Gary Snyder writes of art and performance in relation to ideas of gift exchange (Back on the Fire 2007) and to me this captures the spirit of our Art Lab. This first image shows jam, made by Eve Thomas from blackberries harvested in the grounds of the old Mid-Wales Hospital, and given freely to people who came along. She also made jam-filled cakes, shared at the evening events, gave a wonderful reading of her own and other’s poetry, and spoke about the art processes behind some of the work she undertook during the project. Click here to read what she said and see some of her photos. And see her instagram post to read about what the project meant to her.
Here’s another of her works, inspired by human and natural ephemera found on the site.
It was hard to stop people giving their time and energy freely. As well as slides, weaving and thaumatropes incorporated in co-produced works, there were animations and free-standing sculptural pieces made during the course of the project accompanied by poetry and writings. Click here for an example, and to read one participant’s experience of the project. And click here for more poetry and animation).
Visitors added artworks through the drop in sessions and took videos which have been shared on A Private Land facebook pages.
Thanks to the warm and welcoming atmosphere at The Muse, people participated to the full at whatever level felt right to them. Some of the 155 visitors stayed for the majority of both days, looking, engaging, chatting, having a cuppa and simply relaxing. 40 visitors gave written feedback, and many more commented verbally. People came mainly from a 30 mile radius, but also from Bristol, Cambridge, London, Newport, Cardiff, Hereford and the Midlands. Most moving was the way people came especially to share their stories and memories – of their own or loved one’s experiences of care at the old Mid-Wales Hospital and elsewhere.
The gift exchange continued with photographer Barry Hill’s donation of photographs he took of the old site in 2010, which were much admired and prompted many conversations. Powys Archives and Talgarth Museum have both benefitted from Barry’s generosity and his photos will now be available to the public through them.
Angela Morton was a poet who wrote partly of her experiences of mental illness, including time spent as an inpatient at the Mid Wales Hospital. Her daughter, Becky was going to read from Angela’s collection the holding ground, (the collective press 2002) at the Art Lab but our dates coincided with a trip away, so she liaised with close friend and colleague, poet Graham Hartill, who read for her, shared his own memories of Angela and reflected on her poems.
The evening event proved to be the heart of the project, but the group discussion on Sunday gave us new insights into archiving, attitudes to historic records and artifacts, from casual disregard to intensely protective. About 25 people came along, including Brecon and District Mind members, Stella Man and Cerys from Glenside Hospital Museum, Psychotherapists, curators, historians, artists, participatory arts workers, a psychoanalyst and doctor. We scheduled the discussion for one hour, but the buzz and continued conversations afterwards showed us how much more there was to say.
Here’s just a little of the feedback we received about A Private Land and the Art Lab:
‘I feel a deep resonance between the works here and my own lived experience as someone impacted by mental health issues. Privacy, emotional intelligence, confidence and self expression explored and shared here in a nurturing space has been profoundly affecting. Thank you for this unique experience facilitating the unfurling of much of my vulnerability.’
‘LOVE this so much – the art feels really alive and so many different elements. Immersive, intriguing and fascinating reaction and response to a place – its’ history, stories and its’ demise. The way the artists have involved others in the creative process including at the exhibition itself is great – the slide making is a huge hit with my son! Thanks.’
‘An emotive exhibition which captured the negative and supportive lifestyle of people in the hospital.’
‘Evoked so many memories of people we have known and loved.’
‘We really enjoyed this show and loved the way it had interactive parts! Wonderful! Hauntingly Beautiful with a dose of playful innocense. Loved it! ‘
‘Thank you so much for the experience and the opportunities brought by this event. Words are not enough.’
‘A Private Land’ stretched my thinking, so many threads spinning on conversations had and no had. Thank you.’