This post is mainly about my own arts process intermingled with co-produced pieces, as shown in A Private Land Art Lab. Take a look at Susan Adams for the work she developed.
Although I no longer work as an art therapist, the underpinning theoretical frameworks from art psychotherapy and systemic psychotherapy, and the learning from the people I’ve worked for and with over the years still run deep in my art practice.
During this project, core questions for me have been: where do we – as an individual or as a group feel others position us? Do we agree, comply with or rebel against that positioning? Where do we position ourselves in relation to others, and what are the pressures that inform that position, perpetuate it or allow it to be changed? These ideas ripple through the work I’ve been doing, sometimes covert and at other times coming obviously to the forefront.
The artworks arising from these questions have coalesced into related but discrete bodies of work: sculptural forms in the shape of hides, shelters or traps: images of patients, drawn from the archives (1900-1923) and a video that charts something of my personal journey through the project.
All these works are a kind of mapping of outer and inner journey and experience, formed through walking, drawing, mapping, marking, performing: observing where I feel myself positioned in relation to geographical, societal and relational pressures. Am (are) I (we) where I (we) want to be? In our final events I hoped that the artworks might communicate something of this and invite a kind of parallel experience.
So I was delighted when visitors to our Art Lab temporarily inhabited and animated my shelters last weekend. Some people found them spiky and felt off-balance whilst others found them comforting, reminding them of making nests in bushes as children. Other associations to them include human weaver birds, personal observation domes, non-waterproof deep-sea divers’ helmets. One person made a direct allusion to clinical / mental health issues when he said that his was a voluntary admission, but that he wouldn’t be staying long.
Made mainly from nettles, brambles, briars – plants that are slowly taking over the grounds of the former Mid-Wales Hospital, Talgarth – the shelters are patched with weavings done in workshops with members of Brecon and District Mind.
Another strand of work arose from the visit to Powys Archives, described in a previous post (12th May 2023)
It was an astounding experience to spend a day viewing the hospital records and reading accounts of people admitted between 1900 and 1923: where they came from, what kind of crisis led to admission and what became of them. Most extraordinary of all was to see photographs taken on admission, which spoke so vividly of their life experiences and emotions at the instant the photo was taken.
We were not permitted to share names or identifiable information, but it seemed important to honour their memory in the in the best way we could, through our artworks.
Many of the original photos had distortions introduced as part of the speedy photographic processing that makes them so lively. I tried to give a feel of this by drawing on photographic paper, then pouring water on them. To emulate the original records and the system they represented I used recycled manilla folders with redacted details of previous contents.
Over 75 drawings were supported by a structure, with a centre piece showing video of 130 slides made in workshops with members of Brecon and District Mind and Felindre Ward at Bronllys Hospital.
You can read more about how the slides were made in a precious post https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/a-private-land-tir-diarffordd/
They could also be handled and seen in slide viewers of different kinds and visitors could make their own to add to the collection.
A version of the Slides video can be seen at: https://youtu.be/eIy77QnxJUQ
Thanks to PeakCymru, who lent us tablets to use throughout the project, the slides were also shown on a tablet (lower) alongside a series of photographs by Eve Thomas (middle) and an anonymous account from some-one who had memories and experiences of a short time in the the old Mid Wales Hospital (upper).
There were so many strands to our project, and it prompted so many visual responses in me. I had a wealth of images and ideas, that all grew out of the experiences we shared together, but sometimes the complexity was baffling. How did all the diverse elements connect? The second mentoring session with Mel Brimfield was key in helping me find a way through this dilemma, and I started to put sequences of imagery and video together in Final Cut.
Eventually this became a 30 minute sequence with 6 chapters reflecting my own personal experiences through the project and something of how I chose to position myself in relation to its complexity and multiple challenges. Huge thanks to Lyndon Davies, for his soundpiece, amplifying and carrying the narrative. To see and hear a tiny clip, click here.
Lots more about the participant’s contributions can be seen on the A Private Land / Tir Diarffordd FaceBook page.