Aesthetic Enactment: Engagement with Art Evoking Traumatic Loss

Froggett, Lynn orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8406-6231 and Bennett, Jill (2023) Aesthetic Enactment: Engagement with Art Evoking Traumatic Loss. Social Sciences, 12 (8).

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This article analyses audience responses to two creative works inspired by traumatic loss -- the first, a per-formance presentation, recounting events from the author’s adolescence, the second a short film about a suicide in the filmmaker’s family. Both were shown in 2017 as part of a mental health arts festival, attract-ing audiences with affinity for the lived experiences portrayed. Given the potential for such works to give rise to negative feelings and/or to retrigger trauma, the objective of the research was to understand, firstly, whether audiences could process the trauma conveyed in a contained and facilitative setting; and secondly, how the aesthetic modality of each work supported this processing. The psychosocial methodology adopted consisted of a group based, image led, associative method – the visual matrix – which invites par-ticipants to express their embodied and sensory-affective feelings about an artwork, including its troubling aspect. In the case of both the works, it became clear that aesthetic enactment expressed through rhythm and imagery, and enabled by the visual matrix, was key to the re-symbolisation of trauma for the audiences. The implication of the study is that the re-visiting of potentially distressing aesthetic experience in an aes-thetically mediated, containing setting is potentially reparative in its effect.

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