Senses of memory in dementia care: the transcendent subject

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Kathleen Connellan


Sensory stimuli are a whole body, mind, time, and space experience.  During the arts therapy encounter memories are recalled through sensory stimulation and scent, sound, texture and taste amongst people with dementia, which can encourage transcendence from the temporal realities of loss. Gerotranscendence (Stephenson 2013) occurs when arts and the unconscious combine.  This article reflects upon sensory arts therapy processes and outcomes in an aged care home, with one case study as a focus. Theories of memory, sensory perception and technologies of care, throw light upon the transcendent subject.  I take Foucault’s views on the contingent subject further to extend the idea of the transcendent subject as one whose preconscious is more prevalent and active than the conscious (Foucault 2003). This transcendence is not ‘madness’ but rather a kind of freedom that is often outside of the immediate politics of institutional care and one in which arts therapy has noticeable agency.

Keywords: Arts therapy; aged care; body; memory; senses; transcendence.

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