People who experience mental ill health have been mistreated and ostracised throughout history. Although we have come a long way, it can still feel a slow and uphill struggle.
So, a mental health exhibition which brings artists, organisations and individuals together to exhibit their stories in public spaces is powerful to see. It symbolises a refusal to allow society to push these people and their histories back into the shadows.
For its fifth year, the Out of Sight, Out of Mind exhibition has been shaped around the theme reclaim, and many of the creative pieces can be found in the expansive basement of Summerhall. The motivations of the 165+ contributors are just as varied as the forms their works take. Yet they all locate a space which seeks to reclaim and redefine holistic mental health narratives by and for people with lived experience.
A Space To Be - Edinburgh Community Mental Health Drop-in
To explain what it is like when you experience mental ill health can be to attempt to communicate the indescribable. Art can provide an alternative way for people to articulate this complexity and make sense of their illness and their lives in relation to it.
Amidst - Fiona McKenzie
Many of the works exhibited appear to respond to the theme of reclaim as something which yields hope. This is communicated through pieces exploring the act of reclaiming and rebuilding life after a mental health crisis. There are other works depicting the reclamation of identity from medical diagnosis and treatments.
Colourful Collages of Courage
As one artist writes underneath their work: ‘I have slowly been pulling back the medicinal picture and beginning to reclaim the original me...and actually, I am OK!’
Reclaiming myself – B
Some contributions express fear and despair at what is happening in the world around us. People are fighting to reclaim marginalised identities and stories in a society and under a government which stacks everything against them. As one contributor writes: ‘Due to budget cuts, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off and sold for scrap.’ How do we reclaim any sense of hope for the present and future?
The Future is... - Lauren Stonebanks
One answer to that can be found in the art contributions provided by different organisations around Edinburgh. Those like the Edinburgh Community Mental Health Drop-in offer emotional and practical support and bring people together as a community outside a medical setting. This is represented in the installation of a living room, surrounded by media created by and for people who use the space.
A Space To Be - Edinburgh Community Mental Health Drop-in
The diversity of the works reinforces the idea that each expression of mental health is unique to the individual and their circumstances. This can be visualised in the patchwork collage created by members of the Gypsy/Traveller community. Each piece allows for the reclaiming of individual experiences and contributes to what is important to the community as a whole. There can be hope for the present and future if we ensure mental health discussions include a range of societal perspectives and acknowledge the wider histories of people’s lives, particularly the discrimination and oppression they face.
No Less a Traveller - MECOPP's Gypsy/ Traveller health and wellbeing project
It is everybody’s responsibility to have more than “awareness” that mental ill health exists. When spaces and narratives are being reclaimed and reframed, it's important we listen, support, value and learn from what we see and hear.
No Head Clutching Please - Creative Industries students at Edinburgh Napier University
by Z Nugent
Out of Sight, Out of Mind continues at Summerhall until Sun 29 Oct, and venues across Edinburgh. There is no need to book.
The corridor was bland as I remember it. A grey as of nothing with pipes and a wooden floor. We only used to go from place to place in it. Yet, for some time now, there have been pictures in the hallway. Gallery Two. It’s good to fill spaces.
The walls don't look shabby now. As people started to come in for the opening, I sat with the artist, Alan Straiton, for a couple of minutes discussing the paintings (and nerves, of course). And the brush strokes. The content.
I had seen the first painting at the top of the stairs. It was red and blue with white on it. Which looked like waves to me. Also, a piece of work in what looked like an aquarium in a picture. Thought it looked like a sea wall and had the colours there too. There are about eight pictures in all.
The corridor was getting more people into it as the minutes passed. People discussing the pictures, discussing the artist. A low murmur in the hallway and people talking downstairs. And on the landing. Talking about the reds and blues.
I thought that the place to put the pictures was excellent. And the artist milling around talking to his friends and others. I would suggest you go see this exhibition if you can. I suggest you sit for a while in the space. I suggest that you look at the detail in the pictures.
I would like to describe the pictures to you in detail. But I think that would spoil the experience. They are hung in Gallery II at Project Ability, where it is free to get in to view and leave a comment. Hope to see you there.
by Stuart Low
Image: Alan Straiton, Boy II
Some Pictures is on in Gallery II at Project Ability until 11 November. It is open from 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday, and entry is free.
Becoming Cary Grant is a beautiful title for an inside Hollywood documentary. It suggests that the person who ultimately became Cary Grant really did need to become him, for the same reason that anyone else would. Namely, that Cary Grant wasn’t quite of planet earth, he was larger than life. But in fact, he was born in 1904 as Archie Leach, a child from a modest background in Bristol, England.
David Thomson, a film critic who speaks throughout the film as an expert on Grant, suggests that the actor could never be placed as being from the UK nor the USA, but rather as a one off unique individual. Even his accent, so utterly distinctive, was unplaceable. The film quotes Grant as saying: ‘Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant’ – which tells you what a remarkable achievement his persona was. It shows him as the classical Hollywood leading man, with A list appeal. As an actor myself, I was excited by the opportunity to gain an insight from this film, as people’s perceptions of acting can be very different from the reality.
Becoming Cary Grant draws on the actor’s unpublished memoir, using his own words, thoughts and feelings, voiced by Jonathan Pryce. And it is using this technique that Kidel discusses Grant’s experiments with LSD in the 1950s. When you first hear that Grant took LSD, the fact stands in such dramatic contrast to his impeccable image – with not a hair out of place. It suggests he had a wild side, that his on-screen persona might have merely been a cover.
However, Grant’s LSD experiences were part of a rigorously supervised experiment in cutting edge psychotherapy in southern California. Grant would take a tab once a week in his therapist’s office, lie on the couch with a cover over him, and hallucinate his way to his subconscious self. He picked his favourite music and lay down for five hours. He found the experience to be frightening, liberating, but ultimately healing, showing how valuable therapy and talking and exploring thoughts and feelings is for mental health, wellbeing and psychotherapy.
The film also traces Grant’s development as an actor, from when he seemed to have no idea what he was doing, to his experiences on the set of The Awful Truth (1937) – where director Leo McCarey used his own persona as a ladies’ man to bring out the essence of the Cary Grant we know today – to his performance in Bringing Up Baby (1938), where Howard Hawks recognised the universal appeal of Grant’s personality. Although it doesn’t explore His Girl Friday (1940), the comedy that saw Grant reach his perfection as a leading man, it is spot-on in recognising that the films he made with Alfred Hitchcock – Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955), and North by Northwest (1959) – were the making of him as an actor. Hitchcock cast him as a murderer in Suspicion, showing his range as an actor, while, in, Notorious, Grant’s crisp ardour was shot through with haunted longing.
Becoming Cary Grant argues that the emotions he explores in these roles, to some degree, brought him closer to the “real” Cary Grant. But over and above that, it reveals that he was even more of an actor – both in life and in the movies – than we might otherwise have thought. Explorations into his difficult childhood and relationships with his mother and father show the extent to which adversity played a prominent role in helping him become one of Hollywood’s most successful and talented stars – and an actor that is still admired to this day.
Placing the emphasis on Grant’s therapy also shows how important it is for people to talk about their feelings, no matter what their situation. At one point, he says: ‘If I had paid more attention I might have found contentment in marriage’, an insight that is all the sadder when considered alongside his high-profile struggles with women and love. Living in an era when men sadly did not talk about emotional issues, Grant eventually found relief in his chosen form of therapy – whether we agree with it or not.
Becoming Cary Grant may inspire a new generation of young actors to seek fame and fortune, but it can be hoped that it will encourage men to seek mental health support when they have issues they need to talk about. Later in life, the film shows that Grant is healed through having a daughter of his own to love and care for, something that helped him grow and develop emotionally. Ultimately, it strikes the balance between showcasing his great success, and giving an honest account of who he truly was – or became – in his own words.
by Shirley Hellyar
Shirley is a writer, actor and model, currently writing her first screenplay, and acting as full-time carer for her disabled dad. She has dyslexia, anxiety and depression. She wants to show that with the right help and support anything is possible, and being honest about mental health difficulties is so important in reclaiming who you are.
Book now for Becoming Cary Grant, showing as part of Men's Mental Health Day at CCA, Glasgow on Sat 14 Oct at 7.30pm. Director Mark Kidel will be in attendance to take part in a Q&A discussion after the screening. Winner of Best Feature Documentary in our International Film Competition.
Written by A J Taudevin
Directed by Clare Duffy
The word hysteria originates from the Ancient Greek word for uterus, hystéra, and was used for thousands of years to describe a ‘disease’ that only inflicted women, initially thought to have been caused by a ‘wandering womb’. The symptoms included anxiety, irritability, emotional outbursts and sexually forward behaviour.
Jeez, commit me now!
Fortunately, it is an out-dated term no longer used in psychiatry. However the stigma still lingers, and we women are constantly fighting the notion that we’re all emotional, crazy, hysterical…
Hysteria! attempts to tackle these issues by speaking powerful truths in an emotionally satisfying and entertaining way, and with a song and dance in its heart.
The self-described political cabaret takes a hard look at the world today, with a focus on sexual politics and mental health issues. It explores how women are still objectified, even when they are supposed to be respected political leaders, how a man who openly embodies this objectification is now in charge of one of the most powerful countries in the world, and what effect this is having on society as we know it.
It is a heavy piece, there is no doubt, but it is a significant one that is positively essential right now. And the overall message is that we can and should stand up for ourselves, let it out, and invoke change. Womanpower!
Interestingly, it does not have an all-female cast, as one might expect. The decision to cast George Drennan alongside Annie Grace (both The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart), and Maryam Hamidi (The Chronicles of Irania), was an effective one, as it brings a certain energy to the show that it might not have otherwise had. At times it is amusing to hear Drennan speak as if he, too, were a woman, however at other times it can feel uncomfortable, when he speaks of issues such as rape.
Maryam Hamidi’s choreography is fun, lively and well synchronised, and Anna Porubcansky’s musical direction of the memorable tunes, carried by the talented singers, and even the occasional rap (in Scottish!) is glorious. All of this intertwined with musical instruments, spoken word and audience participation, makes for a decidedly satisfying theatre experience.
It ends perfectly, with a rendition of (I Can’t Keep) Quiet by Milck, presumably inspired by the flashmobs at the women’s marches earlier this year. Lyric sheets are provided, encouraging the audience to join in, and I doubt I was the only one who had tears streaming down her face during the highly poignant song.
Overall director Clare Duffy succeeds in tying together a witty and bold theatre experience, one which causes the audience to think deeply about the issues of sexism that plague politics and society, and the adverse effect it has on mental health.
If you, like me, suffer your own silent journey of dealing with mental health, I urge you to go see Hysteria! and feel inspired to let it out.
by Jo Osborne
Book now for Hysteria!, running at A Play A Pie & A Pint at Òran Mór, Glasgow until Sat 14 Oct, before moving to the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh from 17-21 Oct. All shows from 1-2pm, with an additional show on Fri 20 Oct from 7-8pm. All tickets include a pie and a drink.
It was snowing the day my brother died. The world was silent. The air thick with fading memories that drifted upwards – cruelly inverting the brittle flakes braiding downwards.
We are told grief is a journey. Each year that passes marks another step towards the goal of being less entrenched in sadness. Yet each year, the snow returns and brings with it that silence.
My understanding of grief is deeply connected to my relationship with nature. This is something I found myself reflecting on when watching the Vivian, Vivian and Waterfall, screening together at this year’s Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival.
Vivian, Vivian is a striking film poem written and directed by Ingrid Kamerling. It journeys from clouded, mesmerising dreamscapes to the urban arena of nighttime Utrecht. In doing so it maps the previously untouched path laid by the suicide of Kamerling’s sister. At its core, this film is about a woman’s journey through grief.
However, when watching it I kept thinking about the ways in which memory and setting become intertwined. As archive footage of Kamerling’s sister transitions into stilled waterways and then back to urban hinterlands, it is clear than even these apparent journeys into understanding are punctuated and confused by the jolts of human memory. What we’re presented with is a series of the filmmaker’s emotional coordinates.
At the film’s climax, the mental state of its subject is described as a ‘maelstrom’, a naturally occurring but violent whirlpool. Its appearance disrupts the journey, giving new meaning to the repeated use of water imagery throughout. This is not a straightforward narrative. Grief is never straightforward.
While Vivian, Vivian takes the viewer on a journey into the whirlpools of grief, Waterfall plunges us deep into its mires. Winner of Best Experimental Film at this year’s festival, Tom Lock Griffiths’s journey through the landscapes of loss reiterates the central theme of Vivian, Vivian, as the filmmaker attempts to understand his own mother’s suicide.
Reflecting on the ways in which landscape holds memory, the film offers the illusion of sequence, punctuated by the narrator’s use of numerical titles for each segment. However, this is merely an illusion, and the film focuses on a scattering of meaningful sites and memories. By ‘listening’ to the world around him, Griffiths delves deep into the archeology of his own loss, offering a poignant alternative to traditional linear journeys through grief.
A trickle of water outside a London flat takes us to a reservoir in Wales, built only on the purposeful destruction and clearing of two villages. A walk with an old girlfriend allows us to think for a moment about an archaic landscape of timber walkways and remnant footprints. Landscapes absorb these moments in time and lay them bare.
Towards the film’s conclusion, Griffiths dwells for a moment on the ‘vast psychological landscapes’ of the human brain. The temporally conflicted landscapes on screen are now only projections of human synapses. Memory is not linear, but reveals itself to us in the conflicts between place and time.
The landscapes of my own grief are snow-covered and silent. Snow melts and becomes water. Water evaporates and is recycled into rain. Rain falls on our cities. For anybody who’s ever experienced grief, this seems a much more poignant metaphor than that of a journey. The cyclical process echo the ways in which memories recede, return and recede again in ways we cannot control. But I find great comfort in this. Watching these films is a reminder to return to places where memories dwell.
by Kirsty Strang-Roy