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Playing with Autism and Outsider Art

Throughout the twentieth century, autism has been variously interpreted and as a result has become a flexible signifier. Over the last decade, both the academic world and popular culture have paid particular attention to the self-expression of people living on the spectrum. On the occasion of the most recent exhibition in the Dr. Guislain Museum in Ghent, which put numerous autistic artists in the spotlight, Leni Van Goidsenhoven reflects on conceptual changes within autism discourse, the danger of the savant-rhetoric, cultural interventions and the category of “autistic art”. She moreover shows how Museum Guislain’s project experiments with autism and outsider art by incorporating playful elements.

The Space of Play and Psychoanalysis

Many psychoanalytic theories address the question of the space of play. Based on Freud, the author first of all tries to show that the originality of psychoanalysis lets us consider the space of play as a scene (Bühne) which opens onto the Other Scene, the unconscious. A structural analogy between play space and tragic scene will be considered. Next the author will study the Winnicottian invention of potential space which allows us to explain the experience of play from a psychogenetic point of view. In this perspective it will be important to locate the area in which play takes place, an area of illusion that Winnicott describes as paradoxical. Finally a third perspective considering how play constitutes its own symbolical space will be considered. The author will propose that play institutes a third space allowing something to be said and at the same time a subjective division.

Françoise Dolto and Extramural Psychoanalysis: Two Practical Examples

This contribution sheds light on Françoise Dolto as an inspiring pioneer of preventive work with children. A question that informs our discussion is the extent to which “extramural psychoanalysis” can, or should, be creative. Two projects illustrate the inventiveness and the power of psychoanalysis beyond the boundaries of the classical cure. The first project, “Les Enfants du Jeudi”, in which choreographers work with autistic children, reveals how the “unspeakable” can manifest itself through music and dance. Our second project, “Villa Ou-ki”, demonstrates how parents and children can be held within, or evacuated out of, their symptom by applying short-term psychoanalytic interventions with the focus on the relational aspect in the context of childcare. We present these two projects referring to the four key theoretical aspects of Dolto, namely, the relational, the unconscious body-image, the play of desire, and respect with regards to the subject aspects. The ideas of Jean Laplanche are used as supplementary theoretical tools.

Vygotsky and Winnicott: a Theoretical Underpinning for the Importance of Play in Child-Analysis

This paper is based on the experience of watching a piece of theatre in which children dub the dialogues of adults. In order to account for the observation that this dubbing as a form of repetition produces a gain without actually adding anything, we formulate the hypothesis that repetition in a child’s play can have the value of an interpretation. We combine this with the clinical observation of Winnicott that playing in itself is therapeutic, illustrated by some short clinical vignettes. A first support for our hypothesis lies in the analysis of the Fort-Da game described by Freud. Furthermore we describe two essential aspects of the child’s play: a supportive function for entering language and the creation of Desire while playing. These two aspects are clarified by making use of the theory of the Russian developmental psychologist Lev Semyonovitch Vygotsky.