Sunday, 3 June 2012

A Huge Ever-Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld

There’s always been a bit of a disconnect between science and the arts; between hypothesis and fantasy – reality and delusion, but surely it’s this divergence and convergence that are at the heart of human imagination.

This week a friend at DADAA sent an interesting article about former MASH surgeon, Dr Richard Satava, who bridges the world of the science-fiction of his childhood reading, with the potential of surgical interventions that take the possibility of telemedicine to new heights. In his work on Outrageous Medicine, Satava dares to conjoin his florid imagination to explore the possibility of surviving previously unsurvivable illness or injury, and extending human life. Whilst Satava’s focus seems to be very much based on combat troop survival, (and this is a far-cry from our interest in quality of life and the participatory arts), it is nevertheless an interesting and provocative article.  

Bearing inequalities in mind: can you imagine suggesting we send art-troops into conflict zones and take sides with an oppressive military regime? Whilst this would be a sure-fire way of investing in your own blood-diamond, it would possibly be the most isolating and divisive course of action for arts/health. I’m often reminded of the way graffiti artist Banksy, elevated the status and our understanding of street art through his tagging of the 760 kilometer long Israeli, West Bank segregation wall – something I discussed in my paper, The Arts, Popular Culture and Inequalities. In this, I quoted at length the excellent article by Nigel Parry which illustrates the point far more eloquently than I ever could...

Before the month is through, part two of the manifesto for arts, health and well-being will be available in hard-copy and online and this time, I’m taking it on the road. Like some haggard and less romantic version of a 50’s beat poet, I will be taking the manifesto to the remotest corners of our land and provoking some more debate about what it is we do;  who we are and where we’re going. All wrapped up in the idea of possible scenarios and what the future might look like for us, and that next generation of free-thinkers, who are interested in art and culture in relation to society and well-being.  So, you can wait till the manifesto is published, or you can ask me for a date now!

I’m really pleased to have been working with colleagues from around the UK to develop a National Charter that underpins the idea of our National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing.  The charter has been developed separately, but in parallel with the manifesto and will be launched in September this year. Those of us involved in the National Alliance have sought to work with as many people as possible from the field in informing our direction, so that, as an alliance, it really has got representation from as many regions and localities as possible. Like the manifesto which had the active involvement of over 500 people across the North West (and many more further afield), the charter has involved all sorts of people and organisations and, like the manifesto, is about democracy and voice from our ever-growing sector. Quite often this is hard work, because diverse ideas make for challenging conversations, not least in a time of economic constraint. This process reflects a more ego-less development, that could so easily be destroyed by more traditionally power-hungry models. What is reassuring about the approach in the UK, is that it’s grown from the true principle of  an alliance: of co-operation, mutuality, friendship and partnership. This in turn, has emerged from the local and regional, to advance the bigger picture, and has not been imposed from a national, or (perish the thought), international perspective, which through outmoded arrogance, could only be seen as a soulless dictatorship, facile and devoid of relevance in the 21st Century. I can almost imagine an inter-stellar arts/health movement governed by a Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld: not good... fact, I COULD SCREAM
I’ve been reading Richard Cork’s book, which charts the relationship between the arts and health over the centuries, and have just concluded the excellent chapter on Edvard Munch which focuses on his precarious mental state, institutional care and a gunshot would to his hand: all things I never knew about the artist.  Adding to this, I was interested to read in the Guardian, that when the artist was 66 he contracted an intraocular haemorrhage in his right eye, leading to shapes, spots and smudges superimposed onto everything he saw. Professor of Ophthalmology at Stanford University, Michael Marmor has claimed that the semi-abstract watercolours Munch painted while suffering from the disease, reveal the symptoms of his illness.  Mamor comments that Munch's pictures differed in one important aspect from those by other artists with damaged eyesight. "Although the effects of ophthalmic problems such as cataracts can be seen in the works of artists such as Degas and Monet, Munch was unique because he gave us scenes from within the eye itself." Marmor’s new research will be published by the Tate, which will dedicate a room to a series of rarely displayed images in an exhibition which opens at Tate Modern on 28 June.
Richard Cork will give his free public lecture and answer questions about his book on Wed 13th June here at MMU. For full details click on the SCREAM below.

The Royal Society for Public Health Arts and Health Awards 2012
The Royal Society for Public Health awards marking significant contributions to research and practice in the field of Arts and Health are now in their fifth year. This year, the awards will focus on the role of the creative arts in the promoting the health and wellbeing of children and/or young people. Nominations are invited for individuals, teams or organisations whose work has furthered the contribution of the creative arts in fostering the health and wellbeing of children and/or young people in one or more of the following ways: 
  1. Through the development of innovative programmes of creative activity in healthcare or community contexts in the interests of promoting the health and wellbeing of children and/or young people 
  2. Through the development of conceptual and theoretical perspectives on the linkages between creative arts and the promotion of health and wellbeing of children and/or young people 
  3. Through conducting significant research or evaluation studies that contribute to a developing evidence base of the contribution of the creative arts in promoting the health and wellbeing of children and/or young people
Please click on the Sex Pistols, God Save the Queen cover below for details.

So we’ve all dutifully observed our dear old monarchs flotilla, bobbing up and down on the Thames to the bleary-eyed subservience of her loyal subjects. Here is a tonic to refresh the palate.

I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Dr Thom Ferrier this week - a graphic artist of exquisite skill.  If you aren’t sure of what Graphic Medicine is or the potency it has in the medical humanities, I urge you to visit and I note that there looks to be an excellent conference in Canada at the end of July. Please click on the link below for details.

A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld

Some possible definitions:

A solar, radiant entity at the heart of all things - timeless and weightless - an all seeing eye

A super-ego, pulsing with unfettered rage, its veins coursing with crude oil, its vision - total domination of all matter

An inter-stellar arts and health movement governed on the tradition of panning for gold and drilling for oil; of exciting free-markets; the claiming of new territories and removing of all obstacles at any cost

Thank you...C.P.


  1. A B e a u t i f u l
    perspectives. Out of space.
    Boiling mind.

  2. Life is beautiful...and thank you for your comment...