Studio Upstairs members were actively involved in a collaborative process that brought together various charities and the Tate Modern to exchange ideas, feelings and thoughts about mental health, wellbeing and creative practices, including visual arts.
Our members and studio managers contributed by responding creatively as individuals to cube structures which were used to make an installation display. The cubes became the heart of the event as members of the public entered the space and walked around them. Throughout the afternoon people had conversations prompted by the images, colours and words they saw in the cubes, which were all related to experiences of mental health.
Sarah Walker, a member of Studio Upstairs, said:
“We took part in this project to highlight mental health issues by creating meaningful dialogues, to strengthen awareness of the work of Studio Upstairs, and, as artists to create exciting, enjoyable and creative opportunities for Tate visitors.”
Jake, also a member of our studio added: “I was very honoured to be a part of this project. I found it empowering: to produce the artwork and to witness others, random strangers interacting with the art. I particularly enjoyed seeing my work appreciated. It was also empowering because I felt the event was lifting the lid on stigma towards mental illness.”
At the event, members of the public were encouraged to help to make a long paper chain and placards with messages related to wellbeing; and take selfies or portraits against a background which reflected the person’s mood through the use of colours and shapes. Each one of these activities asked the public to respond to the question ‘How Are You?‘
Few of our members also volunteered their time to help deliver the activities.
We ask – How are You?
The question initiates one of the most everyday exchanges we all face. We also ask – Is there a way of answering the question so that our actual truth can exist in a world which often seems to require glib and positive responses.
Art, drama, music and poetry create languages for grief, trauma, terror, ecstasy and joy. However, in society, these areas of human experience are usually talked about in the language of illness – depression, mania, psychosis, bipolar, schizophrenia etc. We ask – Can there be other languages to describe people’s existence in a more real way.
In the field of psychiatry, we recognise that there are many individuals and groups who have a supportive and helpful influence for patients. However, we ask – Is it helpful for a person’s thoughts, endeavours, emotional life and struggles for existence to be viewed as symptoms of illness? Can there be more supportive and meaningful exchanges between psychiatry and the people seeking its support? Does mental illness in fact exist? We ask you to join us in exploring these questions.
Using some of the most powerful forms of exchange, art making, drama and discussion, consider the question – How are you? In this exploration we hope to learn more about what it is that we all need in order to connect, create and contribute?
Written by Sarah Walker