Connectivity is the art residency, supported by the a-n:Artists Information Company, at the mental health hospital. During four months I will focus on acquiring a set of new skills suitable for an artist-educator, and will continue my art research into the role of women in health care and society. My art residency was scheduled to start ‘in-person’ in March 2020. However, due to the pandemic and lockdown, the workshops with service users were replanned to suit a new way of living behind computer screens. Art residency has started late September, and I have met people from the hospital through a virtual reality where distance is breached by words and ideas, where physical three dimensional presence is replaced by the flatness of the screen. There is a different value of time, each minute is a treasure, each suggestion of the art tool and technique shall be clear. It seems that the performing skills are climbing to the first position.
I have started realizing that the artist-participant relationship built during our ‘new times’ does not require physical presence. Participants’ imagination creates new approaches and they experience full joy in the art process rather than in a final result.
Here is my art response to the first online session where I met my group and carried out the first online workshop.
It Memorised and the Genetic Memory.
Animation study metaphorically considers pieces of clay as bits of memory. The inherited characters and resemblance of physical features of the body are different things. The former belongs to the ongoing discussion about the genetic memory and inheritance of acquired characters. Genetic memory of species at the time of birth exists without sensory experiences. It depends on the previous generation’s experience; use, or disuse of inherited knowledge.
It could be tracked through generations linked to anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, neuropsychiatric disorders and phobias.
The study at the mental health hospitals could prove or disprove the assumption.
The story behind this visual sketch connects the state of being in the mental health hospital and the outside world. Preparing participants’ artworks for the exhibition inside a display board in the corridor, the understanding of the closed space came to my mind.
Some corridors are accessible to all staff and patients, connecting the outside world with the inside capsule. However, the exhibition can happen only inside an encapsulated space where all participants can observe the board. No nails, no hanging systems, only protected display board with glue tag or velcro straps.
Connectivity VIII. Observation. “We are the Nature…” This fact is often forgotten, but each Person on Planet Earth is a representative of Nature. While carrying out art workshops in the mental health hospital I started thinking about a variety of compositions in brain wiring. I would like to suggest that there are could be experiments carried out by Mother Nature. Those having ‘non-standard’ wiring are considered different and difficult to communicate with.
Mother Nature might be trying to find solutions for the injustice in the world by producing numerous brain wiring for tests in natural selection.
Humans compete with Mother Nature by creating numerous cables for wiring machines to find the above-mentioned faults at the early stages. Then, they tame those who are different. There are ongoing fights between Nature (who we are) and Mother Nature.
Connectivity VII. The short draft animation titled ‘Where is the Freedom?’
There are quadra doors at low-security units,
no escapes for the body,
but possible runaway is provided by the freedom of expression during art workshops.
I managed to compare art hour with the Singing hour that offers an opportunity to sing but not composing. The art process provides a short escape from reality with a deeply immersive experience into ‘composing’ the artwork. Many different worlds were Created through painting or clay sculptures, they take participants far away from the hospital into childhood, forest, river, seasides, fields of flowers, to the top of the pine trees, or into feelings of love and tenderness.
Our Freedom is always connected to politics, institutions, discipline, will-to-do, or will-not-to-do. It also can be seen in the act of free expression in art. The feel of ‘I can do art without any idea behind my work’ is a liberating moment.
Another aspect is connected to the ‘no judgment’; the time within art workshops was dedicated to the art without a thought about past, future, or who are students. It evokes a strong existential sense of the word ‘NOW’. I will never know, why each of my students is behind the triple doors. This fact offered freedom from judgment.
Connectivity VI. The short draft animation titled ‘I am sleeping but not in my bed’ is my 6/12 weeks artist’s response to the residency at the mental health hospital carried virtually during the COVID Pandemic.
The work reflects the process of Being Treated. At work, at home, at hospitals, on the streets, we are treated in different ways. After a busy day, our bed is the safest place where we recover, share senseless hours, and go through daily encounters in our dreams. We trust our bed, and we allow our body to rest and hoover over that place of relaxation.
During the project time, in December-January, some participants missed a few sessions. The hospital staff explained their absence as follow:
‘She/He cannot get up from the bed….’
This fact provoked thoughts connected to treatments and mental outbreaks. I look for hospital room furniture and, in particular, the bed.
What is there unknown about the hospital bed? Mental health hospital… The bed in a room belongs to the system. In Russian, ‘Koika’ is a title for an institutional bed.
Patients in hospitals
students in colleges
soldiers in the army and others
cannot rely on this bed as a place of protection and safeness.
This sudden realisation connected to the state of freedom.
While working on a short study, I tried to evoke feelings of anxiety, unpredicted disturbances, and sleepless nights. Red colour, grey shadows, cables and pieces of equipment mixed into composition of convulsive restlessness.