Tues, 15th October 6pm-8pm
VENUE: AD Space, UNSW Art and Design
M A N I C explores the tenuous and personal relationships between creativity, productivity and mental wellbeing. The exhibition has engaged emerging artists, writers and creatives to amplify discussion around mental ill health through lived experience.
Curated by Ivana Jovanovic.
Associated with projections of wildness, instability and mood fluctuations, the term manic is a perfect fit for the uncertain conditions ingrained in the creative fields. It also relates to the nature of creative practice, long periods of calm and inactivity followed by often rushed periods of tight deadlines, getting things done, intense focus.
But mania is also personal, it challenges the stigma associated with the old grand narrative of the artist as ‘mad genius’, and brings up some of the deep, dark self with it. With sensitivity, violence, gentleness, ferocity, empathy and apathy, creatives have responded to this theme with their own experiences to expose the way mental health affects their personal practice.
MANIC is divided in two spheres, the tender self, works that discuss lived experience of mental health, trauma and healing, and the social self, works that address the anxieties around our relationship with social media and creative enterprise.
Ivana Jovanovic, Curator
Ivana Jovanovic is a Sydney based artist, writer and curator engaged in social and community practice. Her recent solo work has delved into her identity connecting to cultural heritage as a Serbian Australian woman through grief and ritual. This has led to a deeper exploration of memory, trauma and lived experience of mental health.
Victoria Thompson is an emerging film director living on stolen Gadigal land. Victoria has made three short films, ‘Swallows’, ‘I Love You’ and ‘Cinderella’ screening in competition at both local and international festivals. Victoria is interested in making personal films that are unapologetically human and poetic.
“Reality is one of the most terrifying concepts to me. When your mind is damaged by trauma and the weight of your past; it’s easy to produce further negativity into the world.
Instead, I choose to respond with beauty, and create escapes into other worlds – be that through costume, words or performance. My art is for an audience, and I want them to let go of reality with me.”
Multi-medium artist Paige Hart embraces the manic side of her mental illness by producing fantastical headwear, hilariously dark short stories into her lived experiences and vintage cabaret performances.
Her work is inspired by juxtapositions of all kinds, marrying beauty and horror into her creations to explore either extreme.
Paige’s creative process is a fascinating look into the daily life of an artist with “triple threat!” bipolar, borderline personality disorder and PTSD.
Inner West based artist Paige Hart is a costume milliner, writer and cabaret performer with a passion for working with unconventional materials to create objects of beauty. Recently diagnosed with Bipolar & BPD, Paige has spent her life channeling her emotions into creations to create whimsical and fantastical pieces through her designs, words and performances.
Everything in moderation as the old saying goes, right? Setting up healthy boundaries between work and life, exposure and intimacy – sure! A lot of these things are easier said than done.
The Screen Time series reflects the cycles of burnout and chaotic social media use – at times these two go hand in hand.
With running my own drafting and graphic design business (again, screens!) it seems that the nature of business comes in waves. Ranging from a leisurely week looking up inspiration for your next art project to having a 90 hour work week where everything is due at once. Ye ole “all or nothing” cliché. Cliché for good reason.
I tend to use the colour pink quite a lot in my life, including my art. The colour pink represents love, youthful nature, and compassion. I find it quite comforting in times of disarray.
These images show the stages between using social media in moderation to what can happen as a result when the excessive use of it diminishes our attention and shifts focus from expressing our creativity to chasing a false ideal of virtual acceptance.
So many screens, so much work, so much burn out.
But just need to breathe, centre, and get through it. Because you can.
Utilising CAD programs, 3D modelling and rendering, Tiff Fergusson is able to draw you into her world – one of a vaporwave aesthetic. This aesthetic style often involves an abstract nature, a revival of Windows 98, and low-poly computer renderings.
My art is focused around characters that I call ‘creatures’ which conceptually highlight the psychological journey of my self-expression. My work explores concepts of life, death and rebirth through my sexuality and personal experiences. Many of the creatures I create represent past insecurities as well as anxieties I have to this day.
Unravelling the discourse, 2019, performance
normalcy in the name
social a frame
how ‘perceived’ business
departs from authority
we follow a strangeness
challenging that that limits us
that that says you can’t
Mel is an interdisciplinary artist interested in the convergence of music and participatory art. Her music entails vocal performance, improvisation and collaboration. Integrating the familiar, with the experimental. Experiential as education, awareness through critical dialogue and action. She’s contributed to MONA, MAAS, The Now Now, Tectonics, LungA Arts, and Edinburgh Fringe.
Mel Eden is also part of the Brokering Dialogue project.
“Scattered is a letter written from a young woman to her father. It explores the trauma passed from a generation that experienced the hardships of war and seeking refuge in Australia, to a generation that grew up feeling pressured by cultural expectations. This piece addresses issues including the emotional barriers in a family, the identity of the Vietnamese diaspora, and using art as a coping mechanism.”
Stephanie Nguy is a Vietnamese-Australian writer from Western Sydney. She currently studies publishing at the University of Sydney, and is also an editor for The Cut. With her non-fiction pieces, she aims to represent her community and hopes people from different backgrounds can relate as well. She values culture, giving a voice to unheard stories, and a little self-deprecating humour.
Recalibrate draws on traditions of feminist performance, such as Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975) by embracing repetitive gesture as a reparative, psychological and political tool. Through repetitive action and incorporating her own personal toning and vocals, the artist reveals a ritual of evidence based exercises designed to rewire, recalibrate and attune the neuroplastic brain.
Informed too by Joanna Hedva’s ‘Sick Woman Theory’, Recalibrate alludes to the damages and diseases of patriarchy that cause women in particular to experience ongoing states of chronic illness, resultant from prolonged traumas. Here, the artist highlights the emotional and psychological spaces of complex PTSD, using minimal gesture, facial expression and vocal toning. The process of creating the work itself, through collaboration with family and friends, sheds light on the reparative power of relational attunement. Recalibrate speaks to hope, resilience and the potential of healing through attunement to the self and others.
Claire Bridge is a Queer feminist interdisciplinary artist of Anglo-Indian and culturally Deaf Australian heritage and a resilient survivor of inter-generational trauma and gendered violence. She has been a short listed on multiple occasions in the world’s richest portrait prize, the $150,000 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize and a finalist in the prestigious Sulman Prize at the AGNSW.
She has received numerous awards including the Living Art Award and People’s Choice for the Stan And Maureen Duke, Gold Coast Art Prize, a Silver Medal in the Black Swan Prize, People’s Choice in the Portia Geach and Shirley Hannan Portrait Awards and was winner of the inaugural Linden Award. Her work is held in public and private collections including Maroondah Federation Estate Gallery, the Honorary Consulate of Monaco in Australia and collections across Australia and New Zealand, New York, San Francisco, Washington, London and Europe. She has exhibited throughout Australia and most recently in the US.
Claire Bridge is also Founder and Editor of artworldwomen.com, is an arts writer and occasional curator.
Bridge is currently undertaking a Masters of Contemporary Art at the VCA.
I have been accumulating scraps and fragments for years now – cuttings from books and magazines and trade journals that at one time or other caught my eye; piling up in cupboards; spilling out of bookshelves. More and more, I’ve been feeling more than a little bit oppressed by them.
At the very least, I’m losing sight of the connections. My archiving system is incoherent, dictated by obscure themes that were once a reason to thrust an elbow, a mollusc and some agitated drapery into a clear plastic sleeve. So, I am imploring you – help me do the sorting.
Of course, it could be more complicated than that. Are these cuttings an extension of me? Am I a folded, fragmented, clipping of myself?
Perhaps, with your help, we can begin to make sense of the pieces that make up a life, or a mind. And whose mind is it anyway?
Chloe Watfern is an artist, writer and researcher. She has a longstanding interest in collage – both digital and analogue – and is one half of ‘Techloony’, an ongoing digital collaboration with the artist Tony Coleing. She is currently a Scientia PhD scholar at UNSW, researching the work of supported studios for neurodiverse artists.
Grace Kingston is a multidisciplinary artist; she conducts research in the fields of social media, digital culture, networks, environments and spatial-contextual awareness. Raised in Sydney, Kingston’s formal study was undertaken at the UNSW Art and Design. She is currently a lecturer at SAE Creative Media Institute and a board member of Runway Journal.
Sylvia Griffin is a Sydney-based multi-discipline artist and writer whose work addresses trauma, memory and history. She holds a PhD from Sydney College of the Arts (USyd) and has contributed to several peer-reviewed journals, books and conferences. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally, received various prizes, grants and scholarships and been shortlisted for several national awards.
Paul McDonald, Karl Grenet and Izzy Gramp
Working for free or ‘exposure’, how does this impact our own self worth and mental state?
The three artists are not being paid for delivering this project due to no funding. We are doing this project to create a dialogue on how unpaid work impacts an artist’s mental health, devaluing artists and their creative worth. In addition, we will hand over ownership of our work to Instagram, as part of their terms and conditions.
All three artists will use photography to create a dialogue and explore our own personal anxieties and feelings on this subject.
Creating new work, each artist will post images and comments in response to each other. We invite you to engage and ask questions, comment, like or simply ignore us.
We have created the hashtag: #wearenotbeingpaidforthis
We encourage the audience to follow us on Instagram and use the hashtag on their own Instagram feeds whilst they ‘work for free’, and discuss how it impacts them in their daily lives both physically and mentally. We will repost your stories, thoughts and dialogue.
Join us on the journey to create an open dialogue on this subject.
Each artist will embrace their unique voice and style whilst creating work. This may not sit well with the Instagram algorithm or the audience. But neither does our state of mind at times.
Paul McDonald is a socially engaged artist and educator whose practice explores masculinity and mental health. The following works are a selection from his recent series ‘resonance’ in which he responded to works from the Cunningham Dax Collection which is a collection of works that were created by men during their art therapy sessions in the 1960s and 1970s.
Karl is an Australian documentary photographer with a deep love of travel and an insatiable curiosity about different cultures and people around the world. Currently Karl is based in Melbourne, Australia. He received the Australia National Award in 2015, Sony World Photography Awards.
Izzy Gramp makes happy looking video games and sad looking photos. While she’s had work in a few publications, her proudest achievement is having 10 of her images on the first page of google image search with the term “depressing desktop wallpapers”.
She’s never going to make it as an artist.
Sewing wasn’t her strong point, 2018-19
Brooke Leigh’s practice investigates the performative act of drawing as a cathartic experience. In this sense, catharsis is the release of severely internalised distress. Her work explores intense emotional states––such as loss, fear and anguish that are often suppressed in response to shame and judgement.
Sewing Wasn’t Her Strong Point reveals two different dialogues hand-sewn on opposing sides of a fitted bed sheet from the artist’s childhood. Both of anguish and pain, each conversation pierces and disrupts the other suggesting an enmeshed relationship.
Scores is a series of one hundred and sixty-three text-based monoprints. The title of the series is a double entendre referring to both the conceptual realisation of a performance or musical composition, and score as an incision or mark relative to the severe effects that anxiety has on the body.
Brooke Leigh’s artistic practice explores the performative aspect of drawing. In 2017, she was awarded a Masters of Fine Arts from Sydney College of the Arts, with studies at LUCA School of Arts, Belgium as a visiting scholar. Recently, Leigh was a finalist in the 2019 Dobell Drawing Prize #21.
Instagram on repeat, 2019
Social media is often promoted to artists as platforms from which they can sell artwork, gain exposure and find like-minded creatives. This advice is often offered in conjunction with the suggestion that they become their own ‘personal brand’ (i.e. perform being a ‘young creative’) and post regularly to maximise engagement. While social media can be beneficial to artists, it is often also an anxiety-inducing and non-optional platform with little resemblance to the egalitarian, open-minded space it is often touted as. Furthermore, many artists find their work unsuited to the ‘attention economy’ in which endless scrolling and screen-sized images are inevitable and algorithms prioritise the likability and virality of a post.
This artwork is composed of various social media pages converted into sound accompanied by a set of instructions that assist the viewer in remaking the artwork with their own social media pages, thus enabling them to appropriate the technology from its intended method of consumption.
Isobelle Lowe is an artist whose work often aims to understand and represent themes of spectatorship and agency in digital media. This is primarily done through methods of glitch or a repurposing of existing technologies. She is currently in her 3rd year of a Bachelor of Fine Art at the University of New South Wales.
Element 17/, 2017
I have been hurting myself for many years. Whenever I was overwhelmed by mental pain, I would transform it to the physical realm where pain was more bearable. I decided to leave this dark place and stop to hurt myself.
To gain perspective on those many years of self-destruction, I set out to map my self-inflicted injuries. I grew cultures of bacteria into a skin-like substance, and then I reconstructed the cuts previously inflicted directly on my body.
I used my own blood to reflect the level of my mental pain.
Each reconstructed cut was placed on my body, on top of the original cut and then photographed to create a ‘Map of my Pain’. I view this work as a parting ritual from my old self and hope to give birth to a new me. Like a snake that outgrows his old skin before shedding it, so did I.
Th3Max is an artist who engages in curiosity-based artistic and cultural research. Her focus is on Living/Life, and this allows a sensation of immediacy and intensity for the viewer. Max’s works tends towards the extreme. Her use of unusual materials reveal her ideological and physical manifestations of pain and trauma.
Wanni Wang paints about the manifestations and remedies of anxiety in pixels. At heart, she is a large-size canvas painter.
Disturb the Universe (2018) is titled after a line from a poem by T. S. Eliot.
‘Action and inaction, in the Anthropocene
Just the thought of this
is anxiety inducing’
(View and digital extension of this work by downloading ARTIVIVE app on your mobile device)
Boxes, web-based game, 2018
Lugging, moving belongings weight us down
Emotional baggages weight us down
Missed opportunities weight us down
Boxed up artworks weight us down
Past ghosts weight us down
Wanni Wang is an artist/illustrator/designer based in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her art explores the underlaying roots of anxiety in every day living.
Workshop iDentity: Understanding online identity and using social media mindfully
When: Tuesday 15th October, 12:00pm – 1:00pm
Where: Room D111, D Block, Art & Design Campus, Paddington
Social media has become a huge consumer of our time and has the potential to have a huge impact on our self worth and overall well-being. Never before have we had the opportunity to create a digital identity and share it with the world, and in turn, have access and insight into the lives of so many others.
Regular use of these apps have been shown to bring up feelings of worthlessness, of envy, of disappointment & loneliness. And yet we can’t pull ourselves away – even a one-day digital detox can leave us sweating & anxious.
This workshop isn’t going to be an hour of telling you why you need to put your smartphone down – but rather, an insight into how your social media habits might be contributing to your anxiety & self esteem issues, and how a few adjustments with how you interact with social media can help shift these habits into more positive & helpful behaviours.
Led by content producer for The Indigo Project & psych researcher, Ash King, you’ll gain insight into how social media presses our buttons and learn how to integrate therapeutic principles in order to bring your online identity in line with your true, authentic self.
What you will learn:
- Why social media consumes our time & makes us feel crappy
- Awareness around why we share what we do and how that helps/hinders us
- The importance of developing a strong, embodied self outside the digital space
- How to assess your current social media habits
- Mindfulness activities and how to breathe through reactivity
- How to bring your online self in line with your values & priorities
Ash King is a psychology researcher and content creator for the progressive Sydney psychology practice, The Indigo Project. She is dedicated to helping people live their best lives with creativity, passion and purpose. She has worked across a range of creative fields, including film & television, live music, visual arts and commercial radio, as well as coaching and mentoring in the health & fitness industry. She believes that learning to manage the mind can be a fun and inquisitive process. Through humour, wisdom and insight, she helps individuals & organisations develop practical skills to go deep, get wise, and be happy.
ADHOC has an auto-ethnographic practice exploring ways the desire to mediate selfhood within a(ny) public context challenges the notion of a Whole Self. Employing self-critical gallows humour within a process that is often obfuscating and materially destructive, the work embodies a frustration with dissociative gaps between experience and expression.
The shame of having a chronic mental illness, and fear of stigma surrounding it often means that those suffering don’t discuss it. Whilst recovery from more digestible forms of mental illnesses is rightfully celebrated – the life of those who do not recover, often disheartening and difficult, remains a mystery. 08/19 Diary will be written over the month of August 2019 as an honest, personal record of the monotonous, persistent presence of severe mental illness and how it manifests daily.