by Magali Kelly Frea Scholtis, MSc Creative Arts and Mental Health
Mad Hearts 2021 is in planning now so please follow us on Twitter to find out when booking opens.
On Friday 19 June 2020, the MSc Creative Arts and Mental Health organised the Second Edition of the Mad Hearts Conference, with the theme ‘Solitude and the Encounter’.
This one-day webinar included a conversation with Professor Femi Oyebode, a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Birmingham, about the inner self and the function of imagination, drawing insights from Fernando Pessoa’s ‘The Book of Disquiet’. This was followed by Laura E. Fischer, an artist, mental health activist, and survivor-researcher who specialises in trauma. She spoke of reclaiming authorship of the trauma narrative through creative expression and she discussed how healing through art depends on three components: survivor leadership, embodiment and creativity.
The final speaker was John Richardson, a filmmaker (see Simon Says: Psychosis) and podcast presenter (Coffee and Psychosis), who sheds light on the mental health system through his documentary work. He spoke of his encounters with the mental health system, what was helpful and unhelpful to his recovery, and how he strives to be true to his values and remain authentic despite the pressure to conform to corporate views both in mental health and in film-making.
After the talks, three artists were nominated to discuss their creative work, which were submitted to the Creative Enquiry stream of the conference, together with a reflection on the theme ‘Solitude and the Encounter’. The painting ‘Shades of Solitude’ by Grace Catchpole, uses colour to capture the nuances of the experience of loneliness, from a peaceful place to rest to a darker experience of grief. The short film ‘Sound’ by Lorna V. represents the funny side of a missed online encounter, that between a client and her therapist, when the client can’t be heard because of a technological glitch and ends up talking to herself. Finally, the short animation ‘Plastic Bag’ by Harris Nageswaran reveals the power of a plastic bag to carry goods but especially love and care to those isolated in hospitals during the lockdown. The artwork ‘Isolation, a familiar issue disguised differently’, by Muhammad Umer, was chosen as the image for Mad Hearts 2020 for its portrayal of a person seen and not seen by the viewers, through the partly deceptive reflection of a mirror. You can view all submissions on the following website: https://sites.google.com/view/mad-hearts-2020/home.
The Mad Hearts Conference ended with a group discussion that included both participants and speakers. During these conversations, we heard from people from all different backgrounds, such as specialists in mental health, users of mental health services, medical students and students of the MSc Creative Arts and Mental Health. Together we delved into contemporary encounters concerning the arts and mental health, uniting clinical, artistic and research perspectives.
During said discussions, we reflected on the contribution of the arts to mental health practice, the agency in one’s own healing, equality in mental health services and the power of isolation. These conversations are important to encourage re-interpretations of contemporary mental health science and practice. It is thus crucial that we continue these discussions!