Jacques Arpin – Body and Performance in Theater Anthropology and other Art Forms (ASI 2015)

Body and Performance in Theater Anthropology and other Art Forms: Clinical Applications in
Cultural Psychiatry
Jacques Arpin, Geneva

What can I, a healer, learn from the arts, traditions and techniques? How can I apply such learning to my clinical work in medical anthropology and cultural psychiatry? I put “body” at the centre of the crossroads of health, culture and performance. The latter concerns all art forms relevant to the narration and the dramaturgy of patients’ case-history making. It is also helpful in the elaboration of various forms of therapies, including somatic medicine. We can thus improve and develop these medical actions with methodologies borrowed from the arts: learning, training, practicing, performing and transmitting. Theater anthropology is the study of the performer in a situation of performance. It considers traditions and techniques; the body as a vehicle, the body as a tool. Through exercises and training methods, this body will eventually produce narrative elements and express segments of stories. These I can then edit, using methods of montage, to finally make sense of the whole dramaturgy. There is a montage of the director and a montage of the actor, both of which will, at one point, be confronted with the montage of the spectator. Applications to our fields of professional actions are convenient and useful. The patient/healer work parallels that of the actor/director interactive strategies and methods. The healer, here the cultural psychiatrist, becomes the director of the patient’s dramaturgy, as expressed in the case-history making and in the course of the psychotherapy. The same can apply to the clinical situations seen in surgery, internal medicine et al. Theater anthropology and the performance studies have developed active networks, the International School of Theater Anthropology (ISTA) and the Performance Studies international (PSi), comparable to our own SSPC, TS and WACP. My Masters of Their Conditions project began 30 years ago. Three stepping-stone articles have been
published in TP. The focus is on the body in its clinical, cultural and performing forms: (1) the performance of health, illness and care – introducing theater anthropology; (2) narration in intercultural theater and the visual arts – bringing patients on stage; (3) the actor’s score and its applications to the patient’s score – a collaboration with actors of the Odin Teatret, founded by Eugenio Barba who also created ISTA. I am currently working on the next stage of the project: body modifications in the era of the new media (Internet, communication, technologies of the image).

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