Sculpture by Spartak Dermendjiev
In order to graduate in dance, I wrote and performed a play based on thoughts about a monster – the notorious creature in Mary Shelly’s novel, Frankenstein. It was entitled Dorme, dome, Frankenstein (Sleep Tight Frankenstein).
However, instead of going on with my dance career after graduation, in the following year I went through a neurological surgery. As one of its aftereffects, I had half of my body partially paralysed. In consequence, and perhaps because the character of the play was disabled and I became disabled shortly after creating and performing it, I associated this event to the play and started to look at my body as “Frankensteinian”.
As soon as I recovered, I got a diploma in Art-therapy, and some years later, a Master in Sociology and Anthropology of Religion.
During the specialisation, I saw that art played a role in the treatment or healing of some pathologies, just as in the transgressions or deviations of physical, mental, or sociocultural norms. I also saw that while anguish may accompany disruptive forces, conversely art expresses or even brings them together.
Later in the Post-Graduation Programme, I came across subjects such as contemporaneity, trespassing of boundaries, and hybridism as well as with social and anthropological studies on health, illness, and cure.
After that, I realised that those three academic instances plus the personal one (my illness, its treatment, and my becoming disabled) showed profitable intersections so that something that was formerly private and subjective, acquired collective and objective dimensions on a second thought.
That was why in my viewpoint monsters are kind of a by-product of “illnesses”. Then, this represented the opening of a contemporary and hybrid path where my talk about freaks seemed logical.
In short, for me “illnesses” happen because conflicting forces take over a given organism and makes it hybrid, borderer or “monstrous”; “healing” names the integration of these forces into an organic whole, no matter if physical, psychological or sociocultural; and on its turn, art is the greatest catalyser of this process.
A Monstrous, Hybrid and Transgressive Contemporaneity
If contradicting forces impel us so that in our daily lives we face very imprecise borderlines concerning body, feelings, behaviours, cultures, and institutions, then, in this sense, we are all hybrid, borderers or, metaphorically speaking, monsters.
Furthermore, the society we built, and where now we live, is likewise monstrous, since we have created it to continually submit us to these close encounters of the third kind.
Finally, art offers a possible “healing” to this schizoid contemporary reality by providing ways to integrate dissonant sounds and make an only symphony out of them. Therefore, I believe art is an invaluable ally in this process.
That is why I hold that monsters, illnesses and art perfectly match, and trust that dramas portraying monsters, including ancient ones, keep a tight relation with contemporary life by mirroring all of us.
The Wounded Healer
An example of the above is the Greek myth about the centaur Chiron. Although people do not always view centaurs as monsters, perhaps because they are neither gigantic nor destructors, centaurs have mixed bodies. Therefore, similarly to Frankenstein, as Marry Shelly’s creature is also known, they are monsters, hybrid and borderers.
In the myth, Chiron was accidentally shot with a poisoned arrow. This wound would have been deadly to anyone but for a demigod like him since such creatures are immortals. This way, Chiron endured a very painful and never-ending agony.
Unable to heal his own wound, and precisely, for this reason, he mastered more and more the healing of injuries, became a seasoned practitioner, and started to heal other’s afflictions. He is then entitled one of the archetypes of the wounded healer.
He also lives in between two traditions; in a region where the centaurs’ instinctive and wild behaviour and humans’ rational and educated one disagree making him humans’ fierce enemy and refined friend at once. This splitting is even larger because Chiron is the centaurs’ King, a musician, a warrior, and great mythological heroes’ tutor.
In fact, this inner disunion is so severe that it needs a body half-human and half-animal to convey it. Moreover, one of the myth’s versions says that Chiron was wounded in a battle between those two civilisations.
This way, in this character the semi-god, the semi-human and the semi-beast meet, as well as fighting physical, psychological and sociocultural facets that cause “illnesses”, wounds, or metaphorically speaking, monstrous and hybrid bodies. Nevertheless, the myth itself shows that the union of these disagreeing sides heals or alleviates sufferings.
For the reasons aforementioned, I referred to the play and to my ideas on monsters to write Curadores feridos e outros frankensteins: quinze aposta nos opostos (Wounded Healers and Other Frankensteins: Fifteen Whys Opposites Meet). Since I hold this blog as an expansion of it, plus as said elsewhere, I consider the themes of hybridism and monstrosity perfectly fulfil my aims, I did the same over again.
- Note 1: loose translations of blog title and tagline: Healing Wheel/The Wounded Centaur – Hybrid Beings, Trespassing of Boundaries, and Unification of Differences Through Art
- Note 2: this blog does not adopt a definite language.