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Blog - Colin Hambrook

Journeying half way across the world in search of fools’ gold

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Image of a head with several rooms in which tortuous acts are visualised as a metaphor for everything we're not allowed to say about our oppression by the powers that be

Mad Bonce drawing. Image © Colin Hambrook

I first met Gaele Sobott from Outlandish Arts in London back in the autumn of 2015 when she interviewed me for her blog and we began talking about the possibility of working together. Later that year in a conversation with Rowan James about the pitfalls of making work under the disability arts banner we came up with the title Fools’ Gold.

Fools’ Gold struck me as having layered meanings. I’d been writing a monologue about the frustrations of making work about mental health and the predominant perceptions of that work always being within a medical model concept. It has struck me for a long time that Psychiatry has so colonised the way that we think about mental distress; that the thinking is so embedded within societies ideas of ‘what is normal?’ that the notion of a social model of mental health that defied the medical idea of organic illness is incredibly difficult to put across.

The journey to recover from the frame that a mental health diagnosis puts on you is complex and convoluted, to find the soul, Fools’ Gold, iron fire, a source of ignition, the folly of answers, identity and parade, all that glistens…

At the beginning of 2016 I started writing a monologue from the frustration of my writing and painting about the experience of psychosis being always perceived with a medical eye. Okay, so I’m mad, but the world is mad and as R.D. Laing once said “madness is the only sane response to an insane world.”

On the other hand Fools’ Gold says something about the contradictions inherent within making art connected with social justice. There is always the rub of finding the money to be able to do what you want to do and the constraints that taking an award from a funder necessitates.

Gaele has been an incredible support over the last year in developing a Fools’ Gold project in Sydney with myself as one of the lead artists. She’s persevered in making the project happen despite struggles with funding. She has brought a group of amazing writers and artists together: Sandy Jeffs from Melbourne, Pony Horseman from Adelaide, and Louise Kate Anderson, Richard Bell and Ken Canning from Sydney.

What’s arisen more and more in my mind, acquainting myself with the work of these artists is the double-whammy of oppression in a country so severely downtrodden by British colonialism. Capitalism takes over and everything gets absorbed by the machine and the sensibilities of people; and especially the First Peoples are ridden roughshod over, to be picked up by the mental health and prison system, which ultimately becomes just another way for ‘the man’ to make his buck.

Outlandish Arts are committed to working with artists who have journeyed through mental and emotional distress. Gaele says: “we are creating fantastic art and conversations. With the support of UTS, the Art Gallery of NSW and the State Library of NSW, Fools’ Gold is a pilot for future collaborative events, continuing conversations and arts-linked research into creating mental health services that value the importance of self-determination, leadership and ownership of healing and recovery.”

I have to thank the Arts Council’s Artist International Development Fund for awarding me the money to enable me to get out to Sydney. All the artists engaged are donating their time and creativity to the program. If you feel moved to find out more and to support the artists making Fools’ Gold happen please click on this link to Outlandish Arts website.

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Richard Downes
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Shut Up!!! Hi Colin. Good to hear about your work. I welcome our talkers. A monologue sounds great. I know you’ll do it well. Here at the manor breakfast tv has a number of presenters prattling on in as fake a way as the media gets. A head popped up and said we must talk and do something about mental health. I remember writing about the royal conversation put on for the cameras with katie saying to Arold you’re so amazing, i think youre fab. It was so facile and we sucked it up. Turned out the solution was to… Read more »
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