Beauty, Creativity, and Healing
Edited By Bandy Lee, Nancy Olson and Thomas Duffy
The Power of Art: Refiguring Pain
by Anne Bernard Kearney and Simone Kearney
In his latest book, Sauve-toi, la vie t’appelle1, Boris Cyrulnik reveals his life story, as seen from the eyes of the little boy he was during the war. At the age of 6, he avoided deportation by hiding in the ceiling above a latrine when the Gestapo were rounding up Jews in a Bordeaux synagogue on August 10th, 1944. He tells the reader that, years later, reading books like Anne Frank’s diary, or watching films like Renais’ “Night and Fog”, or even Chaplin’s “the Dictator,” allowed him to feel appeased and less alienated after years of silence and confusion. Narrative and aestheticized images thus made it possible for him to access emotions that he had repressed for fear of provoking negative reactions in others. Cyrulnik came to realize that art offers an alternative to denying the reality of unspeakable events that lay unresolved in his memory. It becomes a way to construct a coherent narrative. By re-figuring trauma through art (what he names “remanier”), rather than merely re-hashing it (“ruminer”)2, it is possible to link together scattered pieces of truth that have become lost or disconnected. In this way, art can serve as an active agent in the process of healing.
In a discussion about African masks, Picasso said: “if we give shapes to the spirits, we can become independent from them.” 3 By finding a language to ← 145 | 146 → express what troubles us, both in...
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