Studio Upstairs collaborate with Tate to talk about Mental Health

 

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.

The result of this collaboration was the event called,  Chain Reaction: How Are You? held on 5th November at the Tate Modern.

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.

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/workshop/tate-exchange/chain-reaction-how-are-you

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

David Bowie and the link between creativity and mental illness

by Monika Kalytyte

Yesterday was a day of sadness for millions of people across the world, as David Bowie, a bright star, departed our world, leaving behind a powerful legacy and writing the last line of a book which has marked a number of generations in oh so many different ways. David Bowie’s legacy, discoveries, visions and far-reaching influence, will undoubtedly remain with us, and I am confident it will be communicated with the generations to come in a similar way that it happened with Freddie Mercury.

The very element of Bowie as a person, that powered his great lyrics, his personas, his complex arrangements, his extravagant fashion ideas, his paintings, was also the part of him that he worried could at any moment defeat him.

His intellectual life was so sharp; he believed mind was not always an asset. ‘Sometimes a mind goes haywire. Sometimes a mind sends you into deep darkness, or even off the roof of a mental institution’, quite often Bowie talked about how he struggled in life with his fear of the same sort of mental collapse.

Creative people are genetically more likely to suffer from mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or depression. Kari Stefansson, founder and CEO of deCODE, demonstrated a link between some mental disorders and creativity: ‘To be creative, you have to think differently. And when we are different, we have a tendency to be labelled strange, crazy and even insane.’

Some studies have backed up this notion, suggesting that writers, artists and others are more likely to have a mental illness and that people with certain mental illnesses, such as depression and mood disorders, appear somewhat more likely to be creative.

To be creative is to make sense of and connect the small details of everything we experience, the good and the bad. All the creatives naturally tend to think more, and think about their very thoughts too. This type of thinking, lets individual examine different subjects, related with personal knowledge or the outside one, in more depth. Analyzing certain subjects creates inner war, which is sometimes necessary for bringing up some artistic outcome; however there is a fine line between that, and getting driven into mental darkness.

Otherwise, one does not need to be an artist to create, to use art as a self expression tool. Among others, art is a healing, meditative, self motivating and emotional unloading tool. Art helps to communicate and send a message to the outside world.

Through our long year experiences, we can highlight the importance of art and creativity, as integral components of recovery. Painting, sculpting, performing, and other arts are pleasurable activities but can also be a channel for expression of those parts of the self, which may not have been expressed in any other way. Art can be used as a powerful healing tool to explore deep emotions – turn them, into materials. You have way to forget for the moment, what you can’t do, be empowered to improvise and innovate.  It has the ability to transform us, awaken us and our parts to recover and heal from earlier traumas or memories. Through artwork, people can develop their own personal vocabularies for a fuller identity.

There is still so much silence around the subject of mental health, yet it’s something that can affect all of us at some point in our live. Studio Upstairs works with people and for people, to provoke thoughts, to bring the understanding and to reduce stigma at the wide audience.

It could be a New Year’s resolution for all of us; end the stigma and discrimination around mental health and become open about it. It is so important to know that you are loved and that there are people around you that care and are there to listen.

Please join and support, in any possible and appropriate way, our beautiful community at Studio Upstairs. We really need your ideas, donations, time, to maintain our everyday life here, which is so precious and special for all of us and especially for our studio members. There is place where they feel independent, safe and able to unleash their creativity.

This year, help yourself by helping others!