Monday, February 13, 2012

Where is the VISION in Politics? - Artists in the NHS, Yayoi Kusama, Cultural Champions and more...

Dementia is a burgeoning health issue, here in the UK and globally. We’re all familiar with the bullet-point ‘facts’, as peddled by the media and more recently by the reporting of neglect by the Patients Association and Care Quality Commission (amongst others). The National Dementia Strategy highlighted the pressing need to address the over-prescribing of anti-psychotic medication and the value of non-pharmacological approaches to dementia care services.

This agenda should be central to the public outrage at NHS reform! This is not just a health issue, this is a political issue. We should expect politicians from all parties to demand cultural change in the way our elders are cared for, particularly the most vulnerable. Where are the politicians who have vision? Where are the politicians who don’t just wait to defend the next policy, or react to media baiting? Where is the dynamic vision in 21st century politics? Step forward and engage. We are your allies and can help create change. Culture and the arts will be central to innovation across society, enabling 21st century well-being that is so much more than a passive acceptance of an intolerable future.

This is a call for a generational shift in the way we think about aging, and plan and deliver care for those who have been the bedrock of our country, its workers, families and free-thinkers.

I am thrilled to announce that Arts for Health will be working with colleagues from around the UK on understanding the impact and reach of the arts on Dementia and the Imagination, with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. More details of this will be available very shortly.

ARTISTS IN THE NHS - in pictures
To raise awareness of the devastating NHS reforms proposed by the health and social care bill, writer Niru Ratnam and Frieze Art Fair curator Sarah McCrory set up a new blog, Artists for the NHS, and have asked artists to make thought-provoking posters. Click on the Alistair Frost poster above.

And as the manifesto transforms from a pupa to a butterfly, here are a few reminders of part one’s content. (available in plain old black and white too)

YAYOI KUSAMA @ Tate Modern
The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has a retrospective at Tate Modern until 5th June. She’s an interesting person and there’s lots to read in the national press. For this blog, its her honest account of her mental ill-health that is interesting, which began in childhood when she started hallucinating the dots, nets and flowers which frequently appear in her paintings and sculptures. She voluntarily resides in a mental institution in Japan. An interesting interview with her from 1999 can be found at Bombsite, and here is a sample to whet your appetite.

Grady Turner There has been so much interest in your life story as a result of your retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Do you ever fear people may be interested in your biography at the expense of your art?

Yayoi Kusama No, I have no such fear. My artwork is an expression of my life, particularly of my mental disease.

GT We are conducting this interview by fax because you live in a mental institution in Tokyo. Is it true you committed yourself?

YK I was hospitalized at the mental hospital in Tokyo in 1975 where I have resided ever since. I chose to live here on the advice of a psychiatrist. He suggested I paint pictures in the hospital while undergoing medical treatment. This happened after I had been traveling through Europe, staging my fashion shows in Rome, Paris, Belgium and Germany.

GT Even though you are institutionalized, you are a prolific writer and artist. Where do you work?

YK I work at my condominium-turned-studio near the hospital as well as at a studio I’ve been renting for some years, which is just a few minutes walk from the hospital. I also created a large sculpture in the big yard of the hospital—a store-bought rowboat completely covered with stuffed canvas protuberances. I have made about five or six hundred large sculptures so far.

GT Do you still work around the clock for days at a time, as you did in the 1960s? Or is your work routine different now?

YK I work very hard even now, but probably not as hard as I did when I was in New York.

GT You say your art is an expression of your mental illness. How so?

YK My art originates from hallucinations only I can see. I translate the hallucinations and obsessional images that plague me into sculptures and paintings. All my works in pastels are the products of obsessional neurosis and are therefore inextricably connected to my disease. I create pieces even when I don’t see hallucinations, though...

Continued on Bombsite.

Arts and Business are inviting you to consider who you would like as a Cultural Champion. Below you’ll find advice as to what a Cultural Champion is and the types of support they are celebrating. If you would like to nominate someone, then please do go to  or email or call 0121 248 1200 for further details.

Looking at poetry in relation to the manifesto and stumbled upon work by Harold Pinter, who I naively only knew as a playwright. How blind! Writing an essay for another piece of work about how we die, I was exposed to the blistering piece by Pinter called, American Football (Please don't click on this link to this poem if your easily offened, or blind to the violence of war). For those of you who are interested in how artists respond to the politics of war, and where work is not embraced by the mainstream media, I recommend it to you. You can read it hear. American Football.
To celebrate all things valentine however, here is a short and sublime piece of writing by Pinter

It Is Here

What sound was that?

I turn away, into the shaking room.

What was that sound that came in from the dark?
What is this maze of light it leaves us in?
What is this stance we take,
To turn away and then turn back?
What did we hear?

It was the breath we took when we first met.

Listen. It is here.