A Winter Garden is a text/art project with people in Blackpool dealing with depression and isolation. The project is lead by writer Philip Davenport (from arthur+martha) and book artist Emily Speed. Philip writes:
“I found it difficult just coming into the room the first day I arrived. Coming from being quiet and hating the limelight. The first time you are edgy, then you see others writing and drawing and it's not so bad jumping in.” (Participant)
Our art/writing project is starting to find compass bearings, the beginning of a shape. We're using The morning sessions are picking up their pace, a great level of concentration was given in the group and the room bustled.
There's a fascinating dynamic going on here. To make a sweeping generalisation, people who're suffering depression tend to become inward-looking, yet are highly sensitive to their surroundings – so what way will they react to being in a group? There seems to be a tremendous push/pull going on in some participants. I understand some of this, because I also have a tendency to be inward-turned.
Writing and art can exacerbate this because it can allow the maker to float away in a bubble. But these activities are acts of communication too; they require others to make them complete. At present, there is a great deal of un-listening going on. People recognise that in order to have their words heard or art seen, they must also acknowledge others. But the acknowledgement in many cases is done by rote. I saw someone in the morning group pick up another's poem, glance at it momently and put it back down with a flat-voiced, unenthused: “Very good.”
However, it's only by acknowledging the words and actions of others fully that we can unwind from our own self-snaring selves. The pieces being made in Blackpool are SHARED self-reflections. And in order to share, you have to step to one side and let someone else stand in the mirror with you Narcissus.
“Take in the world through your eyes, through your windows. People read you through your eyes. Buildings have a facade, a facing. You also put on a public face, the way you dress, the way you present. But what goes on behind the facade? Are you a wreck on the inside? Does the building have rot, woodworm? A fireplace is a warm heart for a house, but it requires fuel. If you can't feed it, it turns cold.” (Participant)
Emily led the sessions this week and some beautiful things emerged. People drew themselves as buildings, imagined their own interior architecture – their world edge. One person imagined a house with (thru a trick of perspective) an ocean as the roof.
“Importance for me is the sea, not a house. My kitchen is in the sea, bedroom is in the sea. Through water I can feel the universe.” (Participant)
It seemed to me a fabulous metaphor - describing both the state of being sucked into the depths – beyond rescue by other humans, with their far-off muzzy cries - and yet also an image of a wondrous connection.