The mapping activity undertaken in class demonstrated what we each understood about the human and non human actors involved in issues surrounding mental health and allowed us as a collective to reflect upon shared values between each of these participants and stakeholders. Mapping as a tool is largely beneficial for recognising links between different sets of people and objects and for this reason I found this activity incredibly beneficial for the development of my understanding of mental health in Australia.
Whilst individually and as a group we knew prior to the mapping exercise that mental health in Australia is an incredibly broad issue and one that affects a huge array of people and groups, it was not until after the activity that we were able properly recognise the interconnectivity of these people and groups and their influence on one another and the issue as whole.
Under the titles of PEOPLE, OBJECTS and ORGANISATIONS we addressed what Bruno Latour named the ‘actors’ of the situation. These human and non-human actors are what create the issue in the first place and are then what influence change whether that be for the better or worse.
Taking that into account, an example could be in regard to poker machine addiction – a human actor is the poker game designer (person) who has been hired by another human actor – the poker game company (organisation) to create a game designed for addiction – the poker machine (object). Following on from this you can consider other actors who contribute to this situation – the pubs and clubs that depend on poker machines for revenue (organisations), the addicted players (people), the community/government/not for profit groups (organisations) that support those suffering from addiction. Each actor in this scenario cannot exist without one another; they depend on one another and contribute collectively to the issue of addiction in mental health in Australia (and the world). As you can see, the ‘chain of actors’ is long and inextricably linked; the actions of one actor influence multiple other actors.
The focus of my image archive is predominantly that of how mental health is depicted and discussed in art and film. Art and film (and literature though not relevant for this task) is incredibly powerful in its ability to influence societal thinking through reflecting upon, documenting and preserving ideas and events. For this reason, I thought it would be interesting to analyse the accuracies and inaccuracies of mental health portrayal and also the abuse of mental health disorders as a tool for creating appealing visual and narrative aesthetics. In the process of creating this image archive, I have developed a particular interest in the relationship between mental health and creativity and the channeling of emotion through art and creative practices. This is particularly addressed in Frances Cannon, Philip Dearest and Filthy Rat Bag’s work.
Mike Parr’s performance piece in Tasmania’s Dark Mofo Festival earlier this year saw Parr spend 72hrs in the closed down Willow Court Asylum Regarded as one of Australia’s most influential and innovative artists, Mike Parr often puts his body and personal experience at the forefront of his artworks.
As a stand alone image with the context of Parr’s artwork removed, the image represents Australia’s past relationship with mental disorder/disease sufferers and their treatment as ‘inmates’ who were ‘criminally insane’. In this way this image stands for lack of understanding and education and the stigma associated with mental health.
Von Trier’s film Nymphomaniac Volume 2 explores the often unrepresented and ‘taboo’ mental illness of Nymphomania; a disorder characterised by hypersexuality and the completely addiction to sex. Just as many mental illnesses do, nymphomaniacs’ lives are controlled by their illness and often engage in sexually promiscuous and risky behaviours.
The image I have included above is a still taken from the film. The scene is set in the present moment whereby the main character acted by Charlotte Gainsbourg recounts the sexual experiences of her life to a man who had just prior to the scene found her unconscious on the street having been beaten up.
I personally loved the film for its intensity and the vulnerability of Gainsbourg’s character and decided to include it in this blog post because of the tormenting ending to the film. Having spent hours describing her traumatic struggle with Nymphomania since the beginning of puberty, Gainsbourg has developed a sense of trust with the man who was recently a stranger to her. He has sat, listened and shown little judgement. It is established that he is a virgin and the apparent extremes of their sexualities unexpectedly translates into an overall sense of sympathy for one another. This is until the end of the film when the man tells Gainsbourg to get some sleep (they are in his apartment) and once the lights are off and she is falling asleep, the man comes back, takes off his pants and tries to have sex with her, and when she denies him he exclaims “but you’ve had sex with thousands of men”. I likened this ending to that of someone telling someone with depression to “cheer up” or something as meaningless and unhelpful. The man ultimately represents society’s present disregard and lack of understanding of mental health and portrays the ease people have in taking advantage of those who are mentally unstable.