“Written on the body is a secret code only visible in certain lights: the accumulations of a lifetime gather there. In places the palimpsest is so heavily worked that the letters feel like Braille. I like to keep my body rolled up away from prying eyes, never unfold too much, or tell the whole story.” This quote from Written on the body by Jeanette Winterson (2001) eloquently resonates with my interest in exploring the body landscape.
I facilitated a workshop at the Australian and New Zealand Art Therapy (ANZATA) national conference in November. In this workshop I described my method of immersing myself in the ‘writing on my body’ through painting my body and making body prints as a means of making meaning of my diagnosis of breast cancer and consequent surgery. The workshop provided an overview of my own process and the opportunity to participate in an experiential activity of accessing our own stories through the marks left on our bodies.
I believe our body is a rich tapestry of our lived experience that we can read and use as an access point into an inquiry into our own life. The landscape of our bodies contain the features, of our life journey – scars, wrinkles, shape, etc. In this workshop the participants were firstly invited to inquire into the stories written on their hands through the marks on their hands – lines, wrinkles or scars. We often don’t spend time just looking at our hands. To really see them. Iasked people to sit and just meditate on their hands. Really look at them, turn them over, look at them as if they are totally new to you, look at the colour, the texture, the lines. Are their scars? What stories are contained in the lines and marks on your hand? Share one story of an experience that you found written on your hand.
I then invited the particpants to sit with their body – spend some time just looking at your body and noticing the different marks that are written on your body – look again at your hands, your arms and legs and feet, feel it, is it smooth/rough/warm/cold etc. Again notice the textures, marks etc. Then lie down and close your eyes. Scan over your body from the top of head to toes as if you are a camera roaming over your body. What do you see/notice what marks, shapes, scars etc. What do you feel as you move over and through your body. Try and really tune into the physical shape of your body, the texture, topography. Your camera can move over your back what do you see as you move down along the back of your head over your back, your legs.
Is there a mark on your body that is drawing your attention that you are curious to explore more? Are their feelings attached to different parts of your body? Can you start to detect stories that are written on your body.
The particpants were then invited to work with a partner and create an outline of their body shape to work on. they then created a body map by filling in the outline of their body with whatever came to them from the meditation on their body. They were then encouraged to work with another person to inquire into the narratives that were contained in their body.
The images below are photos of some of the particpants body maps who gave me permission to use their images.
I had also come across a Chilean woman who was working with body mapping; she did a poster presentation at the International Conference on for the study of sexuality, culture and society in Madrid in July last year. I’ve put some info I got from her below.
Body Mapping Jimena Silva Segovia Dr. of firstname.lastname@example.org
Universidad Catolica de Norte in Antofagusta Chile
Thesis “power relationships between Chilean women from two generations: forming and breaking alliances, dissidence and oppostition between mothers and daughters Beca Conicyt 2006 – 2009
Methodology of Body Mapping
1. Biographical writings – help participants to create their life trajectories – autobiographies and individual’s self interpretations
2. Narrating the written (De Villers, 1999 & Ferrareti, 1981) – horizontal, vertical, winding or circular openings into lived experience.
3. Body mapping – using collage, writing painting etc on outline of body shape.
4. Emerging body expressions – conglomerate of different expressions leading into intersubjective work where participants generate new opportunities for rebuilding themselves and recreate their body project again