PS/Y‘s upcoming Hysteria programme is putting mental health in the spotlight. The multidisciplinary arts festival, that will take place across venues in London throughout 2017, is putting together a number of events dedicated to the research and exploration of psychological trauma and its effects on physical well-being.
Directed by artist and mental health campaigner Errol Francis and curator Mette Kjærgaard Præst, the programme is the latest in a trajectory of projects dedicated to mental health and arts, following the previous Anxiety 2014, Acting Out Nottingham 2015, and Anxious Xmas 2013 + 2012.
What role does health and illness play in contemporary society? How can interdisciplinary projects help interrogate contemporary ideas around the psyche? How can we break down the separated boundaries between fields of knowledge? The curatorial and public engagement organization is tapping into the growing need for cross-industry dialogue, with the intersection of arts and health sciences at its core.
Xa, whose work explores desire and identity, will bring together video, sound and storytelling in ‘Basic Instructions B4 Leaving’. The narrative, written by Taylor Le Melle, is a non-linear venture into a shifting cosmos. Visionist will present “a personal portrait of anxiety” that makes up the new material in his debut album Safe.
With a strong focus on interdisciplinary dialogue, the festival will continue across workshops, exhibitions, live performance, dance, music, film, panel discussions, as well as residencies and community engagement, and aims to combine “arts audiences, artists, scholars, scientists and students with interests across the arts, humanities and medical sciences.”
This year’s programme will focus on hysteria as it relates to conversion disorder, paying particular attention to “issues of gender, race and cultural identity.” Conversion disorder is defined as a type of blindness or paralysis that cannot be diagnosed medically.
Præst recently gave a talk at Camden Arts Centre (November 2016) to discuss some of the research behind the chosen focus of Hysteria, looking at its varied iterations through time; the wandering womb in ancient Egypt and Greece, Witches and “the glowing skin of Princess Diana” were among the many topics covered.
The project feels refreshing in its investment to not only pose new questions, but seek answers and solutions to the under-discussed and over-looked aspects of psychology as it relates to “post-traumatic stress disorder, psychogenic and psychosomatic disorders” and its effect on physicality. With an investment in opening up dialogue, the festival seems to sit somewhere between the need for further complexity within the Western model of medicine, and a desire for more coherence in our artistic conversations around mental health and healing.
Stay tuned for the upcoming four commissions between artists and biomedical partners that will explore the phenomenon and conceptualization of this topic.**