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An Equiry into the Norm

Andrew Wilson + NAGAS + Star and Shadow Cinema

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What do we mean when we refer to the term mental-illness? What is it - you, me, our relatives, our neighbours, the legal authorities and the health service - identify when we refer to a particular individual as mad or mentally unwell?

We tend to distinguish much of our knowledge by contrasts: we know what we mean by white in comparison to black, man in comparison to woman, we can acknowledge that a solid is manifested by the empty space that surrounds it and that a dip manifests a wave.
When identifying a bodily or physical illness, such as cancer or a broken bone for example, the illness can be physically and clearly identified in comparison to an established anatomical and physical norm of good health.

In his essay The Myth of Mental Illness Psychiatrist and academic Thomas Szasz states that when Identifying a mental illness - which is related to mind, consciousness, perception, emotion, memory and imagination – we can be certain of only one thing, that it is a norm that must be stated in the terms of concept. If our understanding of mental illness is measured upon a concept, as Szasz suggests, it then begs the question – whose?  and for what ends?

In an attempt to creatively provoke these questions artist Andrew Wilson working closely with the Star and Shadow Cinema and Newcastle and Gateshead Art Studio (NAGAS) has co-curated a season of 6 feature films entitled Between an Elephants Toes and Trunk. Expending a diverse and playful range of cinematic style and era, each film has been chosen to explore our culturally identified diagnosis of mental illness and its recognised contrast or norm.

At Connecting Principles 2012 Andrew will present the findings of the season inviting a variety of cross discipline individuals - including experienced mental health service users and experienced mental health practitioners - to discuss the concept of the season, specifically the role of art practice in such investigative questioning.

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Fine Art, School of Arts and Cultures

Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, NE1 7RU
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