Sunday, October 21, 2012

art + culture = pouvoir

Here’s another piece of research equating mental ill-health and creativity. I’m sure there’s lot’s in it that’s relevant to our field and it is interesting, but there’s always going to be a danger that we exoticise the ‘tortured’ genius and in so doing, neglect the thousands of people who are simply distressed by their health, perhaps worse still, fail to address the social and economic determinants of mental distress. Click on the photo below for a BBC article on the research, of which the text below summarises the main points. 

A new piece of research from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research has found that in a study of more than a million people, creativity is often part of a mental illness, with writers particularly susceptible to a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse. Lead researcher Dr Simon Kyaga said the findings suggested disorders should be viewed in a new light and that certain traits might be beneficial or desirable. Citing the restrictive and intense interests of someone with autism and the manic drive of a person with bipolar disorder might provide the necessary focus and determination for genius and creativity. Similarly, the disordered thoughts associated with schizophrenia might spark the all-important originality element of a masterpiece. 

Dr Kyaga said: "If one takes the view that certain phenomena associated with the patient's illness are beneficial, it opens the way for a new approach to treatment. "In that case, the doctor and patient must come to an agreement on what is to be treated, and at what cost. Beth Murphy, head of information at Mind, said bipolar disorder personality traits could be beneficial to those in creative professions, but it may also be that people with bipolar disorder are more attracted to professions where they can use their creative skills. "It is important that we do not romanticise people with mental health problems, who are too often portrayed as struggling creative geniuses. 

I AM: Art as an agent for change
I’ve spent the most intense few days on a residential, exploring the role of self-portraiture as part of the recovery pathway from substance addiction. With funding from Grundtvig I’ll be working with the Kütahya Green Crescent Branch in Turkey, Gruppo Incontro and FeDerSerD in Italy and Portraits of Recovery here in the UK and over the next two years, we'll be exploring our cultural differences and synergies in relation to recovery. As well as facilitating artists exchanges between the countries, I’ll be developing arts and health strategies with the partners and in 2014, we'll be holding an exhibition and public seminar here in Manchester.

Although the project is led by the UK, the demands of working in three languages and the subtleties of cultural and language differences, provide us with some unique challenges. For me this is a huge leap in the development of arts/health strategy, policy and practice. Not because old colonial Britain is out there sharing its ‘one nation’ nonsense, but because our dear old faded Albion, can learn a great deal from countries who don’t speak English as a first language. In general, I’ve found over the last decade or so, arts/health ‘events’ seem to be neatly divided between those speaking in English and the rest of the world! So part of this work, and other engagement I’m involved in, isn’t exporting the Empire of Arts and Health as some foreign policy, but absorbing other traditions and possibilities and sharing new realities. This might mean influencing policy change on one hand, but on the other it could be about reevaluating our own understanding of our sometimes hyper-inflated self belief.


The Strongest Weapon In The World
Radical DIY: artist-makers of extraordinary and poetic machines
 @ The Arts Catalyst, London 6pm doors open (bar). 6:30-9pm 

This event is free, but I'd advise getting in touch with Arts Catalyst about spaces. There'll be a number of artists there on the night, but I am particularly inspired by Korean artist Hojun Song who has built a fully functioning satellite. His tiny satellite is a DIY engineering masterpiece: he hacked together a solar cell, a lithium-ion battery, an Arduino board, and four powerful LED lights. The cube will transmit Morse code messages that can be seen from back on Earth. He has set up the Open Source Satellite Initiative to ensure others can follow. In 2010, he made the Strongest Weapon in the World - I Love You. If you hit it – with an extremely large mallet - it says “I love you”. It can withstand a nuclear attack. His Radioactive Jewelry meanwhile is not for those wishing for long life. 

For full details click on the moon.

For those of you interested in the Strongest Weapon, here is the artists description, and his handy hints on how to use it.

The strongest weapon in the world is an object that cannot be destroyed by any strong weapons in the world. When attacked, it responds with beautiful messages. And it lives forever to deliver those messages.
How it works: 
Wear the helmet - Grab the hammer - Hit the weapon really hard 

An Opportunity to Pitch for International Investment in Healthcare Businesses at Innoventure Europe.

This sounds like a really interesting and challenging opportunity. I can’t vouch for anything about this organisation or the process, but it sounds too interesting not to share.

The challenge of providing the most efficient care at the lowest cost possible in the healthcare industry is likely to amplify in the coming years and decades. While much of the answer lies in transforming the healthcare system from one focused on curing illnesses after they take place to one focused on preventing illness from happening in the first place, advances in the fields of bio-informatics, statistics-based targeted medicine, highly intelligent internet connected diagnostic devices, and wireless and mobile health apps that link patients to physicians, are all combining to usher in a radically different healthcare system focused on predictive care, personalized diagnostic and virtual treatment within bio-connected communities. INNOVENTURE EUROPE’s Best of Breed selection will uncover opportunities across these fields and many others.

This unique opportunity (within the two years of Innoventure Europe) is available to SMEs from across Western Europe to excite international business angel and venture capital investors with a 10 minute pitch. Innoventure Europe will be held in Central Paris on 13 December and is free for the 20 SMEs selected to pitch (normally €1,000). Personalised advice and coaching is also provided (including the day before in Paris) to maximize the impact of your pitch. To apply, click on the small urinating person above.

The first round of the 3-stage selection process takes approximately 25 minutes and closes on 12 November. Please note that participation in Innoventure Europe is dependent on a signed non-disclosure agreement to protect both you and others. Each event is also an important networking opportunity with close to 200 investors and start-ups in one technology area. 
For further information please contact Arthur Cornez at

Funding for IT Projects Supporting Disadvantaged Groups (UK)
Funding is available to organisations with innovative IT related project ideas that can make a positive difference to disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. The funding, which is available through the Nominet Trust, aims to fund innovative Internet projects that make a positive difference to the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Trust is particularly interested in funding projects that can be scaled up and replicated. There is no minimum grant application and applications for over £100,000 require an interview. Organisations wishing to apply, need initially to complete and online application form. Those organisations deemed successful will be invited to complete the Stage 2 application form.

The next closing date for submitting initial Advisory Eligibility Forms is the 12th December 2012. Stage 2 applications to be submitted by the 31st January 2013. Read more at:

Hilton in the Community Foundation Grants (UK)
Organisations that work with young people have the opportunity to apply for grants through the Hilton Foundation. Organisations such as charities and other not for profits can apply for grants ranging from a few hundred pounds up to £30,000 per year for up to 2 years that meet one of the Foundation's chosen areas of focus. These are: 
Disabled children, Children in hospital, Homelessness, Life-limited children in hospices. 
The next closing date for applications is 5.30 pm on 12th February 2013. Read more at:

...and another manifesto teaser

Thank you as ever for following this blog...C.P.