Pedro Reyes’ Sanatorium opened in December as the Institute of Contemporary Art’s inaugural exhibition, and it was a wise choice: the interactive nature of the installation, and the chance for self-reflection, rendered visitors active participants and encouraged multiple returns. Initially debuting at the Guggenheim, Sanatorium is described as a transient clinic providing a wide range of “therapies” drawn from various modalities: hypnosis, art therapy, Gestalt psychology, “play” therapy, and conflict-resolution techniques. According to Reyes, “SANATORIUM offers a secular space for psychological processes that can be found in religion or shamanism…You decide to believe…to tell yourself a story.” Therapies have taken the form of, amongst others, Goodoo dolls—dolls modeled after the traditional voodoo poppet, designed for well-wishes and positive intent—epitaphs for one’s future gravestones, The Museum of Hypothetical Lifelines (in which participants visually map out their lifelines using toys and assorted ephemera), and The Philosophical Casino, where visitors write down and post a question to a gallery wall, then roll any of five gigantic dice covered in the (sometimes poignant) musings of philosophers and psychiatrists and authors of the past several centuries: Jacob Levy Moreno, Rumi, Novalis. If all of this is intended to be cheeky, it certainly is; then again, of course, it is therapeutic. The two are not mutually exclusive. Given an outlet and a sense of agency, a chance to create a personal narrative, people tend, it seems, to feel better (which is why psychotherapy even without medication is better than none at all).
A ceremonial sound healing, led by yoga instructors and Reiki Masters Miguel Fleischauer and Alejandra Rose Srour—whose Masters in Psychology and Cognitive-Behavioral Neurosciences supplements her certifications—was the Alternative Clinic’s first presentation: a completely immersive experience into yogic-based sound, Nada Yoga Nidra, which is rooted in the idea that the universe is comprised of sound vibrations. Soothing communion with these vibrations, as such, can bring one to a state of equilibrium, and possible healing release. With participants meditating in repose, Miguel and Alejandra led breathing exercises, song-based ritual, chanting, prayer, and energetic clearing (with the help of a didjeridoo).
If there is space to be the “real deal” in the metaphysical world (and there is), Miguel and Alejandra are the real deal, eager to link the science of the body with what might appear to be magical thinking, displaying how the latter really can alter the former. Better still, their dedication to environmentalism—they are devout activists, particularly regarding rainforest destruction in the Amazon—only sometimes eclipses their healing work; their practices are guided by sincere interest and their activist work by real care. It was a good start to the rest of the Alternative Clinic’s programming: a shamanic energy clearing with Aixa Amankay and an integrative workshop, led by Claudia Lara, on the Brennan Method—a kind of energy healing based on the Barbara Brennan School of Healing.