Stagings of Therapy in Psychological and Artistic Practice

Different aspects of therapy and counselling seem to be increasing in popularity within the realms of contemporary art, theatre, performance, and popular culture. The guiding theme for dOCUMENTA (13) in 2012 was "Collapse and Recovery". In Kassel, a large number of works focused on personal as well as political crisis and artistic, often performative, strategies of regeneration, many of which borrowed approaches from therapy. In many experimental theatre productions, too, therapeutic settings or therapeutic methods have been used exhaustively since the 1990s. Fictive stagings of psychotherapy are also the central theme in many movies and popular television series like The Sopranos or In Treatment.

At the same time, embodied treatments like dramatherapy and psychodrama are becoming more widely accepted in professional psychotherapy practices. In dramatherapy, for example, playing a fictive character is a method that is frequently used as a means of promoting mental health. While at first glance, the two areas addressed here seem to have little in common, they are in fact related 1) by the links between therapy or therapeutic approaches and artistic performance, and 2) by the act of staging.

In this research Joy Kristin Kalu will consider the coinciding motivations that inform both cultural practices: performances that borrow from and depict therapy, as well as therapeutic practices – especially dramatherapy – that use staging and role play as a means of achieving or dealing with healing. The point of departure for this research is Richard Sennett’s thesis that "the fall of public man" was accompanied by the loss of his capacity for mundane role-playing. The research is based on the working hypothesis that stagings in and of therapy aim at reestablishing this capacity, thus constituting new forms of a public sphere using a tool that was designed for an 'intimate society'.