Julia Thomas 

20th June - 1st July 2012
ArcadeCardiff, Queen Street Arcade, off Queen Street, Cardiff


What does it mean to bring something into unconcealment? Is what is revealed the significant act or is it the process of revealing that carries greater value and moves us onward?

Whether you regard Julia’s work as public engagement or socially engaged art practice, her pieces explore both the public and the personal, asking questions of those who interact with it and creating a space for dialogue and discussion. This exhibition is an opportunity for Julia to draw together two bodies of work that have developed side by side over the last two years: her collaboration with the Medical Research Council’s Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics and her collaboration with poet and creative writer Clare Potter.

In her ongoing collaboration with the MRC Centre, Julia has created a body of work that reflects upon the large scale collective studies undertaken on mental illness at the Centre. Through participatory, contributory and interactive artworks, Julia has begun to examine the processes and implications of the scientific research that aims to reveal the genetic contribution to mental illness.

In her collaboration with poet Clare Potter, Julia comments on society’'s ever growing use of social media, focussing on the disparity between what we often portray to others and the complexity of our inner thoughts. Using the ‘Talking Cure’ of psychoanalysis as the starting point, the work did not seek to reveal unresolved truths nor to view creative expression as an act of distraction, but to explore the unspoken creatively as a form of emotional intelligence and to question the way in which this might improve our mental health and well-being.

Arcadecardiff is an empty shop initiative, led by Robert Kennedy, for artists to interact with the space and the shoppers passing through the arcade.  www.arcadecardiff.co.uk

Exhibition public opening times were:

Wed to Sun 11am-4pm

There were around 190 visitors to the exhibition and a number of events taking place during the two weeks of the exhibition.


Events During the Exhibition

Fiming of Social Scientists
Julia invited three social scientists from Cardiff University to talk about some of the social science aspects that link with the artwork in the exhibition. As soon as the footage has been edited and compiled there will be a link to the film on this website.

Discussion session on Stigma and Genomics with Mind Cymru
Monday 25th June, 10.30am, ArcadeCardiff space, Queens Arcade, Cardiff.

Staff, volunteers and service users from Mind Cymru gathered together at the exhibition space for a discussion session on stigma and discrimination of mental illness and how genetics and genomics might impact on such issues.
Facilitated by Julia and graphically recorded by Laura Sorvala of auralab, the themes within the artwork provided a starting point for the dialogue.

On Collaboration: Artist-led discussion group on collaborative practice.
Tues 26th June 6.30pm, ArcadeCardiff space, Queens Arcade, Cardiff.

'What does collaboration actually mean for artists?' Can we distinguish between working with someone and collaborating with someone? What challenges might need to be considered and what are the benefits? As part of Julia Thomas's current exhibition, she has invited a group of artists whose practice involves or seeks out collaboration to share their experiences as a starting point for a group discussion.

Local Cardiff artists met in the exhibition space to share some of their experiences of collaboration. The discussion continued into the night after the arcade closed. There has since been numerous email and facebook messages asking for this discussion group to continue ...

Bipolar Disorder Research Network (BDRN) and National Centre for Mental Health (NCMH)
Wed 27th June, 4.30pm, ArcadeCardiff space, Queens Arcade, Cardiff.

In recognition of Bipolar Awareness Day, study volunteers were invited to the exhibition to see the work and to listen to a talk by Dr Ian Jones, principal investigator for BDRN and NCMH followed by an artist walk and talk by Julia.

Exhibition Handout Sheet :

ALETHEIA is a greek word that literally means ‘the state of not being hidden’ but is also translated as ‘unconcealedness’, ‘disclosure’ or ‘truth’.

On entering the Arcadecardiff space, we have the starting point of a creative response to the large scale psychiatric genetic studies undertaken by the MRC Centre in Cardiff, to the searching and seeking, the attempts to pin down the complexity of mental illness. The small and unique wire figures that feature in many forms throughout the work were an initial attempt to capture the contributory nature of participation by study volunteers and their disclosure of very personal information. Big Science I and Big Science II are symbolic and commemorative of the many people, blood samples and data records required within psychiatric genetic research. Scale, mass, variability, and the metaphorical nature of the materials and processes used, are key features of the work. Through the creation of over a thousand ‘chromosome-like’ wire armatures, Julia has been inviting people to complete the process by the making of a figure, a figure unique to them, which they then contribute to the growing collection. This co-creation and contribution is a performative act, a giving up of something of themselves to a bigger collective mass, recognising the need to collaborate and reflecting upon each of our roles within research and within society.

But how realistic is the hope and expectation that has arisen from heavy investment in the human genome project and in genomic research, of what that might deliver for our understanding and treatment of diseases and disorders? This is something that has often been questioned as advances in the biotechnology that delivers the data outstrip our ability to make sense of it. But that is now, what of the future? At what point might we recoup the value of what we invest now? Ideas of preservation are echoed in the artworks, of looking to the future whilst reflecting on the past.

And so we keep seeking, and for why? For the hope of understanding? For the hope of reducing stigma and discrimination? For those who reveal and for those who conceal?

Hidden from view, in her collaboration with poet Clare Potter, Julia provides a more personal response to questions about the act of unconcealment, of the process itself rather than of what might be disclosed. Seeking a means of exploring that which might be universally experienced but not equally expressed, Show and Tell reflects on our growing ‘chatter’ without really saying anything at all.