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Project 3.

Interdisciplinary Study towards Establishment of a Common Foundation between the Science of Art and Art Therapy

This Institute has placed particular emphasis on the practices of arts therapy which is also a vital psychotherapy technique for Project 1 and Project 2. We shall take up afresh this subject for our evaluation and sort out the two ways of exploration of the human mind from the perspectives of the treatment practices and of the science of art in order to investigate the relationship between the two. Taking advantage of the features of this Institute, we strive to take an approach which has not been taken sufficiently in the past – that is, we set up an interdisciplinary dialogue between art therapists who are currently working actively at clinical institutions and professionals in the science of art. Overall, we also aim to reevaluate the position of art experience in the present age.

〈Overview of Project〉

Art therapy has already been widely practiced in Japan as one field of psychological treatment. Among such treatment methods, there are psychological treatment methods that have been used for a long time, such as drawing therapy, collage therapy, and sand play therapy, and treatment techniques that have been developed from art practices, such as music therapy and dance therapy, as well as horticultural therapy that has been practiced as a type of therapy developed from horticultural science. These methods have been organized as individual techniques theoretically and technically, and the meaning has been demonstratively examined. However, on the other hand, how “work” is related to treatment has not been sufficiently evaluated and we can hardly say that common understanding concerning art and treatment have been established.

The main purpose of this study project is to explore the meaning of art therapy by taking advantage of this Institute’s system under which professionals both in the fields of science of art and psychotherapy, and by integrating viewpoints of the science of art, which covers art in general, and viewpoints of psychotherapy, which deals with treatment. Problem awareness and methods of this study project are as follows.

Generally, there is a theory about so-called art therapy that the act of creating an art work itself is therapeutic (art as therapy) and that the relationship between the therapist and the client during the stage of creation is to be emphasized as part of psychotherapy (art psychotherapy).  In any case, in these therapies, emphasis has been placed on spontaneous and expressional motives and, for that matter, the order (superiority or inferiority) of “artistic value” of the work completed as a result is not relevant.  Also, no importance has been placed on deliberate creation of a work based on knowledge of “art history” and on influences of predecessors.

On the other hand, in the field of the science of art that deals with the same “art”, in many cases a work already completed is used as a starting point. In art history in particular, the focus tends to be placed on interpretation of influences from precedent works or the relationship of influences from the spirituality of the times, social systems, etc. When criticiziing an art work, concepts of psychoanalysis or psychology may be cited but less importance is placed on viewpoints that are important at clinical institutions.

Such difference explains the reason why art therapy and the science of art have been developed separately without realizing a true dialogue between the two fields. However, given that in the science of art, new methodologies are being sought step by step (for example, in the field of art criticism) and new trends are emerging in art therapy as well, it seems that new dialogues and exchange between the two fields has become possible. For this purpose, in this study project we would like to compile history of theories and backgrounds of establishment of approaches to art in both the fields of clinical psychology (and psychotherapy) and the science of art, confirm each positional difference, and pursue the possibility of a dialogue between the two fields.

Specifically, we shall first try to comprehend how the relationship between the two fields has been formed historically by philological study. Approaches to the art in the fields of clinical psychology or psychoanalysis were already used in the Taisho and early Showa eras in Japan but historical evaluation has not been sufficiently carried out even today. By clarifying such approaches at this point in time we shall proceed to study present-day conditions. Also, as the domain of art therapy in Japan is unorganized and underdeveloped compared to other countries, researchers who’ve had the opportunity to learn American conditions directly at practicing institutions shall conduct comparison between historical developments in Japan and in the U.S., and critically evaluate current conditions.

On the other hand, in the history of art, surrealism in the 1920s is the first typical example where artists started incorporating psychoanalytical styles in their expressions. However, there has been no detailed study made to compare their ways of citation with techniques used intrinsically at clinical institutions. This is a subject that requires evaluation by researchers specializing in both the science of art and psychology. A similarity to dance therapy has been pointed out in regards to butoh dance, which appeared in the 1960s, but the intrinsic relation has not been ascertained. In this study project, we aim to create new developments in this regard with researchers engaged in the science of art and medical anthropology from viewpoints of the theory of body.

By working on and advancing these historical studies, we shall study qualitative differences in regards to the positioning of “art works” and “artists”, and how they are treated in both fields as we address issues currently arising at the crossroad of the two fields by referring to the outcomes. One example is that “works” produced as the occurrence of some pathology are collected and exhibited at the art museums as a kind of “outsider art” and it has become the object of “appreciation of art”. Or there is another example in which early works of a famous artist submitted to a therapist are sold at auction in the art market, and collected and exhibited at an art museum today. For these institutional problems surrounding the art, it is effective to take approaches from viewpoints of both the science of art and clinical practices.

Moreover, the term “art therapy” has become a kind of popular phenomenon in the art world these days and there are increasing trends to seek emotional healing in creation or appreciation of art. Current conditions and problematic points may be revealed as a result of studies by researchers who also participate in art workshops as art critics and, consequently, specialists who see with the eyes of art therapist could issue warnings on the fragility entailed. Also at clinical institutions in these days, the term “art therapy” is used at various levels and a tendency has been observed that “a therapy that focus only on relaxation is named art therapy, painting test is called art therapy, or directions/manual oriented techniques called something or other method are discussed on the same level as art therapy, and these confusions are continuing*”. In this study project, we shall conduct surveys by interview, study how each practitioner of art therapy positions therapy and art, and identify the current status and actual conditions.

* Norio Seki, Yasuo Miwaki, Lisa Inoue ed. Art x Therapy Tend. (Filmart-sha Co., Ltd., 2002). p9