Where knowing and not knowing touch: Contemporary Art as a Mode of Research, Subjective Transformation and Social Engagement

Linnell, Sheridan; Perry, Suzanne; Pretorius, Josephine and Westwood, Jill. 2019. Where knowing and not knowing touch: Contemporary Art as a Mode of Research, Subjective Transformation and Social Engagement. In: Andrea Gilroy; Sheridan Linnell; Tarquam McKenna and Jill Westwood, eds. Art Therapy in Australia: Taking a Postcolonial, Aesthetic Turn. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill | Sense, pp. 253-281. ISBN 9789004315181 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

In this chapter we offer a creative account of the exhibition Where knowing and not knowing touch (Sept, 2007), as part of an ongoing project that generates a space for questioning binaries and researching relationships – between artist and audience, aesthetics the psychic and the social. We worked collaboratively for several years on site-specific art installations and interactive performances while teaching together in the Master of Art Therapy and Graduate Diploma in Expressive Therapies at the University of Western Sydney (Linnell, Perry, Pretorius and Westwood, 2005, 2006, 2007; Perry and Westwood 2006, 2007; Westwood 2008). While we conceptualise our collaborations as contemporary art, our positioning across the domains of art, therapy and education challenges the separation of the aesthetic sphere. As artists and art therapists we are primarily concerned with a relational aesthetics (Bourriaud, 1998/2002; Hyland-Moon, 2002), with the subjective, relational and emotional resonances of art. In our work we aim to open up a critical site for moments of aesthetic experience that connect and resonate with our audiences in surprising and moving ways. Our work is at once theoretically informed and immediately accessible, a paradox that draws attention to the complex yet everyday character of becoming our ‘selves’. As educators and activists we aspire to a pedagogy of hope (Friere, 1994) that contributes to shaping creative possibilities for social change, although rather than ‘raising consciousness’, our work disturbs and arouses something at the edges of consciousness and intentionality. We attempt – and we also notice how we inevitably fail – “not to foreclose on the ethical resource that inheres in uncertainty" (Butler 2001: 34).

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Book Section

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Art Therapy, contemporary art, subjective transformation, social engagement

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS) > Unit for Psychotherapeutic Studies


1 December 2018Accepted
11 February 2019Published

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Date Deposited:

30 Jan 2019 09:53

Last Modified:

30 Jan 2019 13:22



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