A roundup of artistic interventions taking place as part of our 70th Festival.
As you curate your own festival experience, you may like to see what artistic interventions you can choose from to enhance your visit. Heather Stradling has brought together the different festival events that approach the theme of ‘Re-imagining Human Relations for our time’ artistically.
Little did I know, when joining the Tavistock Institute nearly two years ago, that there would be so many connections between my previous career in the arts and my new career embedded in the social sciences. However, as the upcoming 70th Festival approaches, there has been an opportunity to explore these connections in some detail.
For instance, working across boundaries – a feature of life at the Tavistock Institute – is also a key feature of life in the arts, whether that means boundaries between art forms, sectors, body and mind or between ‘creator/s’ and ‘audience’. The festival’s theme, ‘Re-imagining human relations in our time’, resonates for me on many personal and professional levels. It’s a real treat that festival contributors have been so generous in offering rich and diverse ways of relating to the theme. It’s also inspiring to see a number identifying as both artists and scientists.
Opportunities for creativity, play and curiosity are available throughout the festival, whether in the Social Dreaming Matrices, the Group Relations Event for the silver generation or the War Officer Selection Event, to name a few. However, alongside these are activities sitting more consciously within the artistic realm. The Tavistock Institute became more explicit about its engagement with the arts when Juliet Scott became its first artist-in-residence in 2015, creating new work in response to object relations cards found in the archive. These pieces will be exhibited every day of the festival in the Swiss Church, alongside items from the archive itself and complemented by a range of artistic interventions. Also exhibited is Crossing Borders, a film made by Jinette de Gooijer, Nuala Dent and Suzie Bourne, which powerfully visualises the journeys of people experiencing forced migration. For those wanting to actively participate, there is also plenty on offer.Jinette de Gooijer, Nuala Dent, Suzie Bourne, Crossing Borders , video still, 2017
If you head to the Garden Museum on Tuesday afternoon, James Holcome and Rosalind Fowler will be leading two drop-in workshops (though you can book ahead too) titled Uncanny Pleasure: All the colour nature possesses. This is a chance to help create film using dyes from organic plant material and contribute to the festival’s online archive.
Beetroot dye, James Holcome and Rosalind Fowler
If you wanted to make a day of immersing yourself in the arts, it’s possible to move between the Garden Museum and Swiss Church in order to catch a performance of Bed by Entelechy Arts. This was originally created as a piece of street theatre, exploring stories of loneliness and isolation and devised with Entelechy’s older people’s drama group.Entelechy Arts, Bed , photography: Emily Valentine.
Upstairs in the Swiss Church, Joe Cullen and Karen Izod will be reading poetry influenced by their Tavistock identities, before the whole building becomes a performance space for Shadows and Light. This site-specific piece is currently being created by Ainslie Masterton with third year students from East-15 Acting School’s Community Theatre Degree. It takes inspiration from the archive and re-imagines some of the Tavistock Institute’s history and key figures who pioneered approaches to the understanding of groups, communities and societies over the past 70 years. However, if you can’t see this on Tuesday, it is also being performed on Wednesday, with the evening performance aptly followed by the Tavistock Clinic/Tavistock Institute Panel discussion which considers the past as well as the future for both organisations.
The arts continues to feature in a number of events during the festival, including the Interacting with Young People event on Tuesday afternoon, sharing work inspired by the adaptation of group relations in the Peruvian Amazon. Dreadlockalien will be performing poetry at Conway Hall, inspired by the festival’s themes at Thursday’s symposium. Then on Friday afternoon in the Garden Museum, Jessica Burlingame and Kevin G. Coleman invite you to Acting in the Here and Then, where participants will play with and explore the experience of status and role. At the same time in the Swiss Church, Entelechy Arts returns to the festival to offer the experiential Ambient Jam Collective, which you are welcome to take part in, observe or both. It seems fitting that the festival ends on an interactive and embodied note, embracing the non-verbal as much as the written and spoken word.Entelechy Arts, Ambient Jam , photography: Nicole Rees.
For me, there is a beautiful serendipity in this conclusion to the festival as it seems to bring full circle the connections between my past and current career. As a student at Trinity Laban in the ‘90’s, I was on placement with Entelechy Arts and participated in their weekly Ambient Jam. When I changed career, I at first thought it was a complete shift. Now I realise its part of an ongoing journey and one that can embrace both my artistic and scientific sides. Whatever you choose to do at the festival, your curiosity, playfulness, and creativity are all welcome throughout, and I’ll be really interested to hear how your experience is influenced by the arts interventions that you engage with. I’m also looking forward to seeing how bringing the arts and sciences together through the festival may help us with the ongoing drive to better understand and improve human relations now and in the future. The festival will, I hope, be a springboard for ever more ambitious and deeper collaborations.
Heather Stradling is a Senior Researcher and Consultant at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and leads the Institute’s Arts Strategic Initiative.
The festival will take place from Tuesday 17th October to Friday 20th October 2017.
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We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank our partners in this work: Canterbury Christ Church University Business School and Wellcome Library. We are also grateful for the generous sponsorship of SAGE and Wedlake Bell, and a contribution to the festival from the legacy of Group Relations in the Netherlands.