Gazing with alterity in Titicut Follies, Blue/Orange, and Ship of Fools

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13 February 2017

Time: 5:30pm
Venue: Film and Drama Studio, ArtsTwo Building, Queen Mary University of University of London (Mile End Campus)

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This talk is the first in a series of public events exploring the connections of mental health with performance and art practice.


How have artists captured and communicated psychiatric spaces and patient experiences? And what types of evidence can we gather from their work to help forge more creative and humane alternatives current care practices? This paper will expose recurrent themes of spectacular cruelty and harm across three art works – Frederick Wiseman’s Titicut Follies (1967), Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange (2000), and the vacuum cleaner’s Ship of Fools (2010). All three artists question how one looks at madness and mad folk. They ask what it means to care, what constitutes a community, and how far the political capacity to be properly seen and heard is conditioned through interlocking, authoritative discourses. This paper will sketch the ways in which the works politically engage with the apparent legibility of madness and will argue that, through aesthetic means, the three attempt to redistribute the locus of knowledge about madness, widen the aperture of perceptual realities, and decentre the question of where to ‘put’ madness. In their aesthetic interrogations of spectacle, care and harm, they provoke new and vital considerations as to what a hospitable community of support might actually feel like.

Everyone welcome, Refreshments will be served, Free of charge