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an artistic examination into mental health diagnoses

Exhibition runs:
June 14th - July 28th, 2013

Mad Pride Cabaret:
Sat July 13th, 7 – 10:30pm

When does a behaviour, mood, thought become a disorder?

BorderLines is a group art exhibition that engages with ideas concerning borders around behaviour, mood and thoughts that are defined by contemporary Western medicine. By exploring the borders of shapes, architecture and objects that evoke emotional response, each artist seeks an imaginative response to this complex topic.

Mental illness labelling can be destructive and limiting; it can also help us understand and specify certain behavioural traits, creating space for a deeper comprehension of our psychological makeup. This show addresses the boundaries and boxes that have been created by western medicine. Through their creative practices, ten diverse contemporary artists will question the fabric of these definitions, both disrupting and developing our knowledge of mental health. Working in a variety of interdisciplinary media, and under the direction of artist and curator Pierre Leichner (who was a psychiatrist for over 35 years), the artists reflected on their own experiences and perspectives regarding mental disorders diagnosis and its varied effects.

Being diagnosed as a borderline personality is often a pejorative label even in psychiatric services. It implies someone who is angry, critical, moody, and who often questions the system. So called personality disorders is one of the diagnostic categories that has drawn recent criticisms about the method of diagnosing used by contemporary Western medicine.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM IV) of Mental Disorders of the American Association is a categorical classification system, which has grown in size since the 1970s. It is a categorical and rigid system of classification as opposed to a multi-dimensional, fluid one. Its use is being globalized. It is thus becoming an essential device that has the capacity to, orientate, determine, model, and insure the actions, conduct, opinions and discourse of living beings. The next DSM V book is due to be launched in 2013, as such, our proposed exhibition and the discussions it will engender, are very timely.

By applying contemporary art praxis, BorderLines will address the term “borders”, specifically where it relates to delineations within a psychological medical model. Post-modern paradigms that influence contemporary art, and the perception of art as social, interdisciplinary and issue-based, have created space for the borders between art/non-art and art/society to shift.

All of the artists have been selected for this show because of the ways in which they already think outside of normative societal boundaries. In their existing work they are challenging pre-existing assumptions around classification, with some having worked within the mental health field as caregivers and others having personal experience of this subject matter.

Persimmon Blackbridge's politics have fostered her fearless, innovative art, with her being described provocatively as, “learning-disabled - lesbian - cleaning-lady - sculptor - performer – madwoman”. Susanna Blunt is a painter and sculptor who creates new hybrid forms that defy recognition. Olga Campbell is an interdisciplinary artist whose sculptures and photographs deconstruct the border between inside and outside. Eric Deis is a large-scale photographer whose works capture the stark realism often implicit in a marginal social world. Bernadine Fox uses her mixed media paintings to invite the viewer into her personal world where she deconstructs and de-stigmatizes mental conditions. Eve Lagarde uses words in artist books to bridge poetically the coldness of clinical diagnosis with humanity. Mark Mizgala plays on notions of identity and stereotyping of personalities within a conceptual art framework. Jay Peachy is an interdisciplinary artist and mental health activist who conceptualizes with humour to heal and dispel our prejudices. Matt Sabourin re-appropriates and subverts everyday objects by injecting new meaning onto them. Linda Schmidt is a sculptor whose works invites people to be aware of fitting into predefined spaces.

This exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the BC Arts Council.