SS - A. Workshop. ‘The Art of Chronic Illness’ Workshop.

I guess, this weeks work has enabled me to think more globally about my work. When considering the three elements of surfaces and strategies,  A) a publication, B) a second exhibition and C) a workshop. I have really had to think about my audience and what they might get from each of these productions. I will discuss each of these in more detail in three separate blogs. 

Here is a little on pain and workshops which is helping gather my thoughts ahead of my upcoming workshops 29th July 2018.

According to (TARR, J. 2018) Pain is difficult to communicate and translate into language, yet most social research on pain experience uses questionnaires and semi-structured interviews that rely on words. In addition to the mind/body dualism prevalent in pain medicine in these studies pain communication is characterised by further value-laden binaries such as real/unreal, visible/invisible, and psychological/physical. Starting from the position that research methods play a role in constituting their object, this article examines the potential of participatory arts workshops for developing different versions of pain communication. Twenty-two participants were involved in workshops using drawing, digital photography, sound and physical theatre to explore pain communication. The use of arts materials made pain tangible. By manipulating pain-related objects, participants could consider alternative relationships to their pain. Pain’s sociality was also explored, with relations with clinicians and others emerging as potentially cooperative rather than adversarial. Discussions considered whether pain felt internal or external, and whether it was possible to conceive of a self without pain. We argue that the socio-material context of participatory arts workshops enabled these alternative versions of pain. Such methods are a useful addition to medical sociology’s heavy reliance on qualitative interviewing.

Yas Crawford 2018. Self Portrait, Loss.

Yas Crawford 2018. ‘The Art of Chronic Illness’

Charlotte Chance. 2018, The Soul Apothecary.

A. WORKSHOP - ‘The art of Chronic Illness’.

My workshop, entitled ‘The Art of Chronic Illness’ is to be held on 29 July 2018 in Ashburton, Devon.

For this first workshop I hope to gain insight into the association or connection between my abstract landscape ( ‘Absent Landscape’ ) images with emotions and feelings. It hopefully will encourage conversation on the topic of chronic illness individually and as a small community group. The emotions to consider can be both negative and positive, of hope and sadness, or any other that becomes recognisable through the images. I have decided that the images will be presented in black and white, as this leaves the images open to interpretation. At a later, future workshop I can introduce colour images that could be used to discuss hopefulness and opportunity in a wider sense.

I work with black and white for its representation and abstraction in chronic illness and in particular for M.E/CFS. A surreal world of brain-fog and fatigue, grief, illness, .  I have found this process to be enormously therapeutic for me and hoping this will dissipate in a positive way to my participants. I use abstract Landscapes as ‘Absent Landscapes’ for a theme, as places you cannot get to when you are ill or house-bound. 

Its forced me to think about the type of images I need to consider best for workshops and  hands on work, rather than for presentation or exhibition. For example self-portraits might work well in an exhibition or as a presentation and maybe as background material for a workshops as supporting material to educate an audience on the condition of M.E/CFS at the same time. 

My intention is to ensure as much participation from my attendees as is possible. I would like them to take control of the process and their learning and for the workshop to be as fluid as possible. I will in the early part of the workshop introduce and provide images to draw onto and create from. However, this workshop will be fluid as I say, so if we go off on a tangent and this seems natural to the process, then this is what will happen. 

For a future, second workshop I hope to allow more participation and encourage the participants to use their own cameras to take images themselves during the workshop or bring images of their own to work on. 

For the workshop I will produce several paper copies of the images for the participant to write or paint onto. I am, of course, looking for words, and final images that I will rephotograph, that are representative of the emotions the participant feel on looking or re-looking at the images several times. (They will be printed onto good quality paper, not photographic paper as this is too expensive to do for lots of copies, but I can display the actual images on my laptop screen or on a wall for more clarity.) I will bring an Instamax camera so that they can take photographs of themselves with their finished work.  I will place a camera on a tripod to take photos of the working group during the afternoon. I am considering a video recording of the afternoon. I need to consider the ethics around this and would need approval from the attendees in advance. A third workshop could be used to record voices as participants discuss their chosen words and as they work on their images. I have a series of workshops in mind, that I am hoping will naturally develop from one to another. 

Within this workshop I am keen to explore attendee participation and just what can happen with a ‘captured’ but fully agreeable audience. How will they view my work? will it create new ideas for my ongoing project? will it consolidate my work in some way? will it support the participants in their own life journeys? will they be keen to do another? will it create a series of workshops. How free will I be to record the workshop in some way. ( As Garr, my tutor mentioned in my tutorial this week, its important to record and show the progress of the workshop. )

As part of creating this workshop, I found myself creating more images to explore loss and grief as part of this process and ultimately using one of these images and self-portrait to produce a leaflet.

I am doing this workshop in collaboration with another artist, whom I am hoping can add a further dimension to this work. Charlotte Chance, form the Soul Apothecary, creates small apothecary bottles with wonderfully poetic words of hope and dreams. I am hoping that these beautiful bottles will stimulate thoughts and words without giving the participants words to use. So I plan to hold the bottles back a little until everyone has settled into the process, then use them to stimulate ideas if someone is finding this difficult. Charlotte is kindly bringing along her typewriter so that she can produce text of the participants choice that can be added to their own work. 

I will have a tripod and camera and can both record excerpts of the workshop and photography each person with their piece of work towards the end. For this I will take some model license agreements in order to get agreement for the images to be used. I am getting used to using these now more for my individual photo shoots, but not yet introduced them at a workshop. 

I will introduce health and safety and any confidential and ethical issues at the beginning of the workshop. This makes me think back to Diane Arbus and how she pushed the boundaries on ethics very successfully in her work. (GILMORE. 2011) also make reference to abject images, and I yet again find myself reading about images, whats abject, whats appropriate, how far can you stretch the ethics through aesthetics and a reminder of (TAMMI. 2017 ) great explanations of abjectness in all its forms.  It reminds me to proceed carefully and allow full cooperation at this stage. 

CONRAD P. 2003 Review: Books: Freak practice: Do Diane Arbus’s feted photographs of grotesques actually justify the bold claims made for them?: Revelations by
Diane Arbus, The Observer : (13) 05 October [online] at [accessed 17th Jul. 2018]

GILMORE, J. 2011. Ethics, Aesthetics, and Artistic Ends. Journal of Value Inquiry, 45(2), pp. 203-214. [online] at [accessed 17th Jul. 2018]

KIM E. 2014. [online] at http:/ [accessed 17th Jul. 2018]

MCDONALD D 2017. ‘Talking Back to Dianne Arbus’, Social Alternatives, [online] at [accessed 17th July 2018]

TARR J, et al. 2018. Beyond the binaries : reshaping pain communication through arts workshop. Sociology of health & illness, March 40:3. [online] at [accessed 05 Jul.2018]

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