The Artist’s Perspective
In May 2017 ‘Mapping the Void’, a project which I had been developing for 18 months, got the green light from Headway Glasgow after securing the support of the management committee and staff.
‘Mapping the Void’ aims to articulate the hidden disabilities and the daily struggles that the survivors of stroke and acquired brain injury (ABI) endure in order to promote greater social integrity and equity.
To offset running costs an Awards For All application was submitted, with the grant being approved in late June.
Over the following two months I presented the project outline to service users at various Headway groups held in St Stephen’s in Renfrew Street, Glasgow. This period was an opportunity to get to know the members of Headway Glasgow and their carers building relationships and trust. I endeavored to attend at least one drop-in session a week making sure that I also attended specialist groups such as the walking, art and writing group. This was also the time for me to think about how to design a series of one to one sessions, which would form the basis for future artwork.
In August 2017 I launched the first set of one to one session charting the emotional well being of survivors/carers/friends and family whilst continuing the ongoing process of autobiographical interviews and conversations. Using colour to capture and quantify a broad range of emotions both pre and post injury, I started to make the colour wheels, which are on display and very graphically show the impact of ABI. The colour wheels will inform future fMRI imagery produced in collaboration with Glasgow University neuroscience department.
The past three months have been labour and emotionally intensive highlighting a series of complex questions for me both as a professional artist and on a personal level- my partner suffered an ABI in 2012.
Although this is in its initial stages, the colour wheels have consistently underscored the positive impact Headway Glasgow has on users’ lives. Headway provides a safe environment where people feel respected, supported and engaged reinforcing the fact that stroke and ABI are difficult to articulate and understand. The colour wheels are an accessible vehicle for harnessing and quantifying the intangible effects of ABI.
During my conversations I have been struck by the openness and trust I have encountered. The resilience and tenacity of the people I have spoken to so far is humbling and I feel strongly that the stories and experiences the project has tapped into touch on our collective conscience.
They raise questions about our sense of moral integrity, personhood and the human condition per se. Too often science, medicine and society, in the broad sweep of statistical data and misconception of information, overlook the individual and what it means to be human. I hope this project starts to put the human experience back on the map.
In August the Big Lottery Fund advised that ‘Mapping the Void’ had been selected for a competition to access more funding to develop the project. We are currently preparing our entry.
We have a working partnership with University of Glasgow Neuroscience Department to develop the project.
In the past week a Member of Parliament noted her interest in the project based on the Big Lottery Fund commendation and is coming for a visit to Headway Glasgow on the 4th October.