A local artist and University of Stirling Psychology student is showcasing an innovative public art installation on campus to raise awareness about discrimination and challenge attitudes towards disability and mental illness.
PhD research student, Emma Scott-Smith, has installed a large photo portrait of herself, with which she hopes students and visitors will interact. Using a video log and daily photography to chart the poster’s evolution and gradual disintegration, she will also be speaking to passers-by, monitoring their responses to the image and encouraging them to leave messages and graffiti.
Emma, who has suffered from chronic spinal pain throughout her life, is undertaking doctoral research to explore whether it’s possible to challenge stigmas about mental health and disability through art. Emma said, “Whilst I have some limited mobility now, for 17 years I used a wheelchair and, as an adolescent, was confined to bed for over a year so I can empathise with people in similar situations.
“The aim of this project is to use art to smash boundaries surrounding mental illness and disability, by creating a spectacle, shaking things up, making people think about their entrenched beliefs and getting them talking.
“Since I no longer use a wheelchair my disability is no longer visible, so often I have to disclose my health problems in order for people to understand my situation. In a sense, despite being disabled, I’m conscious that sometimes I am being judged negatively for not ‘appearing disabled’.
“People with mental illness face a similar challenge because, like me, their conditions may not be obvious immediately. This is the sort of issue I hope my artwork will get people talking about. I am poking fun at myself to make people stop and think of the real effects of discrimination, be that discrimination towards people with disabilities and mental illness or indeed towards any minority group.”
Final year PhD student, Blake, who stopped to look at the artwork said: “This is a really novel and effective way to get people talking about mental health and disability and I look forward to seeing how it develops.
“The poster’s very public position demands attention and will encourage people to reflect on their prejudices. The more people are introduced to different personal stories, the more familiar they become with the unfamiliar. Emma might not change people’s attitudes overnight, but she is taking an important first step in making people think twice and encouraging those from minority groups to share their stories with others.
Emma’s artwork is part of a global art venture, Inside Out, a large-scale participatory project which aims to turn the world ‘inside out’ by sharing stories of personal identity through artistic work.
The artwork will be displayed outside the Logie Lecture Theatre on the Stirling campus from 31 August until 14 September, during which time all are welcome to visit and engage with the artwork.
Launched by JR, an anonymous French artist who called for people around the world to use the project to “stand up for what [they] care about”, Inside Out artworks are characteristically large scale, attention-grabbing and installed in conspicuous areas. More about Inside Out here