Walk Back to Your Body: Yuko Taniguchi
Arist Yuko Taniguchi and Dr. Kathryn Cullen pose for a portrait during the "Pieces We Hold" workshop.

Last fall, four artists and five medical researchers embarked on interdisciplinary collaborations that have led to new cultural perspectives on complex medical questions. This series of blog posts is meant to highlight their processes before the culmination of these collaborations, taking place in the Target Studio on December 5. More info about that event here >>

Yuko Taniguchi introduces herself as a poet to the patients she works with. Interested in the boundless ways that art can enhance the lives of patients with mental illness, Taniguchi was introduced to Dr. Kathryn Cullen of the Department of Psychiatry, and together, they employed art and creativity as mechanisms to change the way adolescent patients think about themselves and their lives. It was the first time Dr. Cullen had ever worked with an artist.

“It was different in every way," Dr. Cullen said. "Yuko and I were working together on our first presentation, writing down some of our ideas, how art, engagement, and creative activities would help adolescents. It was still very clinical because that’s how I think—about how it will change the brain and how mental health will improve. We shared it with Boris, and he said it felt like a medical journal. 'How about something more poetic?'”

Tossing away clinical jargon, the two reframed their approach. They asked themselves, “What if patients saw themselves as artists?”

“We are not really trying to tend to their conditions. It’s not that they have to get better or heal, but only in their thought, that ‘I am an artist,’ that in itself is healing. You work on recognizing the part of you that is also true,” Taniguchi said.

Incorporating poetic and introspective exercises, participants indirectly engaged with and examined aspects related to mental health. Although still in the works, Taniguchi and Dr. Cullen intend to create a new course in the Medical School’s clinical program.

Artist Peng Wu leans across a table with colorful pieces of paper to whisper to another workshop participant.
Artist Yuko Taniguchi speaks into a microphone during the "Pieces We Hold" workshop.
Dr. Kathryn Cullen speaks into a microphone during the "Pieces We Hold" workshop.
A workshop participant picks up a piece of paper with a poem on it and a pencil. The table is filled with colorful pieces of paper.

Join Yuko Taniguchi, artists and researchers, Dean of Medical School Dr. Jakub Tolar, and Target Studio Curator for Creative Collaboration Boris Oicherman in conversation on December 5.

Let us know you’re coming >>