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Record Type: Review   ID: 739

Art as Medicine: Creating a Therapy of the Imagination

McNiff, Shaun

 This is one of the most important books to be abstracted in this Journal. (An article describing its relevance to working with EHEs appeared in EHE News, Vol. 3, No. 1.) McNiff is an art therapist whose practices and teachings were developed on the job, with no preconceptions. (He had applied to a state hospital for a social work position; they needed an art therapist.) However, he was very interested in painting. He regards paintings—but also any spontaneous image, such as may be found in dreams, sounds, poetry, enactments, concepts, and, I would add, any EHE can serve as a source of guidance. Primarily, he writes about the creative and therapeutic aspects of interacting with art objects in a dialogical relationship and in groups. What occurs at such times appears to be a kind of exceptional human experience. He shows how art can restore soul, and the same could be said of many EHEs. What makes this book so important to those who are interested in EHEs are the many techniques he describes for ensouling art objects. Everything he writes about art could be applied to the process of drawing out the meaning of an EHE. Art as Medicine could serve as a handbook for working with EHEs or, more specifically, for working in an EHE group. He also shows how his approach relates to the history of art, especially surrealism and its roots in shamanism. One could also say the book is about engaging what Jung called the "psychoid realm" of the psyche, which simultaneously involves both psyche (the subjective) and matter in a third reality that partakes of both. Art as Medicine is also about process, and a chapter is devoted to "psyche's movement," which also is relevant to EHEs. There is a chapter on "imaginal realism," in which he describes how artists can interact with their pictures, paying homage to James Hillman, with whom he has worked extensively. He also devotes a chapter to approaching artistic images as angels, drawing heavily on Henry Corbin's writings. In another chapter he discusses the role of the daimon in the ensoulment process. The chapters discussed thus far form Part One, or Context. Part Two is headed Dialoguing and Other Methods. It consists of seven chapters that describe the methods he uses to work with art images: meditation, storytelling, dialogue, performance, and dreaming. The last part, Demonstration, presents his dialogues, based on Jung's active imagination, with some of his own artistic images.
Publisher Information:Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1992. 235p. Bibl: 227-230; 26 figs; Index: 231-235
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