Monday, May 28, 2012

AMOUR, My Last Car, thoughts on Neuroscience, RNCM Concerts at Manchester Hospitals and New Opportunities...

Over the last few months, meeting Richard Creme and being part of that group of people who worked with him to get his exhibition together, was such an eye opener - such a rich treat. It’s got me thinking though. Stroke, like any health crisis or disease that affects our brain, has such a profound impact on who we are and how we’re perceived. I constantly meet people who want to talk about their practice and evidencing the impact of their work on people who may be experiencing dementia, or may have had a stroke.  It’s always interesting and really varied: musicians, film-makers, poets and painters. More often than not, people will bring up the idea of recruiting a neuroscientist as part of the research team - someone to sit alongside the health economist, to take their hypothesis further: provide the empirical evidence of arts intrinsic value.

Like everyone, I’m seduced by the shimmering possibilities of medicines new frontier, of a pulsing supernova at the heart of our being - the dancing, golden synapse - the phrenological centres of our individuality. Compartments for love, pleasure, remorse and so much more...

So it was with great interest, that I read  an article by Vaughan Bell who’s a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London, and who suggests that the data that scientists pull from fMRI brain scans, isn’t always reliable, and as I’ve discussed before, like the Randomised Controlled Trials (RCT) - are subject to cultural issues including the incentives offered by the  industry. Just think of the unreported negative findings in pharmaceutical trials; Seroxat and Reboxetine being just two. Bell’s article which focuses on brain scans specifically, does make me feel that whilst the range of scanners that exist as diagnostic tools are reaping significant results, the exploration of what it is to be human, is ever-so-slightly more complicated. His article, which illustrates the increasing use of neuro-imaging in deciding the guilt of prisoners in India, Italy and the US, opens up an interesting and worrying debate.

Over the last decade i’ve seen increasing calls to legitimize the arts in relation to health and well-being, particularly calls to standardise what it is we do, so that the NHS can embrace our agenda. Increasingly this is an aspiration to gain NICE approval, through RCT’s, or perhaps sometimes spurious evidence that art lights up the brain. I’d suggest that whilst there is space for intelligent collaborations between artists and scientists, in focusing solely on evidencing arts value, we’re missing the point - isn’t our work about exploring that liminal space between the arts, science and what it is to be human? Standardised repeat prescriptions for the arts, and reductive understanding of its value, risk reducing us down to a simmering stew of amino acids...

MY LAST CAR Looking Well, Bentham                  30th May - 2nd June

Do you remember your first car? How about your last?

My Last Car is an epic road trip that explores the life and death of the car through a series of poignant, funny and uplifting tales.  Our voyage is part exhibition, part live performance and part community celebration. It explores all that the car means to us at the end of a great transport era. We have carefully dismantled a Rover 316 Cabriolet and filled a gallery with thousands of car objects. From wipers and cogs, windows and springs to camshafts, pistons and filters. Each part is labeled with messages and stories, facts and dreams about cars. The car becomes becomes the stage set for our performances. We tell tales of cars both good and bad. We look at the future and what it might hold. We share moments of magic, mystery and and motorway madness.

There is so much to do! Celebrate My Last CARnival: a festival of events and activities on the streets of Bentham, attend My Last Car Live Performances, and visit My Last Car – The Exhibition. My Last CARnival is a lighthearted celebration of life in a town with and without cars. It tips its hat to the trusty motor car and celebrates other ways of moving around. Get out of your car and discover a Boom Bike and a bus-shaped bus shelter or journey through space and time for a pound. Walk or bike the CARnival trails, meet ‘The Queen’ and happen across film, sculpture and performances in unexpected places!

Bentham Town Hall has been chosen as one of only two places in North Yorkshire to host My Last Car, the original performance and exhibition by 509 Arts as part of imove – Yorkshire’s Cultural Olympiad programme. Inspired by read stories of break ups and break downs, crashes and jams, it celebrates and questions our relationship with the car over years and across generations. Bentham will be the canvas for installations created in unexpected venues within walking distance the My Last Car event. My Last CARnival is a lighthearted celebration of life in a town with and without cars. It tips its hat to the trust motor car and celebrates other ways of moving around.
If you visit the My Last Car website, you can upload your own car story! Here's a snippet from mine.

'Once upon a time, I held down two jobs - one in Cornwall, the other in Manchester. It was ridiculous. One week here, the other week there. I chose to drive between the two at night to avoid the traffic jams and snarl-ups. I slept in the afternoon, drove through the night. A pattern, a habit. Full moon over the M6, sunrise over Bodmin: perfect.
One night, (at Junction 17 to be precise) driving the same old routine - my yellow headlamp beam changed, something strange darted in front of the car - the most exquisite  hare. Not some regular rabbit, but a beautiful, (and in my memory) giant hare - elegant and so, so long. But so beautiful in the tungsten glare, that I swerved to avoid it - swerved to avoid metal on flesh...'

EXTERNAL EVALUATOR for KiiCS project: apply by 20 June 2012
Knowledge Incubation in Innovation and Creation for Science is a three-year European Commission-funded project (2012-2014) coordinated by Ecsite, the European network of science centres and museums. It aims build bridges between arts, science and technology by giving evidence of the positive impacts of their interaction for creativity as well as for triggering interest in science. The project will stimulate co-creation processes involving creators and scientists, and nurture youth interest in science in a creative way.
KiiCS offers a financial contribution of a maximum of 30.000€ and if you are interested, you should submit the tender before June 20, 2012. The proposal must be delivered in English and it has to include a brief description of the methodology to be used and analytical framework, a work plan with detailed Schedule and the distribution of budget for the evaluation.
For more information about this position, contact KiiCS:


OK, so I’ve not seen this film and its just been awarded the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, but it looks relevant to our Arts/Health in that it deals with aging, music and stoke in one fell-swoop.  Michael Haneke has made some interesting films in the past and this looks like something very beautiful indeed, dealing with emotions but without cloying sentimentalism. You can find more by clicking on the link below and here’s the official trailer with English subtitles.

‘Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva give breathtaking performances as Georges and Anne, retired music teachers in their 80s, living in a handsomely furnished, book-lined Paris apartment with a baby grand piano. They are happy, affectionate, loving; active and content. We see them attending the performance by one of Anne's former pupils, and are delighted with his success. But one day, Anne suffers the first of a series of strokes which paralyse one arm, making playing the piano impossible, accompanied by progressive dementia...’
‘...using your own words and methodologies, calling into question both the vocabulary and content of the research that was requested and making divergent, dissonant and improbable proposals.’

What an invitation!!

The international call is open for artists and social scientists to collaborate with the following seven organisations located in the Basque Country (Spain) as part of the 2012 edition of Improbable Connections: Artepan (artisanal bakery and pastry maker), EDE Fundazioa (social intervention), Eraikune (construction cluster in Euskadi), Grupo Uvesco (supermarkets), Oiz egin (rural development platform), Orbea (design and manufacture of bicycles) and Silam (Products and solutions based on silicone elastomer).
Deadline: 9am on 25 June 2012. 
Collaboration period: September 2012 - June 2013. 
Payment: 12,000 euros + VAT (including travel and accommodation).

Thank you as ever...C.P