Attending the Art and Psyche conference has felt reminiscent of returning home. Organized by Pacifica Graduate Institute and hosted at UC Santa Barbara, the magic, inspiration, and academic curiosity within me have been reignited. I have been reunited with a few of my cohort members, sharing laughs and intellectual discourse.
The purpose of the conference was an accompaniment to the display of Carl Jung’s Red Book at the UC Santa Barbara art gallery. In summary, the Red Book is a collection of Jung’s artwork focused on his study of the mandala and his dream interpretations. As such, the conference consisted of lectures revolving around psychology, dream analysis, as well as artistic collaborations amongst therapists and activists working in other cultures and countries.
Art and Psyche is my first academic presentation opportunity outside of my Pacifica coursework. My presentation was titled “Bellydance Through the Lens of Myth” and consisted of performance, lecture, and workshop. Inspired by this new opportunity I took my performance in a new direction: I performed with double daggers. While bellydance uses many props, including sword, canes, and staff, I have not personally come across a double dagger piece.
My inspiration stemmed from two main sources: within the Capoeira martial art, which I have trained for ten years, is a stick-fighting dance called maculelê and we hold a stick in each hand of approximately two feet in length called grimas; I have also recently been training the use of knife in the Filipino and Indonesian martial traditions with Orpheus Black and Bloodline Hybrid Boxing. These combined practices made the placement of daggers in my hands familiar and interesting. This new piece excited me and when I found music heavy in tribal, warrior-like rhythms and feel, the archetype of my feminine warrior emerged.
I contemplated the topic of my dissertation, which is in the preliminary stages at this time. Without disclosing too much detail, I am discussing the archetypes of the feminine warrior and the feminine lover. With my dagger piece speaking to the warrior, I felt inspired to share the performance space with the feminine lover of my academic studies and danced with the veil. Veil offers an aura of mystery, sometimes concealing the movements of the dancer through a thin fabric, offering only a glimpse of the silhouette; or perhaps covering much of the face, leaving only the eyes to gaze at the audience.
Warrior and lover are only two possible archetypes to emerge in this cultural dance. Mythology speaks through dance and the dancer and the stories and characters can – and do – transform. Personally, mine can change at the last minute: In the case of the conference, slight transformations were occurring the day of my presentation.
The number of presentations during this four-day conference were impressive. My favorites focused on archaeological, cultural anthropological, and historical topics. The chair of my Myth program at Pacifica (and one of my professors) Evans Lansing Smith spoke on The Modernist Nekyia: Jung and His Brothers, namely James Joyce, Thomas Mann, and Hermann Hesse; another professor, and head of the Pacifica Retreat Program, David Odorisio, spoke on A Visionary Gnosis: Comic Books and the Illuminated Imagination which highlighted Scottish comic book author and artist Grant Morrison and his work “The Invisibles.” Also of great interest was Absence and Presence: Mysterious Portraits of Ancient Egypt by Pam Bjork; and The Shamanic Arts, Indigenous Healing, and the Transformation of Colonial Imagination by Oksana Yakushko, Nadia Khalil Talji, Lisa Boinnard, and Mai Breech; the Icon and the Thangka: Archetypes, Inner Transformation, and Awakening by Thomas Cattoi; and Imagining Wholeness: Art as Illumination in C.G. Jung and Tibetan Buddhism by Dylan Hoffman.
The Art and Psyche conference was also my first opportunity to see the Red Book. The concept behind the mandala is to awaken the unconscious. The following are two of my favorite images that were on display:
The mandala is depicted in the center of the dragon image, which is the theme of Jung’s work in the Red Book. Dragon and snake (my totem and spirit animal) are similar as symbols of transformation and healing. In the lower image the mandala is the egg.
I am grateful to have had this opportunity to share my passion of bellydance, discuss preliminaries of my dissertation involving the archetypes, and to learn nuances of presenting in a conference setting. The stories shared by presenters were beautiful and genuine. It is my hope that I offered insight and knowledge and joy to those who attended my presentation – and perhaps a few sore muscles from the workshop portion in learning the Art of Bellydance Through the Lens of Myth.