What is Body Mapping?
Body mapping is the process of creating artwork using drawing, painting or other art-based techniques to visually represent aspects of people’s lives, their bodies and the world they live in. Body mapping is a way of telling stories, much like totems that contain symbols with different meanings, but whose significance can only be understood in relation to the creator’s overall story and experience.
Video above: Landscape of the Mind, Vivid Sydney 2017.
What is Body-Map Storytelling?
Body-map storytelling is primarily a data generating research method used to tell a story that visually reflects social, political and economic processes, as well as individuals’ embodied experiences and meanings attributed to their life circumstances that shape who they have become. Body-map storytelling has the potential to connect times and spaces in people’s lives that are otherwise seen as separate and distal in more traditional, linear accounts. The final outcome of the body-map storytelling process is a mapped story composed of 3 elements: a testimonio (a brief story narrated in the first person), a life-size body map, and a key to describe each visual element found on the map. This technique can also help stimulate dialogue and share knowledge with general audiences given that the mapped story brings research participants’ stories to life through combined visual and oral media. As a product, mapped stories offer a creative and potentially visually-compelling approach for knowledge translation and exchange.
Keeping the Body in Mind, 2016, The Black Dog Institute, Sydney, Australia. Created by young people who have experienced their first episode of psychosis
Body mapping originated in South Africa as an art-therapy method for women living with HIV/AIDS in 2002 (Devine, 2008; MacGregor, 2009; Weinand, 2006). The method evolved from the Memory Box Project designed by Jonathan Morgan, a clinical psychologist from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
The Memory Box Project was a therapeutic way for women with HIV/AIDS to record their stories and provide a keepsake for their loved ones in a handmade memory box. Jane Solomon later adapted this technique to create body mapping reflecting on living with HIV/AIDS through a narrative process. Solomon (2002) developed the facilitation guide and has been training facilitators internationally since that time. Body mapping has since evolved as a research methodology but until this point, there has been no substantive literature to guide the creation and analysis of the rich visual and oral qualitative data that body maps, and body mapping, provide as products and processes, respectively.
Text above taken from Gastaldo, D., Magalhães, L., Carrasco, C., and Davy, C. (2012). Body-Map Storytelling as Research: Methodological considerations for telling the stories of undocumented workers through body mapping. Retrieved from Migration Health
De Jager, A., Tewson, A., Ludlow, B., Boydell, K. (2016) Embodied Ways of Storying the Self: A Systematic
Review of Body-Mapping, FQS Vol.17(2): art.22
Devine, C. (2008) The moon, the stars, and a scar: Body mapping stories of women living with HIV/
AIDS. In Border crossings, 58-65.
Gastaldo, D., Magalhães, L., Carrasco, C., and Davy, C. (2012). Body-Map Storytelling as Research: Methodological considerations for telling the stories of undocumented workers through body mapping. Retrieved from Migration Health
Gauntlett, D. & Holzwarth, P. (2006) Creative and visual methods for exploring identities. Visual Studies,
Solomon, J. (2002) Living with X: A body mapping journey in time of HIV and AIDS. Facilitator’s
Guide. Psychosocial Wellbeing Series. Johannesburg: REPSSI.
Wienand, A. (2006) An evaluation of body mapping as a potential HIV/AIDS educational tool. Centre for
Social Science Research, working paper 169, 1-32.