ASU 4 Vitrine Display

Somatic States; The Body Abstract 27 November – 18 December 1992

In November 1992 something happened which changed the course of my life. I slipped on a station platform and was pitched into a nightmare: an X-ray revealed a series of tiny fractures around the head of my right femur, caused by a bone tumour. Statistically, it was the one in a million chance of all the possible diagnoses I might have had. The months of November and December were lost in a fog of terror. Subsequent surgery probably saved my life but left me feeling detached from my altered body which no longer felt ‘safe’ or allowed me to move with the freedom my 26 year old self had previously enjoyed.

Given complete liberty to explore the NUA archive, I was curious to know what had been presented in the gallery during this ‘lost’ period. Serendipity offered me Somatic States, on which this vitrine display will be based. It will be a very personal response.


Arts & Wellbeing

Curiously, my own circumstance is not something that I have ever (consciously, at least) explored in my own art practice. It feels a little strange to be doing so now, but I am motivated by my strong interest  in the link between the Arts and mental wellbeing. I think this vitrine display could be a useful exercise for trainee occupational health therapists to undertake in conjunction with patients with either chronic or life-altering physical conditions, and an artist who might be interested in exploring ideas around health/illness/physical perception/identity. It would NOT be art therapy – but a thoughtful and gentle exploration of common understanding and meeting points in the intimate setting of a series of vitrine displays. I see this as a potential project for Addenbrooke Arts or Arts for Health, London.

Definition of ‘somatic states‘:

  • The physiological changes that occur in the body in response to an emotionally charged stimulus that is present in the environment, or to a thought (memory) that has some emotional significance.

Themes to explore:

connection/disconnection; transition/fracture/dissonance

Anne Morrison CV

Anne Morrison PhD thesis 1999
“Today the notion of the integrity of the body as complete and separate is actively fostered by the virtual, which delivers knowledge without the smell and touch of reality. Increasingly insulated from the actual experiences of nature, our biological selves are nonetheless in a state of constant material exchange with the environment. Beyond this functionality, there are those who cultivate a deeper sensory connection with the land. They regard themselves as being at one with the environment and sense within their bodies the rhythms and pulse of the cosmos. ”

“to be embodied or to attain somatic
awareness is to be holistically connected with one’s emotional, spiritual, intellectual,
and kinesthetic knowledge dwelling within the “living body” ” Ashkin, Sarah, (2011) unpublished BA hons thesis

Sellers-Young, Barbara Sellers-Young, Barbara. (2002). “Breath, Perception, and Action: The Body and Critical Thinking”. Consciousness, Literature and the Arts 3.2 (August).

Issues in Curating… p21 Jonathan Watkins


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