I wrote the following manifesto way back in 2008, when I had just started my doctorate at Cambridge University. Every time I come back to this piece of writing, I try to update it or change it in some way. But I can’t. I won’t. It speaks volumes about what I am still trying to do now, with my work as Time to Change Hub Coordinator, Arts in Health Researcher, and soon to be Peer Support Worker with Oxford Health (the team that helped me finally, at long last, get well). So the manifesto, my ‘Making Sense’, is worth retaining. Please read. Share. Live.
I want to found a communitarian practice, through art, that provides a restorative social act.
By showing people how they can engage with art, I wish to open a way of being in the world and making sense of it for those who are petrified or oppressed (as so many are, in truth). Then we can take delight in existence and live together.
I want to show people how they can make sense through an art practice. This will demonstrate how an art practice is a restorative and replenishing social act: by being creative and making art, people can build a community and share it, whilst having a voice and place to express their needs, opinions, desires and dreams.
An ‘art practice’ is the opening of a space where people can be free, and inspired, to act naturally and creatively. By experimenting, playing, and being creative together, the things people make can testify to and preserve this free space.
Here life begins.
I want to open a platform whereby this practice can be actualized and then utilized in different localities, so that people have the chance to put it into place themselves, when they make art together. This requires no specialist artistic talent; but the courage and the need to question the way things are, and to dare to think how they might be different. Anything is possible.
To do this requires practical activities in different localities, through workshops and exhibitions in the local community, speaking at events and debates, and making connections with artists, students, academics and innovators across the world to find new contacts, new material, and extend the practice. It needs a manifesto that will ‘make sense’ to a broad range of people in diverse constituencies and communities.
What I need, most of all, is to connect with people who really care about life and the world, and who wish that they could be true to themselves (rather than coerced and composed by the system). I wish to connect with people who dare to step outside the box, who want to go into the world, and make a difference for those who really need it.
We all need it. The free space provided by art is opened for everyone. Let us make sense together.
Photgraph of the Art Therapy Masters students at LASELLE College of Art, Singapore. I spent some time there as ‘Artist in residence’, sharing my story and to give lectures to the students. This was a momentous experience.