We're Just Gonna Call it All BPD
Experience an artwork created as a group encounter, and a creative qualitative research method for promoting insight into lived experience.
This immersive video installation was created from verbatim scripts, authored by people with lived experience of a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) -- a highly contentious and stigmatising label.
The characters in this piece share their experiences of this label, describing histories of trauma and illuminating the impact of relationships with caregivers, friends, family and service-providers. Their stories ‘from the inside’, help us to understand experiences such as the urge to self-harm or the feeling of intense emotion, making sense of behaviours that are often simply regarded as symptoms of ‘disorder’. They also reveal the various way in which the longer term impacts of trauma can be supported and effectively managed, highlighting above all the importance of human connection.
These moving and inspiring stories of painful experiences are shared in the spirit of openness and compassionate listening. The installation intentionally evokes the space of an imagined group encounter where people commit to holding a space for feelings and for respectful listening without judgement.
This work is designed to facilitate a close relationship to this experience; in other words, to create the conditions for empathy. But as the psychotherapist Carl Rogers observed, the often insurmountable barrier to interpersonal communication is our natural tendency to judge, to evaluate, and to approve (or disapprove) the statements of others. Rarely do we engage in active listening, attuning to the internal world of another with ‘unconditional positive regard’. We invite people to view the work in this spirit. Please think carefully about whether the time is right for you to engage. The work includes accounts of distress – of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and despair. If for any reason you aren’t in the right frame of mind to listen to these, you may decide not to visit. If you do choose to spend time with the work with an open mind, you may well have a deep and rewarding experience. We encourage you share your thoughts and feelings.
Participants developed this creative project in collaboration with fEEL, ARC Laureate lab at UNSW. The video was created in partnership with UTS (Media Arts), building on an underpinning research project led by RMIT.
Script authors: Jess Dee, Linnie M, Kaz, Kate, Anon., Anon.
Director and Producer: Jill Bennett
Cinematography and video post-production: Greg Ferris
Production Manager: Gail Kenning
Production Designer: Volker Kuchelmeister
Script editors: Jill Bennett, Gail Kenning, Emma Seal and authors
Actors: Audley Anderson, Renee Lim, Angela Johnston, Angeline Penrith, Deborah Pollard, Elaine Paton.
Research team: Renata Kokanović (lead), Emma Seal, Tamara Borovica (Critical mental health research group, Social& Global Studies Centre, RMIT); Jill Bennett (fEEL, UNSW); Natasha Swingler, Karolina Krysinska, Jess Dee, Linnie M, and other anonymous participants.
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