Evaluation

Having always been interested in how the human mind works and how mental illnesses impact individuals, I wanted to concentrate my self directed project on the issue within society that people with mental illnesses are often ignored or ridiculed for their illnesses because they are not visible. I’d wanted to raise the sense of empathy within those who didn’t feel these illnesses, and although this intention didn’t change, the way in which I chose to do it changed from being a generalisation to a very personal and concentrated look into the experiences of just one individual.
       Mental illnesses are easily brushed under the carpet in society due to the fact that without experiencing them yourself, you don’t entirely understand exactly what these people are going through on a regular basis, the only way in which I felt I could induce genuine empathy in people was to create something which caused the person themselves to begin to feel as though they had this illness. A small, dark, closed off space was how I felt from the beginning this would be best achieved due to the sense of isolation and being trapped, it was meant to be representative of the mind of the ill person and how they couldn’t escape from it. Having the audio playing very loudly inside was the thoughts of the person, even though eventually this became an interview, but this appeared to work even better. I don’t think having the piece any other colour would have worked as this helped people to become completely lost in the experience.
                  Due to knowing in the beginning that I would be working with at least one person with a mental illness I wanted to get to know the illness in the best way possible, my background is knowing the psychological reasons for these like a need for control as a result of family life/education etc but I wanted to know more about the impacts in particular more about the impacts of stigma because when talking to someone about their illness I didn’t want to come across like I thought I knew everything about what they were going through just because I’d done a module on it at one point in the past, each persons experiences with these illnesses are different, I looked at the extent of stigma on sufferers in reports and was shocked to find that Time To Change had found that 69% of people had felt like they had been treated differently as a result of their illness. I did want to find out more about the illness itself, like the impacts it has and looked into shocking stories in the modelling industry about the extent the models go to in order to make themselves thin enough for the world they are in, but I also looked at Tracey Emins work due to being curious about how people react to installations which have quite a hard hitting message. All of these combined really developed my interest and passion about the project, whilst allowing me to produce an even stronger piece and relate to the interviewee in a beneficial manner to both the recording and them.
                  The most significant change was definitely the decision to concentrate on just one illness and one person, without this I think audiences would have become confused about what illness was which and would have been utterly overwhelmed with what was going on rather than becoming immersed in the experience as they seemed to. The interview being just one person allowed me to edit it together in an effective way and get some really hard hitting statements to flow in a really successful informative manner. Another being the decision to follow the tutors advise and move the artwork to the outside of the box, this pulled people towards the piece through sheer curiosity of the artwork and they were then drawn into wanting to go through the full process, which is something I saw happen a lot during the exhibition, I think it made the piece more approachable and better received. The piece was an installation, with audio playing through it and a blackout curtain which blocked out the goings on of the rest of the exhibition and allowed the person to become immersed. The intended audience was anyone who attended, as these were more likely to be young adults/adults who would understand the point of the project as opposed to young children, if the people were brave enough to go inside, they were the target audience.
                  I definitely feel like I achieved what I wanted to, the feedback alone is evidence of it being successful in allowing people to become lost in the experience, them beginning to develop more of an understanding of what someone with a mental illness goes through whilst also giving them information about one illness in particular, if any person walked away from today with a different view of how to react to/treat someone with a mental illness then this piece has been as successful as I had hoped it could be from the start. The piece didn’t just help those who listened to it, but it also helped my own understanding, it created more of a freedom of discussion and more trust between myself and the subject who is actually my best friend who has had an eating disorder for 5 years. It helped her by discussing something she has really only discussed with a few close friends and counsellors, it will help her recovery to know she is raising awareness and is brave enough to bare her most vulnerable side to an audience of people she has never met. The impact I hope will stay with people and the next time they hear a news story on the same matter will remember what they heard from the audio in the exhibition and remember their own experience in the box.

Bibliography

http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/files/samplechapter/madnesstomillnessschap.pdf – facts for Brief history of psychology, accessed May 2014
http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/sites/default/files/Stigma%20Shout.pdf – Facts on stigma, accessed May 2014
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everyone_I_Have_Ever_Slept_With_1963–1995 – Tracey Emin Everyone I have Ever Slept With research, accessed may 2014
http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Eating-disorders/Pages/Introduction.aspx – Mental Illness Facts, accessed May 2014
http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/health-consequences-eating-disorders – Impacts of Mental Illnesses Accessed May 2014
Thinspo Blog Posts- www.tumblr.com using the tag thinspo, accessed May 2014
http://www.cassone-art.com/art-news/2012/04/william-mckeown-a-room/ -Installation Research, accessed May 2014
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12091475 – Isabelle Caro Death, accessed May 2014
http://www.lazygirls.info/Isabelle_Caro/En_Isabelle_Caro_460x370_MU3irJQ -Caro Photo
http://www.sueddeutsche.de/leben/mager-model-isabelle-caro-gestorben-zu-tode-gehungert-1.1041134 – Caro Photo
http://sophmoet.wordpress.com/tag/isabelle-caro/ – Caro Photo
http://www.edizioni-psiconline.it/blog/2010/12/30/fine-dell’anno-fine-della-vita-la-tragedia-anoressica-di-isabelle-caro/ – Caro Photo

The exhibition

Preparation for the exhibition was great, it may have been slightly stressful at times but it showed just how well our group works together and the willingness to help one another wherever possible, people who had nothing to do if their own had been finished were asking others if they would like help so it was a good experience setting up the exhibition. 

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Although some people may have gotten a little bit too into it and begun some form of yoga display half way through

ImageAs the audience gathered, librarian Chris opened the event for us with a lovely speech and got everyone quite excited, although I did have to dash in past him quite quickly to turn on the audio for my piece. 

ImageImageImageImageIt was great to see people interacting with the piece so well, so many people approached me to say that they had really taken in the experience and got a lot out of it so the piece was effective, it was nice to see people excited about going into it and discussing the piece between themselves without me being involved. Conversation caused about an issue like mental illness is definitely a step in the right direction and something like this really makes something that not everybody experiences become far more personal and it was having some kind of effect on the audience. It was difficult to get a photo of too many people going into it or coming out without making them feel like they were being watched/looking a bit creepy or even obsessed with the piece. 

Feedback Book

I added a little book next to my piece, purely because I didn’t want to be constantly asking every single person who went into the box what they thought of it, I wanted people to be able to go in and out freely without feeling like they had to be interrogated as they left, but hoped that they would have something to say about what they had experienced. 

Despite only receiving a few pieces, it is more than I expected and really great feedback. 

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ImageImageImageThe feedback clearly shows some form of success, managing to get people to feel completely submerged in the experience despite being in the middle of an incredibly busy exhibition is a great feeling and good to know that some people intend to keep what they heard during the piece in mind when they come across things about mental illness in the future. For some people it did exactly what I wanted it to and made them feel the isolation, loneliness and trapped feelings people would get with these disorders, others felt it was quite peaceful, which is also quite positive, if it still managed to help them concentrate solely on what was being said then that still works well overall. 

Leaflets

Because my piece is quite complex and has some elements which need to be done in order to make the whole experience work completely, despite not being vital it is worth pointing out to people that these will enhance their time inside the box, I considered quite early on in the project creating leaflets which explain the reason, have the statement written by the interviewee and give some instructions to those who intend to go in. However this was very much on the back burner for a majority of the project and I didn’t want to attempt it if it meant taking time out of the genuinely vital elements and not making them completely right, having this with it would be great but not if it compromises quality elsewhere. 

I realised I did have time to do this and immediately set to work designing it just 2 nights before the exhibition. The piece didn’t have a title but it had always been referred to as the box, or to me, my box so it only seemed right to name it what it had been called all along. This formed the title for the leaflet. 
      When I began to think about the look of the leaflet and what I wanted it to represent, I realised it needed to tie in perfectly with the piece itself and the closer in likeness it was to it to better as it would be a constant reminder to anyone who took one that they had been inside this. So because of the white chalk paint I had used for the illustration on the side of the piece I chose to have white text over a black background, and knew the background needed to have some kind of texture on it. 

ImageI chose a really simple typeface because I didn’t want it to confuse readers or distract them from what the piece says. It needed to be legible and it needed to be something which they could read easily as throughout they would either be relating it to what they had already experienced in the box and developing their understanding or considering it in external terms whether that counted towards their own lives or the lives of others in society. 

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So that when the audience went away they would still have a reminder of the person behind the interview and a voice to the struggles of people with mental illnesses I added the opening statement to the leaflet. The simple typeface allows the hard hitting words to really sink in to the persons mind without being over complicated or overshadowed by a fancy look. 

ImageThe instructions are important and although the arrangement of them may differ as the process goes on, they are vital to the piece overall, as without people being reminded to push back the curtain people may not go in because they think someone is inside. 

ImageI downloaded a free downloadable blackboard background and added it to the piece underneath the black background on the indesign file already, adjusting the opacity in order to get the texture to show through a good enough amount that it looks effective but doesn’t distract from the text too much. However this didn’t work and the piece kept printing plain black, so I edited the image in photoshop and made it even darker in order to be able to remove the black background from indesign. This worked perfectly and the piece was looking really strong. 

ImageDespite issues with printing and the printer toner removing some of the darkness of the image I did like the end result and people did take great notice of these, some even taking them home which I had been hoping for. 
 
ImageI had these on a plinth next to my piece alongside a feedback book. Unfortunately I missed the work book of the end of the leaflets which is incredibly frustrating but I received some feedback none the less, though more was verbal. 

The Mirror drawing’s text

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Despite using another persons neater handwriting, I was still not happy with how this looked. It didn’t give off the beautiful/horrible contrast I was looking for, it just looked like a junior school teachers handwriting on a black board, and pretty wonky as well. So I decided to redo this as it was the weakest element of my work. I painted back over the piece and allowed it to try whilst I figured out which way to do it. 
      My initial idea had been to do the writing repetitively, with the words continuously written and it almost looking like a sentence. It could have even worked as a written version of the interviewee’s statement but the idea was to have this as the thoughts the girl has when she looks in the mirror. So I decided the initial idea would be the best way forward and hoped that it would look okay, the only thing I wasn’t worried about was it being badly slanted, its something I can manage to do decently. 

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This communicates the idea far better, with people even commenting during the exhibition on how they were shocked what the words actually said when they read it, because it contrasted so well with the actual mirror drawing itself. Its definitely more appealing and much more effective than it had initially looked so I’m very glad I decided to make that change. It drew many many more people during the exhibition than I had been expecting. 

Eating Disorders in the Media

One of the most well known cases is that of Isabelle Caro, a french model who died at just 28 years old after suffering with anorexia nervosa for a number of years her case being one of the most high profile due to her involvement in the ‘no anorexia campaign’ in which she posed naked in order to show the true extent of what the disorder can do to the body. It is absolutely petrifying just how skeletal this woman looked, its like every single bone in her body is protruding. 

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In the fashion industry there is no shortage of stories of the models dying as a result of an eating disorder, many of which felt pressure from the industry itself to lose as much weight as possible in the shortest time possible, despite some regulations being in place the women still feel it is an opportunity to further their careers. When a 5″10 individual weighs just about 8/9st there is something seriously wrong and its an issue which needs targeting more, because it is not just impacting these females, killing them, it is devastating their families and implanting into the minds of other young women that they need to be the same/look the same in order to be successful and they get into a state of mind in which they almost ignore the deaths of the models because what is most important is becoming a well known model. 

 

In another story 2 sisters died within just months of each other, the oldest just after being on a catwalk and on her way to her dressing room collapsed and died, the other collapsed and died at the home of her grandmother, both were malnourished and had alarmingly low BMI’s. 

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I think the most shocking thing about this story is the statement from her agent ‘it is obvious the sisters deaths must be due to a genetic problem’ its almost as if they are completely ignoring the impact the things they say to these kinds of girls will have on their lives and the only way they personally can deal with it is to go completely into denial. One of the girls had been living on diet coke and lettuce for 3 months so how this could be blamed on ‘genetics’ is incredible and a clear highlight as to the problems within this industry. There are tales of cheese cubes diets where people jus eat a piece of cheese when they begin to get hunger, tales of people not eating for weeks, having to leave jobs because they no longer have the energy to move out of bed. 

William McKeown ‘A Room’

This is the most similar installation to my own that I had found so far and although this piece is targeting our own relationship with nature, and mine is with our relationship to mental illnesses, I do hope that my piece is as strong and receives the same kind of praise as this has, if the small room can impact on the way people interact with what I have put in front of them then this is the sign of a successful project. Even from the outside this piece resembles my own which is quite interesting, especially considering it was the idea of the woodwork tutor to add timber to the outside of the box, seeing that this technique has been used by others means that this is most likely one of the best and safest ways to have constructed it.