HOW ARE YOU DOING TODAY? ARE YOU STRUGGLING WITH ANXIETY BUT DON’T KNOW HOW TO TALK TO FRIENDS ABOUT IT? Do you find it hard to explain just how hard it is to get dressed never mind leave the house? I want to build an exhibition experience to change that.
One in six people will experience poor mental health in their lifetime. That’s just over 16%. If you think of the people you know – family, friends, work colleagues, fellow commuters, Facebook pals – for every 100 you know, 16 will experience anxiety or depression.
Would you know?
Could you tell?
More importantly, what would you do if someone did tell you they were struggling with their mental health? Would you know how that might feel? Would you know what to say?
Time to Talk
There is still a taboo around talking about our mental health. I know when I was first diagnosed, almost 20 years ago, I was frightened of telling someone how I felt because I thought I’d failed. How could I explain the constant battle in my head to my friends and loved ones? The fact is that I couldn’t. Not really. My family and friends were brilliant. Some had their own experiences, their own private battles and knew how exhausting it was. However, there were plenty of people who hadn’t experienced anxiety or depression and they didn’t know what to do because they had no idea how it felt to be in my head.
Whilst I was studying my MA in Curating Contemporary Design, I was having a conversation with a friend about mental health things and we talked about how amazing it would be to build an exhibition that simulates what it feels like to walk around in an anxious brain. This idea became my dissertation and as I researched it and found groups of people who advised me, I knew I was on to something. This could help bridge that gap between experience and understanding and could be a place where real, safe conversations around mental health could happen.
Image of The Maze from research.
The exhibition I plan to make is in 2 parts. The first is a maze. The Maze will use tricks including mirrors, lines on floors to disrupt footsteps and audio to give visitors an idea of what it feels like to be in the mind of someone with anxiety. The Maze then opens out into a garden than is entirely handcrafted from textiles. The Garden represents someone getting treatment and starting to feel better. The two spaces are such contrasts to each other. I use the idea of The Maze to represent anxiety because of the twists and turns you take when you’re in one. They are filled with blind paths and dead ends. You think you will never get out. That’s what anxiety and depression can feel like. The Garden is there as a reminder that there is hope. During my research, I discovered gardening is used in treating people with poor mental health. Taking care of a plant can really help people reconnect with a sense of caring for something in a very low stakes way. My Garden will be crocheted, knitted, felted, woven. All made of soft, comforting yarns tapping into some of our earliest memories of being wrapped in a blanket and feeling safe.
The project, I’m asking you to help me fund is the research and development of The Maze. To make it the very best and safe representation of anxiety I can.
I have a MA (Hons) Curating Contemporary Design from Kingston School of Art (part of Kingston University London). During that time, we worked on several projects. During London Design Festival, I project managed an exhibition between our university, Gallery FUMI and The Design Museum around design classics. The exhibition was called Reconsidering Canon and was part of the Design Museum’s exhibition program during London Design Festival 2018.
Since COVID, I have been volunteering at Wycombe Museum. Not only was I invited to select items for a small exhibition celebrating our 90th Birthday, I have an excellent group of colleagues with a wide range of experience and who can advise me on projects like this.
Image of The Maze from research.
Who am I working with?
I’ve been able to attract great partners to work on this project. These include –
I will also be using video footage from our Maze tests to attract Mental Health charities and other investors.
Image from research
The problem is, how to fund it?
I’m a freelance curator/artist so I work independently of a museum or gallery. Since this is an issue that affects society, I thought I’d ask society to help. One of the reasons for using Crowdfunding, is to attract other investment. There are other sources of funding, but these often want applicants to demonstrate they aren’t the only supporters. Basically, donating to this project, enables me to access other funding.
Would you be willing to help me work with architects to build the best exhibition I can? An exhibition that could travel around the country - maybe even the world – and give people an idea of how tiring and frightening it is to live within an anxious mind. An exhibition that aims to open conversations around mental health. An exhibition that hopes to add a bit more understanding to the world and make it a little bit easier for people who are really struggling.
What will your generosity help me do?
In the first instance, I will be working with a firm of architects called CAVE. They are based in Kingston and advised me when I was writing my dissertation. They will be testing ways of building the exhibition. This will involve model making and testing a small, life sized section with volunteers. We will also be recording “walkthroughs” of The Maze and these will be used to attract investors and secure exhibition venues. Once the testing has been completed, The Maze will be made for real and installed as an exhibition that can be visited by members of the public. The project I want to fund is the testing phase. If I reach my goal, any additional funding will then be put into maze fabrication and exhibition costs. Because I am an independent curator/artist, I don’t have the support of a big institution to fall back on. I need your help.
Image of potential object for The Garden
The Ultimate Exhibition
This project will enable me to realise my dream. An exhibition about mental health that immerses the visitor in the brain of someone with anxiety. I believe that is the way to open up these conversations. But I want there to be meaningful understanding. Not just a way for visitors to spend an hour or so before moving on. The final exhibition will have numbers for local support – groups, counsellors and charities that can support people with anxiety and their families. There will be discussions about lived experience and what to do if you’re worried about someone. And it won’t just be in London. I want this exhibition to travel. Not only to cities but to schools, social groups and anyone who wants to use it, wherever they are. Because anxiety and depression is not limited to a single location. It hides in corners everywhere. Different areas of the country will face different issues around infrastructure and support. Poor mental health does not discriminate against age, gender, sexual preference, or wealth and nor will this exhibition. Poor mental health is everywhere and so will The Maze and The Garden.
Think of 16 of your closest friends or family and imagine that they are struggling with their mental health. Maybe you don’t have to imagine. Would you like to have a better idea of what it feels like to be in an anxious brain? Do you wish other people had an idea of what the struggle really feels like? If you answered “yes”, then please consider donating to this project. Thank you.