KIJK! is a community based art project on the platform of a psychiatric institution.
I create a cozy framework for the people to come and do what they feel like doing. Sounds vague? Well, to be more specific I play a film, I bake some pastry and I collected a lot of different drawing materials. So, everybody who comes can watch the film, eat the cookies (or the cake, every time it's something else) and/or draw.
I collect the drawings in order to publish a book one day. In the book you will see all the drawings but I won't tell you which one is made by a "sane" person and which one by a patient. You decide it on your own whether you want to divide people into this kind of groups, on your own.
The project "Kijk!" has been started in March, 2016, within the scope of the psychiatric institute. And it is currently on-going. The project was implemented as a series of events that took place in a branch of the psychiatric center.
The institute is divided into different branches specially designed to best fit the different groups of patients. Each branch has a separate calendar of activities which are all placed at different locations. Usually the different branches are not free during the same hours. Communication between these departments is not perfect, sometimes it is even absent. The project 'Kijk!' is meant for all patients from all the branches in addition to all the people outside the center.
The activities provided came with several possibilities to those attending. There was fresh home-baked pastries and coffee, a film on a big screen, and things necessary for drawing: paper, pencils, markers etc. The event posters with announcements were hung weekly in all the branches of Psychiatric Center and posted on Facebook in a few local groups. Later, we also developed flyers to spread the word.
There is a branch in the institute that is specially set up with the intention of being a meeting point for patients and other people, to be a place where everyone can enjoy companionship. The Calendar of Meander is sent to all other branches but it does not completely solve the communication problem because some patients do not like to visit Meander. So I went with the posters and cookies around the center and visited different branches to tell the patients personally about my project and invite them to join.
Also, it is not so easy to attract 'outsiders' who dare to enter. Not everyone has contact with psychiatry in daily life, not everyone knows how it looks and many are afraid of getting too close to it. It took three sessions of 'Kijk!' before we received our first 'external' guest. After that there were people from the outside world who came more or less regularly and each time it had been a kind of revelation, both for myself and for the external people.
The project can be divided into three stages.
The first stage was all about the preparation, building the structure, try-out and search. It involved agreements with all people who are involved in the project, discussion of what should be done and how, a tryout of the activity which allowed us to see what can go wrong and to think of improvements.
The second phase was the implementation of the plans and applying our knowledge to reality. This became a permanent stage: even after the initial time frame of the assignment had expired the project continued.
The third stage was the phase of collecting the material and production of the book.
Of course it is not so evident how to choose a film to show. I began with some easy and less easy comedy films like that of Monty Python, The Fat and The Skinny, or the films of Charlie Chaplin. Then there were longer films with a stronger narrative line (i.e. Walking with Dinosaurs) which was also nice. At some point I also showed series related to a psychiatric institution Takin’ Over Asylum but that one was too heavy for the patients.
The opinions of the patients and of other visitors do play a role for when I chose the film, sometimes they recommend titles and I tried to bring those specific films.
However, in October and November I tried a new approach: I chose the topic of the month and tried to select films within the topic. In October it was films-with-or-about-music because I noticed that all the people who came were very sensitive to the music, even if they didn’t exactly follow the narrative. In November the topic was ‘the 18th and 19th centuries’ because at the end of October I’d shown the musical Les Miserables which takes place in 18th century and people liked it because of the costumes.
Generally, I tried to go for films that could be shown to a general audience (so no explicit scenes of sex or violence). The narrative itself didn’t play crucial role, we were not concentrating on the action of watching the film.
My artistic goal radically changed during the project. In the beginning the idea was to gather all the drawings and to make a book with them. That book was to be used as a statement against the stigma. If a reader goes through this bundle he or she can hardly distinguish drawings of 'sick' and 'healthy' people. If this is so, it would be because both — the 'sick' and 'healthy' — are human beings in the first place and... well, we are all different.
In the course of the project the goal evolved into something more concrete. I came to understand that I wanted to bring the people of these two worlds in together. Because when they have a chance to look at each other, and talk to each other, something extraordinary happens. It's something intangible, something in their eyes.
First I had to put the concept into words and discuss it with the supervisors to get authorization. Then the internship contract had to be signed by three parties (the school, the psychiatric center and myself).
In the implementation phase there were the following main goals: to determine times and days of the activity; to collect the drawing materials (used facebook for this purpose too); spread the information about the project outside the institution; to get inside the branches to spread the word and simply 'to make it happen'.
I have also been making posters for the events...
And I've been doing it until the point when Fru Pintér joined me in the project in the end of August. Since then we switched from posters to flyers created by Fru. And I must admit, they look much better than my posters.