My current project within my experimental sound work is looking at how Sound Art can be used to challenge the stigma around male suicidal ideation. This is being undertaken as part of my MA in Music Practice with the University of Central Lancashire. The course is very diverse and personal practice-led which means the direction that it takes is very much in the hands of the artist. I had discovered during the early part of the course that much of my work was exploring sensitive subjects and looking at areas that might not normally be tackled with sound. I had covered things such as global warming, Syrian refugees crisis and looked at the scale of UK military deaths in Afghanistan. Challenging subjects but rewarding when my art is used to bring a subject into focus.
Blog number 4 explains how I came to select the subject of stigma around male suicidal ideation, what I want to do here is describe some of the work I have created and a little about the experience for me as an artist.
To date I have produced a series of 16 vignettes based on my research data. I have also produced 2 video pieces based on locations relating to the subject material.
Link to the vignettes: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgPTtzLtwQ4_zv-aqtWlbDV_btAVskfu1
The feedback I have received for the work suggests that it does promote engagement with the subject and describes (with various levels of success) the themes that my data revealed about the impact of stigma around suicidal ideation (Hopelessness, worthlessness, feeling alone, not wanting to be seen as weak).
Engaging with in-depth research and discussion around the subject has been challenging on a personal level and can be emotionally draining. I have been surprised by the number of people who have personal experience of the subject yet I was totally unaware as this was not something we would normally discuss, in this way I have addressed the stigma head-on.
The biggest challenge has been balancing the desire to share musically my interpretation of feelings/emotions/experiences around male suicide against the need to prevent any risk to someone who may be feeling vulnerable and could be adversely affected by listening to the piece. I can’t get away from the fact that for the pieces to be meaningful they will include detail that could be distressing to those at risk. I have struggled with whether I should just stay away from the subject all together as this would be one way to prevent the risk, but this seems like a cowardly way out. I think that my best option is to provide suitable warnings with the material and offer professional contacts for support at the end of all work.
Throughout my study I have tried to engage with the professional agencies, without success. Perhaps I am considered too much of an unknown quantity and that they would rather I did not encroach on their territory. I don’t share this view and feel that the addition of passionate artists working to raise awareness in this area provides a valuable contribution and that this would be enhanced by the support of the professional agencies.
I now have a decent amount of sound art in this area and can continue to seek opportunities to raise awareness and challenge the stigma and this is what I intend to continue doing for the foreseeable future.
Next time: Open Houses