• Alisoun Neville

Our Multilingual Bodies

Updated: Sep 19, 2021

The body is a multilingual being. It speaks through its color and its temperature, the flush of recognition, the glow of love, the ash of pain, the heat of arousal, the coldness of nonconviction. . . . It speaks through the leaping of the heart, the falling of the spirits, the pit at the center, and rising hope.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order.

Samuel Beckett

Have you ever thought about making art as a way of knowing? Or whether you can access the wisdom of your body? Can you do these two things together? Or do you ask immediately – what does that even mean?

Many of us think about knowledge in terms of the stuff we learnt at school or Uni. This type of knowledge might have come to us first at home, learning our letters from an adult or counting the number of stones. Some of us think about what we have learnt as we go about living our lives. What did that relationship teach us, or those months of ill-health? Some of us care most about knowledge only when we can apply it, whether fixing the broken couch or attending a rally in town (see Heron and Reason for more about this).

For me personally, the discovery of Michel Foucault’s theories about the relationships between knowledge and power transformed the way I observed and understood the world. Then, later, reading life writing, poetry and fiction written by contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait authors almost completely disrupted what I thought I knew about the country in which I was raised.

When I started my training in art therapy I was pushed to explore the knowledges available to me through a range of creative forms. I discovered that what I could express myself through the forms with which I was familiar – writing, poetry, music, dance, sewing – was fundamentally different to what was possible through less familiar forms such as performance, sand play or visual art.

I also noticed that all of these art forms spoke back to (and with) me, in various and often subtle ways, and that I would feel the world differently at the end of each exchange.