How do we care?

There is a new push for artists to work within the field of mental health. This push is at the same time contingent on policies, rooted in our current culture, and informed by a sense of urgency as the numbers of people struggling with their mental well-being is rising. This also means that the funding landscape is shifting to reflect this reality – the topic demands attention – and so there are real opportunities out there for artists who want to work with the emerging field of art and health.

But we find ourselves in a peculiar situation where not many have the answer as to how artists should find their way into working with health. It is a field that demands other, more serious ethical considerations than what artists are used to when they create.

What might sometimes be an overlooked dimension of the work of the artist is how they create and facilitate experiences for their audiences where the dimensions between the artistic – and care work overlaps. Artists working with topics imbued with immense gravity and meaning for people might set their audience on the path to healing even if this might not have been their intention when creating their artwork. It is commonly known how immense the impact of an art-based experience can be, what is not entirely understood is how the artist should act when they intentionally straddle the role of artist and care worker in relation to their work.

On their first day of workshops, the artists participating in Between Happiness and Despair met with Inga Gerner Nielsen. Through her the artists gained an understanding of what it means to work with care through art, what it means to have a focus on people when facilitating, and how to hold the space when performing. Amidst buzzing bees and flowing grass, she gently guided the participants to realizing the gravity of reframing their practice and informed them of the importance of doing so.

Text and pictures by Lasse Fischer