During my time as a mental health service user I have often considered the difficulty of conveying the complex nature of disordered thinking to clinicians. Whilst it is one thing to be amongst the chaos, it is another to accurately convey that chaos to an outsider. In 2012 I requested my mental health medical records from Brighton & Hove where I had been living for almost seven years, and during which I had been continually under the support of mental health services. I read the notes in one sitting, experiencing a spectrum of emotions that left me spinning. There were inaccuracies and mistakes but also many truths. It was my story seen through the eyes of others.
Seeing these observations of myself from an outsider’s viewpoint prompted me to revisit those times in my life through my own visual archive. I have always turned to photography to express the feelings of a fragmented identity, of my mind splitting apart and into something destructive, something unknown. Working with self-portraits taken on or close to the date of the medical record I have disrupted the image by digitally inserting those texts that are too personal for the public into the photographic image. The result is a corrupted portrait of the broken self, a metaphor for the shattered identity.
Fragmentary also situates itself in the present with a series of recent self-portraits and a large-scale installation of medical records that invite the viewer to make sense of the chaotic narrative of living with a mental health condition.
This project was completed as a part of an artist in residence at the Free Space Project, Kentish Town Health Centre, London. Fragmentary lead me to create fragmentary.org, an online hub for artists exploring mental health & wellbeing in their practice.
- Fragmentary, The Free Space Gallery, London, 2015
- Building Better Healthcare Awards: Patient’s Choice Award, 2016
- Building Better Healthcare Awards: Best Collaborative Arts Project (highly commended), 2016