Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Transformation and Success

me on the couch
I am writing this at a time that I am emerging from a period of intense personal and professional challenge. The themes of striving and thriving therefore resonate with me on many levels. Having explored the concept of Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) during my doctoral research I now have gained experiential as well as empirical knowledge of the concept. Indeed, at a time of striving to overcome difficulties I find myself in a position where I have a greater sense of gratitude for my family and friends, I have gained new insights, knowledge and compassion, and I have developed different and, I'd argue, enhanced future priorities. It wasn't an easy process however I do feel transformed. I hope that the Hub residency is part of that future and that we are 'the dream team'!

On re-reading the blog posts to date I am filled with anticipation and a sense of the possibilities that Zoë articulated. Like all of you I am in awe of the Wellcome space and the opportunities it presents. What a space in which to develop, debate, and transform. See me above on 'Freud's' couch in the new Reading Room, striving in a straightjacket, my daughter laced me into it, she thought it hilarious...

I'd like to explicitly link planned work to positive psychology, where PTG is a core concept as is the idea of 'flow' both of which relate to thriving. I've explored the flow state in athletes a creative way previously. When I read Michael's description of the Hub event in March it struck me that the experience shared elements of flow:
an unusual rhythm, alternating between periods of quiet reflection (or stunned silence - gloss as you prefer!) where we all tried to process the overwhelming surge of ideas and possibilities, and other periods of intense discussion where we worked together to give these ideas some shape

The opportunity to work on this project on success could be transformational. I have written about the potential for creativity to be not only therapeutic but also transformative. To me such a collaboration represents a sense of freedom. It will provide the space, time and resources in which we can be free to be creative. It will enable us to have time outside of institutional boundaries and away from the generic tasks which seem to take up an increasing amount of academic time. The new reality of HE metrics, measurement and outcomes. These are elements of my job which seem antithetical to creativity. When I spoke to one of our potential collaborators earlier today she was incredulous that she didn't have to provide a detailed methodology for the events she plans, nor how she will measure their impact. These issues can, and will, evolve and emerge from time in the Hub, away from the constant pressure (?striving) to perform and produce that we are often subject to. She was overjoyed by the potential for creative as well as intellectual growth. These could be markers of our own personal and professional success.
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I mention creativity because this is the area that I would like to focus on in my work for the project. I have spent most of my career researching mental health issues but have always been a furtive artist at heart. Latterly I have found a wonderful confluence of the personal and professional in my public engagement activities such as curating exhibitions and my research which focusses upon creativity, health and wellbeing in those with dementia. See for example the 'dementia and imagination' project. The latter leads me to consider lifespan issues and how we might incorporate those. I'd like to explore what constitutes success for an older person with serious mental illness. Im also interested in Zoë' s ideas of the relational and how these may relate to those with dementia and their carers.

More broadly I would plan to explore how creative practice may be a route to successful recovery from mental illness as well as its capacity to provide a new identity and career path. Here my reach into the 'outsider' art world will be valuable. 'Outsider' artists, many of whom experience severe and enduring mental illness and other disabilities, are able to develop unique and visionary artistic practices. The resulting work commands huge sums at commercial art fairs where I sometimes moonlight as a 'gallerina'. Many of the artists are seemingly unaware of or uninterested in such success. It may be the gallerists who benefit most. The ethical issues around the relationships between gallerists, dealers, collectors and artists could be interesting to explore. I have an honorary contract with a mental health trust where I lead art workshops with people with severe mental illness who have committed serious crimes in a forensic hospital. Here creativity is evident in the most oppressive of contexts and notions of success may be quite different from those living in the community.

The notion of artistic creation as a performative act also interests me and links well to those in our group exploring sporting performance and success. The idea of examining success across different contexts and populations will be fascinating and offers much in terms of interdisciplinary examination.

With my curator's hat on I have many ideas about how we can creatively express the process of 'success', its temporal features, and our findings, using different modalities and in different settings. My links with the art world and experience in public engagement should be beneficial here.

I am enjoying putting all of this together and can feel the benefits already. Onwards.

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