Monday, February 25, 2008

Derek Jarman

An exhibition of the work of Derek Jarman, including his famous film Blue, is taking place at the Serpentine Gallery. Blue was the last colour Jarman could could register before he lost his sight, and ultimately his life, to the disease. Much of the work addresses issues surrounding his sexuality and how he was impacted by AIDS. Curated by Isaac Julien, it runs until 13th April. And since the Serpentine is just up the road from Imperial you should have plenty of opportunity to visit before the show ends its run. You can find out more here.

Appignanesi in conversation

Next Thursday, 6th March, Lisa Appignanesi will be talking to psychoanalyst Margot Waddell about her new book Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present. The talk will take place at 8.30pm at The Institute of Psychoanalysis. Click here for more information and to book.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The medical burden

Just a short poem inspired by my time at the gym, and how it reminds me of the burden that medicine has on the lives which are devoted to it.

The medical burden

I have been here before.
Seen these walls,walked this floor.
But rather than be greeted by friendly faces
I see the anguished looks of grown men,
Writhing in pain as if condemned.
My reflection calls me over showing what I seek.
Holding my future in my hands I don't leave it to the fates,
Standing in front of the bending bar stacked with familiar plates.
Each one ingrained with expectation,
Though I have bared its burden they stare back mockingly,
As today there are more plates, more doubts,
More questions asked by them, by myself,
With fear of failure adding to their immense weight.
Do I concede, defeated by the sheer thought of its gravity,
Breaking me from outside in, inside out,
Physically, emotionally;
Or do pick up the gauntlet and use my will,
My power, every fiber of my strength,
To raise the the burden up with the heavens.
With my sweat on the walls and footprints on the floor,
I have been here before,
And I will endure; I will endure.

Friday, February 15, 2008

What is art?

Yesterday's discussion really had me thinking about what people perceive as art. The Tate purchased something I personally wouldn't consider art, however, they're the Tate so I guess they have more authority.

Take a look at this. The museum spent in excess of 20 000 pounds on Merda d'artista, tin cans filled with the artist's excrement.

Here, in an article titled Excremental Value, they go on to say how it's seventy times worth its weight in gold! As irony would have it, it was found out that it WASN'T the artist's excrement, but just plaster.

So really... What is art? ;)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day viral

Miracles of Life

J G Ballard's memoir Miracles of Life is exemplary of what a memoir should be. It is an inspirational account of the life of one of Britain's most important writers and takes us, as the subtitile says, from Shanghai to Shepperton. Ballard was brough up in Shanghai as a child and his description of the culture and environment there are vivid to say the least. We can, I think, see the seeds of the surrealist take root in his Shanghai childhood, later to bloom in his adult life back in England. Although not strictly speaking a medical memoir, Ballard was a medical student at Cambridge for a time, a period in his life which he relays with the same vigour displayed in all his writing: from the gore of anatomy lessons (for us non-medics at least) to skeletons under the bed (literally) we again get a sense of where his literary imagination was born. It is an extremely sensitive and intelligent book and, while it reveals something more of the man behind Crash and The Atrocity Exhibition, we also get more of the man behind Empire of the Sun and The Kindness of Women. A hugely intelligent writer, Ballard tells of his experience in a WWII internment camp in Langhua, the physical and psychological effects of that internment, the sudden and premature death of his wife and his incredible life thereafter. There is a nice story of his partner Claire who, on experiencing the benefits of a particular kidney operation, writes to thank the surgeon who invented the procedure. Since the publicity surrounding the launch of the book, it is no secret that Ballard is suffering from advanced prostate cancer and he includes a touching tribute to his oncologist Professor Jonathan Waxman at Hammersmith Hospital, describing him as having "that rare ability to see the ongoing course of medical treatment from the point of view of the patient." I thoroughly commend this book.

Shoot the Damn Dog

Shoot the Damn Dog is a depression memoir by London journalist and writer Sally Brampton. Brampton writes a surprisingly uplifting account of her experience of chronic depression including two suicide attempts, alcoholism and treatment-resistant depression. That is not to say there is any gloss on this account. On the contrary, Brampton does not spare us any details of the depths she sank to. But there is always hope which reflects her strength of character, even at the darkest moments. Throught the book she emphasizes depression as an illness, not a character flaw, something which people often seem to forget. She suggests, from her own experience, changes in life-style and behaviour which may help those who are depressed although she is, quite rightly, careful to point out that it is different for everyone, one of the reasons that depression is so difficult to treat in the first place. For her, diet, specific vitamin supplements, exercise, yoga and meditation were and continue to be an important part of her recovery. This is a book that everyone affected by depression should read. Whether you are suffering from depression yourself, have a friend or relative who is, or are involved in treating depressed patients, it provides some important insights into the condition. You can listen again to an interview with Brampton on Radio 4 here.

LAHF Latest Program

Benefits for Artists
LAHF members are invited to an artist talk to examine the impact on artists' practice of residencies in hospitals.

Malcolm Glover, a photographer who has undertaken numerous hospital residencies has just completed a residency with the support of the Max Reinhardt Charitable Trust and Paintings in Hospitals who selected Glover as the recipient of the third Alexandra Reinhardt Memorial Award.

An exhibition of Malcolm Glover's work is being staged at the Menier Gallery, Menier Chocolate Factory, London from the 4th to the 15th March.

The talk will take place at 5.30pm on Wednesday 5th March and will feature Malcolm Glover and Stuart Davie, Director of Paintings in Hospitals. The event is designed to look at the ways in which artists can work in healthcare settings and to explore the opportunities for artists to develop work in this way.

The event will include an opportunity to see the exhibition and to network informally with artists and arts in health practitioners.

For more information or to register interest, e:

Art Into Life
LAHF members are invited to a free taster session of the outreach programme run by Tate Modern. This event will include an introduction to Tate Modern's outreach programme led by Liz Ellis, Curator of the Community Programme followed by introductions to the gallery's collection led by artist educators.

Tate Modern runs this regular outreach programme for community groups attracting a wide range of adult groups from non-formal education, social and health settings. This event will offer LAHF members a sense of how the programme works and an opportunity to debate the ways in which programmes like this can integrate with other arts in health activity in London.

The event will take place on Wednesday 12th March from 10.30am - 1pm. Places are strictly limited and must be booked in advance.

For more details contact Damian Hebron:

Art Therapy And The Arts
LAHF is hosting a half day seminar in conjunction with the British Association of Art Therapists on 8th April to look at the ways in which arts therapists and artists working in healthcare settings can share knowledge and benefit from each other's experiences.

The event will include presentations from artists with experience of working in hospitals and other settings as well as arts therapists and will also include panel discussions and informal opportunities to network with colleagues and to exchange ideas. Confirmed speakers include Norma Daykin.

For more information, please contact

US Conference
‘Embracing Our Past, Shaping Our Future: 21st Century Innovations' is the title of the annual conference of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, which will take place from April 16th - 19th in Philadelphia.

For more information, visit:

Memorial Fundraiser
I'd like to teach the world to sing... is a one-off concert to celebrate the memory of singing coach Ian Adam, a world-famous singing coach who sadly died at Royal Brompton in 2007 after a short illness.

His last professional role was to train Helena Bonham-Carter and Johnny Depp for their roles in the Sweeney Todd, and over 50 stars of stage and screen will be performing at the concert, including Jeremy Irons, Helena Bonham Carter, Elaine Paige and Sir Roger Moore.

It will take place on Sunday February 24th at Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket. To book tickets please call 0844 412 4657, making sure you quote ‘RBH Supporter' or go to this seetickets site

For more info, e:

NHS Funding Leads
The NHS has published a page of funding leads offering examples of organisations which offer funding to a variety of health and social enterprises. The website also offers advice on the legal issues involved in establishing social enterprises.

Please visit:

The Other Side of Waiting
The Other Side of Waiting is a collection of interwoven artworks generated with and for people using the new Mother and Baby Unit at the Homerton University Hospital.

The initiative is being led by taking place, a group of women artists and architects who have collaborated since 2000 on a range of projects exploring questions of gender and spatial practice.
The Other Side of Waiting proposes 6 artworks connected by the critical and practical issues that affect the spaces and processes of giving birth. Each intervention will use different forms of engagement and participation with hospital users and staff to develop the work.

Evaluation Required
Theatre company, Lightning Ensemble, is bringing an innovative performance project, entitled The Chess Players to St George's Hospital in South London, for two weeks in April and is seeking someone to carry out an evaluation of the project.

Developing a pilot project from last November, the performance engages patients with a combination of performance and chess playing, and develops a pilot project, produced in November at St George's last year.

This is a modestly budgeted project with a £350 fee for an evaluation; so expectations are for a relatively succinct report. For more information, e:

Dance as a Resource
Creative Capital is mounting an event to provide information on how dancers' skills can be used as a resource for the health and education sectors.

The event will be run twice taking place in Tower Hamlets on Monday 25th February at Toynbee Hall, at 3.30pm and again as part of the Redbridge Dance Festival on Thursday 6th March at The Gloucester Room, Ilford Central Library, at 6.30pm.

Speakers include: Carolyn Roy, Chisenhale Dance Space, Naz Karim, Akademi South Asian Dance and Kiki Gale, East London Dance.

The event is free, to book or for more information, e:

Dance Workshops
Chisenhale Dance Space is hosting a series of workshops based on the current residency of American dance artist, Doran George.

The residency, which is looking at themes of dance, ritual and bereavement, will culminate with a symposium at Queen Mary, University of London on Saturday March 14th and Sunday March 15th.

Bringing together experts in bereavement care, dance, and other relevant professions the symposium is designed to consider how performance can be a catalyst and vessel for emotional recovery. Speakers include Patricia Repar founder and director of Arts-in-Medicine at University of New Mexico (US), Mary O'Donnell Fulkerson and Robert Pacitti.

The workshops will take place on weekends leading up to the symposium.

For more information, visit:

Loans Sought
The Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust is trying to make contact with artists willing to loan work for a new Treatment Centre which is currently under construction at the Middlesex hospital site.

For more information, e:

City of One
Myrtle Theatre Company's City of One, a play with music performed by a cast of professional actors, musicians and a group of young people in the care of Bristol City Council, will be performed at the Abbey Community Centre, Great Smith Street, London SW1 on Thursday 21st February at 4pm and 6.30pm.

Tickets are free, for more information, e:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Medical Humanities podcasts

The journal Literature & Medicine held a conference at the end of last year called 'Caring for the Caregiver'. Several of the sessions have been made available as mp3 downloads. Speakers include Rita Charon and the physician-poet Rafael Campo. This is a wonderful resource!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Truth About OCD

ICA London 18 February 2008

OCD and the idea of being "obsessive-compulsive" touches a raw cultural nerve. It has worked its way into our culture, and is often used to describe anyone who is either meticulous or overly absorbed. But where does the disorder of OCD come from, what triggers it, and why is it so widespread in contemporary society? What is really like to suffer from OCD, and why are many of us so keen to identify with it?

Speakers: Paul Salkovskis, professor of clinical psychology and applied science, King's College London; Diana Wilson, representative of the national charity OCD-UK. Joanne Limburg, poet, writer, OCD sufferer and author of Paraphernalia; Lara Menzies, researcher, Brain Mapping Unit, University of Cambridge.

£10 / £9 Concessions / £8 ICA Members.

Again, sadly this is already sold out but please call the Box Office to enquire about returns on 020 7930 3647. It's good to see such talks being scheduled, even if I wasn't quick enough to get tickets this time.

Is it always good to talk?

ICA London 14 February 2008

Many modern therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, offer quick-fix results and predictable outcomes, but beyond the promise of short and localised treatments, what are they really offering - a serious analysis of human suffering or conditioning techniques designed to stifle what society refuses to recognise? To what extent can the mind be the object of external intervention? The history of mind-doctoring suggests that we preserve a certain scepticism here.

Darian Leader, psychoanalyst and author of The New Black: Mourning, Melancholia and Depression is in conversation with Lisa Appignanesi, writer, broadcaster and author of Mad, Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800.

£10 / £9 Concessions / £8 ICA Members.

Sadly this is already sold out but please call the ICA Box Office on 020 7930 3647 to enquire about returns.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

sBMJ publications

Congratulations to two former Medical Humanities students from Imperial who have recently had articles published in the studentBMJ. Wais Ahmed published 'Doctors and the Brain Drain' on the controversial and topical issue: doctors from developing countries who then work in the western healthcare. Laura Cherrington has written a provocative piece on the image of the surgeon. Both articles are distinguished by their integration of personal experience with appropriate research. Well done!

Street dance version of 'Cuckoo's Nest'

There was an interesting programme on Radio 4 this week on the film 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'. It's part of a series presented by Paul Gambaccini called 'And the Academy Award Goes To...', looking at the history of the Oscars. You can listen again here until 14 Feb. 'Cuckoo's Nest' swept the board in 1976.

Admirers of the book and film might be interested in a street-dance adaptation called 'Insane in the Brain' by Bounce. It's on at the Peacock Theatre, Holborn, London, running from 27 February till 16 March. According to the publicity: 'In the confines of a psychiatric hospital, breakdance becomes a way of expressing freedom and rebelling against the iron rule of Nurse Ratched – who happens to be a ballet fan… The show features a fantastic soundtrack including hits from stars like Missy Elliot, Dizzee Rascal, Gotan Project, David Holmes and Cypress Hill. Inventive set design and choreography are mixed with film and multimedia sequences to produce a fast-paced show that is at times funny, at times moving, and always packed to the rafters with high-octane dance moves.'
The theatre warns that the show 'contains adult themes'. Do you think they get to keep their underwear on under those hospital gowns?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Loving 'Love' at the Bristol City Museum

I spent the day in Bristol yesterday meeting up with our new external examiner for the Imperial Medical Humanities course, Dr Trevor Thompson. The University of Bristol offers an intercalated BA in Medical Humanities which runs for a whole year and presents a glorious mix of literature, poetry, philosophy and history. (If anyone is interested, apply by the end of the month.)

I tagged along to a meeting of the vocational studies group, informally linked to course. We visited the Bristol's City Museum and Art Gallery. The Museum currently has a touring exhibition called 'Love' on loan from the National Gallery. Louise Ormesher from the Museum gave a wonderful tour of a selection of artworks from 'Love' and the Museum's permanent collection which includes works from some of Britain's best known artists. Louise gave a real insight into the symbolism in paintings and encouraged us to think about the social, political and personal contexts of the artworks.

In relation to the post below on Mark Quinn's exhibition, 'Love' features his piece, 'The Kiss', a sculpture of Mat Fraser (who has thalidomide-induced phocomelia) and Catherine Long (an amputee). The work starts off as a cast of the subject's bodies but it is then sculpted in Cararra marble by Italian craftsmen. Quinn's choice of classical poses and pristine, unpolished marble raises question about notions of classical beauty.
I unreservedly recommend a visit to the Bristol City Museum. It also features works by Frank Dicksee (particularly his 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci') and one of my favourite artists, David Inshaw.