The exhibition Group Therapy: Mental distress in a digital age will be showing at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) between 5 March – 17 May 2015. Originating from FACT’s extensive work within mental health and wellbeing, the exhibition explores the complex relationship between technology, society, and mental health.

Developed with various partners, including Mersey Care NHS Trust, the Wellcome Trust, The British Psychological Society (BPS) and University of Liverpool, the exhibition will be accompanied by a full public programme. Films, talks and events will encourage visitors to rethink their understanding of mental health and wellbeing and welcome further public discussion about how our mental health is related to the society we live in and the impact of new technologies. FACT’s Young People’s programme will also be producing focused events for local young people. The exhibition coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week 2015 (11 – 17 May).

Our society is by a constant use of digital devices – from taking selfies and vlogging, to working and gaming. Simultaneously, most people face some kind of mental health issues during their lifetime, affecting either themselves, or a friend or family member. But how is our use of technology connected to our wellbeing, and how does it affect our values and the way we see ourselves?

Group Therapy explores the past, present and future of mental health and wellbeing in relation to societal values and technology. Including apps, games and online forums, a variety of digital tools will be displayed that illustrate the diverse ways we use technology to manage and mediate our emotions in the 21st Century.

Vanessa Bartlett, who is co-curating the exhibition with FACT’s Director Mike Stubbs, says ‘Group Therapy proposes that art and the creative use of digital devices can challenge dated ideas about mental illness, helping to reduce stigma and encourage open discussion about our personal wellbeing.’

Supported by the Wellcome Trust and the The British Psychological Society (BPS), the major new commission Madlove by The Vacuum Cleaner responds to the artist’s own experience of psychiatric hospitals as punishing rather than loving environments. A collaboratively-designed asylum will be created at FACT as “a safe place to go mad”, appropriate for a society where all of us experience emotional distress. Madlove features advisors from across the health, higher education and science as well as design sectors, including principal partner the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool.

Other artists include Dora Garcia, Kate Owens & Neeta Madahar, Quintan Ana Wikswo, George Khut and Katriona Beales.

In collaboration with various mental health organisations, including Mersey Care NHS Trust, FACT has proudly been involved in projects for participants with mental health issues for more than 20 years. Artists have both been working closely with the community in creative projects as well as created digital tools that support mental health. Examples are FACT’s recent launch of a mental health support app, In Hand, developed with young people, and projects with military veterans, many with mental health problems. Group Therapy offers visitors to take a closer look at FACT’s work in this field over the years in an interactive archive.

FACT’s Director Mike Stubbs says ‘At FACT, we’ve always been very passionate about our work in mental health. We are very pleased that our efforts have resulted in such an inspiring and thought provoking exhibition, showing that emotional distress is a topic that concerns us all.’


Exhibition highlights include:

The Vacuum Cleaner’s major new commission Madlove, supported by the Wellcome Trust and The British Psychological Society (BPS), is based on the artist’s own experience of psychiatric hospitals being punishing rather than loving environments. He is inviting members of the public to collaboratively-design a more appropriate asylum. Madlove features advisors from across the health, high education and science as well as design sectors, including principal partner the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool.

The newly commissioned animation Me and The Black Dog by Kate Owens & Neeta Madahar explores the tradition of understanding mental health using storytelling and metaphor. Using cultural references in British folklore to ‘the black dog’ as a symbol of melancholy or death, the work investigates the idea that the dark element of one’s personality isn’t necessarily something to eradicate, but can be valued as an intrinsic part of oneself.

Katriona Beales’ new commission – an installation combining sculptural elements with moving image and audio – responds to the emerging field of Internet addiction and has been created in dialogue with Henrietta Bowden-Jones, neuroscience researcher and specialist in Internet addiction.

In a photographic series of American asylum buildings, Quintan Ana Wikswo evokes the hyper-vigilant eye movements of post-traumatic stress disorder. This offers viewers the opportunity to experience mental illness through the eyes of the individual on the edges of society as a result of trauma or social injustice, as well as gives a historical context, highlighting the power relations.

Ubermorgen’s Psychosis Sensation is a piece of software that allows users to ‘self diagnose’ and print prescriptions for various mental health conditions. Installed within a mock-up psychiatric practice, it highlights various ways that technologies of sedation and stimulation are used for treating every kind of emotional distress in contemporary society.

George Khut’s The Heart Library challenges common perceptions that technology distances us from our bodies, by connecting body and mind. Emotionally-mediated changes in the user’s heart-rate influence the colour and sound of a large, ceiling mounted video projection. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

The multi-channel video installation Twelve by Melanie Manchot aims to articulate the complex relations between individual and collective structures in recovery as well as in therapy more generally. Developed in close collaboration with twelve people in recent recovery from substance misuse, the work is at once cinematic and intimate, performative and rich in affective stories and gestures. Commissioned by Portraits of Recovery, funded by the Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England.

Dora Garcia’s work The Deviant Majority addresses revolutionary reforms in psychiatry that grew out of the political turmoil of the late 1960s. The film highlights the German Socialist Patient’s Collective (SPC), active in the 1970s, who believed that the social relations initiated by capitalism were responsible for physical manifestations of madness.

Lauren Moffatt’s 3D stereoscopic film Not Eye tells the story of a woman who makes an elaborate helmet with inbuilt cameras, to cope with the anxiety and paranoia created by a society saturated with images. Lauren Moffatt is currently an Artist in Residence at FACT as part of the European Media Artist Residency Exchange (EMARE) Programme. This programme aims to unite artists across the continent and partner countries, with arts institutions of various levels, whilst developing new, publicly engaging work. Supported by the Culture 2013 programme of the European Commission. This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.

Superflex’s video installation The Financial Crisis illustrates the 2008 crash from a therapeutic perspective and highlights the correlation between financial risk, anxiety and emotional distress.

Made possible through support from MYA and the Liverpool Children’s Emotional health and Wellbeing Partnership, an artwork will be co-produced by artist Erica Scourti and a group of 13 to 18 year olds through FACT’s young people’s programme Freehand.


For more information contact:
Sofia Sigroth, Media Relations Officer, 0151 707 4413

Jen Chapman, Head of Marketing & Communications, 0151 707 4415


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