The way we use language to talk about mental illness has a significant impact on how society understands specific conditions. Medical terms such as ‘bi-polar’ or ‘depression’ create a framework of symptoms or behaviors that individuals might be expected to exhibit in social situations, leading to common stereotypes and misunderstanding. While medical language is valid for certain purposes, it is necessary to develop a more nuanced lexicon to enable suffers to express the complexity of their own subjective experiences and to enrich social understandings of mental health issues.
I got really excited this week, when I came across The Reader Organisation’s annual conference titled “We need a new language for mental health”. This call to arms seems to acknowledge the importance of language in defining mental crisis. The title fired my imagination and got me asking, what might a new language for talking about mental health sound like? What kinds of words might be most adequate for reflecting the complexity of emotions such as fear, anxiety and anger? Read more
Philippa Strandberg; a potential PhD student in theatre who I have interviewed for my article, teaching her BA students at Italia Conti
This week I am finishing a piece of writing for The Stage with a working title of “Should British Universities abolish PhDs in Theatre Studies?” The title is intentionally provocative and is devised in response to an article that was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education in America earlier this year. Written by a disenfranchised PhD in Theatre, this article attacked the PhD qualification as being worthless in the context of a shrinking American academic job market.
Have you ever wondered what happens to a website after people stop using it? When technology develops and pages are redesigned or abandoned, digital content can be lost forever. At a time when some of the best writing around live art, performance and experimental practices now takes place online, we stand to lose vital historical information if these sites are not properly archived.
From the Buddy App presentation at E-Mental Health: Harnessing the Power of Digital. Photo with thanks to @claireOT
It might feel counterintuitive that technological tools should serve as arbiters of human emotion. Plastic and aluminium may have mouldable ergonomic properties, but they can’t give you a hug at the end of a miserable afternoon.
Last week I attended two consecutive conferences that illustrated the myriad ways that humans do use technology to illustrate and augment feelings of mental distress. Cinema and Psychosis at The Barbican and E-Mental Health, Harnessing the Power of Digital at NHS South East were organised with very different agendas in mind, but in my opinion, both helped to demonstrate how technological tools have become so essential in helping to change perceptions and aid treatment of mental crisis in a rapidly developing technological world.
An unlikely place for Dadist performance art? Tranmere, Birkenhead. Image by Kenn Taylor
I’ve recently landed an exciting job working for a small organisation called Unfinished Histories. They have a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to record British Alternative Theatre, 1968 -88, through interviews and collecting of archival material. We’re on the look out for preforming artists and directors who were involved with alternative companies that performed in the Camden and Lambeth area during this period. If you were part of this scene, we want to hear from you!
I’m seriously psyched about the season of podcasts I’ve been commissioned by Mercy to produce for this year’s Liverpool Biennial. Its pretty exciting to be making content that will be featuring each week on the Biennial website and app.
I wrote a blog post for Mind Charity about my research on the internet and mental health. With less than a month to go before dissertation deadline, its exciting to get feedback on some of my ideas from a public audience! Click below to read the article:
Thank you to everyone who packed out my talks at the Science Museum on the 25th April. We were full to capacity each time and I am sorry if you are one of the people that we had to turn away. I will be doing more public writing and speaking on archiving mental health using new technologies very soon.
Meantime you can listen to me give a version of the talk on SoundCloud by clicking the more button at the end of this post or download a copy of a paper that I produced using material I presented during the talk Archiving Mental Health Using New Technologies. Although please read this with the understanding that it is intended as a micro version of arguments I am working on for my thesis and not a coherent paper in its own right! As ever, your feedback would be appreciated.
Thanks to Rob Bartlett for brow mopping, Chris Warren for proof reading and Erica MacArthur for the fuzzy mobile phone photography.
Press more to read a synopsis of the paper and to listen to the audio
The Ocelli and the essay that I wrote about it, are currently being exhibited at CIRCA projects in Sunderland. On 20th June at 7pm, The ARKA Group will be in conversation with Rebecca Shatwell, Director of AV Festival. Well worth a trip if you are local. Or you can download my essay here theocellitext.
I’m psyched to be contributing to a ‘live blog‘ that will document (and hopefully critique) this year’s State of the Arts Conference. For anyone who doesn’t know, SOTA is Arts Council England’s annual suited and booted summit, intended to help shape the future of arts funding. I guess they have decided to hold it on St Valentine’s day to emphasize what a romantic prospect this is! Read more
Literary critic Paul De Man once described the origins of ironic humour through man’s futile battle with gravity. While tripping and stumbling in public can often be a source of excruciating shame and ridicule, it also gives birth to superior knowledge of one’s own fallibility. In essence: “The man who has fallen is somewhat wiser than the fool who walks around oblivious of the crack in the pavement about to trip him up.”
In February 2011 a disparate group of performers starred in ‘The Last of the Red Wine’, a collaborative sitcom based in the art world Read more
There’s a snippet of academic art speak that can still bring me out in hives five years after graduating from Glasgow School of Art. The context is half the work is the careworn mantra embedded into the psyche of the school by David Harding and his peers who founded the highly successful Sculpture and Environmental Art department in the mid 80s. Read more
The arts have always been required to justify their access to government funding by performing a civic duty. Even while New Labour presided over a golden era in arts funding, its streams of cash flowed only in response to the party mandate that the arts should be “central to the task of recreating the sense of community, identity and civic pride that should define our country”. Read more
In his short contribution to the closing discussion of the Two Degrees Festival, filmmaker John Jordan offers a neat analysis of the difference between art and activism. Art he says is a form of acupuncture, a way of making individual aesthetic pinpricks into pressure points in the public consciousness. Conversely activism is a prolific mass movement that seeks to reproduce its key messages virally and inclusively, without preciousness. For him this renders activism a superior tool for educating a wider audience about climate change and the negative impact of global capitalism. Read more
There was a pleasing audacity to the timing of this year’s Fierce Festival. Bursting to life during the build up to Arts Council England’s National Portfolio funding outcomes and coinciding with a weekend of mass anti-government protests, the festival offered the perfect opportunity to speculate about the future amid a moment of fragile uncertainty within in the arts ecology. Read more
Live Artist Bryony Kimmings. Image by Christa Holka
In February 2011 I wrote a light hearted feature on Live Art and female sexuality for new performance magazine Bellyflop. The theme of the issue was Virginity, so I responded with an article titled: The Virgin’s Release: Women, Sex and Live Art. The piece was well received by many of my female peers and by the lady artists who featured in it.
I was pretty surprised (and oddly delighted) to see that the subsequent issue of Bellyflop featured a stinging critique of my arguments in a reader’s letter from Phoebe Collings-James, who was unsatisfied by my ‘vague’ arguments and my ‘liberal lefty’ opinions. Read more
There is a character in Last of the Red Wine, who embodies many of the popular clichés that you might associate with ‘Performance Art.’ Whisper (played by artist Hayley Newman) is constantly involved in the execution of ostentatious projects such as ventriloquising rubbish or touching everything that she sees. Earnest and deliberately obscure, Whisper plays on performance art’s apparent rejection of the notion of performer as entertainer and instead caricatures an individual grappling with more convoluted systems of artistic representation. The result is charming and hilarious, yet also surprising within the context of a project that was pitched as “the art world’s attempt to represent itself more accurately in mainstream entertainment.”
Last of the Red Wine was the sixth of the ICA’s highly successful Live Weekends and was conceived and produced by writer Sally O’Reilly in association with comedy coach Chris Head and a large group of artists, actors, comedians and writers. Read more
If every human brain functioned perfectly, there would be no psychosis. Nor would there be genius, or other more gentle forms of psychological variation. Synesthesia; the automatic process of linking one sense to another is often considered to be a departure from conventional neurological functioning. Yet according to physician Oliver Sacks, it is in fact inducible in anyone with the correct dose of drugs or hypnosis. ‘Parfums Pourpres du Soleil des Pôles’ was a performance inspired by the synesthesic experience. Read more
The approach of Biennial time means three things for anyone involved with the arts in Liverpool: hard work, lots of parties and some very bizarre antics. I have had some wonderful experiences, including leading a live horse around the interior of one of Liverpool’s largest hotels, and working with a team of volunteer stewards who spent most evenings after work drinking free wine at exhibition previews. Not only does Liverpool Biennial inject £30m into the city’s economy, it also yields a wealth of opportunity for young creatives to showcase their artwork and experience life behind the scenes of the UK’s largest visual arts festival. Read more
The title of Kim Coleman & Jenny Hogarth’s new Edinburgh Festival commission might suggest a work that is rather spectacular. ‘Staged’ is a term often used to allude to all that is amplified, visually seductive and riddled with exaggerated fakery. Likewise press releases for the show describe a project that seeks to document the ‘human drama’ that invades the city every August. Read more
We live in an age of increasing social isolation. Communication technologies and globalisation are causing us to live and work in a way that is more mobile, yet more solitary. The gradual decline of organised religion has yielded an absence of ritual and communal experience for many social groups, while more and more people conduct their most meaningful relationships online. Read more
This essay is an extract from a text that has recently featured in Liverpool Art Journal. It comments on the performances of Mexican born artist Coco Fusco and her critical opposition to notions of ‘disembodiment’ that were frequently touted in late 1990s digital theatre theory. Highlighting the subjugated female workers who manufacture the computer hardware that powers our digital age, Fusco raises questions about the industrialized processes that underpin our highly technologized society and about the role of women within them.
I have had the pleasure over the past six weeks of helping to host Andre Guedes on his co-commissioned residency through the Bluecoat and Visiting Arts. Choosing to produce a project that evidences the present state of the institution by drawing a trajectory through its past, he has been trawling the archives of the Bluecoat for unusual documents, images and objects. Accompanying him to the Bluecoat’s offsite storage space in an empty warehouse in Liverpool’s old business district, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of exhibition catalogues, VHS tapes and random artifacts that we found from the Bluecoat circa 2004, prior to its redevelopment.
Andre’s exhibition and performative interventions will open at the Bluecoat in November this year.
Sarah Harbridge One minute on each of the four days before her death
When Josh sent me an excited email a couple of weeks ago, to ask if he could borrow four of my flat screen monitors for Red Wire’s next exhibition, I was happy to oblige, particularly as he was insistent that the work he was putting on them was of mind blowing quality. Great I said, what is it?
Sarah Harbridge’s four screen installation ‘One minute on each of the four days before her death’, consists of individual 60 second video pieces that play on a continuous loop. The ‘her’ as referenced by the title is the artist’s Grandmother. Josh gave me the link to watch it on youtube and I followed it to find a row of twisted and contorted manifestations of an old woman’s face, gasping for breath, wrestling with some moment of indecision between life and death. Even at low resolution, the images were so tightly and unscrupulously framed that every last tortured detail was visible. Read more
Performance Art has always appealed to my sense of austerity. While gallery goers pursue white cube spaces at their own pace and are permitted to feel disinterested and walk away when work is not to their taste, performance traditionally demands that viewers are committed for the duration, with the typical theatrical configuration (rows of seating looking forward to the stage) making mutineers conspicuous should they loose concentration and wish to leave before the artists work is fully complete. Read more
I made a special trip to London for this because projects that put visual artists on stage always fascinate me. (See also II Tempo del Postino as part of Manchester International Festival for an even more esoteric helping of artists in the theatre). Read more
My first encounter with Superflex was during a period of research for an undergraduate essay titled Can Art Change the World? This was my first experience of socially engaged art practice and as such, it planted the seeds of an ongoing fascination with socio-political art production. Read more