Thursday, 8 August 2019

On the Power of Imagination: Two Events

As announced, project PERFECT organised and co-hosted two public engagement events as part of the Arts and Science Festival at the University of Birmingham. Both celebrated the role of imagination and the importance of relationships in growing and healing.

Here I report on how they went!

Red Hands Film Screening

A scene from Red Hands

Director and screenwriter Francesco Filippi presented his short film in 2D and stop animation, Mani Rosse (Red Hands), to an engaged and diverse audience at the Midlands Arts Centre on 18th June. The film has been honoured with awards at film festivals worldwide and sparked lots of interest. The screening was followed by a panel discussion featuring experts in youth mental health and experts with lived experience of domestic violence, one of the themes of the film.

Panel discussion: Lucy

Some of the audience's comments and questions were about how the film was made, what it was inspired by, and what some specific scenes or symbols recurring in the film meant. The development of the two leading characters (Luna and Ernesto) was also object of some discussion: we were lucky to be joined by the director and animator Francesco Filippi and Lucia Gadolini, psychologist and actor, who helped develop the characters and gave her voice to Ernesto. We learnt that Luna and Ernesto's story was inspired by two real-life stories of domestic abuse, and that the key concepts of freedom and friendship were represented not just in the plot and the dialogue but also in the choice of landscape and in Ernesto's dream sequences.

Francesco Filippi

Other comments and questions, mostly directed at the panel of experts, concerned the effects of domestic violence on mental health, and the psychological realism of the film. From our experts from experience, Lucy Wright and Gemma Hickman, we learnt that whilst the decision to leave an abusive relationship needs to be owned by the victim of abuse and nobody can 'save' them unless they are ready to leave, friendship is a very important source of support, especially for young people. 

Michael Larkin and Bonny Astor also remarked on the many layers the film has, some of which can be appreciated only after a number of viewings, and the ambiguities left in it, that is, aspects of the story of Luna and Ernesto which need to be inferred or reconstructed and are not openly revealed. Finally, they both pointed to the role of colour in the film and the power of expressing oneself, dreaming, and imagining.

Panel discussion: Michael

Participants' feedback showed a thorough engagement with the topics of the discussion. The film generated strong reactions, as was to be expected, and the audience found the opportunity to engage with the director and the experts very useful and stimulating. Many were struck by the sheer beauty of the film and some expressed disagreement with some of the director's choices. 

Here are some of the participants' comments:
  • "The film was aesthetically great and the topic and the theme was thoughtful and inspiring."
  • "I enjoyed very much the discussion about the ambiguities in the movie and the female/male roles."
  • "I have definitely deepened my understanding of domestic abuse and more or less explicit forms of violence."
Overall, as project PERFECT's first film screening, it was a success! 

Pouring Water through a Telescope

Some of the artworks on easels, ERI Foyer

Our second public engagement event was an art exhibition which took place in the ERI Foyer with the collaboration of Alexandra Jolly from the Barber Institute. Alexandra brought with her seven beautiful artworks which were created by participants in her Art Recovery group and Magdalena Antrobus, known to us as the first PERFECT doctoral researcher but now a full-time artist, came with two of her beautiful paintings.

Magdalena Antrobus, Every Passing Hour

As with the film screening, the main common thread among the artworks was a recognition of the importance of imagination, and more specifically art making, in our often long and difficult journeys of recovery from illness. Each of the artworks was accompanied by some words by the author and there was an opportunity for viewers to learn more about the Art Recovery group.

Sophie Stammers facilitated an informal micro-philosophy session, offering an opportunity to viewers to leave some comments and thoughts on a board and engage with some questions about art and health. She also brought her guitar and delighted us with some singing! Matilde Aliffi and Eugenia Lancellotta, who worked for PERFECT as research assistants in the past academic year, provided information about the project to participants. And Magdalena Antrobus was asked about her art and the inspiration for her work.

Audience engaging with the artwork

Microphilosophy board

Here are some of the participants' comments:
  • “I really liked the range of emotions which the different pieces reflected” 
  • “Art is a powerful vehicle for the journey of RECOVERY” 
  • “I loved the colours expressing different emotions in the artworks” 
  • “Transpose your PAIN onto PAGE” 
  • “Art fosters empathy and understanding”

We had the opportunity to meet and chat with so many interesting people during the exhibition! It was a most enjoyable evening and a PERFECT way to officially close the project. 

(Thank you Victoria Beddoes for taking the photographs used in this post).

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