Other People’s Practices (OPP) is an artist residency and research project which brings socially engaged art practices to bear on the context of the National Forensic Mental Healthcare Service (NFMHS) in collaboration with current and former service users of the Central Mental Hospital (CMH).
Phase 1 of OPP began in 2019 and occurred in person in Usher’s Island and remotely across a number of assisted living sites during COVID-19 lockdown. Usher’s Island is an NFMHS community centre for recovered and recovering service users of the Central Mental Hospital, located in Dublin 8. Phase 1 is intended as a demonstrable working model for a sustainable artist residency and research programme in an NFMHS community setting. Its focus was engagement with users at an advanced stage in their recovery journey and in a community setting.

Phase 2 aims to continue this paradigm and support the realisation of artworks in and around the new NFMHS campus and the new CMH, as well as its surrounding community in Portrane, Dublin. Phase 2 also prioritises engagement with old and new stakeholders and partners to secure and develop the project in Portrane as a permanent resource.

Phases 1 and 2 of OPP are funded by Creative Ireland’s National Creativity Fund and are made possible by a partnership between Project Director John Conway, The National Forensic Mental Health Service and the National College of Art and Design, as well as support from Waterford Healing Arts Trust and Fingal County Council’s Public Art Curator Caroline Cowley.

Phase 1

03/2019–11/2019

Residency 1

Emma Finucane

Artist bio

Emma has been researching and making visual art in health contexts for over ten years. Her work is created through dialogue, process based, participatory and collaborative practice. She investigates the way we connect and communicate with places and each other and how this ultimately contributes to the quality of our lives. Her work frequently combines education, research and artistic practice. Emma’s art practice led her to a residency in the UCD School of Nursing and Midwifery.

Emma’s Instagram

Emma’s Website

Residency statement

Emma’s residency focused on Usher’s Island as a site providing a pivot towards recovery and community reintegration: A vital ‘space’ or ‘place’ within the lives of the service users attending. She focused on these terms as a departure point embarking on the potential of a collaborative creative journey of the artist and service user in this ‘space’ or ‘place’. Her approach initially involved the use of practical print workshops. The workshops were designed to provide opportunities for participants to enter at their own level in a friendly, fun and social atmosphere. The aim was to create an environment where new ideas, discourses and processes in contemporary fine art print and photography could be fostered in an open, exploratory and non-judgemental space for participants and staff.

The insights that arose from these weekly workshops guided and informed the creative actions in each subsequent workshop. This allowed Emma to work in group and individual contexts investigating new ways of using these existing spaces while exploring concepts of space and place. This resulted in participants engaging in a process of open exploration and discovery, released from the relative confines and structure of their week in an effort to inject a sense of freedom and confidence. The immediate outcome of the workshops was the installation of artwork in a meeting room and exterior spaces which the group transformed into temporary exhibition spaces. Participants titled their exhibition ‘Wednesdays Unlocked’, in reference to the freedoms afforded in Emma’s exploratory processes, and the weekly scheduling of their meetings.

For Phase 2 Emma intends to shape the cultural and physical environment at the new hospital in Portrane based on the findings from a parallel program of research accompanying the development and delivery of workshops on-site in Phase 1. Building on her observations of the lack of reference and resource material available to participants and a prohibition on use of the Internet, Emma plans to develop a bespoke high quality curated art library that feeds creativity, offers individual space and time to reflect and engage in visual culture beyond the hospital. The realisation and development of this work will involve participant workshops designed as per Phase 1 and the consolidation of links and partnerships to places of cultural exhibition and production outside of the hospital.

Process image: Screen printing with participants, facilitated by Emma Finucane. Image courtesy of the artist.
Process image: Screen printing with participants, facilitated by Emma Finucane. Image courtesy of the artist.
Participants installing their work for their Wednesdays Unlocked exhibition. Image courtesy of participants.
Printed ephemera created by project participants. Image courtesy of participants.
Emma Finucane during the launch of Other People’s Practices. Harry Clarke Lecture Theatre, NCAD, Dublin. Photograph courtesy of Brian Cregan.
Printed ephemera created by project participants. Image courtesy of participants.

10/2019–02/2020

Residency 2

Glenn Loughran

Artist bio

Glenn Loughran is an artist and lecturer at the TU Dublin School of Creative Arts. Exhibiting nationally and internationally, his work has developed hybrid forms of artistic research at the intersection of artistic practice, pedagogical process and evental philosophy. Key long-term projects include: The Hedge school project (2006–12) / Mode D (2011–14) / After the Future…of Work (2016–20) / What is an island? (2018–21). He is Programme Chair of the the MA Art and Environment (West Cork) and the B.A in Visual Art (Sherkin Island).

Glenn’s Website

Residency statement

Glenn’s approach to working in Usher’s Island was influenced by his previous work with a number of Dublin 8 contexts and communities including After the future… of work (2019-20), an artistic research project which explored local histories of industrial labour. His approach was also influenced by the legacy of the nearby Mendicity Institute which had a long tradition of care related work in the area and was originally set up to ‘support the homeless at subsistence levels while training them for simple employment […] so that they might recover their strength and purpose sufficient to reassert their independence’ [1].

His Phase 1 residency explored the value of work as a social and collective form of contribution. Engagement with service users took place through the use of digital processes, image making, audio recording and video essaying. This approach introduced participants to various ways that digital culture and digital skills could provide creative, analytical and communicative ways of engaging with the world. Within this context the concept of a ‘digital therapeutics’ developed by Philosopher, Bernard Stiegler [2] was explored. Stiegler’s conception of a digital therapeutics aims to cure, not the individual per se, so much as the role and influence of digital media platforms on our collective consciousness. To do this, individuals need to have access to digital tools so that they can transform those tools in imaginative and collective ways.

The gifting of a suite of computers by the Technological University of Dublin contributed towards the development of on-site workshops which introduced participants to video–editing techniques. Supported by screenings and film analysis, this led to a collective essaying of ideas and experiences within the group around the concept of ‘work’. Due largely to climate change protests, these themes of industrialisation merged with issues around the environment and climate change, discussed through films such as Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) and The Anthropocene (2019). Using these films as a reference point the participants created individual interpretations and commentaries on environmental change through the video essay format. Expanding on the environmental focus of the project the group were supported in designing and building a series of sculptural, architectural planters to house their video-essays and integrate them within the building at Usher’s Island. 

Building on his Phase 1 engagement, Glenn’s aim is to develop an expanded participatory project with the new Central Mental Hospital and its surrounding community, with an emphasis on connecting public spaces with the hospital architecture, co-production with service users, and the integration of digital media and environmental sensing.

[1] www.frg.ie/local-news/the-mendicity-institute-200-years-in-dublin/

[2] www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00131857.2019.1625330

Process image: Project participants fabricating a wooden sculpture. Image courtesy of Glenn Loughran.
Process image: Project participants creating their video essays. Image courtesy of project participant and Glenn Loughran.
Extracts from participants’ video essay. Image courtesy of project participant and Glenn Loughran.
Extracts from participants’ video essay. Image courtesy of project participant and Glenn Loughran.
Extracts from participants’ video essay. Image courtesy of project participant and Glenn Loughran.
Extracts from participants’ video essay. Image courtesy of project participant and Glenn Loughran.

03/2020–Hiatus–12/2020

Residency 3

Jonathan Cummins

Artist bio

Jonathan’s work, made for gallery and screen, is approached as a process of enquiry and engagement and addresses themes such as ideological belief, political violence, experience of institutions and the challenges of representation, most notably through the inter-connecting film installations When I Leave These Landings (2004–2009), Go Home (2010–2013) and Out the Road (2012–2016). His work has been exhibited widely, both nationally and internationally. He occasionally curates, including Andrei Molodkin (2020,2018), Katrina Palmer (2016), Brian Maguire (2016), Santiago Sierra (2013), Phil Collins (2012), John Gerrard (2011) and Eija-Liisa Ahtila (2009). He holds an MFA from UCLA and a PhD from the Centre for Socially Engaged Practice-Based Research, TUD. He teaches with Belfast Art School, Ulster University.

Residency statement

In Phase 1, Jonathan hosted workshops which facilitated discussion of compliance and insight amongst the residents – compliance with medications prescribed, unwanted side effects, progression through the stages of treatment at the hospital and insights into one’s health. The tabloid newspaper of participant’s drawings which emerged from this process are a figuration of their discursive enquiries. The drawings are part of the thinking space created between the residents and the artist. In Jonathan's words “They point to a flickering phase space between worlds: lucky charms and effervescent talisman, promises of insights and wellness, the interior and exterior of worlds with their observations and observing selves”.

The drawings and their production represent a process of enquiry into medications by those taking them and of life inside institutions of care by those within. Covid brought Jonathan’s first residency at Usher’s Island to a halt after just six weeks. He maintained contact online, across multiple sites and through changed circumstances. During this period, the group’ s enquiries turned to the design and production of a signet ring in collaboration with Belfast based goldsmith, Garvan Traynor. The rings, produced from discarded metal door fixtures from the hospital at Dundrum, are personal objects which mark a shared time and place, commitments, solidarity, memories and futures. Another ongoing project involves drawing and recording meals at the hospital. 

Jonathan’s ambitions for Phase Two looks towards the new hospital at Portrane and proposes film as a thinking space to examine the primacy of intersubjective relations in being, identity and care. Employing print, neon, jewellery and film, the combined residencies highlight art and its diverse processes of enquiry as fundamental to the understanding and health of our institutions.

Process image: letters exchanged between Jonathan Cummins and project participants during social distancing. Image courtesy of Jonathan Cummins.
Process image: Draft edition of a tabloid newspaper containing participant illustrations of medication. Image courtesy of Jonathan Cummins.
Process image: Draft edition of a tabloid newspaper containing participant illustrations of medication. Image courtesy of Jonathan Cummins.
Participant illustrations of medication. Image courtesy of Jonathan Cummins.
Participant illustrations of medication. Image courtesy of Jonathan Cummins.
Participant illustrations of medication. Image courtesy of Jonathan Cummins.

11/2020

Panel discussion

Dealing In The Reality: Other People’s Practices

↗︎

07/2021

Publication

And More Besides

Other People’s Practices: And More Besides is a high level summary of Other People’s Practices (OPP) from its inception up to December 2020, what is defined as OPP Phase 1 and its transitioning period to Phase 2. It is researched and written by Dr Sheelagh Broderick. Her writing gives a clear meta narrative on Phase 1 of OPP; a series of socially engaged artist residencies which took place in Usher’s Island, a National Forensic Mental Health Service (NFMHS) community day centre for recovered and recovering service users of the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) in Dublin, Ireland.

In this publication, Sheelagh discusses the first generation of residencies undertaken by Visual Artists Emma Finucane, Glenn Loughran, and Jonathan Cummins. Sheelagh also incorporates feedback from patients, who took part in the project, and first-hand clinical insights contributed by Ann Dunnmurray, Forensic Community Mental Health Nurse and Usher’s Island’s Clinical Nurse Manager. Sheelagh then sets out the early stages of Phase 2 of the project which will take place during 2021. Phase 2 occurs in parallel with a historic move from the CMH’s original location in Dundrum, a Victorian asylum designed by Jacob Owens and built in 1850, to a modern care facility in Portrane designed by Scott Tallon Walker Architects and due for completion in 2021.

Founder and Director
John Conway
February 2021

[1] – A research project concerning arts practices in healthcare settings and the encounter between artist, researcher, healthcare professional and institution. Rather than understanding arts practices as either therapeutic or recreational services, this research asks instead, what (else) can an arts practice do? This is accomplished by connecting two previously separate bodies of scholarship; health sociology and an art criticism of expanded arts practices.

[2] – Contemporary Art, Health & Medicine: Other People’s Practices: Who are the Other People? Online event, April 2021.

[3] – A conversation between John Conway, Ann Dunmurray and Caroline Cowley, Fingal Arts Office Public Art Coordinator, at the 2020 Arts + Health Check Up Check In.

[4] – Having been awarded the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) NFMHS Masters of Fine Art Scholarship.

[5] – In this publication, the words ‘health care’ and ‘healthcare’ are both used. This is not a linguistic inconsistency or oversight in editing, but a purposeful discernment of the nuanced distinction between these two words. In a rather simplistic and reductionist manner, we shall define ‘health care (noun)’ as a set of actions on behalf of a person or persons to attend to the health needs of another person/patient/client and enhance their health; versus ‘healthcare (noun)’ which we define as a system, an industry, a field which formally organises the logistics of and facilitates the delivery of health care for persons/patients/clients.

[6] – Evaluating The Impact Of Participatory Art Projects For People With Mental Health Needs—Suzanne Hacking Helen Spandler & Jo Shenton. 2008 | Arts, Mental Distress, Mental Health Functioning & Life Satisfaction: Fixed-effects Analyses Of A Nationally-representative Panel Study—Senhu Wang, Hei Wan Mak & Daisy Fancourt. 2020 | The Art Of Being Mentally Healthy: A Study To Quantify The Relationship Between Recreational Arts Engagement And Mental Well-being In The General Population—Christina Davies, Matthew Knuiman & Michael Rosenberg. 2016

[7] – Care Or Custody? Ethical Dilemmas In Forensic Psychiatry. Gwen Adshead. 2000.

08/2021

Short film by Peter Kelly

And More Besides

10/2021

Exhibition, Portrane

Future Happiness: OPP x Resort Residencies

St Ita’s, built in 1903, had a massive impact on the cultural fabric of Portrane, with numerous local families having at least one generation employed there. In the same way, the Dundrum suburbs grew up around the original CMH which was built there in 1850. The hospitals, and their local context do not exist in isolation from one another. Indeed recovering and recovered service users will take their first steps back to community life in the local area. OPP seeks to position itself on the overlapping thresholds of the existing local community in Portrane, and the new community of the NFMHS.

OPP’s vision is to support future generations of long-form artists residencies to work with staff and patients in the local area on participatory art projects: Future Happiness: Other People’s Practice X Resort Residency / Revelations is the first in a series of steps which attempt to establish OPP in the local area in order to realise this vision. It is a brilliant opportunity between OPP’s Phase 1 and 2 where we can connect and respond to the local area, and exhibit new work based on the artist’s collective research, engagement and insight into the NFMHS through their Usher’s Island residencies, and their connectivity to Portrane through their experience during their Resort Residencies.

OPP’s end goal is the establishment of a community arts and health site which provides a platform for artists to work in Portrane both within the new NFMHS and in the local community—an arts-centric site with capacity to reach patient and staff populations of the CMH, as well as the local community where recovered and recovering patients will eventually find themselves spending time as they progress back to community living—providing access to, and participation in, top quality art projects exterior to the hospital institute and not orientated as healthcare staff / patient, but artist / participant. 

Founder and Director
John Conway
October 2021

Phase 2

Upcoming

About John Conway