What I do
I am an interdisciplinary artist and post-doctoral researcher based in Edinburgh, Scotland where I specialise in practical medical humanities work and philosophical art processes.
In 2015, I finished my five-year long doctorate in order to develop practical, transferrable ideas for those who are interested in improving their wellbeing through methods and media not previously offered to them. I specialise in encouraging an arts-based path to navigate what can be miserable circumstances of chronic health, or simply to improve anyone’s wellbeing.
Also in 2015, I started to offer and tailor ‘creative wellbeing clinics’ in Scotland and beyond, as well as remaining an artist in residence in various communities around Europe.
As an artist (not a therapist), I’ve worked with people with severe visual impairment, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, ME-CFS, depression and anxiety. My experience is broad; I’ve worked in schools, community centres and I’ve collaborated with housebound clients including senior citizens from both well-off and struggling backgrounds. Today, my being an artist with a doctorate allows me to offer a thoroughly broad range of interventions, projects and workshops underpinned by precedents in lesser-known art histories. In other words I can show you ‘my working out’ of what might seem like an eccentric range of ways we might collaborate. I also may be able to complement the excellent work art therapists do – by not being one. In art therapy, therapy is the key issue. In my sessions the focus is on the process of art and experimental, experiential work.
I self-medicate through art practices, something I tailor to others interested in improving their wellbeing through practical contemporary arts, filling a niche somewhere between art therapy and a bespoke art school – either one to one or in small groups. I tend to offer an alternative to the many wonderful drawing and painting / sculpture tutors in Scotland because, in general, there’s plenty of them available.
Instead, the tools I use are both familiar and left-field but also growing in popularity; from high-end digital photography and audio field recording to the slightly atypical, i.e. I make much use of broken instruments, buildings that are falling down, and different ways to map one’s existence via what is fast becoming a buzzword – ‘psychogeography‘. I also use ‘appropriation’ for authoring works without actually shifting material, something popular with my more exhausted clients.
These approaches arose out of necessity when nothing else worked for me.
My research appeals to multiple audiences – from those who are incarcerated through illness to those limited by prison – and I have spent a long time examining how these individuals negotiated such a journey with sanity via creative responses to tragedy. Although my work was developed in response to my own personal history I am able to apply some principles in constructing bespoke artistic interventions for people who have ‘reached the end of the line’ with their healthcare providers -or even themselves.
I am, more than anything, interested in creativity as a life-supporting mechanism.
My own story
In the late 1990s, I was a TV director for arts television programmes including the long-running UK arts strand The South Bank Show. However, in 1998 I became ill whilst on location in California working for PBS. As I fell apart, my TV career ended and so began an intense learning curve in coping with chronic ill health and initially, a reflexive return to my photographic roots.
Over the following decade, I developed a successful personal art practice sympathetic to my new life expanding into sound art and other media – which has been the foundation for academic enquiry since 2010.
My published thesis and related vinyl records document creative strategies regarding the illness Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or CFS-ME, asking how such an art practice may serve to offset or augment the relationship between the cultural practitioner and the illness.
I am married to an author and we have an effervescent boy and cheeky baby girl.