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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

AM23-QC-PP8: Jazz Hands

Parallel Papers Session 2
Friday 30 June 15.15pm-16.30 SAST - VENUE 3
This presentation is STREAMED: a live broadcast from the venue with no online interaction. Moderators may announce zoom 'chat' questions can be submitted. Please 'mute' your microphone in consideration of other online participants and the audio recording.
Jazz Hands

Presenters: Lurinda Maree & Prof Marie-Heleen Coetzee


Performative Art have the ability to become an aesthetic, transformative experience which stirs within, tapping directly into the unconscious, to bring catharsis to the soul. This type of purging is experienced within, but most certainly have the power to transform body, mind and soul into the conscious, external world. It does not discriminate, it aims to connect self with self; and self with others in a wordless way.

When we applied performing arts as a Music and Movement Event during the 2021 TILT online Group Relations Conference, the primary task was to ‘provide members with opportunities to use music [and movement] to access their conscious and unconscious experiences of transforming their leadership in the here-and-now.’ Their feedback, sometimes minutes of stunned silence, other times ongoing ramblings as they attempted to find the words to describe their insides, was overwhelming. This type of exposure revealed more than we ever could do with any five-day conference.

According to Bundy (2003:171) the aesthetic experience emerges at the metaphorical level where participant meets artwork within a specific context. It includes subject, object, aesthetic engagement and response. The process is simultaneously multidimensional and subjective (Caru & Cova; 2005: 40), because it involves associations which can be recollective, emotional and/or cognitive (Fenner, 2003:46). It’s an engagement where all our mental capabilities, including perceptual, cognitive, affective, imaginative and even volitional, are involved to create an ‘…intense mental experience imbued with meanings form al these faculties operating in tandem and informing one another’ (Goldman in Belfiore and Bennett, 2007a:274). It’s sense-making of unconscious dynamics in the conscious world.

In our current organisational context, we’ve become utterly disconnected from self and others. This is the effects of trauma on the human system according to Dr Gabor Maté, psychiatrist and specialist in ADHD, trauma and addiction. Our insides are isolated and disconnected. Our leaders are navigating their systems with this internal, unspoken state. There is no engagement, no purging, perhaps no language to enable expression. According to Dr T Dayton, trauma cannot be named or faced without words to describe the associated feelings. This is called emotional literacy (2000:41). We do not have it, we are not cultivating it in our organisations, we are not driving interventions to steer people towards it. We are joining the “dance of the unspoken” while the disconnect perpetuates.

If we allow the leaders’ loss of connection with their unconscious and/or conscious unspoken worlds, it inevitably means loss of identity. In turn affecting authority, boundaries, roles and tasks. A disconnect with the unconscious dynamics of the systems they are leading. The lost leading the lost.

Presenting an either live performance or digital performance material, the introduction will create the content for this conversation. Against the back-drop of aesthetic experience, let’s connect wordlessly with the aesthetic object and have a first-hand experience to give life to the words on this page. Performing Art may just, as it has always been, be the vessel to resurface soul, spirituality and interconnectedness in our organisations.

Learning Objectives

Participants will be able to:

  1. Identify the ways in which the unconscious and/or conscious unspoken impacts women’s leadership role and identity, even after the fact, or in the next role or system.
  2. Recognise movement as embodied aesthetic experience in the context of system psychodynamics.
  3. Recognise embodied aesthetic experience, observed through an aesthetic object, as a sense-making intervention in relation to connecting to role/s and identity.

Biographical Summary

Lurinda Maree is an industrial psychologist and applied theatre specialist in private practice. She provides coaching and consultation services for personal and profession development for both individuals and teams. This includes Leadership, Life, and Wellness Coaching; Team Development Consultation; Career Counselling for employees in transition; and Specialised Services in the context of Employee Wellness and Stress relief using humour and theatre. Her approach includes psychology, system psychodynamics and applied theatre.

Marié-Heleen Coetzee is an associate professor at the School of Arts: Drama at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Her research centres on the use of drama and theatre-based methodologies in cross-disciplinary contexts, socially engaged performance and embodied pedagogies in performance praxis. She presents scholarly and creative work on varied platforms and is a co-director of the production company, LeftFoot Theatre Productions.