A Sample ART/LIFE COUNSELING Phone Session( All incidents changed to protect privacy.)
AUDREY S: Hi, is this Linda Montano? My name is Audrey and I got your number from your web site and read about you in Angry Women. Do you still do Telephone Tarot?
LINDA M MONTANO: Actully I don't Audrey. Now that I'm a practicing Catholic, I gave it up ! But I do ART/LIFE COUNSELING. Is there something you want to talk about ?
A.S: Yes.I'm an artist, 40 years old and I've been working on some ideas that I need help with.
LMM:OK. What I will do is ask you a few questions first and feel free to edit the question or change them and really question my questions.OK ?
LMM: What is your childhood theme or first memory? Say your first thought positive or negative.
AS: Actually my first thought resonates with the idea I've been considering. It's about violence. When I was 7 I saw a neighbor hit his dog with a large stick and it killed the dog. After that I went into a kind of silence and emotional post traumatic stress , I think they call it and it has effected my dreams.
Of course I have good memories, alot of them, but this is the one that surfaces as a theme in my life and work.
LMM: Let's start with this information then but you can do the same kind of process with any theme or memory, this is just an example of the kind of thinking you can do.
As an artist you have the opportunity to creatively alter, de-fuse, transform, reflect on, dissipate and re-route memories that get in the way of a happy and centered life. That's what's so great about art. It's all material if you want to use it. Of course in the mix are the aesthetic and ethical concerns but for now we will stay with content.
First , remember that you have a storehouse of options and media at your disposal and thousands of ways to express your theme or idea.
I've found that if you can remain raw in the beginning, it helps the surgery. So write down your incident as truthfully as possible. The sounds, sights, smells, feelings. Don't edit. Do you have access to a sound studio?
AS: I have a pretty good amatur tape system and can record things at home. I also dance.
LMM: Good. After you write the story, find sounds or music which resonate with the story and if possible present it simply, non-aesthetically and in this raw way to your therapist.
After working for awhile with the therapist, if she/he feels that it is appropriate to present the material to a few close friends in your home, do so. That way there is no critique, no judgment. If perchance the desire for audience and exposure and a larger sharing is on your aggenda, then ethical and aesthetic issues get raised. For example: is my idea readable? What do I want from the "other"? The eyes of the audience? Pathos? Empathy? An aesthetic catharsis? As I age, I'm less willing to go toward "shock" eventhough it might be in my life and in my material. But that is your decision and depends on what you and your audience can handle. Sometimes warning them of what they are about to experience is helpfull.
AS: I have avoided emotion in my work because I fear going to that big place. Any thoughts?
LMM:The important part is honoring the memory. Before I started therapy I thought art could do it all. Then I shared it all with therapy. Then I found that I needed religion to even it all out so my work has changed drastically. It is definately a smorgasborgh of art, healing and spirit.
You might work out the storm undt drang with the therapist or with prayer and by the time you get to the public, all the pain of the memory and terror might be wrung out and your performance might look very non-aggressive. For example, you might cradle a stuffed animal in your arms and sing softly to it? Or cry as you talk to it? Or raise seeing eye dogs for the blind as art? Or volunteeer at a dog shelter as art? Or make a 14 foot dog puppett and dance with it for 3 days at noon until 4 !
Remember, your aim is to evolve from repressed trauma to embraced compassion.I don't want to sound grandmotherish but try being Dhali Lama-ish about your work.
AS: That makes sense. There's enough struggle in my daily life, maybe my art can be a place where I get some different kind of nourishment.
LMM: The performance of the 70's was so much more self-referential in a narcissistic way. Now times have changed and artists are using the genre to evolve their consciousness not haze themselves. TV is doing that to the new Everyartist! Just look at Survivor or Temptation Island. Alot of performance art concepts are commodified there. Right?
AS: Yes and I know you were tied with Tehching in his ONE YEAR PERFORMANCE. Isn't there a new TV program about a woman being tied to four men or something like that?
LMM:I still find the workshop setting and doing it for friends setting the best. Once it gets out to a larger public, trouble arises. Cutting, shooting and re-enacting of 70's concepts can often hide the simple need to be healed via creativity in a safe and healthy and appropriate way.
AS: Linda, I'm trying to write this all down. Can I pay you for this? What do you charge?
LMM: Nothing. Just do something for somebody else in the next 7 years. Give your neice some art supplies.
AS:What do you do to keep your mind vital? I find the emotional so bothersome and so punitive.
LMM: A few years ago I was having an exceptionally hard time and I did this subconscious re-programming on myself. It is a collage of alot of techniques that I learned from others. Try it, see if it helps. You can do it as I describe it or write it down and do it later, whichever you like.
1.Notice that cultural beliefs run our thinking.
2. Some are negative, out of date and are stored deep in the recesses of the mind.
3. Locate the belief storage container.
4. Architect a new one if you don't like yours.
5.Pick out a negative thought that has been running your life.
6. Write it down. Edit it and make it positive, even saccarine.
7.Now go inside and imagine your favorite friend or inner guide or teacher standing next to your belief system container .
8.The formula is , I----------NAME,NOW BELIEVE------------
9.As you say your new belief out loud three times, give the old one to your friend and let her discard of it .
10.Repeat when necessary.
AS: That sounds great. Mine was, "I'm always feeling terrified and terrorized." And I changed it to, "I, Audrey, now beleive in inner harmony and practice spacious and trusting beauty inside myself." Is that saccarine enough?
AS: Thanks, Linda.
LMM: You're welcome. Happy art/life to you, until we meet again. (Sung to Dale Evan's Happy Trails To You.) Bye.