344 Swanston Street
Tuesday to Friday: 11am – 5pm
Saturday: 12.30pm – 5pm
“It is in the space between inner and outer world, which is also the space between people–the transitional space–that intimate relationships and creativity occur.” DW Winnicott
This grouping of three works examines lived experiences in the spaces between inner and outer worlds – the often imperceptible zone, navigated by feeling and sensation, in which we experience our crushing annihilations and our transformations.
Spaces between people activates an intimate environment in which the external conditions that perpetuate trauma are both illuminated and momentarily displaced as new possibilities for engagement are realised.
In ‘We’re just gonna call it all BPD’, six characters reflect on the early attachments or family relationships that shaped their emotional lives, as well on living with diagnosis and stigma. In A Safer Place? the inner experience of an often inhospitable outer world is revealed in accounts of mental health admissions to an Emergency Department. In Big Grief, Big Horror, a grief of a magnitude too big to place in the world is shared.
In each, we hear testimony of lived experience. The works are designed to facilitate a close relationship to this experience; in other words, to create the conditions for empathy. But as the psychotherapist Carl Rogers observed, the often insurmountable barrier to interpersonal communication is our natural tendency to judge, to evaluate, and to approve (or disapprove) the statements of others. Rarely do we engage in active listening, attuning to the internal world of another with ‘unconditional positive regard’.
We invite people to visit the gallery in this spirit. Please think carefully about whether the time is right for you to engage. The works include accounts of distress – of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and despair. If for any reason you aren’t in the right frame of mind to listen to these, you may decide not to visit. If you do choose to spend time with these works with an open mind, you may well have a deep and rewarding experience. We encourage you share your thoughts and feelings.
‘We’re just gonna call it all BPD’
Three-channel video installation
A fEEL production, in association with RMIT and UTS
An immersive video installation, created from verbatim scripts, authored by people with lived experience of a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).
“BPD” is one of the most stigmatised of all mental health diagnoses – both in the public imagination and within the health sector itself. As such, it has been criticised as a “highly contentious and damaging label” (1). Movements campaigning for its abolition point to the high correlation between childhood abuse or neglect and “BPD”, arguing that by labelling someone with a “personality disorder” we focus on what is wrong with the person—the flaws in their personality–rather than on what happened to them. The alternative would be to approach the internal experience of “BPD” as an understandable response to trauma.
The characters in this piece share their experiences of this label, describing histories of trauma and illuminating the impact of relationships with caregivers, friends, family and service-providers. Their stories ‘from the inside’, help us to understand experiences such as the urge to self-harm or the feeling of intense emotion, making sense of behaviours that are often simply regarded as symptoms of ‘disorder’. They also reveal the various way in which the longer term impacts of trauma can be supported and effectively managed, highlighting above all the importance of human connection.
These moving and inspiring stories of painful experiences are shared in the spirit of openness and compassionate listening. The installation intentionally evokes the space of an imagined group encounter where people commit to holding a space for feelings and for respectful listening without judgement.
‘We’re just gonna call it all BPD’ builds on research from an Australian Research Council [ARC] Linkage project led by Renata Kokanović, exploring narratives of people who have received a diagnosis of BPD (2).
Participants in this creative project developed verbatim scripts in collaboration with fEEL, ARC Laureate lab at UNSW. The video was created in partnership with UTS (Media Arts).
Script authors: Jess Dee, Linnie M, Kaz, Kate, Anon., Anon.
Director and Producer: Jill Bennett
Cinematography and video post-production: Greg Ferris
Production Manager: Gail Kenning
Production Designer: Volker Kuchelmeister
Script editors: Jill Bennett, Gail Kenning, Emma Seal and authors
Actors: Audley Anderson, Renee Lim, Angela Johnston, Angeline Penrith, Deborah Pollard, Elaine Paton.
Research team: Renata Kokanović (lead), Emma Seal, Tamara Borovica (Critical mental health research group, Social& Global Studies Centre, RMIT); Jill Bennett (fEEL, UNSW); Natasha Swingler, Karolina Krysinska, Jess Dee, Linnie M, and other anonymous participants.
(1) Warrender, D, Bain, H, Murray, I, Kennedy, C. Perspectives of crisis intervention for people diagnosed with “borderline personality disorder”: An integrative review. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2021; 28: 208– 236. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpm.12637
A Safer Place?
Stories from the Emergency Department
Virtual Reality for Quest2
A fEEL production in collaboration with RMIT
Eight experts with lived experience guide us through a virtual reality experience of a hospital Emergency Department [ED]. They describe the scenarios of mental distress that led to their admissions, along with their experiences of waiting rooms, ED beds, and hospital procedures—and their insights into what can be done to address the shortcomings of emergency care.
This creative project builds on underpinning research, led by Renata Kokanović and her team, working with 17 people accessing the ED for mental health care. The aim of the initial project was to enable staff to understand ED processes from the perspective of those with lived experience. The full stories can be accessed via the Health Talk Australia website: https://www.healthtalkaustralia.org/mental-health-care-in-the-emergency-department/overview/
Please be aware that whilst the piece does not depict people in distress, the audio includes frank discussion of experiences of distress, including of suicidal feelings and psychosis.
Script authors/narrators: Peter Rolfe, Elinor, Sue Walker, Kate, Richard Pilkington,
Anon., Anon., Anon.
Immersive media design: Volker Kuchelmeister
Sound design: Alex Davies
Script editors: Gail Kenning, Jill Bennett, Volker Kuchelmeister
Production/design team: Volker Kuchelmeister, Jill Bennett, Gail Kenning, Alex Davies, Melissa Neidorf
Research team: Renata Kokanović, Nicholas Hill, Critical Mental health group, RMIT, Natasha Swingler, Peter Rolfe, Richard Pilkington, Sue Walker and other anonymous participants; Jill Bennett, fEEL, UNSW.
This work is additionally supported by R&I Capability Research Funding, RMIT University
Big Grief, Big Horror
Single channel video
A fEEL production for The Big Anxiety
Bec Moran talks plainly about what it has been like to experience and live beyond a family murder-suicide. Bec had a six-month-old baby when her father and brother died, so her story intertwines death and fresh life. She describes her experiences with existential horror, and how unprepared we are to deal with deeply unsettling blows to our existential frameworks, as well as to our understandings of what life and love look like. Bec talks about the way big grief and big horror can be received – or leaned away from – by friends, family, and the public, and how this can create unintentional isolation and silencing.
Videography: Rhys Jones
Presenter and creator: Bec Moran
Producer: Jill Bennett
Spaces between People is part of the exhibition Archives of Feeling at RMIT Galleries
fEEL is the Felt Experience & Empathy Lab at the Big Anxiety Research Centre, UNSW unsw.edu.au/barc