What Anni Albers taught this therapist

The artistic giant Anni Albers (1899 – 1994) turned to textile art as her second choice of career; options were especially limited as a woman. I was gorgeously stirred by an exhibition of her work at the Tate Modern in London, not least because her approach has kinship to the therapy world.

Firstly, she treated textiles as if people; valuing them in their own right, not just for what purpose they may serve (in the home, for example). This supports a recent discussion I had with a coaching colleague: where there is an organisation sponsoring the work, it is useful to treat the organisation as a person too, worthy of inherent respect.

Secondly, there is both punchy abstract and order in Anni’s work. I can relate to this: I believe that people cannot be split into parts, so I meander and weave with my clients. In this process, powerful connections – and sense, order – emerge.

Finally, watching the painstaking physical process of weaving screamed ‘discipline’ to me. Discipline is my best friend at work: it keeps my curiosity legit (for example, checking the intention behind any questions). It also keeps my responses bona fide in terms of theory: I often go to supervision and say ‘I said x to someone, where does that fit with theory?’, and we work it back. Spontaneity certainly has its place alongside discipline though, when it evolves from robust competence and ethic. It may be that I don’t make the conscious link to theory/ethics when sat with a client; but audit myself retrospectively during supervision. With clients who have been coming to see me for a while; and/or with coaching clients, being disciplined feels all the more pertinent. The familiarity of a relationship, or the often slightly more practical, future-focussed work in coaching can feel like fertile ground for unhelpful responses to pop out, if I don’t have my beady, disciplined-but-spontaneous, eyes open.

‘Beady’ – is that a good link back to Anni and her textiles? Thanks to this inspiring woman, I see the raving beauty and robustness of the therapeutic endeavour that bit more clearly. 

References

Dunne, A., (2018). Art in Focus: Rail by Anni Albers. The Irish Times [online]. 11 August. [Viewed 13 March 2019]. Available from https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/visual-art/art-in-focus-rail-by-anni-albers-1.3589901

Peer discussion with Becky Vincent

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