Imagining Windmills

Trust, truth and the unknown in the arts therapies


Imaginando molinos de viento

La Confianza, la verdad y lo desconocido en las Terapias Artisticas

As always, the place of a conference is significant. Alcalá is a world heritage UNESCO site and the university is one of Europe’s longest standing universities. The University  prides itself on the humanities and the arts, and is developing its provision for training in arts therapies. The town’s symbol is the stork and these regal birds make their nests on the old ramparts, standing as omniscient sentinels over the town and its people. Storks are symbols both of longeivity and rebirth, and their presence gives a sense of otherworldliness as one wanders through their town. Alcalá is also the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, largely regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language.

‘Imagining Windmills’ alludes to the famous passage in Cervantes’ masterpiece ‘Don Quixote’, in which the protaganist, on one of his missions as a knight errant, begins to attack windmills, thinking they are giants. This act, one of his many misguided adventures, reflects both hubris and an imaginal capacity, a contrast evident throughout the book and one of psychological significance. Sparked by this literary masterpiece, the conference theme invites you to wrestle with ideas of misperception and delusion, truth and trust, and the paradoxical delight and vitality brought about by Quixote’s madness and purpose. The prospect of actively imagining windmills plays with consensual reality and provokes questions of the unknown and the imagined. How does the education and practice of the arts therapies engage with the imagination as a place of multiple realities which can lead us closer to finding our truth? Picasso’s suggestion  ‘art is a lie that helps us realise the truth’, points to this capacity in art.

As the arts therapies continue to find their reach into different contexts and domains, and with an increasing desire for evidence, the theme offers opportunities to look again at the situated and culturally determined nature of knowledge. In a world in which the media increasingly manipulates and digitalises the image, how can the arts therapies offer the opportunity for the imagination and story to emerge spontaneously through the art forms of dance, drama, art and music in meaningful ways? How do arts therapies education and practice help reclaim storytelling and engage with the imaginal, building towards practices of trust and discourses of truth? 

It is of note that Cervantes wrote Don Quixote whilst in prison. His masterpiece was not conceived through looking out upon beautiful vistas, but kindled from the interior of his own being. He then turns outward to face afresh his world with all the subtelty and intricacy of a storyteller capturing the essentials of the human soul, with its capacity for adventure, inflation, idealism and purpose. And all shot through with acerbic wit, satire and mockery.

So, in the fields of art and medicine, art and psychology, the arts therapies, how do we conceive of truth? Are there multiple truths, in a postmodern bricolage of social construction, or an essential truth and experience of Self which transcends these concerns? And how do we consider trust? How is it transmitted, cultivated, broken? And how do trust and truth relate to the as yet unformed, the unconscious, the unknown?

So what has all this to do with imagining windmills? This call for papers, workshops, performances and posters is a call for explorations of these contemporary, yet age-old questions.