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Touching space in hurt and healing: Exploring experiences of illness and recovery through tactile art

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter



Embodied experiences are intangible and complex elements of human consciousness; often difficult to capture and articulate. Yet our tactile sense at the level of the micro-space within and between skin surface and tactile medium acts as an interface connecting our inner and outer worlds; holding and furnishing our stories of physical and emotional experience. I explore the theory of tactile methodologies when designing research using creative therapy techniques to facilitate the narratives of hurt and healing in people following cancer treatment. Drawing on Winnicottian notions of ‘potential space’ and the ‘transitional object’ I build on previous research to theorize tactile sense as a micro spatial interface that holds, transmits and creates embodied past and present experience. A tactile medium such as sand, clay or textiles acts as a conduit between the micro spaces of physical touch at the outer surface of the body and inner thoughts, memories and emotions. This approach, when used in a therapeutic or research space, can stimulate a flow of symbolic and verbal expression that may be less accessible via the conventional interview. Thus it may be possible to facilitate the narration of the often complex and finely nuanced reflections on illness experience.