Beyond my Brain is an interactive exhibition exploring what it means to grow up with brain injury from a range of perspectives - those of the child, the family member, the teacher, the scientist and the artist.
In June 2016 London Brain Project brought together children with brain injury, their families, artists, clinicians, teachers and scientists to create collaborative artworks that capture the many stories of growing up with brain injury.
In January 2017 Beyond my Brain invited a wider audience to join the conversation as the works, facilitated by artists Holly Birtles, Ivan Liotchev, Rutie Borthwick & Candice Hinson were showcased at Menier Gallery alongside a special commission by Rutie Borthwick. The collection responds to the diverse conversations and feelings surrounding the complexities of brain injury through a range of media, including a short documentary by Virginia Pitts. Children and their families will be guided through the collection by an activity trail and audio guide, bringing another dimension to the themes raised by the works.
Throughout the exhibition London Brain Project hosted a series of free events to actively engage families and teachers:
· The private view was an exclusive opportunity to see the work amongst the artists, scientists and participants of the workshop and was accompanied by an excerpt from the much acclaimed show Tracing Grace performed by Off The Wall theatre company.
· School trips introduced local primary school children to the wonders of their own brain and the consequences of brain injury through art-making and theatre with On The Button theatre company.
· A Teacher’s Workshop provided educators with specialist knowledge to support children with brain injuries in the school setting, including talks from Dr Frederique Liegeois (Lecturer in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL).
· A family fun afternoon gave children the chance to explore the exhibition through art, by taking part in the International Collaborative Drawing Project.
Intuitive mark making, digital photographs and a range of brain tracking diagrams have been merged together - considering key the themes: shape, form and obscure juxtapositions. Marks have been applied onto acetate and cartridge paper, later transformed through scanning into large scale photographic negatives prepared for dark room printing. Patients and scientists prepared the layers, photographed key themes and suggested potential layers for the experimental dark room process.
During the workshop the participants made beads, each colour was assigned an emotion: Orange=Angry, Red=Bright, Pink=Happy, Yellow=Sunny full of energy, White=Love, Purple=Positive, Grey=Scared, Black=Sad, Blue=Cheerful, Brown=Grumpy, Green=Disgusting, Turquoise =Worried
We went through our day and placed the beads that we feel in the order of the day, this opened up the discussion. This is the top layer -the one we don't mind sharing about at first.The rest of the layers are the more confusing ones.There are layers of fabric representing different layers of experience, the viewers are invited to move the curtains and assign their own interpretation to the other layers. Sometimes there are new beads and feelings trapped or held in those spaces.
The first panel is a composition of the individual collages put together by the participants. The individual collages are arranged in relation to each other speaking to each other like a visual conversation.
The second panel is the artist response to the art made and to the conversations that occurred during the workshop. Cut-up elements of the collages are layered with transparent paper and sewn into seemingly at random. At each intersection of paper and thread, there is a discrete written word. The thread links the words that stood out for the artist, from the conversation with participants, creating a web over the cut up collages. The web of thread is a reference to neural pathways in the brain.
This collaborative drawing was made by a group of brain injury patients, their families and scientists, led by artist Ivan Liotchev. As the group drew together, they discussed the challenges faced by people with brain injuries, as well as their hopes for the future and recent developments in brain science. Shared experience during the 2-hour workshop was key to the drawing's organic development, which the group decided was an expression of the inner workings of the mind.
Inspired by the Beyond my Brain workshop. Rutie Borthwick in this work responds to the very frank and open conversations she had with families and young people with brain injuries and neuroscientists. She became aware of how much is unknown and there was a strong feeling of uncertainty throughout the discussions. Patients expressed a lack of clarity finding a way to adjust with their peers, and their own expectations as their brain develops with their condition. Families were finding it difficult to get the support they needed within the societal structures, but there was a constant perseverance to find their place, to connect with their child who had the injury, and seek more understanding from the medical field. Finally the scientists were pursuing unchartered waters and continually trying to learn more from the different conditions both academically and from face to face interactions. Rutie encourages you to physically explore the structures of the artwork and emotionally embrace uncertainty.