Experiences of mental health vary greatly, and we all relate to it in different ways. While some people’s mental wellbeing is rarely challenged, others are affected in more frequent and demanding ways. In recognizing the multitudinal ways in which mental health inhabits the mind and body, it is important to amplify the voices of those whose daily lives are shaped by their dealings with certain struggles or patterns.
With the exhibition Part of Me… Shaping Mental Spaces (26 August–20 November 2022), FOTODOK invites artists to show projects that respond to their lived experiences of various mental states. Presented works mediate personal stories of the makers or are the result of close collaboration with colleagues, friends, and family members that reflect on their realities. Many of the makers construct their narratives through photographic self-portraiture, and weave together poetry, paintings, video, and other media.
In oc·u·lus /ˈäkyələs (2013-ongoing), Irene Antonia Diane Reece (US) explores the pain she has lived with, both physically and mentally, since a young child, and how, as a Black woman, she has had to deal with the trauma of being silenced by the medical system. In Inner Journey (2014-ongoing), Marvel Harris (NL) traces his/their ongoing relationship to his/their gender identity, autism, and mental health. In Mental Moshpit (2020-ongoing), Mandy Nijhof (NL) deals with childhood trauma and abuse. In Tali Pusat (2020-2021), Peggy van Mosselaar (NL) works together with her 83-year-old mother Fientje Ida Wenzel, who lived with dementia. They traveled together back to Indonesia, the country of the artist’s mother’s origin, in order to reconstruct Fientje’s memories. Outsiderland, a new initiative uniting so-called “outsider” and “insider” artists through collaborative projects and presentations, introduces a pop-up shop at FOTODOK with installations by the makers who create beautiful worlds together. Outsiderland includes: Jan Hoek (NL) and Bruin Parry (NL); Aàdesokan (NG/NL) and Klaus Compagnie (BE), Yasmine van Haesebroucke (BE), Niels-Jan Tavernier (BE); Laetitia Bica (BE) and Samuel Cariaux (BE); Martine Derks (NL) and Model Nina 666 (NL).
Finally, the exhibition includes a poem written specifically for its occasion by Sanah Ahsan (GB), who self-describes as “a queer Muslim womxn, a HCPC-registered clinical psychologist, an award-winning poet, and all-round disruptor, whose work is centered on compassion and decolonising our understandings of mental health”. Another very special addition to Part of Me… Shaping Mental Spaces is a satellite solo installation of A Story to Tell, or: Regarding Male Eating Disorders (2020) by Mafalda Rakoš (AT) and Ruben de Theije (NL) at Astare, a space for professionals in mental health care. Astare is situated across the road from FOTODOK and can be visited by guests of the exhibition.
The title Part of Me… originates from conversations with participating artists. It reflects the diverse, sometimes opposing ways in which they relate to their mental states, which in turn demonstrates the complex nature of the discourse surrounding the topic: “Part of me, but it does not define me. Part of me, and it does define me. Part of me, and I want to heal from it. Part of me, and I embrace it. Part of me, and I want to give it a name. Part of me, and I don’t want any labels.” At the exhibition space, you can read carefully collected quotes from the artists.
Projects presented at Part of Me… Shaping Mental Spaces create an intersectional picture of mental health. Mental health doesn’t exist in isolation; it is deeply intertwined with the physical body and the fabric of society. Distress or other mental states exist in the context of multiple factors that oftentimes coincide: biochemistry; physical illness; childhood trauma; social systems and constructs including (gender) identity politics, family and care structures, economy etc.. The exhibition is an invitation to think through these and other circumstances that shape mental spaces, and suggests to contribute to shaping them anew, with a realised collective responsibility.
Curator: Daria Tuminas
Design: Studio Sara Cristina Moser
Production: Daria Tuminas, Martha Stroo, Fotolab
With the support of: the City of Utrecht, Mondriaan Fonds, Fentener van Vlissingen Fonds, and Kf Hein Fonds.
Collaborations: Astare, Melkweg Expo, Beeldend Gesproken, Het Vijfde Seizoen, Studio Merle Bergers.
The exhibition will be open from August 26 until November 20 2022, every Friday to Sunday, 12:00 – 18:00.
NOTE: Part of Me… Shaping Mental Spaces does not romanticise suffering. The exhibition celebrates art and artists instead. The organisers encourage visitors to listen to the realities and stories of other people around them with respect, compassion, vulnerability, and support.