Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A Hub of Success

I've been thinking, dreaming, contemplating and moving towards action, in this case writing. The evolution of this project already represents success for me. It's almost ready. A group of people have come together (thank you Lisa and Michael) and developed something novel, each contributing unique insights and skills. Through a series of exchanges and interactions, many virtual, a programme of work has emerged. The discussions, (re) connections and interactions have reminded me of the importance of relational factors in achieving success. So, what are my plans for the project and who will I bring in to collaborate with?

My focus will be on creativity as a route to successful recovery from mental health problems. This addresses the Wellcome challenge of understanding the brain and how integrating humanities, arts and science approaches can contribute to this.

I will draw on my research focussing on engagement in creative activities and mental illness. Specifically my work on dementia that addresses another Wellcome challenge, that of investigating development, aging and chronic disease. This work is building evidence on how to provide and encourage supporting skills and resources in older people.

Success as an Outsider
I plan to engage with my colleagues and creators in the outsider art field to explore how creative endeavor can lead to success within the art world and the costs and benefits associated with this. Some, even those with severe and chronic mental health problems, have achieved considerable success as recognised artists. The current popularity of the ‘outsider’ art field is testimony to this. ‘Outsider’ art, a term coined by Roger Cardinal in 1972, defines artists as those outsider or peripheral to mainstream art training and infrastructure. It is now a contested term as it serves to reinforce differences between individuals within and outside the art world, and, implicitly, those with and without mental health issues or other challenges to social and cultural inclusion. Despite this, in 2013 there were at least 5 major exhibitions of outsider art in Europe alone which demonstrate success in the art world. The movement has its own dedicated art magazine: Raw Vision. There are now 2 commercial outsider art fairs in NYC and Paris each year where art made by untrained artists, many of whom have mental health or learning difficulties, exchange hands for substantial sums of money.

Whilst exhibitions, press coverage, and fairs increase the profile of artists and their work, it could be suggested that those benefiting are the art dealers rather than the artists themselves. Some artists indicate that commercial exposure can be exploitative and even damaging to mental health. I would like to explore relationships in this context, which would link to Zoe’s work stream. I will work with John Maizels, the editor of Raw Vision magazine. Coverage of artists and events in this publication represent an important marker of artistic success and wider recognition.

Outputs: John has agreed to work with us to develop an article or series of articles in his publication focussing on notions of success within the outsider art field. This will enable findings from our residency to reach an international audience in the specialist art field, a marker of artistic achievement (success).

Both the work on creativity and aging (dementia) and outsider art lead to many opportunities for public engagement. I plan multi art form activities working with Errol Francis. Errol is an artist, curator and researcher. He has recently established the research and creative consultancy –PSY- based at London College of Communication (I am a member of this group). Errol has a string track record of curating and directing festivals with mental health themes. Most recently the acclaimed ACE-funded Anxiety Festival 2014 and 'Acting Out' (2015) (I am a curatorial consultant on ‘acting out’).

Outputs: An art exhibition and/or festival, across multi art forms and featuring new commissions on the themes emerging from the residency.

Success and Performance
I plan to explore creative expression through a phenomenological framework, informed by positive psychology. In particular I plan to look at artistic activity as a form of ‘flow’ state and one which results in enhanced wellbeing but also production of valuable aesthetic artifacts. Also, artistic activity may be viewed as a component of posttraumatic growth (PTG), that is a way that one’s life is enhanced as a result of traumatic experiences such as mental illness and events preceding it. I would also aim to explore how artwork made by those with mental illness may be used to successfully connect them to significant others and to the wider community. Here I plan a collaboration with the filmmaker David Bickerstaff. David has enjoyed considerable success with films on artistic, mental health and environmental themes. He has collaborated with the Wellcome Trust on numerous occasions e.g. Madness and Modernity and is working with them currently on a future exhibition that focuses on mindfulness.

Outputs: a short film on themes emerging from the residency and a peer-revised publication in Arts and Health.

I would like to broaden this work stream to include performance within sport and other arenas such as theatre working with Jules Evans and Hannah Gravestock.

Jules Evans is an author, philosopher and is policy director at the centre for the study of emotions at QMUL. He is also a broadcaster e.g. he recently presented a piece on flourishing on BBC Radio 3. He has been a BBC 'new generation thinker'. He is co-organiser of the London Philosophy Club and has been working with businesses, elite sportspeople e.g. Saracens football club and in prisons teaching flourishing and 'the good life'. His book Philosophy for life and other dangerous situations has been published in 19 countries. It has been #1 in’s philosophy chart, a Guardian Books bestseller, and a Times book of the year. His next text (due 2016) focusses upon ecstatic experiences.

Output: Jules will develop a seminar series on flourishing and success in a variety of public, clinical and community settings.

Hannah Gravestock is a former elite ice skater. She provides performance coaching in theatrical and sporting arenas. She has established innovative training modalities e.g. drawing, to enhance success in the theatre and in sporting venues. She has worked with people with dementia in residential care settings.

Output: Development of performance and drawing based interactive training programmes.

No comments:

Post a Comment