Vanessa Bartlett is a researcher and curator based between Australia and the UK. She is a PhD Candidate at UNSW Art & Design where her research investigates connections between digital technologies and psychological distress through reflective curatorial practice. Her most recent curatorial project Group Therapy: Mental Distress in a Digital Age was co-curated with Mike Stubbs for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) Liverpool, UK in 2015. This show was visited by over 13,000 people and received coverage in international media outlets such as BBC World Service and Creative Review. A second iteration of Group Therapy is currently under development for UNSW Galleries, Sydney, with a focus on mental health concerns specific to Australian audiences including indigenous communities.
An important part of Vanessa’s approach is finding appropriate ways to understand audience response to exhibitions dealing with psychological distress. Shortcomings in existing social science methods mean that affective and emotive dimensions are often overlooked. Vanessa is adapting and applying a psychosocial research method called the visual matrix as both a generative and evaluative tool, in order to better understand the affective response of audiences and communities to exhibitions that she creates. Vanessa learned this process by collaborating with its creator Prof. Lynn Froggett, Director of the Psychosocial Research Unit at University of Central Lancashire.
Vanessa’s writing has featured in the Guardian and she has given talks and lectures internationally in Belgrade, Ljubljana and Helsinki, as well as at prestigious UK venues including Tate Liverpool, The Arnolfini, The V&A and The Science Museum, London. In the past she has worked as a researcher and producer for two of the UK’s most exciting digital media festivals: FutureEverything, Manchester and Abandon Normal Devices. She has also curated a number of exhibitions at independent and artist led venues including Slowness at Red Wire Gallery, which was highlighted as a must see exhibition by Times critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston. In 2011 she served for a year as Performance Programmer at The Bluecoat, Liverpool, where she managed the annual programme budget and curated and produced a programme of live art, music and dance.