Brian Lobel: Fun with Cancer Patients @ Fierce Festival 7 September – 6 October

Brian Lobel: Fun with Cancer Patients

Review commissioned by this is tomorrow

At the age of 20, Brian Lobel was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Unsurprisingly, his illness changed the course of his life, leading ultimately to his decision to study performance and become an artist. Now 31, Lobel has frequently returned to cancer as his artistic subject matter, documenting its impact on his personal and social life. His trilogy of one-man autobiographical performances, including ‘Ball’ and ‘Other Funny Stories About Cancer’ featured the artist in confessional mode relaying the awkward, embarrassing and sometimes traumatic impact of the illness on his body and mind.

Read more

What happens at the festival stays at the festival @ Fierce Festival 24 September – 16 October

What happens at the festival stays at the festival

A review commissioned by this is tomorrow

It seems contradictory for a festival that uses the word ‘Supernow’ as part of its tagline to be preoccupied with documenting its own history. The notion that performance exists only in the present has long been considered an obstacle for the archivist, marking the ‘nowness’ of the practice as one of its enduring artistic and political virtues. If performance is a collision of personal experiences brought together in a unique moment, the prospect of drawing together a compelling art historical exhibition to be explored amid the liveness of the 2013 festival is riddled with incongruity. How can fragments of the past stand up to the allure of the festival in the present? And how might knowledge of the festival’s history add to the production of new experiences in 2013?

This exhibition is pitched as a tentative beginning to a larger archival project that will cover the whole of Fierce’s15-year history. Read more

Bearpits and Landmines launches at Womad Music Festival

Bearpits and Landmines

I’ve spent most of today playing Anna Best‘s new online game Bearpits and Landmines, which is launching this weekend (27th and 28th July) at Womad. Its a web and phone app with a haunting soundtrack and quirky illustration. The work was made as part of an artist commission by Artlands last year at the newly built Cyclopark in Gravesend. I was producer for some of the performance elements of the project. Read more

Issues in the Digital Humanities

Digital Humanities 1

Ed Pinsent presenting his ideas on data storage during day one of the course

I am writing this on my way to the second day of a digital humanities training course at the Working Class Movement Library in Salford. Together with my colleague Ella Paremain, I will be giving a presentation about the digital archival resource that we are currently assembling as part of Unfinished Histories. We are presenting it as a case study in working with volunteers to create accessible web archives.

Read more

Do we need Theatre Studies PhDs? Article in The Stage

Phds in Theatre article in The Stage 9th May

My article on PhDs in Theatre Studies was published in The Stage on 9th May. Given that it happened a few days before my birthday I manged to completely miss it! If anyone has any belated comments please feel free to add them here.

Read more

In favour of diagnosis? Choosing the right language to talk about mental health

we need a new language for mental health

Jane Davis Director of The Reader leading the final panel session of the day
I believe that the words we use to talk about mental illness can profoundly change social attitudes towards it. I also believe that being exposed to creative, beautiful language can enlighten, uplift and powerfully impact personal well-being and mental health.

On 16th May I went along to The Reader Organisation’s conference ‘shared reading for healthy communities,’ were there was plenty of thought provoking dialogue to confirm and also challenge some of these beliefs. To recap from my previous post, The Reader are an organisation who run shared reading groups in clinical and community settings, often with individuals who have problems with alcoholism, chronic pain or depression. As part of the first session, reader Jon Greenhalgh testified to the impact that one of these groups had on his own life, by helping him to end a long relationship with alcoholism. Less than one hour in and I was already witnessing powerful testimony about the value of shared reading for personal wellbeing!

Read more

We need a new language for mental health. The Reader Organisation conference

Reading for mental health

Image Stephen Rees

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

Should British Universities abolish PhDs in Theatre Studies? Seeking opinions from potential PhDs

Philippa Strandberg, potential PhD in theatre, teaching her students at Italia Conti

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.

Read more

Web Archiving and the production of Art History: a talk at The Arnolfini

Three performers holding old paintings with eye holes cut in them in front of there faces at Arnolifin Performance

Performance Re-enactment Society, After Yoko Ono, Grapefruit (1964), Arnolfini, 2009, Photo Carl Newland

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.

Read more

Technology and Mental Crisis: E-Mental Health at NHS South East and Cinema and Psychosis at The Barbican

From the Buddy App presentation of E-Mental Health, Harnessing the Power of Digital

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.

Read more