Sunday, 30 December 2018

Leap of Faith project at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Domestic Armoury within Bobby Baker's Great and Tiny War artwork is a good example of how contemporary art can fully embrace the involvement of others and how outreach work (in this case with women in the West End of Newcastle who have experienced of abuse, war or conflict) can be an integral part of the artwork. 

I recently found out about another 14-18 NOW project and how this has prompted Leap of Faith, another project involving women who have experience of trafficking, domestic violence or mental ill health. 

© Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Leap of Faith at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), responds to contemporary artist Katrina Palmer’s The Coffin Jump (2018) – a major co-commission with 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, and YSP. It reflects the courageousness of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY). This extraordinary group emerged at a transformative period for women – moving out of passive domestic confinement to enter the battlefield on horseback and administer first aid – and inspired the creation of the artwork.

Led by YSP’s Art & Wellbeing Coordinator, Rachel Massey, Leap of Faith brings together participants from two local authority areas that border the Park, in partnership with Ashiana Sheffield, Kirklees WomenCentre, with Heidi Dawson from Glint [Horse Assisted Development].

Leap of Faith aims to help participants gain the confidence to express themselves, to develop positive relationships, and to build positive new memories. Activity includes creative sessions devised by the participants themselves in conjunction with lead artist Kate Genever and Palmer as well as equine therapy, which has been found to enhance positive behaviour and wellness. Further therapeutic support is provided by group analyst Jacinta Kent, and opportunities for reflection and evaluation have been offered by Dr Harriet Rowley, Lecturer in Education and Community at Manchester Metropolitan University.
© Jonty Wilde

Massey says: “At YSP, we use a range of approaches to help people engage with the art. We are interested in exploring ways to support people to engage with their own creativity and self-expression. This is a unique opportunity to work with women, therapists and artists and create something together, inspired by The Coffin Jump and other art at YSP.

“Throughout the project, we have explored themes of love, loss, friendship, loneliness and connection. The individual moments of breakthrough are too numerous and too personal to describe, but it’s true to say that this project will stay with all the participants for a long time to come”.

Heidi Dawson from Glint says: “Our horses are the true educators in our work. They don’t do role play, so noticing how they respond to our behaviour and energy offers us a unique insight into ourselves and our relationship to the world”.

Leap of Faith is part of YSP’s Arts & Wellbeing programme, which takes inspiration from the New Economics Foundation’s ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ and is informed by work with experts including artists, mindfulness practitioners, musicians, yoga teachers and others.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Festive greetings

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support over the past year. It is a pleasure to share my artistic pursuits with you, and I really appreciate the comments and interest in what I do.

Long may it continue!

Here's to a wonderful festive period and a very Happy New Year.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Mary Robson on ABC Radio

The Hearing The Voice Creative Facilitator Mary Robson was recently on ABC Radio talking with host Myf Warhurst about Hearing the Voice and its interdisciplinary approach to voice-hearing. 

She begins by talking about the different types of voices that people hear such as the inner critic, the voice that one may hear when reading silently, the experience of thinking that someone has heard one's voice being spoken aloud and one's internal voice that may, for example, remind us to switch off the cooker etc. 

She points out that many people associate the experience of hearing voices with mental illness, but then acknowledges that in certain cultures those who report hearing voices are regarded as being gifted or particularly spiritual.

Listen to Mary talk about how hearing voices doesn't have to be a sentence for life-time time suffering via the link below

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Introducing marginendeavour

Fellow NewBridge Project studio artist David Foggo and I are working collaboratively as marginendeavour to explore our affinities with text and design. 

Documentation of our recent exhibition, Doing Fine, at The NewBridge Project is now online via this link

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

The ice in voices: Understanding negative content in auditory-verbal hallucinations

In this new article by Frank Larøi, Neil Thomas, André Aleman, Charles Fernyhough, Sam Wilkinson, Felicity Deamer and Simon McCarthy-Jones, the authors explore the complexities of negative content in auditory-verbal hallucinations (AVH), taking into account its theoretical and clinical importance. 

Negative voice-content is the best sole predictor of whether the hearer of an auditory-verbal hallucination will experience distress/impairment necessitating contact with mental health services. Yet, what causes negative voice-content and how interventions may reduce it remains poorly understood. The paper offers definitions of negative voice content and considers what may cause negative voice-content. A framework is proposed in which adverse life-events may underpin much negative voice-content, a relation which may be mediated by mechanisms including hypervigilance, reduced social rank, shame and self-blame, dissociation, and altered emotional processing. At a neurological level, how the involvement of the amygdala and right Broca’s area could drive negative voice-content is noted. As observed, negative interactions between hearers and their voices may further drive negative voice-content. Finally, the role of culture in shaping negative voice-content is considered. 

This framework is intended to deepen and extend cognitive models of voice-hearing and spur further development of psychological interventions for those distressed by such voices. Importantly, much of the relevant research in this area remains to be performed or replicated. In conclusion, more attention needs to be paid to methods for reducing negative voice-content, and further research in this important area is required.

The full text can be accessed via the link below

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Steve Reich's Music For 18 Musicians

The current series of Radio 3's The Essay features authors talking about a piece of music that has been significant to them and their creative development. They explore how pieces inspire creativity through mood, narrative or structure, inviting us to step into the music – and the author’s – inner world. In this episode, New York based author and journalist Hermione Hoby discusses Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians, a piece of music that she has listened to almost every day for the last seven years. In this short radio essay she reveals how this classic piece of minimalism helps her write.

This is one of my favourite pieces of music, and I was fortunate enough to be able to see it performed at Glasgow City Hall. I was utterly mesmerized and in awe of the performers who maintained full concentration throughout the performance. To listen to Music For 18 Musicians is to have an experience, you do not just hear it, you feel it, it has a physical impact.

Hoby describes the work as "music that sounds like what it feels like to write well." She continues, " The opening xylophone notes- are optimistic, clear, urgent, devoid of panic, full of confidence and clarity, - How i want to feel when writing. The pulses are hypnotic and the piece sounds like an experiment that is alive, exploratory, a living construction, built on repetitions, striking enough to drive you ahead, but also distant enough to be able to fade into the background when your own creative juices begin to flow." 

Like Hoby, I find it fairly easy to work at the same time as listening to the music. One of the factors that makes it easy for me to do this is that it features no words. It also helps that there is no solo piece, no musician that dominates and therefore it all seems to work together. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Carol Rhodes; a dear friend and an inspiration in many ways

I am saddened to read of the news that my dear friend Carol Rhodes has died. Words cannot adequately describe how I am feeling right now, but thankfully Moira Jeffrey wrote a beautiful Obituary published in The Herald, that gives an indication of Carol's significance, both as a painter and as an exceptional individual.

I had the pleasure of working with Carol over a 5 year period at The Glasgow School of Art. She was a gentle character, who spoke softly, but with exceptional intelligence and insight. I admired Carol's ability to remain calm and composed in the toughest of situations (and there were plenty of challenging instances that we encountered!) Even when challenged by illness, Carol remained determined, dedicated and focussed on her artwork. 

Carol Rhodes Carpark, Canal 1994 © Estate of the Artist

Her stunning paintings are influenced by her experience of living in India before moving to the United Kingdom in her childhood. The aerial gaze over the landscapes she imagines reminds me of her reflective nature and the loose painting style with subtle colours gives a sense of her character, serene, elegant and in tune with her body and surroundings.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Art on prescription on Front Row

Last Thursday's episode of Front Row on BBC Radio 4 included a feature about Art on prescription. 'Earlier this month Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that "arts on prescription" is an indispensable tool in tackling loneliness, mental health and other long-term conditions.

The programme features Wellcome Research Fellow Daisy Fancourt, Gavin Clayton, head of the Arts and Minds charity and GP Dr Simon Opher, and they discuss arts and healthcare.

It is based on the thought that changing people's environment can have a positive effect on mental wellbeing. Although ideas like this have been around for some time now, it is believed that about 20% of GP's are now making use of "arts on prescription." Sometimes artists are based in the doctors surgery and the GPs refer the patient directly to the artist, and other times the patient is directed to an organisation such as Arts and Minds that are based in museums and run workshops for groups that involve making art inspired by the heritage artifacts.

Something worth noting is that the government seem to acknowledge the importance of the arts for health, but its status within the school curriculum and in libraries and museums are under threat.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Move over Britannia, Bobby Baker rules!

For the past three months I have been immersed in the world of Bobby Baker's Great and Tiny War, a project that is very close to my heart. I have been working for Wunderbar as a host, guiding visitors around the house, talking to them about the artworks, operating any equipment, making lots of cups of tea and coffee and providing hospitality. Being involved in this project and working with such a supportive team has been an absolute joy and I am really going to miss it. Along the way there have been plenty of challenges to keep us on our toes such as the time when the mechanics behind the surprise element in room 3 broke, and I had to phone Steve, the Technical Director of Great and Tiny War (based in London) and follow his problem diagnosis and damage limitation instructions or the time that the venue for one of the workshops was changed due to an emergency situation, and so we had to change to a space without an oven (pretty essential for a bread-making workshop), resulting in me going back and forth between Nunsmoor Park (where the workshop was) and 133 Sidney Grove where the unbaked bread sculptures were put in the oven and the baked bread sculptures were returned to the workshop and reunited with their respective creators.

There have been some amazing stories gathered throughout the exhibition, and I have plenty of fond memories to take away.

My final day of tours brought with it lots of happy memories. On one of the tours in the morning I was host for a couple of Sidney Groovers (people who live/have lived) on Sidney Grove one whom carried her young son with her. The baby was really well behaved and the women loved the exhibition. When we were talking in the kitchen, one of the women, Olivia, told me how her other (3 year old) child, Frida, walks past the house every day and gets very excited by the sign outside 133 Sidney Grove, pointing at it and exclaiming "It's Bobby Baker'. Unfortunately Olivia did not think that Frida would have enough patience to go on the tour, and so she had explained that she would not be able to see inside Bobby Baker's house. I couldn't bear the thought of her little girl having her dream shattered, and so tried to think of a way that it would be possible to tailor the tour to her. We were fully booked for the rest of the day, but proposed a way that Frida could get a magical experience. I asked Olivia whether she would like to bring her child at the end of my last tour and I would do a special little viewing in a few of the rooms. She thought this was a great idea, and said it would fit in with their bedtime routine. Indeed, when I was in the kitchen at the end of my final tour, the doorbell rang and I opened it to find Olivia with Frida in her arms, dressed in her pj's all ready for bed. I took them to the room of bread sculptures and the room with all the peppermint sculptures, and talked about the work. After we had used the pictures on the wall to identify all the peppermint sculptures, we went to the kitchen for Frida to choose herself a biscuit as a treat. She asked if Bobby Baker was there, and as I explained where Bobby was, I showed them the photo of Bobby Baker wearing the bread antlers that she made for a previous performance. These were hung on the wall, and I asked if Frida would like to wear them and be like Bobby Baker. The result was an extremely happy 3 year old with the biggest grin on her face, an incredibly grateful Olivia, and a very happy Helen! I could not have asked for a better way to end my Great and Tiny War hosting duties.

The following day I received a message from Olivia thanking me for engineering the opportunity for Frida to visit the installation. She reported that Frida had been talking about Bobby Baker all day!

I've met lots of very special people and made some life-long friends. The other hosts and the Wunderbar team have been such a support to one another and we have shared our experiences and thoughts via a Hosts Book. I'd like to thank all involved for making the experience so powerful, nourishing and stimulating. I really hope that the project continues to live on in some form, and that the hosts and Wunderbar team keep in touch and work together again.