Mike Stubbs and Vanessa Bartlett have curated the exhibition in partnership with Mersey Care and others and it brings in research, collaboration, arts and health.They are questioning why some of us are so unhappy and are we feeling supported or isolated? Anxiety and economic status can make us miserable and insecure.
There are new commissions, artworks and community engagement as part of the show. A set of 8 abstract photos by Quintan Ana Wikswo in Gallery 1 are of the Western State Hospital, an asylum in the US. Unbelievably between 1920-70's people were in there because they were mixed race or unmarried and pregnant. There's an ancient ECT (electro convulsive therapy) machine which sent high voltage electric currents to the brain for depression. The treatment can result in brain damage and memory loss.
Artist and activist The Vacuum Cleaner www.thevacuumcleaner.co.uk with help from Hannah Hull has designed a Mad Love Designer Asylum in the foyer. It was originally based on avoiding going back into a psychiatric hospital and wanting to get through the illness at home instead. If you could design your own mental asylum what would it look like? With the help of workshops, psychiatric nurses and architects a version is in the space to 'go mad in'!. It consists of lush colours throughout, an ability to control the weather and smells. There's a luxe 'padded cell' you can scream in and bash the pillows and a gorgeous compact seating area to get cosy in with others or alone. This is certainly very empowering.
Labrynth Psychotica Do It Yourself Psychosis Kit www.labrynthpsychotica.org is a project by Nederland's artist Jennifer Kanary. I was lucky enough to try it out as it was only at FACT for one day. It's a backpack computer you wear with headphones and digital eye glasses. By holding a controller you can also increase the intensity of the experience. It is basically using digital technology to simulate a psychosis. The equipment is currently being used in the medical world to help psychiatrists understand what their patients may be undergoing. Jennifer and her husband Nicholas then gave me instructions like pour a glass of water. It was difficult as I was overloaded with stimuli and seeing 'visions' and hearing 'hallucinations'. I think I missed and poured water from the jug onto the table instead!. It's also called digital LSD but this is not really recreational. A very clever and unusual piece of work.
The Australian artist George Khut has created The Heart Library in Gallery 1 to connect us with our bodies. You lay in a relaxing space on a 'bed' and attach a clip to your earlobe which monitors your heartbeat so you can feel and hear it. Above you is a multicoloured screen which changes according to the speed of your heart rate. It is a beautiful piece which helps to put you back in your body and is mainly used to help young people relax. You are encouraged to colour in a human figure with what you saw and hang it up to share your experience with others.
The rest of the gallery is filled with screens, films, headphones, chairs, text and more to interact with. There are also phone apps like 'In Hand' designed by Freehand at FACT for young people to monitor their mental health.
Gallery 2 upstairs has a sit down corner with couches in one corner and there is a large material labrynth to walk through.This is also by Jennifer Kanary Nikolov(a) and is called Labrynth Psychotica 2013. It's important you are silent on your journey through the labrynth. It is very claustrophobic and intense walking the maze but not difficult to get to the middle for a ...you'll have to walk it yourself to see!
Check the FACT website for events including films and workshops throughout the exhibition including 'Wellbeing Wednesdays' www.fact.co.uk/grouptherapy
Group Therapy:Mental Distress In a Digital Age
FACT Until 17 May
By Tracey Dunn