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Making Sense

Beauty, Creativity, and Healing

Edited By Bandy Lee, Nancy Olson and Thomas Duffy

Regardless of field, from the art world to healthcare delivery, there is a growing need for practically useful theory and theoretically informed practice. The time is ripe for a collaborative, creative conversation among thinkers and doers who are concerned about the larger world and our role in it. Making Sense: Beauty, Creativity, and Healing is a collection of essays and creative expressions written and produced in relation to a colloquium that tried to address these matters at the Whitney Humanities Center of Yale University. Beginning with a powerful essay on the individually and globally therapeutic qualities of art and beauty by Elaine Scarry of Harvard University, this volume brings together a diversity of theoretically minded scholars, scientists, artists, and healers. In the form of critical and reflective essays, alongside images, poetry, and fiction, this book allows the reader to experience the bursts of ideas and sensory triggers that respond to and extend the artistic installations and performances of the colloquium – and welcomes the reader into the conversation.
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The Power of Art: Refiguring Pain

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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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