Magazine of art press and reviews from London
Wednesday, 23rd July 2014.
The Anxiety Arts Festival has been an superb event involving many key art venues in London, including Barbican, South London Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Freud Museum, Wigmore Hall, and Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Organised in four categoreis, visual art, music, dance, theatre and film, Anxiety Arts Festival 2014 is a London-wide festival that explores the way anxiety and art interact. From the sense of unease created by a Hitchcock film, to new commissions in music by Jocelyn Pook and art by Bonnie Camplin, leading artists explore their own anxieties and chronicle the neurosis of modern life – offering us insights into our own anxieties.
The correlation between creativity and mental illness is well documented, and the rapid social, cultural and political changes of the last century mean that anxiety is one of today’s most prevalent mental disorders. While this central aspect of our contemporary condition is reflected in the arts, this is the first time the link has been explored in detail by bringing artists together with leading mental health professionals and academics. Curated by the Mental Health Foundation, the Anxiety Arts festival questioned our definitions of normality and acknowledges the creative power of anxiety through music, film, art, dance and theatre.
The Anxiety film season sees screenings at the Barbican and the Picturehouse cinemas, the National Portrait Gallery and the ICA, ranging from classic tension-builders – such as Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Lodger’ and Andre Tarkovsky’s ‘Solaris’ – to recent explorations of the psyche. The season gives a brief story of anxiety in cinema, revealing the roles that have given character to our anxieties, such as the hysterical housewife and the melancholy migrant. Throughout, psychologists were brought together with cinema experts and performers to get to grips with what cinema can reveal about anxiety. Rare screenings – such as Peter Robinson’s documentary about RD Laing’s radical Archway community, Asylum – were screened alongside new work looking at modern issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxieties around issues of race and home.
The Visual Arts programme explored the flexible and often contested boundaries between sanity and insanity, as well as the social and cultural anxieties associated with social labels. New commissions exhibitions, performances, residencies and artists’ films, at South London Gallery, Gasworks and BFI reflected on what is considered ‘normal’ and the associated pressure of fitting one’s subjective experiences within this frame.
A mental health assessment of a live audience highlights the processes used by the medical profession to assess mental illness; a residency is inspired by the extensive art collection of the Bethlem Royal Hospital and an experimental dance work is staged in Freud’s perfectly preserved study at the Freud Museum. Work by leading contemporary artists such as Eva Kotátková, Lawrence Abu Hamdan and David Lamelas will be seen alongside work from emerging and new artists.
The visual arts and film programme was complimented by On Stage – a programme exploring anxiety through music, the voice, spoken word, movement and dance at Wigmore Hall and the Albany in Deptford. In addition a programme of talks, events and creative workshops took place at venues ranging from the Dulwich Picture Gallery to The Maudsley Hospital.
Curated by the Mental Health Foundation, this pioneering and thought-provoking festival opened up wider conversations about mental health issues, demystifies and tackles stigma and gave a fresh perspective on the links between art and wellbeing as it examines the interplay between anxiety and the arts.
Anxiety Art Festival was in varoius locations around London in the month of June 2014.