Mechanisms for care in times of trauma
Print artist The Fandangoe Kid met with Dr Martin O'Brien as part of a new public research programme from Something to Aim For, who work at the intersection of the arts, learning, health, and wellbeing sectors to provide advocacy and capacity building for artists at the margins of mainstream culture, the creative industries, and wider society.
The Fandagoe Kid is a London based print artist who makes large-scale narrative driven pieces for the public realm. Her work seeks to smash taboos around complex subject matters such as loss, trauma release, mental health and gender constructs.
The artist has created work for a wide range of purposes, most recently with her ‘Staircase of Dreams’ for London Design Festival 2020, working with young people to develop a collective narrative on daily activism.
During the lockdown, The Fandangoe Kid redesigned nurse’s scrubs for Marie Curie x NHS working with a palliative care nurse via Zoom to develop the uniform, celebrating International Year of the Nurse, 2020. The artist’s work was shot for a feature about grief and mental health for Channel 4, looking at the importance of her practice in 2020.
The Fandangoe Kid has recently completed a large scale mural for YouTube for World Mental Health Day 2020, alongside a large scale digital piece for Sadiq Khan’s charity Thrive, looking at resilience.
Last year she installed a 14 metre pillar for University of the Arts London’s 120th year anniversary and a large-scale permanent piece of public art at the Southbank Centre for the charity CALM.
For World Mental Health Day 2019, she installed an 80 metre floor narrative at City Hall for the Mayor of London’s charity Thrive, addressing the connection between movement and mental health. Additionally, she screened her film Into Your Light, directed with Tara Darby, at Tate Modern and on the Manhattan Bridge, looking at dancing as a tool for survival following great personal loss.
Much of the artist’s work is driven by navigating her own story, following the loss of many individuals in her family back in 2011, her practice being largely underpinned by the will to create a platform for open dialogue around the still taboo subject of grief.
She has worked with young people in Hackney and inner- city London for over a decade, her remit being to encourage young people from all backgrounds to know themselves better through their creative practice.
Her capsule clothing collection label has featured in Vogue Italia and been worn at the BAFTAs and sold out her show at Ace NYC. She now makes to order and all pieces can be viewed in her online shop.
Martin O’Brien is an artist, thinker, and zombie. He works across performance, writing and video art in order to examine what it means to be born with a life shortening disease. His writing also reflects on the experience of illness and the ways in which other artists have addressed it. A book of writings about Martin, Survival of the Sickest: The Art of Martin O'Brien was published in 2018 by the Live Art Development Agency. His performance work has been shown throughout the UK, Europe, US, and Canada. His writing has been published in books and journals on performance, art, and the medical humanities. Martin is currently lecturer in Performance at Queen Mary University of London.
introductions: working with grief, mental health and ideas of sickness
on strong reactions to practice
I am interested in how images can physiologically affect some people - I'm never invested that much in people's reactions but I do make work for people - it doesn't just exist for me, to deal with my own stuff. It's about people coming together, that feels absolutely central to my practice. That's the politic of it.
My practice is coming from a lived personal experience that is evolving as time goes on, shaped by engaging with the public. Each installation evolves how I deal with grief.
do you conceive of your work as a collaboration with the public?
Really using the body as a vehicle for shifting pain, and doing something different with it - it's not necessarily getting rid of it - pain recycles itself differently and shifts and changes on any given day.
on living trauma alongside sudden trauma
we are all living in zombie time
Every hour on the hour I did a different action... it felt like that was about legacy. I've got to be doing this thing, making this thing, and this is the thing that is being left. That's where the zombie comes in: zombie time is where death is different to the way it used to be... during the pandemic, we are all living in zombie time.
The Something to Aim For What Matters To Me series seeks to develop strategies and frameworks for improving health and wellbeing through the arts, built around collaborations between artists, healthcare professionals, institutions, and researchers.
Commissioned by Queen Mary Arts and Culture, the first What Matters To Me events were a series of research presentations, bringing together artists and researchers to discuss the overlapping interests and concerns within their practices. Watch Martin O'Brien and The Fandagoe Kid's full conversation here.