Can artistic practice be combined with therapeutic learning and explorations in finding new hybrid experiential based methods that become useful to society? What is the psychological impact that current global and societal culture drives or affects our human minds? What are our present and future needs for our collective well-being and how can artistic experience become a tool for such purpose? Why would we need more healing or therapeutic learning environments in the future and what art forms or types of engagement would they adopt to suit our present or anticipated culture or psyche?
Gopika Dahanukar’s pursuit in Expressive Arts therapy is focused within this area of questioning and creative inquiry. Before she began her journey in Vancouver to become an Expressive Arts therapist, she was a graduate student of Applied Craft and Design. Interestingly, her work laid its emphasis on creative process through hands-on-making and problem-solving, inquiry-based research in the area of art making, and therapeutic experience. Crafting forms into translucent paper and activating the work with projection, lights, video and sound were some of the paths and materials that I explored. These finally led her to create a therapeutic experience through activated art installations that she felt successfully brought her to a synthesis of her interests, and opened a new doorway to a world of possibilities ahead. She was left with a need to directly have people engage and contribute in the artistic experience with her, and this fueled her interest in pursuing Expressive Arts therapy.
Gopika Dahanukar was born and raised in India, a land of ancient philosophy and self-inquiry, the significance of which is found in its iconography, rituals and everyday life. In her growing years, she saw the manifestation of this rich culture through geometry and sound, sacred mandalas and Vedic mantras. She was later drawn to inquire deeper into the significance of these geometries and sound as related to nature, earth and cosmos. She realized that these forms and sounds both comprise of patterns of energy movement at the core of their physical structure and significance. She spent many years in South India, where she studied and taught mantra chanting and sound meditation. These group classes were her first community offerings and were set within a formal framework, yet, allowed space for insights and encouraged self-inquiry that organically emerged out of the collective sound experience and exercises.
After a year with of then discovering Expressive Arts being so closely related to her pursuit through these years, the set frame opened for the work to find approaches to be malleable, conditional to the present experience that was being held. She learnt to include the responsive quality that came with adding body movement along with the sounds and my realm of research was enriched and infused with new intermodal experimenting and harvesting of ideas.
Can structure break open to offer fresh ground and allow for the sprouting of new spaces and dimensions of inquiry? Can one support the forms of sound and yet allow for them to split open into new formations for collective experience? What is the place of your voice in your body and how can you make it a tool for unearthing your inner expression? Can many voices meet to form patterns of therapeutic holding in spacial experiments and carry you to find yourself in the voice of another? What place can silence have in participating alongside the emergent ideas in the work of a specific group? Can you find your personal place of self reflection mirrored in the sound of collective experimentation?
Currently Gopika’s interest in this course is driven in the direction of these questions and in playing with pattern-making in sound and movement as a way of the work. “To find a way to place the work between the physical world and the subtle movements of our collective psyche, the outer environment and its influence on the inner being is of fascination to me.”she said
At present, Gopika is an instructor at the Vancouver School of Expressive Arts and wishes to continue to develop and enrich her teaching skills, eventually to bring the Expressive Arts program to prospective students in India.