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Another Kind of Balance

C L A I R E M A L C O L M G A R Y D I A N N A B A R C L A Y T H O M S O N B U R D E N M A N S O N

Front cover: Dianna, Malcolm and Claire during installation.

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Another Kind of Balance


C L A I R E M A L C O L M G A R Y D I A N N A B A R C L A Y T H O M S O N B U R D E N M A N S O N

An exhibition realised in collaboration with The University of Edinburghs Talbot Rice Gallery

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Another Kind of Balance

Ever / Present / Past


The history of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (REH) spans 200 years, covering many life times and diverse experiences of the psychiatric system. These experiences, some sad, some heartening, some funny and some down right odd, give a different insight into the everyday life of this hospital and the ways in which it has changed over the years. When Artlink was set the task of capturing the Hospitals history, it decided to approach the whole project in the same way it runs its workshops. First start with the individual; learn from their experience; then see where it takes you. The artists involved in the programme became researchers, meeting with individuals, slowly unearthing stories, collating these experiences, offering new perspectives, turning their research into artworks. The result is EVER / PRESENT / PAST, a year-long programme curated and co-ordinated by Artlink, which exposes the history of the REH through events, talks and exhibitions. The year culminates in the exhibition at the Talbot Rice Gallery. In Another Kind of Balance, Claire Barclays approach was to explore the patients experience. Firstly by undertaking research at the Lothian Health Services Archive which gave a historical insight into what it was like to be a patient in the hospital over the past two centuries. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, she collaborated with 3 people who have previously been patients at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, to determine the form of the nal installation.

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All four embarked on a journey of exploration, nding ways of working together, looking for a common language which would speak of the patients experience. A journey which as Manson states, Is not about difference, labels or hierarchies but about nding equality within a shared experience. Alison Stirling and Trevor Cromie Co-curators EVER / PRESENT / PAST

Thanks to: Artlink Director, Jan-Bert van den Berg, for his invaluable support and guidance throughout the project.

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A Shared Language
Claire Barclay is describing a padded room designed by Thomas Clouston, the Royal Edinburghs eminent Victorian superintendent The room was lined with layers of felt, but was to have leather stretched over it, which would be stenciled and varnished so that it would look unthreatening and domestic, like an old library, he said. It is an example of the kind of imaginative solution that seemed a hallmark of Cloustons time at what was then the Royal Edinburgh Asylum, and the importance he placed on the physical environment of care. It is also striking that in devising the room, Clouston was visualising the world from a patients viewpoint. We are talking some weeks before the exhibition Another Kind of Balance opens; an installation which will be a complex interplay of elements made by Barclay with work created at the Royal Edinburgh by Gary Burden and Malcolm Thomson, and informed by the memories of former patient Dianna Manson. It draws on the physical environment of the contemporary hospital and also on its rich history.

Gary and Claire at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital

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Hopefully it will be difcult to tell which parts I have made and which have been made by Gary or Malcolm, says Barclay. Original
Scran

sculptural forms made by Burden and painterly images by Thomson are incorporated within the larger installation, together with objects
Ward in Jordanburn Nerve Hospital

that Barclay has made in response to their designs. The whole is a culmination of Barclay opening her work to the inuence of these three others as embodied in their artwork and, in Mansons case, her recollections of the physical environment of Craig House, the coldness of the metal bedframes, the warmth of wood panelling. As Barclay explains, Its about trying to understand a context through peoples individual experience. I hope this is the right way to approach this project. Large cage-like structures sit on diminutive wheels and act as a support for cloth bags and pillow forms made from striking printed fabric and compelling tightly bound objects made from a range of commonplace materials. Other wooden structures incorporate parts held under pressure, which relate tangentially to certain interior elements of Craig House.

Malcolm at the Glasshouses

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The metal structures suggest trolleys the mundane but vital circulation system of the spread-out hospital delivering and collecting food and drugs, laundry, refuse. Barclay describes the work as lo-tech and contemporary in contrast to the Georgian nery of the surrounding gallery space. The contrasting materials and forms set up a kind of tension and anxiety, but as Barclay acknowledges, I dont think it would be appropriate to make something purely celebratory. The experience of mental illness and being in hospital is obviously not a happy one, although there can be moments of joy. There has to be a kind of darkness in this work, alongside a sense of hope expressed within forms of creativity and communication. And Barclays experience of working one-to-one with her collaborators has been a positive one. She has worked as an artist with Artlink at the hospital for two years, so has experience of working with many different people, mostly in workshop settings. For this project, however, she worked intensively with two individuals who had a particular interest in painting and making. She describes how when Gary Burden moved from drawing to making sculptural forms, the work immediately became abstract and daring. Its been really exciting to observe someone working so closely that you actually know what they are going to do next, and that they are totally happy with you being involved with their process of making. What seems so important is to feel that you are on some kind of equal level with the person that youre working with, that you are listening to each other through a specic artistic approach, and actually nding a new language by which to communicate.

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Malcolm Thomson also works with abstract imagery, his passion for paint and colour resulting in compositions of bright hand-painted forms which attempt a geometrical perfection, or layered, gestural nger paintings, intense and concentrated. Barclay sees the engagement of artists with patients in the hospital as providing a kind of alternative care to that received from health professionals. It isnt about nurturing someone medically, but is about inspiring them, catching their curiosity with an
Gary working at The Royal Edinburgh Hospital

unconventional approach, provoking something that speaks to the individual. This kind of activity can be transformative and deeply satisfying for participants, but is often not appreciated as such by a mental health service currently focused on work-related rather than creative opportunities. In preparation for this exhibition, Barclay spent time going through parts of the massive archive material at Lothian Health Services Archive, including patients letters and drawings, such as the extraordinary work of Andrew Kennedy, and accounts of earlier regimes at the hospital. She found that, despite received notions of the grimness of Victorian asylums, there were aspects of liberality and playfulness. The archives provide accounts of patients staying out on the curling rink until 3am, or of grand picnics to the nearby hills that ended with the patients carrying the doctors around at shoulder height.

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There was a notable emphasis on activity and occupation for patients, right up until the mid-20th century. To some extent, such activities became formalised through the new specialism of Occupational Therapy, and the increasing use of drug therapies meant less emphasis on sport and physical activity as a way of calming excitation. Patients used to be involved with various aspects of the hospitals running from working in the laundry to animal husbandry. However, complaints arose in local newspapers in the 1950s that patients were being exploited, after some were seen pulling a plough.

REH basket weaving, occupational therapy in the 1950s

Scran

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This issue of exploitation has been a vexed question ever since. For many, working with animals and in the kitchens or carpentry workshops would be both satisfying and useful. However, occupations such as stufng envelopes or putting strings on labels were indeed frustrating and boring for many. This all points to the importance of responding to the particular needs and talents of the individual, to provide activity tailored to that person. Barclay does not differentiate between the kind of work made by often untutored individuals in this setting and the practices of professional artists. I see it as a shared language, because contemporary artists naturally do the same kind of formal things within their work, like binding materials together, or using overwriting, layering, fragmenting things, repetition all these modes of expression that are familiar to us. Working with Gary especially made me feel condent that were all tapping into something innately human.
Going Sane, Adam Phillips, Hamish Hamilton, 2005
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In his book, Going Sane psychoanalyst Adam Phillips explores ideas of the normality of different mental states, and cites the view of some inuential theorists that it is Good to be sane as a mother, but not good to be sane as an artist.1 Sidestepping the clichs of artistic derangement, Barclay notes a more prosaic connection between the circumstances of artistic production and of mental illness, and that is vulnerability. Mental illness is an unmasking, an unveiling. You are exposed by it. Artists are also exposed, through the making and presentation of their work.

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Throughout the making and presentation of this particular work, the idea of care, and what constitutes care, has been a central concern. Barclay describes inspiring interactions she has witnessed between nurses and patients or how she has been affected by the way patients look out for each other, despite their difcult individual circumstances. In the realisation of this installation we can understand care as something not only given by one person to another, but of something that can be jointly embarked upon through a shared language of making.

Dianna Manson

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Drawing by Dianna Manson

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Special thanks to:


Staff and patients of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital Meadows Ward Orchard Clinic Ward 16 North Wing Commiston Ward Eden Ward Artlink Glasshouses workshop participants Anne Elliot Laura Spring James McLardy Bar Knight Ltd Centre for Advanced Textiles, Glasgow School of Art Lothian Health Services Archive staff University of Edinburghs Talbot Rice Gallery Install Team

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Credits
Catalogue published by Artlink in an edition of 1,000, November 2013. Catalogue published to accompany the following exhibition. Another Kind of Balance, Claire Barclay, Malcolm Thomson, Gary Burden, Dianna Manson, University of Edinburghs Talbot Rice Gallery. 16th November 2013 to 15th February 2014. Copyright 2013 the artist, authors and publisher. The Ever / Present / Past project has been co-curated by Trevor Cromie and Artlinks Projects Director Alison Stirling, the exhibition has been realised in collaboration with the Talbot Rice Gallery. Design by Nicky Regan, Submarine Design. Essay by Nicola White. Edited by Alison Stirling and Trevor Cromie. Ever/Present/Past logo designed by Vic MacRae. Page 7 & 10 images: Scran. Install photo pages 16 to 24 by Ruth Clark. All other photos Anne Elliot, Trevor Cromie and Claire Barclay. Artlink promotes diversity, drawing on lived experiences to inform creative responses which are both relevant and enduring.

Artlink Edinburgh and the Lothians 13a Spittal Street Edinburgh EH3 9DY Tel: 0131 229 3555 Website: www.artlinkedinburgh.co.uk Blog: www.artlinkeverpresentpast.wordpress.com Artlink is a company registered in Scotland No. 87845 with charitable status. Scottish Charity No. SC006845.