dance Festival Sandra Noeth showcased her ideas involving movement and environments. She asked these questions: “How might physical and choreographic strategies represent, implement, legitimise and rehearse social and political action?” and “How do empathy, presence, improvisation or compositions inform the experience of borders?” (Dublin Dance Festival Programme)

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Photo Credit: The World Atlas of Street Art by Rafael Schacter. Artists: David Renault and Mathieu Tremblin

Movement is integral to art production, the making of place and composing identity in relation to social and political environments. Art therapy involves the art of movement, and can contribute to an understanding of aesthetics and politics. An examination of borders is part of art therapy – making lines demarcating personal distinctions and demonstrating the crossing-over into new areas of discernment. Art therapy can also inform protests that are both personal and socially informed.

Art therapy marks out routes of passage within a designated space, it can design sequences of movement and denote a body in motion. Compositions on the move, explorations of environment, and art influenced by context that simultaneously re-imagines space according to somatic knowledge.

The art therapy studio can also include the world-at-large.

Art therapy contributes to civic dialogue – art therapy asking complicated questions about expression and representation in civil society.

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“I am currently working both as a curator as well as an academic researcher on understanding the role, status and agency of the body in bordering processes. I am looking at different experiences of borders and boundaries – national and geopolitical, architectural, material and built borders, as well as more symbolic, imagined, social, gender-related ones. They are very often negotiated through the body, through movement, physicality and performativity. And I question how the body, how movement-based strategies can inform us about these processes. How for example practical and theoretical knowledge from dance and choreography, how composition and improvisation, embodiment or somatic modes of attention, rhythm and affects might help us understand the experience of bordering but also how borders are staged, aestheticized, rehearsed, represented, and ultimately legitimised maintained or challenged”

(Sandra Noeth Quotations, from CREATE (National Development Agency for Collaborative Arts, Ireland), News/May 2017, Sandra Noeth on “Bodies, Borders and Movement” an interview with Deirdre Mulrooney)

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Header Image: Carolee Schneemann, Water Light/Water Needle (Lake Mah Wah, NJ) I, 1966, silver gelatin print, 18 × 24 cm, Hales Gallery, London

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Carolee Schneeman: Kinetic Painting, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg

Carolee Schneeman’s experiments with flesh as material contributes to the idea that movement events can be part of art therapy. Her mark making body in motion, imprints flesh upon the surfaces of the world with vigour and intensity.  And while Schneeman is know for her intimate explorations of the female body, her paintings and performance pieces inspire foremost the abandonment of regimented forms and conditionings. Her flow of desire is ultimately a remedy for apathy and lethargy.

Schneeman’s paintings, assemblages and performances engage risk across a broad canvas of physical experience. Her career highlights how oppression sinks under the skin evoking conformity, and how art can liberate the body’s enunciation.

The history of her work is characterised by research into archaic visual traditions, pleasure wrested from suppressive taboos, the body of the artist in dynamic relationship with the social body. (New York Public Library, Book Launch Promotion for Carolee Schneemann: Kinetic Painting)

Art therapy can offer a space for transformative action, a strategy for physical chaos and movements beyond social conformity. The potential to use an art therapy studio as a horizon of opportunity, to work beyond the confines of a table, is a chance to interrogate embodied presence and an energetic craving for life. The body’s changing multiplicity implicates identity pushing it forward into new dimensions of representation. Travelling through spaces with an instinctive wrestling, becoming entirely responsive to environment and its materials of expression, creates an art therapy approach dedicated to live art and physical authenticity.

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Photo: Human Writes, William Forsythe, performance to commemorate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“Our work is about moving between positions and passing through positions, not maintaining positions” (Dance Geometry, A Conversation with William Forsythe, http://www.openendedgroup.com)

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Photo: Lectures from Improvisation Technologies by William Forsythe 2011, http://www.williamforsythe.de

Art therapy activates the movement of spatial dimensions, marking out both familiar and new planes of existence. As a potential choreographic enterprise, art therapy draws us into movements which open up perspective. Each artwork is a new situation, an arrangement of subjectivity that is both familiar and recently acquired. The physical act of art making relates to extensions and crossing boundaries into additional planes of reference.

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Photo: Artwork by Peter Welz in Collaboration with William Forsythe, 2005

The dimensions of artworks can be inhabited as kinesthetic journeys, stimulating physical and mental configurations. An artwork can be a choreographic reference, a stimulus that potentially enlarges our physical and mental proportions. Art beckons not only as an object but as a research tool, that can re-route both body and mind into unfamiliar experiences. It is the confidence to examine and inhabit the unfamiliar that often acts as a remedy for fixation. To act out is to animate and recover from predictability and containment. The risk taking in art therapy can relate to simultaneously moving in more than one direction. Combining known perspectives with difference, and learning to understand the artwork as a choreographic object, invites new forms of thinking that are physically generated.

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Photo: Dance Drawing and Wire Sculpted in Movement Based Art Therapy

“A choreographic object, or score, is by nature open to a full palette of phenomenological instigations because it acknowledges the body as wholly designed to persistently read every signal from its environment” (Choreographic Objects by William Forsythe, http://www.williamforsythe.de)

The influence of artworks as stimuli for movement motifs can be understood as a call for attention. The ability of an artwork to transfigure orientations in both mind and body, can be a therapeutic asset. The possibility of displacement, of transforming established ways of conduct within the world at large, is therapeutically beneficial. This is often at the heart of therapeutic release, the call to go beyond restrictions and to experiment with dynamic changes in action.

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Photo: Self-Directed Movement Studies

Moving Dimensions of Art Therapy

1. The inclusion of physical thinking within art therapy involves kinesthetic responses, giving space for physical animation as thoughts and sensations appear.

2. Therapeutic choreography animated by processes of art making may create new dimensions of identity.

3. Art therapy environments collaboratively composed (in conjunction with service users), should be open to transformation increasingly incorporating new materials, ideas and physical arrangements.

4. Taking risks can relate to experiments with space, where artworks inhabit the environment as forms that trace out physical paths and their corresponding sensations.

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Photo: Tape Drawing, Diagram for Movement Produced in Art Therapy

“Choreographers are composers; subjects are continually reiterated and played in another key…In choreography, there’s all kinds of motion going on, countless levels of kinetic juxtaposition, many beyond the immediate, visible sphere of dancing…the effect of ideas in motion” (William Forsythe: Artists in Conversation by Gabrielle de Ferrari, bombmagazine.org)

William Forsythe (New York, 1949) originally trained as a ballet dancer and became the director of Ballet Frankfurt from 1984-2004. He later founded the internationally renowned Forsythe Company, where his choreography involved the visual arts, architecture, the moving image, written and spoken words. Starting in 2015 Forsythe will begin teaching at the University of Southern California and join the Pais Opera Ballet as an associate choreographer. 

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Photo: Rebecca Cross, Textile Artist

The substance and physicality of fabric…conveys multiplicity, temporality and complexity. Various processes contribute to the somatic history of the fabric and its multiple transformations…As sensuous materials suspended in space, casting shadows on the walls and floors, they confront the viewer differently from different perspectives as they subtly oscillate in response to the atmosphere, becoming ultimately, communicative memories…By creating line as well as openings, and by delineating positive and negative space, the edges frame information – or demarcate the lack of information – caught within, behind, or beyond the edge…The gossamer layers of experience, depending upon our perceptual vantage point, are transient, creating a mutable, translucent skin that keeps quietly changing as we proceed forward in time (Rebecca Cross, Artist Statement)

Textiles portray a sense of ritual, of making special everyday places through a quality of adornment and presence. Cloth enriches architecture, people, furniture and objects with significance. Binding, stitching, knotting, and layering thoughts into a weave of cloth evokes memory and the passage of time. The drawing of threads in and out of cloth, the mending of fraying edges, and the matting together of fibers are all physical experiences which translate a narrative into material form. Cloth is intimate, another skin, a boundary and a caress. It designates function, and also layers on a story. Cloth is a textural overlay, it wraps and drapes itself over and around personal interactions.

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Within art therapy fabric can be embellished to make a variety of items:

Book Covers, Sheets, Curtains, Purses/Bags, Tablecloths, Scarfs, Cloaks, Tents, Pillow Covers, Veils and Quilts

Encouraging the inclusion of fabric within art therapy offers new ways of exploring stories as they are told not only through words, but through the rhythm of going in and out of strands of meaning.

Layering cloth, with words on paper, beads, thread, small branches, dried flowers and souvenirs, can enclose fragments and symbolic ‘findings’ within a wrapped collection of meaning. Stitching together memories of experiences, that are tactile and remembered through the senses, can be nurtured through cloth that tells the story of the body’s journey.

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A thread now most often means a line of conversation via e-mail or other electronic means, but thread must have been an even more compelling metaphor when most people witnessed or did the women’s work that is spinning. It is a mesmerizing art, the spindle revolving below the strong thread that the fingers twist out of the mass of fibers on an arm or a distaff. The gesture turns the cloudy mass of fiber into lines with which the world can be tied together. Likewise, the spinning wheel turns, cyclical time revolving to draw out the linear line of a thread. The verb to spin first meant just this act of making, then evolved to mean anything turning rapidly, and then it came to mean telling a tale (Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby).

References

Rebecca Cross quoted in Ann Futterman Collier, Using Textile Arts and Handcrafts in Therapy with Women.

Rebecca Cross Website http://www.rebeccastextiles.com/

Gwen Hedley, Drawn to Stitch: Line, Drawing and Mark Making in Textile Arts.

Cas Holmes, The Found Object in Textile Art.

Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby.

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The creation of an environmental installation by many hands, is largely an improvisation of collective desire. An installation can be a meeting place. Manipulating materials and physicality, re-shaping space and investigating possibilities, composes a landscape of ideas. The desire of each participant generates meaning as a production. The energy of actions with others, can reassemble an area, and become an installation of a new environment, that unfolds within a pre-existing environment. Another location erupts from collective intentions.

As we reacquaint ourselves with our breathing bodies then the perceived world itself begins to shift and transform. When we begin to consciously frequent the wordless dimension of our sensory participation, certain phenomena that have habitually commanded our focus begin to lose their distinctive fascination and to slip toward the background, while hitherto unnoticed or overlooked presences begin to stand forth from the periphery and to engage our  awareness (David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous)

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Sculpting public space, through collaborative artworks, creates new arenas of exchange. Physical and mental affects are refreshed. Installation art can re-make a specific area into a new social ecology. Weaving the supports for new movements and new perspectives, can ignite the  adrenalin of experimentation. The desire to exceed pre-existing life structures, and make new formations broadens experiential dimensions. The architecture of life becomes malleable, a living art. Subjectivity is an ecology that involves a web of influences. Collaborative art can structure improvisation and new gestures of growth into a shared social assemblage.

The social context, is an ecology of human biodiversity. Relationships between people manufacture artworks that exude complexity, divergent paths of discovery and new areas of exchange. The collective takes us out of our habits, compulsions and routines. A social movement, can be a group artwork. Movement is a basis for perception; it can induce more fluid or lateral thinking that includes the ‘ands’ of the group experience.  Our own familiarity of how we do things, is challenged; it is not always ‘right’. Making art within a community of people, goes beyond personal limits, and we are challenged to create in ‘unusual’ circumstances.

The core of the movement experience is the sensation of moving and being moved. There are many implications in putting it like this. Ideally, both are present in the same instant, and it may be literally an instant. It is a moment of total awareness, the coming together of what I am doing and what is happening to me. It cannot be anticipated, explained, specifically worked for, nor recreated exactly (Mary Whitehouse, “The Tao of the Body” in Don Hanlon Johnson (editor) Bone, Breath, Gesture: Practices of Embodiment)

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Community sculpts us differently. Physicality and structures of thinking can be re-shaped and opened through contact with others and new experiences. Certainty is questioned, and the power of improvisation is the capacity to experiment with materials, conditions and people without knowing what will happen. A certain reverie enters through sensory stimulation that takes us out of our usual physical postures, ways of moving, and social presentation.

And even more important, this moment of surrender and new sensation can demonstrate to me that I am not permanently obliged to continue acting out a habitual compulsion. I can see that the habit is a habit, that I am something else, and that for the moment I can choose to repeat it or not. And if I can drop a compulsive behavior or attitude for a moment without causing a crisis, then perhaps I can dispense with it altogether (Deane Juhan, Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork).

References

David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics

Felix Guattari, The Three Ecologies

Deane Juhan, Job’s Body: A Handbook for Bodywork

Mary Whitehouse, “The Tao of the Body” in Don Hanlon Johnson (editor) Bone, Breath, Gesture: Practices of Embodiment.

Photos

Petronas Gallery, Habitat Exhibition, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 1999

Body, Space, Image

March 8, 2013

Take an image, let it hang in the mind, let the sensation of the thought dissolve through the body. Let the movement inside the body…move outside. Allow the sensations their own time and expression…waiting for a space between the thoughts, an unlocking of the parts of the body – a gap into which something new can emerge (Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Performance).

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Gilles Deleuze developed the concept of the fold in relation to developing an idea of space that actualized the body in different ways. Architecture has been influenced by his ideas of fluid space, which can influence the body’s capacity to move. Architecture is a frame or scene that can enfold the body within its dimensions. An inflection of space, can potentially be connected to improvisation.  Improvising movement in response to the topography of architecture experiments with the body in relation to the spaces of a built environment. Deleuze’s concepts of architecture understand it as a dynamic force which can influence physical possibilities. Architecture can direct physical formations and qualities of movement.

We improvise the moment we cease to know what is going to happen. Setting the mind loose from the ongoingness of everyday life (Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Performance).

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The surfaces of buildings and interiors, the spaces they inhabit and generate are the stimulants of exploring representations of the body. The body can repeat patterns of movement through space, or add on new ways of investigation spatial features. The desire of the body can be enacted within different kinds of spaces, that encourage instinctual expression. The body’s desire is about production, becoming and connecting. A community of bodies within a shared space will enact the space according to different desires. Each participant will go their own way, animating their shared space through their own interpretations. As animate forms, bodies imagine space differently.

Where you are when you don’t know where you are is one of the most precious spots offered by improvisation. It is a place from which more directions are possible than anywhere else. I call this place the gap. The more I improvise, the more I’m convinced that it is through the medium of these gaps – this momentary suspension of reference point – that comes the unexpected and much sought after ‘original’ material. It’s ‘original’ because its origin is the current moment and because it come from outside our usual frame of reference (Nancy Stark Smith quoted in Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Peformance).

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Deleuze is interested in how we occupy different kinds of space within a social assemblage. Explorations of space using improvisation are nomadic, wandering through physical positions both familiar and unfamiliar with others simultaneously undergoing the same kinds of experiences.

Each person is at once responsive to others and independent of them, ready to be changed by, but not absorbed into another person’s activity. The skill lies in being able to include what another person is doing, while not losing one’s own momentum of thought. Each person must become an ingredient in the mixing and making of a piece. There is no place for manners or mannerisms. Social conventions, routine habits of polite or impolite daily life, suppress the sensory and imaginative world from which this work begins. (Simone Forti quoted in Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Performance).

References

Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, Body, Space, Image: Notes Towards Improvisation and Performance. 

Ian Buchanan and Greg Lambert (editors) Deleuze and Space

Photos

Graffiti The Royal Canal Dublin

Pigment on Handmade Paper at The Creative Arts Retreat, Wales

Drawing with Words Exhibition, Ardee Library, County Louth

Connectivity

March 7, 2013

There is no being, which is separate from the processes of becoming. Our world consists of moments of becoming, the mingling of bodies, the meeting of forces, a constant interpenetration and interconnection of all phenomena. (Simon O’Sullivan, Art Encounters: Deleuze and Guattari Thought Beyond Representation)

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Simon O’Sullivan’s book Art Encounters: Deleuze and Guattari Thought Beyond Representation discusses how movement forms the basis of art that physically connects to instinct, impulse and improvisation. Movement connects locations of subjectivity, through transversal actions. Subjectivity is a becoming that can be appreciated more in the making of art than as a representation of an artwork’s meaning.

Meaning is always fluid and plural for Deleuze and Guattari, the self is never enclosed as an entity, but instead a work of potential becoming. Potential is in the production of “new plots of land”, it is not a re-tracing of one’s steps over what has gone on before, but instead creates a new landscape of connections. Each artwork adds on to identity as an accumulation, a series  of ands.

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Deleuze and Guattari use the word subjectivity to denote a system of environments that compose identity not as a singular entity but as an assemblage. Their plea is for everyone to experiment with opportunity, to realize potential in many different places. To embrace life as a learning system that grows laterally. In art terms this system of life locations, could be called an imagescpae, a collection of personal images that reflect a variety of life activities and circumstances.

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References

Simon O’Sullivan, Art Encounters Deleuze and Guattari: Thought Beyond Represenation

Photos

Textile Workshop – Stitching with Wire and Plastic, FE McWiliam Gallery, Northern Ireland

Scratched Line on Ochre Cliff, The Creative Arts Retreat Wales

Artist Book made with Sandi Sexton Book Artist, Ireland

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Emotionally we derive from nature pleasure, fulfillment, inspiration and solace; nature is fundamental to our culture, language, psychological and spiritual well-being (Irish Environmental Information Service).

Plants and trees shape imagination, they are alive symbols rich in social history, customs and beliefs.  Historically they are emblems that inspire stories, poetry, and folklore. As living landmarks, they designate boundaries, record historic events, offer medicinal cures, and  become gathering places for communities.

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Tree and plant folklore in Ireland is rich with psychological references. Gathering bundles of plants for protection, influence, love, prosperity, and good health are a strong cultural tradition. All Celtic seasons involve the psyche within the dynamics of seasonal activity. Propagation, harvest, death and new growth are all reflected within particular seasonal intentions. Each Celtic season has customs associated with physical and psychological processes connected to change.

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The great ideas in art often manifest in very humble forms, through a small area of colour, or through a green tone around a certain small form, or for instance through an olive leaf.

Agriculture is a question of art, which for me is is the engagement with substances. In other words, if one understands the spirit of substances, one can only really do agriculture. (Quotation by Joseph Beuys, What Is Art?).

Traditional herbalism promotes the restorative aspects of plants often mistaken for weeds. Charms and rituals were also connected to the picking and bundling of herbs, which would offer support during times of distress or aid in the acquisition of good luck. Dressing trees for May Day, promised fertility and abundance. Lighting a fire for Samhain (Halloween or Summer’s End) produced the fertilizing ashes for the next growing year, and distributed in its smoke the hopes and wishes of the community.

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The production of amulets made from natural materials, are sculptural forms that can be carried by children and adults for a specific purpose. A bundle of symbolic natural materials, can act as a hand held sculpture. Collected while wandering through forests or naturalized areas, each plant and tree ingredient can have a particular meaning, and collectively act as an assemblage of influences from nature and the world at large.

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Lisa Lipsett, a Canadian artist and environmental educator, believes that an empathic relationship to nature through touch, develops attention, contemplative action and spontaneity. Using nature as an outdoor studio, inspires art forms that can be embraced in a different way than bought art materials. The discovery of shape, texture and use of each found environmental art material, creates a composition of many influences, evoking a  personal ecology.

References 

Lisa Lipsett, http://lisalipsett.com/

Niall MacCoitir, Irish Wild Plants: Myths, Legends and Folklore

Ben Simon, Tales, Traditions and Folklore of Ireland’s Trees

Volker Harlan (editor) What is Art? Conversations with Joseph Beuys

Photos

St. Brigid’s Well, Northern Ireland

The May Bush (An Irish Traditional Symbol for Protection)

Young Girl with Bouquet Headdress

Children participating in Land Art Workshops, County Louth, Ireland 

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An empathy with the natural world can become a vital part of children’s psyches; they will learn to take nothing for granted, and will continually probe and ponder. They will have a sense of wonder and mystery about the world around them; it will become a vibrant part of their consciousness…In short, they will feel committed and responsible for the world in which they have been placed as caretakers for a brief moment of time (Paddy Madden, Go Wild at School).

By cultivating gardens as art installations, children are producing habitats which combine aesthetic and sensory experiences. Working with nature, landscapes, and living art materials (foraged branches, stems, clay, flowers, seaweed, etc.) offers children the opportunity to become foraging artists, as they collect and harvest their own art materials. Making their own landmarks, dens, and shelters, supplies children with an escape route for a welcomed ‘time out’ from daily life. The emotional fulfillment and solace gained from  making their own environments, supports well being and has a restorative effect.

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Community gardens can also offer a way for children to enact community activism. Guerrilla gardening (creating gardens within neglected or forgotten pieces of land in urban areas) can be a source of pride and a link to working with adults in a collaborative way. Intergenerational guerrilla gardening is a way to collectively envision social change, while also learning about gardening and how to work as a team. Guerrilla gardening offers children a conceptual understanding of the world at large, a way of developing analytical skills and strategies for community involvement.

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The Children and Nature Network (www.childrenandnature.org) compiles international research supporting the educational and health benefits related to children’s contact with nature.

The following is a summary of some of these research findings.

1.  Nature enhances children’s skills in the following areas –

Problem Solving, Teamwork, Experimentation, Decision-Making, Adaptability, Confidence, Enhanced Communication, Sensory Development, Intellectual Stimulation (Carol Duffy, Childhood Specialist, Ireland)

2. Recent research proposes that exposure to the outdoors reduces anxiety, and enhances learning. (Dr. Dorothy Matthews, American Society for Microbiology)

3. “A den (made from natural materials) is the child’s sense of self being born, a chance to create a home away from home that becomes a manifestation of who they are. The den is the chrysalis out of which the butterfly is born.” (David Sobel, Antioch New England Graduate School)

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4. “By bolstering children’s attention resources, green spaces may enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life stress”. Engagement with natural settings has been linked to a child’s ability to focus, and enhances cognitive abilities. Nearby nature is a buffer for anxiety and adversity in children. (Dr Nancy Wells, Cornell University, New York)

5. The outdoor environment enhances the understanding of social relationships, language, physical movement, reasoning, curiosity, and the capacity to imagine possibilities. (Jane Williams-Siegfredsen, Viborg University College, Denmark)

6. Fostering children’s identity to include personal and social relationships to nature, improves their empathy and sense of inter-connection with the world-at-large. (Anita Barrows, Clinical Psychologist, Berkeley, California)

7. Nature can activate sensory, emotional, cognitive, symbolic and creative levels of human experience through de-familiarisation. Taken for granted everyday things, are sensitively given new meaning and enhance a child’s capacity to perceive. (Jan Van Boeckel, Research Fellow Aalto University Helsinki, Anthropologist, Filmmaker)

8. “Involuntary attention, as opposed to directed attention, can be cultivated within nature”. The “soft fascination” of the natural world can restore focussed attention required for directed studies. Involuntary attention is achieved without effort by simply observing what captures our attention. Our mind wanders and takes a rest from concentrated effort, which in turn improves learning. (Marc Berman, Brain Scientist, University of Michigan)

References

Paddy Madden, Go Wild at School

Children and Nature Network childrenandnature.org

Nature Art Education http://www.naturearteducation.org

Wild by Nature

March 5, 2013

I needed to do something that would renew my spirit and give me a sense of peace and optimism. That’s when I created this garden. What continually amazes me is how something so simple as this garden has stimulated so many wonderful conversations with the people in my community (Vancouver, Green Streets Volunteer).

Art therapy can be cultivated within the common lands of community life. These might include community gardens, playgrounds, parks and schools. A boulevard might also be a place to cultivate food or flowers, leave symbolic objects, decorate trees, leave notes, and assert your identity. A front garden and green spaces lining sidewalks can be personalized with guerrilla art, homemade crafts, and free food stalls.

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The Healing Fields: Working with Psychotherapy and Nature to Rebuild Shattered Lives by Sonja Linden and Jenny Grut describes how cycles of the natural world, and metaphors for gardening have rich psychological associations. For example –

Transplanting, Blossoming, Digging Deep, Grounded, Putting Down Roots, Cutting Back, Branching Out, Shedding, Weeding Out, etc.

Art therapy is largely an indoor activity that takes place behind closed doors. It is enclosed within a potentially claustrophobic space. Using the outdoor landscape as an art therapy studio liberates the senses. Participants are confronted with the ever changing conditions of weather, noise, seasonal materials, and varying temperatures.

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Neighborhoods can be a series of interactive gardens, whereby householders create sidewalk galleries. In Vancouver, Green Streets neighbourhoods encourage idiosyncratic displays of community spirit at street level. Domestic decorations inhabit urban walkways. Front lawns can be places to grow food gardens and scenes for the imagination. The unpredictable display of the personal within public streets, either through unique gardening styles or through shrine like arrangements of offerings, is invigorating to both mind and body.

The aim of art is not simply to communicate something that has already been formulated, but to create something unexpected.

One of art’s attractions is that it constantly finds new ways of pushing forward into a territory that feels quite strange and yet shockingly familiar.

(Psychological Aesthetics: Painting, Feeling and Making Sense by David Maclagan)

Fritz Haeg is commissioned by cultural institutions to dig up grass and install vegetable gardens within suburban front lawns. These gardens become educational and conversational sites for neighbors and walkers. The front lawn is the canvas, a gallery of vegetables in front of the house. Working the garden is public, and interactive, the potential to share produce and ideas within a community context.

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A garden is a work in progress, an art assemblage, a zone of shared imaginative experience. The ambiguous territories of sidewalk boulevards, playgrounds and parks offer spaces for processing, and connecting with a variety of people and activities. We move through collective community spaces and respond to different happenings along the way.

References

The Healing Fields: Working with Psychotherapy and Nature to Rebuild Shattered Lives by Sonja Linden and Jenny Grut

Fritz Haeg http://www.fritzhaeg.com

Fritz Haeg Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn

City of Vancouver Green Streets Program 

David Maclagan Psychological Aesthetics: Painting, Feeling and Making Sense

Anthony Elliott Subject to Ourselves: Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Postmodernity

Photos

Davie Village Community Garden, Vancouver