Artist: Amira Mahamud Year: 2015 Medium: Zine, featuring poetry and photography Artist Statement: This zine is titled “reassurance seems to be late”, to reflect the history of psychiatric intuitionalism. Psychiatry as a knowledge system sees mental health as an issue of strictly science. In addition, it operates under the medical model where mental health is individualized and accountability is rarely placed on lack of resources in society. Reassurance to me means validation of ones struggle. For example, when anxiety is not validated there is only room to feel guilty or irresponsible. This idea can relate to the significance of experiential knowledge in Mad peoples history. Experiential knowledge comes sharing ones personal experience and reflecting on it (Beresford and Boxall, 2014, 71). By legitimating experiential knowledge it reduces the power of psychiatric knowledge (71). With this zine, I am hoping to contribute to interrupting dominant knowledge systems with personal narrative. Irit Shimrat’s book Call Me Crazy: Stories from the Mad Movement was the primary inspiration for this piece, specifically, the creative ways in which she shared her story. This book helped me revisit connections to mental health in a new way.
Artist: Meaghan Stringer Year: 2015 Medium: Podcast Artist Statement: If we understood our mind as the most familiar yet complicated part of us, maybe we would do more thinking? “Hmm” (Health, Media, Madness and the Movement) is a podcast created to challenge the ideology of mental illness through an activist engagement in knowledge production. This episode looks at the trope and the truth behind the association of creativity and madness. Speaking with the public and asking three professionals (Jenna Reid, instructor of DST 500, Jeremiah Bach, Mad Activist, and Eliza Chandler, Artistic Director of Tangled Art + Disability) how art can make a difference.
Artist: Naomi Kates Year: 2015 Medium: Clay Mask Artist Statement: Using mask work, this piece explores naming and self-labelling as contrasting sites of silencing and empowerment. In it, I work with these contrasting themes; between authoritative forms of naming which silence, and empowering forms of self-labelling – how we know and name our own experience. Authoritative naming splits off the experience from the person, as institutional staff people fail to look at the person; instead they read the person’s “tag” (Reville, 1981). Masks can be representative of a part of the self in concrete form. Universally and historically masks hold a magical place, a place of transformation in rites and traditions; a feeling that is frozen in time that is either a springboard for further examination or the transformative moment itself. This mask I’ve produced is about finding creative ways to break down the authoritative voices that speak for us and and locate alternative processes and new means for reflective dialogue.
Artist: Ana Barahona Year: 2015 Medium: Video Artist Statement: The song featured in this video is “Lift me up” by Nico and Vinz. For this performance, the style of dance used is hip hop. Hip hop is not one generally used to tell a story since it is more “tricks” oriented, unlike other styles such as contemporary or lyrical dance. Therefore this performance relied heavily on imagery and props to help tell the story. The routine alternates between slow and fast movements, representing an insecure life, in which one hesitates often, not sure whether what they are doing is right or wrong. The movements also represent an unstable environment that sends you up and down, side to side, never being able to stay in one place. The mask represents an individual who is seen as “different”, and has various negative labels representing those applied to people with mental health histories. Prior to filming, I went and asked friends and family to say words that came to mind when they think of mental health; sadly the words written on the mask were what they said. The dance reflects the struggle of an individual, and their wanting to belong and be accepted. As seen in the video I am alone in various locations, in a forest, alley, and even in the most crowded areas, I was still standing alone while people just walked by. The lyric “I’m just like you” is what influenced the addition of all these individuals, it was an effort to portray that all humans are humans, with individuals possessing unique qualities and yet at the same time bearing so many similarities. Yet amongst all these people there is someone wearing this mask. The routine and video project is promoting the idea of acceptance and having a “seat at the table”; allowing people who have been labelled to have a say in their treatment, and at the same time treating each other equally. Mad people are still people after all, and just like anyone else they have rights.
Artist: Michael Friedman Year: 2015 Medium: Audio Artist Statement: Society’s dominant discourse surrounding people who identify as mad or as living with a mental illness influences how issues of sanism are taken up. This poem calls for an understanding of the history of sanism, and for action against the sanism that our society currently promotes.
Artist: Samantha Franco Year: 2016 Medium: Video Artist Statement: Irit Shimrat is a successful writer, psychiatric survivor advocate, speaker and activist. She describes herself as an escaped lunatic, one who has survived various psychiatric diagnoses, hospitalizations and a large number of forced psychiatric treatments. Shimrat is the author of the book “Call Me Crazy: Stories from the Mad Movement”, which is part self-help guide, part history of the “mad movement”, and part personal journey. Irit Shimrat is a motivating and faithful example of survival, achievement and resistance. Her story is passionate, and her drive is empowering. I was inspired to create a contemporary dance piece depicting the evolution of Irit’s journey into an outspoken activist. Shimrat teaches us that sometimes the best help comes from those who have been there. Help comes from a listening ear, rather than a syringe or being forcefully strapped to a bed.
Artist: Brittany Ryan Year: 2014 Medium: Digital Collage Artist Statement: As Canadian Euro-centric institutions begin to adapt to include traditional healing practices, hospitals, mental health centres, and prisons have collectively decided that it is best to do so within existing dominant institutions. These institutions have had a leading role in producing social “facts”, and institutional racism continues to exists, whether or not they incorporate culturally specific programming. Placing these specific cultural objects within Western institutions like CAMH and the South Detention Centre prompts the viewer to ask why. Furthermore, adding the text “What does not belong?” compels the viewer to focus on the unfamiliar: the ceremonial objects. These collages allow the viewer to question the hegemonic discourse of Western organizations and how we have become familiarized with these institutions as if they have always been the one and only way of approaching madness.
March 8, 2013 This exhibit, in celebration of International Women’s Day featured artwork by female students on the theme of women and madness. link to catalogue – [PDF] Sponsored by the School of Disability Studies in partnership with Ryerson University’s Division of Equity Diversity and Inclusion.
Artist: Marion Kirstie Valdez Year: 2012 Medium: Video Artist Statement: The melody and background are from the song “Jar of Hearts” by Christina Perri. I have replaced with original lyrics and made a video based on Amanda Todd’s youtube video.
October 18, 2011 This retrospective for Ryerson University’s Social Justice Week featured the work of 10 students. [link to Catalogue] Sponsored by the CAW—Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice & Democracy and the School of Disability Studies