Chance to hear about artists' creative use of mental health records

Would you like to learn more about using archives as part of your creative practice? If so, you may be interested in a free workshop to be held at the National Archives on Tuesday 4 April 2017. Following this, there'll be a Q & A session with artists who've recently produced work in response to the mental health records held there as part of the In Our Minds project run in collaboration with the University of the Creative Arts. There'll also be an opportunity to view the touring exhibition developed in partnership with the National Archives.

Display panel from the In Our Minds touring exhibition developed in partnership with the National Archives, 2016.

Display panel from the In Our Minds touring exhibition developed in partnership with the National Archives, 2016.

Susan Merrick expressed an interest in using a language that wasn't readily understood - like Morse code or semaphore - to communicate what she'd learnt from the mental health records in the National Archives. Was she expressing the idea that those suffering with psychological problems often face difficulties in being understood? Why not take a look at her video and see what you think?

Statement in Semaphore, video by Susan Merrick, 2016.

Statement in Semaphore, video by Susan Merrick, 2016.

Craig Jordan-Baker chose to focus on the reports on suffragettes being held at Holloway and the links that were often made in them between campaigning for votes for women and hysteria or weak-mindedness. He produced an audio piece using extracts from documents held by the National Archives and UCA Archives that highlighted conflicts between the different views of those involved as a starting point for inspiration. 

Audio piece Hysteria by Craig Jordan-Baker on exhibition at UCA, Farnham Campus (2017). 

Audio piece Hysteria by Craig Jordan-Baker on exhibition at UCA, Farnham Campus (2017). 

Diana Williams was moved by the personal stories of sufferers from mental health, but particularly struck by the unexpectedness of some of the items that she found - like the images of patients detained in mental hospitals dressed neatly in what appeared to be their Sunday best  to pose for photographs. In her artwork, she chooses to contrast this with the way in which they were described in official reports as 'lunatic', 'fallen woman' or 'flighty woman'. 

Keepsakes, glasswork by Diana Williams, 2016. 

Keepsakes, glasswork by Diana Williams, 2016. 

Sparrow Davies chose to respond in a deliberately naive way, believing that this would help to encourage a child-like empathy for the patients whose personal stories were contained within official documents. Her colourful artwork recalls a game of Jenga in which the pieces are potentially unstable, with each of the individual pieces being inscribed with words that might precipitate mental distress. 

Crumbling…falling…down, sculpture by Sparrow Davies, 2016

Crumbling…falling…down, sculpture by Sparrow Davies, 2016

How would you respond to some of the documents described in the National Archives blog post?