Monday, August 4, 2008

Radio 4 Saturday Review

To listen again to the review of the exhibition on Radio 4 Saturday Review:

The reviewers were as follows:
Tom Sutcliffe - presenter
David Aaronovitch – writer and broadcaster
Michael Arditti – novelist
Malorie Blackman - writer of literature and television drama for children and young adults

Collaboration between Gemma Anderson, Artist, and Dr McInerny, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Bethlem Royal Hospital. Essay by Dr Tim McInerny

Throughout the development of psychiatry there has always been an association with the arts. It could be argued that the most fundamental creative relationship has been with the visual arts as a means of understanding mental disorder, as a representation of the social and morale decline that is associated with it, as a form of treatment and as a means of expression for the patient.

Gemma Anderson and Dr McInerny wanted to explore this relationship in a manner that related to the story of mental disorder and its historical representation that also was a visual metaphor for the therapeutic alliances that run between doctors and patients in mental health settings.

We hoped to create a series of portraits of the internal worlds of psychiatric patients and their doctors and to move away from the written representation of mental illness and the knowledge that the connection between a doctor and patient is mostly through words. Instead we wanted to create images that provoke the viewer into creating a language themselves to understand how a patient might be experiencing symptoms of mental illness and how the doctor listens, formulates and treats.

In forensic psychiatry the stories that patients carry with them are often distressing and violent. How does the psychiatrist hear such tragedies and how can they process them into meaningful therapy? We hope to create portraits that reflect relationships in psychiatric care towards recovery and return to society.

Forensic psychiatry is that part of medicine which provides care and assessment of the mentally disordered offender. Forensic psychiatry has a long history in the U.K. arising out of Bedlam Hospital over 150 years ago. Early psychiatry was often pre-occupied with the appearance of individuals as a key to their morale and psychic inner world. This science of physiognomy manifested itself in the analysis of the facial structure. The measuring of eyes, nose and lips was an indicator of the internal mental pathology. When Broadmoor Hospital opened in the 1880s patients were photographed on admission. Their facial characteristics, demeanour and affect was believed to be a causative factor in their illness rather than a representation of the distress they might be experiencing.

Broadmoor Hospital was also to recognise that within its patient population visual creativity was often a powerful representation of their internal stress. Amongst their patients was Richard Dadd, now recognised as amongst the most eminent pre-Raphaelite group of painters. Dadd was a patient at Broadmoor Hospital following the stabbing to death of his father provoked by voices and paranoia. He was eventually to die in the hospital where he lived for many years. Dadd was to paint magical worlds stimulated by the fairy gardens of Shakespeare but also beautiful portraits of the doctor superintendents at Broadmoor. The patient, Richard Dadd, was in effect creating a visual representation of the therapist.

The 20th Century led to the development of the creative therapies as a form of expression and a path towards recovery. In its turn outsider art has become a representation of the psychiatric patient's role in society and in the mid-20th Century a representation of the anti-psychiatry movement as championed by Foucault and R D Laing.

As psychiatry became political so did the care of patients, ultimately leading to the movement across Western civilisation towards care in the community; the return of psychiatry and patients to society.

The last decade has perhaps seen a reversal of such emancipation. The contemporary world has become once again increasingly fearful of the psychiatric patient and the potential risk of violence that they associate with them. Tabloid hysteria, new levels of terrorist destructiveness and the unacceptability of risk has led to the growth of the asylums again in the form of secure hospitals and the coinage of a new phrase, dangerous severe personality disorder.

As a Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist working at the interface between medicine and law, the offender and the mentally ill, Dr McInerny wanted to open up the new secure asylums to creative expression through portraiture. Gemma Anderson was given the opportunity to attend in-patient units to hear the stories of patients and discover the therapeutic process of rehabilitation.

These series of portraits are etchings that were created directly from the individuals involved. The doctor is not identified amongst the group of individuals exhibited. This is intentional to ensure that the viewer, as the artist, will "treat" them in the same way. It is hoped that by viewing a doctor and patient in such a manner, the viewer himself creates a therapeutic relationship with those on display.

The patients represented here all suffer major mental illnesses characterised by paranoid delusions of fear and danger, or voices that are persistent, critical and abusive, and an experience in which the self gradually disintegrates in the face of a world that is hostile. The doctor must listen, reassure, contain, treat and above all provide hope.

The finely drawn lines are diagrammatic and descriptive and become a poetic description of the individuals emotional anatomy in a way that is both transparent but also enigmatic. These portraits have a clear historical resonance - not only with the past of the asylums but also with the life stories of the individuals portrayed. They are a representation of how the early pseudo-sciences of phrenology and comparative anatomy have a place in the modern world and in the modern mind of the viewer.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Post show blogging

It is good to see that the blog is continuing to function after the opening of the show. Tamiko suggested that now is the time when it might really start to take off...

Email to from Judith Mottram 24.7.08

I'd rather like to pass some comments on to the team involved in the Experiment in collaboration team, particulalry in relation to their
Edmonds and Candy published a book about collaborations in which they identified the different ways in which parties with different expertise came together. They answer the question about technicians.
Explorations in Art and Technology, Linda Candy and Ernest Edmonds, 2002, Springer-Verlag, London.
There have been other studies about how artists work. One of the reasons the activity may be funded, or research might be undertaken, is that we can conceive of operationally 'doable' question for investigation in the arena, such as: What happens, or what is so special about the creativity of 'artists', or how does innovation work, or are there really any differences between 'artistic' creativity and creativity in other disciplines? As a form of cultural production, collaboration might be a way of expressing our doubt about the agenda of our discipline - it is a question deserving of serious address.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Post by Dora Tang RE: Jackson Webb and Dora Tang

'i think part of the biggest issue with this show was being able to portray the process of our collaboration, when we were trying to decide between an obviously edited video piece or something that was more crude it was really important to consider justifying the collaborative work. how much did we consider the audience in deciding the final work that was shown? and was it difficult for us to move away from displaying more finished polished objects?
with the edited version of the video ( which was also more obviously colour corrected) it sat in a space which was neither the literal interpretation of the process nor a complete and finished video art work. what was it that we were saying about our own work?
in discussion Charlotte said that perhaps we should be brave and show something that was more literal and perhaps more true to the project?
it seemed perhaps that there were two processes and perhaps tasks that we were and have been dealing with in the project and perhaps the last few weeks has highlighted that as we were coming closer to the hang.
1. the process of questioning the notion of collaboration through practise
2. challenging, using the gallery space ( /viewer) to show a process or research or just something.
i found the latter part quite difficult, my experience of galleries and finished products of work are limited, and my experience of the art world lies mainly in research unfinished outcomes and so harder for me to challenge the space that we were entering with documents of work?
did the other collaborations find this? did they also encounter the same questions that we did in showing the process of the collaborations? did the collaborations feel as if the shown objects depicted the collaborative process? how important was it to the other collaborations ( and ourselves) to show a process or an outcome of the collaboration?'

Thursday, July 24, 2008

In the liminal space of making: the blog as an analogy of process

some key concepts and processes explored by the 6 artist-groups: encounter, dialogue, participatory, environment, authorship, chance, assemblage, from within practice, how space is occupied

This blog was initiated as a kind of seventh project-space for the six artist/collaborator groups to dialogue ideas, themselves, each other and act as a litmus paper of process – artistic and daily life. Not content-specific, the AEIC blog resides in the time and (dialogue-)space of the collaborative projects and the potential to 'evidence process' in a fluid and intuitive way, as opposed to its documentation alone, or in which documentation becomes an artwork or event itself. Rather than having a discreet ‘purpose,’ the blog’s appearance was in-the-order-of happenstance, existing as an incomplete and patchy notepad. In the words of Rilke on the fragmentary nature of existence and artistic creation:

“Shattered beings are best represented by bits and pieces.” (1.)

The blog’s function is symbolic of the methodology and context of AEIC as a space of potential collaboration, it may or may not (for example) encourage an awareness of and possible cross-fertilisation between the artist groups, or be an opportunity to show a bit of the seams and workings of the projects-sans-the-need to ‘prettify’ for the public or halt the process in order to show bits of finished products, it could be an ‘anti-press release.’ It is ongoing and it is for all of us to decide.

Blogs have been going since the mid to late 90s and have become widespread over the last few years. Essentially a form of social media and as such a part of our 21st century social fabric, blogs and the 'blogosphere' are a potential part or residue of any contemporary artists' expression, interrogation, or deliberate disruption, particularly with reference to “artwork as social interstice” or “relational art,” (2.) in which collaboration of some sort is a pre-requisite. The blog’s composition as a form of social archive also relates to a continued (re)interpretation of the archive by artists and writers from Walter Benjamin (3.) to the contemporary works of for example, Sophie Calle (4.) or Uriel Orlow (5.).

= coming into being without end
= a thick description
= 4-dimensional
= reprise
= time – space – interchangeable – fluid

The blog allows for a partial, chance topography (6.) of process, limited by a linearity which is bound by date and time. The diary format and time/date/month/year chronology is a central function of a blog, encouraging an (auto)biographical trajectory of eventhood and happenstance. The connection between topography, the ‘evidential traces’ of the 6 projects and the moments of occurrence relate to the poetic act; as a moment of continual (re)appearance, reverberating in space-time. The use of a series of ‘scatter-proofs’ as a catalogue-in-process is therefore a fitting summation;

“space contains compressed time.” (7.)

Navigating the blog involves a degree of katabatic mining, an excavation performed unpredictably by each individual whose at-whim meandering and potential commentary, transforms spectator into partaker: engaged in the process–dialogue, even if it is as a ghostly palimpsest (sometimes I look through a blog on which I have been a member, to find a comment on a 'post,' made weeks or months after the event or posting). Blogs are ever-changing, ephemeral and unstable, existing in a digital virtuality, likely to crash and then disappear much like an artistic process itself: a string of disappearing moments.

Lisa Alexander, July 2008

LIMINAL SPACE resides on the threshhold of experience - an in-between space in which there is constant exchange of methods, concepts, ideologies. Liminal indicates transition. A threshold is a place or state of flux, one in which boundaries are crossed, exploded, explored.



1. I cite a quotation made by Heathfield in: Shattered Anatomies: traces of the body in performance (1997), eds Heathfield, A, Templeton, F, Quick, A: A boxed collection of mixed media contributions, including objects, acetates, models, recordings and loose-leaf texts, commissioned from a diverse range of international artists and writers within the field of contemporary performance, responding to questions of the body in current art practice and what happens in the translation from event to record.
2. Bourriaud, N (2002), Relational Aesthetics / Nicolas Bourriaud ; translated by Simon Pleasance & Fronza Woods, Dijon, Presses du reel, p.3
3. See for example: Benjamin, W (1999), The Arcades Project; translated by Howard Eiland & Kevin McLaughlin, London, Bellknap Press
4. Most recently at French Pavillion, Venice Biennale 2007: Take care of yourself :Calle arranged an ‘archive’ of responses by over 250 women to an email sent to her by an ex-lover
5. For example Orlow’s Housed Memory at The Wiener Library and the RIBA architecture gallery, London (2000) or Unleashing the Archhive, School of Advanced Study/The National Archives, London, book, video and poster (collaboration with Ruth Maclennan) (2004)
6. See: Spoerri, D (1995), An anecdoted topography of chance, London, Atlas Press
7. Bachelard, G (1964), The Poetics of Space, Boston, MA, Beacon Press, p.8

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


What is a collaborative art practice?

How relevant is artist collaboration within the current art climate?

Is collaborative practice an important part of the development of ideas?

Who is your ideal collaborator and why?