In Autumn 2022 I was invited to do a remote residency, run by LEVEL.
I spent the time working on a short film about art making, and abuse in psychiatric hospitals. I wrote a number of poems, and pieces of short prose, about my own experience of making art as a rebellion against psychiatric abuse, as well as the experiences of artists from the past.
One of these artists was Agnes Richter, who hand sewed her story into her clothing. Another was Phebe B. Davis, who wrote a pamphlet about her experiences of psychiatric abuse, got them printed and sold them herself. Both of the women lived in the 1800s, but whilst I was doing the research for this project, I was struck by how much their experiences had in common with my own experiences of being abused.
This is one of the poems I wrote:
My art is an act of rebellion
An act of “Screw you. I’m still here. I’m making art.”
I look at the artists from the past and see that too.
Agnes Richter sewing
layer upon layer
onto her jacket,
inside and out.
The most common word being “I”
I I I I I I I I I I I
Ripping holes in the fabric.
The men in asylums from the same period were given paints.
Van Gogh and Louis Wain, Richard Dadd and all the rest.
Agnes must have stolen her materials from a sewing workshop.
The women in the asylum were expected to sew the uniforms
and anything else needed.
Some of them, like Agnes,
took scraps of material
to make their own original artworks.
I I I I I I I I I I
Nothing could stop Agnes from leaving some kind of record.
Of how she was abused.
Of how she longed for freedom.
I recorded a number of the poems I wrote at a recording studio. However, I am very much not a natural voice over artist! I think as I move forward with the project, I will hire an actor to narrate my writing.
I also spent some time making sketches for mural size artworks, which I will make once I secure further funding for the project. I would like to film myself making these huge artworks.
Here are some of the sketches:
This one shows a three strange creatures emerging from my brain.
This is an abstract image- though it does look a little like a face!
I made these sketches whilst thinking about the effects of psychiatric abuse on my life. I then channelled those memories into the sketches.
This sketch is about panic attacks that lead to dissociation. It would be a large mural that depicts the transformation on an enormous scale, enabling the viewer to experience it along with the artist.
Above are my notes for a more complex mural. This one would have four panels, each symbolising a different psychological state. The panels will be moveable, so that different combinations can be combined to describe the complexity of different experiences.
The residency was very successful. I will be taking the work that I made as part of the process, and using it to find further funding, so that I can make a short film about abuse in psychiatric hospitals, and artmaking by myself, as well as other artist survivors.