chapter  Chapter 21
5 Pages

Straitjackets of representation

ByPetra Kuppers

The cultural histories of hysteria, depression, and schizophrenia are histories of silencing, muting the ‘other’. The artwork of people institutionalized within mental health systems has often been perceived within the framework of ‘therapy’. A representation of self outside the clinical categories is made impossible by the discourses that govern the idea of the ‘free self’. The representational and social aspects of madness had affected the sense of embodiment of people diagnosed with mental health difficulties. Work that happens at this initial level can eventually change the participants’ sense of themselves and, through this, power relations and representations in the larger social sphere. By slowly working their way through their bodies, always connecting the exploration back to the filling of breath and relaxing of limbs, the group members could experience themselves as taking space – able to be filled by breath, able to ‘see’ and ‘feel’ their bodies as spatial forms.