Landscape of the Mind

Landscape of the Mind is a sculpture that explores deeply personal experiences of anxiety — what it feels like and what helps — through body map drawings that chart experiences, emotions and physical sensations that may be difficult to express verbally.

Body mapping is a process that enables individuals to express their personal experience of anxiety in a way that shows its debilitating effects without stigmatising the condition. The body maps presented in Landscape of the Mind, were created by participants in a research study conducted by Professor Katherine Boydell and her team at the Black Dog Institute, an organisation that studies, diagnoses and helps to moderate mood disorders like depression and anxiety.

This research study occurred as part of the 2016 Sydney Science Festival with support from Inspiring Australia. Members of the general public attended a half day facilitated workshop to discuss their experiences of anxiety. They then created life-size body maps depicting their experiences. Participants used symbols, slogans and text, creating a series of evocative illustrations about their anxiety.

Inspired by this work, and to build awareness and empathy for individuals experiencing anxiety, curator Natalie Robinson was engaged to create an artwork. Using a series of life-sized human forms and integrated body maps, Natalie etched the evocative illustrations created by the Sydney Science Festival workshop participants into transparent acrylic panels. These were then illuminated with different colours to highlight how anxiety can impact different parts of the body.

The work uses body maps as a way of telling stories about anxiety. While it is intended to provoke empathy, the significance of each story can only be understood in relation to the creator’s overall experience. It follows that in Landscape of the Mind, each body map can be viewed both individually, and also through layers of collective experience by looking through all the assembled transparent panels.

Presented as part of Vivid 2017, the Landscape of the Mind installation received extensive media, online and social coverage, with TV news reports attracting almost one million viewers and a news feature in the Sydney Morning Herald attracting some 705,000 readers. This engagement sparked over 150,000 new visits to the Black Dog Institute’s website. Other media mentions were made in The Guardian Australia and The Daily Telegraph.

The project’s success in raising awareness of anxiety and how it is experienced in the community is a testament to the effectiveness of using art practice as a mental health research tool, not only to help anxiety sufferers describe their internal worlds, but also to communicate the complexity of this widespread and little understood condition to the general public.

Landscape of the Mind artists

Black Dog Institute and amigo & amigo: Natalie Robinson, Katherine Boydell,  Simone Chua and Renzo  B. Larriviere.

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