The five Futures of the University (Connected, Creative, Healthy, Radical and Responsible) are based on the principles that underpin our strategic plan and characterise the type of research and enterprise that we currently do and plan to expand. Academic leads are senior academics who provide thought leadership, working to consolidate our existing strengths and explore and develop new possibilities.
In this new role, I am keen to contribute to the development of the University’s interdisciplinary research environment that nurtures creativity and innovation. The opportunity to produce inspirational solutions and positive change has never been greater, and I am a strong supporter of bringing together the arts, science and technology to do this.
In 2021 Creative Futures will create an interdisciplinary art/science/technology hive of innovative thinking that promotes scientific understanding, and ignites applied collaborations. We will bring together technologists, scientists, makers, artists, practitioners who employ creative thinking in their projects, in various activities in the next year, in order to support interdisciplinarity and student engagement with research.
Do you live you in Brighton & Hove, and surrounding areas? We’d like to know about how the pandemic has affected you physically, mentally, financially and any support you have accessed.
There is so much data around the coronavirus pandemic – whether it’s the number of cases, the rate of testing or the numbers of people who have died. Then there’s the effect on the economy, numbers of children missing school and so on. The thing is … we know the data don’t show everything. Which is why we’d like to know how you’re doing.
The data and stories we collect will be combined with other types of data, such as national statistics, by the local data designer and artist Caroline Beavon, to create an online story that everyone can access.
My team at the ART/DATA/HEALTH project produced a review of early artistic responses to Covid-19, which has been published in the The Polyphony: conversations across the medical humanities. The article offers insights into how emerging artwork tackles key issues arising from the crisis.
The conditions of isolation in the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic have been linked to a surge of creativity, both for practicing artists and individuals with little previous engagement with the arts. This article traces some early artistic responses to Covid-19, and offers preliminary insights into recurring themes suggested by these creative engagements, including the affective experience of isolation, the symbolic and material meanings of home, and the importance of connection with digital technologies. Whilst the mask emerges as a key symbol of the crisis, artists are also preoccupied with visualising the virus itself, and tackling social issues such as the upsurge of racism and domestic abuse. These artistic expressions play a central role in making sense of what has been termed ‘the new normal’ of social distancing, in navigating waves of information about deaths and infections worldwide, and, perhaps most importantly, in imagining the future.
Today starts the 3rd week of staggered isolation & social distancing measures imposed for addressing COVID-19, which also affected Universities and research teams. As other PIs around the world, I had to think how the ART/DATA/HEALTH project could adjust to the new reality of the COVID-19 crisis. The ART/DATA/HEALTH project aims to work with communities and citizens to build their digital and data science skills in order to understand large amounts of data – and the way we do this is through creativity and the arts. But plans to run workshops with the project’s key partners and stakeholders were cancelled, while the Brighton Fringe Festival has been postponed until October 2020.
Inevitably we have moved to an extended period of working remotely, in order to realise the vision of the project, which is to benefit communities digest health and wellbeing data through arts and creativity. I have commissioned three artists for the ART/DATA/HEALTH project and they have all now shifted their practice and focus in order to adjust and respond to the issues emerging from the COVID-19 everyday practices and materialities:
The bio-artist, Anna Dumitriu, was initially commissioned to explore domestic violence issues in consultation with the local charity RISE. She has now shifted her focus to also take into account data on the effect of quarantine and self-isolation due to COVID-19 on women (RISE is a Sussex-based charity that supports people affected by domestic abuse and violence. RISE stands for Refuge, Information, Support and Education). Beyond the impact of COVID-19 related measures on women in general and the reported rise in cases of domestic abuse, my collaboration with RISE has aimed to give voice to the experiences of staff. The impact of isolation due to COVID-19 on the wellbeing of charity workers who support survivors of domestic abuse is hence a key research interest for my work in the ART/DATA/HEALTH project. To explore these experiences, feelings and emotions around social distancing and staying at home during this challenging time, Anna and I will be sending art kits to RISE staff, which they can use remotely.
The local community artist Ian Leaver was initially commission to co-facilitate the workshop Staying Healthy in Whitehawk earlier this month, and to co-produce, with local residents, an mural at Wellsbourne Healthcare CIC in Whitehawk. My collaboration with the Wellsbourne is aimed at understanding barriers to access the health services for citizens who live in an area of multiple deprivation. The workshops at the Whitehawk Library planned for earlier this month got cancelled, so Ian and I have been thinking of ways to continue the work, to connect with the community, and offer an opportunity to East Brighton residents to take part in an art project, while they record a daily diary. We are inviting people who live in East Brighton and belong in a sensitive group, or are in isolation to engage in a creative project.
The idea is simple: For 14 days or more, participants will track their symptoms, or other activity in relation to your health (for example medication, sleep, anxiety etc). You can use drawing, photo, audio, or write a brief blog to record your daily diary. Ian will then use these diary data to create an artwork that will be permanently exhibited at Wellsbourne Healthcare CIC in Whitehawk. To explain how people can take part in the project we are offering the free online workshop, ART IN ISOLATION which will take place on Wednesday 8th April, 2-3pm. Ian Leaver-Blaxstone and I (Aristea Fotopoulou) will take you through the 14-day art challenge, and will discuss your ideas.
Oddly enough, I originally commissioned VR artist Kate Genevieve to explore the emotional and embodied aspects of connection and isolation, before the COVID-19 crisis. Now her work is even more relevant. Although Kate was lucky enough to connect with workshop participants (staff from various local charity organisations) in real life, and in a physical space (at the Phoenix Art Space in February), she will also be sending out instructions for an arts and crafts activity to participants, as we are working with the loneliness and befriending charity Together Co.
For more updates about how the project is adjusting and responding to the new situation read the ART/DATA/HEALTH blog.
Wednesday 23rd October, 6.30-8pm, Phoenix Art Space, Brighton
Join us for the first ART/DATA/HEALTH public event, part of the 2019 Brighton Digital Festival
Four exciting speakers will discuss and demonstrate the cutting-edge opportunities and challenges that digital data tools and technologies present for health and wellbeing. What is the role of art and creativity in public engagement with health data? How is the digitization of health records changing public attitudes and medical practices? And how can virtual/augmented reality help us experience our bodies in a different way?
Full details: Wednesday 23rd October, 6.30-8pm, at Phoenix Art Space (Green Room, ground floor), 10-14 Waterloo Place, Brighton, BN2 9NB. The venue is fully wheelchair-accessible, with accessible toilets.
Who is it for: Everyone, especially people interested in digital health, health data, arts and health, immersive technologies, and data for the social good.
Sarah Ticho (@SarahTicho), specialist in arts, health and immersive technology. Sarah has extensive experience working across the interdisciplinary arts, academia, healthcare and virtual reality as a producer, curator, artist and researcher. She is the founder of Hatsumi, producer at Deep VR, and Healthcare Lead at Immerse UK.
‘My healthcare data: What does it look like and what can it be used for?’
Dr. Liz Ford (@DrElizabethFord), Senior Lecturer in Primary Care Research, Brighton and Sussex Medical School. Liz’s research focuses on mental health and dementia in primary care and community settings, with a particular focus on novel methods for using electronic health data such as patient records.
‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure’
Jo-Anne Welsh (@BOPjo_anne), CEO, Oasis Project. Jo-Anne qualified as a general nurse many years ago. Her career has included working in both acute and community settings and in the voluntary and statutory sector. Throughout her career she has been interested in health inequalities and has worked in both HIV services and for the last 12 years in Substance Misuse provision. Jo-Anne was awarded a Wellcome Fellowship for a project exploring attachment and how it relates to clients’ experiences in 2016.
‘Enhancing public engagement with health data through art practice’
Dr. Aristea Fotopoulou (@aristeaf), Principal Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Media and Communications in the School of Media, University of Brighton. Aristea is a UKRI Innovation Fellow/AHRC Leadership Fellow whose research focuses on social transformations that relate to digital media and data-driven technologies (e.g. self-tracking, wearables, big data, AI).
Moderator: Rifa Thorpe-Tracey (@rifa), an events organiser, coach, producer and advocate for inclusivity in tech. Rifa launched SheSays Brighton (@SheSaysBrighton), curates Spring Forward Festival, runs Refigure Ltd, co-hosts a weekly arts podcast and is also a yoga and meditation teacher.