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Nicole Fordham Hodges on Rachel Gadsden's Body Mapping Workshop / 3 September 2012

Workshop participants create colourful overlapping bodymaps

Photo of participants create colourful overlapping bodymaps

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Rachel Gadsden is an inspirational leader at this family-orientated hands-on art workshop. She's clear but not patronising: she speaks to the artist in everyone. The aim of this workshop, she says, is to make artwork which ' says what an amazing person everyone is.'

 Children and adults are both instantly involved. Body mapping involves pairing up, lying on the floor and drawing outlines around each other's bodies, then expressing yourself - heart and soul - within your own 'body map'. It shows ' how life experience is stored in your body' and tracks ' the connection between your thoughts and emotions and your physical experience.'

Bodymapping was the inspiration behind Rachel's astonishing collaboration with the Bambanani group, many of whom are present at the workshop. The taboo-breaking, humane, visceral results of her residency 'Unlimited Global Alchemy' are on display at the Southbank Centre until 9 September.

It's poignant and spooky to see people walk away from their completed maps. Children leave behind their outlines entwined in inseparable family groups. They are hugely overlapped, often looking the same way. Beth and Terry leave see-everything eyes, dots and swirls of energy, an unmistakable impression of family love. Eva and Magus have exuberant free fingers. They are grouped beside an unnamed toddler who leaves an explosion of unrepeatable first colour. Lily's fingers and toes extend light, whilst Rafael's long methodical bones show a piecing-together mind. An adult and child collaboration explodes with music. Every limb holds an instrument. 'It's everything we like,' explains Tilly. She has drawn her feet as a TV remote control in her imaginative dotty expression of the joys of life.

The adults take longer. Their maps are more contemplative. Their positions have the hesitant overlaps of strangers. I map myself too, pausing politely at the places where my outline overlaps with others.

My map is a barely-there foetal creation, receding in purple, taking up little space compared to the others. A hide and seek of wombs and spaces-within-spaces. 'Creation, but where from?' I write. I return later to sign it.

Jump in,' someone has written on a  yoga-posed figure. 'Life's a beach?'  Yes. It's poignant to see people jump in, then step away from what they have done, leaving a nobility of bones and inexpressible-by-word qualities of heart.

Keywords: art,arts and health,bodymapping,disability art